International Writing from
This cycle of poems recreates the first six months of Aygi's daughter‘s life. lnterspersed with songs and stories that relate back to Aygi's ancestral Chuvash culture, this is the first book. length publication of his poems in English.
Bythe Rivers of Babylon & other stories
Jorge de Sena
Exiled from Portugal in 1959. Jorge de Sena later become one of the country's greatest poets. These stories are the first to be published in English and range from the surreal and fable-like to the political and metaphysical.
A warmly written and very funny evocation of Ireland, past. present and future. this book is also a serious literary satire in the tradition of Swift. Sterne and O'Brien.
New catalogue now available from 22 George Square. Edinburgh EH8 9LF
woes. There are some: the central issue is that old slipper. the mother-daughter relationship, which is, in turn, coloured by the miserable mother-father marriage.
Switching narrative paths from daughter (Mercer) to mother (Joan), Raeburn cumulatively sheds light on the matter. Yet it is all humane. non-judgemental stuff. Mercer, successful in love and work, has hit the jackpot. Joan, as mother and as sexually-frustrated wife. has not. Neither has spinsterish sister Lindsay, who has failed miserably on all fronts. Consequently all parental attention and emotional grease focuses on her as the eternally squeaky wheel. It sounds drab, but it’s well-told and the trail of explanations. cast down like used tissues, is intriguing. The unveiling of the Joan-Lindsay conspiracy, the book’s ever-present destination, is not the shocker one expected and is certainly the most disappointing aspect of the book. (Kristina Woolnough)
BROUGHT TO BOOK
The Booker Book Simon Brett. (Sidgwick & Jackson £11.95) Dear God, this is a terrible book! Simon Brett, or his publisher. or someone else, has come up with the bright idea of marking the 20th anniversary of the Booker Prize by writing a novel in which the central character is a novelist so completely lacking in talent and ideas (thin ice here, you might think, and you’d be right), that she rewrites her unpublished novel each year in the style of the current Booker winner. Excerpts from this appalling, protean work give Brett books on which to hang his gifts as a parodist.
Unfortunately, these are slender. Good parodies (as editor of the Faber Book ofParodies he should have known this), are something better than cheap jokes- they must compete with the original at all levels. Brett‘s do not. Moreover, to set off these unhappy slabs, he has contrived a narrator so improbably unintelligent that the connecting passages congeal. unreadably, like cold lamb fat. The whole project must have seemed coruscatingly witty over lunch with his editor; but in fact the single joke would have been overextended even as a Punch article. Look out for large piles of
The Booker Book, temptingly priced. in your local remainder shop before Christmas — but heed the gipsy‘s warning. and spend your money on something else. (Robin Davidson)
PINPOINTS OF LIGHT
Starfleld ed. Duncan Lunan (Orkney Press £10.95) The SF work of sixteen Scottish writers appears in this motley collection. Some are
well-known in mainstream circles — the poet Edwin Morgan, Naomi Mitchison and Alasdair Gray — while others were winners or runners-up in the Glasgow Herald’s SF short story competitions.
Perhaps inevitably, the standard of writing in the volume has as many dips and curves as a roller-coaster. The mock-heroics in Chris Boyce’s opening gambit "The Rig’ are limp and unconvincing, while “Spaced Out’, David Crooks’ tale of an alien’s small-talk to a boozer in a Glasgow pub, is witty and innovaﬂve.
The writers’ subjects are as varied as the quality, but many familiar SF ingredients are there. Disappointineg few of the stories are overtly Scottish — many are unadventurous and smack of the amateurish scribbling that all too often dogs SF books. But in concept, it is a volume to welcome, and will hopefully pave the way for others, with a more consistently accomplished standard ofwriting. (Kristina Woolnough)
Kristina Woolnough looks at the latest. I The White Guard Mikhail Bulgakov (Collins Harvill £6.95) Russian revolution is the subject of Bulgakov’s first major work. Written in classical style, with evocative descriptions.
I Rich: The Life of Richard Burton Melvyn Bragg (Coronet £4.99) Pro-Burton biog uses the actou’s hitherto unpublished diaries and notebooks. Idiomatic, speculative, Braggish book.
I The Faber Book of English History In Verse Ed. Kenneth Baker (Faber £5.99) Arranged in historical clumps, Baker’s selection covers England alone from pre-Norman times to the present day. Original, wilful way to present history.
I Hong Kong: Epilogue to an Empire Jan Morris (Penguin £4.99) A pre-1997 portrait takes on board history, national psyches and the ever-present outside inﬂuences.
I The Birds Have Also Gone Yashar Kemal (Minerva £3.99) Short Turkish novel revises a bird-freeing tradition for modern and allegorical purposes.
I Reflections In A Jaundiced Eye Florence King (Black Swan £3.99) Essays attempting wit and sometimes achieving it from American author. Liberal sprinklings ofquotes.
I A Kiss of Fire Masako Togawa (Mandarin £3.50) Thriller from one of Japan’s most popular novelists blends sex and arson.
I The Dark Clarinet Richard Thornley (Flamingo £3.99) A young lawyer develops an obsession for an elusive woman called N whose 'husband is in prison and who connives to get what she wants. A
fairly interesting love-story with strings.
I The Sassoons: Portrait of a Dynasty Stanley Jackson (Heinemann £8.95) The book of the enormous family, which originated in Baghdad and ﬂourished in the halls of English blue-bloodedness.
I The Woodwitch Stephen Gregory (Sceptre £4.50) A townie goes to the country and finds slime, witchery, sex, erect fungi, death and gorging ﬂies. Spooky.
I From Sappho to De Sade: Moments In the History of Sexuality Ed. Jan Bremmer (Routledge £30) Academic essays from a number of specialists on sexuality in history: Ancient Greece, the medieval west, the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
I Roy Fisher English poet. reads from his work on Wednesday 15 November at 7.45pm. The event is organised by the Poetry Association ofScotland, costs £1 (free for students/concessions) and will be held at 27 George Square (031 334 5241).
74 The List 10— 23 November 1989