CRIME FICTION Motherless Brooklyn
Jonathan Lethem (Faber £9.99) * t it are
jonathan Iethem moth
Now, we shouldn't laugh at the afflicted, but it's hard to stifle a giggle when your narrator suffers from full-
blown 'I‘ourette's Syndrome Strings Of
nonsense explode from Lionel Essrog’s
mouth as he tells his tale except the outbursts aren’t entirely illogical. Lionel’s verbal and physical compuISions
pick up the litter of reality, SWlTl it around in (1\."V(18l1l’l(_} machine of mental
associations, then hang the results out to dry, revealing the hidden workings of his subconscious thought process.
A grown-up orphan who's now part
JAN _ 7PM
of a detective agency that’s really a front for various scams run by a small- time hood, Lionel discovers there’s
more to the murder of his employer
than meets the eye. Like a conspiracy theory, Tourette's traces connections beneath apparent disorder, so necessity
transforms Lionel from simple stooge
into genume detective and unassuming existential hero. The plot links Zen Buddhists and criminal kingpins — and
: when monks cross with crooks, you . get a mook in the middle. (AM)
; RURAL DRAMA
‘ A Recnpe For Bees
Gail Anderson-Dargatz (Virago £6.99) f*****
I What is a ‘recipe for bees’, you might E wonder? Gail Anderson-Dargatz
suggests a largely unhappy life, an
appreciation for sickly pleasures and,
most of all, persistence.
The story of a dead marriage in the Canadian prairies is beautifully told, like a carefully crafted scaletrix that rides you smoothly over the little ins and outs. Up and down, and around
about, in a great big circle back to
where you started but with more
honey and looser skin.
A Recipe for Bees is a good read for those who ever felt like giving up. It’s a poignant exploration of life, love and
sex but without the cheese, going
instead to the core of dissatisfaction with an honest eye. It also probes
? friendships and bullying, showing how
we can feel alone. But given time, it all
comes to pass because we are all the same, like bees-a-buzzing. (AH)
George Street KILLER NIGHT Crime Writers
JOHN CONNOLLY 8c PAUL JOHNSTON Darla Hollow ('9‘ water Of Death
West End 181‘ TIME IN SCOTLAND
Daughter Of Fortune (Pub HarperCollins)
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80 THE lIST 7-20 Jan 2000
SOCIAL COMMENTARY Smile
Paul Sma'il (Serpent's Tail £8.99) ** i
What price liberty, egality, fraternity? Out of reach, claims Paul Sma'il, less you be white, bourgeois and heterosexual. For Smi/e, like La Haine or Savage Nights, shows a Paris out of soft focus: ill-tempered and suspicious of its ’swarthy' citizens, certainly a dangerous place to grow up a Franco- Arab.
It may be overly reverential in places, homaging the likes of Melville and Stevenson, but it kicks hard against the pricks of authority and self- loathing and utilises literature to transcend the ordinary and UHJUSI.
Described by one reviewer as ’Iike petals pressed under glass’ (.7), this is one debut novel that smote the critics in France and drew comparisons to Genet and Conrad. Somewhat over- excitable, sure, but Sma‘il writes With a simplicity of style and emotional frankness that would shame most Anglo scribblers. Stereotypes, he suggests, are merely the easiest of options. The three degrees of the French Revolution demand more. (RE)
SHORT STORY COLLECTION The Ugliest House In The World
Peter Ho Davies (Granta £6.99) * *ir *
A catastrophic fart in the officer’s mess during the Boer War; the failed attempt of Butch and Sundance to go straight in Patagonia; a gang of communist guerrillas in Malaya each named after an American movre star.
You will rarely find a collection of stories as diverse in setting and tone as this. The points of the author’s own compass — Coventry, Wales, South East Asia, America — are described here with a vividness and wry humour that is as touching as it is breathtakingly skilful.
The theme that unites these stories IS the question of courage and duty. Should you keep a foolish promise? Could you hold out during a bitter
that you're leaving town? This is a man's man’s man’s man’s world without the platitudes. One of the few contemporary volumes to take on Kipling and come out fighting. (Ml)
Don't Read This Book If You’re Stupid
Tibor Fischer (Secker & Warbiirg £10)
Or‘ don’t write books if you’re a self- satisfied show-off Oh-so-hilarious titles ('I Like Being Killed', Portrait Of The
Artist As A Foaming Oeathmongei‘l
don’t help these soulless stories
Tibor Fischer wants very badly to be a razor-sharp satirist, but this is an exerCise in self-regarding in-lokery that only very occasionally raises a smile His prose is clogged With superfluous pseudo—Selfisms, from stupid metaphors (‘he had a beer-gut the size of a twelve-year-old'l to first lines constructed expressly to be quoted in reViews ('Your first murder deserves conSideration for a long time ‘I
The introduction of a female protagonist for '| Like Being Killed' may be an attempt to redress the casual seXIsm that runs not elsewhere, but it falls flat; her sexual insatiability is as embarrassmeg unconVinc ing as her stand-up comedy routines The occasional flash of Wit doesn’t elevate this collection from empty, flashy mundanity. (HM)
LESBIAN PSYCHODRAMA Prozac Highway
Persimmon Blackbridge (Marion Boyars £8.99) * 9: sir
3 Being a hardcore lesbian performance artist is never easy, this would be the
moral gleaned from this book should you be searching for one. The story
centres around two such artists ~ Roz and Jam. Jam is on Prozac for depreSSion, but finds some solace in an
on-line talkroom called ’ThislsCrazy’.
I This is the place where A With her
cyberpals FrUitbat, Junior, D’isMay — she debates, discusses and despairs
over her unsatisfying lot.
Prozac Highway is a frustrating collection of episodes revolving around the two women, liberally peppered
With long e-mail debates. This, unlike
the active process of a real chatroom discussion, makes the prose somewhat
stilted. quarryman’s strike? Will you tell the girl
A whole host of issues are thrown up by the book — mental health, cancer, relationships, gender politics — but few are resolved. Perhaps the pomt is that this, like life, all too frequently offers far
more questions than there ever are
i answers. (MR)