The Way to Paradise (Faber $316.99) .0.

South American literature invariat‘)ly has a sumptuous and lush air about it. and this latest work from Peruvian veteran Mario Vargas Llosa is no different. The book creates fictionalised accounts of the lives of French painter Paul Gaugin and his grandmother Flora Tristan. one of France's leading suffragists. Six/itching in time between the two characters in the twilight of their respective lives. Vargas Llosa highlights their wildly differing attitudes. and does so with an Intelligence and rigour that is iinpressi\./e. Having said that. the author does get bogged down a little in the biographical detail, and this is most evident in the rather tedious and repetitive later sections dealing WIIII Tristan. compared with the rainbunctious later life of Gaugin after he had moved to Tahiti. There is still plenty of interest here. both emotionally and intellectually. and The Way to R'irad/se makes for a stimulating and engrossing read. lDoug Johnstonei

CONSUMER ‘IAI F8 INDIA KNIGHT The Shops lVikiiigS‘_12.€)€)I..

Ivliich like football. anyone can be taught fine basic skills; of snopping: the tricks of the trade. maxnnising

return of expenditure. avoiding own goals. It aids game play. but by no means will it make you a professional. India Knight sets out with this educational premise: to enlighten consunierphobics with her retail coaching. while entertaining shopaholics with personal accounts and tips on improving performance. Only neither works particularly well.

The anecdotes. while amusing. lack fluency because of intermittent London-centric information boxes. Websites de-regionalise the listings. but few prices and fewer inspirational ideas render the shopping lists dry. And being a rampant consumerist. I can only imagine that shopping's disaffected would feel lectured by the boastful tone of Knight's recomniendations (Bacon butties in bath: good. Sales: bad. Argos: love. Harrods: hatei There are gems hidden amid the self- important dogma. but too few to sustain the volume of information presented. ilvlaureen Ellis)


The Xmas Files


CHRIS LEWIS The Dictionary of Playground Slang (Allison & Busby £6.99) .0.

in the fact that a compendium of petty- mouthed words and phrases most of which originated behind bike sheds and in front of urinals in schools across the English-speaking world features an ‘adults only' warning on its cover. Culled from one of those cult websites bored office workers circulate among their colleagues. it was only a matter of time before someone compiled its contents into book form for Christmas stockings. Chris Lewis' thorough collection should be dipped into whenever

(Weidenfeld 8. Nicolson $37.99I 0..

Of all parts of the year, Christmas is probably the time which has more western adults getting philosophical and analysing their selves and their relations to others. Cursing your luck or feeling guilty as the presents are opened remains the deepest bit of ethical reflection that many of us do in a given 12-month period. But in The Xmas Files: The Philosophy of Christmas, ex-postie Stephen Law sets us some different dilemmas. As the dictates of traditional religion continue to wither, do the rituals and myths of Yuletide mean anything any more? Is it all a farce? How does the way we celebrate the festivities reflect on the way we deal with society, both locally

and internationally?

Big questions maybe, but as Law reassesses the meanings behind the season, he does his damnedest to make the whole terrain accessible to the non- philosophy student. So, chapters have names such as Aunt Gertrude’s Hideous Tie’, ‘Santa Claus, Coke and the “Commercial Racket’" and ‘Carving the Roast Beast’ as Law applies his theories of psychological egoism, the existential Santa and how vegetarians should feel

about dead turkeys to recognisable


you urgently require endless synonyms for genitalia and unusual sexual practices. If so minded. you can also astound your friends with your knowledge of ODSCure Antipodean dirty talk and its origins. A ‘hopoate'. for instance. refers to inserting a digit into someone‘s anus. named after the Aussie rugby player who was caught on camera doing just that to an opponent during a match. How very eyebrow-raising.

(Allan Radcliffe)


Collected Poems (Viking £20) 0000


Popularity and accessibility are often

snobbishly associated with the frivolous in poetry. a stigma the much-loved Roger McGough has battled throughout his 40-plus years in the public eye. As this fat collection of works spanning that industrious career shows, his poetry is as innovative and challenging as it is funny and entertaining. From the earliest

verse. written in the 60s

when, along with Henri and Patten. McGough formed one third of the Liverpool poets. the Scouse bard '3 love of words. wordplay. puns. and reversals leap from

the page. These can be

most immediately enjoyed in the many short poems and

surreal haikus as well as

McGough's sophisticated children‘s verse. with titles such as ‘Amateur Traumatics‘ conveying the poet's cheerful subversion of everyday language which fuels his fertile imagination and talent for observation. Meanwhile. a longer work such as ‘Summer with Monika' betrays McGough‘s abiding


Do Christmas traditions still mean so



9351/03 opiy


6517's /112 as


It all ticks over nicely up to the somewhat simplistic conclusion that Christmas is the one time when all faiths should come together in a blizzard of fluffy comfort and joy. That’s surely the starting

point of a new debate rather than a satisfying finale here. (Brian Donaldson)


concern with the joys and pitfalls of relationships. deftly related and sharply observed.

(Allan Radcliffe)


Bookworm in chief Brian Donaldson on his most loved novel of the year

2003 was perhaps the year of the cocky upstart. You could have tossed a coin for either Monica All or DBC Pierre to have won the Booker with their first efforts. But while the prodigious set wrestled with trophies and cheques. the most invigorating read of the year came from a seasoned campaigner. Having written in The Guardian of the disappointing impasse that modern American literature had reached. Gordon Burn set out to revitalise the British brand.

In The North of England Home Service, Burn turned his back on the serial killers who had helped make his name and this time concocted a beautiful stOry of male friendship and melancholic regret. Utilising his well established technique of shoving real people around fictional worlds. Burn told the subtly moving story of Ray Cruddas. an ageing Geordie comedian, his minder/confidante of 30 years, ex-boxer Jackie McCabe and the assortment of beautifully-realised oddballs and scenarios they recall in post-war Britain. That this will never ever be made into a film is almost recommendation enough.

1 1 Dec 2003—8 .Jan 2004 THE LIST 123