REVIEWS TATTOO YOU
I Eve's Tattoo Emily Prager (Chatto and Windus. £8.99) Like her creator. the Eve ofthe title is a New York-based socialite and columnist for a men‘s magazine. famed for her scathing wit and no-holds-barred approach. On her fortieth birthday. she has herself tattooed with the prison-camp number ofan Auschwitz victim seen in a photograph. The idea is to keep the memory of the death-camps alive. as the world at large forgets. by spinning tales to friends and strangers about the unknown woman‘s life story. Eve also immerses herself in the history of Hitler‘s regime. grappling with the question ofwhy the Germans (in particular German women) allowed themselves to fall so disastroust under the dictator‘s spell. The novel is an extremely dubious enterprise on several counts. not least an often stilted style. unconvincing dialogue and a good deal ofwooden characterisation. More disturbingly. its ‘analysis‘ of the Holocaust. obviously intended to be radical and provocative. is at best simple-minded. at worst — in its almost exclusive concentration on the Germans who were killed (the handicapped. homosexuals and other supposed ‘deviants‘) — it runs the risk ofbelittling the even larger crime committed against the Jews. (Sue Wilson)
I Fat Lad Glenn Patterson ((‘hatto and Windus £14.99) Anyone who can claim to have a ‘unique style‘ is doing something right in these days of a saturated book market. Unfortunately for Glenn Patterson. ' his originality makes him damned difficult to read. An aversion to inverted commas. for instance. confuses rather than enhances his work.
This is a shame. as Patterson certainly has the talent to take the gritty realism style a step beyond the norm. L'sually. novels of this kind
are set in a peripheral corner of Britain — Glasgow is a favourite. Here. it‘s Belfast. the land of Patterson‘s (and his hero. Drew‘s) birth. There are a few nods to ‘the Troubles' but the novel is not an indictment of terrorism by any stretch ofthe imagination. It concentrates on the ordinary people of Belfast. more concerned with social climbing and the size of their wage-packet than grenades and AK-47s. Patterson knows just when to inject humour to keep the story ﬂowing. and there are several surreal episodes which set Fat Lad apart. If only he could tighten up his style. at the expense oforiginality or not. he could shake up a genre which has become increasingly conservative and insular. (Philip Parr)
CLOSE TO THE BONE
I Close James Robertson (B&W £5.99) A combination ofingenuity and spiritual simplicity characterises most of the stories in this slim. vibrant collection. Set mainly in and around Edinburgh closes. they also wander across America and Australia. into cafes. bottle banks. buses. baths and dislodged psyches. brought together by an imagination both extravagant and precise.
In the best tales — 'The Scene‘. ‘Dungeon‘ and ‘Problem‘ — a sense of understated tension is combined with the thoughts ofan isolated central figure who watches as everything around him (or her) threatens to spin out ofcontrol. At a social level. the writing resembles Kelman on a happy day. but the unexpected imagery owes more to Celtic mythology than urban disillusionment. The book‘s real power. though. lies in its honesty. Robertson is a fine observer of broken-down social intercourse and skilfully conjures an atmosphere of fragility and contingency in the world inhabited by his characters.
' which is hinted at but remains hidden; it is here that the stories'
breadth converges into a single vision. About halfofthem deserve to
be ranked among the best ofthis
year‘s British fiction. (Douglas
Philip Parr silts through the latest crop at paperbacks.
I The Bent Hostage Martin Charles (Bloomsbury £5.99) Before turning his hand to fiction. Martin Charles was a counter-terrorist analyst. His hero. such as he is. is one too. funnily enough. dividing his days between bedding gorgeous women and setting up a fake kidnapping fora multi-national eager to claim on insurance. As middle-aged James Bond fantasies go. this is cheery enough. but what on earthare Bloomsbury doing inﬂicting it on us'.’
I The Waiting Years Fumiko Enchi (Flamingo £5.99) In this 1957 novel. by one ofJapan‘s very few published female authors. the time-honoured Japanese theme ofsordidness below the veneer ofpolite society is taken to extremes as the wife of a provincial governor obsessively seeks the perfect concubine for her husband. Sensitive. intelligent and. for once. offering a female perspective on male-dominated Japanese high society.
I The Life Game Nigel Watts (Sceptre £5.99) ‘A beautifully fluid. serious and unusual book .' eooed the Observer about this competently written. predictable and ultimately sexist first novel. One can only guess that the reviewer was either an aged man looking fora meaning to life or someone who didn‘t persevere to the end — the novel starts with a free-wheeling independent woman speeding through Ireland and meeting a dirty old man. it ends with the corniest of ‘true liberations' for said woman.
I Downriver lain Sinclair (Paladin
£5.99) In the wake ofslightly amiss's I .ondun Fields comes another scouring ofthe underbelly of the metropolis. and a vastly superior one at that. Following the course of the river. telling tales of terror along the . way. Sinclair employs every weapon in the modern fictionalist's armoury to evoke a nightmarish vision of his ettv.
EVENTS GLASGOW I
I Alan Spence Pollokshields Library. 30 Leslie Street. info 423 1460. Mon 17. 6.45pm. Free. The award-winningauthor of The Magic Flute will read from his
work . along with several local writers.
I Tom Leonard introduces the Maryhill Writers Scotia Bar. 112—] 14 Stockwell Street. 552 8681 . Tue 25. 8.30pm. Free. The popular Glasgow poet is joined by other local writers for an evening's reading and nattcring.
I Scots Poets in English and French Arlington Baths. Arlington Street (off Woodlands Road). info 334 1652. Wed 26. 7.30pm. £3.50 (£2.50). Translator Serge Baudot will read in French. while Norman McCaig. Ron Butlin. Alistair Paterson
and Tim Cloudsley will read read from their own work. Buffet and bar.
I In the Light olTruth Roxburgh Hotel. Charlotte Square. 225 3921. Sun 16. 3pm. Free. Abd-ru-shin. a member ofthe Grail Movement. will talk about his book. In the Lightuf Truth (Grail Message Foundation. £1 1 ).
I James Tail Black Awards Waterstone‘s. 83 George Street. 225 3436. Wed 19. 7.30pm. Free. The annual prizes for fiction and biography. winners being picked from shortlists including Ben Okri. Lucy Ellmann. John Bossy. James Moore and Catherine Peters.
I Graham Swilt Watcrstone‘s. 83 George Street. 225 3436. Tue 25. 7.30pm. Free. The award-winning author of Water/and will be reading from and signing eopiesof
I his new novel liver After ( Picador. £14.99). I Helen Zahavi Waterstone‘s. l3 Princes Street. 556 3034. Thurs 27. 7pm. The
; controversial author of Dirty Weekend (Flamingo. £4.50). reckoned by some to be the female answer to American Psycho. will be reading from and signing copiesof the book. I Macoiarmid Centenary Poetry Competition 1992 marks 100 years since the birth of one of Scotland's most celebrated poets. To celebrate the anniversary. Book
’ Trust Scotland are offeringa£l000prize fora new and unpublished poem in Scots.
: Gaelic or English. which in the judges‘
opinion relates to themes in
MacDiarmid's own work. Closing date is
30 April. 1992. Contact BookTrust
Scotland. Scottish Book Centre.
1 Fountainbridge Library. 137 Dundee Street. Edinburgh Iilill lBG.
Glasgow based writer A.l.. Kennedy, who won this year's Saltire Society First Book award ior Night Geometry And The Garscadden Trains, talks about how she keeps body and soul together while waiting to hit the bestseller lists.
'4' a ,t, ' lr‘v /(
‘Arterl left university, Iwentthrough that phase at having no money and no job, so I sold double glazing over the phone, I would dig people’s gardens ior £10 a day, then while i was a drama student I ran drama workshops for kids with learning difﬁculties, lwas a theatrical dresser, and a laundress tor the theatre - basically washing knickers a lot. I also sold brushes tor a bit, door-to-door. I‘m a very, very bad salesperson; I remember the total shame oi coming home after not selling any brushes again; it was during the summer, really hot, lwasjustthis perspiring lump appearing on people's doorsteps - it was the most demoralising thing, lwouldn't wish it on anybody.
‘The first full-time job I got was as a community arts worker in Clydebank lor about a year and a hall, but already then writing was creeping in, l was trying to do reviews, doing some writing workshops as well as drama workshops. I had a briel spell directing a youth theatre, then I started on what I’ve been doing lor the last three years, creative writing classes lor people with special needs.
‘lt‘s nice to work with people, because it balances the lact that you don't normally work with anyone; i would probably have gone loony by now il I hadn't had to go out and earn a living. I'm now in a position where I can cut down the amount or other work I do,
3 but I wouldn’t give it up even it I could.
People who don't write prolessionally
don’t leel it necessary to get
angst-ridden and warped and weird
; about it, and so you twig that it isn’t
; compulsory to be like that, it becomes
, so that you just tell stories.
‘I didn’t think I could be a writer. but I
, knew that the only thing I was capable
f at doing at all was written. I never
made a conscious decision about it, but when I got the jobs I've got now. people were obviously thinking or me as a ‘ writer. It didn't dawn on me that that
was how I would earn my living, more
i that that's the kind at person i am; you
wake up one morning and realise that
i all you do is stuil with words. It's all
i been a horrible mistake. really, but it‘s
' been quite a nice mistake. too.
l (Sue Wilson) The List 14 - 27Febrwua—ry 1992 67