NON-FICTION COURT OF A SEAL
I The Trials of Life David Attenborough (Collins B.B.C. £16.95) This is the third in David Attenborough's trilogy that started with Life on Earth. Again. this book accompanies a television series and the chapters correspond to the individual programmes.
However. the clarity ofthe text and the lavish number ofbreathtaking photographs enable this book to stand by itself. Here. Attenborough explores the way animals behave and why. He avoids the use of Latin names and technical terms so that the uninitiated reader can enjoy fully the fruits ofsome ofthe most recent research in natural history.
The text is delightful. brimming with examples of the way animals attack the problems of life and with the odd anecdote to endear the reader to the author. And you don‘t have to witness in gory detail the sight ofa group ofchimps devouring a close relative. (Lisa Barnes)
THE MAN FROM THE USSR
I Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years 1899-1940 Brian Boyd (Cl..itto and Windus £20) The first thing that strikes one about this book is that no one thought to write it before now: for Nabokov not only wrote some of the most beautiful prose in the English language this century. but lived a life which cries out It be chronicled — privately quiet and restrained but publicly touched by great wealth. shabby poverty, revolution. war. years ofobscurity. critical acclaim. censorship. accusations ofsexual perversion. and butterflies.
On second thoughts. though. Boyd‘s book has been worth the wait. for it is as close to being the definitive critical biography as any subjective study can be. The writer‘s colourful life — an ‘idyllic‘ upbringing among the aristocracy of St. Petersburg. exile in Germany and France and then flight again from the Nazis to America - is recorded exhaustively in 523 pages (and this is only volume one of the story). But Boyd manages not to become immersed in detail and gossip. constantly referring back to the works. showing how Nabokov‘s experiences shaped his unique consciousness and seductive. blatantly artificial style.
Boyd has clearly spent his research time not just garnering facts but thinking deeply about the meaning of Nabokov‘s writings. and he scatters so many intelligent theories. suggestions and opinions throughout the text that the less knowledgeable reader has to pause occasionally to catch up and take it all in. The result is an exhilarating read: complex, opinionated and intensely interesting. (Andrea Baxter)
I Sex Life Dorothy Einon and Mike Potegal (Bloomsbury £14.99) Purporting to be a series of
interv iews with various individuals and couples who discuss their sex lives in intimate and sometimes gory detail. this is a very strange tome. Not only does it contain some literary gems. ofwhich ‘Larry's oyster has impeccable precedents. . . When the great crested grebe courts his mate. he offers her a piece of pond weed.‘ is my favourite. with ‘Her secret parts can be unfolded like the petals ofa tlower.‘ coming second by a head. It also contains some peculiar snippets. like a French couple saying. ‘How can one resist the British road signs saying “Beware of Soft Verges"’." The authors explain that verge is French for penis. but even bilingual puns should be funny.
Did you know that. 'When erection in males and vaginal lubrication in women are compared directly. women actually respond to erotica more readily than men“? Neither did I nor Andrea Dworkin. but it is fun to imagine the laboratory conditions under which these data were obunned.
One of the couples. Andrew and Meredith (Meredith?) are unbearable. and ifyou ever met them you would want to slap their faces. Their sex life is exciting and satisfying. though the same is not true of their conversation. if her ‘My nipple is between his lips. He says. “Now I can lick." And he does. "And I can kiss or suck.“ l le does these too and I grow light.‘ is anything to go by. This impression is confirmed when. after a game of smellfinger. she says. ‘My thighs open of their own volition.‘ There is only one reply to this. it seems, and Andrew knows precisely what to say. ‘I am going to enter you.‘ For evening classes perhaps.
I suggest the authors enrol too. The writing is terrible (though the often very meaty illustrations are. as far as I can tell. anatomically accurate) and as for the practical advice the book-jacket promises. the book fails to deliver anything very substantial. Your fifteen quid would be better spent on an Alex Comfort. a pack of twelve and a tube of KY. (Iain Grant)
Tom Lappln gets his teeth into the latest paperback releases.
Eat your heart out David Lynch. In Geek Love. Katherine Dunn (Abacus £4.99) makes Twin Peaks look like Terry andJune. It‘s the story of the Binewski family circus. the star attractions ofwhich are their freak children, deliberately bred as mutants by their mother ingesting pesticides and dosing herselfwith radiation during pregnancy. Results include Arty the amazing Aqua Boy, limbless but equipped with fins. and
the piano-playing Siamese twins lphy and Elly. Reaching for the sick bag already? Fear not. This isn't the latest pulp horror sicko tale, but a sensitive. gripping and quite extraordinarily powerful novel. Told from the point ofview ofone ofthe children. Olympia. a hunchbacked albino dwarf. it is often horrific. often poignant, occasionally hilarious, but always involving. Which is more than can be said for The Great And Secret Show Clive Barker (Fontana £4.99). Like a punk hero releasing a concept album, Barker is obviously leaving himself open to flak with this panoramic Equally wet, in a different way, is the Fall Of Man Frances Thomas (Black Swan £4.99) a kind ofWelsh Baptist Tom Sharpe without the outrage. Daniel Green is one of those stock twenty-year-old innocents beloved of younger novelists. who ventures into a hotbed ofvice and religious fervour in the Valleys. Well actually it's a fairly tepid bed, and the jokes and plot devices distinctly wearisome. These are the sort of characters you’d urge Earl Beale to blow away. The anti-hero ofTrust George Higgins (Abacus £4.50) is a psychopathic ex-basketball player (we've all met one) with a smart line in gritty dialogue. Dirty realism is the phrase here. in a distinctly macho
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WSELLERSC STAYNRS SNCE ‘75!
Sir David Attenborough signing c0pies of "The Trials of Life"
at 1 p.m. on Wednesday let November at 57 St. Vincent Street Tel: 041-221-7472
Please telephone to reserve a signed copy
thriller. Higgins has a mastery of short staccato threats, and a convincing insight into the criminal mentality, although he's a touch lacking in humour, and it is possible to be just a bit too unrelenting.
Unintentially hilarious is Loner at the Ball: The Life of Andy Warhol Fred Lawrence Guiles (Black Swan £6.99). a biography that paints an unerring profile of Warhol as. well, one of the most boring guys that ever lived. Guiles‘ tone is unswervingly and unself—consciously awestruck, with numerous quotes from Warhol's contemporaries, from high-school onwards, consistently saying things along the lines of ‘Yeah. Andy would sit in the background and watch, not saying anything.‘ Warhol emerges as an eternal voyeur. surrounding himself with wacky people who‘d do all the drugs, cross-dressing and gay sex that Andy could never have the nerve to do himself. He sat in the background recording it all on sketch-pad, film and tape. Desperate to impress us, Guiles insists that every tiny detail of Warhol’s life is ofsome psychological significance. at one (read: rambling) overblown tale in search of an allegory. Being billed as Master Fabulist won’t endear him to critics either, although the quality and imagination of the writing
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The List 9- 22 November 1990 79