‘A superbly funny book, Pratchett and Gaiman are the most hilariously sinister team since Jekyll and Hyde. If this is Armageddon, count me in. ’
Terry Pratchett 6 Neil Caiman
The Nu c and/\L c urule PRIP/M'L res (if/Tynes Nutter. “7!; It
OUT NOW IN HARDCOVER FROM (i( )l l AVCZ
‘Read Pyramids and weep with laughter.’
GOOD BOOK GUIDE The British Science
Fiction Award winner
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FICTION LITERARY CIRRHOSIS
I Remedy ls None William McIlvanney (Richard Drew £4.99) Mcllvanney‘s first novel was published in 1966, and I initially shied away from this re-issue as if it were a used syringe. But it was written before the author went grandiloquent on us. Undergraduate Charlie Grant‘s father dies and he ‘takes it badly‘. Unlike Hamlet, Lallans-speaking Charlie is deﬁnitely a goalkeeper short of a first eleven. And unlike Raskolnikov he is not steered to a cataclysmic act of violence by an author of genius. However, Charlie is rescued from becoming a self-pitying cipher by McIlvanney’s surprisingly good third-person narrative voice; his prose explanations make clear the ideas that Charlie himselfcannot articulate, but which relate to him.
The local patois is so thick it hurts to read it, and even when this linguistic affectation is translated into English the dialogue is still, in parts. so arch it makes one wince. But hacking through the verbal undergrowth is worthwhile, as there are some good jokes. Mcllvanney’s penchant for metaphor and simile isn’t yet over-ripe here, and there are some terrific one-sentence descriptions — eg ‘milk bottles put a full stop to the night in someone’s house.‘
The setpiecc of showing holiday snaps in a douce bungalow is brilliantly sustained. Conversely, the description of the student party is risible; unintentionally hilarious. Charlie, Jim and Andy sink seven pints and three doubles (each!) in the pub beforehand, drink lustin at the bash. then Charlie carries a beautiful girl he has just met across a bedroom threshold where he soberly robs her of her most precious asset in a ‘tidal throb‘. Afterwards, she weeps; to
, which he responds: ‘Haemorrhage quietly to yourselfand die.‘ Later in
the pub they drink more beer and whisky. Not surprisingly Charlie throws up. Kilmarnockese livers must fetch high prices on the transplant black market.
Good pages far outnumber the bad. but there isn‘t a dull page in the 244 that won‘t make you laugh or think. The Great Kilmarnock Novel has been written. But then William ‘Say it with a Simile' got a bad dose of purple prositis. which resulted in the lamentable Laid/aw: ‘Down these mean streets Metaphor Man must go.‘
(David M. Bennie)
I Billy Bayswater Nigel Watts (Hodder & Stoughton £1 1 .95) This has the rare. glueish quality of a genuinely gripping novel — not because the plot is particularly intriguing or unusual, but because of the way it is told. Describing himself
as ‘not thick, just a bit slow‘, Billy presents a child-like view of his world. placing importance on things most adults would regard as trivial or simply not notice. He can sum up quite complex feelings in a brief description — like that niggly, pointless sense of irritation in waiting for ash to drop off someone‘s cigarette — ‘He’s smoking a fag — there‘s half an inch hanging off the end. I hold my breath. . .‘
From the first page, as he stands in his room admiring his plants, to the climactic end, he is constantly looking at things, touching and listening. The book centres on his developing love for Marie - a girl he meets at a garden centre. As he has about twice the emotion and half the cynicism of most ‘normal‘ adults, their romance is doomed from the start. It‘s easily as sad as Romeo and Juliet— but funnier too. (Ruth Thomas)
BRAGG ABOUT IT
I A Time to Dance Melvyn Bragg (Hodder and Stoughton £12.95) Spawned by Melvyn Bragg, the memoirs of a love affair suffered by a retired bank manager, ruined by his passion for an 18-year-old secretary from the wrong side of town, smacks of inebriated post-prandial conversation between Jonathan Miller and Judith Krantz. Thankfully, such ludicrous extremes are not reached.
It takes time to get comfortable with the penetrating, analytical style — initially as dense as an egg custard - and to shed Bragg’s nasal whine which, subconsciously, narrates the text. But this, along with the occasionally clumsy sentences and cliched, out-of-character asides is soon replaced by exhausting intensity and an iron grip.
His world ofcalculated order crumbles. He loses control ofhis destiny. his self-respect and the respect of others. Hers is a world of shame — of her background and of her scarring past. Grabbing the senses by the throat. A Time To Dance embroils emotions. making sympathy a weather-cock in a storm — and still finds room for a sprinkling ofnature and politics.
Alime to Dance
82 The List I — I4June 1990