(Fourth Estate $316.99) 0000

Atwood and Welsh share their tales of public humiliation

his first appearance at a rain-sodden Edinburgh Book Festival when, booked to appear next door to Harold Pinter, the author of The Butcher Boy found himself performing to an audience of two: his agent and an

It’s been called the ‘British Disease’, that undeviating tendency of the great unwashed to revel in their celebrity heroes’ glorious downfalls. We Scots are certainly not averse to indulging in a spot of pedestal-toppling when a local icon becomes too big for his boots: the words ‘Billy’ and ‘Connolly’ spring immediately to mind. But it was those clever Germans who coined the term for that nastiest of human behaviours, ‘schadenfreude’.

Realising that we love to see talented, good-looking people having their pomposity pricked as humiliatingly as possible, poet Robin Robertson has challenged an astonishingly diverse band of writers to divulge their

elderly woman sheltering from the elements. Needless to say, this episode resulted in McCabe’s parting from said agent. On the other side of the pond, Rick Moody recounts the terrible humiliation of reading to an almost- empty bookstore in Washington DC, his mother, the sole audience member having travelled up from Virginia for the privilege.

Meanwhile, some of the tales, such as David Harsent’s revelation of drunkenly stumbling from a shared stage and noisily vomiting following a day of excess, seem almost too outrageous to be true, while John Hartley Williams goes for out-and-out fiction with a hilarious

hands-over-the-eyes episodes of public embarrassment. Those who thought the literary world was a place of champagne receptions and black tie award dinners will have their assumptions gleefully exploded by this hugely entertaining compendium to which anyone who picked up a pen and had the temerity to call themselves writers

can relate.

Inevitably, public readings, book tours and interviews form the backdrop to many of these horror stories, all wittin embellished by authors who actually seem grateful for the catharsis of reliving their real-life nightmares. Patrick McCabe creates a vivid, familiar image describing

Fielding provides a comfort read

122 THE LIST ‘1 Dec yous 8 .Ja" mow.

confessional from his poet alter-ego Blobchinsky. And then there’s the contribution of Irvine Welsh, a man most would assume had no shame to speak of. Predictably, his sorry situation involves being caught with his keks literally around his ankles in a filthy public bog as he tries to scrub some follow-through from his arse. Lovely.

For mean-spirited readers, it’s gratifying to hear the



Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination

(Picador 5‘1299l 0..

There may not be a Bridget in F-"edr‘g's latest lime and gone are the day“, entries but this is one for the Jones everyyron‘ai‘. everywhere. It's a Jolly old (ape of an adventure in which the insecurities; of our erstwhile heroine are cast off in search of stones. excitement and glory. No evenings in with a bottle of wine and box of chocolates for this one (that's what you'll be doing. readeri. Olivia Joules is a Journalist. (l(}ll‘()i(}(l from serious investigative probes to covering face cream launches II‘ Miami. Naturally our battling lass is a tough cookie: after all, she pulled herself up by the bootstraps fron‘ Worksop where she witnessed her entire family being Il‘()‘.'.’ll down in traffic. Beneath the dit/y exterior and her ‘overaclive IIl‘éKfllHtllOll that turns out to be not so excessz'e. she has

early predicaments of such literary giants as Margaret Atwood and Edna O’Brien, but it’s also refreshing to find that Robertson has included up-and-coming scribes such as Louise Welsh among the great and the good in this wonderfully guilty pleasure of a book. (Allan Radcliffe)

a keen eye for intrigue. And what do you know. she stumbles across an al anda plot amid the cream and lust of the sunshine state. 'Oliwa could hardly breathe . . . She had suddenly realised exactly who Feran‘o reminded her of. It was Osama Bin Laden.’ And so begins her guest.

Pop art style cartoons with captions Such as: "She scran‘bled into the helicopter. \‘Jishing she hadn't worn a slip dress and the uncomfortable shoes' complete the girls-own adventure feel. You're never quite sure how far Fielding's tongue is lodged in her cheek but despite the silliness. or ii‘aybe because of it. you grow rather fond of this harebrained hack. It's totally ridiculous but highly entertaining and :‘hines an amusing spotlight on the inane workings of PR, Journalism and celebrity: if not l(,‘i’f()flf§li‘.. Fielding is astute and lures you in with glamour while sintultaneously mocking it. For a comfort read this won't let you down. (Ruth I-Iedgesl


Classic novels revisited. This issue: A Christmas Carol Published 160 years ago.

What’s the story For any visiting Kayapo Indians who may happen across this magazine and ponder about what this article refers to, Charles Dickens‘ perennial Christmas favourite is the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. the miserly old grump who is visited on Christmas Eve by his deceased business partner. Jacob Marley. Along with three other ghosts, Marley shows Scrooge visions of Christmas: Past and Present. which include images of suffering that Scrooge himself has caused. and Future. with a premonition of the miser's lonely demise. The following day. Sorooge has undergone a complete personality change and is kind to those around him, including his ill- treated clerk Bob Cratchit.

What the critics said Versatile fiction writer and critic GK Chesterton (who himself penned a poem named after Dickens' seasonal tale) praised the novel thus: ‘Whether the Christmas visions would or would not convert Scrooge. they convert us. The story sings from end to end like a happy man going home.‘

Key moment The pre-transformation Scrooge is much more fun than his Christmas day alter ego, coming out with deliciously misanthropic lines such as ' . . . every idiot who goes about with “Meriy Christmas" on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.‘

Postscript The character of Scrooge (before and after his visitation) embodies some of the contradictions of Dickens' own personality. At once sentimental and extremely fond of children. he was also something of a penny pincher and marital bully.

First line test ‘Marley was dead. To begin with.‘

Last line test ‘God bless us, every one!‘ (Allan Radcliffe)


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens