The curent issue oi Private Eye carries a cartoon in which a smartly dressed man is accosted by another, more roughly attired. The second man is brandishing a knlte. The llrst says ‘Is this a daggerl see belore me?’ On the wall behind them, a poster bears the slogan “Glasgow European City oi Culture’. Well, true enough, it the Eye were to send the cartoonist, someone called Marshall, up here, he probably would get a severe kicking lor his pains. But what this woelully stereotypical drawing really Illustrates Is the smug ignorance oi most southemers.
Seen Damer’s Glasgow: Going ForA Song will, to an extent, lullii that need. Published by a London-based lirm, and, unlike some recent books on the subject, explicitly addressed to those who do not know the city, Damer’s account ol the past two centuries oi the city’s history convincingly argues that Glasgow's culture was always richer, it not materially so, than the legacy oi stories about razor-gangs and drunken brawls would suggest. While the book’s brevity- it works out roughly at
a page peryear- debars Damer lrom any ln-depth discussion, he is particularly strong on the political movements around the turn ol the century.
Less acceptable is the way in which the author mixes solid documentation with random polemicising. In a discussion ol classes provided by shipyard owners lor the wives at their male worklorce, he lists “lectures on cleanliness, ventilation and childcare. (And, i dare say, the perils oi soclallsm.)’ lie may, ol course, dare say what he like, but in a lactual work he should either quote chapter and verse about the employers’ attitudes, or, it he cannot substantiate them, omit such latuous remarks altogether. The judiciously selected quotations paint a sultlclently accurate picture at the horrors of urban llle in the 19th century without requiring such embellishments.
Perhaps surprisingly, Damer is least strong on the modern period. lie has a near-obsession with ‘yupples’, using the word at every opportunity. It Is a virtually meaningless term, in any case, and Damer seems to apply it to anyone who actually enjoys lite and doesn’t wander disheveliedly around in a donkey jacket. ills talk at ‘yuppie clubs, restaurants and discos' betrays his attitude: having come lrom what he terms Edinburgh’s ‘bungalold
going for a song
suburbia,’ he tell in love with the Glasgow working class, and reluses to acknowledge that a slzeable proportion ot that class actually enjoys going to clubs, restaurants and discos, that such heinous activities are not the preserve ol a privileged law. There is a coherent case to be made against the whole ‘Glasgow's Miles Better’ image-making ol the past decade; employing tabloid terms such as ‘yuppie' is not the way to do it.
M .—'———-—~. M
in his discussion oi Glasgow’s two main football clubs, Damer's views appearsimllarly romantic- in this instance, his belieithat, while Rangers are orwere ‘an anti-Catholic team', Celtic’s religious leanings were entirely legitimate. ll Jock Stein were still alive, he might just disagree.
Sympathise with such prejudices, and they are unlikely to interlere with one's enjoyment ol the book. in general, though, Damer, with his sell-conscious use at such hackneyed demotic terms as ‘pure dead brilliant. by the way', appears over-eager publicly to associate himself with the section of society he wishes he was born into. The intellectual rigour ol the book's argument undoubtedly sulters as a result.
One last point. While Damer quite rightly says that the role oi women in Glasgow politics and everyday lile has been consistently neglected by social historians, it is rather contradictory that this book, like so many others, contains thanks to one or two women lor typing out (or in this case word-processing) the manuscript. Try typing it yoursell Sean; learn to love yourAmstrad. (Our Man in Babbity Bowster’s With A Large Brandy And A King Edward Cigar)
Glasgow: Going For A Song, by Sean Damer, is published in paperback by Lawrence and Wishart, priced £6.99.
Ann \linnlcombe lllcks through the latest leminlst llctlon.
Ugly cover, great book. Charades by Janette Turner Hospital (Virago £4.99) is a distinct improvement on her last novel Borderline. The aptly-named, enigmatic Charade beds an eminent physicist and engages him in her obsessive hunt to discover her elusive and mythical father. Charade has a propensity for ‘interminabie discussion with profound but inarticulate men’, Physics theories, sensuous images and steamy sex abound.
From father-obsessions to the extinct salt-fixated Khazar race in Dictionary ot the Khazars -The Female Edition reconstructed by Milovad Pavic (Penguin £4.99) from the 1691 poisoned edition. Cryptically the female edition differs by one crucial paragraph from the male edition. A literary feast of exotic imagery bordering on the surreal.
Firmly back to reality with Gillian Hanscombe's Between Friends (Women’s Press £4.95) where four women, with very different views on feminism, indulge in a flurry of letters: divulging not only their sex lives but also a meaningful discussion of feminist theory in all its extremes. A surprisingly effective novel despite its letter-writing-cum-plot device. An intriguing mix of love and politics.
On to Barbara Kingsoiver’s brilliant The Bean Trees (Virago £4.99). The heroine, Taylor Greer, makes her bid for freedom from baby-sprouting Kentucky only to be left, literally, holding the baby in Oklahoma. She grows so fond of her baby appendage that she even goes to drastic ends to adopt her. Kinsolver is possessed of an earthy, sharp American humour but allows some gut-wrenching emotions to jag out at the reader. Worth every penny.
Family problems of a different sort rear their ugly head in Joan Barfoot’s Family News (Women’s Press £5.95). Susannah, estranged from her family through her choice to be a single parent, is forced back into battle with her mother after the death of her father. Grief shocks her into an assessment of her own ‘family’ situation. The characters are exposed with an endearing warmth and the book is written in lyrical, almost wistful, prose.
I GLASGOW HERALD PEOPLE'S PRIZE FOR FICTION The short leet for this year’s £5000 prize is: James Kelman A Disaffection, Allan Massie A Question of Loyalty, Eric McCormack The Paradise Motel, Carl McDougall Stone Over Water, William McIlvanney Walking
Wounded, and Candia McWilliam A Little Stranger. Library readers throughout Scotland are invited to take part in a ballot to decide the winner. Forms and extra copies of the shortlisted books available from your local library. Closing date 31 August.
I WATERSTONES 132 Union Street, 221 0890.
Mon 2 7.30pm. Gerard Conlon, one of the Guildford Four and author of Proved Innocent (Hamish Hamilton £12.99) will be in conversation with Glasgow solicitor Joe Beltrami. Wed 4 7pm. Sorley McLean presents an evening of readings from his poetry.
I CHIN MUSIC -A SEASON OF NEW AMERICAN WRITING Third Eye Centre, 350 Sauchiehall Street, 332 7521. Continues until 14 Jul.
Thurs 12 7.30pm. £3 (£2). Husband and wife team, Paul Hoover and Maxine Chernoff, founders of the magazines NewAmerican Writing and the popular American poetry publication Oink. Hoover’s latest poetry work The Novel will be published this year following on from The Leap Year Day: New and Selected Poems, his current collection. He is also the author of the Vietnam novel Saigon, Illinois.
I WATERSTONES 114 George Street, 225 3436. Tue 3 7pm. Gerard Conlon, one of
the Guilford Four and author of Proved Innocent (Hamish Hamilton £12.99) will be in conversation with Glasgow solicitor Joe Beltrami. Wed 4 7.30pm. Meet travel author Stephen Brooks. reading from his new novel Winner Takes All published by Hamish Hamilton at £16.99 (see reviews) amd from his bestselling survey ofBritish Jewry The Club (Pan. £5.99).
Tue 10 7.30pm. An evening in the company ot‘James Robt rtson. author of The Complete Bat (Chatto and Windus £8.99), a book which looks into the lives of these much maligned creatures.
Thurs 12 7.30pm. Battle of Britain evening with Johnny Johnston.
I JAMES THIN 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743.
Mon 2 7pm. John Marsden will be in the shop to promote his new book. The Illustrated Border Ballads (McMillan, £18.95).
I BODY AND SOUL 52 Hamilton Place. 226 3066.
Wed 4 6—9pm. This workshop has been organised to launch Jane Ridder Patrick’s new book. Medical Astrology. Refreshments. Contact Body and Soul for further details.
I West and Wilde Bookshop 25a Dundas Street. 556 0079.
Tue 10 8pm. Howard Cruse. creator of the comic strip character Wendel and prominent contributor to the Gay Comix series will be signing and discussing his works. Refreshments will be served.
The List 29June— 12Juiy 199091