SHORT STORY COLLECTION Tough, Tough Toys For Tough, Tough Boys

Will Self (Penguin £6.99) **

Will Self’s new short story collection is flagged up on the front cover with a quote from men’s magazine Esquire: ’Edgy, ruthless, warped, brilliant’ it may be. But such praise only applies if you

BOOK REVlEWS continued

I fiction and less overtly polemical l sections, when the richness of Scottish 1 culture and history comes to the fore. i Perhaps that is because it is generally a nation’s art, rather than its politics, : which is the more reliable source of l patriotic pride. (RF) :

subscribe to the rampant intellectual Neon NOII' ! blokeiness that dominates both that Woody Haut (Serpent's Tail £9.99) publication and Self’s material.

* 1r 1: ’Flytopia’ is undeniably Self at his

clever, witty, compelling finest. But like i the insects in our hero’s trippin paranoid world, it gets under the skin in a way that is frankly irritating. Elsewhere his imagination is in Similarly riotous and often impressive form. But in tales like ’The Rock Of Crack As Big As The Ritz’, his cooler than thou stance becomes transparent. Hard

i drugs may be on the agenda but that

doesn’t mean this middle-class white

. boy can speak black crack dealer lingo 3 without sounding like a Class A chump. Clever but not so clever that he knows when to leave something well alone. (EC)


Perhaps more than any other genre, the crime novel is fascinated by the state of the nation. That’s certainly the notion at the heart of Neon Noir, a study of contemporary American crime fiction.

Woody Haut’s lit-crit scopes out how crime-timers have reflected and commented on the increasingly disunited state of America in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, Reaganomics and Whitewater. And it proceeds to make a convincing case that writers like Leonard, Mosley and Ellroy are the best guides for the real skinny on the American Nightmare.

Though far from the worst excesses of academic writing, Haut’s work remains academic which means this is

sturdy rather than stylish. But, as a : Places primer on some of the most essential Jeanette Winterson (Vintage £6.99) literature of the late 20th century, * * *

Neon No/r is a fascinating and undoubtedly thorough study which, along with the usual suspects, throws up intriguing new names for even the most devout noir reader. (Tl)

When Jeanette Winterson first

; appeared on the British literary scene, she was one among several fiction writers (Rushdie, Barnes et a/) being

_ Have you got nihat it takes to mess with this one?

Available now in paperback from all good booksellers

96 THE "ST 4—18 Mar 1999

DOMESTIC COMEDY Married Alive Julie Burchill (Orion £9.99) H:

The fact is. if this were a debut novel from an unknown author it would never have been published. Somebody relatively low down in the Orion chain of command would've pointed out that character. dialogue and, above all. plot lacked credibility. Unless that is. you know many thirtysomething coke-snorting women who only stay with their fashion photographer husband because they give good dirty sex. but are willing to risk it all by moving theirageing grandmother in rather than see the old dear in a home.

A non-celebrity would‘ve been told that the jokes were poor and, worse still, repetitive. And that she had no business comparing herself favourably to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Julie _ Burchlll

A Novel

Married Alive: divorced from reality

But this is Julie Burchill, so deals were done. hefty advances paid, and now the book is in the shops. You'd be well advised to leave it there, particularly if you find the idea of a woman becoming sexually aroused by a slap from her future spouse distasteful.

All of which is a bit of a shame. Julie Burchill was once an excellent wind-up merchant and even, in the distant past. a talented and important writer. Now she has become lazy, indulgent and out of touch - using Daniel Day-Lewis as an object of desire was past its sell-byodate the first time she did it five years ago in No Exit, and constantly summoning up the image of Liz Taylor and Montgomery Clift smacks of a fatal lack of imagination. Maybe it's time she was put out to pasture. (Rob Fraser)

hailed as much more than the next big thing.

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and Sexing The Cherry announced her as an important and original voice but she

i has since lost that early roar and

whimpered her way through books of

essays and criticisms. In this collection, she wields her undoubted technical brilliance in tales

, about imaginary islands (’Turn Of The

World’), the problems and heartache of sharing a life with a pet (’The 24- Hour 009’) and acres of domestic non- bliss. The harsh imagery and psychological insight remains as potent as ever. The problem seems to be that there is a lack of heart in these seventeen stories. A great shame, really. (80)


Bernice Rubens (Little, Brown £16.99) *ahk

A respected headmaster falls victim to an anti-Semitic conspiracy in Bernice Ruben’s contemporary take on the Dreyfus case. The story of his downfall runs parallel with the fight to clear his name as chapters of his autobiography alternate with the efforts of his agent and lawyer to reopen the case.

Rubens’ clipped, impersonal style is alienating at first, but as the tension mounts her skilful balance of pathos and drama comes into its own, curbing any tendency towards melodrama. Her themes are weighty institutionalised anti-Semitism in Britain, Holocaust denial, legal corruption and press hysteria and it is regrettable only that the mystery so painstakingly

constructed in the early chapters goes on to be solved with such haste and apparent ease.

The plot turns on a series of

coincidences that are too convenient to ; ring true, bringing an unwelcome touch of the Hercule Poirots to an

otherwise thoroughly involving and thou ht-provoking novel. (HM)


Ellie Carr, Brian Donaldson, ; Miles Fielder, Rob Fraser, Teddy Jamieson, Kirsty Knaggs, Hannah

" McGill, Alan Morrison, Brendan

Wallace STAR RATINGS *t int 1r Outstanding tint Recommended 1: ** Worth a try at it So‘so * Poor