Ml, DIA SAT IRI.
WILL FERGUSON Happiness” (Canongate S.‘.9.99i
The premise here is painfully simple: what would happen if someone wrote a self-help book that actually worked? The ans‘.'.rer inevitably is ‘lots' and for his debut novel. \.‘\.’;il Ferguson almost pulls it off.
The action centres on disgruntled. Cynical. dystinctional Ix ok editor Edna/in :le Valu who becomes embroaleo in a part: Canoe ibai/ Run. part-124w Of The i'i’or/ds chase to find the author of said self-help bible as the ‘.'.'or|d around him goes I‘orribly. horribly
Fer'giis<;r"s; dry. f occasionally obvious humour keeps Han: wess .‘rom descending into ‘.‘.rorthy navel ga/ing and any “silica: does it all mean?" pcnderings are helpfully side-tracked by the plot. As one might expect. it is incred'ni‘, difficult to come ui; a ESEtiESiLICin", coi‘rpusion to such series c" (LéliélCl‘ySllllC events and things t aai off T()'.'.’£t"flf$ the em. 'ii‘a'ikfiili‘, though. “we, to that point
h) \)\l ’1\/l\/I’nll]
to ;.i.si.‘, the trip.
POL i RY
ROGER McGOUGH Everyday Eclipses (Viking 5999! 0..
He doesn't go III for liefiirlrileriieiit :lces Roger l‘/lf‘,(i()tl(_}ll. Not for hr" the cryptic mysteries
and linguistic ambiguities of your average modern poet. He tells 'em straight. Which is one reason the sometime Liverpool beat poet and Scaffold member is Such a hit on the live circuit. His appeal is immediate. his poetry funny. true and easy to like.
It borders on the \VllllllSlCal. which is his downside. and there are a couple of entries in this new collection that are too facile for their own good. Only in the title poem. ‘Everyday Eclipses', neatly echoed in the closing ‘The End'. does he aspire to bring full emotional weight to his urban observations.
For the most part. he is happy to doodle: in surreal tales of meetings v-rith famous pop stars (McCartney. Dylan and the Gallaghersi. in crisp anecdotes about restaurants. holidays and poetry readings. and in short verses built on iokey word play. It won't change your world. but it might make your night. lMark Fisher)
RELATIONSHIP DRAMA ANTONI LIBERA Madame l‘Canongate 536.99‘i COO
‘Subiecting these feelings to a thorough analysis I concluded that they were S‘yll‘.l)l()li‘-SS of a sulx:onscious fear'. reveals our hero. exi_)laiiiiiig a ll‘()ll‘.(}ltl£lf\” faltering in his guest for the beautiful and elusive Madan‘e.
The story of a self— obsessed teenager in desperate adolescent pursuit of his unobtainable French teacher in t9f3()s Poland is a symphony of intellectual romantic obs ission. Everything he does is couched |.'l terms of a gan‘e of chess and (I()IlI£llllfS Elll‘j)|(,’ references to high art. it story and politics. At first this is charn‘iiig but
108 THE LIST '-1 L": I/iai Jr‘lii’f/
A Child's Book Of True Crime (Jonathan Cape £12.99) 0...
Chloe Hooper’s debut could well be the first novel on record to deliberately combine a gruesome murder mystery with classic nursery stories. Yet, there is method behind the seeming madness of this young Australian’s debut.
Set in Tasmania, the novel is narrated by Kate Byrne, 3 primary school teacher in her early 205, who is in the middle of an adulterous affair with Thomas, the father of a precocious student. Thomas’ wife Veronica recently published a book about a local crime of passion and Kate naturally becomes paranoid when her car brakes are sabotaged and someone begins scrawling accusing messages across the classroom door. Naive and romantic, Kate starts imagining a children’s version of Veronica’s book featuring animal characters like Kitty Koala and Missy Pink Princess the tabby.
Hooper’s rich, innovative debut can be read on the level of satire, with the author poking fun at the hugely popular true crime fiction genre and the insistence of certain writers that what is read and
sold for cheap thrills is actually written for reasons
of necessary social responsibility.
Through her fanciful heroine, Hooper also brings us the aboriginal concept of ‘dream time’ - that alternative, fantastic reality that exists in dreams -
.. 4” s
as well as the cute mores of classic Australian children’s fiction. Yet, like a classic episode of Columbo, the book is most chillingly compelling as an intriguing
character study, with the author skilfully building the protagonist’s sense of isolation and
paranoia. Hooper is definitely one to watch. (Allan Radcliffe)
rapidly becomes irritating and eventually it's plain tedi0us.
Yet his schemes are engaging as chess. Each move is carefully calculated and the possible ramifications methodically explored. Madame is skilfully written and the subtle backdrop of communisn‘. interesting and convrncing. But no matter how well Libera invokes our narrator's yoothful arrogance and pretension, the fact remains that it is arrogant and pretentious. And irritating. lAnna Shipmanl
CHALMERS ED. Beneath Black Stars (Serpents Tail 539) 0...
There's an old Austrian cliche that when two older men get together for a night out they iove nothing better than getting ridiculously drunk and moaning about how
shit their lives are and how their families are a disappointment to them.
And then they stumble in the dark to their beautiful
homes and perfect families.
This collection of contemporary Austrian fiction is the literary equivalent. excellent writing from a gorgeOLis country that is stuck in a trough of self-hatred and the need for redemption from the sins of history. Don't be put off by that though as there are some wonderful stories here. many of Such vitriol yet odd pathos that it is little wonder that Michael Haneke is the most influential filmmaker working in Europe today.
All the stories here are worth a visit but ex-Na/i supporter Heimito von Doderer's tale of fascism from the eastern bloc. Doron Rabinovici's Yiddish-humour inflected ‘A Nose For It and Elfriede Jelinek's 'No Man Is are all outstanding. (Paul Dale)
CULT DRAMA STEWART HOME 69 Things To Do With A Dead Princess (Canongate €9.99)
Considering that the author's last book was called Cunt, it's no surprise that this utterly
THINGS ill be WITH A DEAD PRINCESS
ridiculous novel is somewhat low on the subtlety scale. Stewart Home is a cult figure to some. pushing the boundaries of post- postmodern literature and the novelistic form. Sadly this doesn't make his writing any more readable. and this thoroughly tedious book is a complete waste of time.
Which is probably Home‘s point. Or something. There is no real plot as such (naturally). but essentially 69 Things To DO With A Dead Princess features terribly clever lit-crit pastiche. badly written hardcore pornography. and a mind-numbingly boring guide to the ancient stone circles of ADCFUOOIISHIFO and little all else.
It's clear that Home knows exactly what he's deing. and you can only
(gill til I It'llll’l
aSSLime that some of this is deliberately terrible
writing. Sadly. while some
books can be so bad they're funny. this is just plain old bad.
FAMILY DRAMA SUE MILLER The World Below (Bloomsbury Ct OI O...
Skilful study of isolation and paranoia
Dealing With a lot of the usual big literary themes — love. family, loss. relationships. fidelity — Sue Miller anchors her stery in the familiar everydayness of life and deftly guides the reader through her inCisive tale of lost possibilities with seemingly effortless skill. Middle-aged Catherine Hubbard. with grown-up kids and two tailed ITlerI'IilgC’S. inherits her grandparents house in Vermont and moves there from San FranCisco. On discovering some old diaries. she gradually pieces together their lives