Scott Capurro Fowl Play (Headline £6.99) at ir

Fringe veteran and Perrier Winner Scott Capurro welcomes us into the murky mind of Tom, an ageing comedian With a lot of axes to grind. As his monologue progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that all Is not well. This is not what c0uld be considered a pleasant read; Tom is a less than prepossessing narrator, and Capurro’s aim seems to be to ride a coach and horses thrOugh every taboo he can think of. AIDS, rape and racism are treated with equal leVIty even before things have turned really grisly.

Since it as made up largely of a long string of dark Jokes which Capurro must have amassed from his unused stage sets, the twist in the tale w0uld be this novel's maior strength, were it not for the fact that you can see it coming several miles off. When It arrives, it's difficult to see what has been achieved, save for a sustained atmosphere of nastiness (HM)


Frank Tallis

Sensing Others (Hamish Hamilton £999) is *

‘rflmfihfifir: 5.9 0ft 4

Nick’s got a few problems, There's an old mate camping on his floor while carrying out a secret campaign of eco- terrorism in London,- his band can’t get a record deal, and his relationship With an older hippie is getting strained. Worst of all, he’s got this feeling that he’s being watched all the time Perhaps it’s those weird drugs he's been taking for that pharmaceutical trial,

Killer thriller, paean to prog rock and attempted urban hymn, Frank Tallis second novel emerges as a bit of a mess. SuperfICIal rather than scary, plain adolescent when it comes to sex and disconcertineg graphic when it comes to Violence, it still fails to give even the mildest offence

Like a misfiring Britflick occupied by ageing character actors and suspICIOusly well-bred yoofs or almost every mOVie on Channel Five, Sensing Others is strictly straight to Video stuff. ML

104 THE lIST I3~~~27 Apr 2000

AMERICAN EPIC E.L. Doctorow City Of God (Little, Brown £15.99)


‘1 ‘v *NCITY


It begins With a recap of the Big Bang theory and ends with a re-evaluation of religion and humankind's relationship to God And somewhere in between, it interrogates the use of storytelling, art, history, scIence and philosOphy, City Of God is one of those big American novels.

Doctorow employs numerous narrators, a priest who questions religious doctrine, a similarly inquisitive rabbi, a Holocaust surViVor, military veterans of three wars (I, II and Vietnam, a iazz bandleader and Everett, a writer who attempts to make sense of their stories. But, he can’t even solVe the puzzling crime which opens proceedings; the theft of a giant cross from a New York church and its placement atop a synagogue crosstown.

But where Everett can only see life from a seCular mm of View, Doctorow builds his picture from multiple Viewpomts. The reSult is a densely- packed if short novel that's thought- provoking and heavy-gomg in equal parts. (MFI


Four Meals (Canongate EIO) it ir a Israeli Meir Shalev is described as a literary heavyweight. He writes rich, lyrical prose in a style Synonymous With many Europeans. His love of words and emotions, eye for detail and overView of life as a poetic stage lend his work to profundity.

Shalev's fourth novel, Four Meals, centres around Zayde, a bOy whose Hebrew name suggests he \Nlll never die. ThrOugh his eyes, we see a charismatic, uncommunicative, independent mother who refuses to compromise to men’s desires and as a result, the child has three doting fathers, none know the truth but each believe Zayde is theirs.

What promises thr0ughout to conclude as a great piece of fiction, ultimately falls narrowly short. It Is too ianguorous, too slow and jUSi not compelling. The pomt is lost and the book becomes a compassionate portrait With0ut direction. It goes off and up, floating away into an empty sky. (AHI

«q q T* Y

FICTIONALISED BIOGRAPHY Joyce Carol Oates Blonde (Fourth Estate £17.99)

52‘? ‘i‘t 1r

The enduring morbid obsession with Marilyn Monroe as an icon of vulnerable sexuality has generated umpteen conventional biographies and biopics but few, if any, have got close to edifying the star’s enigmatic appeal. In the fictional Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates endows Norma Jean with her own voice, distilling the lurid biographical detail to allow for an infinitely more satisfying version of everybody's favourite rags-to-riches tragic melodrama.

The author's determined

.. 1:: can i. i was

concentration on less familiar aspects of the Monroe show is particularly compelling. Instead of undertaking a Kitty Kelley-style investigation into the numerous casting couch sessions, abortions and suicide attempts, Oates reconstructs Norma Jean’s colourful upbringing from her early childhood in the care of a disturbed mother, through her doomed relationships with foster home friends and protectors to her misguided teenage marriage. These ghosts resurface consistently as Monroe's celebrated screen incarnations; Lorelei Lee, Sugar Kane, The Girl Upstairs.

While illuminating Monroe's legendary awkwardness, neediness and chronic fear of failure, Oates also allows Norma Jean to reveal her intelligence, courage, powers of manipulation and the raw emotion that translated into her most honest performances. We’re left with the entirely plausible notion that 'Marilyn’ was as much Norma Jean Baker’s own creation as that of the men she couldn't trust.

As a subtle critique of Monroe's starring vehicles and as a satire on Tinseltown and a post-war culture already saturated in film references and moviespeak, Blonde is fascinating and absorbing. But it's on the level of good old-fashioned character drama that the book is most effective. A

thrilling read. (Allan Radcliffe) 71.9 Blonde is out now.

A CRIME FICTION Douglas E. Winter

Run (Canongate £10) a vs V 3':


Rather than retracmg the well-worn footsteps of the classic gumshoe, Douglas E Winter chooses a less oft- told story, that of the gun runner, a Vital, if less glamorous link In the criminal food chain

We follow Burdon Lane and his crew (CK, Renny Two Hand, Mackie, no one has sensible names in gangsterlandi to a gun deal between them and a New York street gang. When the deal goes wrong and the guns start blazmg, Lane ends up on the run, all the while trying to work Out who has lioodwinked who, how and why.

His descriptive passages may not have

the colour or depth of Walter Mosley or Chester Himes, but Winter’s action sequences have a breathless quality which bring real tension to Lane’s adventures. His take on racial ten5ion is acutely observed and the liberal smears of gore and grit make this an addictive, and Insightful peer inSIde the criminal world. (MRI


Scotland's Shame (Mainstream £9.99) ‘fir t s: +

Composer James MacIVIillan opened a proverbial can of worms during his I999 Edinburgh Festival lecture when he spoke of the 'Visceral anti-Catholicism’ he saw in Scottish life. He argued that this festering sore was not in the minds of the paranOId, but on the streets, in the workplaces and Within the major institutions of the COLIntry.

Scotland’s Shame, edited by TM. DeVine the bestselling author of The Scottish Nation is an impresswe attempt to address every corner of every issue raised Andrew O’Hagan, Robert Crawford and DeVIne himself, are among those looking at the consequences of the lecture and the press Vitriol which followed.

For balance's sake, there are V0ices which take MacMillan to task and, although there is a bit too much in the way of graphs, statistics and figure- iuggling, the sense of healthy debating of a SUbJE‘Ci some would like to see simply ignored has to be a good thing (BDI

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