i cour FROM PREVIOUS PAGE devoted to comic exposition ofthe characters, in the second part the good old days remembered so fondly by Abie and Gilbert are shown to have had a more sinister side.
The two men are played by Bill Murdoch, who. like Kirsty. has appeared in Taggart. as well as Tutti Fruiti, and Ron Paterson. whom .llaggie aficionados will remember as Uncle ’I‘am. although he is more widely known for having played Sorry Watson in Take The High Road.
‘There are still just the two dates finalised for the play.‘ says Brian, ‘although we hope that with some good publicity we can arrange other venues. It's really a shop window. The three actors are at the stage in their career where people should be looking at them again. Kirsty‘s not just that wee lassie who was on TV. Ron‘s best known for having played Sorry Watson, but he doesn‘t want to be always remembered for that. And Bill. . . Bill's a multi-talented bastard.‘ Ron Paterson agrees: ‘He‘s the kind of guy you don‘t even want to hit. because when you do. he even squeals better than anyone else.‘ Bill himself. rather than being known as the best squealer in the business. prefers another claim to fame — the fact that he was the first Celtic player to be sacked by Jock Stein. (‘You tell him. Sean. I'm too busy.‘)
When director. cast and stage-set can all fit into the one car, it should prove perfectly feasible to take the play to new venues at short notice. For the moment, though. Kirsty is looking forward to returning to her professional alma mater. ‘It was through The Cottage (the old theatre in Cumbernauld) that I got involved in acting.‘ she says. ‘I got taken along there when I was still in a push-chair. But this will be my first professional performance at the Cumbernauld Theatre. where I first trod the boards at the age of nine. when I played a piece of sea. a shark and a cannibal.‘
She laughs. then asserts. with mock pride, ‘I was a damn good shark.‘ Her father looks at her: ‘Aye. but your piece ofsea wisnae that great.‘ Skip The Memories plays the Cumbernauld Theatre on Fri 8 and Sat 9 at 7. 45pm.
I Philadelphia Fire John Edgar Wideman (Viking£13.99) Philadelphia Fire is a difficult but rewarding read. John Edgar Wideman has based his fragmented and dystopian narrative on an actual event when. in 1985. Philadelphia‘s first black mayor authorised the police to bomb the home of an Afrocentric cult movement, thereby killing eleven people and wiping out a large section of the surrounding housing for working-class blacks.
This incident is central to the book's further investigations and discoveries. Through the eyes of his narrator. Cudjoe, Wideman paints a grim picture of life as a black in modern America. But crucial to the book's power is the painful autobiographical confession undertaken by Wideman. who examines his failures as husband and father, his tendency to flee from problems, and his son‘s imprisonment for murder. This combination ofprivate confession and public inquisition is potent and successful.
Wideman‘s range of narrative voices. often written in the idiom of black urban youth, introduces humour and variety into this otherwise grim tale. And importantly, it ends on an Optimistic note, as Cudjoe finally turns to face his fears instead ofrunning. The disintegration ofsociety always was a popular theme; Wideman‘s treatment ranks along with the best. (Richard Goslan)
NEVER MIND THE WILLOCKS
I Bad City Blues Tim Willocks (Macdonaid £12.95) Semen. sweat and psychopaths are Tim Willocks's main preoccupations in Bad City Blues. his debut novel. Setting the book against the brutal and seedy underbelly of New Orleans, ex-psychiatrist Willocks seems to have reincarnated former patients in the guise of depraved characters who can only register their emotions through the physical state of their genitals.
Bad City Blues wants to be a thriller in the vein of Elmore Leonard. full oftaut. terse sentences and Wild-Turkey-drinking men‘s men. It also boasts a nice line in imaginative Obscenities. ‘dog turds sweating in the night‘ being one of the less offensive little gems. Unfortunately, a paper-thin plot and cliche-ridden characters. together with a tiresome stream of profanities. conspire to obliterate any chances of exploring the psyches motivating these nutjobs.
Apparently the author is currently working on a screenplay based on the book: watch out for Uzi-toting Arnie in the lead role. (Ann Donald)
I The Smile of the Lamb David Grossman (Jonathan Cape £13.99) Fed up with jingoistic rantings about those crazy Arabs? David Grossman tells a different story. In his own words this is a tale about falsehood and fantasy. about the way a lie
corrupts simple and sincere lives.
and is also the story of the Jewish
people in Israel. grotesquely turned subjugators of another people.
Set in 1972, on the West Bank. five years after occupation and shortly before the Yom Kippur War, it is also a story ofvictims: of Khilmi, the old Palestinian whose son is murdered by Israeli troops; of Mordi, emotionally crippled, a suicide; of Uri. naive young soldier manipulated by cynical Israeli commander Katzman and by his own wife. Shosh: and of Katzman himself. destroyed by his own role in the occupying army.
Although some of the characters make limp apologies for Zionism — inevitable perhaps. given the author‘s position as an Israeli writer living in Jerusalem — the point is well illustrated, through their interaction, that the tyranny faced by Palestinians must inevitably be met by force. This is a valuable. beautifully written book: the imagery, the pace and the presentation ofcharacters and action through reminiscence and reveries are exceptional. Keep a copy handy to counter Scud missile hysteria. (Cath Boylan)
I Girls' High Barbara Anderson (Seeker and Warburg, £13.99) A girls’ high school in New Zealand is the setting for this odd collection of short stories, erratically woven around key events in the school year and using three teachers - the sporting, alluring Carmen, the gauche, pondering Sooze and the righteous Margot - as their focal
points. Characterisation is undoubtedly
So it goes
0n reading her new collection, Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains, I felt like writing to A.L. Kennedy- her friends call her Alison - and telling her that contrary to popular belief, a woman really can find happiness in a man, and that it need not be the other way round. Then I got to the end of the book and discovered Martin, in ‘At Last', a guy so sincere and self-confident, he really will sleep with you and not expect sex.
ldon’t want to be glib, these stories are really excellent. Although with Martin, there is an element of cliche, this tends to be avoided elsewhere, to the extent that stories about women with neanderthal husbands and boyfriends can avoid cliche. But there is some balance-the male characters are victims too; of women and themselves (‘Bix'), of magic and religion (‘Transiatlons').
Many of the stories have appeared previously. ‘Dldacus' featured in Canongate's The Devil and the Giro; ‘The Seaside Photographer' in Edinburgh Review 83. ‘Tea and Blscuits', published by Polygon in Original Prints III. is an ideal openerto
this collection, a pleasant relation of a love affair which becomes terrible when the sting is revealed. it is chilling because its subject, AIDS, is never mentioned by name, because It all seems so ordinary. Yet it is written in a distinctive manner, quirky and well controlled, and avoids the banalities of government health warnings.
The title story concerns wile-beating, but Its finale throws wide this specific
address. Kennedy is thinking of our decade of disasters, of Hillsborough; the only time most people will get in the headlines, and then as a statistic or a human interest story.
The stories form an effective whole, brought together by the themes of loneliness and death. But Kennedy does offer us individuals who get out of their respective ruts. Men are left behind, new flats found, books read, world affairs cared for, and new relationships started. Life goes on, or rather, so it goes. (Kennedy is Glasgow's pre-emlnent cheerleader for Kurt Vonnegut, you understand. if cheerleader isn't a sexist term - it probably is. it is difficult to keep up with these things.)
One day some months back i met the author for a coffee. to talk about this very book. She was rushing off to complain to someone about her to-be-pubiished novel; she was suffering from nearly-finished blues. if she has sustained with it the high standard she has set with her own short stories, Scotland really has a new talent. Does that sound a bit schrnaltzy? (Thomas Quinn)
Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains by [LL Kennedy is published by Polygon at £7.95.
70 The List 8 — 21 February 1991