destruction and is required to offer comfort and support.
In recounting details of the illness. Roth knows very well that this is a story which. properly told. must affect every reader. And he tells it well. paring down the schmaltz and sentimentality that he might have built up. There are occasions when it seems melodrama might get the better of him. but he pulls back from it in time.
A grim tale. but Roth‘s justification for telling it is as a tribute to Herman. and as a reminder for himself. Readers who have had similar experiences with elderly parents will recognise a lot in this book. Those who have it all yet to come will be forewarned and partially forearmed. (Cath Boylan)
I Kiss The Hand You Cannot Bite: The Rise and Fall of the Ceausescus Edward Behr (Hamish Hamilton £15.99) In this commanding and perceptive account. Edward Behr raises the question of how such an utterly repressive regime could not only take root. but survive for so long. and how the West could remain so ignorant.
In his attempt to negotiate a myriad ofdeceptions — rewritten histories and clandestine manouevres— Behr explores Romania’s feudal. cultural and political history. which provided a conducive climate in which ultra-Stalinist policies could flourish.
Berh is at his best when foraging in the undergrowth of the psyches of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu — such unlikely candidates for the leadership ofthe most totalitarian regime in Europe. This ruthless. despotic duo inevitably seem slightly absurd. with their thinly veiled pretentions and their gaudy. kitsch tastes.
Despite these lighter notes. there remains the resonant discord of the grim Ceausescu legacy. While they enjoyed increasing luxury they continued to ignore the escalating hardship oftheir people. In the words of the dissident writer. Ivasiuc. ‘Twenty million inhabitants lived inside the imagination ofa madman'. (Charlie Llewellyn)
I Darkness Visible William Styron (Jonathan Cape £8.99) Largely polemical. Darkness Visible argues for greater understanding of those afflicted by depression. an illness from which William Styron has himselfsuffered — exacerbated. judging from the evidence here. by alcohol and drugs. In particular. Styron thinks there should be more understanding of ‘suicide and the impulse towards it”. His aim in writing is to draw ‘valuable conclusions‘ about the kind of anguish he suffered.
Littered as the book is with the
suicides of the famous and intelligent. you might start to suspect that depression is a contagion amongst the literati. ‘Artistic types
. are particularly vulnerable'. we are told. and there follows a rollcall of ‘just a few ofthese fallen artists'. It is as ifStyron believes that depression and suicidal tendencies must go hand in hand with creativity.
We've heard this before. with demon drink the muse. Styron refers to just such a role for alcohol in his own work. although he feels that going on the wagon contributed to his illness. He also reveals he was addicted to Halcion (ironic names the drug barons come up with). a tranquilliser which his doctor prescribed at three times the normal dose. and which is ‘a causative factor in producing suicidal obsession . . . in susceptible individuals‘.
While much ofwhat he writes is valid. Styron doesn‘t seem to think the individual can take any responsiblity for his/her own mental health. We all know we can cultivate good habits for physical health — why not mental too? Long-term drug and alcohol abuse. after all. is likely to be detrimental. Was it always beyond him to give up or cut down? Couldn‘t he have refrained from dwelling so much on death?
The book is at times self-indulgent. and its conclusions are nothing you hadn‘t already though of. but at least it ends on a positive note — the sufferer can recover and experience serenity and joy once again. Stay off the bottle. William. stay offthe tranqs. (Cath Boylan)
Whipping the classic ingredients of crime fiction to the goosestep of Nazi Germany. Philip Kerr's The Pale Criminal (Penguin £3.99) packs no surprises but plenty ofpunches. writes Kathleen Morgan. A tough observer ofthe underbelly ofhuman nature. private eye Bernie Gunther is hauled back into the upper reaches of Nazi policedom after a period of self—imposed exile. by means of strategic blackmail. A cool cocktail ofsneering cynicism and self-mockery. Gunther heads an investigation into a series of murders ofyoung female Aryan stereotypes. which is proving bad business for German insurance companies. With characteristic gruffness and a measure ofself—restraint. he turns his roving eye from Berlin‘s brothels and porn manufacturers to the bloody hands of high-ranking Nazis. Rejecting the macho substructure of the genre which Kerr so skillfully exploits. Sara Paretsky‘s Burn Marks (Virago £4.99) is nippy stuff. spiked with a cool wit. V.I. Warshawski is a jogging. non-smoking. AIDS-aware young private investigator. who uses her brain before her gun. Dogged by family problems and pursued by men who don't expect her to drop ‘em on the first date. Warshawski. almost
SPRING BOOKS SPECIAL
too good to be true. is saved by her reputation as the most disliked meddler in town. Sticking her professional nose beneath the surface appearances of an arson attack. she discovers a network of political coruption involving both friends and enemies. Paretsky‘s creation is all-woman; a PI. with a nervous system. taking a male- domin‘ated profession firmly by the privates.
Another full-frontal female characterisation is that of Esi in Ama Ata Aidoo‘s novel of love and marriage. Changes (Women's Press £6.95). Shocked into a long-overdue separation from her complacent husband following marital rape. Esi finds that love on anything like an equal footing is a wobbly business. Fighting the pressures othanaian social convention and the dull ache of her own longing. Esi strives for contentment in a refreshing novel of social satire.
Examining the hypocrisies of a society once bent upon self-destruction. and now struggling to maintain itself. Joan Slonczewski's The Wall Around Eden (Women‘s Press £6.95) is an effective satire on the ‘pass the buck‘ syndrome. Twenty-one years after the outbreak of nuclear war. the inhabitants of a small American town are imprisoned — and protected — behind an alien force-field. Focusing their hatred and fear on the Angelbees. ‘the diminutive. limblcss destroyers ofthe Earth'. the townspeople are surrounded by a ‘deadland‘ littered with human skeletons and seasoned by a nuclear winter. Angered by the passivity of her community in the face ofgradual elimination. Isabel challenges be} supposed extcrrninators. precipitating an unforeseen conflict and exposing a possible path to salvation.
The post-marital battleground is the setting for Anne Fine's gently funny novel. Taking The Devil's Advice (Penguin £4.99). Displaying a mocking understanding ofhuman relationships..it nibbles at our capacity for self-deception. Cooped in an airing cupboard which
l l l
ventilates the underpants of his ex-wife (,‘onstance‘s new husband. ()liver attempts to write his autobiography in close proximity to his scornful children. Subjecting himself to baffling emotions of relief ' and rejection. he constructs a picture of his past life. punctuated by the intrusive comments of Constance‘s own interpretation. With the intensity and conviction ofone who knows. Fine‘s novel is entertaining stuff.
I JOHN SMITH AND SON (GLASGOW) LTD 57 St Vincent Street. (MI 221 7473.
Sat 2U l lain. Trevor Smith. animal handler and author of the slimming ll'm'lil (Darling Kindersley). brings Snoopy the fruit-bat. an Indian rock python. a black mamba. a bird-eating spider and a blue-tongucd lizard to the children's department.
I NINE OPEN CIRCLE POETS Research Club. lletherington House. Glasgow L'nivcrsity. L'niversity Gardens. Hillhcad.
Sat6 7.30pm. £2 (£1 ,5llconc: members free). An evening which includcs'l‘om Lamb. Alistair Paterson and Jack Withers.
I OPEN WORLD POETICS Dow‘s Lounge (L'pstairs‘). 9 Dundas Street. opposite Queen Street station. Info: ()786 61 249 or 0419596033.
Tue 9 7.30pm. Edwin Morgan visits the group to read some of his poemsand participate in a discussion about his work. I WATEHSTONES Princes Square. 321 9650.
Thursti 1-2pm. HilaryAtkinson demonstrates The Dynubund (‘hu/lcngt' (Ebury Press £7.99). a new exercise method involving the use of a stripof latex. Whatever next.
Tue 16 7pm. Murder We Write evening. As part of a current nationwide campaign to promote crime-writers and their genre. Liza Cody. Peter Lovesey. Michael Z. Lcwin and Paula Gosling will discusstheir art and give tips on how to write the perfectcrime. Refreshmentsprovided.
I JAMES THIN 53—59 South Bt‘idge.ll3l 5566743.
Virago Crime Competition Closing date 13 May. £50 of books are yours ifyoucan answer tour easy questionsconcerning Virago Crime writers. in particular Sarah Paretsky. whose novel Burn .Wark.s is now out in paperback.
IWATERSTONES l3 l4 Princes'Strect. 556 3034.
Thurs 11 l2.3(l—l .3tlpm. Science festival event with Miriam Stoppard. whose Lose 71/25 In 7[)uv.s (Ilcadline £3.50) isout
Thurs 11 5pm. Science festival event for children with Or Fran Balkwill. atithorof (it'll Wars and ( ll'f/A .‘il't’ f '\ both published by Collins. priced £2.95.
Thurs 11 7pm. Lesley Thomas. .iuilioroi' The Virgin Soldiers . w ill rcad lroin his new novel. The Lou’s Alli/Journeys ()Ifi Revolving Jones (Mcthuen £14.99).
Sun 14 5pm. Science testis :il ev ent w ith HeatherCowper. author of The I’limi'ls and The Stars both published by Pan. priced £6.95.
I WATERSTONES 1 l4 George Street. 235 3436.
Thurs 18 7.30pm. A I‘abcr poetry cv cning with Andrew Motion and Philip Gross.
The List 5'- IS April I99183