BACKLIST

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“The List 6- 19 December 1991

CHRISTMAS BOOK SPECIAL

_ laughing matter

Sue Wilson takes a solemn look at the year’s crop ol humour titles.

Humour books tend to be the last reluge oi the present-buyer, but there are a lew new ones which should keep you chuckling alter the seasonal cheer is over. Well ahead oi the pack is Thirty Years at Private Eye Cartoons 1961—1991 (Private Eye/Corgi £4.99) a worthy tribute to three decades oi Lord Gnome, and one oi the lew humour titles to have me repeatedly weeping with laughter. In contrast to its diversity, Graham Rawle’s collection at photomontage-cartoons Lost Consonants (Fourth Estate £6.99) may rely on the one joke, but it’s a hilariously lertlle one, with surreally literal illustrations tor the likes oi ‘a keen gardener watering his pants’, ‘victims oi rug addiction’ and ‘Andrew Lloyd-Webber writing another hit musical’.

Fellow Guardian contributors Chris Garratt and Mick Kidd have produced Another Bill Exclusive (Methuen £7.99), more at their occasionally ilabby but oiten wickedly perspicacious cartoon collages of modem petty-bourgeois living. For buckets oi gleeiul vitriol and manically inspired flights oi lancy, Steve Bell still takes some beating; his new compendium Funny Old World (Methuen £9.99), co-authored by BogerWoddis, records the last years at Thatcher and Reagan and the ilrst months at the new regimes with typically incisive exuberance.

Ivor Cutler’s brand oi wit and wisdom is not so much oil-beat as moving to a diiierent rhythm entirely, and in his lilth collection Fly Sandwich (Methuen

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£9.99), he’s in characteristically mind-expanding iorm (‘A ily crouching in a/ sandwich cannot/ comprehend why it/ has become more/ than ordinarily/ vulnerable’). His gravely ludicrous poetry is once again evocativer illustrated by Martin Honeysett.

Heeding the reliable maxim that truth is stranger (and iunnier) than liction, Tom Shields’ Diary (Mainstream £6.99) collects twelve years oi prolessional loible-watching by the Glasgow Herald columnist. The rich pattern oi Scottish lite provides a plethora oi material, such as colouriul insults (‘a lace like a melted wellie’) or overheard exchanges (‘llow's your man?’ asks Betty. ‘Died— last Wednesday,’ replies Sadie. ‘Away tae hell,’ says Betty, shocked by this sad news. ‘Aye,’ says Sadie, ‘last Wednesday.’) There’s also a liberal sprinkling oi illustrations, mostly unwittingly hilarious signs or notices, like the Ho Lee Fook Chinese restaurant, and a small ad reading ‘For sale, gravestone. Would suit lamin called McCalieriy.’ Occasionally a wee bit too sell-satisfied, but providing plenty ol belly-laughs in compensation.

EVENTS

Glasgow

I William Mcllvanney Castlemilk Library. 100 Castlemilk Drive, 041 634 2006.

Mon 9. 7.30pm. Free. The acclaimed and popular Glasgow novelist will be reading from a selection of his work.

I Open World Poetics Dow‘s Lounge (upstairs), by Queen Street Station, info 041 959 6033. Tue 10. 7.30pm. Free. An all-welcome discussion on ‘Kenneth White and the poetry of perception‘. introduced by Tony McManus.

Edinburgh

I Women’s Writing City Chambers, High Street. info 226 3851. Sat 7 10.30am—5.30pm and Sun 8 11am—4pm. £9/£2 per session. A day conference organised jointly by the Open University in Scotland, Scottish literary magazine Chapman and the Edinburgh University English Literature department. The event features talks on a range ofthemes. including ethnicity in women‘s writing and gender and language. with workshops on fiction. writing for children, poetry and drama. Speakers include international writers (Canada's Joan Clark. Kenya‘s Micere Mugo) along with home-grown

talents (Rona Munro. Joy liendry.Tessa Ransford). There is also a reading at the Traverse Studio on the Saturday evening. I George Mackay Brown’s 70th Birthday Queen‘s llall. Clerk Street. 668 2019. Sun 8. 7.45. £6.50 (£2). A celebration organised by Edinburgh Contemporary Arts Trust for the grand old man of Scottish literature. with readings ofhis work by fellow Orcadians and an appreciation by Stewart Conn. The musical part of the evening features works by Orkney-based composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies for soprano. guitar and fiddle. I Andrew Yule and Maidie MurrayJamcs Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. Wed 11.7pm. Free. A chance to rsminisce about legendary Scottish comic Chic Murray with his widow and the author of the latest collection of his wisdom The Best Way To Laugh (Corgi £4.99). I Michael Holroyd James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge, 556 6743. Thurs 12. 7pm. Free. The acclaimed Bernard Shaw biographer will be talking about and signing copies of his three-volume work, The Search For Love. The Pursuit of Power and The Lure ofFamrLsy (all Chatto and Windus. vols l and II £18.99. vollll £21 . boxed set £50; vols 1 & ll alsoin Penguin £7.99 each).