nooks living hell
Having cultivated an exemplary reputation as a writer oi contemporary and sensitive children's iiction, Anne Fine proved herself a capable adults’ novelist with ‘The Killioy'. Her second contribution to the lield, its title derived from ‘The Devil’s Advice to Storytellers' as told by Robert Graves, will, most certainly, match the award-winning achievements of its predecessor.
Oliver, a successlul philosopher, has migrated irom America to nest in his ex-wlie's airing cupboard —to write his autobiography. This situation lorces him to tolerate Constance’s interminable mockery and his two demanding daughters, notwithstanding the acceptance of docile, Iumpen Ally, the former gardener, whose interests in bedding have diversiiied considerably since his appointment as Constance‘s lover. Oliver’s reasoning, thereiore, would appear to be his philosophical papers, stashed in the attic.
It is when Constance begins to add her own lrantic marginalia that the personal iacets oi Oliver's childhood, career and marriage (iorsaken ior documentation oi his academic achievements) emerge, and a very different Oliver is seen.
Within the coniines ol these improbable circumstances, Fine has created a memorable tale. Beetling along on a dumper-truck oi dry humour
and convincing characterisation, the conclusion is immaculate,
incorporating mischievous elements of iarce.
Skiliully, one's contempt towards Oliver’s oblivion oi the reality oi lile is diminished. Why can’t Constance, with her Perrier-clear grip on reality see that Oliver is incapable of comprehending such things, and, instead oi continuing her ritual humiliation, attempt to overcome her deliberate ignorance towards his work and help him see what is under his nose?
Ultimately, the message is that there is a need for balance. Too much time is spent iretting over liie's routine, but controlled doses serve a vital function - relieving think-tanks irom higher things, keeping leet on the ground and, paradoxically, revitalising those brain cells iorthe next round oi contemplation. Think about it. . . (Susan Mackenzie)
Taking the Devil’s Advice by Anne Fine, published by Viking at £12.99).
I Month of Pure Light Elizabeth Kemf (The Women’s Press £17.95) The term ‘ecocide‘ was invented after the destruction ofVietnam by US troops twenty years ago. Devastated by 72 million litres ofherbicide and 13 million tons of bombs, the country certainly seemed to have been brutally murdered. American journalist and author. Elizabeth Kemfgives a detailed account of Vietnam in the late 803 as it slowly begins to recover. She describes her encounters with villagers who had been caught in the infamous ‘Agent Orange’ crossfire, as well as her discussions with Government officials on the problems of re-introducing crops and trees into a barren soil. The book itself is far from barren though, with colourful images of the sometimes quite farcical elements of life as a roving reporter. Neither is it depressing, despite descriptions of the war‘s effects on both people and landscape. Kemfconcentrates on her relationship with the Vietnamese. and in particular. her developing friendship with her ‘interpreter‘ Phuong (whose English is patchy to say the least). The combination of personal experience with a factual account ofevents in Vietnam makes the book both
86 The List 18—31 May 1990
interesting and moving. and. as the author hoped, helps to place Vietnam in its new context of re-growth and re-population. (Ruth
I Digital Justice Pepe oreno (Titan £14.95) As a glimpse of state-of-thc-art computer graphics, DigiIaIJthtice has the same fascination as Disney‘s Tron, or the pub football and racing games cropping up in increasing numbers. Since it is the world‘s first computer-generated graphic novel. the selling point (apart from Batman) is the artwork. not the below-par story. and it‘s quite fascinating — as a Horizon on the subject would be. Occasionally looking airbrushed or painted, the pictures have a quality all their own. all the more so because the McIntosh II on which they were created seems
unable to draw a line that isn’t on the vertical or horizontal axis without breaking it up, an annoying flaw that will no doubt be dealt with in time. I know better than to write the technique off — Digital Justice has too many genuinely impressive pages, and a unique texture — but the wonder of the book lies in the hint it gives as to what may lie ahead. (Alastair Mabbott)
I How They Became The Beatles Gareth L. Pawlowski (MacDonald £12.95); Ticket to Ride Scott Muni, Denny Somach and Kathleen Somach (Macdonald £12.95) Pawlowski‘s book grew out of a desire to correct errors he had seen repeated by one Beatle biographer after another. Determined to set the record straight, he came to Britain to research it all over again, from original sources, and unearthed some remarkable early pictures, which are without doubt the book‘s most attractive feature. Excising numerous photos of record labels — Dora Bryan‘s ‘All I Want for Christmas is a Beatle‘ among them — and other paraphernalia which could only appeal to the most ardent fanatic, would have slimmed the book down to halfthe length ifnot halfthe price.
Only a fully paid-up zealot would shell out for Ticket to Ride— basically. transcripts of radio interviews in which celebs from Billy Joel to Donovan reminisce about the Fab Four. One of the few sections of interest is a chat with the band‘s former press officer, the droll Derek Taylor. ‘lt may not be public knowledge, but bugger it.’ he announces, letting it out ofthe bag that Michael Jackson was given 50 per cent of the publishing royalties for Neil Innes’ Rutles album. Close enough to the heart ofall the fuss to know he can get away with being flippant about it, Taylor is a welcome contrast to the majority of interviews, which are tedious and impart very little worth knowing. (Alastair Mabbott)
I The Journey Home Dermot Bolger (Viking£12.99) ‘You were always trying to be Shay . . . you never gave yourself time to be you.’ Shay has lit up the drab lives of Hano and Katie; now he‘s dead, and they’re on the run from the police, trying to make sense of their lives without Shay.
The characters in The Journey Home are the dispossessed of contemporary Ireland, its setting an urban landscape ofdrink, drugs, the dole, and dead-end jobs. Bolger‘s language moves effortlessly from street-talk to poetry, as he creates what is both a fascinating thriller about political corruption and a moving story about growing up. It’s an ambitious and remarkable novel, bursting with energy, ideas and very real characters. And, though Bolger’s is a distinctly Irish voice, there are, especially with Dublin set to become the next ‘City of Culture’, more than a few parallels to be
drawn with urban Scotland. (Elizabeth Burns)
Ann Vinnicombe takes a look at the latest in soil covers. I Long Time Gone David Crosby with Carl Gottlieb (£5.99) Rock star Crosby uses his autobiography to confess all about his long-term drug habits. A chorus of friends and colleagues join in to underline the message ‘Don‘t do it, kids‘. I When the Monster Dies Kate Pullinger (Picador £4.99) Battersea Power Station, unearthed Roman ruins, plus a mish-mash of modern youth culture (squatters and yuppies alike), link Britain‘s stained colonial past with its grimy present, as Kate Pullinger lays bare the worst of London‘s dirty (political) laundry. I Playing in the Sand Christopher Hudson (Pan £3.99) Fiction brushes with fact, as a famous war poet uncovers evidence of Britain‘s secret nuclear tests in Australia. ln-depth characterisation and authentic detail. make this a gripping tale. I Sins tor Father Knox Josef Skvorecky (Faber £3.50) The ten commandments for detective story writing, as set out by the venerable Father Knox, are shamelessly violated in the stories in this collection — readers are invited by the author to guess which. Witty and inventive — a manual for whodunnit aﬁcionados. I The Marble Mountain Lisa St Aubin de Téran (Pan £3.99) Exotic. far-ﬂung locations, dark secrets. ﬂamboyant characters and colourful imagery enliven this richly imaginative collection ofshort stories.
I The Great Prolundo Bernard Mac Laverty (Penguin £3.99) Justly acclaimed collection of short stories, which nudges the reader into a world of lonely hearts. His characters are fragile creations with a hidden tenderness that is gently drawn out. Superb story-telling.
I The Silence in the Garden William Trevor (Penguin £4.99) The majestic estate of Carriglas comes to symbolise both the poetry and tragedy of Ireland's past and present. A brooding, melancholic work.
I Have the Men Had Enough? Margaret Forster (Penguin £4.99) A hard-hitting indictment of the way old people are treated by society - the geriatric ward of a mental hospital is especially well described. Blunt, but well-aimed criticism.
I GLASGOW HERALD PEOPLE'S PRIZE FOR FICTION The short leet for this year’s £5000 prize is: James Kelman A Disaffection, All an Massie
A Question of Loyalties, Eric McCormack The Paradise Motel,