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Good hair day

Marsha Hunt may have put down her placards and picked up her pen but she’s still ripping apart the plastic facades.

It’s the dawning of a new age and it sure ain't Aquarius. Forget the sixties - Marsha Hunt is taking on Elvis, Ruby Wax and the Hollywood star system. Like Irene O'Brien, the fictional black sex symbol in her new novel Like Venus Fading, Marsha Hunt has played many parts in her time. ’Reinvention’ though, is not a term she much cares for.

’A terrible wordI’ she complains. ’What I think I have been doing is growing in a career that went from music to stage back to music to presenting radio shows. People in entertainment grow into other areas. Look at Ruby Wax or Melvyn Bragg.’

Writing is Hunt’s major passion these days, but she is working on a film project and also plans to take a one-woman stage adaptation of her debut novel Joy on the road. ’I find writing very hard,’ she confesses. ’As much as I’m driven to tell a story by things like history, I am an entertainer at heart. What I think is interesting is people imagining that somehow my experience is directly reflected in my characters. People think "she was an actress so she’s writing about an actress.” I like to think I bring a more sophisticated technique to my work. If I’m anyone in the book, I'm Charlie, the student who went to Berkley and smoked a bit of pot and went on marches.’

The novel’s heroine O’Brien, is inspired by, but not about, Dorothy Dandridge, the Oscar-nominated black actress who committed suicide in 1965. ’I had read a slim biography but I don't think anybody can talk about

Marsha Hunt: never mind the follicles

the life of a woman. It’s tiny things which develop a personality, things one may not even know about one’s self. These things make a star and I see the star as both victor and victim.’

After reading about Dandridge, one of those Sunday Sport-type ’Elvis Livesl’ headlines caught Hunt's eye. ’I thought, what if this movie star never died and the public only thought she was dead? In the case of Irene, she does reinvent herself. Hollywood initiated this notion of famous people. Now all we fucking have are plastic characters. I want to look behind the plastic.’ (Rodger Evans)

a For details, see Hit list, right.

this lot around ' Marsha Hunt See main preview, left.

« . ' e 9 O , ' .4: ‘1: Amu Logoste: no boring lecture, . guaranteed

Struggling To Be Heard: An African Evening

Dictators tend to disapprove of journalists, what with‘their meddling ways and their desire to speak the truth. Nigerian dictator Abacha was no exception, and despite warnings and threats of expulsion from the Commonwealth, he imprisoned writers, publishers and j0urnalists in his country's jails in an attempt to silence the conveyors of pernicious honesty. One of the journalists he incarcerated was UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize winner Christine Anyanwu. He claimed she was guilty of treason.

Scottish PEN International campaigned for Anyanwu’s release for three years. In June, their efforts paid off and the journalist, suffering from the effects of

typhoid, malaria and serious eye trouble, was released. 'The fact she has been released is wonderful,’ explains Simon Berry, acting secretary of PEN. ’But if Abacha hadn't died, she would still be there.’ Sadly, there are still hundreds of writers held in African jails. ’You can write to the people in power, but if a dictatorship doesn't care about the outside world, then the persecution will continue,’ Berry elucidates.

To, in some way, aid the ceasing of that persecution, Scottish PEN is hosting an African evening to celebrate Anyanwu’s release. 'It's not an evening of boring lectures,’ assures Berry. 'We’re trying to educate peOpIe, to show them that there is a lot more to contemporary Africa than the things they read in the paper.’ The society hopes that the programme of West African music from Amu Logoste and Friends, folk-tales, readings, dancing and an African buffet will be both entertaining and informative. 'It's by no means a solemn evening,’ adds Berry. 'But it'll be a lot better if it doesn't rain.‘ (Nicky Agate)

a For details, see Hit list, right.

.won left on the shelf

Marsha Hunt And Pagan Kennedy, Spiegeltent, 79 Aug, 2.15pm, £6 (£4). PD James The Grand Dame of British crime writing reads from her latest gripping page-turner A Certain Justice and discusses her oeuvre which took its first tentative steps in 1962. PD James (Meet The Author) Post Office Theatre, 15 Aug, 11.30am, £6 (£4). Struggling To Be Heard: An African Evening See preview, left. Struggling To Be Heard: An African Evening, Post Office Theatre, 19 Aug, 7pm, £9.50 (£7. 50).

Irvine Welsh The critics may no longer adore him but Welsh’s hardcore fanbase remains intact. Tonight, he reads from his latest stomach-churner Filth, a critique into power and its potential for corrupting both body and soul. Irvine Welsh, Spiegeltent, 18 Aug, 7.30pm, £7 (£5). Jeanette Winterson The switch from cult status to bestseller list regular came quickly for Winterson and she has handled the transition without it affecting her work. In the first event she reads from her latest, Art Objects, Essays On Ecstasy And E ffrontery while later, she shares the stage with other exponents of the short story form. Jeanette Winterson (Meet The Author) Post Office Theatre, 16 Aug, 1 7.30am, £6 (£4), Jeanette

Win terson/Alan Spence/Candia McWil/iam/lvan Klima (Keeping it Short, Making It Matter) Post Office Theatre, 76 Aug, 3pm, £6 (£4).

Ariel Dorfman Dislocation, language and identity are key themes in Dorfman's life which includes being exiled from his beloved Chile and work he can boast masterpieces such as Hard Rain and the stageplay turned Polanski film Death And The Maiden. Tonight he reads from his memoir, Heading South, Looking North and discusses those themes. Ariel Dorfman, Studio Theatre, 16 Aug, 8.30pm, £6 (£4).

13-20 Aug 1998 Inmate?