The Holy City
Meg Henderson (Flamingo, £12.99) *1:
’Anyone who has ever told anecdotes about the town will recognise parts of it here,’ says Meg Henderson of her novel The Holy City, set in wartime Clydebank.
This is undoubtedly true and you can understand Henderson's fascination with the stories of close-knit families suffering and rallying together during and after the blitz. However, the anecdotes are at times all too transparently just that, threaded together to fit in with the plot.
What is more, The Holy City is an uncritical, adoring portrait of 'Bankies', who are all implausibly couthy and stoical. You half expect it to come with free rose-tinted spectacles. (SN)
Under African Skies
Edited by Charles L. Larson (Payback Press £14.99) at ‘k *‘k
Choosing to be an author in Africa is not the cushiest of options. Financial hardship, censOrship, exile, or in the tragic case of Nigeria’s Ken Saro-Wiwa, execution, are just some of the ’rewards’ a writing career can bring.
All the more impressive then that this collection of modern African stories should showcase Just how rich a variety of literary voices the continent can boast.
Too rich at times. Covering everything from colonisation to Aids, and spanning Sudan to South Africa, the book’s babble of vorces becomes cac0phonous at times.
But keep listening, As a snapshot of an entire continent’s literature it may initially leave the reader travel sick, but there's too much good work here to be ignored.
And any collection that includes Ben Okri’s ’A Prayer From The Living' — a masterpiece in four pages which plugs you into the eyes of a famine Victim staring out at Western cameras — is worth a place On every bookshelf. (TJ)
Top ten Scottish books
1. Scotland's Parliament (The Stationary Office £6.50)
2. Song Of Stone Iain Banks (Little, Brown £16.99)
3. The Kiln William Mcllvanney (Sceptre £6.99)
4. Women Talking Dirty Isla Dewar (Hodder Headline £6.99)
5. Excession Iain M. Banks (Orbit £6.99) 6. Irvine Welsh Omnibus Irvine Welsh (Jonathan Cape £9.99)
7. Quite Ugly One Morning Christopher Brookmyre (Abacus £6.99) 8.Giving Up On Ordinary Isla Dewar (Review £9.99)
9. Sunset Song Lewis Grassic Gibbon (Canongate Classics £4.99)
10. Drums Of Autumn Diana Gabaldon (Vintage £5.99)
I Compiled by the Scottish Book Marketing Group.
92 THE LIST 12 Sep—ZS Sep 1997
Toby Litt (Secker and Warburg £9.99) * air at
Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of On The Road’s publication, this book pays tribute to and demolishes Kerouac's enduring novel.
When Mary meets three 905 'hipsters', living in a fantasy world of the 605, an understated tale of self- discovery begins. lack and Neal are obsessed with the 'beat' lifestyle. Despite realising they are frauds, Mary becomes infatuated with Jack and the narrative develops, through road trips, betrayal and group sex. ‘
While it is all quite fun, the characters are full of either self-love or self- Ioathing, so that you aren't as bothered as you should be when the ending delivers few answers. (SN)
Women In The Background
Barry Humphries (Mandarin £5.99) ***
The march of literary debuts from the pens of comedians continues, and Dame Edna's effort is thoroughly readable, undemanding and a touch caustic. Derek Pettyfer is at a career pinnacle but personal low. Enter a dirt- digging obituarist, ex-wife, kinky secretary and pervy dentist to liven up his exrstence and help loosen his grip on life. (SM)
Damned To Fame
James Knowlson (Bloomsbury £8.99) ****
At 872 pages of extreme depth and
Design For Dying Timothy Leary with R.U. Sirius (Thorson5'£15.99) * i: *
When Timothy Leary discovered he was dying of prostate cancer, the great psychedelic prankster and investigator of all things cosmic, unchartered and subversive, decided to leave behind an anti-authoritarian, digital. fun-loving perspective on death. Just over a year after he died, here it is - complete with a few suggestions on how to make death the experience of your life. As befits someone pondering their imminent demise and the potential future(s) of our species, much of this is science faction. To approach death with wit and fortitude, Leary believed you had to approach life in the same manner, so this is as much a design for life as death. And as befits the testimony of one who led by example. it is the design for an ultra-funky life. Leary's logic may be skimpy and leaps of faith vast, but he speaks profoundly to those who have already entertained his ideas or who have
Timothy Leary: designs on death
seen the world dissolve under a tab of LSD. (TD)
detail, this definitive biography of Samuel Beckett makes an excellent reference book but exhausting read. Knowlson has dedicated his writing career to Beckett and his works, spending five months with the man for this volume. Free access to Beckett's family, friends and unpublished documents adds impetus to a scholarly work. (SM)
REVIEWERS THIS ISSUE Thom Dibdin, Teddy Jamieson, Susan Mackenzie, Stephen Naysmith.
STAR RATINGS * t * ﬁr * Unmissable * it ‘k * Very ood t t t Wort a shot * * Below average it You’ve been warned
Assunta Arrighi Hood Fri I: Sep. 7pm. John Smiths. 57 St Vincent Street. 22l 7472. An evening of poetry with Arrighi Hood reading from her new collection ll’lierted Wisdom (VA Publications £4.99). Owen O'Neill and Rita Ann Higgins Fri l2 Sep. 8pm. £5 (£2). CCA. 350 Sauchiehall Street. 332 752 l. The C(‘A's season of new lrish literature and poetry performances kicks off with a double bill featuring ()wen O'Neill. reading from the C‘C‘A's commissioned piece T/It’ Men Who Cried l-‘or Ire/and. ()n Sat l3 Sep. O‘Neill is joined by performance poet Rita Ann Higgins. See Drama & dance listings.
Oiche Chonarara Sun I4 Sep. 8pm. £5 (£2). CCA. 350 Sauchiehall Street. 332 7251. Informal evening with some of the finest Gaelic traditional poets. accompanied by singers and musicians from the Conamara Gaeltacht in the west of Ireland.
Meg Henderson Mon l5 Sep. 7pm. \Vaterstone's. l53—- l 57 Sauchiehall Street. 332 9 l()5. The author will be launching her new novel The Holy (in; A 'Ia/e ()l‘C'lgvde/iank (Flamingo £12.99). Ian McEwan Wed 17 Sep. 8pm. £2. Waterstone‘s. l53—l57 Sauchiehall Street. 332 9l()5. Mcl—Lwan will be here to read from his long-awaited new book [Enduring Im‘c’ (Jonathan Cape £15.99) and to take uestions about his work. Kissing And Telling Thu l8 Sep. 7pm. Waterstone‘s. 153—l57 Sauchiehall Street. 332 9l()5. The Polygon Women’s Fiction Tour celebrates their continued success for spotting new writing talent. with three new authors Ruth Thomas (Sea
Monster Tattoo). Siri Reynolds (House Of signing copies of his new book Bloodline
Rooms) and Margaret Burnett (Indians Don 'I K 13‘s).
Dermot Healy, Finton Valler and Bernard MacLaverty Thu l8 Sep. 8pm. £5 (£2). CCA. 350 Sauchiehall Street. 332 751. Continuing the CC‘A's [)id) Lines season. an evening of poetry. music. storytelling and readings. Nomad Thu 18 Sep. 8pm. The Tryst. Cresswell Street. 357 6838. Readings by various contributors to celebrate the launch of Survivors' Press second publication Nomad # 2 magazine. Norman Mailer Wed 24 Sep. 8pm. Waterstone's. 153-157 Sauchiehall Street. 332 9l()5. An opportunity to meet this legendary figure reading from his new book The (iospe/ xlt't'ril'r/I'Ilt' 7i) The Son (Abacus £ l4).
Peter Carey Thu 25 Sep. l—2pm. Waterstone's. l53—l57 Sauchiehall Street. 332 9l()5. The Booker Prize- winning author will be signing copies of his novel Jack Maggy (Faber £ l 5.99).
Ian Stewart Fri 12 Sep. 6.30pm. James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 5566743. A discussion on l'Tg’IIIt’Il/S (IfRea/ilv: lz‘i'o/nlion ()f’l'he (‘nrioas Mind (Cambridge University Press £ I699) with this professor of mathematics. Barry Cunliffe Tue l6 Sep. 7pm. James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 5566743. The author will be reading from his new book The Ancient Celts (Oxford University Press £25).
Kissing And Telling Wed I7 Sep. 7pm. James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. Readings from three new writers: Margaret Burnett. Ruth Thomas and Siri Reynolds. as part of the Polygon Women‘s Fiction Tour.
Laurence Gardener Wed l7 Sep. 7pm. Waterstone's. l3— l4 Princes Street. 556 3034. The author will be reading and
()_/"l'/ie Holy Grail (Element £5.99). Magnus Magnusson Thu l8 Sep. 7.30pm. £2 (tickets from the venue and Waterstone‘s. 83 George Street. 225 3436). Assembly Rooms. 54 George Street. 22() 4349. Mastermind has become a national institution and its presenter of 25 years will be in the chair to reveal some of the funniest moments of the quiz. in his book I've Started So I'll l’TIlfS/l (Little. Brown £l6.99). Edwina Currie Mon 22 Sep. 6.30pm. James Thin. George Street. 225 4495. The former Health Minister will be reading and signing copies of her new fiction novel S/ie 3' Leaving Home (Little. Brown £16.99).
Dr Derek Doyle Tue 23 Sep. 6pm. James Thin. 53—-59 South Bridge. 556 6743. The launch of The Oxford Terr/rook ()_/' Palliative Medicine (Oxford University Press £49.50).
Dorothy Rowe Wed 24 Sep. 7pm. Waterstone's. l3—l4 Princes Street. 556 3034. The renowned psychotherapist will be reading from her new book The Real .l’leanine ()f'Monev (Harper Collins £20). Meg Henderson Wed 24 Sep. 7pm. James Thin. 53--59 South Bridge. 556 6743. The author will talk about her new book The Holy ('il'v: .-l 'Iiile (IfC‘lyde/mn/r
(Harper Collins £12.99). : Peter Carey Thu 25 Sep. 7pm.
Waterstone's. l3-- l4 Princes Street. 556 3034. The Booker Prize-winning author will be reading from his new novel Jack Magus (Faber £ l 5.99 ).
Lesley Riddoch Sat 20 Sep. 3pm. liast Saltoun Kirk. near Pencaitland. 013! 662 4040. The broadcaster and Scots/nan journalist will give the Andrew Fletcher (‘omnienioration Address. speaking on the State of Scotland after the devolution referendum.