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routes, and the establishment of Buchanan Street bus station. Finally, twenty-two years after conception. inspiration was condensed into perspiration and the cultural capital‘s biggest baby was born.
Entering the concert hall through the stage door to the west. is like stepping into a tardis. A labyrinth of spacious. light blue areas. well lit by the long strips ofwindow which give the building its classical flavour. lead one from bar to restaurant and back to bar. There has certainly been a positive effort to demolish the conventional notion of a house of culture. wrapped in its own exclusive night life. by allowing most of the interior spaces — the four bars. 140 seat restaurant and exhibition areas — to be utilised independently. ()ne can. then, stagger from the nightmare ofa Saturday afternoon's shopping in the glazed construction yet to be built. into an environment where food. drink and culture mix like lager and lime. The first exhibition ofart. beginning on 9 October. is of the work of the Glasgow Boys. although which particular boys has yet to be disclosed: the deciding factor. a simple matter of humidity. I am assured.
The auditorium itself is a modern 2500 seater development of the traditional parallel-sided hall. focusing on a stage which. due to its ten hydrolically operated lifts. is conducive to a wide range ofcultural events; theatre. clasical and pop concerts. and conferences.
On 5 October. the dream will at last become reality. with the opening gala concert by the Scottish National Orchestra. conducted by Bryden Thomson. and featuring. in addition to the world premieres ofThea Musgrave‘s ‘Rainbow‘ and Thomas Wilson‘s ‘Commission'. old faves by Liszt and Beethoven. Don‘t be too hasty in dragging out your culture city social diary. however. You’re not invited. Due to an extensive guest list composed largely of sponsors Tennent Caledonian. city councillors. and to a lesser extent. the actual builders of the dream, there are as yet. no tickets available for public consumption.
Despite this hiccup in the ideology ofthe Royal Concert Hall. which consists of bending the barriers of culture and make the performing arts more accessible to the public. the timetable for the next few weeks looks more promising. Prior to the official opening night is a series of events which should set Glasgow‘s blood pumping through its pastel corridors. The long awaited Glasgow
debut ofThe Blue Nile on 23 September. the return ofJason Donovan on 25 September (so soon?). and an evening ofjazz cabaret with George Melly on 4 October. are the aperitifs to what will hopefully prove to be a satisfying cultural gorge.
The Blue Nile are first to perform at the Glasgow Royal ( 'oncert Hall on 23 Sept. See Music listings for further details.
FICTION ALONE AT LAST
I Brief Lives Anita Brookner (Cape £12.95). In this. her new novel. Brookner slips once again into her most comfortable of subjects - decay. Brief Lives is a quiet. grim examination of the slow plodding of the body and mind towards extinction. and forces even young readers to face up to the inevitability of age. isolation and death.
Fay Dodworth. a product of London middle-class suburbia. is hoisted by her Laura Ashley knickers and the hand in marriage of solicitor Owen Langdon. into the upper echelons of an alien society. Sacrificing her identity (as a singer on wartime and post-war BBC Radio) to the barren god of a childless marriage. she assumes a life of vol-au-vents and dinner dresses. Following the sudden death of her husband. regarded by Fay as a somewhat selfish accident. she is catapulted into a faceless void. unable to assume her new roles as widow, lover and. ultimately. old woman. A youthful wistfulness. which resists the tough-skinned realisation ofold age. must be smothered if Fay is to survive. since all hope proves to be hinged upon the shoulders ofothers. and there are to be no others in her life.
Brookner‘s heroine is that of real womanhood, wasted and impassive. assuming any substance only in a resignation to death. Her discomfiting nihilism is applied with deceptive ease and. often. a surprising beauty. From the cold. marble loveliness of Owen‘s feet in his mortuary bed. to the sliding of ‘narrow shoes through the blue evening‘. Brookner‘s prose seeps like a drug into the mind. to horrify in the most pleasurable way. (Kathleen Morgan)
WINCHED TO FAME
I Walter Winchell Michael Herr (Chatto & Windus £12.99) Despite being the tale ofthe journalistic demagogue who. at his peak. had 50 million readers and broadcast one of the most popular radio shows in America. Walter Winchell is not a biography; nor is it what we would recognise as a novel. As a literary and cinematic hybrid. using a similar format to the screenplay. it is more like ‘reading' a movie.
Herr‘s Winchell is a jumpy. headstrong mixture ofego and idealism. greed and childlike naivety. and one of the drawbacks of the book’s form — we know. essentially. no more than a cinema audience would — is that it‘s never satisfactorily shown how the young Walter came to be that way. Far stronger are the evocations of mid-century socialite awfulness. ofthe fame-junkies and the ex-gangsters that leeched off them. I could see a fine movie unfolding as I read it. (Alastair Mabbott)
I Eric Terry Pratchett. illustrations by Josh Kirby (Gollancz £7.99) Eric: adolescent. spotty. would-be demonologist. lives with his mum. Rincewind: wizard. incompetent. coward. owner of multiped homicidal luggage. lost in Dungeon Dimensions. Mix the two together and you have a potion spelling time-travelling. reality-shaking. dimension-spanning mayhem.
Throw in Death - speaking in capital letters to signify his gravity. you understand — and a demon king whose idea of hellish damnation is bureaucracy. and you have yet another lively Discworld romp. and Terry Pratchett makes loads more dosh. Excellent.
A sort of Channel 4 Comic Strip version of a Swords and Sorcery version ofthe Faust legend. Eric details the trials and tribulations of the eponymous ‘hcro‘ as he and Rincewind roam across time and space pursuing the fulfilment of Eric‘s three chronic wishes. With colourfully comic cartoons illustrating their many scrapes and escapes. Eric is easily-digested. comic book irreverence ofthe subtly-chortling kind. (Craig McLean)
I Deception Philip Roth (Jonathan Cape £14.95) lfyou think a plot about two middle-class adulterous lovers living in London is soporifically familiar. read Deception and think again. It may not quite be the portentous disquisition on the nature of fiction and reality which its author clearly wishes it to be. but if assessed as a more mundane enterprise. it is an accomplished. tightly structured work.
The bulk of the book consists of post-coital dialogues between the lovers. The first name of the man. a Jewish/American writer. is Philip. (Get the picture? Yes. we see.) When the lovers have parted. Philip’s wife finds his notebooks and accuses him of having had an affair. He denies this. claiming the notes were merely written for use in his latest book. which is. ofcourse. the book we are still reading. Deception docs suffer at times from PMT syndrome (post-modernist tedium). but it is above all the intellectual wit of Roth‘s writing which makes the book so readable.
There are some timely discourses. too. on the hackneyed attitude ofthe British Left towards Israel. and indeed on anti-Semitism in general. These sections aside. Deception would be a certain winner in the self-indulgence stakes. which is not necessarily a criticism.
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
I Last Notes From Home Frederick Exley (Viking£l3.99) This. the author‘s third book, is loosely based
around a visit he may or may not have made to his dying brother. a fiercely patriotic ex-army officer who. quite reasonably. regards him as a degenerate no-good. But. as with
Exley‘s first ‘fictional memoir’. A Fan's Notes (newly reissued by Penguin). the visit is a starting point for myriad digressions. He meets and marries a schizophrenic stewardess who moonlights as a high-class prostitute. is held comfortably captive by a rich, lunatic Irishman with mysterious IRA links. and muses over his first love. his beloved football and — for this is after all a Modern American Novel — the hollowness of the Great American Dream.
This may sound like the most rampantly self-indulgent piece of egomania. and in fact it is. but Exley is so remorselessly honest about his failings — alcoholism. drug addiction. obsessions with pretty bimbos coupled with misogyny - that his ramblings become almost as intensely interesting to the reader as they are to him.
His prose is always compulsive. complex. colourful and occasionally brilliant; maybe not in the same league as his idols Hemingway. Mailer. and Henry Miller. but with a self-knowledge and truthfulness their machismo couldn‘t handle. This is a terrific book; but I still wouldn’t want to go to the pub with him. (Andrea Baxter)
l The Collapsing Castle Haydyn Middleton (Hamish Hamilton £13.99) A writer who colours his stories with voices and messages from the past. Haydn Middleton publishes The Collapsing Castle hot on the historical heels of The Lie of the Land (now out in paperback. Penguin £3.99). which deals with similar. though less developed. ideas.
The veneer of normality in his latest novel — humdrum in its ordinariness— hints at the tortured depths to come. At first. it is all banality. laced with only a splash of academic eccentricity. Daniel Seagrief. an average Oxford graduate. agrees to give a series of evening classes on the origins of Britain: the Dark Ages have always enthralled him. As background to his feverish mugging up. his emotionally tepid. fearfully competent wife Marian continues to forge a world-class career as a TV intellectual.
Nothing sinister so far. But Daniel cannot foresee that one of his class. Eppie, is drawn to his lectures by a fearsome acquaintance with the ancient Welsh warrior Vortigern; nor that his own interest in this shadowy figure is to grow into obsession as he tries to pierce the obscurity of Britain‘s roots and. at the same time. make sense of his infatuation with his unsettling student. And. in the midst of
84 The List 14 — 27 September 1990