Writer, critic and historian Marina Warner is appearing in conversation as part of the Traverse Theatre’s Meet The Author week. She talks about the books she’s been reading on one of her many train journeys around the country.

Marina Warner

‘I do most of my reading on trains as it’s the only time you get totally away from the telephone. I’m going to Belfast as a visiting professor so I’ve been trying to read about Northern Ireland.

“On the train I read Paul Muldoon’s new book of poetry called The Annals of Chile. It has this incredibly beautiful elegy for a woman who died of cancer and who was an artist in Northern Ireland. It’s called Incantata and is a very haunting poem. Muldoon is a wonderful wordsmith and has got an incredible musical use of words. Of course, trains are very good for reading poetry on because of their lullaby rhythm.

‘There’s also a very, very long poem called Jarrow which takes one through Muldoon’s childhood, growing up with a Gaelic speaking mother. It’s not about the Troubles at all, like other Northern Irish poets who address the topic head on, but it sort of beats underneath the surface of his experiences. The entire poem is like one extra long childhood adventure about all the things Muldoon used to read when he was a child, like Robinson Crusoe and Star Trek, in which real life keeps breaking in.

‘Then I moved onto Sally Belfridge’s book The Crack - A Belfast Year. She was an extraordinary journalist who died of cancer and was a good friend of mine. She was a very brave, experimental journalist, always working very closely with the people who were undergoing the experiences she was reporting. The Crack is supposed to be one of the best books about what life in Northern Ireland Is like. It’s an extraordinary piece of on- the-ground reporting. It’s not about politics, it’s a book that records how people from all sides of the spectrum spend their days. She had a wonderful ear and without ever being sentimental, she had an extremely strong sense of justice and the impact of oppression on people’s lives.’ (Ann Donald)


I The Silent Woman Janet Malcolm (Picador £14.99) The art of writing a good biography is a tricky one. particularly when the subject is Sylvia Plath. Her good-girl. fragrant looks have never really matched the ‘not-nice persona‘ of/Iriel and Tire Bell Jar. Her intense. stormy relationship with Ted Hughes. her tenible suicide at the age of 30 and the subsequent veil of silence and secrecy that have surrounded her literary estate. have all contributed to the mythology that numerous biographers have reinforced.

Janet Malcolm. an admired journalist in her native America. has written a

provocative and intriguing book, as much about the nature of biography as it is about Sylvia Plath. Malcolm makes a brilliant analysis of the hostility with which Ted Hughes has been ‘judged' since Plath’s death. Her suicide has locked him in time as the unfaithful, deserting husband, an image he has reinforced by his apparent silence and reticence concerning her unpublished work. Malcolm is generous to Hughes where others have not been, in fact she unashamedly lumps herself in the Hughes camp, which will doubtless create waves. The difference is she knows what she's doing and why. and it’s hard to think of her book as anything other than the definitive book on the Plath-Hughes legacy. (Lila Rawlings)


I Open Secrets Alice Munro (Chatto £14.99) Canadian by birth. Munro captures the harsh history and wild geography of her homeland from its early pioneering days to the present in eight luminous stories of great simplicity and sudden opaque depths. wandering in and out ofcountries, timescapes and relationships, all with captivating ease.

Beneath the surface normality of life in two rural towns lie the themes of


I Cutting Teeth (£1.99 Available from Waterstone's Booksellers) As Carl MacDougall says in his introduction, ‘The Scottish literary magazine is a small and diminishing world’, and Cutting Teeth is his attempt to support new writers. bolstered by a few old favourites.

It’s no Rebel Inc, although there is a crossover of contributors. The writing is perhaps more conventional, the

passion. simmering violence. murder. the intrigue of correspondence, unresolved mystery and the ambiguity of identity.

The Douds of Carstairs are a central family in the book and it is a horrific incident that occurs in their factory in the opening story Carried Away that sets the pace for subsequent intrigue. passion and submerged violence. Each of Munro's stories is to be lingered over. kept separately intact as a unique treasure. (Katy Lironi)

subject matter less extreme and the treatment of day to day realities in many of the stories and poems owes more to Galloway than Welsh.

There is some good solid writing though. presented via some stylish typesetting. Dilys Rose and Duncan McLean. in particular. contribute atmospheric stories and these, together with writing by Agnes Owens, Graham Fulton and Janet Paisley, suggest that the magazine certainly has a promising future. (Toni Davidson)


I lives Of The Great Songs edited by Tim de Lisle (Pavilion £14.99) Biographies of some of our era‘s classics, looking at what inspired them, whose hands they've fallen into and what's happened to them on the way. Thirty-six are dealt with here. including My Funny Valentine, The Tracks Of My Tears, Take Me To The River and Smells Like Teen Spirit.

I too Great Albums Of The Sixties John Tobler (Little. Brown £9.99) No more interesting or insightful than anyone else‘s list. and the notes about each choice are cursory. A magazine feature that got ideas above its station.

I Last Train To Memphis Peter Guralnick (Little. Brown £17.99) What. another Elvis biog? At least Guralnick, author of Sweet Soul Music, Lost Highway. and Searching For Robert Johnson. is one of the great chroniclers of blues and the birth of rock'n'roll. This one follows the Pelv up to mom Gladys's death in 1958. and tries at all to times to keep Elvis The Myth out of the frame. focusing on the truck-driving kid from Memphis. For the karate and the nappies. we have to wait till Part 2.

I Revolution In The Head: The Beatles’ Records And The Sixties Ian MacDonald (Fourth Estate £15) Sounds unprornising at first: a chronological inventory of all available Beatles tracks with data and analyses by the author. What's to separate this from countless exhaustive and exhausting Beatles trivia books? Looking up just one entry can be fatal: even the most casual of Fab Four fans could be ensnared for hours.

I The Great White Wonders: A History Of Rock Bootlegs Clinton Heylin (Viking £18) Long overdue. an alternative history of rock music on record, tracing sanity/at recording from shorthand copyists bootlegging Shakespeare's plays in the Globe to the luxuriously-packaged CD sets of today. It's a highly attractive book. but it makes me yearn for a separate section with track listings and other vital statistics. What a trainspotter. (Alastair Mabbott)



I McVites Prize Winner Tue 25. 7pm. Waterstone's. 132 Union Street. 221 0890. The live announcement of the shortlist for Scotland's premier book prize. accompanied by packets ofchocolate biscuits and wine. Glasgow's literati, past winners and shortlisted authors will be on hand to read from their work. Kelman. Galloway and McWilliam are rumoured to be hot tips.

I Sarah Bunant Sat 29. 2.30pm. £1.50/50p. CCA. 350 Sauchiehall Street. 332 0522. The Late Show presenter and editor of Tire War of the Words (Virago £7.99) chairs a discussion on PC and the arts with Lisa Appiganesi from the ICA and Deborah Cameron lecturer in Linguistics at Strathclyde University.

I Jancis Robinson Thurs 3, 6.30pm. John Smith & Son. 57 St Vincent Street, 22] 7472. The wine connoisseur and author of The Oxford Companion To Wine (Oxford £30) will be taking the audience through

their paces with a wine tasting.

I P.O. James Nov l, lprn. Waterstone's. 45—50 Princes Square. 221 9650. A signing only from the nation's premier crime writer and her latest Inspector Dalgleish creation Original Sin (Faber £14.99).


I McVites Prize Shortlist Tue 25, 7pm. Waterstone's, 83 George Street. 225 3436. The shortlist for Scotland's most prestigious book prize is announced amid a mound of chocolate digestives and bottles of wine. Past winners and shortlisted authors will be on hand to read from their work. Rumour has it that McWilliam and Galloway feature among the five.

I John Mortimer Thurs 27, 7.30pm. Waterstone's. 83 George Street. 225 3436. The former advocate turned author will be reading from his autobiography Murderers and Other Friends (Viking £17).

I nyona Campbell Fri 28. 7pm. Waterstone's. I28 Princes Street. 226 2666. As seen on TV. the world walker and Janet Street-Porter’s favourite pal will be reading from On Foot Through Africa (Orion £16.99) which tells the story of her walk from Cape Town to Tangier.

I Roderick Anscombe Tue 1. 7pm. Waterstone's, I28 Princes Street. 226 2666. A signing and reading from the author of The Secret Life Of Laszlo. Count Dracula (Bloomsbury £15.99). A truly Gothic evening is promised with blood. candles and lillies on the agenda.

I P.O. James Tue 1. 7.30pm. Waterstone's, 83 George Street, 225 3436. The nation's most popular thriller and crime writer is back on form with her

latest Inspector Dalgleish book Original Sin (Faber £14.99).

I Joseph Heller Sun 30. 12.30pm. Traverse Theatre. Cambridge Street. 228 I404. £3/£l .50. The first of seven events organised in conjunction with the Edinburgh Book Festival is launched with an appearance by Mr Catch 22 himself. talking about the sequel that's taken 33 years to write. Closing Time (Simon & Schuster £14.99).

I Simon Arrnitage, Hugo Williams and Don Paterson Mon 31. 7.30pm. Traverse Theatre, Cambridge Street. 228 I404. £3/£1.50. Three of the brightest New Generation Poets bring their verbal fireworks to town with readings from their res ective works.

I Colin Thubron Tue 1, 7.30pm. Traverse Theatre, Cambridge Street. 228 1404. £3/£l.50. The award-winning writer talks about The Lost Heart Of Asia (Heinemarin £16.99) which charts his 6000 mile journey through Central Asia.

I Barbara Trapldo, Lesley Glaister and Angela lambert Wed 2 Nov, 7.30pm. Traverse Theatre. Cambridge Street. 228 1404. £3/£l.50. Billed as an evening of passion with readings and conversation from three authors who employ the emotion to great effect in their respective books: Juggling (Hamish Hamilton £9.99) Partial Eclipse (Hamish Hamilton £14.99) and The Constant Mistress (Hamish Hamilton £14.99).

I Ma'rlna Warner Thurs 3 Nov. 7.30pm. Traverse Theatre. Cambridge Street. 228 1404. The novelist. historian and critic who dazzled us with BBC's Reith Lectures talks about her latest opus From The Beast 722 The Bio/rile (Chatto £20) which looks at the unfolding history of fairytales.

82 The List 21 October—3 November 1994