Fiction & Biography

SOCIAL DRAMA DANNY LEIGH The Greatest Gift (Faber $310.99) 0000

While it may not be right up there with the Booker or the Whitbread, judges on the Dazed and Confused/ Egg writer’s bursary panel couldn’t have been more effusive in their praise of Danny Leigh. ‘He will become a key writer for his generation,’ blustered one. Others have compared Leigh’s debut to the gigothic, vibusive ramblings you may find in a Will Self novel. 0n the evidence of The Greatest Gift, Leigh will not need the assistance of inaugural awards or links to once-majestic scribes to further his career.

Classic novels revisited. This issue: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Published 30 years ago. What’s the story? Subtitled 'An Inquiry into Values'. Robert M Pirsig's stimulating exposition of his Metaphysics of Ouality', or the reconciliation of romantic aestheticism with the modern technological world. takes the form of a soliloquy delivered by a man travelling across America on

his beloved Honda motorbike with his son. As the journey progresses. Pirsig argues against the flawed teachings of philosoimers such as Plato. the Sophists. Hume and Kant. in dialogue that takes his protagonist to the brink of insanity.

What the critics said That colossus of American social philosophy Eric Hoffer said of the work: ‘Pirsig is a born writer. and he has written one of the truly good books of our time. Once I started I could not let go of it.’ Pirsig biographer Ronald DiSanto insisted that ‘an entire generation Danny Leigh does the reader a service was profoundly affected.’

Key moment The climactic

The boy is doing it very much for himself, ta very much.

Matthew VlSS is a tragic hero. Granted, we’ve got a fair few of them in the literary annals; but VlSS is a differently frustrated fish altogether. We first encounter him in fervent contemplation as he considers toppling himself from a nine-storey building. Over 350 pages, we proceed to follow his journey downward, both from that fateful roof and in his fall from grace the previous year. Much of Matthew’s life has been donated to simply being at the service of others. He gives for a living as a concierge in a company called the Greatest Gift, which fulfils every conceivable need of its corporate clients; that need could be anything from naming a dog to finding a present for the kids, hiring hot air balloons or warming up homes for divorcees. You


couldn’t say that Matthew’s life had been especially daughter, her eyes cold with betrayal, are scorching in confrontation between the

dull. their intensity while his wife’s disdain in the face of his narrator and ms beleaguered son But now this living has dragged him down to the point wrongheaded obsession and the memories of a better Chris on a foggy cliff top

where all he can think of is dying; his giving has now history is a savage blow. overlooking the ocean is a

gone beyond the doors of his workplace and soon his Leigh has spoken of his own boredom with writers sinnnino' atmosonono oonoios.on

charitable acts spread onto the streets of London. But who churn out books spooned from the shells of their to pianos oxomno' thought.

through all this selfless behaviour something else has own lives, much preferring those authors who remain provoking taro

got to give and, for Matthew, it’s his sense of self-worth stridently, passionately separate from autobiographical

Postscript Robert Pirsig's own

and his haemorrhaging relationship with wife and fiction. They write not about what they know, but what struggle to reconcile the romannc daughter. Leigh’s descriptions of impending doom and they can make up. You know, from their imagination. The and‘tne rational in his own studies the cul de sac of despair are both invigorating and greatest gift Danny Leigh can give us is more products of and philosophy teaching brought moving. The moments when he realises he is losing his his own clearly fertile one. (Brian Donaldson)

the man himself to the verge of a nervous breakdown. He spent CRiME SAiipr two years in and Out of mental

CHRISTOPHER institutioos and was later BROOKMYRE 'rehabilitated‘ by electroshock Be My Enemy therapy.

iLittle. Brown HOBO) 0.0. First line test ‘I can see by my

watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle. that it is 8.30 in the morning.‘

(Allan Radcliffe)

Long regarded as one of the most innovative voices in British crime fiction. in his latest thriller Christopher Brookmyre returns to the golden age Of crime fiction. and sends up that most antiquated of suh~genres » the big house ‘."/ll()(tlllllilt'. Brookmyre's pretext for gathering his assorted characters in isolated. crumbling Highland pile McKinley Hall is that staple of modern corporate life. the ‘team-lniilding' weekend. coordinated in this case by the super—enthiisiastic

and brilliantly-iiamed Ultimate to Ii". the "l o" fi‘e ’Z:,':.f,'i‘:'.-:: i ii<)l".t:'l’. ;;ri:; avid ii'."‘f; ." f"-.> Motivational Leisure. lioand :r‘zi‘ast', as :;i,'i‘-::.'."‘;:'. am "gi Classic iiii.i:l<:i 'ii,:;fi:",, "; ii'i t"-:z '::':l As the champagne and single ll’éili teetii. it's ‘.'."‘ile l’anaeawis :,~"‘<,;i" "g; .iiil ad‘. l‘i?".i‘il.f~. 5»: *n‘i'Xl sis f‘wz' flows. Brookmyre (Lasts his keenly the ‘a<;°. that he's 'et,-t:'.~:::i tex. se' 4.:1 zir‘ttrstigi liovni: it; ant-i1..." t>‘, 'natiix’» satirical eye over the te'isons and :ieat." tl"'ea‘.s ‘o' i‘ s new i‘ 'ir’i-r'”. i;(>ll>()lill(:(4)138, 2:: '."-‘.‘: lel', leeds predi(;aiiieitts that are simmering heloz'x times that f;<i'l‘i:(,"-f: :stea :2. ;i ‘1“: fSEVl geiitg ()l‘ in t'ii; f;'i< 7v: rive-t Lint“. ll‘tr and above stairs as '.'/ell as among the (:arilsiroii‘ 1"<,-g'<,.ii,':;'i‘ul. es: (tn. ine ~. <l'itu1tltit7 i.l){iil ". liii'sfr; motley group running around the presu'iianl; the 'l‘if,’l~fz"‘ iii, «- :_. '.'.’l’.l‘. i<:<:e'it vulniui and l><> (JOuntn/smle “vs/2th paintball gui‘s ‘.’.’lll!(3 of tee:;i":;"e wres lit: "g ’;i,‘_, ltfli7'(?l‘»(ftri; .'.'i=-e l-E'; >;>i\i".'i,~, fi‘i ‘Llil’l emphatically not lioiiding. ’ll‘e cat The weekend liiiall. 'tt:f;(it:l‘flf;1lti<) ii 5; :_li5;gi'i.itt.ei ltrl if‘ilttf'. siii‘veetis 'i among these cornhat fatigueclad hloody (:liaof; ’.'./l‘eii the gum; fil'il‘,f» l:'<i‘. zi'ng .i mi i: >: it'l. high ;~..: Mai pigeons is Brookmyre's notorioas. Jaded onto aiii land and illt:ll£t.'1l :;.ii‘+..iv~:- sip-nil iii) o" t"‘.‘ iflavv leek; of T. :'l a initi: “unmann‘mmam ir‘ivestigative Journalist ack Parlahane. countered '.'.’|l.’l real liii lets. l-Z" it 'illltlllitgll'_ A mil inaisaiiia who clearly sees his latest assignment has fun ll‘ f;i.‘lx.<,-r‘_.ixi T'li' A .i" Hai l:' “'4.-

90 THE LIST Q? .Ja' i ei, 1