Our Books Editor Kristina Woolnough sitts outsome lictional recommendations, inevitably idiosyncratic, from her 1989 consumption.
. if __.... KAZUO WISHICMRO
r. /.. I The Remains of the Day Kazuo lshiguro (Faber £10.99) Although many Booker winners are hard to digest. lshiguro's elegaic novel is not. It tells ofStevens the butler. a man who has stifled his personal life in pursuit ofbutlerial perfection. A small. now aged figure. Stevens shufﬂes through the corridors of power (he thinks). making his contribution to history. History runs away from him. and his offering goes unnoticed. The tone and balance of the novel linger. giving the
impression that. whatever else it may
be. the book is enduring. I Breathing Lessons Anne 'l'yler (Chatto & Windus£1 1.95) An early
Spring bonus. Tyler's novel was to be
followed later in the year with the film version of her book. T116 Accidental Tourist. Breathing Lessons peels away the wrinkled layers ofa well—worn marriage. revealing the basic incompatibility of Maggie and Ira Moran and their perversely solid affection for one another. Maggie's capacity to dream pink-hued dreams keeps her afloat. while lra whistles incessantly to buoy his spirits up. It‘s an absorbing. uncomfortably familiar novel.
I Tending to Virginia Jill McCorkle (Cape £11.95)A hot. humid North Carolina summer brings family anxieties to fever-pitch before cool air brings resolution and relief. Virginia Carter. fatly pregnant. wades through her family history. re-enacting it in part and then tying up untidyends. It's a rocking-chair-on-the-porch family saga. rich in the ingredients of Southern tragedy.
I Passing 0n Penelope Lively (Deutsch £10.95) A bullying mother continues to dictate to her cowed adult children even after her death. Siblings Helen and Edward Glover have allowed. for their own cowardly
purposes. their mother to shadow their lives. Booker-prize winning Lively's 1989 offering is as poised and readable as her previous works. I A Disattection James Kelman (Seeker a- Warburg £10.95) More gritty Kelman. this time tellingofa Glaswegian schoolteacher. Patrick Doyle. and his tortuous internals. Working-class Doyle has worked himselfout ofsynch with his background. while he still finds himselfout of step with his colleagues. Social isolation pounds at him and eventually casts him adrift.
I Vanished Mary McGarry Morris (Viking £1 1.95) Dotty. a victim of abuse. chaotic and self-destructive. beguiles Aubrey. slow-witted and a worrier. and leads him to a sordid life on the road. Violence. child-abuse. the immorality ofturning a blind eye pump blood into the book. making it a powerful. vital and tragic opener from Morris.
I Parlour Games Mavis Cheek (Bodley Head £11.95)A more flighty novel. which perhaps has limited appeal and a rather obvious plot. (‘hcek‘s book nonetheless proved memorable. Observations on the pretensions ofsouthern suburbia. on the vagaries of deliberately non-pretentious ale-drinkers. on the insatiable sexual curiousity ofa cleaning lady make for wholesome satirical fodder.
Mike Calder reviews the latest in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
I A Child Across the Sky Jonathan Carroll (Legend £5.95r£l 1.95). This novel is the story of Weber Gregston‘s attempt to complete the last of a string of horror movies left unfinished by his best friend's presumed death. The more he becomes involved in the project.
however. the more he has to discover
about his friends life and the nature ofgood and evil. Weber shoots the final scenes and re-edits the existing footage but feels compelled to add more and more until the film's final cut sounds completely unmarketable! Despite this. the book adds further to this author‘s reputation.
I Skeleton-ln-Waiting Peter Dickinson (The Bodley Head £10.95). Much ofthis novel. a sequel to King andluker. is taken up describing the tedium oflife as a
BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS
‘royal‘. In this alternate history. however. the present crop of royals is replaced by a line descended from the elder brother ofGeorge V. Half of the plot concerns the publication ofthe (probably damaging) memoirs oftheir Queen Mother figure. who happens to be a Romanov; the other plot-line is about an IRA kidnap attempt.
I Requiem for a Rulerol Worlds Brian Daley (Grafton £3.99). In the far future Earth is a minor backwater and Hobart Floyt is a minor functionary who dabbles in genealogy. When the ruler ofseveral distant planets dies and makes him a beneficiary. factions from all over explored space take notice. Most of this present volume concerns the exploits of Floyt and his space-wise bodyguard as they travel to claim his inheritance; this is standard SF which could have been written anytime over the past 30 years.
I Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind Part 2: Book One ofFour. Hayao Miyazaki (Viz £2.25) This Japanese epic continues to fascinate; the black and white art shows the terrors and delicacies of Miyazaki‘s future world in loving detail. In the clash between two empires bordering the Sea of Corruption — a vast. poisonous
jungle of fungi — several tiny enclaves
are drawn into the conflict. Princess Nausicaa fights for her people and also for the strange creatures ofthe Sea. This is comparable to the best genre fantasy being published today. I Weapon Robert Mason (Bantam £6.95) Solo is a protoype humanoid robot killing-machine which is taken to Central America for final testing. However. its developing intelligence leads it to defy its masters and escape to learn more about life. As the net closes to recapture Solo. it becomes friends with some villagers and gradually becomes more ‘human‘. The US Army and CIA agents are shown as boorish individuals: only the villagers respond to 5010‘s naivety and openness with friendship. The only real character is Solo. but this is still an enjoyable read.
Alan Taylor ploughs the latest biographical turrows and hits some stones.
I Bitter Fame: A Lite 01 Sylvia Plath Anne Stevenson (£15.95 Viking). 1f Plath's illness had been acknowledged would she be alive now and writing great poetry? What is glaringly obvious in the shrink-infested ‘80s seems to her nearest and dearest (her mother. friends. and Ted Hughes. her husband) to have been overlooked as temperamental behaviour. it is difficult to accept the divergence of opinion about her in the various interim biographies published since her suicide in 1963. Anne Stevenson an American poet better known in Britain. is sympathetic but her reliance on the testimony ofOlwyn Hughes. Ted‘s sister. ensures that
this is another book to add to the heap ofhalf—lies. Pernickcty. perfectionist. wearin domestic. an all-American failure fable. one begins by hating Plath but she has our vote at the end. No one knows what happened between her and Ted Hughes but something tipped her over the edge. and alone and screaming with a talent that began to burst out too late like pus from a gangrenous wound. she stuck her head in the oven. It is like being left Shakespeare's sonnets but not the plays.
I Coleridge: Early Visions Richard Holmes (£15.95 Hodder & Stoughton) The first instalment ofa two-part ‘life‘. Holmes (pedigree: ‘Footsteps‘ and ‘Shelley: The Pursuit‘) justifies his reputation as one ofthe most felicitous of modern biographers. ‘Ifhe (Coleridge) does not leap out of these pages — brilliant. animated. endlessly provoking— and invade your imagination (as he has done mine). then I have failed to do him justice.‘ This is an enthusiast‘s biography but not the work of a hagiographer. He challenges Coleridge and often finds him awry. unreliable or vane but his genius is never in doubt. 1n the last chapter he tours Scotland with the Wordsworths but they split up and Coleridge arrives in Fort Augustus overcome by diarrhoea. ‘a sure indication ofopium withdrawal.‘ Plus ca change. plus c‘est la meme chose. as the Gaels say.
I Loner at the Ball: The Life otAndy Warhol Fred Lawrence Guiles (£16.95 Bantam) Laugh? I nearly cried when Andy nearly died at the beginning of this guileless book. A frustrated. paranoid scriptwriter bursts into Warhol‘s apartment and lets fire. One ofWarhol‘s chums is winged in the buttock (he was a pain in the ass anyway) while the pop artist is slugged twice in in the vicinity of a heart. For some reason another chum gave him mouth to mouth resuscitation. or maybe he was just showing affection. Another laughed. ‘Don't make me laugh.' pleaded Warhol ‘lt hurts too much.‘ So does Guiles‘s load of kitsch. With indecent haste the ugly duckling‘s former friends have come clucking out ofthe swamps. elevating the trivial and as banal as popcorn. Which. come to think ofit. isjust what this is.
The List 24 November — 7 December 1989 81