POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY John Campbell
Margaret Thatcher: Volume One (Cape £25) -’«
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Margaret Thatcher may well have been the most powerful woman of the 20th century. So powerful in fact, she stole our milk. The history of her regime as Prime Minister, however, is well documented, and not the period this volume deals With.
Instead, Thatcher’s rise to PM is studied. Intenser private and quite willing for the party spin to be put on her past, the true Thatcher history needs incredible research and this is where
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114 THE lIST 8 '22 Jiir: 2000
John Campbell‘s work really shines. The exhaustive detail taken from every source u friends, MPs, speeches, newspapers — give a real and not always complimentary picture of the roots of this woman's hunger for success. Unsurprisingly, there is much emphasis On her arrogance: ‘I wasn't lucky, I deserved it‘, when winning a prize for poetry, ’I Will remember this in my memoirs', when losing an argument during her time as Education Secretary. However, this first volume is not a criticism, more a real picture of her all- encompassing ascendance. (Aly Burtl
Susan Sontag In America (Cape £16.99) r a a
Susan Sontag's last novel, The Volcano Lover, was published in 1992. Since then she’s spent time directing theatre in Sarajevo under siege, fought a second b0ut of cancer (the first resulted in her brilliant essay ’Illness As Metaphor'i and had a steep hill to climb recovering from a car accident. One of America's greatest intellectuals, Sontag is nothing if not a pragmatic land sometimes bare knucklel fighter for her cultural values. In America features an equally tenacious character ~ Maryna, a great Polish actress as she leaves her life as a national herome to set up an ideal community in l870s California. While her future is a foreign country, lvlaryna may be suffering the discontents of fame rather than a true change of heart. While flashes of Sontag‘s insight shine through, this is a strangely stilted work that falls short of her unquestionable talents. Let‘s hope that her next work can be created in less arduous personal circumstances (MOira Jeffreyl
RAP POETRY Gil Scott-Heron Now And Then (Payback Press £7.99)
The author's mUSicianship, rapping and poetry are renowned, but what does he think of his title ‘godfather of rap’? Not much, as a matter of fact. There‘s plenty of modesty and gratitude ‘rom the great man in his introduction to this anthology of rap poetry, containing samples of his work from 1970 to 1999. He seems to be happy producing work not easily labelled by the cognoscenti, also rejecting such terms as ‘radical’ and ‘militant'
For all that, it‘s where his work
condemns the inherent preiudices of white America that it reaches its zenith. ‘The Goldfinger Affair’ tells us of a black narrator humiliated by an elevator car driver while on a Visit to his white girlfriend‘s parents, while 'HZO Gate. (Watergatel Blues‘ makes a savage commentary on the Nixon administration. The anger of Scott- Heron’s work is offset, though, by slighter, feelgood pieces like ‘A Lovely Day'.
Accessible, intelligent, rhythmic writing which makes poetry seem worthwhile again. lSteve Crameri
RELATIONSHIP FICTION Anna Davus
Melting (Sceptre £10) :~- ‘- Bridget Jones has so much to answer for. As a column in The Independent, her alcohol, nicotine and calorie- metering antics made an inventive yarn. Anna DaVis‘ writing seems to have sprung from this horrid genre. But to her credit, she has ditched uncomplicated memOir for something more Substantial.
Like the Victims in Melting, the reader is immediately conned: “‘Call me Robbie‘, said Jason. 'All my friends do" ' While lesser thirtysomethings still cry into their Chardonnay, emotionally damaged drifters Jason, Fran and Eileen have grown up, if somewhat twistedly Forming relationships, they use them to extract secrets and dosh The trio attempt one big scam, testing their relationships to the limit.
An intricate plot ensues dangling one central question: were Fran and Jason real or inventions of Eileen‘s own troubled mind.7 Down the wine bar, Bridget might be a Darcy bore, but even a newly exorcised Eileen might give cause for pause. (Denyse Presleyl
SHORT STORY COLLECTION John Burnside Burning Elvis (Cape £10) ,_
EIVis lived too long. He should have died when he was still perfect, before his memory could become sullied John Burnside might have chosen a common sentiment as the central metaphor to the title story of this thoughtprovoking collection, but it is the way he uses it that counts.
The story, like most in the book, unfolds \Vith skill, drawing on those areas of slight discontent where men are
at their most vulnerable And then he
SUIKGS. A beautifully timed shot that is neither twist nor sting in the tail, but a Juddenng revelation which leaves you
reeling and emotionally raVished.
Not all the tales are as powerful but each has the capacity to disturb and allure with equal measure Burnside‘s realm is the area of the psyche where innocence becomes lost and where maturity develops, hrs skill is to give readers access to that area and to let them explore its vagaries for themselves. (Thom Dibdinl
ROCK 'N' ROLL FICTION JoelLane From Blue To Black (Serpent's Tail £10)
Rock ’n‘ roll is a world inhabited by heroes, lunatics and shysters. It‘s a madhouse where the truth is inev:tab|y stranger and fiction should keep its nose out unless we‘re talking the language of gossip and innuendo So if you want a great book on the SUDJC‘CI, forget this or even Espadair Street and check out Simon Napier Bell’s account of 60s London, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me.
Not that Joel Lane's first novel is so awful Okay, he rather overdoses on adjé‘CilVCS and his prose may be of a distinctly purple hue, but the setting of the early 90s indie toilet circuit is Vivid enough to smell of cider, sweat and Sl(l<, Teen spirit in other words. And on stage Karl, our Gen X martyr of the Richey Manic school, is suitably beautiful and damned. Trouble is by the end of the book, like Karl, you really don’t care. (Rodger Evans)
METROPOLITAN FICTION Vanessa Jones Twelve (Flamingo £9.99)
Not much happens in this series of inter- related urban tales. Recruitment consultant Lily lives for the weekend and bemoans the lack of a clear purpose to her life Best mate Edward seems content with his lot, but then he's never really wanted for anything Weary party girl lvlary swaps the chaos of the city for the calm of the countryside while. orphan Colin goes to excessive lengths to safeguard against being uprooted from the city he loves
Debut i‘ovelist Vanessa Jones uses her VlVl(le realised group of self-absorbed twentysomethings to make some keen observations abOut urban isolation and longing Yet some readers may find her conclusions somewhat depressing, particularly her unattractive portrayal of male/female relationships, characterised by petty rivalry and ruthless calculation
Ultimately, the inhabitants of Tirve/ve feel like the kind of people who have too much time on their hands and too much disposable income in the bank to do anything other than whine (Allan Radcliffel
Roddy Lumsden The Book Of Love (Bloodaxe £7.95)
This particular book of love doesn't come smelling of red roses Instead it' the bitter but delicious sting of sour Vinegar on (hips, stale booze on the breath or flowering currant (which is a pretty flower that always somehow smells of pissl