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I 4 journey. Awoman offorbidding
aspect and intellect, in this ‘sort-of-a-book’, she opens her mind at random, allowing a glimpse of acute perceptions and gravelly prejudice.
A collection of musings spoken aloud to a friend, Practicalities butterﬂies over a labyrinth of subjects. The pivotal themes are sexual relationships, the condition of women, and Duras’ history of alcoholism.
She dwells on men: their essential otherness, invariably latent homosexuality; the pathos and dignity ofeach new affair (‘In heterosexual love there’s no solution’).
In this age of liberalism she says little has changed, and her view of women’s lives is bleak, seeing them played out in ‘a theatre ofprofound loneliness. . . their whole lives long, they lose their rightful kingdom in the despair of every day'.
Like nuggets, between these subjects are stray reflections: a poignant description of a paralysed child left alone on a beach as twilight thickens; Duras’ nightlong vigil of fascination as she stares at two stones; each a private thought captured and shared.
Untamed. vivid and confrontational, Duras shows here her gift of ﬂuency and imagination, the merest idea bright under her touch. Yet this is a writer who sees her life ‘like a film that‘s been dubbed, badly cut. badly acted, badly put together. In short. a mistake.’ (Rosemary Goring)
IKE— MUSICAL CHAIRS
Facing the Music Simon Frith (ed) (Mandarin £4.50) The old chestnut ‘If you gotta ask the question. you ain‘t never gonna know the answer' couldn‘t be better applied than in the case ofpost-modernism. Everyone's talking about it, but no one seems able to define it — which is a pain. since to all serious pop journalism nowadays it‘s taken to be as fundamental as Hobbes‘ State of Nature. Jon Savage. in his ‘Sex. Rock and Identity‘ essay herein. tries. but ends up with something more resembling a zen koan than a serious definition. I guess it‘sjust a feeling. y‘know. deep inside. that you just can‘t keep to yourself.
A book ofscholarly essays on pop published in the final weeks ofthe 1980s. Facing the Music can‘t help but deal with its subject as a central commodity of the consumer culture (with a remarkable power to create and sustain its own illusions). but is thankfully more readable than it sounds.
The contributions by Mary Harron. Jon Savage and Frith himselfare where the book rolls up its sleeves. taking a calm. analytical look at ‘authenticity‘. hype. the gay subtexts ofpop and the firm hand that the industry has on how its consumers perceive both its
workings and pops own history. The value of Frith‘s approach is that he never loses sight either of the importance of technology and market forces in the story of pop or of his own enthusiasm towards it. He has found worthy collaborators here. (Alastair Mabbott)
[EME- DARK NIGHT OF BATMAN
Arkham Asylum Grant Morrison. Illustrated by Dave McKean (Titan, £14.95). The alternative side of last year‘s Batman phenomenon arrives with Arkham Asylum, an adult graphic novel by Glasgow‘s own comics wunderkind. Grant ‘New Adventures of Hitler‘ Morrison and Dave McKean, artist on the adult comic strip in The Face.
This is Gotham City‘s darkest night ever. when the lunatics take over the asylum and dare the Caped Crusader to enter. Typical pulp nonsense becomes real heart ofdarkness stuff when Morrison and McKean get hold of it. This is more about human nastiness and sexual psychology than superheroics. The artwork is as perverse as the story. being a collage ofbizarre images that are often stunningly photographic in quality and at other points are insanely confused.
As in the film. the Joker is the star of the show. although this is nothing like Jack Nicholson’s version. Here, he is part camp clown and part German Expressionist horror film. He gropes Batman. tells jokes about spastic babies and blows people‘s brains out.
This book seems to want to break out of the comics‘ ghetto. yet it is really still too full of the esoterica of the Batman mythology for many casual readers. despite its adult approach. Perhaps Renaissance Man Morrison should leave superheroics behind when he wants to get really serious. as he did with his recent award-winning play. Also, this may be the upmarket end of comics, with 120 pages ofstrong writing and stunning art together with excellent production values. but £14.95 seems rather expensive for a book that takes 30 minutes to read. (Gordon Rennie)
BP SPEAK A POEM COMPETITION
Do you like poetry? Would you like to meet published poets and talk to them about poetry? Min Ie with others of a similar mind? Stu y and speak some poems yourself-perform on the stage of the National Theatre your own choice of poetrv before a panel of distinguished judges from the world of literature and the theatre? With the possibility of a first prize of £1000? All this is possible if you enter the BP SPEAK A POEM COMPETITION, but huny. huny—closing date is the end of this month—January 3lst. There are 2 classes: Adult. which costs £7 and 16-19 age group. which costs only £4. Semi for an entry form immediately to:
Denise Kantor. Administrator. 30 Weymouth Street, London WIN 3FA. Tel: 01-580 0309
70 The List 26 January — 8 February 1990