BEFORE THE BREAK
3 Sue Wilson talks to novelist Alison
j Fell, author ol Mer de Glace and editor : ol Serious Hysterlcs (both Serpent’s
l Tail) about her ore-publication career.
‘When my son was about two-and-a- hall, I found him a nursery place and got a job spot-welding in a factory which made gas lires. It was pretty desperate, piece-work, so everybody was rushing to make their bonus; my lingers ended up lull ol suppurating holes trom the flux—you couldn’t work last enough it you wore gloves.
‘Then I moved to London and worked as a lite model: adult education classes, plus a couple of very well-oil Chelsea ladies I modelled tor privately. It was good for thinking - I just used to go all into a complete trance - but very strenuous; you had to work a lot of hours to make any money.
‘Later on I taught English to the wives at Bank Xerox executives; I remember one very wealthy and bored French lady who I turned onto feminism. Cleaning jobs, too, house cleaning iorthe rich and great— a lot at the time I was on social security, doing the odd whatever tor a bit of extra, like most single mothers have to, and cleaning was one of the few things you could do lor cash.
‘I accidentally lell into journalism tor a while, in the days when there was a lot oi underground politics going on; I was on the editorial board at Ink, the sister paper to Oz, working seven days a week for seven pounds a week. I also did a lot of street theatre, non-prolessionally, all lired up with political lervour, organising the llrst women’s liberation demos. There was a lot of talent there - people like the lirst woman director of the RSC, others who later lormed Monstrous Regiment and the Women's Theatre Group — but in those days it was just a crowd at wild women leaping about tor nothing.
‘I wouldn't like to have had a sort ot I middle-class, upwardly mobile career; i I can't say I enjoyed all the jobs I did but . I wouldn’t have missed doing them —
'. you experience what it leels like to be 'g in all these different situations. Some : writers go to public school, go to
! Oxbridge, end up as a in publishing or ' television and that’s their lite — it’s a very class-limited existence; you end up with nothing between your ears.’
L 65Thc List 8— 21 May 1992
REVIEWS ' 5
I Get Out As Early As You Can Barry Graham (Bloomsbury, £13.99) Reading this collection of short
stories is a bit like poking around in a
gangrenous, shrapnel-smashed, festering human limb. You know it comes from a living person, you dig around in pustulence looking for signs of healthy tissue. but all you can find are hard shards ofbroken metal.
Occasionally, a good idea glimmers — ‘Good Friday’ recounts a day spent on the streets of Glasgow,
i i i i
experiencing first-hand the life of a dosser. But having already waded through 150 pages ofbeen there. done that. hard-case posturing. the impact is decidedly undermined.
t The only redeeming feature is the
truthful portrayal — in the title story. among others— ofdeprivation in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It is a truth
which needs to be told. but when
revealed in this crass mess, the only response it is likely to engender is ‘so what.” Or as Graham might'put it: ‘So the fuck what.‘ (Thom Dibdin).
Jellery Allan Salter's photograph at young softball player Christy Moultrie, taken trom Songs at My People, edited by Eric Easter, 0. Michael Cheers and Dudley M. Brooks (Little, Brown. £16.99 p/b; £25 h/b), a stunning, moving and inspiring collection bi work byAtro-American photographers containing images at their ‘brothers and sisters’ lrom and in all walks ollite.
I The Granta Book at the American Short Story edited by Richard Ford (Granta, £16.99). A bumper bargain pack ofquality reading to tempt even confirmed non-hardback buyers, containing 43 gems from the country most consistently producing world-class short fiction. From acknowledged maestros of the form including Raymond Carver, John Cheever, Flannery O’Connor and John Updike to newer names like Lorrie Moore, Barry Hannah and Amy Tan, from conventional narratives to experimental ‘anti-stories‘, this is a many-splendoured collection.
I Noon to Calcutta: Short Stories From Bengal edited by Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson (Bloomsbury. £12.99) A welcome introduction to a rich, vibrant literary tradition, hitherto little-known in the West. From the 1890s, with tales from Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore. to the present, with contemporary writers like Satyajit Ray. Amitav Ghosh and Anita Desai, the stories paint a colourful. fascinating mural of urban and rural Bengali life, providing a multitude of vivid insights into the society‘s religious, philosophical and social preoccupations. (Sue Wilson)
I The Redundancy ol Courage and Sour Sweet Timothy Mo (both Vintage, £6.99 and £5.99) Tipped for last year’s Booker. Mo‘s barely-disguised meditation on the traumas of East Timor is horrifying in its detail. human and humane in its scale, while his sentimental but evocative portrayal of London‘s Chinese community combines his extraordinary eye for life‘s minutiae with assured and lucid prose.
I The Old Devils Kingsley Amis (Penguin. £4.99) Who cares whether this novel. set in a staid Welsh community. won the Booker, when any worth the writing possesses is cancelled out by the author‘s bigoted, sexist Old Boy outlook?
I Flying Hero Class Thomas Keneally (Sceptre, £4.99) Impressive parable on dispossession and the failure of communication, in which the occupants of a hi-jacked plane are forced to reassess their morality. politics and personal relationships. I Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall Divided into three parts: Single. Couple and Family. with chapter headings like ‘Courtship‘. Sleeping Together‘ and ‘Marriage‘. this Wildean gay novel subverts conventions to create a gentle, funny and deeply satisfying love story.
I Pink Samurai Nicholas Bornoff (Grafton, £6.99) lftherc were a market for 700-page descriptions of everything Japanese and erotic. Bornoff might lead the pack, but there isn’t and he doesn’t. Mildly amusing for the first ten pages, thereafter increasingly tedious.
I Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Very Private Life Robert Bernard Martin (Flamingo, £6.99) Endows the poet's life with the deep humanity which burned throughout his work: as rich as it is detailed. as calm and lucid as it is compassionate and absorbing.
I Hourglass Danilo Kis (fabcr & faber, £5.99) Eastern European writers are gaining in stature. but Kis has been around a long time. and his intricately worded, effortlessly readable treatment of the Holocaust, only now available in English, ranks among his greatest achievments. (Aaron Hicklin)
I Mayfest Please see separate listings for Mayfest events.
‘ I MacDiarmid and Modemlsm College
Club. Glasgow University. info/booking: Association for Scottish Literary Studies. Dept of English Studies. University of Stirling, FK9 4LA, ()786 87759. Sat 9. 10am—4.3()pm. £8. Day conference marking the MacDiarmid centenary. with speakers including Professor David Daiches and poet Robert Crawford.
I Alison Fall and Alison Kennedy Tron Theatre. 63 Trongatc. 552 4267. Mon 18. 8pm. Free. The authors of Mer De Glare (Serpent‘s Tail £7.99) and Night Geometry
and the Garscadden Trains (Polygon £7.95) will read from their work.
I Tom Pow Waterstonc‘s, 83 George Street. 225 3436. Fri 8. 7.30pm. Free. The Scottish poet will be talking about and signing copies of his new book In the Palace ofthe Serpent (Canongatc £9.95), an account of his eye-opening travels in Peru.
I Christian Aid Book Sale St Andrew‘s and St George‘s Church. George Street. 225 3847. Sat9 10am-4pm. Mon ll—Fri 15 10.30am-3pm. Huge annual sale with over 30,000 volumes up for grabs, plus records. plants. cakes and more — and all in agood cause, of course.
I Scottish Poetry and Music The Scotch
Malt Whisky Society, The Vaults. Giles Street, Lcith. Sun 10. 3pm. £6(£3) from Queen's Hall Box Office. With Liz Lochhead. Brian McCabc. Ron Butlin and the Edinburgh Quartet.
I Antony Sher BBC Studio. Queen Street. info 228 5444. Fri 15. 7.30pm. £3(£1.50) from Fringe or Book Festival offices. The renowned actor and author ‘in conversation’. talking about his latest novel The Indoor Boy (Penguin £4.99) and his current role in Uncle Vanya at the National Theatre.
I Patrick Moore Waterstone's. l3 Princes Street, 556 3034. Thurs 21 . 7pm. The celebrated star-gazer will give a slide-show and talk before signing copies of his new book FtresideAstronomy (Wiley £14.95).