the human cost of this quietly forgotten ‘policy’. (K.A. Davidson)
DOCUMENTARY SUNDAY SLACKNESS
Into the Mainstream: How feminism has changed women’s writing Nicci Gerard (Pandora. £5.99) Both title and cover blurb of this book promise far more than is actually offered. The title. for a start. is erroneous: for ‘writing‘ read ‘fiction‘ as plays and poetry are ignored. (Similarly. ‘Britain‘ is used to mean England). And the question of ‘how feminism has changed women‘s writing‘ is never really answered in any way beyond the superficial. There is no analysis. for example. of the ways in which women. particularly in France and the USA. have altered language and structure and form. The tone is one ofdismissive cynicism. where everything from post-modernism to women‘s writing groups are dealt with in a page or two.
Gerrard also writes for The Observer. and the whole book has the Sunday Supplementish ﬂavour of a padded out article with a bit of review section thrown in. Both author and publisher are guilty of the very ‘slackness‘ criticised in the book. whereby ‘manuscripts which, if they were competent and of the right length. were almost bound to be published‘. The women writers and readers. whom Gerrard presumes to discuss and write for. deserve something better than this skimpy account. (Elizabeth Burns)
POETRY MIXED BLESSINGS
No Sunrise Jim Ferguson (Echo Room Press. 80p); Strong Drink Jim Ferguson (Itinerant Publications,
£1 ): Growing In The Rain Bobby (‘hristie (Itinerant Publications. £1); Spell Bound Margaret Fulton Cook (Itinerant Press. £2.50); The Elghlh Dwarf Graham Fulton (Itinerant Publications. £1) Hugh McDiarmid is on record as insisting that local poets. collected in brochure form. ‘seldom succeed in rising above the veriest commonplace‘ and should claim no relation to ‘genuine poetry’. But just what is genuine poetry?
AROUND THE WI WORLD
The Paradise Motel, Eric McCormack (Bloomsbury, £12.95). Fourchildren, Amos, Rachel, Esther and Zachary Mackenzie are involved in a horrific domestic crime on a Scottish island at the turn of the century. Years later the story is related to young Ezra Stevenson (whose name is an acronym of the Mackenzie monikers) by his grandfather. As an adult in Canada, Ezra begins an investigation of their lives which becomes an enquiry into the validity of his own existence and takes us on a bizarre and macabre passage round the world.
One thinks of the Wildean maxim that .
“History is merely gossip’ as McCormack unfolds layer upon layer of yarns and anecdotes; amazing tales of a jungle explorer who becomes rooted in the soil, an amnesia victim who has been forgotten by the family she eventually remembers, an intellectual boxer who ponders metaphysical concerns; surreal stories of an Institute forthe lost in the South Pacific, a cabaret of grotesque, deformed performers in a South American jungle and bloodthirsty Scottish Nationalists wreaking revenge in Edinburgh.
Like his narrator Ezra Stevenson, Eric McCormack was born in Scotland and emigrated to Canada, having found the country somewhat arid territory for his imagination, ‘Scotland we always so overcast in every sense, especially economic. I was always fascinated by other lands and cultures- as a child I wanted to be a missionary in Africa, anything to get out of Scotland.’
McCormack now teaches English Literature at the University of Waterloo
in Ontario. His poems and stories have been published in magazines in Canada and the USA for many years and in 1987 his collection of short stories ‘lnspecting the Vaults’ (shortlisted forthe 1988 Commonwealth Writers Prize) consolidated his international reputation.
‘The Paradise Motel’ is engrossing, one of the few books which genuinely merits the overworked ‘can’t put it down’ label - it has the natural ease with which the world is rendered chimeric and exciting. ‘l’m interested in dreams, the boundaries of the mind and the area between sanity and insanity. I’ve always liked exotic places and people who are different and idiosyncratic,’ says the engaging McCormack, ‘l neverfeel uncomfortable with weirdos?’ (Sara Villiers)
These five booklets offer a chaHenge.
Jim Ferguson. who acknowledges a debt to Tom Leonard. uses the latter‘s patois in both his productions. And very effective it is. ‘No Sunrise‘ is a drunken monologue that catches the despair of the speaker who ‘ate the lazy dream‘ and has adandoned hope. ‘Strong Drink‘ explores the resentment of the underprivileged. As one poem explains, ‘Yirdealinwi an unexplodedman‘. Using standard English, a kind ofvernacular, some
rude words. and idiosyncratic typesetting. Bobby Christie sounds off in similar vein. Again anger puts vivid images on the page. Margaret Fulton Cook hopes we will find her poetry entertaining. but I‘m sure that is the wrong word since much of her verse concerns itself with sadness and pain. The more personal poems in ‘Spell Bound‘ are the more successful. "The Eighth Dwarf‘ is the most ambitious of this collection and perhaps the most impressive. Fulton uses a free style. is less directly aggressive. and so his points are
made more effectively. Many ofthe poems in these five booklets were clearly written from a deep sense of need and deserve to be read. (Ken Morrice)
FICTION HAPPY FAMILY
Equal Affections David Leavilt (Viking £1 l.95) Louise (‘ooper is a Jewish mother whom cancer is killing slowly. giving her family the chance to talk about its life and future. Most don‘t take it and hers‘ is no exception. With patient understanding Leavitt details the lives of these individuals and the ties that hold them apart. A 40-year marriage undertaken in haste and increasingly regretted is like most such habits not worth the effort or risk ofstmdering. Within it grow the close rivalry of the gay son and daughter. the weary hopeful infidelity of the husband and the mother‘s strength betrayed for a lifetime by her youthful retreat into respectable security. All family life is here. In California. Louise does crosswords and knits. while back East her son. Danny. shares chores and porn with Walter. his first and only love. After death the children appropriate portions of her life for themselves and find their father guilty of seeking happiness and causing misery. This is an honest and sympathetic chronicle; the more one reﬂects on it. the more one likes it. (Sally Macpherson)
SEE THE WORLD WITH THE LIST CLASSIFIED
SIGNING SESSION WITH
Volume 3 of his autobiography - "Double Feature" at 12.30 pm. on Monday 3 July, 1989 in John Smith & Son, 57 St.Vincent Street, Glasgow
Please telephone if you wish to reserve a signed copy
60 The List 30 June - 13 July 1989