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POETRY ; THREESCOREANDTEN
I Hold Hands Among The Atoms Edwin Morgan (Mariscat £4.95) Written between August 1988 and August 1990. these ‘social‘ poems vary in subject matter from Edwin Morgan‘s own neck of the woods — Gartnavel Hospital. Glasgow as a whole — to world politics — Albania, the Palestinian intifada, Iraq. All are i relatively short and easy to comprehend.
At times it seems that Morgan was all too conscious of having decided to write 70 poems for his 70th birthday (‘Ho hum. Hirohito's dead. better do one on him'). with the result that j some pieces only just rise above the level ofa newspaper column in verse. Elsewhere. however. in poems which do not deal directly with current affairs (such as ‘An Interview‘. in which Lazarus regrets his resurrection). and in those which, like ‘An Iraqi Student‘. combine the personal with the geopolitical. the pain and anguish of life is vividly communicated. (Stuart Bathgate)
NON-FICTION LONESOME BUM BOY
i I Was Looking For A Street Charles Willeford (Polygon £7.95) This is a
brief and beautifully compact l reminiscence of Charles Willeford’s i early childhood and wanderings as a i teenage bum throughout the southern states of the US during the ' Depression. His prose is clean, :
sparse and matter of fact, but also very expressive, as the reader is ’ magnetised by his recollections of i shunting between jungle, desert,
relief camps and soup kitchens, each place endowed with characters ready : to impart their road-spun philosophy.
Despite the cameraderie of hobos and bums (there is a distinction between the two), the teenage Willeford emerges as a loner, with a shining optimism and faith in a ‘wonderful world and its possibilities’. However, the two poems which sandwich the body of the text hold the key to understanding a sadder impetus behind the author’s travels. (Ann Donald)
LEFT BANK SHOW
l Impressionism-Art, Leisure and Parisian Society Robert L. Herbert (HarperCollins £16.95) Don’t be fooled by the seductive subtitle of this book. Robert Herbert is not into meandering descriptions of the sort of society scandals and love affairs that make an artist interesting. but in
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An Imprint of HarperCollinsPub/zsbers l
76The List 31 May— 13 June 1991
the works produced. You can call him old-fashioned. he says. but he still prefers to write from a point of view which is ‘long on practice and short on theory". Still. Herbert does not keep art entirely in a vacuum. conceding that the seeds of Impressionism are to be found in the sudden. cosmopolitan flourishing of Parisian cultural life sparked by the 1867 International Exposition. To this end. he includes quotes from the artists on various aspects of urban life.
The book is not chronologically ordered. which makes it difficult to use as a work of reference. We know that ‘Impressionist' was a term coined by an art reviewer. for instance. but not why it first came to be used to decribe the works ofso varied a group of artists as Monet. Degas. Renoir. Manet and Cezanne — not discussed in Impressionism. because he was a landscape artist rather than an urban one.
Most people associate Impressionism with the blurer images of Renoir. but other very defined. naturalist artists were Impressionists too. To be fair to Herbert. he does suggest that the book is not a beginner‘s guide and. with page after page ofbeautiful colour illustrations. he may have difficulty persuading the punters to read the text anyway. (Miranda France)
O . ENOCIDE
OL’ STAN’S RIVER
I Old Serpent ol the Nile: A Journey to the Source Stanley Stewart (John Murray £16.95) So often travel writing seems a vehicle for ‘amusing‘, self-congratulatory and invariably patronising anecdotes. At first, Stanley Stewart‘s adventures seem to conform to that pattern, with his unhealthy preoccupation with the sheer variety of African breasts together with random snippets ofcultural history and personal experiences — all precariously held together by progress up the Nile.
Ironically. it‘s only when the author is geographically removed from his subject by the dangers of civil war that the book captures the attention. Here he gives a sensitive insight into the lamentable state of the Sudanese people —— suffering not only the brutality of internal war but an escalating famine which has only recently been recognized by their government. His anxiety for ‘this year‘s Ethiopia‘. together with the perils of Uganda, provides an illuminating discussion of the duplicity of Western observers and charitable organisations. (Charlie Llewellyn)
Give me American Sicko or Paul Theroux to discuss. writes Philip Parr.
Himmler was an easy man to underestimate: short, pudgy, near-sighted and chlnless' — and with a dodgy haircut too. The SS leader is the subject at a new iography, Architect 0t Genocide, by Richard Breitman, published by Bodley
i-lead, priced £16.99.