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I Defying Gravity Roger McGough (Penguin £6.99) This latest volutne of poems for adults by the razor-sharp Mr McGough will not disappoint anyone familiar with his crooked wit and subtle poignancy. The collection progresses naturally frotn angst about parents through mid-life musings to kids of one‘s own. ending with the lz'lr'mr'nts sequence; beyond death to the fabric of the universe. Unmissable.
I A History of the Mind Nicholas Humphrey (Vintage £6.99) The mind- body problem - how our consciousness relates (or doesn‘t) to the bag of flesh we walk around in — is an ancient debate. This book pushes in a new direction. inextricably linking consciousness with sensation. Well-written. accessible and packed with clear examples. although philosophy novices might appreciate it tnore after a lighter introductory text.
I Angel Kagoule Glen Ashley Johnson (Carphology Collective £3.99) A slim yet densely packed volume of prose and poetry from an erratic new talent. Surreal images abound: livestock falling from the sky. reanimated joggers. sinister maternity homes. Interesting. and emotionally potent in places. but often drowning in its own weirdness.
I The Erotic Silence of the Married
Woman Dalma lleyn (Mandarin £4.99) Married women today are having affairs
i earlier. and are generally in worse health than single women. In an involving
commentary on interviews with such women. Heyn attempts to break down unconscious conventions regarding women and affairs. focusing on the subject‘s emotional aspects. By avoiding
; strong conclusions. her book is ultitnately ? all the tnore more thought-prm'oking.
I Oranges from Spain David Park
1 (Phoenix £4.99) A vivid nostalgia is the
essence of these Northern Irish short
; stories. powerfully captured in a
companion volume to Park's novel The Healing. The country‘s religious and political characteristics are present. but never as centrepiece. always as a frame to the characters‘ humanity. (Gavin Inglis)
I The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O’Brien Oscar Hijuelos (Hamish Hamilton. £15.99) The problem with epic Hispanic stories set in the US. spanning generations and telling us that life is full ofjoy and pain. is that if they miss the mark they end up cute and cloying. With his latest novel. Hijuelos has followed Isabel Allende into the trap. though not as disastrously.
The turn-of—the-century Cuban-Irish marriage of Mariela Montez to Nelson ()‘Brien in Cobbleton. Pennsylvania. sets the scene fora saga ofdramatic. often sexy events involving all-too familiar personalities (volatile. exotic. etc). First-bom Emilio‘s sisters dote on him. He becomes a film star and we follow his family through decades of changing fortunes. Characters are well- (lgl'ggigil‘ events often interestingly
recounted. but the tone — now phoney- naive. now knowing and wise - creates an uneasy feeling; it’s all too heartwarming. And the cameo roles for Errol Flynn and Noel Coward positively make you cringe. (Cathy Boylan)
I Shame About the Street Diane Langford (Serpent‘s Tail £7.99) The street is Fleet Street; the shame belongs to a pleasantly dull civil servant framed as a ‘lesbian mole‘. Around this central strand the plot is fleshed out with a bitter cleaners’ union dispute and a sacked joumalist. Langford’s experience of newspaper work give her first novel a solid background and believable politics. but her inexperience
I After Colette Joan Lingard (Sinclair Stevenson £14.99) French author Colette is the spiritual guru around whom the characters spin in this beautiful novel. Colette's prose and life-story both exert their (in)direct influence upon the parallel lives oftwo Edinburgh families and Colette‘s own Burgundy village. The connecting factor is the disappearance of one Amy Balfour. a woman who has built an artistic reputation (aided by her
with fiction shows in some awkward plot developments and scene changes. She perhaps understates too much. and her large all-female central cast remain decidedly confusing. The fine points of the story are enjoyable, however. and once the narrative is up and running. it does become involving. with a strong middle section. The ending. though. is somewhat abrupt and anticlimactic. Overall. worth a look. If Langford has more novels in her. practice should sharpen her pen. (Gavin Inglis)
uncanny resemblance to Colette) around the one-woman show based on the writer‘s life.
It is left to Amy's cousin to guide us through this deftly-welded fact/fiction mix as she plays detective. travelling from Edinburgh to Paris. peeling away the layers of family history and mystery. Ample opportunity for Lingard to demonstrate her storytelling skills as she conjures both the rhythms of Edinburgh speech and the sensuality of Colette's writing. (Anne Donald)
I Suffer the little Children Lucy Robertson (Black Swan £5.99) lfl say that Caroline West. narrator ofthis childhood reminiscence-based novel. is a pain in the neck. I risk sounding as unsympathetic as her razor-sharp sister Amelia. whose presence dominates the book. But 1 can‘t help it: clumsy and humble. she self-effaces her way through the narrative. overshadowed by the brilliance and intolerance of Amelia and Willing. the boy next door and
source of adventure in their lives; one is too busy baulking at her to worry about whether their behaviour may lead to disaster. Which it does. In fact. the concluding climax is so surprising and dramatic that it‘s quite easy to forget the initations ofthe preceding pages. and close the book glowing with retrospective appreciation for Robertson’s skill in. as one reviewer put it. ‘gimlet-eyed observation of kicked-over traces’. (Catherine Fellows)
I Mark ooodier - Unbelievable Dillons. 174—176 Argyll Street. 248 4814. Sat 31. 2—3pm. Free. The Radio 1 DJ will be signing copies of his new music-trivia book Unbelievable (HarperCollins £4.99). I Alasdair Cray Waterstone‘s. 45/50 Princes Square. 221 9650. Wed 11. 7.15pm. Free. The popular Glaswegian author reading from and signing copies of his award-winning and hugely enjoyable novel Poor Things (Penguin £5.99) — new in paperback.
I Peter Rabbit Birthday Celebrations
Dillons. 174—176 Argyll Street. 248 4814. Thur 12 -Sat 14. Free. Three days of readings. competitions and general bunny fun to celebrate the centenary of Beatrix Potter‘s most famous creation. Call branch f0r full details.
I Short Story Competition Entry forms from Midlothian Libraries or call 440 2210. Closing date Sept 1. Open competition for children and adults; entries should be 3000 words or less and previously unpublished. Top prize £50.
I .loe Simpson Waterstone‘s. 13 Princes Street. 556 3034. Tue 3. 7.30pm. Free — tickets from shop. The mountaineer whose
extraordinary escape after a bad fall in Peru was described in his award-winning Touching the Void reads from and signs copies of his new memoir This Game of Ghosts (Jonathan Cape £16.99).
I Allan Massie James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. Wed 4. 7pm. Free. The distinguished Scots author reading from and signing copies of his new novel These Enchanted Woods (Hutchinson £14.99). I Oscar lliiuelos Waterstone's. 83 George Street. 225 3436. Wed 4. 7.30pm. Free. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mambo Kings Pld ' Songs of Love reads from and signs copies of his new novel The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien (Hamish Hamilton £15.99).
BEFORE THE BREAK
The author of many adults’ and children’s books, Joan Lingard has lost published the latest of each - After Colette (see review) and llight Fires - and will be appearing at the Edinburgh Book Festival. She talks to Sue Wilson about realising her girlhood novelistic dreams.
‘l was born in Edinburgh, but my father was posted to Belfast when l was two, I lived there until I was eighteen. I feel very attached to Belfast having been brought up there, and really I didn’t know Scotland at all, except for odd holidays; Belfast was my home. Yet because it’s such a small tight place, everyone knowing everybody, I was slightly standing outside, which is maybe not a bad thing for a writer.
‘From when l was eleven I wanted to be a novelist, because the novel offered scope and depth in which to explore a situation, to get totally immersed in another world - I enjoy short stories, but they’re more like a brief visit.
‘I left school at sixteen and taught for eight months, totally untrained, 54 infants in a slum school in East Belfast; the conditions were oickensian. After that I went into the Ulster Bank for eight months, then came over to Edinburgh and worked in the public library - by the time I was eighteen I’d had three jobs.
‘It was by a series of odd coincidences that I went to Moray House, to do teacher-training, too long and complicated to go into here, but it almost seemed like late, because I was actually born in a taxi-cab in the Canongate. I had three years there, which I didn’t enjoy, particularly, it was incredibly restrictive and unimaginative. But no experiences in life are wasted - having been a teacher was useful when I started writing kids’ books, as well as that of having my own kids.
‘It was around the time my three daughters were being born I started getting published; thirty years ago, in
'fact. Then in 1970 I started to write ' the children’s books, and I also began 1 writing for television, which was what 1 supported me at the time. STV had this soap-opera, High living, about people living in high-rise flats, which was extremely good training for writing in television - everything was filmed in one take, so you had to write it to allow for that, give the characters time to get from one place to another on the set.
‘As far as ambitions go, I think mine are the same as they’ve been for the last thirty years - to write an even better book next time. I think when I ' get to the point where I no longer feel !
that. it’s probably time to stop.’ '
The List 30 July—I2 August 1993 67