Malachy 3. His Family Carlo Gebler (Hamish Hamilton £12.99) American Malachy long-hauls it across the Atlantic to meet new-found British half-brother Malachy and theirjoint father. He goes to stay with the family, starts a diary (which we are reading) and falls incestuoust in love with his half-sister Eva.
American Malachy is, in fact, pretty boring. It is the family, and its Irish and Hungarian ancestry that manifest more quirky and absorbing traits. Snide, cruel Mrs Gara, mother of British Malachy’s mother, is a force to be reckoned with. The darkness which blights the family’s lives, the inherited interest in drink passed on through the male lineage and the grim refugee air which lingers in the novel also prove fertile fictional ground.
But Gebler’s Epilogue, in which the true controller of the narrative is revealed, comes across more as an uncomfortable admission that the book’s hero is dull than as a clever-clever final twist. Gebler concocts a strange potion, stirring the absurd in with the realistic, and it’s hard to keep a grip on it. (Tina Allan)
CONSPIRATORIAL HIGHS Vineland Thomas Pynchon (Secker & Warburg £14.95) Aw ri-i-ight, it’s been a long summer, even in Californian terms, since Thomas Pychon (whoever he or she is) produced a new novel. This one is an even more extraordinary stream of pyschedelic consciousness, the product of at least one too many artificially-induced trips.
The story, for what it‘s worth, seems to be about right-on women who have unwholesome and politically unsound passions for men in uniforms. One such marries the uniformless hero, hippie left-over Zoyd Wheeler. She then abandons him and their daughter Prairie. Hideously long sentences, incessant Californian stoned-speak and wild excursions off the narrative track are occasionally entertaining and
occasionally infuriating. Each sprawling paragraph offers a self-contained shaggy dog story, all leading right up very blind alleys.
Concealed in this mass of narrative tributaries (the river itself is somewhere in there) are countless warped pysches, damaged beyond repair in the revolutionary Sixties. A parable for modern TV-addicted times it may be, but the moral is , tricky to root out. It’s a novel to hate or to celebrate or to suffer valiantly. The line between space cadets and geniuses seems to be a narrow one. (Kristina Woolnough)
Dollarville Pete Davies (Jonathan Cape £11.95) Pete Davies‘ second novel takes us into a near-future world crumbling into anarchy and environmental catastrophe, where the wheeler-dealers scrabble ruthlessly for the last fast bucks. Society’s disintegration is . symbolised by the town of Dollarville, with its everyday violence and squalor overlooked by omnipresent advertising billboards.
The plot centres around Charlie, an all-round nice guy trying to live a quiet life, and Mel, an ecologist crippled in a run-in with a rhino, who unwittingly becomes caught up in a plot to assassinate the US President at a football match. Also involved are an alien on a TV satellite, an evil genius who metamorphoses into a reptile, and an old Central American Indian with a map of the world on his head.
A racy, fast-moving style and some quirky plot ingredients partially disguise the fact that Dollarville is a fairly unoriginal variation on the well-worn theme of apocalypse, marred further by Davies’ penchant for graphic bloodshed. It tries to depict the triumph of love and humanity in an ugly, brutal world, but the ugliness and brutality are what stick in the mind, despite the mawkish and predictable ending. A reasonably intelligent ‘rattling good read‘, but with little substance beneath a slick surface. (Sue Wilson)
FIRST NOVELS THE PERFECT PLACE
The Perfect Place (Jonathan Cape
£1 1.95) The blurb on the cover of this, Kohler’s first novel, compares the plot to a ‘psychosexual striptease’. It is an intriguing but rather unfortunate metaphor. If Kohler‘s nameless protagonist were a stripper, even a ‘psychosexual’ one, she would lose my attention long before removing the second glove. A less charitable punter might throw rotten tomatoes.
Ms X has murdered a schoolfriend long ago. Years later she is recovering from an asthmatic illness in the Alps when a man recognises her as a friend of Daisy Summers. Daisy, the astute reader soon guesses, was the schoolfriend. Ms X remembers nothing about Daisy. D
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will be present for the special launch of his new book THE GREEN GUIDE TO SCOTLAND (Green Print £4.99) at Body & Soul on Wednesday 14th February, 4—6pm
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BET YEAGER IS ONE HELL OF A LADY— TOUGH. INDEPENDENT, A REAL FIGHTER.
AND WHEN SHE SHIPS OUT ON THE SPY VESSEL ‘LOKI’, SHE HAS TO USE ALL HER INGENUITY TO STAY ALIVE . . .
“Close-quarters tension, with never a dull moment and rarely a safe one. .. This is a book you live in the reading" Locus
8 Z 95 Large-format paperback
6 12.95 Hardcover
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The List 9 — 22 February 1990 75