from this world ofstereotypes (and who wouldn‘t?) via frequent intertextual. dream-like forays into the fictional world of Lawrence’s Sons And Lovers. Unfortunately. when Lawrence's ideas are discussed (whether in Alice’s consciousness. or in the night-school Eng Lit class she attends) the effect is one of a wholly unnatural. non-spontaneous — in short. pretentious — excursion into pseudo~philosophy alarmingly unsuited to Moore‘s competent (a la Margaret Atwood). occasionally vibrant prose.
Having said that. this briefnovella (perhaps short story writing might be a form better suited to the author‘s skills) is an enjoyable read and presents a conventional quest — that of perplexed youth seeking love and certitude — in an entertaining and. largely. engaging manner. The style tightens considerably as the story progresses and the ending is quite fine. More of Alice's hilarious mixed-up mother (ofwhom. one character opines that ‘Freud would have had a field day‘) and less second-hand Lawrence would have improved the tale but. all in all. this is a fair debut. (Paul W. Hullah)
I Reaper Man Terry Pratchett (Victor Gollancz £13.99) Terry Pratchett is a highly enjoyable and thoroughly silly writer. an executor ofsixth-form wit and literary incarnation ofThe Goodies. Compliments or not. these were the precedents 1 most thought ofduring my first journey into Discworld.
The plot is bizarre enough to satisfy the most demanding reader. Death. a seven-foot skeletal immortal. Great Reaper and so on. has been laid off by Them. or is it They. and the result is too much life ﬂoating around with nowhere to go. The consequences are more than the average crop ()onmbies and a proliferation ofornamental snowstorms which hatch into supermarket shopping trolleys.
This is an anarchic adventure. with some very intelligent things to say about attitudes to death completely buried in farce and the odd second-hand joke. However it should be a landmark in the literary establishment's treatment of shopping precincts. (Thomas Quinn)
I Skinny Legs And All Tom Robbins (Bantam, £4.99) Seattle-based Robbins’ fifth tome — he is probably best known for the acclaimed Jitterbug Perfume and E ‘ven Cowgirls Get The Blues - finds him. stylistically at least. ploughing a customary furrow. Skinny Legs is a New Age beatnik road novel. boasting a whirlygig prose and bloated collection of weird images somewhere between Richard Brautigan and Hunter S. Thompson. These traits fence and combine to
create adramatic surrealism redolent of. say. Kathy Acker with a sense ofhumour. Which means it's not very funny.
Boomer Petway and Ellen Cherry Charles are on their honeymoon. cruising around the US inside a roast turkey (okay. so the turkeys a l facsimile. ho ho!). and the novel tells j in great detail oftheir mad adventures and meetings with such bizarre characters as Dirty Sock. Painted Stick and the lovable Spike. ()n the way. bold namechecks are given to TS. Eliot. Charlie Parker.
Pepsi Cola. Old Spice aftershave. .
tofu and Salvador Dali. as the work
struggles (semi-successfully) to l
illustrate the notion of a stiﬂing world ofapocalyptic. consumer culture. The quest narrative itself certainly has its moments. but the
opaqueness ofthe book‘s language is
deceptive — for a work so full of bridling descriptive cadences. Robbins‘ characters are stunningly ﬂat and unrealised and the unfocused action drags on with no apparent purpose. At one point. someone complains of trendy American artists that ‘they don‘t believe in anything‘. and this is a problem unsurmounted in this book‘s own self-consciously post-modern avoidance ofcoherent meaning. which comes over as both nihilistic and wearisome. All very clever. all very pointless. and definitely not the best that Robbins can do. (Paul W. Hullah)
gripping read. But after more than 22 years of research into the royal family. Weir is just too close to the material for comfort.
()ne axe grinds audiny throughout: there are so many indignant reminders that women were heavily circumscribed in Henry's time that frustration with
the author eclipses the sympathy that '
discarded spouses deserve. Too often Weir gets carried away by her own zeal. Refusing to leave even a single question unanswered. she leans heavily on that wobbly and invidious prop: pop psychology. After carefully assembling the observations ofcontemporaries into fairly convincing character sketches. she cannot resist glibly tying up the loose ends with brushstrokes like: 'thwarted ambition and repressed sexuality turned her into a virago.‘ Fly-on-thc-wall speculation about bedtime encounters is equally misplaced. Royal-watching can be titillating. but does it ever merit (100 pages'.’ (Carl Honore)
I Trials of an Expert Witness I larold l.. Klawans (Bodley Head £14.99) The author of two novels and hundreds of academic papers. Harold L. Klawans is not your standard medical hero. He is the godfather of good neurology. a
I GO Gentle David Peak (Fourth Estate. £13.99) Jim is terminally ill. his wife is committing adultery with a zoo keeper. his voluntary euthanasia has been pencilled in for Thursday. just before tea. and his mind is doing cartwheels. His dull existence has become a slobbering beast. streaking offat a surreal gallop. ForJim. the end is nigh but it‘s not here yet. On the penultimate day he takes some time out to live a little. to revisit his old haunts. to wind up in the bed of his nurse — for Jim a swansong. for Miranda a call ofduty. Now he is ready to meet his fate. if not his Maker.
On the subject ofdeath. David Peak reinforces many opinions which have gone before. doing so with a measured degree ofsensitivity and humour. (in Gentle is certainly a busy. sharply-observed work. yet begs to be tighter. its conclusion merely one oflife‘s little disappointments. (Susan Mackenzie)
NON-FICTION HOORAY HENRY
I The Six Wives of Henry VIII Alison Weir (The Bodley 1 lead £16.99) With l lenry \'lll's spectacular game of musical wives and his political and religious manouevrings as a backdrop. this should have been a
of his new book,
and a signed copy
' authors at WHIETSTOYZB'S
7PM MONDAY 29TH JULY
[LILIAN BARNES will be reading from, discussing and signing copies
“TALKING IT OVER"
Please telephone 041 221 9650 to reserve a place
45-50 Princes Square, Glasgow. Cl 3JN tel 041 221 9650
_ l (‘hicago professor who does things ‘ the (‘hicago way.
As an expert witness. Klawans gives his medical opinion on patients claiming damages for injury or malpractice (the laundry owner crippled because a specialist did not recognise a rare condition. the bride reduced to a vegetable when an undetected aneurysm bursts).
It is all gripping reading. The style is very American. of course. and manipulative. A lot. ()f full stops. And short.
We are being emotionally blackmailed as the author sets out to present the individual‘s plight faced with forces s he does not understand — mystery disease. no bladder control. impotence. What he does not do is question the US health system. of which be is so clearly a product. The only radicalism he offers in this respect is the odd sidcswipc at the insurance companies. (Thomas Quinn)
I Talking Films edited by Andrew Britton (Fourth Estate £16.99) ()ver the past eleven years. The (Juan/fun has sponsored a series of lectures and discussions at the National Film Theatre in London. Eleven of these have been selected for this volume from th: hundreds that have taken
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The List ZbJuly — 8 August 199185