I Under the Frog Tibor Fischer (Penguin £5.99) First novel by a British-Hungarian writer, with a decidedly fairy-tale history - rejected by umpteen publishers before acceptance by Edinburgh's Polygon, it catapulted its author on to Granta's Best of Young British Novelists roster and this year’s Booker shortlist. The plaudits are well deserved — following the fortunes of a basketball team through the black absurdities of I944—55 Hungary. it bristles with caustic energy, seethes with earthy. cheeky humour and triumphs with the generosity and anger of its vision.
I Greetings From Earth Scott Bradfteld (Picador £5.99) A quite magical combination of meticulously grounded realism and untrammelled ﬂights of ludicrous fancy makes this one of the most engrossingly original short story collections in years. A businessman's life is taken over by his dreams of life as a wolf; a depressed, insomniac dog muses over geopolitics and theories of language; a housewife‘s out-of-body experiences lead her to imagine her life as a movie plot - and still it gets weirder. while always remaining awesomely controlled. I living Dangerously Roger Graef (HarperCollins £6.99) All those alarmed by the Tories’ recent lurch to the right over law and order should send Michael Howard a copy of this post-haste: consisting of transcripted interviews with nine young habitual offenders. it quietly trashes simplistic received notions about crime and punishment. restoring complex. contextualised humanity to crudely
WERE!- FLASH Iii THE PAN
I The Candlemass iioad George MacDonald Fraser (Harvill £l2.99) When her father is murdered. the young Lady Dacre is thrust from I6th century Court life into the deadly pursuits of the Borders. Taking over his estate. she immediately has to defend one of her new tenants from a reiver. or Borders raider, intent on extoning blackmail. Fraser's rather slight tale about an imagined Borders incident is based on historical fact. and told in the manner of an Elizabethan novel. complete with annoying contemporary spelling and mannerisms.
Fraser. who is better known for his Flashman books. is trying to illuminate the world he could only sketch in his history of the Scottish-Anglo Border reivets, The Steel Bonnets. However.
by relating the tale from the viewpoint of an unctuous, if surprisineg liberal. pn'est. this mixture of fact and ﬁction fails to illuminate the daily lives of any but the pampered classes. The result, although entertaining, is in dim watercolours where it should be in sumptuous oils. (Thom Dibdin)
demonised figures. I Route 566: On the Road to Iiirvana j Gina Arnold (Picador £9.99) Breathless. ' hyperbolic. personal chronicle of America‘s punk pathways from the Sex Pistols to Nirvana. which gets ridiculously close to proclaiming the latter's appearance as the Second Coming. but provides lots of fodder for aficionados of l underground cultural currents. as our heroine rocks ‘n‘ rolls with the Dead Kennedys. Black Flag. Husker Dii. the I Pixies et al.
I Eve Was Framed Helena Kennedy (Vintage £6.99) Incisive expose of women's many-faceted mistreatment at the hands of the British legal system. combining outrage. humour. compassion and logic in equal measure. The prosecution of gender discrimination is impressive enough. but Kennedy's eloquent use of women’s experience as a paradigm for that of all marginalised I groups immeasurably increases its impact. § (Sue Wilson)
u IT STAT
f I United States: Essay31952-92 Gore : Vidal (Andre Deutsch £25) The lofty
title (the jacket is adorned by nothing
Stars and Stripes) and the three categories into which these essays are split (‘State Of The An’, ‘State Of The Union’ and ‘State Of Being’) suggest what we already know: that Gore Vidal has a pretty high opinion of his own opinions. But self-importance, more than anything else. is what he consistently lays into in the course of I200 Shibboleth-shattering pages
§ (though not. unfortunately, his own I propensity for it). He knows no fear,
does Gore, keeping his reason throughout dark, paranoid times whose moral agenda was set by a succession
j of self-serving lowbrows all the way
from McCarthy to Reagan and the
' bom-agains who put him in the White
less than Jasper Johns' rendering of the ‘
House. Read this. the condensed wit and waspishness of 40 years of journalism by America‘s greatest wordsmith. (Alastair Mabbott)
REAL GONE KIOS
; I Gone Tomorrow Gary Indiana
(Hoddcr & Stoughton £9.99) A
2 narcissistic menagen'e of neurotic
5 actors convene on an anarchic
E Columbian movie-set in a pre-AIDS . world to make a film of vast if vague ' intentions. With a serial killer on the ' loose (for that extra wired edge) they
are sucked into their personal hedonistic dolce rim of
I sex’n‘drugs‘n‘battling egos. Indiana’s
narrator, both ready participant and
j detached observer, is a jaded young
actor who guides us through the
claustrophobic debauchery of self- : gratiﬁcation. but at the same time is coolly passionate in his chronicle of
deaths foretold. Make no mistake, this is neither a Less Than Zem-esquc brat- pack nostalgia-fest. nor a 90s hindsight wake-up call hyping the religion of sobriety. The novel is an incisive and at times waspishly funny depiction of obsessional. implosive human relationships. (Ann Donald)
V was a
7' ask I loading Scottish poet Douglas Dunn, whose new collection Dante’s Drum- Iiit is published by Faber in November, and who edited the Faber Book oi Mntieth Century Scottish Poetry (a Scottish Book Fortnight Title) talks to Sue Wilson about iavourite iictional characters.
‘I suppose as an academic I probably ought to opt ior someone irom Dickens or George Eliot or something, but I think I’m going to pick Muriel Spark’s Jean Brodie. I iirst read The Prime oi Miss Jean Brodie somethne during the 60s, and she was a knockout, as soon as I read it - she’s such a tremendous invention, representative I’m sure oi a whole Morningslde stream at Scottish womanhood, which I quite like. She's not an entirely attractive character,
- but by the end oi the book you’re
beginning to understand why. And also she’s very iunny, spunky, she tights back, challenges.
“It’s an interesting thing about Scottish iiction, it does tend to produce very, very memorable
’ characters - Jean Brodie, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Peter Pan, Chris Guthrie in It Scots Oualr, some oi Sir Walter Scott’s characters - who become sort oi icons, almost take on a lite oi their own.
‘An alternative to Miss Brodie would
be the Abbess Alexandra in Spark’s
The Abbess oi Crewe, who’s a similar
kind at person in many ways - l ieel that Spark is writing about either an actual side at herseli or a would-be side oi herseli; I’m a great tan other writing, and one oi the things that intrigues me most about it is these characters who do seem to be representing, maybe not Scottish iemininity but certainly femininity, in
Spark’s terms, ‘oi Scottish ionnation’
- I’m unlike a lot at Scots writers in
that I actually preier middle-class to working-class Scottish iemininlty; that’s purely subjective. But I’ve always had a suit spot ior schoolteachers.’
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The List 22 October-4 November I993 81