Fiction & Biography .
Don McCullin (Jonathan Cape 5750) .0...
You need to have a mixture of luck and talent to photograph the defining moment in any story. When it comes to capturing the terrors of war and the horrors of post-conflict life, you also need balls of steel. Don McCullin has got the lot.
Now, safely tucked away in his Somerset home, the killing fields that made his name must seem a lifetime away. He surely can’t miss them, having been fired at by the Khmer Rouge, and threatened directly with death if he continued to point his camera toward Christian soldiers in Beirut. As Susan Sontag notes in her essay at the start of this stunning retrospective, he has become a war hero by providing a pictorial history of the ravages of battle. ‘A photograph can’t coerce,’ she states. ‘It won’t do the moral work for us. But it can start us on the way.’
And looking at how McCullin got on his way to prominence, you can spot the links between the early works and the later ones. A flock of sheep being led to slaughter down the Caledonian Road in London could be the US Marines awaiting their fate while crouched behind a
wall in Vietnam; the sharp-suited gangland leaders of the East End point to the bare-chested Palestinian youths training for Holy War. And how strikingly similar the desolate landscapes around Glastonbury and the wilds of Glencoe are to the flooded terrains of Bangladesh or the strife-torn environments of Biafra or the Congo. Though, minus the victims of war with their faces blown off by the force of gunfire.
The power of these pictures lie as much in the questions they raise as well as the bold statements they appear to be making. What did that US soldier see that has made him look so stunned? How many of those fleeing women survived the imminent carnage in East Beirut? Where would that sixteen-year—old mentally
handicapped Biafran boy’s next meal come from?
HISTORICAL DRAMA BERYL BAINBRIDGE
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A shellshocked US marine stares into McCullin’s unforgiving lens
And as McCullin rests his weary soul in Somerset, how he must be acutely aware of his calm surrounds. What you can feel in many of these images is the blaring sounds which must have accompanied the pain of those involved. The screaming of the Turkish woman as she finds the murdered corpse of her husband; the sound of shells ringing in the ears of the doomed Cambodian
paratroopers; the abusive yells of the anti-Nazis as the
Any fears that Beryl l-iainbridge might treat Samuel .Johnson, the subject of this latest novel. Hill) a little too much respect are Immediately proved groundless. According lo Queeney begins with a description of his stinking corpse. replete with gall stones and testicular cysts.
Bainbridge's tale takes 1765 as Its starting point. a lull decade alter Johnson's Dictionary had been published. and eight years after the death of his wealthy wife. lefty Porter. With the bulk of his work behind him. Johnson had settled with the Thrale family In Streatham. and it is Queeney one of the lhrales' five daughters; — whose opinions and Viewpoint dominate this novel.
Johnson was a great believer In seeing life ‘as It really Is'. But Bainbridge's technigue of using flashbacks, breaking her main narrative up With letters written by the adult ()ueeney and of Inserting definitions from the Doctor's own dictionary as chapter headings illustrates that there can be as many
far right gather in Southend.
This collection is a document of the futility of war, the pain of loneliness and the perverse thrill of conﬂict. As his former editor Harold Evans notes, the images are ‘sympathetic without being sentimental’. And they are beautiful without denying their beastliness.
truths as there are people to see them.
Johnson is given a few bon mots. and the likes of James Boswell (drunk), David Garrick (self-regarding) and Marie Antoinette (fastidious) get walk- on parts. But According To Queeney is no historical Hel/o.’; Bainbridge's focus is firmly set on the domestic sphere. on Johnson's frustrated love for Mrs Thrale. on her husband's decline into gluttony and her daughter's probing, irreverent young mind.
This portrait of 18th century London shows a dynamic. dirty city of charlatans and show-offs, in which crudity and superstition, despite being under attack from the modernising force of Enlightenment, are rarely more than an arm's reach away. Her portrait of Johnson and those that surrounded him is merciless. evocative and very funny. but her real achievement becomes clear after her tale has run its course, and you realise that she has also made you care rather strongly for these flawed and long-dead individuals. (James Smart)
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Debutants under the microscope. This issue: Glen David Gold
Who he? Glen David Gold was born in Hollywood and currently lives in Southern California. When the entire state isn't in blackout, Gold powers up his PC and fires off articles for the LA Times as well as scripts for film and television. His first produced script was an episode of the cartoon Hey Arnold. and whose subject matter set the precedent for future publications.
His debut Carter Beats The Devil is the fruit of several frustrating years of extensive research, including $4000 worth of magic books and a lifelong interest in the so—called Golden Age Of Magic. the roaring 203. The novel was inspired by a theatrical poster of that time which set Gold wondering who this mysterious Carter was. In the book, Gold gradually reveals the man behind the celebrated magic spectacle. while charting his involvement in the death of President Harding.
Basically . . . This is a work of sheer escapism, rich in detail and a loving evocation of a less media—sawy age. The plot bulges to contain its many intrigues. twists and red herrings but our attention is held by the fast pace and Gold's clear. assured writing. First line test ‘On Friday. August third, 1923. the morning after President Harding's death, reperters followed the widow. the Vice President. and Charles Carter. the magician.‘ (Allan Radcliffe) I Carter Beats The Devil is pub/ished by Sceptre, £74.99.