against thoughtless authorities. a scaremongering media and a traumatised public. the panic and guilt of the gay community. The war metaphor sometimes seems overused. but it is. perhaps. necessary to translate this otherwise unimaginable horror. When AIDS victims are likened to Jews climbing meekly into the Nazi boxcars. it does not seem an overstatement of the case. Aggressive and sell-righteous. Dreuilhe inspires admiration rather than sympathy. not least for his courage in exposing the pathetic struggle at the heart of the dreaded epidemic. (Julie Morrice)
CATAMONG THE PIGEONS
Cat’s Eye Margaret Atwood (Bloomsbury £13.95)
After the futurist fantasy of'I’he Handmaid's Tale. Atwood returns to here and now reality with her ninth novel which trails its currency by adopting as one of its two epigraphs a line from Stephen llawking's unlikely 1988 bestseller.
A Briefllistory of'l‘ime: ‘Why dowe
remember the past and not the future‘."
Posing the question is Elaine Risley. a (‘anadian painter waking up on the Friday morning other life. on her reluctant return to 'l‘oronto for a retrospective in an alternative gallery run by women for women.
~ ‘(V :V" 5”“: . ‘ ' a i ‘ 2' ' ‘33: M
Her art is conveniently autobiographical and alone in a city that in a few decades has traded Hicksville for l-Iiptown. She reassembles her bygones. projecting back in an urgent historic present tense to bend time and give immediacy to the past.
(‘onceptually it‘s a clever gambit and the philosophy falls neatly (and sweetly) into place as Elaine wrestles to make sense of her childhood. her entomologist father and eccentric brother. her lovers and brace of husbands. M rs Smeath whom she captures so graphically on canvas. and Cordelia. bully. friend and ever-present spectre. ()n fast rewind the decades flit past. each evoked with broad brushstrokes. simultaneously personal and historic. On occasion it is like watching a newsreel with forty years telescoped into quarter of an hour (‘I see my first television set. . .') but the commentary is sharp. funny and personal. the images so vivid they‘re almost tactile.
Like Elaine. who detests party lines and ghettoes. Atwood is impossible to pigeon-hole. I ler view is ambivalent and surprising. be it of (‘anada or of feminism. and she spies with a jaundiced eye the art scene and the media. She is her own woman. remarkably other. Intelligent. restless and riveting. she has yet to write a bad book and in this one. reminiscent ofher second.
‘ From the author of the No. 1- bestseller Weaveworld
At last. the night has a hero
' :11" '3' . ff“ ‘ - . slender novel. Surfacing. she ticks like a Rolex. (Alan Taylor)
A Little Stranger (‘andia McWilliam (Bloomsbury £1 1.95) A Little .S'Iranger shares more than a little with Henry James's The Turn ()fT/u’ Screw. and refocuses the chill of that cautionary tale onto contemporary Britain. Daisy. idiosyncratic wife. and mother of a beloved blond angel. is both insider and outsider. married to. but not yet part of a world of landed wealth. Her dozy existence is eventually jerked alive by her son's nanny. a girl who eats additive-stuffed puddings and whose scent is ‘as chemically pink as the wad of filling in a sweet biscuit‘.
This is a detective novel where criminals and victims are confused and where guilt can never be fully proven. McWilliam sleuths an unknown canker. tapping out within a simple framework a story which sets up distant. lasting resonances. As the truth trickles out. she raises ponderables about the apparently solid edifices of privilege and beauty. and allows a slow-dawning realisation ofculpability. Slim and unputdownable. her second novel is to be savoured. ()nly occasionally does her taut. patrician style show signs of effort — for the most part
every careful word weighs in right on the mark. Arch-stylist McWilliam is one to watch. (Julie Morrice).
The Marble Mountain and other Stories Lisa St Aubin de 'l'eran ((‘ape £10.95). Possibly the only British writer to have been influenced to good effect by the magical realism of South Americans such as Marquez. de 'l'eran is likely to have her reputation further enhanced by this. her first collection ofshort stories.
These are not tightly plotted tales: for the most part. they deal with one more or less eccentric character who lives in the everyday world: (iladys. quietly travelling the world bumping offother women: (iarter the roadsweeper. ‘not the kind of man to be trusted with furry animals”; five-year-old ('apino. who has turned green and constantly asks ‘Will I die‘.’ Will I die'.”.
()fgreater importance. however. than the single incident around which most of the stories revolve is the pellucid economy with which the author evokes each different location: from (‘aracas to (‘lapham Common. all are described with a v ividness so effective as to be almost hallucinogenic.
'l'here are drawbacks and frustrations with this volume. chief among them being its brevity: especially in such an admirable piece as Diamond Joe. Scarcely is one acquainted with a fascinating character than the story is over and the character returned to Limbo.
The List 27 January — () February 59