I Theory Of War Joan Brady (Abacus £6.99) The deserving winner of this year’s Whitbread prize tells the enthralling and horriﬁc story of a boy sold as a white slave to a tobacco farmer after the American Civil War. Even after his escape at sixteen, he cannot extinguish the memories of the cruelty inﬂicted on him. Forever psychologically at war, his mental state becomes a comment on American society as a whole and particularly on ‘humorless. ruthless, benumbed half-wits' like the tobacco farmer. a type America mythologised as pioneer spirits.
é: COWBOYS ARE MY WEAKNESS
I Cowboys Are My Weakness Pam Houston (Virago £5.99) A century on. pioneers may have learnt to marinate asparagus and make handmade trufﬂes to impress their girlfriends but their hearts are as impenetrable as ever. These witty. beautifully understated stories depict women. who know they should know better, white-water rafting, sheep-hunting and deer-tracking in vain attempts to win love from those incapable of it.
I Bridge OT Courage Jennifer Hanbury (AK Press £7.95) This harrowing collection of personal testimonies reveals how the brutally oppressive regime in Guatemala is maintained through American collaboration. No foreign aid agencies are allowed in. so few people realise that 100,000 out of an eight- million population have ‘disappeared' in twenty years. Hanbury‘s interviews allow the campuneros to speak for themselves about the daily terror of their lives as guerilla fighters, and their continuing struggle for basic freedoms. (Frances Cornford)
i bedtime stories told to the children
5 Now That You're Bark (Jonathan Cape i £8.99). A must for any trainspotters or
I Driss Chra‘r'bi Mon 14. 4pm in McCance i
l, McCance Building, University of
in Room 148. Institute Francais d'Ecosse. 7 Bowmont Gardens. Free, details from 041 357 3632. The Moroccan-bom novelist gives two talks in French about two of his books. At 4pm he will be discussing Lu Civilisation, Mu Mere and at 8pm, L’Inspecteur Ali En Emsse.
I Chris Townsend Thurs 17. 6.30pm. John Smith & Son. 57 Vincent Street. 221 7472. Free. The writer known for his contributions about rough terrain hiking to walking and climbing magazines, gives a slide presentation based around his latest book Wildemess Skiing and Winter Camping (McGraw-Hill £12.95).
I James Ellroy Wed 23. 6pm. Dillons. 174-176 Argyll Street, 248 4814. Free. Cult American crime writer Ellroy reads from and signs his two latest books to make it into paperback: White Jazz and Dick Contino 's Blues And Other Stories (both Arrow £5.99). Expect speedy noir type violence, scams and killings in a dark 505 Los Angeles setting.
I Irvine Welsh and ALKennedy Thurs 24, 7pm. Waterstone’s, 132 Union Street. 221 0890. Free. These two highly lauded and somewhat different Scottish novelists read from and sign their new short story
All INSOBS'I'ANTIAI. EXPERIENCE
I An lrnaginative Experience Mary Wesley (Bantam £l4.99) Latest from the 82-year-old who, with her potboiler The Camomile Lawn. put paid to the notion that post-menopausal women are unsullied by hormonal impulses. No such raciness is evident in this unprepossessing novel, however; it is notable chieﬂy for one of the oddest beginnings ever — a woman jumping from an Intercity train to rescue an upturned sheep. This mercy-mission
does not go unnoticed by two male passengers who. for respective psychotic and romantic reasons, become entangled in the wounded life of Julia Piper. Wesley's famed narrative and descriptive prowess construct a facade of activity, yet fail to energise the seemingly irrelevant and essentially alien characters who are petrified in a bygone era ciphered by phrases like ‘half a mo’, ‘gosh’ and ‘clobber’. Churlish quibbles, perhaps, but such details do conspire to impede the emotion presumably intended to be provoked by this putative story of love and loss. As with a McDonald‘s burger, we are left with the same unsatisfactory question: is that it? (Ann Donald)
Strathclyde, 16 Richmond Street, and 8pm
I Twice Real Silvia Sanza (Serpent’s Tail £8.99) This episodic tale of contemporary Manhattan creates a kind of Slackers-meets-thirtysomething narrative, of generations adrift in an urban quagmire. Here, though, the sense of rootlessness is expressed as a complex of unshared emotion. each character clinging to the validity of his or her personal hang-ups. The effect of body image is central to the attitudes held by the two main protagonists: the beautiful, self-absorbed Fianette, unable to block out completely the unwanted attentions of overweight Marabea,
whose bitterness precludes friendship. The consequences of the latter‘s spurned attempt at intimacy display more gritty realism than the pat conclusions of any altruistic US soap.
Skilful intersections of divergent paths result in a novel that maintains tension even with oblique minor detail — Fiarette‘s partner Martin. for instance. offers a writer's reﬂection on events: ‘He never allowed certain people to be in the same room together alone. Yet he would allow them to impact the lives of those they might never get to meet.‘ An incisive addition to the burgeoning literature of contemporary urban anomie. (Helen Waddell)
I Operation Wandering Soul Richard Powers (Abacus £9.99) Richard Kraft is a paediatric surgeon who carves up the lame, diseased and crushed children of Angel City in the forlorn hope of effecting damage limitation or - occasionally — a cure. His cases include an Asian boat girl, a child born without a face and a prematurely geriatric boy. Through these casualties and their interaction with Kraft and his lover, therapist Linda Espera, Powers explores the vulnerabilities both of childhood and maturity. Therapeutic
collections: Walsh‘s The Acid House (Jonathan Cape £8.99) and Kennedy‘s
i I linda Colley Fri l 1, 7pm. Waterstone‘s, ;
I 13 Princes Street. 556 3034. Free. The
3 winner of last year's Wolfstone Prize talks } ; about and signs her book Britain: Forging '
The Nation (Pimlico £10). which
chronicles the 1707 Act Of Union
; ‘following the foundation ofthe National
5 identity through war, religion and imperial j expansion‘.
I Michael Worton Wed 16. 7.45pm. The Netherbow, 43 High Street. Edinburgh. £3 (£2). The translator of Rene’ Char and co- editor of the Bloodaxe Contemporary French Poets series discusses modern poetry in France in this talk organised by the Poetry Association of Scotland.
I Framer hfcluskey Mon 21. 6.30pm. James Thin, 57 George Street. 225 4495. Free. The Very Reverent Frazer McLuskey. former moderator of the Church of Scotland and unofficial chaplain to the SAS during World War ll (renowned as ‘The Parachute Padre‘). talks about and signs his autobiography. The Cloud and The Fire (Pentland Press £12.50).
I Sandy Call Tue 22, 7pm. Waterstone's, 128 Princes Street. 226 2666. Free. The
lTN newscaster and broadcaster discusses
tread and retread traditional themes of children abandoned, abducted. arrested in their development. Snippets of Peter Pan. the Pied Piper and other stories from around the world soothe, scare or educate the young patients, while haunting their carers with childish nightmares long repressed. There is not much hope here for the young, in a psychotic world ruined by grown-up children. Though sometimes displaying the author‘s intellect rather too ostentatiously. the novel is undeniably interesting and intelligent, while the horrible gooey stuff it contains is surgical rather than sentimental. (Cathy Boylan)
and signs his autobiography, News From The Front (Heineman £ 16.99), which tells
the story of his 30 years in TV journalism. ' I Irvine Welsh and LL. Kennedy Wed 23.
7.30pm. Waterstone’s. 83 George Street.
1 225 3436. Free. These two highly lauded and somewhat different Scottish novelists
read from and sign their new short story
: collections. Welsh’s The Acid House
(Jonathan Cape £8.99) and Kennedy‘s Now That You 're Back (Jonathan Cape
. £8.99). A must for any trainspotters or possible dancers.
I Owen Dudley Edwards Thurs 24. 1230-] .30pm. Central Library Conference Room. George IV Bridge. Free. tickets available from the Conference Room from fifteen minutes before the event. Owen Dudley Edwards talks about Edinburgh's Conan Doyle.
I James Ellroy Thurs 24. 7pm. Waterstone‘s, 128 Princes Street. 226 2666. Free. Cult American crime writer Ellroy reads from and signs his two latest books to make it into paperback: White Jazz and Dick Contino '5 Blues And Other Stories (both Arrow £5.99). Expect speedy noir type violence, scams and killings in a dark 505 Los Angeles setting. I Central Writers Workshop Thurs 24. 7.30pm. SNP Club, 16 North St Andrew Street. 50p. Further details from 555 1875. All are welcome to this open forum for readings and discussions which meets every second and fourth Thursday of the month.
Charles Palliser, author or The Duincunx - an ‘ironic homage’ to Dickens - and erstwhile lecturer at Strathclyde University talks to Thom Dibdin about his favourite fictional character.
Expectations. We are encouraged by the book to identify so much with Pip’s desire to improve himself and get out of that appalling situation be is born into. Then Dickens goes and turns the tables on us: we realise that what Pip has done is turn Into a monster of snobbery and shallowness. The very values he has climbed up by, with the reader identifying with him and urging hint on, are in fact flawed.
‘The book is a very powerful reminder of the negative side of all those values that our society, litre Dickens’s, takes for granted as being good: hard work, ambition, the desire to better oneself and get an education, the whole success ethic, the self-help ethic, the entre- preneureal ethic and the general notion of self improvement. “At what cost?” and “For what purpose?" is what the book encourages you to wonder.
‘I was probably ten or eleven, when I first read it. God knows what I made of itatthatage, butlamsurelloved it. That is the extraordinary thing about Dickens. You can read him at that age, and then you can go on reading hint and see things in a more cynical and down-beat way.
‘Anybody who came from a background that was a bit of a struggle and felt that by their own efforts had transcended it, will identify with the book. It raises the terrible question: “Were you right to transcend it?” Weren’t those things, these impulses, that made you want to do better than your family, weren't they pretty negative, destructive, arrogant and insecure? I suppose I could identify with that in my own life, but along with thousands of others.
‘Yes, it does have a lesson for that Back to Basics, Victorian Values era of Tory Government, if the Cabinet sat down and read Great Expectations properly, who knows! 0n the other hand, John Patten read and loved The Duincunx, which has given me rnany a sleepless night, because I cannot think what he saw in it. How did he read it? How can he not have seen that the Coincunx is a savage attack on the whole every mentor himself, materialistic society selfishness that the Tories have raised into a totem pole?’
Betrayals, the new novel by Charles Palllser will be published in March
The List I l—24 February I994 65