Former New York Times reporter Dava Sobel, who made horology sexy with her novel Longitude, reveals to Ann Donald that she was once a human guinea pig.

ilame Dava Sobel.

Age 49.

Previous Jobs 1 worked on the switchboard for an advertising agency. was a Christmas clerk at Tiffany's and for one month once was a human science experiment that looked at the individual ’s daily rhythms; which meant i got totally disorientated as they kept me awake day and night.

lioute to becoming a writer l’ve always wanted to write and have always been interested in science, but 1 didn’t know at school that you could do both. To be honest, i fell into writing by accident. as I changed my subject every semester. But then after university I got a job on a newspaper and my first feature was about Earth Day and then it grew from there. The book came from an article that was considered so esoteric that it nearly didn‘t get published.

Daily routine This depends on the day and whether l’m working on a book or being a journalist. When 1 was writing the book 1 got up every morning at 5am and often wrote for ten hours at a time. Influences Carl Sagan was a tremendous influence as l remember going to hear him at a public lecture and after that was turned onto astronomy. John McPhee from The New Yorker magazine is a tremendous writer as is Joan Didion, whose philosophising is as good as her writing. Diane Archer my friend is a poet and prose writer 1 also admire. Ambitions l'm living out part of my dream right now with this book. Other than that l'd like to see science presented as part of everyday life and not as separate.

Fears Yes - that my ubiquity becomes obnoxious!

Income i honestly don't know. But i do know that 1’" be able to pay back a lot of debts with this windfall!

Dava Sobel is novel Longitude is published by Fourth Estate at £12.


I Soho Square Vii: New Scottish Writing edited by Harry Ritchie (Bloomsbury £8.99) With this admirably eclectic anthology, Ritchie, the Scots-bom literary editor of The Times, states his intention to ‘celebrate the extraordinary boom in Scottish literature' the renaissance of letters that is inducing intellectual swoons across the media gamut from The New Yorker to ScotRail's Horizons magazine.

Obviously a worshipper at the church of catholic reading, Ritchie covers most bases, in terms of his 23 contributors’ perspective. age, level of fame and favoured language, be it Scots. Gaelic or vernacular. The collection ranges from well-heeled Candia McWilliam to political Tom Leonard, from ubiquitous lrvine Welsh to unsung wonder John Burnside.

it is a reflection of the buoyant state of play that this anthology conforms to neither London nor Scottish meeja literati box nor to any convenient school-of-writing tag, but is content to revel in its own healthy diversity. (Ann Donald)


I Accordion Crimes E. Annie Proulx (Fourth Estate £16.99) Proulx (pronounced like ‘shoe’) is an author for whom the word ‘brilliant’ was invented. After her second novel The Shipping News spun the critics into a tiny of superlatives, she comes roaring back with this breathtakingly expansive novel so glorious that each word demands to be caressed. inhaled and mulled over like an errant loved one.

With truly poetic weirdness, Proulx constructs her odyssey of the multiple American immigrant identity around a green, two-row button-accordion that is passed from Sicilian creator to Germans in Iowa, to Basques in Montana. to Poles in lllinois and Cajuns from Canada, in a lively ethnic game of pass-the-parcel. By turns gruesome, passionate and astonishing. Accordion Crimes is the story of 20th century America retold by a vigorous imagination. (Ann Donald)


I Screen Violence Edited by Karl French (Bloomsbury £9.99) In our post-Bulger, post-Natural Born Killers world of moral panics, an intelligent discussion on the nature and effects of screen violence was long overdue. These 24 short essays weigh straight in with the polemic, pitting Camille Paglia and Martin Amis (in favour) versus Michael Medved and Mary Whitehouse (firmly against). But while the latter’s turgid and simplistic appeals to the moral high ground fall flat. it is Will Self 's well-written arguments against screen violence which stand up.

French knows there is more to the

debate than moral posturing, however. and quickly turns towards the nature of the beast. The main body of the book is taken up with a well-rounded and highly readable selection of opinions, from film director John Waters's sick ‘Why 1 Like Violence' to ex- paratrooper Harry McCallion’s fascinating ‘The Movies, Me and Violence‘. A welcome read for anyone interested in violence, cinema or censorship, which is spoilt by too many glaring spelling mistakes. (Thom Dibdin)

Screen Violence is the subject of a debate led by The List'sfilm editor Alan Morrison at the CCA. Glasgow. on Sat 1 9 at 2pm.


I Oswald’s Tale Norman Mailer (Abacus £12.99) Subtitled ‘An American Mystery' this, essentially. is a biography of Lee Harvey Oswald - from childhood, through the ‘Russia years' to his Dallas demise which lulls the reader into considering and absorbing complex political issues through a gripping veneer of domesticity. An extensively researched 791 pages which allows the facts to tell the tale. Undeniany excellent.

I OZ At The End Oi The World Bill Flanagan (Bantam £7.99) Flanagan travelled with U2 throughout the Zooropa tour and this is what he saw. One can only surmise. therefore, that this publication, which ties in with the release of the new album of the same name is something of a retro cash cow. Readable, if occasionally sickeningly pretentious, it appeals to fans but loses the merely curious.

I The Star Fraction Ken Macleod (Legend £5.99) Science fiction debut for a Queensferry lad (and crony of lain Banks) which was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award. Despite a full house of futuristic must-haves (scary super- weapons. mind-altering drugs. political power struggles), it succeeds in avoiding clichés (bar the odd dodgy character name) to produce quite an exciting picture of opposing factions in global peace processes.

I Bad Seed lan Johnston (Abacus £7.99) The biography of Nick Cave. the uncategorisable gothic musician who everyone claims to admire but rarely listens to. kicks off with his arrival in Britain from Australia in 1982; and the creation of seminal outfit The Birthday Party. Enveloping drugs, dramatics and literary ambitions, this is competently written. As Kylie Minogue enthuses on the cover, ‘so interesting!’.

I Microserts Douglas Coupland (Flamingo £5.99) This is the world of the real Generation X. At Microsoft, Bill Gates is God, revered and feared by his serfs, computer nerds who work all the hours Bill sends, and fill their fleeting momean of leisure with mindless consumerism. Microserfs, a catalogue of such lives in bite-size pieces underlines the futility of it all. Superb. (Susan Mackenzie)


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David Barman Fri 4 Oct, 7pm. John Smith’s. 252 Byres Road. 334 2769. The lead singer with The Silver Jews reads a selection of short stories, lyrics and

poems. Pavel Buchler Fri 4 Oct, 6—7.30pm. CCA. 350 Sauchiehall Street. 332 0522. The artist, author and GSA lecturer reads from and signs copies of his new book Random Access 2 (Rivers Oram £9.95).

lain Crichton Smith Sat 5 Oct, lpm. Free. Collins Gallery, 22 Richmond Street, 552 4400 ext 2682. The popular Scottish author and poet gives a reading in the run- up to National Poetry Da .

Brian Patten and lento Sissay Sat 5 Oct. 7.30pm. Free. Birgidale Complex, 10 Stravanan Street. Castlemilk. info: 634 2603. Patten reads from his new poetry collection Armada, while the increasingly popular Sissay follows on from his successful Motor Mouths appearance at the CCA earlier this year. Part of Castlemilk Writers Festival.

Terry Jones Tue 8 Oct. 1—2pm. John Smith’s. 57 St Vincent Street, 221 7472.

National poet? The revered laln Crichton Smith reads his work at the Collins Gallery tor liationai Poetry Day, Sat 5 Oct

Writer, comic actor and director Jones reads from the illustrated screenplay of his forthcoming film The Wind In The Willows (Compact £7.99).

Andrew O’Hagan, Janice Galloway and Chris liolan Tue 8 Oct, 6.30pm. Dillons. 174—76 Argyle Street, 248 4814. Three Glasgow authors pool their literary talents. read from their latest titles (The Missing, Where You Find It and Poor Angels respectively), and share their thoughts on Glasgow writing.

James Knowiaon Wed 9 Oct. 6.30pm. Free. CCA. 350 Sauchiehall Street, 332 0522. The author talks about his twenty- year friendship with Samuel Beckett, and reads from his new biography on the writer Damned To Fame: The Life Of Samuel Beckett (Bloomsbury £25). Sweet, Sour Anti Serious Thurs 10 Oct.

6.30pm. CCA, 350 Sauchiehall Street. 332 0522. The launch of Survivors’ Poetry debut anthology, with readings from a variety of contributors. both professional and amateur. Part of National Poetry Day.

Poetry Evening Thurs 10 Oct, 8pm. Brel. Ashton Lane. The new bar/restaurant hosts an evening of verse for National Poetry Day. with Viv Gee, Roger Robinson and many others.

Chocolate Art Fri 11 Oct. 8pm. The Velvet Rooms. 520 Sauchiehall Street. Tickets from 227 5511. An evening of urban poetry with Roger Robinson, Akure Wall and Remi Abbas, with jazz and hip hop accompaniment. Part of the Ten Day Weekend.

William Gibson Mon 14 Oct. 1—2pm. John Smith’s. 252 Byres Road, 334 2769. The king of virtual literature signs copies of his new novel ldoru (Viking £16).

Edwin Morgan Wed 16 Oct, 8pm. £4 (£2). Ramshom Theatre. 98 Ingram Street. 552 3489. As part of the University of Strathclyde’s ‘Surfing The Universe' festival. the esteemed poet reads a selection of his sciencewelated poetry. Women (in The Case Thurs 17 Oct. 2pm. £4 (£2). CCA. 350 Sauchiehall Street, 332 0522. Authors Val McDermid, Stella Duffy and Maxim Jakubowski lead a panel discussion on women and crime fiction. Part of the Reading Lights series.


‘OOThe List 447 Oct 1996