econ HIS FACE
I Arrogance Joanna Scott (Scribners £13.95) The myth of the tortured artist comes to life in Joanna Scott's fictionalised biography of expressionist painter Egon Schiele. who scandalised Austrian society with his graphic nudes and portrait of himselfmasturbating. At a time when Vienna was a contradictory fusion of bourgeois respectability and startling modernity. Schiele came into conﬂict with the authorities over his erotic images and supposed seduction ofchild models.
Scott brings an element of Freudian psychoanalysis to the task ofunravelling the artist‘s life. splitting the claustrophobic narrative into scenes from Schiele's childhood. his Byronesque obsession with his young sister Gertie. and the prison where he spent 24 days on pornographychargcs. Reﬂected through the eyes of his mistress. wife and a young model. there emerges a portrait ofthe artist as both child and iconoclast. attempting to create beauty and innocence as much as challenging the old order.
GLOSS AND GLAMOUR
I The Gallery Michael Molloy (Macdonald £14.95) After The Century. Michael Molloy's saga of newspaper pe0ple now out in paperback (Futura £4.99). comes this epic of the art world. which combines forgery and Nazi intrigue with the galaxy ofpainters. dealers and collectors who have turned fine art into big business.
Possessing a curiously dispassionate way of depicting greed and rivalry. Molon barely scratches the surface of his characters - although. with four decades. two continents and a world war to get through. it‘s hardly surprising that he doesn‘t have time for detailed characterisation.
Enlivened by frequent descriptions of polyglot beauties having multiple orgasms with abstract artists. and scoring a glamour rating of two champagne receptions per chapter. Gallery is the sort of fascinating nonsense invaluable on long train journeys or when recovering from a bout of flu. (Madeline Slaven)
; SLIPPERY POLE
I Who Was David Weiser? Pach v Huellc(Bloomsbury£14.99)Time is
no simple entity in Pawel Huelle‘s
fine novel. It has no consideration
for standard chronology. but flits
backwards and forwards as the whole story is told and demands close attention.
EIevcn-year-old Weiser is a legend to his friends. An individual ofgreat promise. a child enigma. Huelle's
84 The ListgtﬁJune - ll July 199]
Filth, fun and ; " ‘
the free market
The cynic, it is said, is merely a
disillusioned idealist. Such is the case, at least, with the narrator of Dirty
Tricks, Michael Dibdin‘s new novel. A
roofless underachiever, in his 403 but still riding around Oxford on a bicycle, he realises that while he was
. espousing 603 notions of
non-conformity, the conventional contemporaries whom he then ridiculed are now in positions of power
5 over him, both socially and at the
language school where he works.
Embracing the self-seeking amorality ; which seems to be the only way to get i ahead in the late Thatcheryears. he
lies and cheats his way to a sizeable income. There are, alas, a couple of
7 deaths, a kidnapping, and sundry other - ? offences along the way, which is why
, the tale takes the form of the narrator's i plea against extradition to Britain from
a Latin-American republic.
Yet, while Dirty Tricks, as much a black comedy as a crime novel, is clearly an irony-rich attack on Thatcherism, the narrator, for all that he represents that ideology in extremis, and despite his crimes, is still the most engaging character in the book, as his creator agrees.
‘Yes, I do feel a bit of sympathy for him,‘ says Dibdin. ‘I feel a bit of “there but for the grace of God go i". I came
1 back to Britain when l was around 40 to find the place I had left seemingly
transformed —the government was in the hands of goons and morons. Thatcherism bothered me in various ways — it represented everything I loathe about the English. If you go around saying “there is no such thing as society“ where does it all end?‘
Dirty Tricks, whose protagonist delends himself by using that very phrase, most famous of our former prime minister's literally anti-social sayings. If at times the book’s political purpose is rather baldly stated, the verve and pace of the writing, and the Machiavellian manoeuvres of the erstwhile idealist, are ample compensation.
Dibdin, a regular book-reviewerfor The Independent on Sunday, continues to alternate his books set in Britain with the chronicles of Italian detective, Aurelio Zen —- the most recent of which, Vendetta. is just out in paperback (Faber £3.99). Currently working on a Zen novel set in the Vatican, he is a witty, perspicacious figure, both in person and in print, but has, he says, no intention yet of making humour 3 central element of subsequent books.
Nevertheless, while Vendetta lays bare the corruption of the Italian legal system without recourse to more than the occasional bon mot, the success of Dirty Tricks in combining upmarket entertainment with serious social comment should eventually persuade Dibdin to incorporate a greater amount of humour into future works. There is, as a certain retired politician would say, no alternative. (Stuart Bathgate) Dirty Tricks is published by Faber, priced £13.99.
character is a Jew. who toys with World War Two armaments. who makes art ofexplosions and craters with clouds of blue smoke. who disappears. probably drowned. planning his greatest explosion ofall. one that would create a dam. giving his friends a clean place to swim. This is a political novel that does not talk about politics. lf David Weiser was anyone he was the
. Iighter-than-air genius Poland never
had as a leader. He was the solution
; people dreamed of while the earthy
trudge of history — Gdansk. martial
law— moved on. Weiser was an angel ? i ,and an illusion who levitated before '1 his friends eyes. who promised
liberation but disappointed and left
them alone. (Thomas Quinn)
I Absence Peter Handke (Methuen £12.99) This prose poem. a super-neo-modernist offering from
Peter J iandke (Austrian of highest renown best known for his The (ioalie‘s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick) left me well cold. l attempted to read it three times. on the last occasion only did 1 get from cover to cover and even then did not know what was going on.
it offers nothing ordinary like plot or characterisation. Its protagoni. ts — the gambler. the soldier. the old man and the woman — are metaphors but of what 1 do not know.
.QBUCHANBRONCO -" E ISlideJames Buchan(Heinemann £12.99)'l’hisauthorisaWhitbread
i see no value in introducing you to
; conversational style. Talking in the 3 (specious) style of ‘It was morning
; whisky. but it doesn't exactly : cnrapture the reader of a novel.
Obviously. llandke and his novel are .
products of middle European culture. and the book has the feel of some kind ofpolitical statement. but this English translation comes four years after its (ierman publication and ifpolitical references are there it is hard to decipher their precise meaning. relevance or interest. ()verall it is so dull anyone getting all the way through at the first attempt deserves a medal. (Thomas Quinn)
and Yorkshire Post prize-winner. I always thought there was something odd about Yorkshiremen. Slide flits around from country to country. affair to affair. job to job like a butterfly on acid. Buchan appears to
any of his characters. So one is left trying to work out why he‘s bothered to create a diplomat. or a horse owner. or a Ukrainian maid. chatted about them. and then never mentioned them again until the book’s final paragraph.
Ofyet more irritation is Buchan‘s insistence on writing in a
. . .or it may have been afternoon. . . [can‘t remember‘ may be alright for two in the morning. in a bedsit. reminiscing after half a gallon of
l OrderOutofChaos: The Autobiographical Works of Maya Angelou Dolly A. McPherson . (Virago £5.99) To read this book you would have thought that none ofthe innovations in critical method over the last 20 years had taken place. Dolly A. McPherson does little more than summarise the plots ofthe five volumes of autobiography. and talk vaguely about the background to Angelou's development as a writer. Her conversation with Angelou which ends this study is worth reading. especially for the comparison ofherwritingtothatof . Maxine Hong Kingston. However, this is a bright spot in a very : disappointing study. as there is g virtually no close textual analysis. and Angelou's wondrous use of language is applauded but never : properly examined. Add this to 9 some pop psychology from the 50s. I the unentcrprising use ofcritics as i conservative as McPherson herself. 9 and a bland writing style. and you i have a very facile book about a most exciting writer. (Alan Rice) *
I Bloomsbury Dictionary of Popular Phrases Nigel Rees (Bloomsbury £9.99) There is certainly room on my shelf for a complete compendium of contemporary phrases. and. ifNigel Recs had pulled it off. l would be saying nice one (.‘yril. Sadly. he has not. and this is just another ofthose pop guides with little style and even less content.
Recs will probably get a lot of money for this old rope on the strength of his broadcasting. But the lack of research. stunning by any