GOD AND SELF-FLAGELLATION
Kingdom Come Bernice Rubens (Hamish Hamilton £13.99) Sabbatai Zvi. born of humble origins on an auspicious date, grows up inﬂamed with visions and sado-masochistic tendencies. Jews in 17th-century Poland await their Messiah. needing just such a momentous sign from God in their time ofpersecution. From the moment of his birth, Sabbatai is scrutinised to see if he bears the mark ofthe Messiah. With hopeful eyes upon him, Sabbatai alternately believes he has a Messianic calling and doubts it.
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Rubens’s version of a true story focuses on the swoops and dives of Sabbatai‘s belief in himself as Messiah. His family is riven by the burden: his mother believes, his father does not. His father keeps, throughout. a steady foot on reality. He aids the tone of the novel too, providing a foil to Sabbatai‘s hysterical self-mutilating religious ecstacies.
The battle between father and son, normalacy and fanaticism, rages fiercely. Although Rubens brilliantly evokes the turmoils and the traumas, as soon as normalacy loses the fight, the book somehow gives up the ghost too. Sabbatai, a tool in the hands of history, becomes merely a misguided mother’s boy and the novel breathes out a prolonged, languid air of inevitability. (Kristina Woolnough)
The Education 0! Harriet Hatfield May Sarton (The Women’s Press £6.95) At sixty Harriet Hatield loses Vicky. her lover of thirty years. Stunned by Vicky‘s death, she also feels exhilarated by her new independence, and with her inheritance sets up a feminist bookshop, ‘a nourishing place where women of all kinds could come‘. This is where the ‘education’ of the title begins, for, while Harriet provides the community with a new source of literature, she herself is educated by the women who come into her shop and by the violent response of some
The novel’s secondary characters underline the author‘s message of tolerance, so inevitably the characterisation is not strong; in fact, some seem to share the same vocabulary. But then, more than a novel, the book is an exploration of our attitudes towards homosexuality and feminism. It is not compelling. but it is honest, thoughtful and
encouraging. (Miranda France)
Palltt Out Robert Wallace (Gollancz £12.95) I find it hard to put into words how bored 1 was by Paint Our’s 223 pages. The ramshackle plot revolves around the search for a lost Van Gogh by ‘failed art hustler‘ and all-round boring Australian bastard, Essington Holt.
Our intrepid hero mooches around Amsterdam, agonising over his wife‘s inability to conceive a child, being harassed by the dastardly Dutch and loving his dog. Like her
. owner, this dog is one ponderous
pooch with the ludicrous name of Desdemona. This tedious Van der Valk-meets-Lassie-style relationship bludgeons its way through a tried and tired trail of shadowy strangers, incompetent villains, mundane car chases and lumpen prose.
Needless to say, after much inconsequential messing about, Holt and Desdemona get their paws on the ‘priceless’ Van Gogh. Only to find that, true to Paint Out's inspiring form, the painting is an extremely mediocre, ‘little more
than a sketch‘ in fact.
Robert Wallace is a pseudonym for Robert Wallace-Crabbe. who is apparently a well-known artist in his native Australia. He should sell the typewriter. buy some paint and pick up those brushes. Fast. (Charles Holmes)
NON-FICTION FOUR FOR THE ROAD
The Thirsty Muse: Alcohol and the American Writer Tom Dardis (Abacus £3.99) Five out of the seven Americans awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature were alcoholics. as were many other major 20th-century American authors. Taking this as his starting point. Tom Dardis examines the lives of four writers— Faulkner, Fitzgerald. Hemingway and O‘Neill — and how their artistic careers were affected by drink.
Backed up by recent research, the author believes that alcoholism is primarily an inherited disease, although he does accept that environmental factors play a part. For the four writers here. the speakeasy culture ofthe Prohibition era. allied to the still-prevalent belief that excessive drinking is an essential part of the creative life. was sufficient stimulus for their destructive disease. The decline. and. indeed. death ofthree ofthe four is partially attributable to alcohol; only O'Neill. who gave up drinking aged 37. produced his best work in later life.
The latest books reviewed by Ann Vinnicomhe. I I Woman Between Mirrors Helena Parente Cunha (Polygon £8.95) As her world crumbles around
(Picador £7.99) A myriad | of low-life ‘street personalities‘, from Nazi I skinheads to prostitutes.
as author/voyeur . Vollmann pays ten dollars
per life story. He gets his
Charles Jackson (Penguin ' £4.99) An alcoholic goes on a four-day benderin the Manhattan ofthe Forties. A drunk man looks at his navel, inthis book ofthe ﬁlm.
I Lite on the Nile Janice
her. an unnamed 45 I Mystery Mlle Margery Elliott(Sceptre £3.99) year-old woman is forced Allingham (Penguin Two women-onea
to re-examine her life. £3.50) Dapper chappie modern tourist. the other sparking off an enthralling Albert Campion (ofTV the wife ofa colonial
and poetic series fame) shakes out administrator in the Pirandello-esque play-off the baddies and dowses Twenties inadvertently between character and them down with some of intertwine in Egypt. author. his pre-war wit. Beatsthe Compelling.
I The Rainbow Stories pants off Poirot. . I Children's Games Janet William T. Vollmann IThe Lost Weekend i LaPierre (Virago Crime
£4.99) Schoolteacher Meg and her young daughter move to small-town | America, only for Megto be implicated in a murder. I Flute Shona Ramaya (Abacus £4.50)The 6th Earl of Ravinspur rejoins his stepmother and stepbrother in India after 10 years‘ absence. An exotic blend ofmyth. religion and British colonial history. in this impressive first novel.
I Prisons and Penal Reform Tessa Blackstone (Chatto & Windus £2.99)
The penal system is slammed in this informative pamphlet which scrutinises such gimmicks as electric tagging and the moribund Neighbourhood Watch schemes. An acerbic condemnation.
I Daddy's Girl Clifford lrving (Coronet Books £4.99) A grippingly lurid tale of a true-life double murder case in the best tradition of American gore. Compulsive reading and suitably tacky.
I Hidden Lives. Hidden
Deaths Victoria Brittain (Faber & Faber £4.99) South Africa‘s brutal regime of terror against the whole continent of Africa, and the West‘s shameful covert support. is uncompromisineg laid bare by journalist Brittain.
I Trivial Disputes Fraser Harrison (Flamingo £3.99) Autobiographical tales from a public-school childhood matched by murky illus. Decidedly humourless and oozing with self~importance.
signing copies of her diaries One DayAtA Time
at 12.30pm on Tuesday 27 February in John Smith & Son, 57 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, 041 221 7472
Suzy Whlghton. e Blamglen. has been awarded an NOE. the Star of Palestine and. for 1987. Scot ot the Year. Scotswoman ol the Year. and Nurseol the Year.
Please telephone if you wish to reserve signed copies
The List 23 February — 8 March 1990 81