SCOTTISH SATIRE The Resurrection Club Christopher Wallace (Flamingo £9.99)
Peculiar events, eccentric characters and forays beyond the accepted boundaries of taste are part of the Edinburgh Fringe experience. But what if one of those furiously pretentious theatrical extravaganzas was a front for something a little more sinister? An orgy-hosting, soul-snatching, grave- robbing cult, shall we say, with its origins way back in the seamier side of Edinburgh's past? Never considered that when you were planning your Festival agenda, did you?
Well, Christopher Wallace did. The Edinburgh-based novelist has never forgotten a Fringe event, enigmatically advertised with only a phone number, which he attended some years ago. Those who called were sent a questionnaire; eight strangers were then selected and invited to a secret venue. The Resurrection Club takes these real events to fantastic extremes. ’There was the sense that things were going to get really outrageous,’ Wallace remembers. ‘It all ended abruptly, but to this day I wonder if it was some kind of test; if we’d reacted differently, would things have gone a stage further?’
In the novel, things do go several stages further. Humble PR man Charlie Kidd, employed to represent a mercurial showman named Peter Dexter, finds himself drawn into a shadowy world that marries Edinburgh’s murky history to the carnivalesque flamboyance of the modern Festival. Wallace's previous novel, the highly acclaimed The Pied Piper’s Poison, was set in Germany and Poland; this project brought things closer to home. 'I wanted to use Edinburgh as a backdrop. There's a veneer of gloss here that doesn’t bear that much scrutiny; it can be quite ugly. The beauty of the Festival - of people trying to express themselves — is exploited, and it becomes just a media-fest.’
The media and PR circus comes in for a fair amount of satirical stick in The Resurrection Club. It’s a milieu with
Digging up the past: Christopher Wallace which Wallace, a high-flying advertising director, is familiar. 'Every day I see this paradox of people who work with words being unable to communicate,’ he says; and his misplaced apprehension about being 'stitched up' by The List reveals a certain mistrust of media types. However, he sees no clash of interests between his two occupations. 'In advertising you're always honing down objectives — what is this ad trying to say, what is the essence of the communication? The mental processes involved in writing are exactly the same.’
All very sensible. However, the imagination that spawned the macabre excesses of The Resurrection Club swiftly comes into play when Wallace considers what he'd do if the book hit the big time: ‘I would go and live on a Greek island, and be attended on by nymphets, and live a life of sordid excess.’ (Hannah McGill) it‘s: The Resurrection Club is pub/ished on Mon 26 Jul. See Book events.
STATESIDE SATIRE A Certain Age
Tama Janowitz (Bloomsbury £12.99)
and narrative pace falls rather flat.
Still, there are sublime moments as JanOWitr dissects the super-superfiCiaI world inhabited by her herome,
A CERTAIN AGE
l Decrepit: A Certain Age 102 THE llST 22 Jul—S Aug 1999
An odd one, this. Tama JanOWitz, as we saW in Slaves Of New York, can do devastating sooal satire better than almost anyone. She was one of the first to name and shame 80s excess New York-style in savage, cruelly funny prose.
The problem, and it’s a big one, is that A Certain Age takes the same approach to a certain well-known phenomenon: thirtysomething female smgledom. Imagine Bridget Jones’ Diary written by Ally lvcheal and you’ll get the picture. Had JanOWitz been the first to come up With this idea, it might have been a stunning read, but coming as it does after so much other hot air about unattached Chardonnay- drinking chicks, much of the comedy
Florence Collins. Too old at 32, too poor at merely comfortably-off, Florence holds little social sway. Visiting mega-rich, totally dysfunctional acquaintances for a weekend in the excluswe Hamptons, Florence is put up in a closet, told to help With the buffet, molested by her friend's husband and blamed for the near-drowning of their daughter. Things then actually get worse.
While this is a much darker ViSion than that of Fielding and co - Florence indulges in crack cocaine rather than fine Wines and her sexual humiliations are described in cringeworthy detail — it is final proof that this sub-genre has run way out of steam.
Putting debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Courtney Weaver
Who she? Courtney Weaver is a native San Franciscan who has spent much time in both England and Northern Ireland. She studied semiotics and creative writing, gorng on to work for the BBC and Washington Post among other esteemed organs.
Her debut It’s called Unzrpped and is subtitled ’The Extraordinary Sex Lives Of Ordinary People'
Basically Basically, it's a collection of greatest hits from her column of the same name in the online magaZine Sa/on, an upmarket publication With regular contributions from Garrison Keillor and Camilla Paglia. She came by the column by chance when she was pitching ideas at her two editors and they asked why no one her age was talking about sex anymore. So, she deCided to do just that. And so succ:essful!y that the page receives half a million page hits each month.
It’s porn, right? Wrong. Weaver inSists that her work is a dispassionate, non- sensationalist look at the Wide gamut of sexual mores in the 90s. From heterosexual marriage to hardcore S&lvl relationships, she embraces them all.
First paragraph test ’I put my key in the front door, and stop, listening. No movement inside. I open the door and step into my dark apartment, and close the door behind me, locking it. I stand there for a moment, looking around, making Out the familiar shapes in the dark, and waiting for . . . What? I live alone, and unless the cat suddenly got it into her head to start rearranging furniture, things are gomg to be exactly the way I left them,’
To whom the book is credited ’For Dianne and Samantha.’
Anything to declare? Courtney Weaver hates Ana'i's Nin.
as Unzipped is published by Head/me on Thu 5 Aug priced £9. 99.