l BEFORE THE BREAK
,‘ Edinburgh-born author Shena Mackay, whose latest novel is published next
I month, talks to Sue Wilson about her
i early days and precocious success.
; ‘I’ve been writing since I was at school, i starting with a lot of poetry; I always
wanted to be a writer, and didn’t really know how you went about it except by keeping on writing. I won a prize in the Daily Mirror children's writing competition when I was fourteen, so that was a great encouragement.
‘When I wrote my Iirst two novels I was working in an antique shop in London, in Chancery Lane, and the manager happened to be Frank Marcus, who later wrote The Killing of Sister George. He’d already written some plays, and had an agent, sowhen I said I'd written something he asked to see it, and showed it to his agent, who showed it to a publisher. That was the very first one, and the publisher liked it, only it was far too short- it was a novella - but they said to show them anything else I wrote, so I did, and then the two were published together as one book. I actually wrote them when I was about seventeen or so, and it was a tremendous boost, getting published so young, itwas wonderful.
‘Atter that I did various otherjobs- in an ottice for a short time, shop work, on a mushroom farm. a Christmas card tactory- just putting the cards in cellophane envelopes; that was dreadful. I got married just around the time when the first books came out— they weren’t published until I was about twenty— and I had three daughters. I published several books during that time, then when the kids were a bit older I worked in a herbalist’s shop; I was quite interested in herbalism, studied a bit about it, but the job was just selling the products. We’d moved out of London to the country by this time, and I worked for quite a while in the library in Reigate. I had a long gap at about twelve years between books, then eventually published a collection of stories, and I’ve just carried on from there.
We been writing lull-time for some years now; my daughters are all grown up and have Iett home, and I support myself by writing, which isn’t always easy, but I do some book reviews, some journalism. The book that’s just 3 coming out took rather longer to write I than it was supposed to, and now I want to write some more short stories, get another collection together; as far as writing's concerned I always just want to keep going - and write something L better.’
marr— TALES or THE VILLAGE
I Ulverton Adam Thorpe (Seeker & Warburg £14.99) A daring ensemble of styles and imagined history, set in a fictional Wessex village over a period of some 300 years, this long. ambitious novel is a moving, colourful portrait of England reminiscent of the work of both John Fowles and James Joyce — and that‘s going some.
Each of the dozen chapters
recounts a different story. in a different voice - a diary, a stream of consciousness, a film script. a realist narrative. The effect is demanding, eerie and thematically sound. as Thorpe explores the power of story-telling and myth to create and recreate history. Though some stretches of the book can seem to last forever (the dialect is ingenious but difficult to read), in the end it rewards the effort. and as a whole it is a rare achievement. (Douglas McCabe)
SN.‘ 9&3 g \ \' «\ﬁ‘ A. g -.
I Sodomies in Eleven Point Aldo Busi’ (Faber & Faber £14.99) Admittedly, with a title like that it‘s hardly Enid Blyton who springs to mind, but Busi still goes several leagues beyond what the most open-minded reader would expect. During his below- the-waist adventures through Africa and Europe. he picks up his next sexual partner almost before he‘s worn out the last one — and his invention in keeping things
interesting never ceases to amaze. His absolute frankness anaesthetises much of the harshness ofwhat he describes. allowing plenty of humour and a vivid literary style to shine through. It‘s hard to imagine anybody getting their kicks from what moral majority critics will undoubtedly dub ‘pornography‘ — by the close. Busi‘s proclivities skip off the page as innocently as the adventures ofGeorge. Dick-and Timmy the dog. and far more entertainingly. (Philip Parr)
I It Crawled From The South: An REM Companion Marcus Gray (Guinness £9.99). . . and it buckled underthe weight of its own encyclopaedic. cornucopiac vastness. Surprisingly, this is the first significant work about the Georgian foursome. and as such seeks to trawl through most everything, ever, that pertains to the chaps.
The scope of Gray‘s research boggles the brain. He has unearthed unending trivia — sleeve and song
title concepts, geographical influences. mood swings and career phases — not to mention compiling an A-Z ofall the cover versions the band have ever recorded. performed live. or just muttered on somebody‘s back porch. The result. much more than a guide-book for saddo Obsessives. is a pick‘n‘mix pot-pourri of feats and facts. a dedicated and delicate dissection ofthese four ordinary blokes (well. three . . .) and the enigmatic phenomenon that is REM. (Craig McLean)
Reviewed by Frances Cornlord.
I Where are the Snows Maggie Gee (Abacus £5.99) Golden couple escape the ‘dull baggage' of family and home to travel the world in sybaritic bliss; a quarter-century later the dream has evaporated and the things they left behind take on a new significance. An elegantly written parable of passion and selfishness.
I The Wild Lite ot Sailor and Lula Barry Gifford (Paladin £5.99) Not so wild as Wild at Heart. though featuring the familiar weirdo cast and surreal views of Americana. this follow-up sees S and L through to old age as they settle down and Sailor carves out a career in alligator repellent. As off-the-wall as Lynch‘s film. and much funnier.
I News from a Foreign Country Came Alberto Manguel (Flamingo £5.99) Skilfully alternating voices and viewpoints. this lticidly written novel takes us from 60s Algeria. through France to the Argentina of‘the disappeared. revealing the secrets and betrayals buried within the family of a French ‘diplomat‘ holidaying on the Canadian coast.
I The Queen of the Tambourines Jane Gardam (Abacus £5.99) Last year‘s Whitbread-winner follows the comic crusade of Eliza Peabody. ‘minister to the Dying‘ and general suburban busybody as her obsessions lead her into uncharted territory.
I Mrs Hartley and the Growth Centre Phillipa Gregory (Penguin £4.50) Alice Hartley casts offthe shackles ofacademic domesticity to run riot in the countryside with drama students and other oppressed middle-aged women. Amusing satire of New Age values and communal living.
I Kinky Friedman John Smith & Son. 57 St Vincent Street. 221 7472. Wed 24. 7pm. Free. The outrageous C&W star-cum-crime writer. Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year 1974, will read from and sign copies of his new collection The Kinky Friedman Crime Club (Faber & Faber, £14.99), before his performance at King Tuts later on.
I Rebel Inc Goes West The Bridge. 9 Park Road. Kelvinbridge. info 423 5652. Wed 24. 7pm. £1. An evening of performance poetry and readings hosted by the new ﬁction magazine, featuring Alan Spence, Barry Graham. David Crystal. Sandie Christie and Kevin Williamson.
I George MacDonald FraserJohn Smith & Son. 57 St Vincent Street. 221 7472. Fri 26, 1—2pm. Free. The author ofthe Flashman novels will sign copies of his new book Quartered Safe Out Here (HarperCollins. £16.99). about his memories ofwartime
I Ian McEwan Waterstonc's. 132 Union Street.2210890. Wed 1. 1—2pm andJohn Smith & Son. 57 St Vincent Street. 221 7472, 6.30pm. Free. Lunchtime signing and evening reading/signing sessions by the acclaimed author of The Comfort of Strangers and The Innocent. plugging his new novel Black Dogs (Jonathan Cape. £14.99).
I W881 and Wilde Launch Scottish Centre for Lesbians. Gays and Bisexuals. 58a Broughton Street. info 556 0079. Sat 20.
7.30pm. Free. To celebrate Europride ‘92.
W&W launch two books on lesbian and gay culture — the 20th anniversary edition of Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation edited by Karla Jay and Allen Young, (GMP. £10.95). and Lesbian Texts and Contexts: Radical Revisions edited by Karla Jay and Joanne Glasgow (Onlywomen Press, £9.95).
I Cloclnower Press Launch James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. Tue 23. 7.30pm. Free. The independent Scottish
small press. specialists in new writing. celebrate the publication of their latest twenty-page booklet. A Parcel ()fRogues (Clocktower Press. £2). which contains new work by Janice Galloway and James Kelman. among others. with readings by Janet Paisley. Irvine Welsh and Iain Walker.
I Michael Bentlne Waterstone’s. 83 George Street. 225 3436. Wed 24. 7.30pm. Free. The ex-Goon will talk about the pleasures and pitfalls of being a funnyman and sign copies of his autobiography The ReluctantJester (Bantam. £14.99)
I George MacDonald Fraser James Thin, 57 George Street. 225 4495. 7pm. Free. The author of the Flashman novels will read from and sign copies of his new book Quartered Safe Out Here (HarperCollins. £16.99). about his memories of wartime Burma.
I Ian McEwan Watcrstonc‘s. 83 George Street. 225 3436. Thurs 2. 7.30pm. Free. The much-praised author of The Comfort of Strangers and The Innocent will read from and sign e0pies of his new novel Black Dogs (Jonathan Cape. £14.99).
62 The List 19June—2Ju1y1992