Kurt Vonnegut (Jonathan Cape £15.99) * *
Kurt Vonnegut turns 75 later this year, an age at which any seif-respecting pensioner would have long since hung up his typing ribbon and pOpped down to the Legion for a game of dominoes.
He would appear to be coming to the same conclusion, if the introduction to his latest fiction is to be believed. Timequake, he suggests, will be his last novel. That would be a pity because his literary career deserves to end on a higher note than this disappointing mess of a book.
Vonnegut’s narratives have always been more fractured than a Nic Roeg movie, but Timequake takes that process beyond breaking point.
A flimsy plot about a time-wrinkle which forces everyone in the year 2001 to relive the previous decade is never developed enough and the book degenerates into a stew of autobiography and old man’s ranting. His sweet folksy narrative voice is still undeniably compelling and there are a few laugh~out»loud moments, but the whole is more chaff than wheat. Vonnegut novices start anywhere but here. (TJ)
Jack Maggs Peter Carey (Faber And Faber £15.99)
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DickenSian London is the setting for 1985 Booker Prize winner Peter Carey's latest novel. You don't have to read it, but Great Expectations also provides Carey with his protagonists: the convict of the title escapes from Australia to return to London and meet a certain Harry Phipps, whose education he has been paying for, and claim him as his son. Magwitch and Pip anyone? There's also a celebrated novelist, Tobias Oates, who uses Maggs in his hypnotic experiments.
Although this dislocation of characters into a parallel London is fun, Jack Maggs is more than pastiche. It is an exploration of characters in search of affection and a respectable identity — people who have come from the wrong side of the fireplace, floundering in society. And if Carey
96 THE lIST 10 Oct—23 Oct 1997
runs out of steam towards the end, opting for a lazy ending, it does not detract from a thrilling and engaging story. (TD)
Sue Townsend (Methuen £12.99) ** *‘k
This novel couldn't be further from Sue Townsend's ongoing comic saga of Adrian Mole. Townsend has had two abortions herself, and there is a queasy authenticity about Ghost Children, her tale of a couple who meet again seventeen years after they aborted their first child.
Creepily obsessional ChristOpher rekindles his relationship with Angela, who still fantasises about the daughter she chose to lose. Meanwhile they encounter Tamara and Crackle — poverty stricken and abusive parents of a baby girl, Storme.
Told in the sparest of prose, this is an enthralling read. Townsend brings together half a dozen characters who are all deeply dysfunctional, yet retain the reader’s sympathy. But Ghost Children’s astonishing achievement is that it tackles this most emotive of subjects without preaching, and without coming down on one side or the other.
The conclusion, while satisfying, leaves plenty of loose ends and unsolved problems, but to have done it any other way would have been trite. (SN)
Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now
Barry Miles (Secker & Warburg £17.99) H * *
It’s a story that’s been told so many times, you wonder if anything new can be said. And besides a few more anecdotes and a slightly different slant, perhaps there isn’t. But at least Many Years From Now has two things going for it: McCartney’s co—operation, and an author who really was in the thick of Swinging London and knew The Beatles well.
Fittingly, given Miles's artistic background, he sets about demolishing the myth of Lennon as the ’avant- garde one’ early on. Being a native, he can establish the individual Beatles' places in the British class system with a subtlety that has eluded many other biographers. Centre stage, though, are
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McCartney’s own quotes; an insider's view which makes it one of the most essential Fabs books. It stops dead, with the breakup of The Beatles, thus avoiding McCartney’s potentially interesting and amusing perspective on Wings. Let's hope volume two is on the way. (AM)
A Load of Old Ball Crunchers
10 Brand (Pocket books £7.99) ****
Renowned for male-bashing, Brand evens the odds by turning her acerbic wit on the female of the species and rewriting history in the process. A no- holds barred extravaganza, no one is spared, from Simone de Beauvoir (’tight-arsed’) to Marilyn Monroe (had ’painful periods'), With credit being given only where it’s really due. Consistently funny. (SM)
Edited by Simon Kuper (Review £7.99) ink *
The current rampant respectability of footie bodes well for this, the first in a proposed series of volumes which aim to be ’a kind of football Granta’, showcasing original writing on the sport. On the theme of Home Ground, this looks at players’ roots, contributors including London Review of Books founder Karl Miller and Argentinian footballer Jorge Valdona. (SM)
Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll
Edited by Sarah LeFanu (Serpent's Tail £8.99) * it it
A great title elevates this short story collection which, frustratingly, is too uneven to justify its sub-title 'Stories To End The Century’. But, contrary to initial impressions, this volume is more than one big Welshesque pastiche. Re- inventing past icons is a dominant theme, coupled with obligatOry contemporary cultural references. Janice Galloway, Philip Hensher and Michele Roberts add interest. (SM)
The Night In Question
Tobias Wolff (Bloomsbury £6.99) ****
An exemplary exponent of the short story writer’s art, this volume is Wolff’s first new collection for ten years, and well worth the wait. The subtle and strange ways in which the wronged
wreak revenge are explored, intertwined with studies of those who reinvent themselves in order to disguise perceived inadequacies. Sharply-observed. (SM)
Sexing The Groove
Edited by Sheila Whiteley (Routledge £13.99) * ht
A few years ago, shelves groaned under a slew of tomes on this subject, namely popular music and gender. While this volume is nothing revolutionary, it does offer considerable food for thought, based on the premise that pop music operates as both a form of sexual liberation and sexual control. Simultaneously published in hardback at a hefty £45. (SM)
STAR RATINGS" 3:12 Q‘ rkttt , Unmiss‘abIe-f .._ tirt'k Very i_ 33%.; *** --:Wort t ** Belew. r . 1 You‘ve beeniwarned‘l' r
REVIEWERS THIS ISSUE:
Thom Dibdin, Brian Donaldson, Teddy Jamieson, Susan Mackenzie, Alastair Mabbot, Stephen Naysmith.
01 Clarke Fri 10 Oct, 6pm. £2 (discounted on book purchase). Waterstone’s. 153—157 Sauchiehall Street, 332 9105. Wine tasting and book signing session with the author of Oz Clarke '3 Wine Buyer’s Guide (Little. Brown £9.99).
Word Up, No Romance Fri 10 Oct. 7.30pm. Castlemilk Library. 100 Castlemilk Drive (for further information. contact the Ans & Cultural DeveIOpment Ofﬁce. 17 Castlemilk Arcade. 634 2603). Muriel Gray will be reading from her new book Furnace (HarperCollins £16.99). Louisa Young reads from Baby Love (Flamingo £18.99) and Jane Holland reads from The His‘lnn' OfA Disreptable Woman (Bloodaxe £6.95). Part of the Castlemilk Writers' Festival.
Arundhati Roy Fri 10 Oct. 8pm. £2 (discounted on book purchase). Waterstone's. 153—157 Sauchiehall Street. 332 9105. A rare appearance from the author of The God Of Small Things (Flamingo £15.99).
Murderous Intent Sat 11 Oct. 10.30am-lpm. £2 (£1). Castlemilk Library. 100 Castlemilk Drive (for further infomiation. contact the Arts & Cultural Development Ofﬁce. 17 Castlemilk Arcade. 634 2603). Crime writing workshop with Ian Rankin.
Louisa Young Sat 11 Oct. lpm. Waterstone‘s, 153—157 Sauchiehall Street. 332 9105. Young will be promoting her debut novel Baby Love (Flamingo £18.99). What Price Freedom? Sat II Oct. 2—4pm. Birgidale Complex. 10 Stravanan Street (for further information. contact the Arts & Cultural Development Ofﬁce. 17 Castlemilk Arcade. 634 2603). Explore the meaning of freedom with C wring Teeth magazine. Part of the Castlemilk Writers‘ Festival.
New Blood Sat 1 I Oct. 7.30pm. Castlemilk Library. 100 Castlemilk Drive (for further information. contact the Arts & Cultural Development Office. 17 Castlemilk Arcade. 634 2603). Readings with Glasgow-hem author Christopher Brookmyre. Part of the Castlemilk Writers' Festival.
Stephen Fry Tue 14 Oct. 8pm. £4. Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Sauchiehall Street. Further information from Waterstone’s. 153—157 Sauchiehall Street. 332 9105. Fry will talk about his life and career and promote his latest book Moab Is My Was-hpnr (Random House £16.99).
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