PASSION ON THE LOOSE
Passing 0n Penelope Lively (Deutsch £10.95) An out-dated. unkempt house and its out-dated. unkempt inhabitants hold themselves in a world apart. Helen and Edward (ilover. middle-aged brother and sister. have been inveigled by a powerful. domineering mother into a life without love or passion. That mother is now dead. and they must pass on into other worlds too.
Whereas Lively‘s Booker Prize-winning ‘Moon Tiger' looked at the lost life of a dying woman. ‘Passing ()n' wanders through the aftermath of death. The dead Dorothy lingers on. carping and scoffing at Helen's attempts to shake off a colourless existence with an affair. Dorothy‘s domination has also. it emerges. served as a protective shield. Now undefended. Edward and Helen find themselves under siege — from their own hitherto suppressed sexual passions.
Running in parallel with this is the constant material pressure to sell up their scrubby hit of woodland. the Britches. for housing. Their neighbour. Ron Paget the builder. tries every trick. until the (ilovers are cornered by Edward himself. who. at last overwhelmed by desire. reaches for the crotch of Paget‘s son.
It's a slow. steady. captivating book. with a surface of rural English calm which is shattered by lust and lost years. by restraint and the ache of wanting. Lively's characters are more likeable than the harsh Claudia in ‘Moon Tiger'. but they too can be aggravatingly emotionally out of reach. (Kristina Woolnough)
DISHING OUT STEREOTYPES
The Househusband Christine Park (Heinemann £1t).95)'l‘ony is a reluctant ‘househusband‘. While he is at home looking after the children. his wife Carole has a high-powered job in a London publishing company. This is not a role Tony has willingly undertaken. For. it transpires. when Tony lost his job as the manager of a West End record shop several years ago. Carole used the opportunity to further her own career. To Tony's dismay. what was meant to be a temporary measure has turned into a permanent arrangement. Seven years later he is still looking after the children.
The divide between him and his wife is deepening. and Tony does not relish the prospect of being a househusband for life. Then he meets Alex. a pretty but ‘mixed-up’ 18 year-old. on Hampstead Heath. This chance meeting threatens to wreck the tangled relationships of all the characters involved and Tony is forced to make some difficult decisions.
Christine Park is at pains to assert Tony‘s masculinity at the expense of Carole's career-minded independence. For only when he has dominated Carole into submission does he regain his ‘old confidence'. But these paper-thin portraits are so unconvincing that they do little to veil the book's dubious undertones.
‘The Househusband’ is a tame love story which has little to offer. but which reinforces stale preconceptions of male and female stereotypes. (Ann Vinnicombe)
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT First Light Peter Ackroyd (Hamish Hamilton £12.95) To Peter Ackroyd. the past is not so much a foreign country as an obvious
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1 :ﬁ-rg’ -_~z -~, ' e-travel. Constantly in his fiction. the murky regurgitations of the past are made possible by present time's inclinations to tinker with it. ‘First Light‘ homes in on one ofthe most common links between the two — the excavation of a neolithic passage. stumbled upon in a Dorset village. The stone arrangements seem to resemble a certain star cluster. and they fall on property owned by the Mints. a Dark Age rural family unit with stereotypical secrets to preserve.
Much of this foraging is played for laughs. since surface antics are supplied in the shape of minor eccentrics — sapphic civil servants. vaudeville comedians. dotty astronomers — all ofwhom push the narrative along. and hobble it simultaneously. Consequently. this soup kitchen marriage ofstyles (pastoral doom by Thomas Hardy. commerical spookery out of ‘Quatermass & The Pit'. etc) doubles back on itself like a snake peeved by its own tail. Clearly. the prose is designed to dazzle the eyes. but mainly it hurts them. (Chris Lloyd)
UNDER THE COVERS
The Men Who Loved Evelyn Cotton Frank Ronan (Bloomsbury £12.95) ‘1 have been in love with Evelyn Cotton for twenty-four years and
One of Sir Alec Guinness's many iacesirom ‘Guinness' by Robert Tanitch (Harrap £15.95). a photographic record oithe great man‘s acting career. published to mark his 75th birthday.
ys. We have made love twice.‘ So begins the tale of Evelyn Cotton‘s sex life from an anonymous narrator. her most obsessive admirer. who knows his characters with all the voyeuristic intimacy ofa two-way mirror.
The book is. as its title suggests. a kind of in depth rogues‘ gallery of one woman‘s lovers. Ronan describes these varied specimens with either malicious relish (as in the character Julius Drake. the tight-fisted accountant who bleeds Evelyn dry of her money). or sympathetic indulgence (in the case of Hugh Longford. the sincere well-intentioned Irish thatcher). Evelyn Cotton remains an enigma - both to the narrator and to the reader. Viewed with the shameful insight ofthe PeepingTom narrator. she is. however. an insubstantial shade and an unlikely example for the leading light of Feminism.
This impressive first novel from Frank Ronan skilfully Hits from comedy to tragedy. giving a brilliantly funny and perceptive evocation of the complex relations between men and women. (Ann Vinnicombe)
Ball the Wall Nik Cohn (Picador £4.99). Nik Cohn was the first. and all subsequent critiques of rock have been informed one way or another by his early writings.
A impbopuloobop A lopbamboom . partly reprinted in this ‘greatest hits' collection. crystallised an attitude in much the same way as Cohn‘s favourite records did.
Whereas the 1980s have been clogged by ‘style‘ writers taking up acres of newsprint with their ponderings. Cohn had early on absorbed the lesson that attitude is summed up in the cut of a suit. the angle of a collar. and he carries this economy into his skilled prose.
This never prevented him from exaggerating. romanticising and making things up out ofthin air. Judging from the mythical aura of‘ln Derry". his discovery ofthe music at age 1 1 was nothing less than a cataclysmic event. and the feelings it awakened resound in every piece he wrote about the music. Then. when
JOHN SMITH &SON
(GLASGOW) LTD 57 St Vincent St GLASGOW CZ 5TB Telephone 041-221 7472
MEET CARL MacDOUGALL
celebrating the launch of his new novel,
STONE OVER WATER
at 6.00 pm. on Wednesday 26th April, 1989
in John Smith & Son, 57 St Vincent St, Glasgow
Please telephone if you wish to reserve a copy.
84 The List 21 April- 4 May 1989