Steve Martin (Viking £9.99) Generalisations are pretty much a bad thing. But here's one - there is a noticeable difference between American and British comedians moving into the field of literature. The former seem happy going for the bitty book — musings, essays, half-finished ideas, tiny plays and extended anecdotes. Groucho Marx and Woody Allen are two humourists who jogged effortlesst down that road. The Brits, meanwhile, go the whole wordy hog and attempt the grand novel, a largely autobiographical/ confessional experience. Can you imagine being stuck in a room with the books of Stephen Fry and Rob Newman?
Another contribution to this water-tight theory is the first published book by arguably America's finest living screen comic, Steve Martin. For anyone who would want to argue, go away and take a look at The Man With Two Brains or All Of Me or Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid and then try and convince someone that Jim Carrey is a true original.
Pure Drivel is, more or less, a collection of musings, essays, half- finished ideas, tiny plays and
Steve Martin: garbage collector
extended anecdotes. Martin admits as much in the acknowledgements and on the cover - 'these essays . . . are little candy kisses, after-dinner mints to the big meal of literature.’
This light dish consists of twenty-three pieces, many of which have appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times with titles like ‘Changes in the Memory after Fifty', 'Times Roman Font Announces Shortage of Periods’, 'Michael Jackson’s Old Face' and 'A Word from the Words’. What the collection achieves is to make it plain that Martin is a comic with more to his armoury than a series of expressions which go from deadpan to cynical to manic and back again.
Pure Drivel may have that reek of just getting
something on the shelves for the hell of it, an excuse to get some publicity with as little effort as possible - just scan through the back-catalogue and glue together some of your favourite memories. But somewhat crucially, the collection is very sharp, very readable and very funny, indeed. He may have insisted that 'I'm not Becket,’ but he is a genuine artist with the written word and a worthy successor to the likes of Allen and Marx. Still, we may have to wait a bit longer for the sweeping work of fiction from the mind of Martin. As he maintains: 'the one thing almost guaranteed about a career move is that it almost never is.‘ (Brian Donaldson) I Pure Drivel is published on Thu 25 Feb.
94 THE U31 l8 Feb—4 Mar 1999
SCI-Fl CRIME Headlong Simon IngS (HarperCollinS £5.99) t ink
Here comes the science: concentrate! The boundary between technology and nature has been blurred to the extent that computers can think, grow and replicate themselves. Architects have built colonies on the moon, their brains surgically connected to their armies of robot workers. Now though, the project has collapsed and those who worked on it have come back to Earth with, well, big holes in their heads where their extra brain power has been removed. Got all that? Good, because the publishers sadly neglected to include a free brain implant to help readers understand the dense plot. Simon Ings’ formidable imagination and stylish way with a metaphor have established him as one of science
fiction's hottest properties. Like his predecessors William Gibson and Philip K. Dick, he borrows from detective fiction, placing his jaded hero Christopher in a squalid, chaotic cityscape peopled by corrupt officials and femmes fatales. Back from the unfinished utopia on the moon, Christopher wanders through a fractured reflection of modern Britain searching for a cure for his post-lunar sickness and an explanation for the mysterious death of his wife.
This is a clever, complex book in which fans of sci-fi will undoubtedly find plenty of fuel for their pre- millennial paranoia. One warning — if you’re not a devotee of the genre, the convoluted plot, the endless jargon and tne icy, detached style will leave you with a headache worse than anything lngs could have invented. (Hannah McGill)
Putting debut authors under the microscope. This issue: Kerri Sakamoto.
Who she? Kerri Sakamoto was born and raised in Toronto, returning there in 1996 after a seven year stint in New York. She has been a scriptwriter in independent cinema and has written on Asian North American art. Her short fiction has been seen in Charlie Chan Is Dead: An Anthology Of Contemporary Asian American Fiction.
Her debut It's called The Electrical Field and set in suburban Ontario in the 19705. The story is told from the point of view of Asako Saito, a lonely spinster who has been shattered by the lingering legacy of internment during the Second World War. When the beautiful Chisako and her lover are found brutally murdered, suspicion falls on the members of the tightly-knit immigrant population. A young girl, Sachi, forms a friendship with the ageing Asako in order to discover the truth. But will she like what She finds? Not likely.
Basically Basically, it’s a deeply moving tale of loss, memory and murder. It is also an impressive interweaving of the historical with the personal and a clashing of cultures as the Japanese community attempts to live happily in the Canadian suburbs. Even before publication in America, The New York Post went bonkers over it describing it as ’the most sought-after book of the season.’
In the mix It has been compared to Snow Falling On Cedars and Miss Smi/la’s Feeling For Snow.
First line test ’I happened to be dusting the front window-ledge when I saw her running across the grassy Strip of the electrical field.’
To whom is it credited? 'For my parents. And in memory of Juji Matsui 1923—1942.’ (Brian Donaldson)
I The Electrical Field is published by Macmillan on Fri 79 Feb at f 72.99.
STAR RATINGS 1H: tit Unmissable *ttt Very ood *ii We a shot it i: Below average «k You've been warned