WW? _, _. ._
Whatever the ingredients. it seems to be a winning formula. one which others in the Glasgow entertainment biz have recently been attempting to emulate. Indie-haven Fury Murrys = tried out nights where a live ceilidh band alternated with normal recorded fare. while Tower Promotions set tip chchl aka Ceilidhs With Attitude. at the Arches. gearing the image and the publicity towards a regular club crowd. The results were somewhat mixed — lack of punter response meant that Fury‘s abandoned the experiment after a couple of months, while the first series of Heuch! nights proved successful enough for Tower to be currently planning a second run.
According to most ceilidh-goers I consulted. a major factor in the dances‘ increased popularity is a reaction against the constraints of club culture. ‘More relaxed'. ’More sociable'. ‘You don‘t need to bother so much about what you look like'. ‘You get to touch people. instead of dancing with someone six feet away". were frequent comments. Ifthat‘s the case. then trying to dress ceilidhs tip to he more like clubs would seem somewhat self-defeating. Certainly. traditional dancing is still dogged by an image of deathly gentility and ersatz tartanalia. but that looks unlikely to be overcome through increased sophistication.
‘People tend to be a bit wary the
‘You see the guys with the shirt and tie on. and they‘re a bit suspicious. keeping quite aloof. but the minute the dancing starts. that's it — the jackets are off. the ties are off and lthey're away.’ Ceilidhs are thriving precisely because they're such unpretentious affairs— down-to-earth dancing to irresistibly catchy music. Ifyou depart too far from the traditional set-up, it seems. you risk killing the very spirit that attracts people in the first place. The Riverside Club, Fox Street, off
Clyde Street, 041248 3144, Fridays and Saturdays. Doors open 7.30pm, entry £4, no admission after 9pm. The next Robert Fish Band ceilidh is on Friday 18 Oct at Wilkie House, Edinburgh. Phone Stan Reeves on 031337 5442 for details. The Heuch.’ ceilidhs should be re-starting sometime in October; call [ Gerry on ()41 353 3771 for details.
first time they come .’ says Cy Laurie.
‘I think a leader has to have a certain alootness, a certain distance about him,’ says David Owen, the bright
‘f young leader of a bright young party no . more, but still with a habit of striding ‘ six feet in front of the minions who are
accompanying him on his whistlestop tour of the country to promote his
autobiography, Time To Declare. He 1 carries his theory into interviews,
frequently relusing to answer questions by the simple method of
’ staring vacantly into space until he’s
asked something else, interrupting to start different conversations with his press agent and generally seeming to exude an air that although all this is beneath him, he might as well give us the benefit of his world-weary political judgement.
The charge of egotism is somewhat backed up by the book itself, a tree-decimating 600 pages of self-justification, wherein he puts the
' blame forthe demise of the SDP on to
Roy Jenkins, the Liberals and the press and recounts his first love, courtship and liking torsoppy poetry. One might wonder if the public is really crying out to know all this, but Dr David obviously
I, thinks so: ‘I was conscious ol the fact
that political biographies are enormously dull and sanitised usually, and I wanted to make this really unusual by putting in my emotional life. It became longerthan I wanted, but I kept feeling I should put more in about the personal side of human relations. We actually cut out about a hundred pages three months ago, mostly poems and personal letters. This is my last will and testament politically; I envisage this as my last book because when I go, I want to go, I
don‘t see the point of going overthings. l have no regrets over most of the big decisions I made. The French have a saying “With all the its in the world, you could put Paris in a bottle".’ Er, yes, quite . ..
Owen doesn’t sutter tools, or, come to that, disagreements, patiently and has an unattractive habit ot dismissing that which doesn't lit into his own ideology. Here he is on ex-lellow Gang 0i Four-ster Jenkins and his comments about the doctor in his new autobiography: ‘It’s ridiculous! Of course it's not true . . . anyone who knows me knows when l was Foreign Secretary knows that . . . er. . . it’s a farce — God knows why he wanted to write it, but I always suspected his views and that’s why I didn’t want him to be leader of the SDP.’ This seems to sit uneasily with his professed view that ‘I want people to compromise, l preier that to consensus because that seems to lack conviction and I want people to have conviction that the centre ground is right.“
Owen says he is retiring from politics to lead the simple Iile. ‘This is the first summer since I was seven that I haven’t used my sailboat, it breaks my heart— in August the weather wasn’t very line, so we just went to Provence instead.‘ It’s a hard life, isn’t it? (Andrea Baxter)
Time To Declare is published by Michael Joseph, priced £20.
FICTION BACKWARD GLANCE
I Time’s Arrow Martin Amis (Jonathan Cape. £13.99) Adults decline into childhood. annihilated at the last as they are sucked into their mothers‘ engulfing bodies. Humans eat through their anuscs on the toilet. and make their money taking things into shops. Doctors are atrocity-mongers. breaking bodies up and throwing them out of ambulances. Auschwitz is reinvented as the place where Jews lovingly got created. Thus the enfant terrible ofcontemporary English letters has been taken up at last by the establishment and elevated to the Booker shortlist.
Everybody knows by now what happens in Martin Amis's new book. And so gripping does it sound. it‘s not surprising that everybody wants to read it. Time's Arrow. it must be said, is a clever and impressive piece ofwork. The time reversal business is witty and thorough. the Holocaust business is shocking. there are plenty of bottom jokes and ugly sex and deep. black-looking epigrams pertaining to creation and destructiveness.
But Amis at bottom (fnarr. fnarr) is clever and impressive in much the same way as a nasty little public schoolboy who enjoys lighting his own farts. It's not so much that the book‘s premise and content are tacky; the fact of the matter is that. stripped of the surface glitz. Amis‘s
work is simply extremely dull. Devoid of insight. compassion or genuine humour. Amis is merely a posturing English journo possessed ofsome weird notion that he is actually a Great American Novelist.
All the old bores of English literature hate Martin Amis (with the exception, presumably. of his father). We hate all the old bores. Ergo, we must all love Martin Amis. lfthis is really all there is to literary judgement. then Time's/trrow certainly deserves to win the Booker Prize. (Jenny Turner)
I The Kindness Of Women 1.6. Ballard (HarperCollins £14.99) The assassination of Kennedy. . .an exhibition ofcrashed cars. . . taking acid and going walkabout in Shepperton . . . No. it’s not the new Mary Wesley novel. The concerns of this heavily autobiographical work will be familiar to anyone who has read much ofJ.G. Ballard’s now extensive oeuvre. but the difference here. as is implicit in the title, is the return of a warmth. a humanity, missing from his epics of apocalypse. The man whose catchphrase was ’the death of affect' finally reveals himself to be. in an account of achingly painful honesty. a fond father and lover.
The Kindness Of Women begins, like Empire Of The Sun. in pre-war Shanghai. After the Japanese takeover and years spent in an internment camp. the young Jim returns to England and two abortive
careers. first as a doctor then as a fighter pilot. before marrying and beginning to make a living as a writer. When his wife dies. he combines his craft with bringing up his three children. but as they reach. maturity it seems as if the roles are reversed, with Jim. intellectually astute but in other ways unworldly, being cared for by his more streetwise offspring. The book ends with events having turned full circle, as Empire Of The Sun is filmed. a small English town standing in for ShanghaL
The making ofthat film seems to have represented a coming to terms with the past for the author, and. in a way, this compulsively readable book is an account of that whole process — from literal incarceration to mental liberation. Ballard‘s next move will be keenly awaited by Freudians and sublimation theorists everywhere: having exorcised your ghosts and pensioned off your repressions, what is there left to write about? (Brian Thade)
SWEET SOUL MUSIC
I Mozart And The Wolf Gang Anthony Burgess (Hutchinson £12.99) With over 50 books to his name, and no mean output ofclassical music, there is little surprise in Anthony Burgess contributing MozartAnd The Wolf Gang to the plethora of material celebrating the bicentenary of the maestro’s death. The nature ofthe tribute is less easy to explain.
It is, one supposes. a novel. Set in heaven. it consists chieﬂy of real,
70 The List 11— 24 October 1991