V UNDER THE COVERS
Singer and actress Clare Grogan reveals her penchant for first novels and aversion to holidays in Morocco.
‘At the moment I’m reading Iain Banks’ book Complicity. I really like his books because he writes about people I know. It’s a thriller so I wasn’t sure if I was going to get into it or not as I’m not that keen on thriller-type books but even though he’s got quite a masculine point of view he’s quite easy to read. The other reason I like him is because when I’m out of Scotland I really love reading about places and people l’know. I think it’s entirely sentimental.
‘l’m also a bit of a sucker for first novels, particularly if they’ve had a bit of attention. Sometimes you come across a real gem like Esther Freud’s book Hideous Kinky which is about a wee girl that goes with her mum to Morocco. It’s a really, really beautiful book. And, in fact, I’ve been to Morocco and had a really bad experience there so if I’d read this book before I’d gone I would have gone with different eyes and I would have been much more prepared. I didn’t realise that people were going to be offended by the clothes I wore or how hard it was to get your hands on a bottle of alcohol. She writes about Morocco in a really magical way. All that magic was all evident when I was there but I chose not to see that side of it and only see the down side — the seedy part and the lack of alcohol.
‘The other book that I’ve just finished is called Saving Agnes by Rachel Cusk. It won me over in the end but there was a point when I thought I don’t know if I can read this, which is very rare for me. I couldn’t relate to it at all. I know maybe it’s quite narrow of me but I really need to identify with people that I read about. This was just an experience that I couldn’t relate to at all. It was really English ahd middle-class and I really wanted to shake the character. The first half of the book was quite unbearable. At one pointl really couldn’t have cared less = what happened to her and then I reached a turning point and decided to finish the book.
‘When I was younger I read all the books you were expected to read but now I just read for pleasure and read whatever I want and never read anything too heavy because I just can’t be bothered anymore. I did all my heavy-weight reading when I was at school which I loved - stuff like Charles Dickens. They are quite laboured books in a way and you really have to be committed to them, particularly because they’re so long. I could do that when I was younger I don’t know if I’d have the patience now. I like really short books. I still read all the time and I’ve always got at least two books on the go.’
I In Pharaoh’s Army Tobias Wolff (Bloomsbury £12.99) In this Vietnam
I The Complete Stories Alice Walker (The Wornen’s Press £15.99) This definitive volume brings together the two collections In Love and Trouble and You Can '1 Keep A Good Woman Down by the award-winning novelist. poet and essayist. In her preface to the book she aptly describes the ﬁrst collection as being ‘Concerned with women who barely realise they have a place in the world’ while the second deals with those who ‘have freed their imaginations and their tongues'. These are stories inspired by her own life and those around her as she grew up in the American South and went ‘wondering and dreaming‘ around the world.
It is a shimmering collection which is diverse. poignant. sad and unsentimentally hardhitting; from the shocking fate of an adolescent girl in love in The Child Who Favoured Daughter to the clinical precision of a
memoir, Wolff is a young ofﬁcer assigned to a unit in the Mekong Delta. While he recognises he has no taste for war and little talent for military life, he fumbles his way through, saving a dog from becoming stew and his own skin from a grenade under his jeep, a falling gun and a comrade with a grudge against him.
This is all OK but the documentary Style Wolff has chosen over a fictional one is ﬂat and prosaic and doesn’t make much sense when a 27-year-old dialogue is lovingly re-created. Even then. characters are not developed and much of the writing is shamefully sloppy; take ’terrifrc guy though, solid as a rock’ or ‘She had a round face full of physical good nature’.
Needless to say. the elliptical beauty to be found in Wolff’s exquisite short stories is absent here and some may find his reverence for Hemingway hard to swallow. (Paul Houghton)
young wife’s infidelity in The Lover— ’she wanted nothing from him beyond
: the sensation of being in love itself.’
Walker‘s women are all striving to be
self-sufficient, even the ones who don’t : win. (Katy Lironi)
TINTIN TRIPS OUT
I TinTin In The New World — A Romance Frederic Tutcn (Minerva £5.99) Tutcn mercilessly takes the simplistic and obvious elements from the TinTin series and imposes upon them a clever. clever style that only ceases to be annoying when the plot line that the young reporter is subjected to irritates even more.
The language is so carefully
constructed that it reads as if it’s been translated through three languages and back again. In parodying the original books. Tutcn does so in such a laboured way that the smile of recognition quickly fades. The novel narrows the wide eyes of the character by broadening his experience, introducing him to sex and death in a way that is so totally at odds with the character that the book can serve as nothing more than a literary folly in the grounds of Marlinspik Hall. (Rory Weller)
I Ten Tales and True Alasdair Gray (Penguin £5.99) Unmistakably the work of the polemic ‘Glasgow pedestrian'. yet substantially more accessible to the masses than previous offerings. this addictive collection features trademark dollops of politicking. very scary women. wicked wit and allusions to futurism and surrealism. The whole is actually twelve tales plus prologue and notes, all charmingly illustrated and laced with marginalia. Thoroughly satisfying.
I Fag llag Robert Rodi (Plume £6.99) A bitchy, kitschy trawl through Chicago's gay scene, Rodi’s excellent debut novel suggests he’s got a bright future. Natalie loves Peter but Peter loves men. So far, her ingenious conniving has sabotaged all possible relationships but now she is faced with the unﬂappable Lloyd. How far is she prepared to go? Vibrant, twisted and sporting a flamboyant supporting cast. Read.
I Rain Kirsty Gunn (Faber and Faber £5.99) Janey and Jim spend their summer days by the lake in a world of childhood fantasy while their parents throw parties and stumble through their stale marriage. Understated, seductive and ﬂowing prose underpins a deep sense of loss and longing but these 95 pages fail to explore the issues deeply enough, the result, like the central theme, watery.
I The Picador Book of Crime Writing
' Edited by Michael Dibdin (Picador £6.99)
The Kinder Egg of killings er al. this meaty anthology offers short stories. novel extracts and critical analysis in one, spanning time (Poe to PD. James) and style (Chandler to Chekov).
,e Comprehensive. informative and at times
surprising. this is a solid. well-constructed companion, essential for the crime fan, attractive to the casually interested, perfect for dipping into.
I Black Betty Walter Mosley (Serpent's Tail £7.99) Mosley is deservedly featured in the aforementioned anthology as this latest outing for his Afro-American PI Easy Rawlins proves. Set against the backdrop of the Kennedy administration. Easy is hired to find ‘Black Betty’ a woman who has used her wiles to create trouble wherever she goes. Terse. streetwise writing with a genuine sense of suspense and excitement. (Susan MacRockchick)
The Motherwell writer of the year competition has been launched. with this year’s theme being ’Secrets'. A short piece of fiction or a poem should be submitted by Friday 25 Nov. Entry forms are available from any local district library or call Mark Cox on 0698 266166 ext 2548 for more details.
I Roddy Martine and Patrick Douglas- Hamilton Tue 8. 6.30pm. John Smith & Son. 57 St Vincent Street. 221 7472. A launch for one very glossy coffee-table- type book called Scotland: The Land and the Whisky (John Murray £29.95). A very impressive photographic book that traces the history of our national drink.
I Jack Vettriano Thurs 10. 7pm. John Smith & Son. 252 Byres Road. 334 2769. The artist and writer W. Gordon Smith are on hand for this launch of Fallen Angels (Pavilion £16.99). a book that has work from contemporary Scottish authors accompanying his paintings.
I The Body Shop Mon 7. 6.30pm.
Waterstone’s. 57 George Street. 225 4495. An evening of massage. skin care and make-over demonstrations from two representatives from The Body Shop promoting their Roddick-inspired book The Body Shop (Little Brown £16.99).
I Roddy Martine and Patrick Douglas- Hamilton Wed 9. 6.30pm. Waterstone’s, I28 Princes Street. 226 2666. An Edinburgh launch for the glossy coffee- table photography book about our national drink. Scotland: The Whisky and the [and (John Murray £29.95).
I Essential lntemet lnfonnatlon Guide Wed 9. 7pm. Waterstone‘s, 128 Princes Street. 226 2666. A demonstration from the computer whizz kid Jason Manger on the latest mode ofcommunication to plug his book published by McGraw Hill at £22.95.
I Tobias Wolff Fri 11. 7.30pm. Waterstone’s. 83 George Street, 225 3436. The author of This Boy’s Life. later made
into a film starring Robert de Niro and Ellen Barkin reads from the sequel about his time as a soldier during the Vietnam war, In Pharaoh 's Anny (Bloomsbury £12.99).
I Jack Vettriano Tue 15. 7pm. Waterstone's, 128 Princes Street. 226 2666. Another meet and greet with the artist to promote his book of paintings, Fallen Angels (Pavilion £16.99).
I George MacDonald Fraser Tue 15, 7.30pm. Waterstone’s, 83 George Street, 225 3436. The famous author of the Flashman series is on hand to launch his Well-researched book on military history Quartered Safe Out Here (Harper Collins £16).
I larousse Encyclopedia Of Wine Wed 16, 6.30pm. James Thin, 53—55 South Bridge. 556 6743. A massive wine tasting session to launch the Encyclopedia edited by Christopher Faulkes and published by Larousse at £30.
The List 4—17 November 1994 87