Reviewed by Thom Dibdin
I Attica: Dispatches item a Fragile Continent Blaine Harden ( Fontana £5.99) News out of Africa is often mind-numbineg brutal. with its incomprehensible statistics of death. disease and the failure of Western aid. As Washington Post correspondent. Harden has covered the continent for ten years. and his ‘dispatches‘ draw his experiences together in a lucid examination of the more unsightly issues. illustrated through the stories of people he has met and interviewed. This is not a travel book. but a thought-provoking account of what is. indeed. a ‘fragile’ continent.
I Great Irish Short Stories Edited by Vivian i
Mercier (Abacus £5.99) Don‘t bother arguing over who should or shouldn‘t be included in this remarkable anthology. just read the stories and wish that you‘d written them. From a 700AD story of St Patrick to Samuel Beckett‘s Dante and the Lobster, here lie sex. violence. treachery. revenge and love in a collection which just cries out to be read aloud.
as. “a; I. a A ..
I Agatha Christie's Poirot: Book 4 Agatha Christie (Fontana £3.99) The smugly supercilious Belgian rides again in eight irritating little tales. Who on earth could enjoy reading about a man whose mind is pleased by the ‘neat arrangement ofrcd hot bars‘ in an electric fire? Sick.
I Fog on the Tolbiac Bridge Léo Malet (Pan £3.99) Nestor Burma. the streetwise private ‘tec in post-war Paris. stumbles across his anarchist roots in this atmospheric story of duplicity and murder. lf Christie had an iota ofMalet's sense of place. drama or atmosphere . . . I The Killing ot the Saints Alex Abclla (Serpent‘s Tail £7.99) A couple ofblack Cubans. out of their faces on cocaine. massacre the staff and customers of a diamond store. Authentically gritty action and timely accounts of racist justice in this Los Angeles thriller that turns the detective genre on its head. They‘re guilty as hell, but will fellow Cuban exile Charlie Morell help them get off. despite his best intentions?
BEIGE— nussrau ABOUT
I Glas: New Russian Writing — Women’s View (Glas Publishers £5.95) Third issue of this
contemporary Russian writing journal. set up in the wake ofa collapsing Soviet literature industry. It’s a mixed bag, genre-wise - fiction, non-fiction, poetry and academic comments on Stalinism. with a piece on cannibalistic peasants during the 1922 famine for good measure - penned by professional women, academics and those who have spent years writing while working at
menial jobs. Theirs is a land where happiness means ‘grabbing a seat on a bus or tracking down a piece of sausage in the shops.’ It’s also a land where women have been brutalised with ofﬁcial sanction — we read of men queueing impatiently during a mass rape, young girls’ unsuccessful attempts at prostitution, megalomaniac abortionists, pregnant women entering the ‘Dawn of Communism Maternity Home‘. Understandably, there’s little joy or warmth to be found here, but wry humour and a spirit of endurance evoke a powerful sense of the problems, past and present, faced by Russian women. (Cathy Boylan)
I Serving Suggestions Michael Carson (Victor Gollancz £14.99).
| Carson. best-known for his l semi-autobiographical Catholicism
and homosexuality novel Sucking Sherbet Lemons, distils his talents impressively for this varied collection of short stories. The protagonist of that and subsequent novels, ‘Wobbles’ Benson reappears here and there, reminding us of Carson’s acute understanding of Catholic childhood, divided between casual spitefulness and agonising guilt. His depiction of more adult emotions is less assured, but equally attuned to comedy. Carson has a fixation with English teachers
abroad, represented in several of the more uneasily funny of these stories. Carson’s peculiar talent is to underlay a joke with a rich seam of sadness that lingers after the laughter dies away. (Tom Lappin)
I Capitalist Fools Nicholas von Hoffman (Chatto & Windus £18.99) It’s a lean, mean world out there in American capitalism. Lean, as in asset-stripped to the bone. Mean as in plundered pension funds and cancelled medical programmes. But
if you thought crack dealers were the first to bring commercial violence to American society you’re way off the mark.
Capitalist F0013 is a history of business America, from the perspective of the Forbes list of the
400 wealthiest Americans. Told in a witty, open-mouthed manner with tumbling anecdotes and sumptuous quotes, it focuses on the sort of greedy, sadistic, self-serving tyrant whose real-life actions make Wall Street look like a Vicarage tea-party.
The book is a paean to American Capitalism, to the business systems and structures that have made the country what it is — it’s the capitalists themselves von Hoffman has in his sights. Strange, from the pen ofa Washington Post Liberal, as ‘tis the system makes the man. (Thom Dibdin)
I Scottish Writers’ Centre Courses info: Sophia Fraser. Arvon at Moniack Mhor. Moniack. Kirkhill. lnverness. IVS 7PQ. 0463 83336. From May. Week-long courses for aspiring scribes at Scotland‘s new literary resource centre. covering short stories, novels. poetry. plays and more. with tutors such as Liz Lochhead. James Kelman. Janice Galloway and lain Crichton Smith.
I AM in Novel Writing info from Dr Richard Francis. Dept of American Studies, University of Manchester. M13 9PL. New course incorporating creative writing. critical and editorial skills and contemporary fiction in English. Admission requirements include a first degree (in most cases), plus samples of writing; entry in October 1993.
I Agnes Bums tier Book Old Grindlc's Bookshop. 3 Spittal Street. 229 7252. Mon—Sat 10am-9pm. Free. Exhibition of freshly-discovered Burns‘s manuscripts and proof-sheet material collected by his Sister.
I Maria Riva Waterstone's, 128 Princes
Street. 2262666. Sat 16. 12.30pm. Free. Signing session with Marlene Dietrich‘s daughter. author of the ‘riveting, risque and revelatory’ biography Marlene Dietrich (Bloomsbury £25). which promises extensive new material and insights into the enigmatic movie queen. I Penny Clarke - Step Aerobics Waterstone‘s. 83 George Street. 225 3436. Tue 19. 7.30pm. Free (limited space). The author of The Ultimate Step (Corgi £7.99) will give a class in the latest fitness craze; she will also be demonstrating the technique in the shop around 1pm.
I Jean Bouaud French Institute, Randolph Crescent. 225 5366. Wed 20, 7.30pm. Free by ticket. from Waterstones. l3 Princes Street or venue. The winner of the Prix Goncourt for Les Champs D'Honneur. published here as Fields ofGlory (Harvill £6.99), will read from the novel and answer questions. In French - some translation available for the reading.
I Not the Burns Night Waterstone’s. 83 George Street. 225 3436. Mon 25, 7.30pm. £2.50. An evening of alternative Scottish poetry with contributors including Robert Crawford and Aonghas MacNeacail. music from Gerda Stevenson. whisky and wine, and absolutely no haggis, neeps and tatties - guaranteed.
I Whisky Tasting Waterstone‘s, 128 Princes Street, 226 2666. Mon 25. 7pm. £3. A wee dram for Burns Night. with John Lamond, author of The Whisky Connoisseur’s Book of Days (Edinburgh Publishing Company £5.95).
I Joe Donnelly James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge, 556 6743. Mon 25, 7pm. Free. The Scottish journalist and horror writer reads from and signs copies of his latest novel Still Life (Century £9.99). Thin‘s Book Sale starts on Sat 16 and runs until the end of the month.
I I Penny Clarke — Step Aerobics James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge, 556 6743. Wed 27. 7pm. Free. The author of The Ultimate Step (Corgi £7.99) will demonstrate the latest fitness craze.
I Joanna Lumley Waterstonc's, 128 Princes Street. 226 2666. Thurs 28. 7pm. Free. The ex-New A venger who stunned everyone by being funny inAbsolutely Fabulous reads from and signs copies of her new book Forces Sweethearts (Bloomsbury £16.99).
I Environmental Book Group Hillhead Library. 348 Bytes Road, info Robert Coontz, 248 6864. Mon 18.7.30pm. Free. Organisational meeting for a new group to discuss favourite ‘green’ reading.
BEFORE THE BREAK
Edinburgh-based novelist Ellen Galiotd, author oi Moll Cutpurse: l-tet True Story (just reissued by Virago) and The Dyke and The Dybbuk (published in March) talks to Sue Wilson about her path to publication.
‘I’ve been writing since I was three, when I started dictating poems to my parents; my ﬁrst novel, The Green Monster, was started when t was about seven, though I only wrote two-and-a-halt pages oi that, then I got bored - I’ve always written, really, apart from a gap oi a lew years in my twenties, when my Iiie was in lots at diiietent pieces, trying to sort out my sexuality and things like that. in terms oi living by it, ldon’t even now live by my liction, 1 write tor Time-Lite in America, doing these illustrated book series.
‘My rent-paying jobs have almost always had to do with words - I’m a product oi that old New York beatnik culture, where things like publishing, advertising, were what your brilliant poet did during the day to pay the tent on the metaphorical garret. It you came out of university in the late 603 with your deeply sensitive, deeply irrelevant liberal arts degree, there was the assumption that you would get a job, probably in some quite respectable area of the media; it wasn’t like now.
‘I moved to Scotland trom the States in 1971, and worked in publishing tor a while, editing children’s books, then while I was writing the ﬁrst novel, in the very late 7115, I had this wondertul mixture at jobs, including working for the Edinburgh Film Festival, just being part oi the general team at dedicated iilm freaks who thought that the revolution was going to be punctuated by sprocket holes.
‘My lover and I went to London tor a lew years, torthe same reason as a lot at Scots go to London, in terms oi jobs, and also at that time to get a joint mortgage as a lesbian couple — boys in building societies up here just looked at you as it you were about to murder their granny or something. I worked as an editor for Time-Lite, which was a dilettante’s paradise-you had rapidly to become an expert in lots oi diiterent things, from gourmet cooking to archaeology; I really loved doing that.
“Moll Cutpurse was eventually published while I was at Time-Lite, which was toll of aspiring novelists. But I made no song and dance about it, said nothing until there was a notice in The Bookseller-l didn’t think it was going to be real until I had an ISBN 1 number.’ I
The List 15—38.l;tnu;ir_\ 1993 67