Dead I May Well Be (Serpents Tail fit 1 .99i

Caught Cheating unemployment benefit in Northern Ireland. Michael heads for pre- Giuliaiii New York and life as an illegal immigrant enforcing protection rackets for Darkey White. Michael is resourceful, cool-headed and tipped to go far. until a drug deal gone wrong leaves him rotting in a Mexican (ail. But is this just bad luck. or has he been messing with the wrong girl? Intelligent and self- deprecatiiig. Michael is immediately likeable. so we find ourselves already onside when he starts shooting people in the ankles and sleeping with their wives. Dead / May We// Be relies overly on foresl'iadownig. and changes of mood and tempo are sometimes Clunkily abrupt. But Adrian McKinty's main skill is in cleverly managing to evoke someone ruthlessly rising through the ranks and wreaking bloody revenge while making it all seem like an event that could happen to any decent, hardworking Irish chap. A dark, lyrical and gripping veice that will go far. (Anna Shipiiiani


The Last Family in England

(Jonathan Cape $510.99) 0...

As an obsessive dog- lover. I was relishing curling up with this canines-eye view of family life. I should have learnt my lesson after Dan Rhodes' Ti/iio/eon Vieta Come Home: just like this book. that promised a high 'aahh' factor, only to deliver a devastating kick in the


teeth when the poor little puppy met an untimely demise. It might be a clever device for shoWing the cruelties of life. but for big softies like me. it's all too traumatic.

Nevertheless. The Last Family in England is an enjoyable iiiodern—day fable. Matt Haig writes With a true dog-lover's understanding of our best friends. effortlessly capturing the essential characteristics of different breeds. Huiiiaiiising animals in literature can quite often result in sickly-sweet sentimentality. but Haig avoids this by injecting doses of cynicism and black humour. It's not Disney then, but it is touching, funny and unique: Just steel yourselves for the less- than-happy ending. (Kirsty Knaggm



(Faber 57.6.99) 00


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Percival Everett wants to have his cake and. literally. eat it. On the one hand he's written a postmodern novel; on the other he's lampooning postmodernism: how ironic. His story of a preternaturally intelligent baby named Ralph. who doesn't talk but can critigue Derrida and Barthes. is peppered With the kind of meta- narratives and self- conscious semantics

load of old bollocks a summation which may rightly be applied to Glyph. (Miles Fielder)

(not to mention graphs. footnotes and other format fuiiiblings) that were old hat by the butt end of the 70s.

But Everett. who professes to teach English at the University of Southern California by day. shoots himself in the foot with one of his own page notes of baby Ralph‘s criticism of Barthes: 'I perceived a claim in the text to point out the remarkable fertility of language but. in the text. the very practice of language seemed to work like radiation on testes.‘ Meaning: it's a complete

SOCIAL ROMP PLUM SYKES Bergdorf Blondes (Viking $10) 0..

What is the collective noun for rich Manhattan women: A Manolo Blahnik’? A designer? A manicure? Sex and the City sure has an awful lot to answer for and A/iierica/i Vogue writer Plum Sykes knows only too well the pulling power of Carrie and co. 'Moi' (for our heroine does not need a name


JAMES KELMAN You Have to be Careful in the Land of the Free (Hamish Hamilton $712.92)) 0..

An incomparable talent produces under-edited travel notes

a“ H 1 Jim. 5 * ~ afilfil '

"" 9':

when she has $450 highlights) and her explosive. man- collecting pal Julie Bergdorf reside at the /enith of NYC 'socialisiii' and Bergdorf Blondes details their

‘My heid was aye full of irrelevancies. Get rid of the irrelevancies and I would be okay. These irrelevancies preoccupied me. I used to sit at the corner. What corner? Any fucking corner.’ Jeremiah ‘Jerry’ Brown is hauled up in some arsebag of a town in the US Midwest. He’s about to make the long trip home to Scotland, after 12 long years of trying to scrape together a living. Working as a low level ‘alien’ operative, Brown’s trip to the land of the free has been as unfulfilling as has unsuccessful. Brown decides to embark on one last night out - a long evening of drinking, reminiscence and reflection - and Kelman unsurprisingly takes us into the darkest

recesses of this ‘skarrish’ immigrant’s tiny mind.

We are in familiar Kelman territory here. As in A Disaffection and How Late it Was, How Late, the dictum is to make the stage short and sparse and the interior monologues long and liquid. Kelman is a master of his own form and his latest epic of proletariat wheezing is certainly consummater constructed and written with dialect, language and proper grammar.

But something seems missing: Kelman can be incredibly funny (‘You could do anything in this joint, cure a heart attack or get drunk on a full stomach’), but he also has the ability to align his portraits of the human spirit with half-baked analogies to the current climate of terrorism paranoia. These are the under-edited travel notes of an incomparable

talent, but still worth a look. (Paul Dale)


.t‘ it" t ‘-


struggles. trials and achievements well. if you count bikini waxes and facials as achievements.

While the literary bite Sykes takes of the Big Apple is small and sickly sweet. she litters her text With enough pin- sharp C/ue/ess gags to make it extremely readable. I won't bore you Willi silly things like plot. but suffice to say it reads like a Willard Price big game hunting novel except the prize is saucy shoes and millionaire husbands. Shallow. but fun. (Mark Robertson‘i



Love-Shaped Story (Flamingo 5‘10) .0

In his third novel. the extra~terrestrially obsessed Italian. Toiiiriiaso Pincio. presents his Vision of the secret life of Kurt Cobain's imaginary friend. Boddah. This childhood ghost was reportedly the intended recipient of the tragic Nirvana frontinan's suicide note. Pincio has taken this and a handful of other points of reference from king Kurt's days to imagine the life of. (iuite literally. a nobody. And in doing so. he painstakingly catalogues the monotonous ramblings of a sleep—(leprived and heroin-(Iependent social outcast. as he obsesses over his 'difference'.

As miserable as it is pretentious. the result is a torturous examination of the isolated psyche. While the text has been beautifully translated. the SOIY-llllpOl'iéillt prose has nothing of the poetic intrigue of Cobain's lyrics. One can only hope that Pincio has exorcised some inner demons in writing this book. as he would appear to be the only non~iiiiaginary reader he had in mind. (Mark Ediiiuiidsoni