' IRISH srew
I The Woman's Daughter Dermot Bolger (Viking £13.99) Dermot Bolger's disturbing book, The Journey Home, portrayed a dark and dirty Dublin, plagued by urban degradation, rural disintegration and moral corruption. His strength as a storyteller, apparent then. is
I applied with equal gusto in The
3 Woman ’5 Daughter, a novel of tragic : depth.
Bolger‘s rewriting of the Dublin myth tells ofthree lives, linked by the gaze ofa bent figure who stands prophetically at the periphery of each story. In the first, the shadow of Mother Ireland falls like lead upon one small room. where a mother and E her daughter. born secretly at night, ? hide from Irish society‘s indiscriminate morality. Through Bolger‘s clever use of a narrative constantly changing in angle and voice, we learn of the girl’s gradual retreat from life after the death of her own mother, and the consequences of her clasping the gentle nightmare of her brother's embraces, against a swirling background ofthe factories, ballrooms and cinemas of the 19605.
Slipping back in the second tale to Victorian Dublin, Bolger writes of a young tutor obsessed with Bridget, a maid in the household where he works. Terrified by a childlike presence which chatters incessantly. Bridget dreads her nights alone. And, in the last life. Joanie is a modern Dubliner obsessed with a past which she can never experience. The Woman ’5 Daughter uses the power of the conventional tale without the sap, to give some meaning to the lives of Dublin‘s abandoned. (Kathleen Morgan).
I Famous ForThe Creatures Andrew Motion (Viking£l4.99) In 1976, Francis. a young would-be writer, looks over the manuscript of a novel called Famous For The Creatures which he wrote when at Oxford, the story of his love for the mysterious Sylvie, who at first seemed unattainable but wasn’t really. At the time he thought he was faithfully recording the truth; rereading it, he realises the gaps between his interpretation and what actually happened, musing on the way that writing down an experience changes it and on the power of language to distort emotion. Contradictions abound, and the text of the novel begins to slip away from the reader as the author‘s comments correct, embellish and explain the original story — but is he telling the whole truth now, or are there still discrepancies?
All the usual ingredients of sensitive-chaps-at-Oxbridge novels are here: punting along the river.
What do you get it you put a spastic, a traltlc warden and a paraplegic into a traitic jam? lnevitabiy the makings of a bad joke, until Ben Elton decides to bludgeon the myth ol the helpless cripple in his second novel, Gridlock, with an axe-wielding girl in a ﬂame-throwing wheelchair, sticking two lingers up at her post-accident labelling as a potential lire hazard. Alternative comedian and lervent environmentalist, Elton discharges a double-barreled diatribe against
' able-bodied lascism and the choking ‘ mayhem on the roads, aided by a plot
' could completely revolutionise
as fantastic as the pollution and prejudice are real.
Geolirey is a genius, suilers from cerebral palsy, and has just invented an eco-lriendly hydrogen engine which ,2
transportation as we know it. Deborah has been paralysed ever since she was run over on a pelican crossing, and Toss is the coolest trailic warden ln
. London. Together they struggle with
revolving doors, murderous f car-manufacturers and total gridlock to .
3 retrieve Geollrey’s stolen plans and
promote the cause at pollution-tree i public transport. I.
As the screwball narrative ; progresses, Elton llies oil at tangents , to vility such social miscreants as the owners at ‘You don’t have to be mad to . work here but . . . ’ stickers, the gutter i
The ever-prollllc Ben Elton at the wheel
press, and instigators oi ‘Here we go, here we go’ chants at demonstrations I (right-wing inllltrators sent to lowerthe intellectual tone).
The humour is brash and irreverent, the jokes are good, and it is impossible ' not to respond with the tiniest guilt pang remembering your last unnecessary car journey and lack ol commitment to disabled access. Cathartlc rather than reforming, Gridlock carries little conviction that things will ever improve. Even so, it deserves to be read, it only as an antidote to status car adverts ieaturing Adonis, a tour-wheel drive and a glacier. (Madeline Siaven)
Gridlock is published by Macdonald priced £9.95.
youthful flirtations with homosexuality.overbearingmums g and beautiful girls who exist only to cure the hero ofhis melancholia with
I theirlove.Like mostattemptsatthis j genre that I‘ve ever read, it doesn’t :
quite come off, and both the
situations and the characters seem . dull and stereotypical — Sylvie ' especially appears to have no motivation of her own. Better by far are the glimpses into Francis' later
' life which we get in between his
meditations on the novel, where his relationship with his father hints at
I something more real than the - self-obsession he so cleverly
expresses. (Andrea Baxter)
I L881 Lovers William Wharton (Granta £13.99) Try this. Seventy-two-year-old blind virgin . Mirabelle crashes into 49-year-old . Jack, a drop-out from the rat race, as he paints in a Parisian street. They become lovers, their intensely erotic
. encounter culminating in Mirabelle‘s? miraculously regaining her sight on ; her first orgasm and inconveniently
dying straight afterwards. Ludicrous? Sometimes. William Wharton just
achieves the necessary suspension of
disbelief by means ofa beautifully
I drawn. finely textured examination
ofthe minutiae of sensuality. Apart from some cringe-inducing
over-sentimentality and indulgence in the portrayal of Mirabelle. this turns inside out our denial of the sexuality ofold women. A touch of humour and masterly writing encourages the reader to overlook the plot‘s more improbable elements. (Julie Bertagna)
SAIL OF THE CENTURY
I Blood Tide Robert F.Jones (Macdonald £12.95) I wonder if Robert F. Jones actually knows what he’s talking about, or ifhe just possesses that kind of imagination ‘— lines like ‘he felt a bone in his left thigh poke through his skin and the bite of the air on his marrow‘ pervade the latter stages of this sea-going thriller. a sort ofPeter a Benchley meets Chay Blyth romp I around the Pacific Ocean.
Not that there's anything pacific about it. Father and daughter unite to gain vengeance on different parties operating together on an outlaw island in the Philippines. The pace of the book becomes increasingly frantic. with a predictable but nevertheless entertaining conclusion. Blood Tide is interesting from several different perspectives— the sailing, the geography, the myriad methods of i torture and death. And this bloke I was a senior writer for Time and Sports Illustrated— now there’s pent-up frustration for you. (Richard Harrison)
’ RACE AGAINST TIME
I course of two men, representative of
i probation officer hoping to save his 2 clients from themselves. Darryl King
3 driven, through a series of ‘ confrontations and nightmarish
I' conclude that it‘s not just them and
; city into his writing— the stench of random violence in sleazy alleys. Is it
for peaceful coexistence, for & rehabilitation ofthe mess that is the
strength is in not supplying a pat I answer. (Cath Boylan)
Azores as its setting and the whale as ’ amuse,includingAWhale'sViewofé Man:‘Alwayssofeverish,andwith those long limbs waving about.’ A ’ series ofimagined corespondences ' has Napoleon’s fortune-teller
' beanpole terrorised by New York,
I Slow Motion Riot Peter Blauner (Viking £14.99) Peter Blauner's debut novel charts the collision
the American city‘s counterposed cultures: us, the white (WASP, Italian, irish, Jewish) community, trying to contain them. black society, the underworld.
Steven Baum is Jewish, idealistic, a
is his nemesis, out of control. a crack-dealer and murderer. Baum is
pressures. to change his philosophy and to come down finally on the side ofthe culture he belongs to, to
us, but them or us. Blauner gets the spirit ofthe inner
vomit and urine in lift shafts, the too late. he asks, for white liberals,
metropolis? The question is disturbingly put. and the book‘s
BITS AND PIZZAS
I Vanishing Point Antonio Tabucchi (Chatto and Windus £12.99). The Italian author‘s latest offering
consists ofone novella and various snatches ofstories— ‘quasi-stories‘
and ‘travel journals’ — which owe a great deal to Borges and the Latin
Point — a detective story without a
corpse where the'murder‘ isin facta metaphor.
of Borges is the novella Vanishing I
The first collection ofstories, Woman of Porto Pim. takes the
writing to Spanish revolutionary La
, Pasionaria,anda Portuguese king 1
commissioning a work from Goya. i This is peculiar stuff, but very funny.
Tabucchi‘s impossible landscapes j are captivating, and his a
choreographed collection and a good T introduction to one of Italy‘s best new writers. (Miranda France)
MEAT: THE LIFE
I Muscle Sam Fussell (Scribners £14.95) What makes a man move 3000 miles, give up his job, disown his family, develop acne and start wearing disposable nappies? For Sam Fussell, insecure six-foot
the answer was muscle. As bodybuilders go, Sam was somewhat
80 The List l~i— 27 June 1991