Author, playwright and screen-writer Dermot Bolger, whose new novel, A Second life has just been published by Viking, explains to Ann Donald why he doesn’t have a favourite fictional character.
‘As a novelist and a playwright, I find that you get totally and utterly involved in the character you are writing about. You fall totally in love with them, they’re a second life to you, you and they are in a second world together and its totally engrossing. But what you have to do when you are finished writing the novel or play is totally dislike them, reject them and turn off from them. Then, after say, six months of your mind being vacant of them and occupied with other things, then a whole other set oi characters begin to grow inside your head.
And it works this way with books i read by other people as well. I read a book, become engrossed in the character but then put them behind me and move onto someone else. l’m one person reading that book but then change again as the book changes -I suppose I’m a chameleon or maybe I just don’t know how to appreciate good literature.
Basically I can’t look back and say there is one particular character that has influenced or changed my life because there are lots of books and characters who have changed my life at a particular moment at different stages in my life. As a child of about fourteen years old I do remember reading one particular book in my backgarden. It was a beautiful May 'day and I was sitting in this huge, long garden with these beautiful‘blooming lilacs and I had just come across the Portraith Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde and begun to read it. lie was such a strange, exotic character in such a voluptuous book and reading it in that garden, with the lilacs all around, everything just gelled. It was my first experience of being totally moved by a character. or course, because I was a teenager and the book had a reputation of being somewhat illicit, that also added to the whole notion of evil inherent in Dorian Gray.
Recently though, the last character that moved me was Leopold Bloom. I’ve lust finished adapting James Joyce’s Ulysses for the London stage In the autumn. So for the last six months I have lived with and as
Leopold Bloom who is an extraordinary,
character. Bloom really is an Incredibly simple yet complex character, really a very human character. Stephen Dedalus I don’t find a very interesting character but the humanity of Bloom is extraordinary and the way In which he secretly triumphs without realising he’s triumphed is great.’
millim- AMERICAN snonrs
I Cowboys, Indians And Commuters Edited by Jay Mclnerney (Viking £9.99) ‘Is there such a beast as the Great American Short Story ?’ asks Jay Mclnemey in his vivid and comprehensive introduction to this galvanising collection. The answer is a roaring and rhetorical yes and it‘s in excellent entertaining health thank you very rrruch.
It would appear that every preﬁx to the word ‘Arrrerican‘ has been employed to represent the literary
melting-pot that is American literature: Afro. Chicano. Gay. Women‘s, Native. Western and Southern are all represented by the likes of Shemran Alexie. Pam Houston. Jess Mowry, Dale Peck and Jeff Eugenides.
The fictional form stretches from the experimental to metafrction to colloquial realism. From the accomplished Dickensian prose of Donna Tartt‘s evocation of an hallucinatory Southern childhood to the postmodern techno-ﬁction of Mark Leyner‘s computer generated pop culture, the short story is alive and kicking in the USA. (Ann Donald)
THE 9 TILL 5
I Working Mother Agnes Owens (Bloomsbury £9.99) This long-awaited novel deals promisineg with the frustrations of a woman in the mid-
1950s hoping for financial and spiritual
' independence to free her from a bad
marriage. However, it is Owens’ own uncertainin about which character is most deserving of our interest that crowds this short novel with far too many absurdities. Everything in Betty’s life — the drinking. her not unwilling participation in her employer‘s feeble
sexual harassment. the desolatory sex with brutish Brendan — is a swipe at her husband’s failure to maintain his imagined status as war hero. Yet it is clear that Adam is neither aware or cares about such enmity.
Ultimately this sense of ‘So what?‘ cheats the novel of the potentially dark and shady fringes ofthe story inhabited by the card-reading Mrs Rossi and Betty’s climactic drinking. Like the cheap wine Betty is addicted to, the novel leaves a not unpalatable, but sadly unsatisfying aftertaste. (Maggie Lennon)
NEVER MIND THE WILLDCKS
I Green iliver liising Tim Willocks (Jonathon Cape £14.99) The world of the Green River State Penitentiary is closed. Hell on earth, where three thousand psychopathic, violent men live in their own shit and the devil is a clinically insane governor who believes
f that only a riot can cleanse the festering sores. Perhaps the only sane man is D-
Klein, a doctor falsely imprisoned for rape. who is trapped in the erupting mayhem on the day his parole is
I iiobert Llewellyn Sat 21, 3pm. Dillons. 174-176 Argyle Street. 248 4814. Free. Otherwise known as Kryten the robot from the TV series Red Dwarf, Llewellyn will be reading and signing c0pies of his behind-the-scenes book. The Man In The Rubber Mask (Penguin £4.99).
I Francine Pascal Wed 25. 4pm—5pm. Waterstone’s, 132 Union Street. 221 0890. Free. The middle-aged author. adored by the millions of teens whom she has entertained and educated with her seminal Sweet Valley High series. will be signing for one hour only.
I Paisley Festival Sat 21. 7.30pm. Paisley Arts Centre. New Street. 887 1010. Free. An evening of stories, sketches. poems and dialogues performed by local writers. Writers-in-residence Gerrie Fellows and Magi Gibson will also be on hand to advise any budding new authors.
I Maya Angelou Thurs 26. 7.30pm. Waterstone’s. 83 George Street. 225 3436. Free. Please note this is a signing session only. The Grammy Award-winning inaugural poet makes a rare visit to promote her book Wouldn 't Take Nothing For My Joume'v Now (Virago £9.99). which is a collection of reflections on past evean and people she has met on her life‘s journey.
I Mairi lledderwlck Sun 29, 2pm. Waterstone’s, 83 George Street, 225 3436. Free. The highly respected illustrator and children‘s author of the popular Katie and Morag books will be on hand at this
The world of Tim Willocks is also closed. Hell in a novel, where three thousand cliches wallow in a sorry tale and the devil is a clinically inane plot which reads like a pastiche ofa psychological thriller. It is ripe for warped racial and sexual violence, limping descriptions of brutalising rape and strangulation. The pages turn in the vain hope that the next will hold a surprise. Not a hope. Simply more overwritten and messy destruction trapped in a particularly stupid book. (Thom Dibdin)
special Sunday High Tea to demonstrate her skills as an illustrator and talk about her work.
I ilobert Llewellyn Fri 20. 7pm. Waterstone’s. I3 Princes Street. 556 3034. Free. Otherwise known as Kryten from the TV series Red Dwarfthe author is in town to promote his behind-the-scenes book The Man In The Rubber Mask (Penguin £4.99).
I Dermot Bolger Wed 1. 7pm. Waterstone's. 13 Princes Street. 556 3034. Free. The Irish author and playwright wiiI be reading and signing copies of his book A Second Life (Viking £14.99). The novel explores one man‘s search for the truth about his past and a society coming to terms with buried secrets.
I Terry Pratchett Fri 27, 6.30pm. Waterstone’s, 13 Princes Street. 556 3034. Free. The master of the sci-fr pastiche genre will be signing copies of the latest in his amusing Discworld series, Soul Music (Gollancz £14.99).
I louise Erdrich Wed 1. 7pm. Waterstone's. I28 Princes Street, 226 2666. Free. The American author renowned for her brilliantly conceived novels of Native American life will be reading and signing copies of her new novel The Bingo Palace (Flamingo £14.99). said to be ‘a stirring love story that reflects the changing influences and old values on the reservations today’.
I Val McDermid Wed 25. 7pm. Waterstone’s, I28 Princes Street. 226 2666. Free. Interviewed about her new Kate Brannigan novel Crack Down (Collins £14.99) in the last issue of The list. this top crime novelist with a sharp sense of humour will be signing and reading from her book about crack- dealing. car thieves and child
I Stalick Mary Mooney (Dualchas £4.99) Sfalr'ek or Deirdre‘s Lament, is a surprising little book. not least for the 3cm hole punched through from cover to cover. Though at ﬁrst glance this may appear to be a whimsical. domestic diatribe featuring familiar Glasgow locations and peppered with acerbic comments on life. death and visits from the council. it soon develops into a much deeper read.
I Dislocations Janette Turner-Hospital (Virago £5.99) This award-winning Australian-born writer‘s latest work is a collection of highly varied stories which span a number of different locations and cultures, A woman devastated by the death of a friend is shocked by lier desire to live; a journey across Queensland induces rejuvination in a schoolteacher weighed down by responsibilities. A book brimming with different voices and different experiences.
I Dr Clock’s Last Case and Other Stories Ruth Fainlight (Virago £9.99) Culled from a wide variety of publications and spanning a period of more than twenty years, Fainlight‘s stories, some of them no more than two or three pages long. come across as excerpts from a full and varied life. From the brief Joseph '5‘ Visit to the altogether stranger arrival of three terrorists in a quiet English village. the writing is assured. occasionally absurd and occasionally humorous. Yet the stories tempt and tease with their brevity. I The Virgin Suicides Jeffrey Eugenides (Abacus £6.99) Despite it's somewhat tabloid title this subtle book often conveys its macabre theme with an intriguing passion. Such is the distinctive ﬁlmic quality of the book that a David Lynch or Philip Ridley could have a field day with some of the bleakly evocative scenes in the story. Before such a film is made. read this voyeuristic rites of passage novel which follows two men recalling their adolescence. the brief lives of five entrancing Lisbon sisters and the macabre dismantling ofa family unit. (Toni Davidson).
I lrvine Welsh and Cal King Thurs 2. 8pm—late. Unemployed Workers Centre. 103 Broughton Street, 557 0718. £2/£1. The monthly Rebel lrrc. jamboree features Edinburgh novelist and now music journalist, Mr Welsh. reading from his much cited collection of short stories The Acid House (Cape £8.99) and the up-and- coming Glaswegian performance poet Cal King who always manages to provoke a strong reaction of some kind from her audience.
I ilebecca Stephens Thurs 26. 7pm. Assembly Rooms. George Street. £2. The first British woman to climb Everest will be giving a slideshow and signing copies of her book On Top Of The World ' (MacMillan £14.99) which charts her adventure in the snowy terrain.
I David Daiches Thurs 26. 7pm. James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. Free. The Scottish scholar will be reading from his new collection of poetry A Weekly Scotsman (Black Ace £14.95).
I lrvine Welsh and A.L. Kennedy Wed 25, 7pm. James Thin, 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. Free. The blindingly talented literary young Scots will be reading from a selection of their short story collections and novels.
I Writers in Performance Sat 21. 8.30pm. Stepping Stones Studio, 112 West Bow, 225 6250. £3/£2. Part of the Devil's Kitchen Performance Project which aims to present Edinburgh audiences with the work of the most provocative and engaging performing artists from Scotland and abroad. On this evening's bill are poet and novelist Barry Graham. dramatist and performer David McTeague. Californian poet Marina Blake and New York poet and ﬁction writer, Sharon Mesmer.
85 The List 20 May—2 June 1994