CHRISTMAS BOOK SPECIAL
The art . of words
Miranda France browses through the best of this year’s art in print
The category of ‘art book’ is a hazy one: candidates range from lavish large-format picture books to gritty paperbacked discourse and both of these, as well as many other varieties, have arrived at The List over the last year. 1991’s coup de foudre, without any doubt, has been the ﬁrst volume of John Richardson’s A Lila oi Picasso (Jonathan Cape £25). Winner of this year’s Whitbread Prize for biography (two more volumes are expected), it is the result of a lifetime’s research - a thorough, concise and pleasingly anecdotal account of the artist’s ﬁrst 25 years in Malaga, Barcelona and Paris, and so beautifully produced that you won’t want to let it anywhere near your coffee table. Richardson’s friendship with Picasso gives him an insight into the man’s mind that must be the envy of other art historians. At the same time, it does not stop him getting some perspective on his subject. And he’s a good writer, to boot.
Earlier in the year Powertul Days, The Civil Rights Photography at Charles Moore (Eastman Kodak £12.95) caught the attention of The Independent’s glossy Saturday magazine. A photographic chronicle of the campaign for change in the Deep South, the images are mighty indeed, although the text is weak. Images of Martin Luther King, James Baldwin and marching crowds are particularly striking.
Voicing Our Visions, Writings by Women Artists (Women’s Press £15), published just in time for Christmas, will interest book and art enthusiasts alike. The question behind the book
MICHAEL HOLROYD will talk about George Bernard Shaw and sign copies of his three volume biography.
Thursday, 12th December, 7.00pm
at James Thin, 53/59 South Bridge, Edinburgh
031 556 6743
82 The List 6— 19 December 1991
:- Winter chills
The iirst ingredient in this year's Christmas horror pudding is Kim Newman’s Jago (Simon and Schuster £14.99), which blends together religious cults, mass hysteria and the simmering tensions oi a small rural community about to be besieged by hippies at a local rock lestivai. Newman’s background as a lilm critic - his Nightmare Movies is still the most intelligent and readable assessment oi the modern horror lilm - lends a particularly sharp visual aspect to his work, and in this, his third novel, he brings Revelations to a Somerset countryside that seems to have been designed by Hieronymous Bosch on his worst acid trip. Well paced in its escalation irom quiet beginnings to apocalyptic climax, it combines the author’s most mature writing to date with his (un)healthy love at gore and violent death.
Those seeking a dillerent ilavour oi terror should turn to The Count oi Eleven (Macdonald £13.95), Ramsey
Campbell’s latest ioray into the world oi hardback iiction. After receiving a chain letter and sending copies on to thirteen people picked at random irom the phone book, Jack Orchard llnds his luck taking a turn tor the worse and decides that one or more at the recipients hasn’t done their hit in keeping the chain going. Biowtorch in hand, he sets out to punish them tor their mistake, only to lind himsell in an increasingly murderous nightmare oi cause and eilect that would leave even a demented Basil Fawlty reeling. Campbell again proves that he is a master at bringing real darkness to black comedy. -
In Twilight (Goilancz £14.99) Peter James luses the Poe-like terror oi premature burial with comtemporary themes oi out-oi-body and near-death experiences. The best works at horror lead on human tears at losing control, and James skiliully exploits two oi the most poweriul examples -trapped in a claustrophobic coiiin and in the hands at a psychologically unbalanced doctor, here an anaesthetist. By basing his supernatural theories tirme in sclentillc and medical tact, he gives a harder drive to the narrative. A terrilic read, Twilight shows the mainstream potential oi the horror genre when in the hands ol a good writer.
Also adding a bite to the bottom oi your Christmas stocking are a selection oi horror paperbacks, including Campbell’s visionary thriller Midnight Sun (Futura £4.50) and James's reincarnation tale Sweet Heart (Sphere £4.50). Ray Bradbury takes a step into the genre with A Graveyard For Lunatics (Grafton £3.99), while one at the most original horror novels lor many a year- S.P. Somtow’s stunningly inventive werewoll epic Moon Dance (Gollancz £4.99) - also makes its soit cover debut. (Alan Morrison)
is, if women really are more ‘sensitive’ and ‘imaginative’, if they are ‘less logical’ than men, why are they consistently regarded as being less artistically gifted? Extracts from the letters, journals and publications of Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, Judy Chicago and others discuss their work, philosophies, loves and their unerring frustration with the art establishment.
Martin Luther king photographed by Charles Moore
One of the most readable art books of the year was John Updike’s Just Looking (Penguin £12.99). Two hundred pages take in an introductory discourse on his love affair with New York’s Museum of Modern Art - entitled ‘What MoMA done toie me’ — and 22 essays on
various aspects of art — a single work. a movement, a concept. a rip-off. The tone is often humorous or acerbic and always enlightened. The illustrations big, colourful and plentiful. Christmas coffee-table books don’t come much better.
Stars of page and screen
Trevor Johnston casts his eye over the year’s essential reading for film buffs.
‘More stars than there are in heaven’, once the proud boast of the MGM publicity department, seems equally applicable to the sheer number of film-related books now on the market. To mention them all would demand more space than is available here, but for those seeking to satisfy the yuletide wish-lists of the cinephile in their life, the next few paragraphs offer a brief summary of the latest movie-tome news.
Coffee tables everywhere would benefit from the presence of Jonathan Coe’s handsome monograph Humphrey Bogart: Take It and Like it (Bloomsbury £16.99), basically an unabashed excuse for lots of lusciously reproduced stills
but which, more than most of its ilk, offers a text with a sense of involvement in its subject and the odd spikily surprising insight. This is preferable to the revelatory claims made for Andrew Yule’s Al Pacino: A Liie On The Wire (Macdonald £14.95) which, though better researched than many a cuttings-job, sabotages itselfwith the glib presumption of its pseudo-psychological insights. While Yule never managed to talk to little Al himself, Lawrence Grobel and his tape recorder spent not a little time with big Marlon, the result being Conversations With Brando (Bloomsbury£l4.99), fascinating for the die-hard fan but occasionally rather infuriating for the rest of us.
Much more intriguing is Robin Wood’s Hitchcock's Films Revisited (Faber £12.99), which adds a new series of essays to his original classic 605 study, plus an introduction putting both parts of the new edition in context. For those looking to trace how thinking about film has changed since the dismantling of the old auteurist values, this is as good a place as any to start.
As for basic reference books, it’s a case of another year, another Maltin, another Halliwell, but, truth be told, it‘s the updated second edition of the Time Out Film Guide (Penguin £9.99) which is sure to be the most thumbed volume on the shelves here in List manors. And while I admit I was a contributor, the Chambers Film and Television Handbook (Chambers £8.99) has a fair stab at providing action highlights of screen history to date. I hope that doesn’t sound too much like a gratuitous plug, but it is good to see a Scots publisher moving into the field with some assurance.