SCIENCE Fl TI I N NIGHTMARES
I Nighttall Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg (Gollancz £13.95) Although co-authored, this isn ’t a literary exercise in avant-garde collaboration, with Asimov and Silverberg writing alternate chapters or their own designated chapters. It is, however, an imaginative delineation of an alien planet, Kalgash, on which the sun never sets, since it has six of them. But once in every two millennia a combination of solar positions plunges Kalgash into darkness and the inhabitants into black despair. The social stratification of the planet ' is acutely constructed, and the wry humour arises out of the situations rather than the somewhat cardboard characterisation. The Apostles of the Flame insist that during the Darkness, phenomenon called stars will appear, much to the sceptical disdain of the scientific community, who believe Kalgash and its suns are all alone in the Universe. Come the eclipse, the psychologically traumatised populace become arsonists for a bit of light relief. By the time the lights come back on, the social hierarchy has been totally inverted — with university professors on the run from irate sun-worshippers. If all sf was so competently good as this, it could escape from the genre ghetto, leaving women’s romantic fiction to fester in its own love- juices. (David Bennie)
AUTOBIOGRAPHY PAYING THE PRICE
I Proved innocent Gerry Conlon (Hamish Hamilton £12.99) In 1974 Gerry Conlon was an obnoxious, young pisshead. He spent time in London, drinking, gambling, smoking dope and working on building sites. He left his home in Catholic, West Belfast because his reputation as a petty criminal was catching up with him . . . the IRA acting out the role of people’s police force. But he wasn’t happy in London. Rootless and depressed, he tried an acid tab one night then developed a serious funk. Badly shaken up he took the ﬁrst available ferry back to Ireland and the security of his family. A couple of weeks later he was arrested for complicity in the Guildford Pub Bombings.
He had been named in someone else’s ‘confession’. Held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, beaten and ﬁnally subjected to threats against his mother and sister, Conlon also ‘confessed’. The man with the Afghan coat who couldn’t handle an acid trip was portrayed as a cool, calculating terrorist and spent the next ﬁfteen years in prison. His father went to England to help him and was arrested as one of the Maguire Seven. Guiseppe Conlon died in prison ﬁve years later.
LEATHERED AND LACEO
Publisher’s dust-jacket blurb In accurate description at book's contents shock. Yes it's true, Alasdair Gray’s new novel Something Leather does indeed ‘combine the amenities oi a novel with the varieties ot a short story collection.’ All right, so Gray wrote the blurb himsell, but it is, nonetheless, a concise summary oi the book’s qualities. The author also wrote the blurb on the inside back page - or rather, ‘Chapter 14: The Sitting Room, 221 8 Baker Street’ as it is called. There, he solemnly states, ‘I doubt it this book will be taken seriously south ol the Tweed - or north at it either.’
It’s that kind oi book. Authorial interventions, the occasional lapse into agil-prop (in chapterlll, ‘Culture Capitalism’), a whole chapter, ‘Critic-Fuel', which discusses the origins ol the story (Gray says he needed the money). and a coherent story besides. What's more, unlike so many ol these rambling, divergent, consciously (look out missus, here comes that word again) post-modern texts, it is an exquisitely structured noveL
In the opening chapter, a woman, June, orders a leather skirt lrom two lesbian or bisexual seamstresses. One ol the two, Donalda, delivers the skirt to June’s list, and the chapter ends with June tied up and halt-naked, and Donalda calling her colleague, Senga, and an associate at theirs, Harry (short lor Harriet) up to the llat.
The bulk oi the book therealler is devoted to explaining the convergence
[(13.19 ite'p‘sejv pa
ol the tour, originally very dillerent, women. Their less than satislactory relations with men; the schoolgirl Senga’s relusal to marry a boy regarded as her social superior; the origins ol Harry’s sado-masochlsm: all are related in languid, leisurely prose. Thankfully, Gray does not bother to attempt a pseudo-scientillc explanation ot the psychopathology at his characters; true, he does give reasons why Harry turns out the way she is, but only in the same way that he explains the character ol, say, a heterosexual male. As one such character says, ‘The lesbians i know are rational lolk who never seem to humiliate each other.’
So tar so good, say the ideological
thought-police. By Chapter12, ’Class Party’, we are back where we started. Senga and Harry, the latter dressed as a schoolmistress, complete with cane, come into June‘s llat, and they, along with Donalda, shave June’s head, pierce her nose and ear, and tattoo her in several places. This chapter is at once tedious and distastelul: tedious, because it is about sex, yet (with the briel exception ol Donalda lapping happily at her lover’s labia) there is no real sexual behaviour in it— just humiliation and degradation; distastelul, precisely because ol that degradation.
Yes, it is only a book. There is no evidence to suggest that Gray is saying ‘all lesbians are like this’, but it is, all the same, disappointing that a novel which previously appeared to have a retreshingly relaxed attitude to lesbians should, in the end, resortlo the usual, stereotypical male menopausal lantasies. It is all the worse because June, lollowing her ordeal, appears to have been ‘Iiberated’ by it.
To place the work- or rather, chapters 12 and 13- in context, it’s no worse than appears in a thousand sub-literate sex magazines; it’s just that my disappointment at Something Leather’s coming to such a hackneyed and creaking conclusion was made all the greater by the tact that, up to that point, it is a work at admirable elegance and humanity. (Stuart Bathgale)
Something Leather by Alasdair Gray is published by Jonathan Cape, priced £12.95.
Proved Innocent is Gerry Conlon’s story of how he was stitched up by the English establishment: as a chronicle ofone man’s nightmare of brutality and injustice, it’s worth every penny of its £12.99 price tag. Recommended text for anyone with a naive view of British justice.
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 Candida McWilliam A Little Stranger. Library readers all over Scotland are invited to cast their votes with ballot forms and extra copies of the shortlisted books available from your local library. Closing date 31 August.
I JOHN SMITH 57 St Vincent Street, 221 7472.
Thurs 19 6.30pm. Meet Vivienne Hamilton, artistic historian, launching her new book Joseph Crawhall 1861—1931 : One of the Glasgow Boys (John Murray £25).
I CHIN MUSIC-A SEASON OF NEW AMERICAN WRITING Third Eye
Centre, 250 Sauchiehall Stret, 332 7521.
Fri 13 7.30pm. £3(£2). James McManus, author of the short story collection Chin Music, a dissection of the final hour before the nuclear holocaust, is joined by David Breskin, a journalist who claims to investigate ‘normal american life’ — Satanic murders, teen suicides, ranchers, vigilantes and similar mundanities.
Sat14 7.30pm. £3(£2) John Giorno, star of Andy Warhol’s Sleep (1963) and collaborator with William Burroughs and Laurie Anderson among many others is joined by La Loca (The Crazy Woman), Streetwise poet. See feature.
Sat14 Repeated showings all day. Free. A video record of the infamous last visit to Britain of William Burroughs, featuring Giorno and Brion Gysin and accompanied by a selection of 605 beat films by Anthony Balch (Towers Open Fire and Ghost’s at No. 9).
I JAMES THIN 53—59 South Bridge, 556 6743.
Tues 17 George Hotel, George Street. 7.30pm. £1.25 from James Thin, South Bridge and Waverley Market. Jonathon Porritt of Friends of the Earth considers ‘Where on Earth Are We Going?’, to coincide
with his new book of the same name published by BBC Books at £9.99. Tues 24 7pm. Artistic historian Vivienne Hamilton will talk about her new work Joseph C rawhall 1861—1 931: One ofthe Glasgow Boys (John Murray £25).
MOTHERWELL I WELL wonrn READING Selected
libraries during library hours.
Ever gone to the library and been bafﬂed at the selection on offer, despairing ofever finding that elusive good book? Well fret no longer. This campaign is designed to encourage readers to try new authors by providing leaﬂets containing book reviews. bookmarks and displays highlighting books on common themes. The themes and locations are as follows:
Bellshill Cultural Centre ‘Writing from the Heart’, books about relationships, families, jealousy and
Tannochside Library ‘A Sense of Place’, targeting books where location is the main focus.
Cleland Library ’Just for Laughs‘, funniiy enough, humorous tomes. Newarthill Library Desert Island Books‘, a general collection. recommended for holiday reading. After approximately a month each display will be changed.
The List l3—26July 199073