when the raw material is there for the full wide-screen baroque treatment ofwhich de Teran proved herself eminently capable in her third book, The Tiger. Furthermore. many of the settings of these stories are also used in one or other of her novels; in that sense The Marble Mountain is composed of scraps from the writer’s table.
But these are minor quibbles, which should not detract from this collection‘s excellence. Elegant without being effete. these thirteen cameos provide additional evidence, if any were needed, of de Teran’s position of preeminence in current English fiction. (Stuart Bathgate)
George Square 1919 Russell Galbraith (Mainstream £9.95). In 1919, at a time when thousands of men were returning from serving in
the army, which in itself was creating a massrve unemployment problem,
employers were demanding wage-cuts and landlords were raising rents. A lot of people at the time thought this rather iniquitous, and deciced to strike as this was the only means of protesting available to them. One ofthe most immediate and significant results of this was that the colonial oppressor in England immediately took fright and,
declaring that the Bolsheviks w§r_e_ _.
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privatisation of housing.
you need ROOF.
Mrs Thatcher doesn’t see Scot- land as a country. To her it’s a
test bed, an experimental laboratory. A place where unpalatable legislation can be given a dry run with little or nothing to lose in the way of votes. First it was the poll tax. Now it's the wholesale
The current issue of ROOF, Shelter’s housing magazine, takes the lid off what the government's up to and looks at the response of councils and housing associations to the challenge. ROOF also reports on the ‘colour blind’ approach of Glasgow's housing associations which has left black and ethnic minority citizens overwhelmineg concentrated in the worst private housing. And the first of a new series of historical perspectives asks, in the light of the poll tax, what lessons can be learned from the struggle of Clay Cross council against the I972 Housing Finance Act?
You'll also find a wide range of critical opinion and comment, behind- the-headlines analysis of the latest housing news, reviews to tell you what’s worth reading — and the Eavesdropper column.
If you'd like a copy, just send a cheque for £3.50 (made out to ROOF) to: Konroy Swaby. ROOF. 88 Old Street. London ECIV 9HU.
Or why not take out a subscription to Britain's liveliest and most influential housing magazine? You'll save money and qualify for a free book. For details write to Konroy Swaby at the above address.
If you need to keep up with what’s happening in housing —
knocking on the gates of Glasgow, despatched several thousand troops northwards to suppress the disorder. Russell Galbraith’s novel captures the atmosphere of this episode in our recent history well — familiar places are seen in a strange light as blinding smogs descend upon Hope Street, and a pitched battle is fought between police and workers on Glasgow Green. Galbraith also offers a distinctly plausible, though by no means entirely original, explanation of the reasons for the authorities’ vicious response to the workers’ demands. He suggests that the almost paranoiac fear of revolution felt by certain members of the government, combined with gross incompetence on the part of the city’s Chief Constable and Lord
Provost, brought about this scene of bloody repression.
Real historical characters— Manny Shinwell, Willie Gallacher. Lloyd George and Winston Churchill - mingle. as is often the casein historical novels, with fictional creations. One ofthe most interesting features of this book is the way in which Churchill, subject. especially in the current political climate. 0st much lionisation. is cast as villain. Quite right too— this novel is set less than ten years after the incident at Tonypandy which alone is enough to prove that the man was, in his dealings with the Labour movement, a monster.
It is not. however. a perfect book. Galbraith’s prose style often leaves something to be desired. But it is a
The American novelistJane Smiley deliberater set out to produce a writing style which was terse, uncolourful and repetitive and which was quite unlike her previous work. The result, The Greenlanders, runs to a mighty 558 pages, all subscribing to a common formula: ‘Now they
came . . . Now it happened . . . And so they did so . . . Now they rowed . . . But every day. . . Now it seemed . . . ’
This epic novel embraces the fates and fortunes of members oi a Norse community in Greenland which suddenly died out. In keeping with her subject matter, Smiley has opted for the stylistic monotony of Icelandic sagas, which, with its bog-standard absence of subjective or emotional input, works to peculiar effect. ‘I read the Icelandic sagas when I was in college and they became my field in graduate school. I really loved them. I realised that there were several characteristics in the writing that have changed, and that are alien to the modern imagination. I consciously identified some of them — for example, it’s generally not very introspective and people don’t wring their hands over what the meaning of life is. But there is always an avid interest in the community and in whatever any one person is doing. Those are the characteristics that Intrigued me.’
Was she concerned that the modern reader, unused to the abrupt factual style, might not have the stamina to adapt to her book? ‘I was worried about that and I felt that the style was a risk. But I couldn’t evade the model of
Icelandic sagas. lfl had taken a subject like American Indians, I would have had to make up a style to talk about them. Since the Icelandic sagas were there, I can’t imagine how I could
have ducked that or been able to write about that culture without using that model. I'm glad I did. People have commented favourably on the style, so it works for now.’
As when watching modern black and white films, a constant expectation that the writing and characters will suddenly burst into colour lingers over the novel. Did Smiley herself find it hard to sustain the bleak monochrome? ‘I found it was much easier once I got rolling. I found it very easy. I was able to write other things at the same time. This was so separate. I didn’t end up talking like the Greenlanders or anything like that. It was a totally enclosed thing. I have never had so much lun.’
Her last and most successful book to date was a volume of short stories, The Age Of Grief, which illustrated the pains and anxieties of modern adultery. Although adultery does figure strongly in The Greenlanders, Smiley draws other parallels with her saga of the 14th century and contemporary life - specifically that of her home town of Ames, Iowa. ‘It’s closer to the way in which people around me in Iowa live than anyone would ever think. There they live a farming life. They have problems with their neighbours. They are constantly at the mercy of the elements. My idea of what had winters are certainly comes from what I see around me.’
Smiley acknowledges that The Greenlanders does make extra demands on the reader, requiring a change in reading habits, but she hopes the effort will be rewarding: ‘I think people are sometimes daunted by all the detail and the bleakness of these characters’ lives. But I found when I was researching it—and I hope that others find the same thing when they’re reading it— that when you get beyond that, it’s really fascinating.’
(Kristina Woolnough) The Greenlanders is published by Collins at £12.95.
60 The List 27 January — 9 February