Mancunian, motor- mouthed performance poet Lemn Sissay steps off his soap box momentarily for Ann Donald.

Name Lenin Sissay.

Age 27.

Route to becoming a writer it's more emotional than practical. 1 had a need to express myself. There was a voice at the back of tny head my thoughts -— and i wanted to express these thoughts freely. i started performing when l was twenty years old.

Previous [obs A bleach and washing-up liquid maker. 1 spent five years as a literature development officer at a community publishers in Manchester. 1 also had a gutter cleaning service when l was eighteen called Aswad Gutter Cleaning Service until someone stole my ladders.

Dally routine There is no routine to my normal day: that‘s the beauty of what i do, no boredom, just constant stimulation. Ella Fitzgerald once said: ‘l’m never bored because l'm never boring.‘ and that is arrogant but true. 1 do everything from replying to mail, returning phone calls, packing my bags to go and do a gig, writing my poetry, couple of calls to my agent. lots of tea and coffee. and maybe a meeting or two.

Influences 1 don‘t have any. Ambitions ljust did a massive one this year. in finding my family. i spent ten years looking for them. 1 did a documentary for BBC2 about me going back to Ethiopia and America to find them. Other than finding your family, 1 don't think you can get a higher ambition.

Fears i seriously fear shopping. 1 can go out in front of an audience of 4000. but ljust can't go shopping when there are loads of people about.

Income 1 can't tell you that, no way! Okay. it's more than £40,000. Don't print that, though.

Lenin Sissay is a performance poet appearing on Sat 20 Jan at the CCA. Glasgow as part of the M otormouth poetry series. See Theatre listings.

g [331%— BACKGROUND NOISE I Women In The Background Barry Humphries (Heinemann £14.99) The protagonist of this novel, Derek Pettyfer, is a cultured Australian performer and satirist. better and internationally known as his frumpish on-screen alter ego, Mrs Petty. A bit like and hey. this is the clever bit Barry ‘Dame Edna‘ Humphries.

Er, that‘s it. There doesn't really seem ; to be a plot. Pettyfer's past is being unwelcomer exhumed by an unauthorised biographer; he gets

married and finds his home life taken away from him. then begins to doubt the trustworthiness of his friend and manager. The book is more a list of tired character descriptions. reheated leftovers from some time in the mid- 80s. Y'know: mud raking journos, agents, advertising types, concept artists, Sloane rangers. accountants. And some pretty dull sex.

A couple (count ‘em) of laughs aside, nothing much happens, and it fails to happen in particularly uninteresting ways. The sad thing is. one rather suspects Humphries is entirely aware of this himself. (Damien Love)


I Cross Channel Julian Bames (Jonathan Cape £13.99) Could it be that Julian Barnes has found a way of uniting Britain and France. a task which regularly confounds our politicians? A respected author here and abroad, he has crafted ten tales highlighting the complex, often awkward relationship between the two countries. and gathered them together under the title Cross Channel.

Bames writes with intelligence and astute observation —— his characters are

as diverse as his styles, and his knowledge of the two cultures is admirable. Perhaps the key to the whole collection is the final tale Tunnel, based in the near future when the Channel Tunnel has become an accepted part of travel.

He brings together his thoughts and themes on Anglo-French worlds. evaluating how they collide disastrously or merge comfortably. if we can acknowledge an auld. somewhat uneasy, alliance, we must also learn to shout: ‘vive la differénce.‘ (Paul W. Smith)


I Last Orders Graham Swift (Picador £15.99) At first glance. Graham Swift’s latest novel sets itselfa simpler and less literary task than his modern classic Hitter/and. Three elderly Londoners travel from Berrnondsey with the son of their recently deceased drinking buddy to take his ashes to their final resting place at the end of Margate pier. ' Layers are stripped from what once seemed like dull and routine lives, and it becomes clear that tension holds the group together as much as loyalty.

These unpretentious, salt-of—the-earth pensioners represent an English working-class generation facing up to its own last orders. Their culture denies them the comfort of releasing emotions out loud. and so Swift's short chapters of inner monologue reveal unspoken truths to the character and the reader at the same time. Given the nanative‘s main thrust, with its close touch of mortality, the memories and concerns that surface have an air of the confessional and a disarmineg moving sense ofeveryday loss. (Alan

; Morrison)


I GIobe-Trotter’s Bible 1996 Katie Wood (HarperCollins £9.99) The annual post- festive combination of glossy holiday ads and personal financial ruin is undoubtedly sadistic but not entirely insurmountable. Targeting impoverished travellers. this well-structured guide spans the globe pinpointing budget-beating ticket tips and cheap accommtxiation. restaurants and entertainment. Coupled with reams of practical information, this is an ideal springboard to your dream destination.

I Behind The Scenes At The Museum Kate Atkinson (Black Swan £6.99)

Edinburgh-based writer Atkinson won the 1995 Whitbread First Novel award with this story ofa Yorkshire family frorn the turn of the century to the present day. Related by the impulsive Ruby. both the ordinary and extraordinary is brought to life with a solid narrative and blunt humour. See preview.

I Sunrise With Sea Monster Neil Jordan (Vintage £5.99) A slim but expansive third novel from film director Jordan. Young lrishman Donal Gore is imprisoned in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. There he reflects upon the chain of events which caused his incarceration. Politics plays its part. but at the core are his turbulent. destructive relationships with his father and youthful stepmother.

I POPism Andy Warhol and Pat llackett (Pitnlico £10) Much wood pulp has gone

to waste in the name of Warhol but I’Ol’ism is definitely worth a tree or two.

I The first paperback edition of a volume

1 published in 1981, six years before his

i death. this is Warhol's brilliantly written 1 personal record of the 60s. Colourful,

f comical and captivating.

l I The Deeps Of The Sea And Other

T Fiction George Steiner (Faber and Faber

3 £12.99) Steiner's background as a

§ heavyweight academic permeates his

i fiction with a certain dryness but also

1 provides a unique perspective. This

{ collection. with an introduction by John Banville comprises a novel, three novellas and five short stories written between

9 1956 and 1992. Specific in place anti

I political climate. Steiner takes us frotn the : Amazonian forests to post-Marxist ltaly.

1 (Susan Mackenzie)


I Thomas Behan Wed 17 J an, 6.30pm. Dillons, 174-6 Argyle Street, 248 4814.

- The publisher‘s launch of Behan’s new book about the ltalian mainland Mafia

; ('amorra (Routledge £30), with a reading

1 and signing by the author.

i I Asatetida, Pink Sly and Adisa Fri 19

: Jan, 8pm. £3 (£1). CCA, 350 Sauchiehall

Street. 332 7521. Performance poetry -—

see Theatre listings for details.

I Lemn Sissay and Colin Thorpe Sat 20

Jan. 8pm. £3 (£1). CCA. 350 Sauchiehall

l l l l 1 EE_ i l


Street, 332 7521. Performance poetry see Theatre listings for details.

I Chris Dolan Thurs 25 Jan, 6.30pm. Dillons, 174—6 Argyle Street, 248 4814. The recipient of last year's Macallan short story award reads from his new collection of vignettes Poor Angels and Other Stories (Polygon £7.99), which includes his winning entry ‘Sleet and Snow'.

I Creative Writing Workshops Wednesday evenings, 7.15—9. 15pm. Williarnwood High School, Clarkston. Former student of Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter, Paul Houghton holds a ten- week course in writing techniques for

= beginners and advanced writers. Topics

Julian Barnes

covered include short stories. novels. screenplays and contemporary literature. Contact Paul for details on 639 7160.


I Will Hutton Thurs 18 Jan, 1pm. £10 (including three—course lunch). ' Waterstone‘s. 13/14 Princes Street, 556 3034. Top economist and author Will Hutton joins forces with I’mspt't't magazine for lunch and a chance to discuss the issues raised in his hugely successful book The State We 71’ In (Vintage £7.99). I Alan Spence Tue 23 Jan, 7.30pm. Waterstone's. 83 George Street, 225 3436. The Edinburgh author reads from and signs copies of his new book Stone Garden and other stories (Orion £8.99). Refreshments provided. I Julian Barnes Tue 23 Jan, 7pm. Waterstone's. 13/14 Princes Street. 556 3034. The popular author reads from and scribbles his signature on copies of his new collection of short stories entitled Cross Channel (Jonathan Cape £13.99). Wine will be served.

1 I Joe Simpson Wed 24 Jan, 7pm.

Waterstone‘s. 13/14 Princes Street. 556 3034. Following his previous autobiographical works 'Iout'hing The Void and This Game of Ghosts, the climber returns with more tales of adventure and bravery in Storms of Silence (Random House £16.99). Signed copies can be reserved in advance. Wine

will be served.

82 The List 12-25 Jan 1996