in spirit, enmeshed in ancient civilisations that are tougher and more nefarious than their own —. they break down, fall apart, go mad. It is a pity that Keneally does not quite attain the cool, stylistic acumen of forerunners in this genre, Graham Greene, Conrad, Paul Bowles or Cornus. His prose is sentimental, his characters schematic ciphers; the background of the story comes to life rather than the novelettish tale superimposed upon it — a tale that reads like a popular film script, its saleability being its criterion of quality. Through this thin tale we can see Keneally himselfas the travelling
middle-aged Australian journalist
Darcy, a hapless and helpless witness to the chaotic tragedy in Eritrea and whose only chance of helping can be in somehow stirring up public opinion. Bob Geldof‘s magnanimous gestures have passed into history, but the intricate and terrible relations between famine and politics, and the hypocritical back-turning of the West continues. Even if the book would have possibly been more honest and powerful as non-fiction, if it manages to rekindle the kind of thought provoked by Bob Geldof, it will not be in vain. (Frances Doyle)
Booksellers since 1797
7 MOSS STREET, PAISLEY PAl 1 BC, 041 889 3820
invite you to meet
who will be signing copies of his new book CANAL DREAMS
on Monday 9 October from 6.30-8.30pm Refreshments and Music
Boo sellers since 1797
will be signing copies of his new book LIVINGSTONE'S LABOUR (Unwin Hyman £12.95)
Wednesday 11th October 7.00 for 7.30pm Wine will be served
OUT TO LUNCH
The Mezzanine Nicholson Baker (Granta £10.95) There is something so satisfyingly apt about a modern novel focused without mercy or mitigation upon one office minion‘s lunch break, during which certain dissertations upon trivia (ie Shoelaces, diagonally-sliced white bread, bra removals inside a sweatshirt, the perforations on toilet paper, etc) assault the reader with ﬂawless, inductive precision. Why? Because advanced technology has, in many ways, pinpointed the tireless inefficiency ofour emotions. In this sense, Nicholson Baker’s first novel, The Mezzanine, eludes the customary fatigue with which first published efforts are greeted, purely by the audacity of its premise and execution.
Narratively speaking, not a great deal takes place, and yet supplanting this are a series of ruminative footnotes overlapping each other, spiced with brief conversational asides never rising above the phatic. All the automatic sub-routines of life are magnified by Baker with an ardour reminiscent of heavy petting, a sequence of inane mysteries meticulously explained to the point where they acquire the status of a murder inquiry. The result is a hypnotically readable fetishism addressing itself with eerie contemporaneity to the necessarily mechanical role (a secondary one, implying demotion) humans must play within a society now so dependent upon micro-chips, data storage, etc. Dehumanised but still very much alive, Howie, our new hero, has put his emotions to greater use, that’s all. He’s integrated, at one with the console. (Chris Lloyd)
OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE FENCE
Chamberlain and the Lost Peace John Charmley (Hodder & Stoughton, £15) This is probably the most extreme text yet written pertaining to the pro-appeasement revisionism ofthe last 15—20 years. Charmley makes great play of the notion that in terms of starting a World War the Polish invasion mattered not a whit; agreeable enough. The central weakness of his thesis is that Hitler did not want war with Britain. Hitler was simultaneously mad as a march hare and the smartest European leader in the Thirties; for years he juggled and outmanoevred the rest, deceiving them into hoping that each expansion of the Reich would be the last. Charmley, over 50 years later, continues to chase the carrot, just as Chamberlain had. His lamenting the ‘Lost Peace’ and the lost world that went with it (British Empire out, Superpowers in and tons of money down the drain) is indicative of a blinding preoccupation with British
interests. The pattern was easily
discernable on the European mainland. After the ‘appeasing’ Munich meeting in Sept 1938, Hitler continued to lay claims, even wilder than before; the usurpation in Czechoslovakia. the manufactured Polish problem and going behind everyone’s back to sweet-talk Stalin. He was clearly into world hegemony and could never have stomached a blight like the British Empire. He may not have wanted it as such, but his plans for the Reich precluded its avoidance.
Charmley’s declamatory book is, nonetheless, an absorbing tester for the limitations of this modern view. (Stewart Hennessey).
Recent titles are surveyed in brief by Kristina Woolnough.
I From My Guy To Sci-Ft Ed Helen Carr (Pandora £6.99) Feminist literary criticism scrutinises the genres, as writers (Roz Kaveney, Sara Maitland etc) look at their own writing. Readable and theoretical. I Grace Maggie Gee (Abacus £3.99) Acclaimed novel tells ofaged woman at the seaside, a pregnant niece, lost love and tested love, the hurricane and the vicious attacks of a crazed private detective. Gripping. I Loyalties Raymond Williams (Hogarth Press £5.95) From the Spanish Civil War to the 1984 miners‘ strike, Williams looks at contemporary and historical loyalties and betrayals amongst a group of friends and their families. Allan Massie’s latest, A Question of Loyalries perhaps inevitably shares some common ground with it.
I The First Eden: The Mediterranean World and Man David Attenborough (Fontana £6.99) The paperback of the hardback of the TV series.
_ REAL MAN MAKES BOOKER snonrusr
Joy of joys, James Kelman, the Glasgow-born writer has achieved what many thought was beyond the Scottish literati — the shortlist of the Booker Prize. His fourth novel, A Disaitection, is one of six novels that will be released from the trap on October 26 when the £20,000 winner will be announced at London's Guildhall. According to reports, Kelman picked up three of the required live votes in an early ballot and the two others soon after. Well-versed in gambling argot, Kelman reckons his chances alabout 10-1. ‘I-iis Scottishness is integral to his writing,’ wrote Alice Thompson in The List’s Book Festival supplement. ‘Kelman takes a commonplace tood - steak-pie and beans—and by placing it on a single line in a serious novel renders it special.’ He commented: ‘Sure, you should always write from your own cultural experience. So much literature tries to generalise and get rid of the steak pie and beans and make it quiche.’
A Disatiection is published by Secker and Warburg priced £11.95.
72 The List 29 September — 12 October 1989