WARTIIVIE DIARY Bulletins From Serbia
Aleksandar Zograf (Slab 0' Concrete £6.50) air air *
Cartoonist Aleksandar Zograf's Spirited dispatches from a war zone are a valuable record of the human cost of every 'Just war' we blunder into His main point, supported by Terry Jones's savagely satirical introduction to this book, is that the NATO bombing only galvanised support for MiloseVic by enraging the people of Serbia, stimulating their patriotism and making them vulnerable to the propaganda of the MiloseVic regime. It also allowed the Serbian government to blame the condition of their ’sad sack of a country' on NATO, thus escaping blame themselves.
Zograf’s letters and e-mails to friends tell the story of chaos, confusion and suffering behind the news reports, Without sentimentality or partisanship. He is a Wise and Witty commentator, even if enthusiasm does outstrip technique in both his writing and draWing. A sobering reminder that bombs fall not on c0untries, not on leaders, but on ordinary people. (HM)
COCKNEY COPPER CAPER
Charlieunclenorfolktango Tony White (Codex £7.95) * 4r
Tony White does for the linguistic skills of Londoners what Irvine Welsh did for Edinburgh's finest. In attempting to convey the language of the three main protagonists — a trio of policemen — he alienates readers who may struggle With his phonetic prose style. erine Welsh’s Edinburgh radges seem posmvely intelligible by comparison.
The story follows three wayward coppers as they drive around in a police van (’Charlie Uncle Norfolk Tango' is the call sign for such a vehicle) and deliberate on the acts of random brutality they Witness and partake of on their beat. All this and a spot of alien abduction into the bargain. Lockie, the narrator, is something of a philosopher, pondering the rights and wrongs of the world around him. Or the rites an rongs as e wood pu it.
Try reading this aloud in a cockney accent to make sense of it, although in the long run, it's not really worth the struggle. (MR)
Meg Henderson (Flamingo £12.99) * air it
Uncovering the past is not always an easy experience. Meg Henderson's reasonably well-crafted tale reveals the desperate reality of Glasgow’s 'boarded-0uts',’ unwanted children who were sent to live With surrogate parents as Virtual slaves. Unfortunately, it is not helped by her cloyingly romantiCised prose style.
Yet, this story of two thoroughly modern women — Helen, a director of a large Glasgow company, and her daughter lvlarylka, a driven and ferocioust bright medical student — has moments of such creative brutality that it makes you Wince out loud.
Henderson has a real feel for the history she revels in and the knack of bringing it to realistic light as she gets behind the bare facts of life in Glasgow and the Western Isles over the last century. Bitter though the pills of history she has uncovered may be, she seriously over-sugars their coating as the separate strands of the novel come together. (TD)
NOBEL PRIZE WINNER My Century
Giinter Grass (Faber £16.99) * * ‘k 1:
The old Danzig dog has done it again With this remarkable take on the last hundred years, seen through the eyes of a selection of Austro-Hungarian heroes and Villains. Grass's work is never an easy read but is so rich in evocation and Wit, it can be highly rewarding.
Here he tells us a tale for every year of our century. These stories of sCientific discoveries, of wars and of poetry move us, but also seem inconsequential in the face of the march of time -— as Godard once put it, they are mere 'moments snatched from eternity’. Structurally, this slender novel evokes Primo LeVi's The Periodic Table and COuId easily stand beside that book as a love letter to the history of the human Splfli. It’s a mature work by one of the greats of European literature, his warm, bright- eyed reVisionism of ’recent' European history4s alwayschallengmgr but haven..- less than compelling. It's not difficult to see why Grass won the 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature. (PD)
.Continuedbverpage ,_ -. _
' SCOTTISH CRIME
Susie Maguire & Amanda Hargreaves eds (Polygon £9.99) a: ‘k *
'Welcome to the Golden Age of ' Tartan Noir,’ says Ian Rankin on the back of this new collection of Scottish crime fiction. Unfortunately, it's a volume that jumps on the bandwagon without a valid ticket for travel.
The stories within are afforded as broad a definition of ‘crime' as could be imagined: armed robbery is there, but so is genocide, breaking social etiquette and lying to children. While this is no bad thing in itself — the crime genre can often become stagnant and self-referential - readers who i expect a state-of-the-noir showcase will feel shortchanged.
The line-up performs uncannin like our national football team. The older professionals (Val McDermid, Ian Rankin) repay the loyalty of the selectors by showing how it should be done; a couple of individualists make skilful moves, but don't fit the team framework (Ron Butlin, Sian Preece); and the newcomers (Christopher Brookmyre, Ruth Thomas) up the pace and make you wish they were allowed to dominate the game more.
Often the tone leans towards poetic rather than hardboiled cool, hinting at shadows that lurk off the page but keeping key plot devices irritatingly obscured. Overall, the stories dwell more on psychological suffering and guilt than clever one-liners or parlour games played around a body in the library.
Something Wicked has a stronger sense of the consequences and reality of crime than other collections. However, it‘s a Scottish anthology first of all; a crime anthology well behind in second place.
NEW SCOTTISH CRIME FICTION
Guilt edged: Something Wicked
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