review BOOKER WINNER J.M. Coetzee Disgrace (Vintage £6.99) *** t 4 ms u an:
Can it be mere coincidence that when Professor David Lurie takes refuge with his daughter midway through J.M. Coetzee's Booker Prize-winning novel, it is to the town of Salem, South Africa that he flees? For though it is set in modern-day Africa, Disgrace has a strong flavour of Arthur Miller’s US version of Salem in The Crucible.
Both are concerned with the sexual power games played out between older men and younger women, both with the politics of confession, submission, guilt. But Coetzee is his own man. Writing with a pared-down, present tense precision, he takes this story of an over-sexed academic who takes one advantage too many with a twenty-year-old student, and develops it into a metaphor for the prickly politics of post-apartheid Africa.
Disgrace is a subtle and compelling study of how the relationship between blacks and whites is no longer black and white. (MFis)
MAGIC REALISM Chris Dolan
Ascension Day (Review £6.99) ****
Chris Dolan’s short story collection Poor Ange/s, received many an accolade and was shortlisted for the Saltire Best First Book Award, making Ascension Day a much-anticipated first novel. And happily, those expectations are met.
A middle-aged Glaswegian woman sees, in a panicked state, three figures rise into the sky; her mother, the boy who assaulted her, and one of her terminally ill patients. She writes a fittingly hysterical letter to her mother’s old lover, long since moved to Africa.
Dolan gently exposes part of the weave and subtly shows where the threads cross each other, revealing the characters to be fragile and human. He writes with an uncanny understanding of the world-weary and cynical — whatever their age — and the experiences that have made them so.
Moving between decades, the novel simply follows the way life turns out in everyday existence, making for a compelling read. (SB)
102 THE U81 30 Mar—13 Apr 2000
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The Comedy Writer (Faber £9.99) * k ‘k ‘k
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Falling somewhere between Dumb
And Dumber and There ’5 Something
About Mary - it’s cleverer than the
former but not as funny as the latter — Peter Farrelly’s second novel displays the deft touch for characterisation that he and brother Bobby’s films have jettisoned for belly laughs.
There's clearly some degree of autobiography involved in the story of
an Irish-American lad who, dumped by
i his girlfriend, seeks fame and fortune
i in Hollywood with a script entitled ’How I Won Her Back’. With this
: scenario, there's built-in appeal for fans
of Sunset Boulevard, Barton Fink and other Hollywood expose films.
It’s a testament to Farrelly’s writing skill that his Henry Halloran emerges as a likeable protagonist despite his (or is that Farrelly's?) dodgy attitude towards women. Perhaps that's because Halloran is largely the butt of the joke, whether he’s being jerked around by a breast-enhanced wannabe actress or a megalomaniac producer. (MFie)
COMIC TRAVELOGUE Tony Hawks
Playing The Moldovans At Tennis (Ebury Press £9.99) int
2 Tony Hawks has still got something to
prove even though his first book showed that he could hitch round Ireland with a fridge. This time he bets his mate down the pub that he can beat every member of the Moldovan Football Team at tennis. And if Hawks is victorious, his pal has to strip naked on Balham High Road while singing
; the Moldovan National Anthem.
Sounds stupid and it is. The
3 Moldovans remain largely unimpressed
at Hawks’ foolish antics while the author is highly critical of their country.
Of course, he could be right and they may well be miserable, downtrodden . and unhelpful or it could just be the
witless way he writes and the egotistical way he sees things.
This somewhat tragic adventure is clearly just an excuse to write a silly book which could only have worked if it had been much funnier and less obvious. (AH)
Alex Graham The Shaft (Piatkus £5.99) ‘k ‘k t
Sellafield and Dounreay have hit the news again recently making Alex Graham’s pseudonymous debut novel about skulduggery in the nuclear industry remarkably topical.
Haunted by the past, Melissa Rogers becomes PR officer to the troubled Cape Wrath plant. Determined to
; clean up its image, she courts the
I press but her pledges to be both open
and accountable are undermined by
i the growing pile of secrets and bodies i she uncovers.
The prose and characterisation
i occasionally suggest the Famous Five
meets the nuclear industry and the
romantic interludes wouldn't
embarrass a Mills and Boon
: publication. To convince us that Mel is f no right-brained girlie, Graham’s
character relies on empirical evidence to unravel Wrath's mysteries to such
? an extent that previous history —
despite its startling similarity to the
present — goes largely unheeded.
Shortcomings aside, this is a page-
; turning first novel with material so ; fantastic it simply must be true. Read ; it and be paranoid. (DP)
Cold Snap (Citron Press £7.99) ** *t*
Any woman who’s ever felt ' threatened by a man will relish the : fantasy encapsulated by Kelvin
Mason’s second novel. A freak arctic winter has paralysed London and someone is taking advantage of the chilly temperature to practise their
: own form of (sub) zero tolerance.
Men are dying in horrific ways and, as information comes to light about
the background of the victims, it ' becomes apparent that they have all
done something to deserve their untimely demise; without exception,
they have been abusers of women.
This is a tense thriller, full of twists
: and turns, peopled with exceptionally vivid characters and equally vivid i scenes of destruction. If you are in
any way squeamish, there are parts of this book which you’ll find deeply
i disturbing. But perhaps the most
disturbing aspect of it is the fact that
the events described within could easily be genuine. Women: read and feel empowered; men: read and take
ROCK 'N' ROLL FICTION
. Liza Cody Gimme More (Bloomsbury £9.99)
Gimme More is an odd title for this smart rock ’n’ roll story about a sort of leggy blonde Yoko Ono. Birdie, the heroine, has been accused by tabloids of riding on the back of her famous
boyfriend, who portray her as an evil
‘ bitch who has reaped the benefits of
, his fame. And then she has the audacity to survive him.
Life has been a struggle in the 25
years since his death but the press are i still hounding her. And her old record
label has begun an aggressive chase
for mythical film footage they think she has in her possession. Fighting for her dignity, she refuses to let them rob her of all that she has.
This pacy novel follows Birdie’s struggle to stand up against money-
men and rock parasites. The narrative delves into emotional battles from an ; outspoken, ballsy perspective and,
apart from the end, it is so spot on that it could well be fact. (AH)
INTERVIEW COLLECTION ' Steve Redhead
I Repetitive Beat Generation
(Rebel lnc £10) * *
Sarah Champion Roddy Doyle John King Gordon legge
Another great idea gone awry. Steve
Redhead — Popular Culture professor
and author -» has gathered together a collection of Britain and Ireland’s most important writers and succeeded in making them dangerously close to banal
The ’repetitive beats' in question are
those proscribed as evil by the Tory
administration who sOught to extinguish the concept of fun in the early 90s. And, the fact that the title is an allusion to the writings of Kerouac/Burroughs/Ginsberg means that every intervrewee is asked for their opinion on the Beat movement. Which all gets a bit, well, repetitive. And, at times, Virtually unreadable as
the interviews appear to have been
put to print With no editing whatsoever.
Still, some moments of intrigue get through — Emer Martin on her Liber- feminist upbringing and lrvrne Welsh on the concept of havrng freedom from choice. The likes of Alan Warner, Sarah Champion and Toni Davrdson undoubtedly have much to say, but are sadly hamstrung by this project. (BD)
REVIEWERS THIS ISSUE:
Simone Baird, Brian Donaldson, Miles Fielder, Mark Fisher, Ally Hardy, Kirsty Knaggs, Denyse Presley, Allan Radcliffe
i: i * * k Unmissable it t a * Very good i 1r *‘k Worth a shot it it Below average I it You've been warned.