The Mistress 0f Lilliput Alison Fell (Doubleday £12.99)

Alison Fell will be getting herself a reputation; ’l've always been fascinated by things to do with scale and I thought that there were great possibilities for obscenity with a large female and small fellas.’ After the textual and sexual pleasures of 1996’s The Pillow Boy Of The Lady Onogoro, the above is one of her motives behind her new book, The Mistress Of Lilliput.

The London-based Scottish poet/short story scribe/novelist/ex- journalist had another - to give a different side to Jonathan Swift’s classic tale of one man’s odyssey to fantastical lands. ’One time when I was reading Gulliver’s Travels, I noticed that poor old Mary (Gulliver's missus) got about two lines in the book,’ recalls Fell. ’One of them is when he comes back from his travels at the end and he can’t bear the smell of the "female Yahoo” and he won't let her in the same room as him for five years. It just stuck with me and then I started this book.‘

A book which took a great deal of research for the capturing of its detail and style. ‘I'm not an historian so I had to read a lot of European history,’ insists Fell. ’And I read a lot of wonderful trash novels by women with heroines called Arethusa being taken by pirates.’

While the book jacket describes the novel as ’the modern woman’s answer to centuries of chauvinism on all fronts', Fell wasn’t entirely bowled over by her heroine. So much so that she preferred to have a doll as narrator. 'I found Mary just so priggish and boring and it was turning into a quasi-feminist tract which wasn’t giving a full picture somehow,’ she admits. ’I remembered one of my dolls and the stuff that I put her through. Dolls are at the very bottom of the heap, so I wanted a narrative that made fun of hierarchical oppression. Sometimes she plays an advisor and sometimes she is extremely envious and horrid and to

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known as 'the


Alison Fell: Swift response

write that gave me great pleasure.’

Which is not something she is getting from the current administration. Fell has always been active on the political front she formed the Women’s Theatre Group and has written for ideologically-driven publications such as Spare Rib and she is unable to concentrate fully on her writing due to government policies. ’Though I see my militant political days as over, I think I get Redder as I get older,’ she maintains. ’I find myself getting more enraged and standing on picket lines trying to stop libraries being closed I’m going to turn into such a furious and eccentric old lady.’ One with a burgeoning reputation. (Brian Donaldson)

The Mistress Of [ill/put rs published on Thu 74 lan See book events,



Don DeLillo (Picador £10) 2: ' When Underworld was publrshed at the frrst gasp of 1998, rt seemed the pundrts wouch happrly slaughter each other rn the sc ramble for super'latrves wrth whrch to adorn rts author Don DeLrllo's eleventh book was lauded across the hoard as the greatest novel of the decade, of the century, of all Now, wrth the crrtrcal fever broken and the appearance of the frrst paperback edrtron, Underworld rs rrpe for calm reassessment

It rs not for nothrng that DeLrllo rs chref shaman of paranorcl frctron’ Srnce hrs 1971 debut, Americana, he has been obsessed Wrth and surverllance and subterfuge You mrgh‘. have thought he would have frnally got rt out of hrs system wrth lrbr‘a, hrs eprc

frctronal take On JFK's assassrnatron, but cynrcrsm sprrngs eternal and DeLrllo turned hrs susprcrous mrnd loose on Amerrcan polrtrcs once more.

Underworld rs a massrve undertakrng, an 827-page eprc stracldlrng the 50s and the 90s, emphasrsrng the essentral connectrvrty of modern culture where baseball and nuclear war are of equal srgnrfrcance. The extremely complex plot strands are lrnkecl by the path of a famous souvenrr baseball as rt soars through the years, but the coherent and readable structure of Libra rs lackrng

Underworld also drffers from DeLrllo’s prevrous frc‘tron rn that rt appears to achreve some krnd of restful resolutron as rf, Wrth the rntellectual tempest of so many pages, the novelrst has frnally gureted hrs paranord rmpulses He can rest easy for another reason thrs rs a master‘prece (Peter Rossl



First writes

Putting debut authors under the microscope. This issue: Colson Whitehead

Who he? Colson Whrtehead was born rn New York rn I969, graduated from Harvard rn Eng Lrt and has wrrtten journalrsm for cool mags such as Vibe, Spin and Village Vorc‘e

His debut It's called The Intuition/st and follows the fortunes of Lrla Mae Watson, the frrst black female elevator rnspector rn the hrstory of the department. Her modus operandr of sussrng out defects by rnstrnct and her glorrous success rate mean that she rs much loathed by the Emprrrcrsts whose method rs to rnspect elevators physrcally Then one day, a new elevator on her round rnexplrcably plummets to the earth. She suspects sabotage

Basically Basrcally, rt’s both a love story between woman and machrne and a rarser of polrtrcal and racjral questrons And rt’s also a crackrng read as rt fuses the non thrrller wrth contemplatrve phrlosophy.

First line test 'lt’s a new elevator, freshly pressed to the rarls, and rt's not burlt to fall thrs fast.’

Cast Lrla Mae Watson, the maverrc'k elevator rnspector seen as a threat to the Emprrrcrst establrshment, James Fulton, her dead guru and author of the blasphemous Theoretical Elevators, the shadowy Johnny Shush and leader of the lvlafrosr-type organrsatron whrc'h holds rnfluence over the rndustry and the upcomrng electron, EmprrrCrst campargner Frank Chancre who rs payrng hrs clues rnto the Shush fund Best bit The vrvrd descrrptron Of the physrc'al and psychologrcal effects of havrng your fingers broken, one by one,

What's next? He rs currently workrng on a novel ab0ut the US Postal Servrce (Brran Donaldsont

£33 The lnturt/on/st rs published on Thu 74 jan by Granta at [9.99

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