Double Fold: Libraries And The Assault On Paper (Vintage 52699) O.

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Double Fold

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Everybody loves a trier don‘t they? And whether it's the government. the Red Sea or just the US library system you want to take to task. that alone is w0rthy of praise. Nicholson Baker is a trier.

Earning a rep penning frisky novellas about time travel and phone sex. Baker turned his focus years back to extolling the virtues of the minutiae of life including library index cards. Whilst investigating their history he found that in the US. newspaper archives were being systematically pulped (after being wrongly branded as decomposing) and replaced with poor quality microfilm.

In this extensive tome. Baker digs. A// The President's Men style. to uncover a process of misinformation which has meant the destruction of yet another irreplaceable part of American history. Ultimately though. DOLib/e Fo/d is overlong and overwritten, and while we can salute the principles. the story underneath is in need of some serious editing. Trying. indeed.

(Mark Robertson)

SHORT STORIES PETER STRAUB Magic Terror (HarperCollins €6.99) 0..

Warning: you should be aware that work by Peter Straub has a tendency to take up squatters' rights in the brain. putting its feet up on the frontal lobes and

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making unsettling noises late at night when you're trying to sleep.

Of the seven stories anthologised here. one in particular will lodge itself in your mind. In a typically Straubian literary flourish. ‘lvlr Clubb And Mr Cuff' is based on Herman Melville's ‘Bartleby The Scrivener'. Whether you get that or not doesn't matter as this tale of infidelity. murder and redemption through pain will cause plenty of shudders - and. curiously. laughs - even for those of us without English degrees.

Most but not all of Magic Terror is within the horror genre for which Straub is best known. ‘lsn't It Romantic?'. for example. is a skewed but essentially predictable take on the espionage thriller. Diversity is all very well. but this is one writer who remains at his strongest when usmg a palette of blood reds and midnight blacks. (Jack Barber)

BLACK COMEDY KATE JENNINGS Moral Hazard (Fourth Estate 5: I O) 0.00

This second novel by a former leading light in Australia's l9(3()s feminist movement is a slight tome and an easy read. but the author's simplicity of style packs a weighty and powerful punch. Although readable in one sitting.

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Any Human Heart (Hamish Hamilton 5:17.99) 0000

At one point in William Boyd’s new novel, his hero

Logan Mountstuart chews over the notion that a

journal should concentrate on the minutiae of daily life,

while ignoring significant world events. It just so

happens that, like an English public schoolboy version of Forrest Gump, the defining moments and characters of 20th century history impact directly on this man of letters’ momentous life.

Like that other recently departed relic of a bygone

era, Mountstuart’s life spans every decade of the century. In the school and Oxford journals, Boyd

presents Logan as a kind of vanguard Adrian Mole, a romantic observer with an unquestioning desire to

write, who illuminates the world around him almost in spite of his naivety and basic lack of talent.

We follow Logan’s erratic literary successes, from active involvement in the Spanish Civil and Second

World Wars to post-war commentaries on New York, Nigeria, London and France. On the way, Logan comes into contact with figures from culture and politics too

numerous to list here.

Boyd’s hero is a rich, comic vehicle for his ideas on the tensions between the old and new worlds and his slightly Emperor’s New Clothes-ish view of 20th century art. Logan is also a difficult protagonist to like. Vain, fickle, snobbish and increasingly self-pitying, his diaries eventually become what Logan

most fears, ‘a documentary of one writer’s decline.’

A rich, comic vehicle

Yet his stoicism, his loyalty to his friends and his talent for survival and constant reinvention allows readers to root for him and the novel is ultimately moving and involving. (Allan Radcliffe)

Moral Hazard is a precise and vicious whirlwind of blacker than black comedy set in the undOLibtedIy absurd world of 90s Wall Street.

Cath is a former political radical and journalist who takes a high-paying job as a speech writer for a financial company's executives in order to fund care for her husband who has been struck down with Alzheimer's.

If that doesn't sound like a sitcom pitch. well. that's because it's not. but there is a certain amount of caffeine—bitter humour to be fOund here deeply hidden amongst the sparse yet exact prose. With a world-weary political edge. Moral Hazard is a thought-provoking and ultimately enriching read. (Doug Johnstone)


T.C. CAMPBELL AND REG McKAY Indictment: Trial By Fire (Czrinongate $37.99) 0...

TC. Campbell doesn't want your love. Just because lies behind bars. a Victim. he says. of a miscz-irriage of justice. doesn't mean he's going to present himself as some kind of innocent. Born in a deprived 1950:; Glasgow. he grew up in

an atmosphere of crime: his dad was in prison for most of T.C.'s childhood.

And it's a strength of his case that Campbell (aided by jOurnalist and ex-social worker Reg McKay) doesn't hide any of this. He doesn't want y0ur tears. he simply wants justice. He's no angel. he protests persuasively. but had no part in the 'ice cream war” murder of a family ()f six in 1984. Rather. he argues. he was framed by the police and cornered by a judiciary incapable of recognising as much.



His evidence is both damning and shocking. revealing a brutalised society and a Kafka- esgue legal system. This is a provocative and disturbing book that WI“ change your perspective on the cosy world you thought you lived in. (Mark l-isher)

DRUGS DRAMA KATY WATSON High On Life (The Women‘s Press S: 10.99) .0

Any tale that highlights the perils of addiction ought to be applauded. simply for bringing it to the public eye. However. Katy Watson fails her subject matter. Our addict protagonist. Esther. is simply too convenient to be true (graphic layout artist. feminist. sexually abused as a child) and her smack problem looms on a predictable hori/on. as does her eventual rehabilitation. The empathy we are encouraged to feel is often smothered under untimely and contrived helpings of aniattnir political philosophy. the obligatory slagging of Trainspotting. and the odd anti-capitalist rant. Too many channels of thought are touched upon. and High On Life could go in so many

directions: sadly. most remain unexplored and the novel is left with a horriny unsatisfactory eiiding. Watson is keen to reasswe us that her characters are not run of the mill addicts. but despite all their cute quirks and cross- dressing. it's all too obvious that they come from the same template.

(Rowan Martin)

POE TRY. PROSE JIM DODGE Rain On The River (Canongate €7.99) .0...

I'll tell you what my daddy told me'. confides a voice here. 'Son. if you're gomg to be a bear. be a grizzly'. A collection of poetry and short stories. Rain On The River meanders from the melancholic and obscure ('Woman In A Room Full Of Rubber Numbers'l to the hilarious and graphic ('A Meditation