www.list.co.uk/books SOCIAL DRAMA EARL LOVELACE Is Just a Movie (Faber) ●●●●●
lifetime of half- remembered lovers. The second half continues with the relationship strand, but each story concerns itself specifically with one of the five senses. The first book, with its
focus on the upper- middle classes, feels a little lacking, as if Barnes is aiming to write prose of upper-middle quality: there are smatterings of character detail, such as an estate agent’s eye for property defects, but on the whole it feels rather shallow. It’s in the second section that Barnes excels, though, widening his scope to include impassioned historical figures as well as contemporary accounts that feel much more genuine than those of the first part. (Niki Boyle)
HORROR COMIC JAMIE MCMORROW & GARRY MCLAUGHLIN Year of Fear: Yellow (Laser Age Comics) ●●●●●
The second instalment of Year of Fear is another gruesome black and white affair as a faceless killer stalks the streets. Taking obvious inspiration from the Italian giallo film movement, we get the black gloves, savage violence and sharply framed action (‘giallo’ is Italian for ‘yellow’). All of which leads to a suitably shocking reveal in the very final frame. Unfortunately plans for
In the aftermath of the 1970s Black Power Revolution, a Trinidadian musician named King Kala finds that the calypso style he plays, like the movement he supported, has slipped out of fashion. Meanwhile, young troublemaker Sonnyboy Apparicio, inspired by ‘the compelling poetry of his leaders’ surrender’, demands to be arrested as a radical to make his family proud. The pair meet in a police station, and their intertwined stories bring us insight into these post-revolutionary, post-colonial times. His sixth novel in a 45-
year writing career, this is also 75-year-old Earl Lovelace’s first since 1996’s Salt. The Trinidadian writer’s pace is measured, to say the least (in fairness, he’s also written many plays and columns in that period), but that’s precisely how his books demand to be read. There’s no great sense of urgency here: instead, a comfort zone of rich-in-dialect observation is revealed, and it’s easy to imagine that the gentle rhythmic pacing echoes the speed of life in Lovelace’s homeland. (David Pollock)
SHORT STORIES JULIAN BARNES Pulse (Jonathan Cape) ●●●●●
Julian Barnes’ third short story collection is divided into two books. The first deals with modern, middle-class folks in various states of relationship, from newly- single men trying to start over again, to couples conversing at dinner parties, and on to older women reflecting on a
5 UPCOMING DEBUT FICTIONS Mary Horlock The Book of Lies Set on Guernsey, this is comprised of two parallel stories from the 60s (about the German occupation of the island) and 80s (featuring the death of a teenager). Canongate. David Bezmozgis The Free World From one of the New Yorker’s hot literary tips comes this maiden fiction about a family of 1970s Soviet Jews who try and fail to emigrate to the US. Viking.
Kathleen Winter Annabel In a remote part of Canada, a baby is born without a defined gender, but is raised male, leading to all sorts of practical and psychological problems. Jonathan Cape.
Tea Obreht The Tiger’s Wife In a war- torn Balkan nation, a young doctor seeks to discover the truth behind her grandfather’s curious death. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Kalinda Ashton Swamplandia! An alligator-wrestling Florida theme park is the setting for this tale of a 12-year-old girl who is entrusted with a peculiar dynasty. Chatto.
a full colour run were abandoned due to rising print prices (a very real consideration for small presses like Laser Age) but Garry McLaughlin’s art still looks great in monochrome, capturing the dizzying nightmare of Jamie McMorrow’s story which boils down the essence of slasher cinema into the short story format. You may want a bit more depth but this is definitely a Glasgow comics publishing house to watch. For more information and to order or download both issues of Year of Fear visit www.laserage comics.com. (Henry Northmore)
SOCIAL DRAMA SUNJEEV SAHOTA Ours are the Streets (Picador) ●●●●●
A novel voiced by a would-be suicide bomber written by a British- Asian debut author was never likely to slip by unnoticed. Yet, there is little obvious material for the tabloids to get truly stirred up about as Sunjeev Sahota’s Ours are the Streets takes a wholly measured approach to the subject. Hinting at the lunacy of such extreme action, while laying out the terrain into which radicalisation can occur, Sahota is careful to leave the blame game to others. Perhaps this tactic leaves almost too much room for interpretation with our narrator Imtiaz seemingly transformed overnight from secular westerner with a white wife and baby daughter into a passionate jihadist hellbent on destroying himself and his Sheffield hometown.
His trip to Pakistan to give his late father a traditional send-off has Imtiaz witnessing some ill-behaviour by the US military and becoming all-too ready to strap on a deadly vest. While the speed and rationale behind his conversion is less than convincing, Sahota writes well about Imtiaz’ strive for true identity; being viewed with suspicion in Pakistan yet still treated as an outsider in the UK forces him into making his fatal decision. But the book’s finest, least trumpeted triumph is in its depiction of a loving relationship which has gone full circle and is slowly dying. When Imtiaz returns from his life-changing sabbatical he is virtually unrecognisable to his wife and family, with a new wardrobe, beard and worldview shaped by his recent experiences. The misery of choosing to blow yourself into oblivion is almost a cop-out next to dealing with the pain of human separation. (Brian Donaldson)
MUSIC MEMOIR IAN GREEN Fuzz to Folk (Luath) ●●●●● The life of Ian Green is certainly a packed one. Speedway champ, Korean veteran, grower of prize-winning chrysanthemums, police inspector and folk music entrepreneur are among the entries on his CV, but whether he can add ‘accomplished writer’ to his list of achievements is another question. Such a tale might have been better served by a
more incisive biographer, who could have given a bit of welly to the anecdotes and larger context. Green’s
prose is just a little too flat and you know you’re in trouble when exclamation marks need to be thrown in to tell us it’s time to be excited. Still, if you can shield yourself from the book’s obvious flaws, there’s a remarkable story to be told as Green strolls through his life to the point where he founded Greentrax, the folk record company which has housed the diverse likes of Salsa Celtica and the McCalmans. (Brian Donaldson)
20 Jan–3 Feb 2011 THE LIST 31