Saturday 16 March 1996
The Apartheid of Sex by Martine Rothblatt (Pandora, pounds 7.99) With the zeal of the missionary, and the persistence of a lawyer (which she is), Rothblatt preaches the gospel of Transgenderism, and the joyful message that just because you're born with a penis doesn't mean you're a man. She takes up the nature versus nurture debate, but waits until the last chapter to reveal her own colours: once a man she is now a ``transperson'' who enjoys a ``wonderful unisexual lesbian marriage'' and midnight meals in Georgetown, ``eyes sparkling in the candlelight''.
After the Fair by Jo Riddett (Headline Review, pounds 5.99) In old age Connie and Gledwyn Geddes find themselves back at Wickenwood, a Victorian pile built on the profits of tinned meat and Northern gumption. Brother and sister have never been close, and with the arrival of their respective children and grandchildren for the summer fair, Connie retreats to her room to pop paracetamol and brood on the passage of years. A melancholy novel which details the gin-and-tonic haze of a failed Fifties marriage and the "dread octopus" of family ties.
From Sea to Shining Sea by Gavin Young (Penguin, pounds 6.99) These stateside jaunts from a top-notch travel writer follow historical trails with varying success. His account of General Sherman's epic march through the Confederacy is a triumph, combining past horrors and modern resonances. But an early attempt to see modern LA through the eyes of Philip Marlowe is marred by weak pastiche. You've got to admire Young's spirit. After being told he should return in the sub-zero winter to see the real Yukon, he does just that.
Casting Off by Libby Purves (Sceptre pounds 5.99) Deep down you hope head- girl Libby Purves won't be good at everything, but her first novel scores a perfectly competent B+. The story of Joanna Gurney, wife, mother (and part-owner of the "The Bun in the Oven" tea shop) who sails off in the family yacht leaving her husband fuming on the quayside. Might have been even jollier with Sandy Toksvig on board.
The Englishman's Flora by Geoffrey Grigson (Helicon, pounds 12.99) Long-awaited reprint of the gruff poet's magisterial reference work - a wonder both for its range of botanical lore and quirky erudition. Fatal to skip through, you'll be detained on every page. Did you know cuckoo-pint derives from pintle or penis? Or that Ragwort was ridden, broomstick-style, by fairies? This book is as refreshing as a bouquet of wild flowers.
The Village that Died for England by Patrick Wright (Vintage, pounds 8.99) A long (400 pages) but engaging dissertation on Tyneham, an idyllic Dorset hamlet taken over for tank-training in 1943. Somehow, the military never got round to returning it, though they're very proud of recent conservation work. As a symbol of a lost England, Tyneham has been appropriated by romantics and right-wingers, ranging from PD James and Prince Charles to the National Front.
Private Myths: Dreams and Dreaming by Anthony Stevens (Penguin, pounds 8.99) A Jungian analyst probes the world of dreams - in particular, how they relate to our evolutionary development.Hitler dreamed of being buried alive (and so escaped that fate in reality), while Descartes conceived melons and a unified mathematical theory. Stevens is a stimulating writer, though the reader has to negotiate hard-core Jungian concepts - ``the suprapersonal Atman'', the ``Oneness of Everything'' etc.
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