Kevin Williamson, editor and publisher of llebel Inc. - the literary magazine with an E for Attitude, the fourth issue of which has just been published - tells Thorn llibdin about his favourite literary character.
‘hty favourite character for a long time now has been lake llhlneheart’s The lllceman who takes all his decisions from the throw of a dice. it had a big impression on me when I first read it about twelve years ago. Tire whole idea of spreading chaos and disorder really attracted me to the character: destabillsing everything, refusing to get stuck in any kind of a rot and trying to maximise the potentials. it’s a really funny book like, it had me creased up laughing every time I read it. lthought, “What i fantastic idea, play on the dice, and taking your decisions from there.”
‘Most people who read it have a wee crack at it and take it as far as they want to, use it as a game or whatever, and then come back to it again and realise there is a bit more to the whole thing. it does pinpoint the discontent that lies under the surface of a seemingly ordered life. I think that’s what attracted me to it.
‘I tried throwing the dice when I was twenty, and got into a bit of trouble. At the time I wanted to see how far i could push it myself, obviously you’re not going to take it as far as the character in the book: raping and murdering. But you do get into a lot of trouble. I ended up getting into a lot of lights, taking different kinds of drugs, going into bars and trying to pick up somebody at random - all this sort of thing.
‘There is this bit at the beginning of the book where he says, ‘life is islands of ecstasy in an ocean of boredom and after the age of thirty, land is seldom seen.’ You see people around you going down that road to get this stable life: married, children, career. You know that they want to bred out of that underneath it all, but are conditioned to just accept it. The main thing with the character is he is trying to break out of that, he can feel his whole life closing in on him.
‘l believe that the whole system we live underrestricts people’s expectations and limits their horizons. i really enjoy subversive writing and The [licensee is one of the most subversive novels that has ever been written.’
[EARNING TO [ME
I The learning of Paul ll’llelll Graeme Woolaston (Millivres £7.50) There‘s a vaguely Lanarkish ring to the name Eassord. the ficticious hometown of the central character. But it is so closely based on Stirling that there seems litttle point in the slender disguise. This is certainly no imaginary place created as the starting point of a fantastic journey into the Scottish psyche.
However to call it a ‘straight’ narrative doesn‘t seem quite right either; the ‘Ieaming’ of the title refers to O‘Neill‘s coming to terms with being
gay through three signiﬁcant relationships over the course of about 30 years. together with a handful of S&M encounters.
Woolaston handles childhood ﬂashback and O‘Neill‘s memories of happy times with his lover in Brighton with a deft touch which makes for entertaining reading. but his storytelling is undermined by lumpen dialogue. Even more irritating is the narrator‘s translation of every fragment of colloquial Scottish speech. And in case English readers still don‘t get the point, there‘s even a glossary. Surely this undermines a solid attempt at a gay Scottish novel? (Eddie Gibb)
' g I ' . FATAL AnnAcrrorrs
II Sheila Andrew Vachss (Macmillan
£14.99) ‘I stopped his heart. left him there‘. It doesn‘t get much colder than that. does it? Andrew Vachss’s new novel is full of such icy viciousness. The heart-stopper in question is a professional killer called Ghost. or John to his only friend Sheila, a strip-dancer. Their partnership is broken when Ghost is jailed for murdering one of Sheila’s clients. When paroled. he sets off to ﬁnd her again. encountering pimps. prostitutes. gangsters, Indians and an
army of neo-Nazis on the way. Not surprisingly. most ofthese encounters have a fatal conclusion.
To be frank. it‘s a dumb novel. a typical mix of kinky sex and ultra violence all told in a glib. hard-boiled style. In its defence, however. the novel is a vehicle for Vachss‘s dark. painful conviction that at the heart of all this mayhem is the horror of child abuse. This horror gives Sheila a weight over and above the comic book silliness of the plot or the third-hand Hemingway narration. Shred away the pulp and you can feel the chill. (Teddy Jamieson)
I Dante’s Drum Kit Douglas Dunn (Faber and Faber £6.99) Five years of poems fill this chunky volume, and the range is wide: from such careful, form- conscious meditations as ‘Disenchantment‘, or the provocative ‘Dressed To Kill‘. a discourse on Scottish militarism. to jokey stuff about Spanish oranges and the long-term effects of eating too many (everybody else‘s) school dinners. In between are the poems that satisfy most — where Dunn reflects on time‘s passage and moments in other lives seen brieﬂy illuminated on bowling greens. in libraries, in gardens. The politics of
frustrated nationhood are here. but subtly portrayed. as in ‘Weeding A Border‘ — ‘Difﬁcult issues steeped in
mellow life‘s/Agreeable distractions‘.
1: In ‘Body Echoes‘ a man and a woman
; from the 1950s haunt Scotland’s streets. stations, public parks. representing the
. failure to deliver the promises of that
2 age. And in choosing to call another
1 poem ‘Poor People‘s Cafes‘. he places
? himselfand his comforts firmly in the
; context ofa ‘hurt land‘. where the angry pen might fall from his hand and ‘ nothing changes for those to whom free ‘ enterprise hands out only a begging
‘ bowl. Quiet but quietly stirring stuff.
5 (James Robertson)
I Boomer Linda Niemann (Pandora £7.99) Wrestling with the demon drink and drugs plus a string of rocky relationships. Niemann takes to a life on the American railroads. A compelling personal lost and found story of one woman‘s experience as a boomer - a manual train worker who travels to wherever the work is booming.
I Playing in the Dark Toni Morrison (Picador £4.99) Rushed out in the light of her Nobel Prize win. the three essays are a collective bombshell lobbed into the literary criticism world. An eloquent and loaded dissection of the significance of Afro-Americans in the American literary imagination. Morrison argues convincingly that the inbuilt prejudices and racism are ‘as healthy as during the Enlightenment‘.
I All the pretty horses Cormac McCarthy (Picador £5.99) A blinding number of effusive accolades accompany the press release with this classic adventure from the lost heart of the wild American West. With echoes of Hemingway and Faulkner. he renders beautifully a coming-of—age novel bursting with lost innocence. revenge and responsibility.
I Jernigan David Gates (Picador £5.99) A middle-age slacker rumbling around in an alcoholic haze in suburban New Jersey charts his sprawling downward performance. Gates has created an All- American anti-hero who jerks against the regular success story and whose response to his wife's suicide and father‘s immolation is to get ‘pants-pissing drunk‘. In the long run though. the bitter-sweet prose gets bogged down in depressing irony.
I The Beast Within Adam Douglas
(Orion £5.99) ‘It is when I make myself
' bite like a rabid dog. . . as soon as I see blood I want to swallow it.‘ One of the blood-curdling confessions from a 1988 French werewolf included in this gripping study of lycanthropy via myth, legend and literature. Douglas probes the lurid Hollywood horror fantasies and uncovers a diabolically hypnotic history that stretches from Paleolithic animal cults to modern psychiatric wards. (Ann Donald)
I Michael Carson and Graeme yloolaston Fri 5. 7pm. John Smith & Son. 252 Byres Road. 334 2769. Free. In this Glasgay! event. Carson and Woolaston will be discussing and reading from their latest books.
I David St John Tbornas Wed 10. 6.30pm. John Smith & Son. 57 Vincent Street. 221 7472. Free. The prolific train writer steams through this reading and signing of his latest book The Romance of Scotland 's Railways (Thomas & Lochar £19.99).
I lindsay Davis Mon 15. 5.30pm. John Smith & Son. University Branch. University Avenue. 334 1210. Free. Illustrated talk by Lindsay Davis about her Roman detective, Marcus Didius Falco. Also display of books on Imperial Rome.
I Environmental Book Group Mon 15. 7.30pm. Renﬁeld St Stephen‘s Centre. 260 Bath Street. Contact Robert Coontz on 248 6864. Free. All are welcome to this discussion about Marge Piercey’s classic ecotopian fiction: Woman on the Edge of 7ime with its vision of an environmentally enlightened future. You don‘t even have to have read it to come along!
I Bobby Christie Thurs 18. 6.30pm. Dillons. 174-176 Argyll Street. 248 4814.
Free. Reading by the author of Transit
Visa (Taranis £5.99): 42 poems chronicling hisjoumey through North West Africa. Followed by questions and ; answers session. Phone to confirm.
I Women’s Writing Group Sun 7 and weekly. 7.30—10pm. Women‘s Centre. 61a Broughton Street. Details from 228 6579.
; Free. All women are welcome to this
writing group which aims to create work
‘which is as good as we can make it‘.
I Dorothy Dunnet Mon 8. 7pm. James
Thin. 53-59 South Bridge. 556 6743.
3 Free. The author of the Niccolo books
introduces and reads from the fourth book
in the series, The Unicorn Hunt (Michael
0! Clarke Mon 8. 7.30pm. Waterstone's.
83 George Street. 225 2666. £4. The wine
connoisseur gives a wine tasting (wine
included in ticket price) but he won‘t be
averse to signing copies of 0: Clarke is
Wine Guide 1994 (Mitchell Beazley
I Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott
Fitzgerald Tue 9. noon—1pm. Conference
Room. Central Library. George W Bridge.
1 Free. 48 tickets available from 11.45am.
3 Talk by Colin Nicholson as part of the
l Library‘s festival of US culture.
I I David St John Thomas Thurs 11. 7pm.
I Waterstone‘s. 13 Princess Street. 556
1 3034. Free. The prolific train writer
1 steams through this reading and signing of his latest book The Romance of Scotland is Railways (Thomas & Lochar £19.99).
I la Fureur De lire Sat 13. 10am—6pm.
lnstitut Francais D‘Ecosse. 13 Randolph
Crescent. 225 5366. Free. A French book
I festival and fair. Readings. exhibitions.
I book displays. lectures and books for sale.
1 Joan lingard will talk about After Collette and the themes in her books and will be
. available to sign books. Children‘s author
r Julie Lacome will be doing a kids'
I workshop in the afternoon. Phone for
I Madhur Jeffrey Mid—late November: date to be confirmed. Waterstone‘s. 128 Princes Street. 225 3436.
I Douglas llunn Wed 17. 7.30pm. James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. Free. The editor of the Faber Book of Scottish Poetry launches his new collection: Dante’s Drum-kit (Faber £5.99). which has been nominated for the TS. Elliot poetry prize.
I Jonathan Ayclifie Thurs 18. 7.30pm. Witchery Restaurant. Castle Hill. Details from James Thin. 556 6743. £5 (£2 reading and refreshment only). An evening of mystery with a Witchery Walk lead by the author of Whispers in the Dark and The Vanishment. Followed. at 8.15pm. by chilling readings and warming refreshments at the Tron Kirk. Tickets must be booked in advance.
I Sister Wendy Beckett Thurs 18. 7.30pm. Waterstone's. 83 George Street. 225 2666. The art-loving nun gives an illustrated presentation on her book Sister Wendy 's Odyssey (BBC Publications £16.99).
70 The List 5—18 November 1993