curious to unpeel the cabbage-leaf conundrum ofhis twisted mind.

Yet. for all the bleakness of the blighted North and the ingrown all-consuming South. the England of this novel retains a core of mythic strength reflected in its sense of human endurance and fidelity: ‘lt's justamean.cold . . .divided . . . post-imperial . . . slag heap.‘ Alex says. adding. ‘lt's not a bad country at all. I love it.‘ And it's this ambivalence. together with the sense that the novel records the graph of our times with a no-risk. unprophetic gaze that finally makes it. for all its accomplishment. seem soporific and. for Drabblc. disappointing. (Tom Adair)



A Collection of Poems 1955—1988 Robert Nye (Hamish Hamilton £12.95) Some years ago the word was that Robert Nye had made such a financial success of his historical novels that he had retreated to be an Irish country gentleman and given up writing poetry altogether. It seems the rumour was true only in part. This book assembles poems from Nye's four previous collections together with new and unpublished verse. So Nye the poet is still in business. This is to be welcomed because some of these poems are quite outstanding in the haunting nature oftheir imagery. Here. for example. is the first verse of an early poem. Kingfisher.

His Majesty the kingfisher bird often Stands on the snow's wrist all night long. Unbabbling at morning thefilm offire. The big Chrysalis of his blue win gs.

The verse as would be expected from one so well-established as a literary critic. is carefully crafted. But I did wonder if an occasional poem did not suffer from being compulsivcly oblique or even over-clever; and I was surprised at the wistful nature of some of the love poetry. But this is an interesting and attractive production. (Ken Morrice)


Societies at Peace Ed. Signe Howell & Roy Willis (Routledge £11.95) Imagine the scene: Edinburgh 1986. In a rather ugly room. in a rather ugly building. a conference of social anthropologists gather to discuss ‘Peace. Action and the Concept of the Self‘. Three years later. out trundles this collection of papers which were originally floated at the conference.

The theme of the book centres around ‘human aggression‘ and the rather dim-witted manner in which it has been treated by sociobiologists and ethologists.

Being an anthropological text. its contributors use their practical experience ofother cultures to convey just why talk of man‘s (sic) innate aggression is so problematic.


And it must be said that this goal is successfully achieved. No one could digest this book and still believe that the grandiose, moral. (racist and sexist) pronouncements that abound in a work like The Naked Ape. for example. carry any weight at all.

Overall. the introduction is just a wee bit turgid. and one piece in particular Peace and the Siege Mentality in Ulster by Anthony D. Buckley is just a fatuous and rather enlightening exercise in academic game-playing.

However. the general standard of contribution is high. several are fascinating. and the book does what it is designed to do occasionally with some style. (D.A. Davidson)


Kristina Woolnough leais through the latest.

I The Phantom White Hare and Other Stories Alexandre Dumas (Canongate £9.95) A king‘s poems bore rebellious subjects into submission. an irreligious apothecary is hounded by a hare. Five neat fables. three ofwhich are translated into English for the first time.

I w, OrThe Memory of Childhood Georges Perec (Collins Harvill £5.95) Parallel tales blur the fictional and the autobiographical. By the author of Life: A User’s Manual.

I The Trial of Socrates I.F. Stone (Picador £4.50) Retired journalist muckrakes and slings mud at Socrates in this vigorous look at the trial and the mysterious man.

I Ninety-Two In The Shade Thomas McGuane (Minerva £3.99) Novel of hallucinatory grotesques. told in smart US style of the experimental variety.

I Roseanna: Martin Beck's First Case Sjowall & Wahloo (Gollancz £2.99) A Swedish strangler is hunted by a fuzzy Swedish cop with a worried. nagging wife. Bog standard detective story.

I Utz Bruce Chatwin (Picador £3.99) Chatwin‘s last novel takes the [>

From War Like A Wasp: The Lost Decade of the Parties, in which Andrew Sinclair weaves world history with the stories of artists and writers in the war years. Published by Hamish Hamilton at 21 7.95.


WATERSTONE’S BOOKSELLERS in conjunction with BBC BOOKS invite you to two important events


who will be talking about and signing copies of her new book THE COMPLETE ILLUSTRATED COOKERY COURSE Thursday 2nd November 7.30pm


who will be talking about his travels and signing copies of his new book AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DA Y S Friday 3rd November, 7pm

Please telephone if you are unable to attend and wish to reserve a signed copy

1 l4 GEORGE STREET, EDINBURGH Tel: 031 225 3436

The List 27 October 9 November 1989 77