POPULAltR'E-P-ORTAGE Yes, We Have No: Adventures In Other
England Nik Cohn (Secker & Warburg £9.99)
Talk about a tough gig. He may have endured on-tour capers with The Who which road-tested his very sanity, experienced an encounter with John Travolta that landed him in Pseud's Corner, and received the royal runaround from Arthur Scargill. But nothing could have prepared Nik Cohn for an audience with the Antichrist.
’He wrote to me at The Guardian,’ explains the London-born scribe who swung in the 605 and discoed through the 705 (having written the story on which Saturday Night Fever was based) before exiling himself in New York. 'He’d been expelled from the Conservative Association and I thought that just wasn't cricket. Meeting him was disturbing — he had this awful inability to reach out and be touched by others.’
The son of Satan is but one member of the cast of Cohn's new book, a player who takes his turn alongside the Orangemen and the Rastas, refugees from Pinochet's Chile and courtesans from Bolton, ballroom dancers and karaoke kids,
NikCohn: banana republican
travellers and transvestites, the Chinese Elvis and, yes, the inscrutable King Arthur. ’I love Scargill,’ he says, ‘but like all great rock stars — which is what he is — you don't get that close.’
Yes, We Have No is a journey through an invisible England, a republic of disparate souls unknown to the media, giving a voice to people whose lives and dreams won't find their way into the Sunday supplements. Almost everybody interviewed, Scargill excepted, would otherwise have gone to the grave unheard. A terrible fate, Cohn believes.
‘It's an incredible privilege that people will tell you these things. There is an element of exploitation even if you're not judgmental because they stay in their situations and you go back to a very nice life. You feel a bit of a . . . well, wanker would be a fair description.‘
Putting debut authors under the microscope. This issue: Matthew Baylis
Who he? Matthew Baylis is 27-years-
old, was born in Nottingham and educated in Liverpool and Cambridge.
j He is currently based in London where
he has a very large television set and works as a storyliner for EastEnders. Along the way he has been a theology graduate, tomato picker, bingo caller and confectionery checker. He actually wanted to be either a spy or a gangster. He harbours a vicious hatred of all sports, aside from the horses.
His debut It’s called Stranger Than Fu/ham and it starts in Southport
He's been called worse. ’Nik is no obituarist,’ said Kit
Lambert, manager of The Who. ’But if he did write your obituary, you'd be better off dead.’
'It was very true then,’ laughs Cohn. ’I was a baby-faced killer, but now . . . just an old fart. My first book was published when l was eighteen and I thought I knew everything, but in the intervening 30 plus years I've learnt that I want to be taught.’
Then, as now, myth and reality were the themes of his writing. ’It used to be 80% myth, but what I see now is the mythic quality in reality — far more exciting than making stuff up.’ The cliché about truth being . . . ‘? ‘1 would change that. It's not that it’s stranger than fiction - the truth is more powerful than fiction.’
(Rodger Evans) I Yes, We Have No is pub/ished on Thu 25 Mar.
the whole woman
The Whole Woman (Doubleday £16.99) * t * it
In the introduction to Germaine Greer’s sort—of sequel to The Fema/e Eunuch, the most famous academic in Britain admits that The Whole Woman is a book she thought would never have to be written. Progress has been made to the cause of freeing women from the shackles of patriarchy but not enough: ’it’s time to get angry again'
And Germaine isn’t just angry, she's liv1d, And not just at men, but women who have fallen for the beauty myth; women who have failed to believe in her pure fennnrsm, women who want to be female versions of men. And if you’ve seen Dr Greer hopping mad on The Late Review, you know the last
place you want to be is on the
Yet, she has channelled all that fury into a measured analysis of the role of women in the years since her classic 1971 work. Split into four sections — ’body’, ‘mind’, love’ and ’power’ — The Whole Woman sometimes threatens to implode into a frenzy of statistical overload: 'in December 1998, as a
result of re-examination of 3,930
smears screened at the Royal Berkshire
Hospital between 1992 and 1994, six '
women were recalled for colposcopy and sixty-five were advised to have a repeat smear.’
Above all though, it is frequently eye- opening and sometimes funny. You
may want to pick up a copy of The
Who/e Woman before renewing your subscription to Minx or FHM. (Brian Donaldson)
before moving on to west London. The novel has a catchline which will remind some of you of a classically awful children’s morning TV show: ’why don’t you switch off the TV and read this brilliantly funny novel instead?’ Basically... Basically, it’s a tale of what happens when life catches up and whether or not you can cope with reality.
Our hero Alastair Strange is a man obsessed with soap operas and by the first page and a half, Falcon Crest, Take The High Road, The SUI/[vans and Young Doctors have all been namechecked. UK Gold is his lifeblood. His family are strange both by name and nature but nowhere near the oddness displayed by his new flatmate Martha.
First line test ’All six foot nine inches
of Gus are splayed out, naked on the sofa, and lam on the floor. I can sense the brooding presence of his genitals
just behind my neck and it unsettles . me, but there’s nowhere else to sit and
on Thu 1 Apr by Chatto 81 Windus at
still see the TV.’
To whom is it credited? ’For Piers’. (Brian Donaldson)
I Stranger Than Fu/ham is published
l8 Mar—1 Apr 1999 THE UST 93