very strong, Anderson boldly and convincingly stepping into the minds l of her creations to present their thoughts and feelings. Similarly, story lines are brash and confident. This, however, is as far as praise can

0. g Deliberate omission of approximately 70 per cent of punctuation, a disturbingly prevalent modern literary trait, which I refuse to believe is either big or clever, makes the whole an irritating read, the one exception being presented as a script, an indicator of where Anderson’s strengths may lie. Subsequently, the story lines lose their glory, buried as they are beneath basic misdemeanours which stifle their grip and hinder their momentum.

Furthermore, while the characters become familiar, one gains no sense of the culture that they live in. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. (Susan Mackenzie)


I The One True Story of the World Lynne McFall (Bloomsbury £13.99) In the beginning was The Word. Fine. but someone has to cross the Ts and dot the Is. Tired of putting the full stop at the end of other people’s lives, Jesse Walker abandons her job as an obituary scribbler and. at the age of 34. attempts to write her own story. Abandoning home, lover and lifestyle. all ofwhich seem to belong to others. she packs her mental baggage and heads for the exit sign. ‘Live Free Or Die’ is her motto; an empty slogan she soon dumps along with her redundant Ford.

The One True Story of the World is Jesse‘s attempt to rewrite her father‘s apocalyptic tales which reflect the misanthropic misgivings ofan incurable idealist. In the attempt to find a substitute to replace her long-gone father in the war against ‘the truth-telling world that made me small', she insulates herself in a capsule of pastoral contentment, shacking up with a

. charming pig-farmer and ex-stockbroker. Lucky. Striving for self-definition. however, she must recognise the transformation of the idol ‘from father-storyteller-god to an ordinary old man in a frayed robe‘. and fashion her own ending.

Lynne McFaIl is a brilliant storyteller. enmeshing the imagination in questions ofpersonal and universal significance. Her characters walk the thin line between the real and the ideal. suffering if they stumble either way. The twist in this story. however. is that in the end, there is always a beginning. . . (Kathleen Morgan)


Side A of Oscar Hijuelos‘s The Mambo Kings Play Songs ol Love (Penguin £4.99) is a hot. exuberant conga through the lives ofCesar and

Nestor. two Cuban brothers on the


I I I :3 ,_ Oscar illluelos' The Mambo Kings Play Songs oi Love.

make in 40s New York. writes Kathleen Morgan. The flipside is a slow lament from the sagging armchair of an aged Cesar, alcoholic, impotent and plagued by technicoloured memories. Hijuelos‘s honest, funny and proudly macho prose celebrates the musician and the music; his trumpet and his ‘pinga‘ pumping to joyous rhythms and tragic losses. Stale sweat and tangy perfumes steep the pages ofthis sensual, sentimental extravagance.

John Kennedy Toole‘s The Neon Bible (Penguin £4.99). written at the tender age ofsixteen, possesses the poignant sadness. but lacks the joy of Hijuelos‘s novel. David is a shy. friendless son ofa downwardly mobile couple. unable to pay their church dues and thus excluded from a community in the stranglehold of the small-mindedness ofthe 40s Bible Belt mentality. Aunt Mae. big-bosomed, brash and magnificent in her abrasive dismissal of parochial. tight-lipped disapproval, is David’s anchor in life. providing the emotional and material sustenance denied him after the death of his father and mental withdrawal ofhis mother. Kennedy Toolc. author of A Confederacy of Dunces. is capable of big. big prose. shaping a picture of paralysing hypocrisy. love and regret in a quiet hand.

Twenty years later. in Chicago‘s sprawling south side. urban life spits its characters onto its pavements. from the street-wise despair ofthe ghetto. to the valueless‘. self-obsessed world of the star-gazing black middle class. Cyprus Colter’s collection ofshort stories. The Amoralists (Penguin £5.99). plunges the reader into potent worlds ofsexuality. death and longing. where characters are transformed by minor tricks of circumstance or manipulations of will. A widower. his wife newly cold. is nipped by guilt as he consummates the desire for the wife ofan arthritic. A young black. his arm punctured by an ongoing craving. is allured by a fellow addict draped in the robes of fanatical religion.

John Gregory Dunne's Harp

Family fortunes

One of the problems lor leminist liction has always been the number ol women who don’t read it; mostly it sells in modest numbers to a somewhat select, educated readership, leaving the bestseller lists to the bonkbusters. Zoe Fairbairns is one at the law writers to combine popular appeal with hard-hitting leminist analysis. Her latest novel, Daddy’s Girls, is similar to her previous work in that it borrows conventions from popular liction the new book is a family saga - and ileshes them out with believable characters lacing real-iile dilemmas. indeed, one criticism at her writing would be that her characters are sometimes so full of ordinary human vices and pettinesses that it is sometimes hard to maintain interest or sympathy. Characteristicaliy, the new novel is lull at ‘issues’ -abortion, male violence, lemale masochism, AIDS—

but they feature as recognisable human

problems ratherthan ideological tools. ‘l think I would call them concerns rather than issues,’ says Fairbairns. ‘Ol course I’m concerned about AiDS, say, as a political issue, but also, as a sexual person like any other I’m concerned about it as a tear, an anxiety, a problem.’

The novel centres on three sisters growing up through the rapidly changing social climate ol the past thirty years. As the title suggests, their lather- a lying, womanising, but charismatic bully- is a dominant figure in their lives. Why put a man at the centre of a story about women? ‘I think the story of how girls and women are

' _\-‘ \ ,: .‘ Zoe Falrbaims, author of Daddy's Girls.

fathered is very, very important for our

understanding ol women's oppression. I

it is through our experience oi our lathers, orlather llgures, that we lirst learn about men‘s anger. It you know in your bones, almostlrom your pre~conscious years, that it is dangerous to anger men, then it's going to allect your sell-image, your sense at safety, how you behave as an adultwoman.’

The girls’ mother is one of the most powerlully-drawn and disturbing characters in the novel. She is a ‘woman who loves too much‘, who will sacrilice almost anything to hang on to her man. Although one of the novel’s strengths is in charting the changes in women’s status and expectations pre and post-feminism, Fairbairns refuses to portray Jo simply as a victim at her times. ‘While one understands why she dared not break tree, to say that it was inevitable because at the generation she belonged to would deny the heroism oi those women lrom that generation who did dare. i think a very hard lesson that all leminists have to learn is that you can‘t save people who don’t want to be saved. There comes a time when maybe the right thing to do is to leave them to it and go and do

r something else.’ (Sue Wilson)

Daddy’s Girls is published by Methuen at £14.99.

(Penguin £5.99) is a return to sheer self-indulgence: the tract ofan American writer of lrish catholic descent. hounded by familial deaths and the possibility ofhis own. His is the ‘true harp voice. . . the voice of a man with a chip on his shoulder the size of a Californian redwood.‘ With the honesty ofa middle-aged man. cornered into self-examination in order to make a living. he reflects. ‘Although it is not necessary for a writer to be a prick. neither does it hurt.‘ At once self-deceptive and honest. Dunne lays bare that strange Creature. the writer— an insufferable egotist and a rebellious product of a people choking on humility in order to assimilate.


I THE BOOKSHELF/VICTOR GOLLANCZ LTD FIRST FANTASY NOVEL COMPETITION Science fiction publishers (iollancz join BBC Radio 4‘s Books/10010 find a worthy recipient for their £4000 prize (£2000 outright plus £2000 advance royalties for Gollancz publication to the winner). Two runners-up will also receive prizesoffilxl Among the judges are science fiction writers Mary Gentle and Terry Pratchett. Entry forms are available from \‘ietor

- I

(iollancz Ltd. 14 l lenriettaStreet. London. W( ’ZIC 8J0 and entries must be submitted by 30Jtily l‘)‘)l with winners announced in October.


I WATERSTONES I’rinees Square. 0-11 ill 9650.

I Thurs 14 (r30 7.30pm. '1 int Sebastian will read from Sat-(ours (iuu' ( Siiiii iii and Schuster. £13.99)


i I l I


27 (ieorge Square. Information on 031 iii l


Wed 13 7.45pm. Annual subscription t5. Single meeting£1 (tree). 'I'tiiiiglit'sgiiest

is Edwin Morgan who will read from his new Collected Poems. a volume spanning 50 yearsol published work.

IJAMES THIN 53 5‘) South liridgefiil

556 (17-13.

Sat 9211/ day from [Iii/lam. ("Iii/drunk Scrabble ( 'luh Scrabble Competition w ill) threeageranges si\\eiito nine and ten to sixteen. l’ri/es loi each group will be Speai ‘s Board ( iaiiies and ('hamber's Dictionaries.

Competition L'ntil middle oi March. To celebrate 31 yearsot l’aladin. IIllil.\.'llk' running a competition ieaiui‘ing the ma ks ot'I'laiin ()‘lirien who is published by Paladin. £50ol books are at stake l-iirlliei i details from shop. I __._J

The List 8— 21 l’ebruary 1991 71