The Shadows of Elisa Lynch
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It's easy to think of the rest of the world as little more than a backdrop to the precipitous rise and fall of empires. nation states and ideologies that shook 19th century Europe. Sian Rees' foray into South America. however. makes that whole shebang feel like a particularly uneventful episode of Postman Pat.
Her Subject is Elisa Lynch. an Irish courtesan of questionable origins and remarkable beauty who won the love of Francisco Solano Lopez when the Paraguayan heir apparent was performing diplomatic duties in Paris. Upon ascending to the presidency. Lopez succeededin precipitating war with Brazil. Argentina and Uruguay. As their ‘triple amance'advanced.he retreated into alcoholism and paranoia. bayoneting hundreds of alleged traitors while the enemy burned the countryside.
Rees provides a coherent and stirring account of a chaotic time. but her focus on Lynch means she occasionally loses tOuch with the larger and arguably more interesting aspects of the conflict.
NICK TOSCHES In the Hand of Dante (No But 912.99)
‘To my thick and obscure unne.‘ says Tosches in raising a glass to the ghost of Marlowe. Not a glass of urine. you understand.
That would be disgusting. And there's much else for Tosches to be disgusted with: editors. pear shaped individuals. diabetes. AOL, mediocrity. humanity. God. is he angry. In fact the big man upstairs is not spared his vituperative attention either. Tosches even casts himself as a character here. a gangster- endorsed scribe with a love of the classics and a hate of most everything else. and it does become difficult to distinguish between the man and his fictional being. The real writer is a rock'n‘roll journalist turned biographer (of Sonny Liston and Dean Martin). while his character is a murderer
SEX MANUAL KIM CATTRALL 8: MARK LEVINSON Satisfaction (Thorsons £9.99) .00
Maybe it's metaphor: the artist as outlaw. Possibly it's an elaborate snook cocked at the philistines he sees running the writing game. Then again perhaps he's just taking the piss. (Rodger Evans)
NICHOLAS MOSLEY Inventing God (Secker & Warburg £16.99) 00
The problem with a
'novel of ideas' is that it
tends to be just that: a piece of fiction containing a great deal of thought but with precious little stOry. Inventing God is just such a book. Nicholas Mosley is obviously a
The Rolling Stones have spent nearly 40 years complaining about not getting any, so it’s only fitting that when Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall finally received some, she should not only shout about it but write a book and tell everybody. Satisfaction may be as rare a commodity now as it was in the Jagger/Richards heyday, but it’s unlikely that they were so concerned with the infrequency of the female orgasm as the song’s title may
Despite claims that this is co-written by the loving couple, this is very much Cattrall’s baby. The central premise is that women are an orgasmless breed, being wrongly attended to by males who are baffled by the wily contours of the female form. Cattrall herself tells of fallow years without as much as a whimper and this collection of explicit sketches and gushy prose is intended to point men in all the right
Gone are the Joy of Sex beards and hippie hair and in come two new millennium humpers, attuned to the subtle nuances of the clitoris and endowed with funkier manes. But despite the reference to S&TC on the cover, this is nowhere near as wild as 20 minutes in Samantha’s
As a manual, Satisfaction is woefully incomplete and, much like the TV show, explores only a modest sliver of human relations. This should really be called ‘YOU ARE NOT MAKING ME COME! SORT IT OUT NOW!’ But that’s way too crude; after all, it’s not
written by a man, is it? (Mark Robertson)
hugely intelligent writer. as his track record has proven, but here he has concentrated too heavily on engaging the mind at the expense of dealing with the heart.
Set mostly in the current Middle East. and working around the question of how to reinterpret the concepts of religion for a modern world, Inventing God connects a cast of existentially ponderous characters. all of whose tediously pretentious philosophical musings soundidenncal
Each character's nature and motivation is sketched so thinly that they all seem to drift around the pages with scarcely any presence at all. The end result is a disappointing novel that leaves the reader cold and unsatisfied. (Doug Johnstone)
HORROR STORY CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN & MIKE MIGNOLA
Hellboy: The Lost Army
(Titan £10.99) 0
‘This thing you're holding in your hands.’ says Mike Mignola.
Kim caters for; "
Creator of the paranormal investigator Hellboy, ‘is a bold experiment and (I hope) a smooth transition from Comic Book to Novel.‘ I don't know about smooth transition. but I do know it‘s an utterly pointless exercise. How does one improve upon a comic book series that has the medium‘s mix of visual and prose storytelling down to perfection by removing the visual art?
Okay. so there are panels of Mignola's wonderfully expressionist artwork scattered throughout. but they don't work with the text the way they do in the comic. And. bad as that is. the reading experience is made worse by Golden‘s
fema'es 9V. .w
dreadful style: ‘The tentacled thing issued a keening whistle that may have been 8 Cry of pain, or of triumph.‘ Zzzzz.
Without Mignola's visual flourish. this Hellboy story. which concerns the reappearance of Persian soldiers who vanished in 525 BC. is just a badly written ghost story.
CHILDHOOD MEMOIR HUGO
The Speckled People (Fourth Estate £15.99)
Memoirs can sometimes be the driest of all reading material. but not in the case of Irish novelist Hugo Hamilton. Because with The Speck/ed Peop/e. this author of a handful of novels and a collection of short stories evokes a confusing and strange childhood with precision. lyricism and simple. understated charm.
Hamilton was born and raised in post-war Dublin by a strictly nationalist Irish father and a German immigrant mother whose Outlook had been coloured by her wartime experiences. And so. raised to speak Gaelic and German but not English (the prevalent language in Dublin), Hamilton's stOry is one of trying to sert put his own identity. nationality. language and general outlook on life through his own distinct point of view.
All this is portrayed with wonderfully efficient imagery and a poetic sense of language that is both strikingly beautiful and deeply effecting. A Surprisineg powerful and moving book. (DOug Johnstone)
3(3 Jan—1:3 Fet) 2003. THE LIST 99