BOOK REVIEWS continued

acknowledges that body of work on his 80th birthday. From the treasure hunt on Mars tale, 'The Blue Bottle’, to ’The Parrot Who Met Papa’, about the kidnapping of Ernest Hemingway’s pet, it’s clear that Bradbury’s interest is in people over sci—fi paraphernalia of creatures and gadgets.

Although the writing spans three decades (mid 405 to mid 70s) and the

stories still read like a dream, it's

something of a slight book to represent such an illustrious career.

(Miles Fielder)

POETRY VOLUME Patience Agbabi

Transformatrix (Payback Press £7.99) at ‘k *

With a title echoing Lou Reed’s classic

album, performance poet Patience Agbabi’s second volume of poetry involves a fair blurring of the gender boundaries and embraces change of

every kind. A woman goes to the

barber to have her head shaved (’I'm fiercer than Biafra, blacker than the beetle in Kafka’); a butch lesbian is seduced, by her desire for a beautician, into havmg nail extensions; a Crouch End boy becomes West End diva (’the bastard child of Barbara Cartland and Boy George’).

There are subtler changes too, the shift in roles when a powerful man is felled by ill-health and the confusion when a child misunderstands the prudish euphemism for the menopause. Agbabi's lyrics are sweet and precise, her desire fierce. When in the role of an ardent lover she declares: 'I'd become Uma, Ursula, Ulrika, your Angela, yOur Barbra, yOur Chaka', you believe her. A Transformer indeed. (M0ira Jeffrey)


Charlotte (Duck Editions E14) ****


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D.M. Thomas' new novella starts where Jane Eyre left off. Rochester has been left blind and With one arm after attempting to save his madwoman Wife in the attic of Thornfield Hall. Ms Eyre, the new Mrs R, recounts the story of their short-lived marriage, which ends With a Widowed Jane setting sail for the West Indies in search of Rochester's long lost heir.

112 THE usr II 25 Ivlay 2000

Leap to the present day and

Charlotte Bronte arrives in Martinique as an academic on a Women’s Studies 1 lecture tour who's mistaken for her

literary subject.

Clever Thomas draws fascinating

: parallels and iuxtapositions between ; his protagonists —— Jane and Bronte

and between modern and Victorian

. fiction (descriptions of Jane’s sex life, _ for example, are shockingly candid). Like Thomas' The White Hotel (and

Jean Rhys’ Bronte-related novel Wide

' Sargasso Sea), this is a complex . psychological narrative that provokes many thoughts in very few pages.

(Miles Fielder)

TRUE CRIME j Bernard O'Mahoney

Essex Boys (Mainstream £7.99) * it at


Bernard O'Mahoney is not a pleasant geezer. For several years he, or rather the firm be controlled, ran the door operations at Raquels in Basildon where, famously, Leah Betts' fatal tab of ecstasy was bought. A peripheral actor to the theatre of hardcore Villainy, he is the muscle with Simplistic morals you'd want on your side in a fight; and need to keep on your side if you valued your health.

Part bravado, part a cruelly banal account of Violence, this updating of So This Is Ecstasy, details O'Mahoney's twilight career from leavnng prison in I987 to the trials, a decade later, of

. those prosecuted for supplying Betts.

It's a confusing Journey in which he attempts to expose a conspiracy, between police and criminals over Essex drug dealing. But the result is as strong an argument as any for legalising recreational drugs, in order to remove them from the villains’ control. (Thom Dibdin)


People Funny Boy (Payback Press £14.99) it * ‘k

' DaVid Katz is recognised as one of the

leading authorities on reggae in all its forms, but in this extremely long biog of Lee ’Scratch' Perry, his vast knowledge of this hugely influential composer/ producer/ performer is ultimately his downfall.

In an attempt to cram in all the

recording sessions and musical proiects that Perry has had a hand in over the years, Katz has sacrificed any real insight into Why or how they were made. He fails to capture the spirit, energy or atmosphere Within which this deeply spiritual music was created. At times, he resorts to soulless lists of tracks, labels and tour dates while the anecdotal baggage is jettisoned.

Towards the latter part things pick up, but by then you've realised Just how long 500 pages can really be. With as colourful a subject as Scratch, it's a shame the end result seems so laboured. (Mark Robertson)

FAMILY DRAMA Maggie O'Farrell

_ After You’d Gone (Review £12.99)


Alice Raikes is lying in a coma, after an accident that may or may not have been a sUicide attempt. From this possibly self-imposed exile she sifts through memories of her past while the net of circumstances bring her to the present, engulfing the love lives of three generations of women in her family.

Essentially a romance, the novel examines cases where love has been cut short. Recently bereaved by the loss of her husband, we imagine that the grief has brought Alice to a place Where time stops. However, constantly shifting narratorial Viewpomts and frequent chronological Jumps contribute to an altogether different version of events, as we uncover the deception that has corrupted the Raikes family.

Despite no great originality in style or theme both are borrowed from Scottish novelist Andrew Greig this is a sensitive and often moving debut novel examining how the chOices of one generation can reverberate into the next. (Catherine Bromley)


Moth Smoke (Granta £9.99) * a: t *

Daru lives on the fringes of the Lahore Jet set. He has a servant, access to contraband whisky and a supply of good dope, He doesn’t, however, have the foreign education and powerful connections of his best friend Ozr and, when he loses his rob and falls for his

mate's wife, his place in the scheme of

things suddenly feels more than just a

little shaky. This is the story of Daru’s inevrtable decline.

BrOUght up in Lahore and educated at Princeton and Harvard, Mohsin Hamid’s portrait of a wealthy generation caught between Pakistani realpolitik and American desire is an assured and Witty debut, But set

against the summer of nuclear testing

and the social and economic compleXities of modern Pakistan, What starts as personal soon gets political and, beneath the brittle, cynical dialogue lies a modern morality play. Picture Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero set in a City where the consequences are serious.

(MOira Jeffrey)


The Golden Calf (Rebel Inc E8) tiff

There have been some fantastic books written about Hollywood and its sleazy neighbourhoods, John Fante’s Ask The Dust and Charles Bukowski’s Hollywood being among the best. What setsthese books apart is that their authors hate the place and despise the Indian hunting grounds it’s founded on. The Go/den Calf is a welcome addition.

Ray Tompkins is a humourless, unskilled worker drifting from job to lot) and obsessing about one woman after another. The redemption for his dreary existencecomes in the form of Tim Griffiths, a Tom CrUise-style actor Whom Ray believes to be a

3 false idol. He sees it as his duty to

vrlify the actor publicly, whatever it takes.

With a superb narrative control, Baum paints a portrait of male dysfunction set to explode. If Mark Chapman had read this book instead of Salinger’s, he probably would have gone after the other Beatles as well. (Paul Dale)


* t t t * Unmissable

t * 1k * Very good

it t it Worth a shot

at t Below average

1: You’ve been warned