Hooking Up (Jonathan Cape £17.99) * 1i: i
It took Tom Wolfe eleven years to write his last novel, A Man In Full, 'a killer, financially’ as he points out in his essay 'My Three Stooges' (a response to the savaging the book received from John Updike, Norman Mailer and John Irving). It's not surprising then, that Wolfe should rush out this relatively slim volume of non-fiction fragments plus a novella, ’Ambush At Fort Bragg', expunged from the 900-page A Man In Full.
Hooking Up also includes musings on the state of the American nation at the dawn of the new millennium and the origin of the internet (envisioned by a French Jesuit priest who died in 1955, apparently). Plus there is some journalism dating back to the 60s with the spat between the New Yorker and the Herald Tribune, where Wolfe was busy inventing New Journalism; ie doing lots of research.
Much of it is clever clever when it's not being utterly self-indulgent. One for Wolfe completists only.
Simple Stories (Picador £14.99) at t it
Yvonslolod by John E Woods
Berlin-based Ingo Schulze's fragmentary debut novel is set in the former East Germany in the years since
110 NEW 30 Nov—14 Dec 2000
the Wall was toppled It deals With ar0und twenty loosely connected characters struggling With the loss of identity and stability erught by Reunification. SWitching between narrative voices, it details their small defeats and triumphs, assembling a patchwork that illuminates a society in confusing, soul-sapping flux
But Schulze’s strategy of dribbling information to the reader as if by acodent can be exasperating Most episodes work well as self-contained Vignettes, but the characters are sketchily drawn — age, physical appearance and relationships are rarely clarified — so it is hard to recognise them when they reappear, or to care much about them.
Some readers may enjoy piecmg together the Jigsaw, and this rather stilted American translation by John E. Woods was favourably compared to Raymond Carver in the States. But although Simple Stories is sometimes compelling, it is often infuriating. (Andrew Burnet)
CULTURAL COMMENTARY Lesley Downer
Geisha: The Secret History Of A Vanishing World (Headline £20) ****
The recent TV documentaries, and the continued popularity of Arthur Golden’s Memoirs Of A Geisha prove, should we have been in any doubt, that the lives of these mysterious ladies of the East are still fascmating to the Western world. The release of Lesley Downer’s mighty tome merely reiterates the pomt.
Unlike Golden’s novel, Geisha: The Secret History Of A Vanishing World is a work of non-fiction which is a combination of meticulously researched history of geisha’s origins and an exploration of their role in the let century.
lnterwews With geisha and those directly associated With their world, as well as Downer's own experiences behind the normally closed doors of the tea-houses combine to prowde a unique and compelling insight into the lives of modern-day geisha. Penetrating this secretive sooety must have been no easy JOb, so you can almost forgive the self-congratulatory tone which permeates the book; the only downside to what is an altogether fascinating read. (Kirsty Knaggs)
SCI-Fl COMEDY Rob Grant Colony (Viking £14.99) * * ~k
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An allegorical hotch potch
Sci-fi is a genre which has never gone through the renaissance that crime or historical drama novels have of late. And aside from the emergence of cyberpunk work by the likes of William Gibson and Jeff Noon in the early 90$, sci-fl has never seemed as relevant since its golden years of the 505 and
Along with the likes of the ubiquitous Terry Pratchett, authors like Rob Grant continue to thrive, if not exactly pushing any boundaries. As co- creator of the 905 most successful sci-fl sitcom, Red Dwarf, Grant can feel more than qualified in taking a comic turn on the genre. Colony, his fourth novel, is his first effort away from Rimmer 8. Co but he has still created a
strikingly similar fantastical world.
The story commences in this age of genetic body modification and global disaster. The Willflower is a huge spacecraft designed to take the cream of earth's inhabitants to a new dawn on a distant planet, which, unsurprisingly, goes quite utterly wrong. This grand construct is a peculiar environment on which to base a comedy and Grant tries to take the bull by the horns but can't decide whether this is character-led humour or some big allegory. It ends up a bit of a hatch patch, and the smug tone tends to grate
after a while.
Much like his TV writing, if you get into it you'll buy the T-shirt; if you don't, you’re left wondering what all the fuss is about. (Mark Robertson)
I Colony is published on Thu 30 Nov.
Arnon Grunberg Silent Extras (Secker E10) * ‘k t a: ir
Put your emotions down before you pick this book up. With the same abstract, outsider perspective, Arnon Grunberg captures the essence of life reminiscent of the detached venom of Holden Caulfield in Catcher In the Rye, Introducing characters With a charm that borders on cynicism, Ewald Stanislas Krieg — Simultane0usly a bit player and the tale's main perpetrator in this tale -
enIWines us in the life of a dreamer, a life slowly slipping through fingers
With the help of Broccoli and the mysterious Argentinean EIVira, he becomes part of the Sooety of Geniuses, carrying out Operation Brando, where surVival is the only role available. Seen from a distance, the lack of emotion in this scenario is betrayed only by Elwra as she forms an immediate history With every character. These relationships add to the intrigue but you do want to know more. A minor p0int against what is the Existential novel of the year. (Aly Burt)