It was one oi those bright summer days you oiten get In Edinburgh in June, one at those days when the sun lights its way through the smog and bounces back smiling oil the sidewalk making your head test as it it will split it you shake It too hard.
I turned the collar at my trenchcoat up and thanked my guardian angel that I wouldn’t have to stay out in the heat; I had a date with a Japanese detective story writer. I needed to talk to him about a story oi his, a story about a guy, no-one special —just some ordinary Joe-Schmo, looking tor a ghost-sheep.
I went into the cheap, down-at-heel joint where we’d arranged to meet, and ordered coiiee. It was rank and bitter. He came in soon after and sat down opposite me.
‘Hello, I’m Haruki Murakami,’ he said.
Good, he spoke English. I sighed with reliei and took my hand oil the butt of my rusty Japanese dictionary. I got straight down to the heart of the matter.
‘What's all this business about sheep?’
His eyes rolled skywards.
‘Hot you too, everybody asks me that,’ he said. He’d probably been over it with the cops a thousand times, and then a thousand more with the tired old
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hacks irom a thousand newspapers. Once more wouldn’t hurt. I persuaded him to be a bit more helpiul.
‘Sheep are exotic animals in Japan.’ he said. lcould’ve said that there were people here who thought like that too, but kept my mouth shut in case I interrupted his ilow. ‘You never see them, except in the North, and i wanted to write about something strange.’
What he said touched a chord and reminded me at something that had been on my mind when l lirst stumbled Into this case, blind drunk and down on my luck, all those weeks ago. I told him that I thought I knew my way around contemporary Japanese iiction, but that his writing had thrown me. It was unmistakably Japanese and yet, well diiierent.
He looked at me over his coiiee. in his eyes I was just another dumb hack looking tor a story, but he took pity on me.
‘Mainstream Japanese ilction has always been Realist. Mishima, Tanizakl, Hatsume Sosekl and so on,
they write in detail about people’s real lives, but Japanese Iiie has changed so much over the last twenty years that we need something new’.
So, these guys were yesterday’s news. But who did he think was hot?
‘I like Brautlgan. And Chandler— I’ve translated Farewell My Lovely Into Japaneseh
Ah, so that’s why I was writing like this. i told him his book reminded me a bit oi both oi these writers. He looked pleased. Maybe I had him on my side now. I lelt sale asking him another quesﬂon.
‘Your hero’s no Sam Spade - he linds his clues by accident. Detectives in
books just aren’t like that, are they?’
He smiled broadly. He had me right where he wanted me.
‘I wanted him to be ordinary, just like a real person. He acts the way anybody would in his situation.’
Time was getting on, the tacky decor was hurting my eyes and I was getting hungry Ior my din-dins, but there was one more thing I had to know. Hone oi the characters in his book had a name. Was this because it was based on lact- had some poor schmuck at an advertising man really been terrorlsed by a supernatural sheep?
‘l just tell it would be arrogant to give the characters names. it’s like saying you’re God, so I leit them anonymous’.
So that was it. The prize-winning novelist was a victim oi his own humility. Strange guy, lthought, asl bought a cola outside to take away the taste oi the ioul coilee. Brilliant though, brilliant book. I had a leellng this was not the last we would hear irom him. (lain Grant)
A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakaml is published by Hamish Hamilton, priced £12.99.
him, since in US society everyone is conditioned to win, and ties are anathema. As Pierre ‘Butch‘ Bouchard, the ice-hockey star, said on being told butting was against the Marquess of Queensberry rules: ‘To hell with the Queen of Marksberry‘.
However, Arnold‘s proposition that football hooliganism is caused by the win-or-lose mentality of the game is a bit silly. In an Old Firm game. the worst fear is not a draw. A score for the Huns is not better than no score at all. Play three up, yes, risk losing a goal in order to score one yes, because 0—0 draws are vaguely unsatisfactory for both sides.
And yes, the author‘s name is Arnold Arnold (as in Major Major). (David M. Bennie)
I Grit and Diamonds: Women in Scotland Making History 1980—1990 Edited by Alison Mackay and Shirley Henderson (Stramullion £5.95) In the 603 women burnt their
bras, running for a bus became an uncomfortable experience and the Women‘s Liberation Movement (and its misleading tabloid image) exploded. Today, the Movement is burdened, ironically, by the policies of a Thatcherite government, but fights on.
Grit and Diamonds charts the activities of women throughout the difficult 80$. Highlighting work, motherhood, creativity, social issues and women’s unity, events such as the miners’ strike and the Lee Jeans factory occupation sit alongside the less-publicised work of organisations dealing with, for example, support groups for ethnic minority women. Not all are success stories but each is a very personal account, immensely readable and succinct. conveying lucidly the degree ofcommitment involved.
Admirably, the book is more than
so often over-riding in feminist literature. Undeniably. these issues exist, but as Grit and Diamonds demonstrates, they are not the sole
factors militating against women. Men will find that, far from being discouraged by an outoand-out attack on their gender, the book will help them to gain an appreciation of the progress women have made. The fight for equality is crucial but equality is only the beginning, for it is only at this point that women AND men can work together, respect each other and make true progress. (Susan Mackenzie)
FICTION HAPHAZARO HISTORY
l Solomon Gursky Was Here Mordecai Richler (Chatto & Windus £13.95) A rollicking, postmodern family saga of big business, cannibalism. Prohibition,
3 Bloomsbury, Watergate and : Judaism among the Canadian lnuits.
- - - B o er-no 'nated Richler‘s new a made on patriarchy and misogyny. . O k. Fm . . ‘ ' novel IS a Wildly ambitious,
' read. Veering unchronologically
across 150 years and several continents. the bizarre life histories
ofthe men ofthe Gursky clan are uncovered by an obsessive. alcoholic biographer who finds his own life becoming increasingly intertwined with that of his elusive subjects.
Patriarch Ephraim is a Cockney chancer, the sole survivor of a doomed Arctic expedition who founds his own religion among the frozen wastes and can command the ravens. His mysterious and brilliant grandson Solomon has. it seems, been here. there and everywhere and done everything. With the motto ‘living twice, maybe three times, is the best revenge‘. is there more to him than meets the eye?
This is a clever and challenging book which requires concentration; it’s also hilarious, stylish and well worth the effort. (Andrea Baxter)
ANGRY YOUNG MEN
I black wheel at anger Peter Plate (Polygon £7.95) Plate, peering out from a cool white dust-jacket. with its tranquil black and white stills. is a forceful figure; menacing even. setting a challenge for the three novellas within. Throughout. the text is in lower case. an initial irritation which becomes the only
consistent factor as the characters weave their stories, leaping into the past and flirting with the present before careering towards the surreal. it is at times even uncertain which plain their minds are working on. Yet, for all the apparent confusion. it gels together with amazing clarity.
And so we kick off with with the first novella. ‘an exploded view' - the thoughts of a criminal as he stands trial. his mind fuzzed by drugs and dim, dizzy memories of his childhood. Next comes ‘joaquin in the fog’. a turn of the century Californian outlaw resurrected in the 80s in the tormented mind of his captor. Finally, the title piece, in which Plate recalls an argument between his grandfather and his brother which is invaded by a dream sequence — Lenin on his deathbed with Stalin at his side. gloating over his impending glory.
Arranged in short chunks ofprose with a highly poetic style. black wheelofariger conjures a dark and violent world, crackling in atmosphere and minutely detailed. Original and compelling certainly, but more disturbing than enjoyable. (Susan Mackenzie)
I The Pale Criminal Philip Kerr (Viking£l3.99) Philip Kerr’s writing is like a cross between Ernest Hemingway and John Le Carre: the plot can be distractively involved at times, but is redeemed by Kerr‘s flippant wit and concise. imaginative observations. This is his second novel which involves the character of Bernie Gunther — a German detective — as its hero. Set in war-time Berlin. it centres around a spate of ritualistic and grizzly murders involving adolescent girls J
The List 15 — iii-June 1990 75