become. in Satie's words ‘furniture‘. Photographs of jazz musicians can be endlessly interesting. especially when the artists are in their non playing mode. (iood though they are. it's a pitty therefore that almost all of the photographs in Focus On Jazz ( Robert IIale. London. £12.50) are of musicians playing on stage. It covers about ninety of the leading figures in the W's—80’s jazz scene. the old troupers and the young lions. the photos taken by Peter Symes.
Peter (iamble contributes about half
a page of biography on each.
Jazz Giants ((‘olumbus Books London. £35 cased) is a remarkable. large. beautifully produced and heavy book ofcaptioned photographs. documenting on and offstage the important personalities that have shaped the music. The carefully printed. large format plates were compiled by Japanese photographer K. Abe. who includes his own work. and the pictures are allowed their own eloquence.
NEARLY AN GOAL
Rock Editor Alastair Mabbott picks his books of the year.
"l'he Book 'l'liey Tried To Ban’ sounds like the tritest copy-writer’s phrase. but in the case of [Eamon [)unphy‘s Unforgettable Fire: The Story of U2 (Viking £3.09) it has the ring of truth. The genesis of the book sounds improbable enough ~ [72 hire a Dublin-born ex—footballer to write their definitive biography and its reception everywhere was a mixture of fascination and dismissal. but If: were shocked enough at the detailed documentation of their private lives to attempt a clampdown. .‘ylost
Raymond I-‘eist. the bearded. self-contented American fantasy writer. smooth-talked his way through life. sex. marriage. writing. oppression. politics and myth in thirty minutes. llis arrival was marked by his entourage of four body-guards who were in fact. deputies from his publishers. Still. suited men are open to misinterpretation.
I-‘eist’s ‘official history“ ran thus: ‘l'm a child of the Sixties. I dropped out of college — primarily when I knew I was exempt from the draft. Bluntly. most young men in the United States who went to college in the early Sixties did so to stay out of military service — to get university exemption. I aimlessly wandered for quite some time. In 1973 I decided to get some education. Then I worked in education administration for a year. My programme was chopped. I had been dabbling at writing and this forced me into it full-time.‘
In his latest novel Faerie Tale. Feist spends about half the book establishing the realistic day-to-day world of his characters. priming the reader for the intrusion of malevolent fantastic figures later on. ‘In former novels. I’ve written about completely fabricated worlds. And yet one ofthe things I take pretty fierce pride in with my craft is that my characters are probably considerably more approachable and considerably more realistically
depicted than the average fantasy character. I have no supermen per se. The concerns. the problems and the attitudes of my characters are recognisably contemporary.
‘In Faerie Tale i chose to do a fantasy in a contemporary setting as opposed to a completely fabricated one. Realism is a question of where you draw the line. All fiction is fantasy when you get down to it. It's all made up. It depends on how close you stay within the confines of the reader‘s expectations. With this kind of fantasy. one must proceed from a very mundane. prosaic beginning and lead the reader gently into the magic.’
The terror content in l’aerie 'I’ale tends to draw on psychological material — extracting deep fears and anxieties from the dark corners of the mind and externalising them. "I'here has been a tendency in literature lately to go very much in the direction of what I call the splatter movie mentality — a kind of impaling children. guts-on-a-stick school of writing. I think it's a relatively new phenomenon. very heavily influenced by Hollywood. If you go back and read the really great horror of the first halfof this century. you find it‘s psychological. It's very much predicated upon the reader‘s using his or her imagination. It's the anticipation of fear. the anticipation of the coming of the Bad Thing. the horrible arrival. '.
-‘ ' . r iv, m».- .p .~ g ‘ '1' .‘ “'1 v‘) >‘\
critics. rightly impressed with that aspect. would have preferred Dunphy"s interpretation of the songs excised instead. but for all its shortcomings. he‘s produced a fascinating biography which earns the ‘definitive' title.
(‘huck Berry took no chances when it came to setting the record straight in Chuck Berry: The Autobiography (Faber £9.95). and everyone's come out of it ahead. Berry doesn't need to hand over a fee to a ghost writer and his readers get (I B. in his own unadulterated words. warts and all. Make no mistake. he’s one of the least modest figures in music. but his frankness is so disarming and his talent as a storyteller so gripping that his tale is unquestionably going to be regarded as a classic long after Mr Berry has departed from this earth. Barney l loskyns is not normally a name that is raised in the same breath as the usual heavyweight rock critics. But the old soul buff provided
my. "5s ..
. £34359 ' \‘i 1 n' )
'l'wo of the most powerful scenes in the book involve a young girl. (iabbie. who finds herself compulsiver sexually aroused by an other-worldly creature which takes the shape of a young boy and a man. I-‘eist works with fear and desire on the basis that these are the two strongest emotions which contain most pyschological power. ‘In the encounter with (iabbie and the creature in the barn. I wanted the horror on a level where a woman's fear would not be born out of injury. but out of a complete subsuming of her will.’
‘I think especially today we’re aware of a misalignment of power in society. Women have been historically given. as we say in the States. the fuzzy end of the lollipop. Part of the disparity is of course sexual politics. To me the scenes where the creature reaches past (iabbie's volition and takes control of her body (by manifesting all the positive. wonderful things that sexuality is for all the wrong reasons) is considerably more terrifying than the spectre of someone menacing with a knife.‘
some of the .\'.\Il:"s most intelligent and readable pieces of the early Eighties. while Paul Morley was so far above readers‘ heads that the Soviets were seriously considering him as a reusable rocket launcher. Iloskyns weighed in with two books in 1988: Prince: Imp of the Perverse (Virgin £4.99) reads like an extended music paper article. but is probably as good a biog of l lis Purple Highness as we're going to get for a long while.
Say It One Time iorthe Brokenhearted (l’ontana £4.95). however. should be read by anyone with an interest in (K W or R&B. Disputing the generally-accepted view that segregation in the Southern States kept white and black music segregated. lloskyns' argument is glaringly obvious with hindsight. but is driven with the conviction that this was a book which had to be written.
Much of the novel is concerned with power and coercion on a potentially global scale. In that sense. I’eist is writing on a political level. 'lhe real fear base of power and lack ofit is the distortion. the perversion of autonomy ~ the ability of someone to be swept away by someone else's needs. It's personally to me a very frightening prospect. I see it everywhere aound me. It goes from individuals up to governments. What scares me most is the capacity for humans to rationalise their violence and unkindness to other humans.‘
Feist is modest about his achievements: ‘l'm certainly not the best wordsmith on the planet. I make no pretensions to great art. I try for honesty though. and I think that‘s what eventually leads to great art — an honest attempt to share a recognition and an understanding. We’re poorly equipped to do it. The human frustration constantly is to seek a better communication. a better understanding.’ (Kristina Woolnough)
Faerie Tale is published by Grafton Books (III/1.95.
65 The List 25 Nov — 8 Dec 1988