FAMILY DRAMA HEIDI JULAVITS The Effect of Living Backwards
(Virago £12.99) 0000
Never has the perverse and complex relationship between sisters been so acourately portrayed as in this. Heidi Julavits' Through the Looking Glass-inspired second novel. Plain. prudish
Alice and her shameless.
glamorous older sister Edith find their expertise in manipulation. honed by a lifelong struggle for sibling supremacy. used against them when. en
route to Edith's wedding.
their plane is hijacked by a motley band of terrorists. But nothing is as it seems.
ThrOugh a series of bizarre situations. Alice and Edith come to believe that the siege is nothing more than a grand-scale. mile-high role play. As they endeavour to determine the truth. their love-hate relationship and obsession with other people's guilty secrets are brought into sharp relief. The prevalent themes — ethics. perception. memory and reality — are philosophical in nature. but ultimately. The Effect of Living Backwards is an inventive. insightful and ferociously witty exploration of the destructive power of sibling rivalry.
GOTHIC HORROR JOHN HARWOOD The Ghost Writer (Jonathan Cape $10.99) I...
With this homage-Cum- pastiche of the classic Gothic horror tale — here complete with a modern twist — debutant John Harwood throws in the literary lot. There's the theme of doomed love. an atmosphere of despair and dread. epistolary storytelling
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and narratives within narratives that uncannily parallel one another. along with references to a number of genre masterworks including. most notably. The Turn of the Screw and The Picture of Dorian Gray. A young Australian boy. the ironically named Gerard Freeman. discovers a manuscript written by his great- grandmother. hidden away in a secret drawer in his mother's desk. His reading of the enclosed ghost st0ry. ‘Seraphina'. becomes the catalyst fOr a chain of events in which reality begins to mirror horrifying fiction. From front to back. Harwood's dense novel reads like a thesis on Gothic literature. But unlike a dry academic exercise this is a spellbinding. Spinechilling page- turner. (Miles Fielder)
COMEDY AMERICANA MARK DUNN Welcome to Higby (Methuen €14.99) 0...
American author Mark Dunn is clearly an astute observer of the oddities of human nature and in Welcome to Higby. his second novel. he has produced a tightly crafted and intimate portrait of everyday US life with no little amount of humour and compassion. The structure of his tale is one of a dozen or so interwoven indivrdual stories set in a small
town. something that very much brings to mind Robert Altman's film Short Cuts. itself based on the short stories of Raymond Carver.
Dunn's outlook is much more optimistic than either Altman or Carver though. and a gift for wry comedy pervades each life here. from the preacher falling for a disreputable masseuse to the disturbed boy who plummets from a water tower. Throughout it all. Dunn skilfully paints his oddball characters with obvious affection through the barest of prose. nevertheless creating an ovenrvhelmingly uplifting whole picture in the process.
GRAFFITI COLLECTION TRISTAN MANGO Street Logos
(Thames & Hudson £79.95) 000.
In this conSumer paradise we live in. the brand is king. Graffiti originated as an unc0nscious offshoot of this notion: the tag being one writer's territorial branding. Tristan Manco acknowledges this. exploring the growth. diversification and significance of these street signatures. Taking a resolutely internationai look at the phenomenon. Manco photographs and profiles the work of writers from New York to Stockholm to Tokyo and beyond.
The styles and methods of executions vary hugely. but familiar fat lettering has given way to oblique symbols. characters and objects — toasters. amoebas. turds. arrows and faces — some oddly obvious. others sweetly incongruous with their surroundings. The point is always the same though: to get a reaction or make a statement. The text is minrn‘ral and Manco lets the pictures do the talking. leaving us wrth a momentary gaze at work that is frequently
ab8urd and. or political but so often breathtaking.
the extreme. Hilden places her emphasis on the social and psychological implications which
EROTIC THRILLER abound from the sex
3 play. (Black Swan $36.99) SHOWCE‘S'IIQ Maya as .000 both erotic pioneer and
sex victim. Hilden affords us access into a world of incest. betrayal and intrigue where morals are re-assessed and love is redefrnet‘l. Part harrowrng social drama. part erotic thriller. the prose effonlessly IOys wrth the uncanny as each strand of the story appears expected and strangely unantiCIpated. Painful but alluring. lAnna Millarl
Recent erotic fiction has offered plenty to keep fans titillated and critics furrowed of brow. Indeed. this decade could be renamed the Naughties. Catherine Millet's 2001 cult hit The Sexual Life of Catherine M. for one. seduced and repelled wrth its graphic investigation of an art critic's abrasive sexuality. Julie Hilden's debut 3
follows suit. To her credit. she deftly re- configures Millet 's epriCIt work and humanises her protagonists (Maya and llanl and their seeial entrapment in a modern. accessible setting. Only occasionally graphic in
SURREAL DRAMA IAIN SINCLAIR
Dining on Stones (Hamish Hamilton £716.99) 00..
Sinclair cannot be paged by
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I’d love to see the End of Story people having a go at an Iain Sinclair tale. The author of 30 years worth of novels, essays and poetry, Sinclair writes about the city with more quality and obsessiveness than most of his UK contemporaries, his particular focus being east London. Critics have been moved to describe him as a cross between Betjeman and Burroughs and that’s as good a handle as anyone will get on him. The mysteries, language and depth which he wields to wrap around his tales is enough to give Muriel Gray and co a severe migraine. Little surprise then, that Will Self and JG Ballard (about whom Sinclair the Critic has in turn written), two of the most awkward writers working today, are big fans.
In Dining on Stones (a typically obtuse and messy Sinclairian title), we encounter a narrator (as unreliable as anything the postmodern community has ever thrown at us) in social and literal exile looking back on a book he may or may not have ever written. On a walk down the A13 to Southend he acquires a package of stories left by a missing woman; to his astonishment, horror and intrigue, these stories appear to anticipate his quest
Reading an Iain Sinclair work is both energising and exhausting, the breadth of imagination and height of ambition too weighty for the casual reader to take on board. It’s hard to love an Iain Sinclair story. But anyone who cares about the possibilities of English language cannot afford to pass him by. (Brian Donaldson)
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