BOOKS REVIEW continued


Peter Blegvad

The Book Of Leviathan (Sort Of Books £12.99) * ‘k a ‘ilr

Independent On Sunday. It was the era when its Review section was packed with articles as unexpected as they were compelling. But what made the difference between a good read and an essential purchase was Leviathan, a cartoon strip by Peter Blegvad that combined surreal imagination and eXistential musings With superb draughtsmanship.

Now, all our Sundays have come at once With a lovmgly bOund anthology of Blegvad’s finest work for the paper between 1991 and 1999. Charting the life and times of Levi, a featureless baby in green romper soit (catchphrase: ’Depl'), it varies from being a Witty send-up of the egotistical child to a disturbing satire on the human condition.

It’s this variety that sustains it as a collection sight gags and puns nestling alongside literary quotations and artistic references all VIVICIIy realised by Blegvad's precise pen-and- ink technique. (Mark Fisher)


David Aitken

Sleeping With Jane Austen (No Exit Press £10) fir a 1t 1r

: Comparisons With Patrick Suskind's

f Perfume spring immediately to mind

when confronted With DaVid Aitken's audacious and macabre narrative about a

man obsessed With women's ears. Similarly a story of a murderer

compelled by 'grOin trouble' to defile the

bodies of young women, Aitken’s tale is a first-person autobiographical accOunt

of a madman interred in a mental

institution for defiling ladies and their lugs. Our 'hero' kills them by skewering

their orifices With sharp objects and then

removmg said organs before wolfing them down.

While this may seem a bit much, Aitken narrowly av0ids creating a wanton sick- fest Via his character's frequently laugh- 0ut-l0ud deathly black humour and his literary ramblings about the merits of Proust and Trollope. In the same way that the controversial film Man Bites Dog achieved a distance from its questionable subject matter through humour, Aitken delivers a darkly amusing tale of a rather amicable lunatic. (Catherine Bromley)


Pomona Queen (No Exit £6.99) tiit

Like Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy

before him, Kem Nunn takes the classic

Chandler crime nOir format and gives it a kick up the ass, straight into the present day, Pomona Queen comes

108 THE lIST 5—19 Oct 2000

over as a dark and bitterly funny tale, the equal of any in the genre.

Earl Dean is the unfortunate anti-hero of the story, a fortysomething vacuum salesman who, through chance, comes face to face With Dan Brown, a homicidal maniac who remembers him from school and drags him into a half- baked, highly dangerous plot to avenge his brother's death.

Throughout, the plotting is tight and pacy, the language is razor-sharp, and the sense of impending doom is brilliantly oppresswe. Nunn handles the action and dialogue With one eye on the big screen, while through Dean's thoughts he delves into the darker recesses of the human psyche, anchoring the characters in their depressing surroundings and creating an exoting and affecting novel.

(Doug Johnstone)

URBAN DRAMA Ernesto Quifionez

Bodega Dreams (Serpents Tail flO) 2* 3‘: «ii a






Ernesto QUinonez's debut is being marketed as 'West Side Story meets The Sopranos, but that's misleading The y0ung Latino writer raised in Spanish Harlem actually takes his lead from former creative writing tutor and novelist Walter Ivlosley Like Bill Clinton’s fay/Ourite writer, Quinonez's SLijeCIS are the street, race issues and modern urban communities, and he delivers them in the hard-boned, stripped-down prose style.

Through two young Puerto Ricans one straight, the other a two-bit hood Qtiinonez tells the story of William Irizzari, a former radical actiVist in the 603 who reinvents himself as a drug lord in East Harlem in the 90s named Willie Bodega. But as he says, ’erhe Bodega don't sell rocks. Willie Bodega sells dreams.’ And his big dream is to rebuild his community which isn't so easy when you operate Outside the law and within a marginalised community

A compelling tale from a writer who knows his community inside Out. (Ivliles Fielderi


Frank McCourt 'Tis (Flamingo £6.99) a i

Our teens and twenties are remembered in a different light to Our childhood. This altered perception differentiates Frank McCOurt's latest book from his worldWide best-seller

" ’4 M.

Angela’s Ashes.

Continuing where he left off, the sequel finds MCCOurt treading the streets of New York struggling to find work and love, all the while wrestling With the Irish upbringing which opens some doors yet sees others slammed in his face. McCourt’s prose is highly evocative Without lapsing into sentiment, his love for his family conveyed as vrwdly as the various downbeat lodgings, bars and characters he encOunters. The emptiness and frustration he feels as the teacher strikes a chord, but the magic of his childhood is long gone.

The struggle to surVive and family dynamics explored so colourfully in Angela’s Ashes are replaced by the search for meaning. You'll want to know where Frank McCOurt ends up while yearning for the old days as much as he does. (Louisa Pearson)


No Place Like Home (Picador £6.99) ****




Gary Younge‘s contributions to The Guardian are usually worth a look, whether you’ve a political interest in some of his decidedly left-Wing observations or JUSI for the sake of enJOying his laid-back style and outspoken opinions.

So, while you’d expect No Place Like Home to follow the tried and tested hack-book route of compiling some of his stronger raCially-orientated articles which, by the way, WOuld still make for a good read, this actually amounts to something much more Substantial. Younge documents his travels on the famous Greyhound Bus around America’s SOthern states in an ambitious Bill Bryson-esque attempt to explore the issue of black identity in the USA of today.

The end reSult is an important piece of travel writing that not only represents a fascinating Cultural document, but also prOVides a witty, touching and refreshingly honest insight into a challenging subject that, all too often, gets treated With kid gloves. (Olly Lassman)


t 1* tr * 1" Unmissable

k s s it Very good

it t it Worth a shot

a t Below average

at You’ve been warned





National Poetry Day at Ottakar's ()ttakar's Bookstore. l'nit 6. Buchanan Galleries. Buchanan Street. 353 1500. A wide range of eyents and competitions for adults and children to mark National Poetry Day.

Susan Greenfield Strathelyde I'niyersity. Mc(‘ance Building. 7.30pm. Free. Lecture by Professor Stisan (ireenlield. the author of Bi'rii'ii/mii‘r'i' (lilement Books Ltd “8.99).


National Poetry Day at the Writers' Museum Writers' Museum. Lady Stair‘s House. Lady Stair"s ('lose. 52‘) 4‘)()I. l()am—-5pm. I-‘ree. Readings from Iz'rli'ii/iirije/i: .‘III Illlfllllllt’ (fly. a neyy anthology of contemporary poetry. National Poetry Day at the Fruitmarket Fruitinarket (iallery. 45 Market Street. 225 2383. 3pm. I‘ree. An afternoon of poetry readings featuring Ken (‘ockburir Dayid Cameron. Iilspeth Murray and (iael 'l‘urnbull. National Poetry Day at James Thin James 'I‘hin. 53 5‘) South Bridge. 622 X222. Ipm. I-‘ree. Readings from Palgray‘e°s (in/(It'll 77‘('(I.VIII'_\’. Btlfl'll R/iyiiir's. .‘III liiiiiiirrli' (fly and the recently published anthology Robert Louis Stevenson's I’m'iiix for children. \Vith prizes and books to be won. National Poetry Day at the Scottish Poetry Library Scottish Poetry Library. 5 (‘richton’s (’lose. (‘anongate. 557 2876. 6.3() S.3()pm. l’ree. 'I'he Italian/Scottish (‘onnection I-‘iy'e poets of Scottiin or Italian descent read from their \york.

Margaret Atwood (‘entral Hall. West 'I'ollcross. 22l l027. 7pm. £3 (5.2). At the Iidinburgh launch of her last noyel Margaret Atwood took time to tell her audience that she hated doing book tours. Howey er. here she is again reading from her tenth noyel. 'l'lii' H/IIIt/ xIs‘y'rIs‘sriI (Bloomsbury f I 6.99 I.

Out Loud Athletic Arms. Angle Park 'I'errace. 337 3822. 7.30pm. L'l donation. Monthly open mic night of poetry. prose and song run by the Phoenix Writers' (iroup. Performers and readers welcome. For more information contact mail(a‘

Fergusson's Auld Reekie Tour Netherbow Arts ('entre. 43- 45 High Street. 556 9579/2647. 2pm. £2 (£1)..-\ tour as part of National Poetry Day that takes in the old haunts of Iidinburgh poet Robert I’ergusson to mark the 2501b anniyersary of his birth. The tour leayes from outside the \etherboyy and is to be led by James Robertson yy ho has recently edited a new edition of .Sr’lr'r'lr'r/ I’rir'ms by I‘L‘t‘g‘tlssolt.

The Hamely Muse Neihei-him .-\I'ts Centre. 43—45 Iiiin Street. 556 9579/2647. 7.30pm. £51£3.5(II. (‘elebrating the 25(Itli anniyersary of the birth of influential lidinburgh poet Robert I‘ergusson. James Robertson reads from I’ergusson’s work and Angus (‘aldeiz (‘hristine De Luca and I'lllie McDonald perform their own poetry.

St Andrews

StAnza 2000 (‘rayyford .-\rts ('eiitre. 9.3 .\'orth Street. (H.334 47-1610. Scotland’s poetry festiyal \\ ith ey ents until Stiii 8 ()ct.



Matt Dickinson Royal ('oncerl Hall. 2 Satichiehall Street. 287 55] l. lpiii. £3.50. Iixpedition cineinattigrapher whose first book. The Ih'iiI/i Xriiii'. recounts DickiIIson's experiences on liyerest during the killer \\ inter of ‘06. He has no“ written a noy cl. Hie/i RI.\/\. which is a dramatic story of a light for stiry'iyal.