It’s a fun book to dip into for the odd moment‘s light reading but its use as a biographical dictionary is hampered by the patchy index. (Andrew Bethune)

o Scotland’s Roman Remains Lawrence Keppie (John Donald £7.50) A highly-recommended brief history of Scotland’s short-lived Roman occupation with a guided tour ofall known Roman sites from Blatobulgium to Finnata Castra. Written for newcomers to Roman history. the lively. informative text is complemented by numerous maps, plans and photographs. The bibliography provides a key to further study for those who get hooked by the prospect ofpersonal archaeological discovery.

(Andrew Bethune)


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GODSAVETHEQUEEN ‘She turned her head slightly and waved at several dozen people assembled on the street corner. 'I‘hey waved back vigorously. holding aloft a black leather banner on which the words GOD SAVE THE QUEEN had been printed in silver rivets. It was not until she heard them cheer that she realised they were all men.

Philip smirked sleepily. ‘What'." she asked. ‘Poofs.’ he said. ‘Where'." ‘T/zere. darling. With the banner.‘ She glanced back at them . . . ‘Don't be silly.‘ she replied. ‘They‘re sportsmen ofsome sort.‘

Thus begins Arrnistead Maupin‘s fourth novel about the motley residents of28 Barbary Lane. San Francisco. In Edinburgh primarily to give a reading from Baby ( ‘akes amidst the well-stocked shelves of Lavendar Menace bookshop. Maupin had time for a briefchat. Did he think that we Brits might find the appearance of Bessie in a novel a little sacrilegious'.’ No. he hoped not. for it was a very affectionate portrait. Had he sent HM a copy? No not yet. But he would love to know what she thought ofit. Enough ofthis frivolous frippery.

Me: Do you mind the label ‘gay writer"?

AM: Not at all. But my books are for everybody. They originally appeared in serialised form in the San Francisco Chronicle before a mainstream. wide audience. But all writers seem to be slotted into some sort ofcategory black authors. feminist authors— except white straight men.

Me: The novel seems prophetically

contemporary to Britain almost like a moral lesson to use condoms. to make AIDS seem real.

AM: I wrote the bulk ofthe material in 1983. I stayed in London to research part of it and was horrified

to find the London gay scene

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completer oblivious to AIDS. And it's rather eerie that the British Government‘s campaign coincided with the UK publication of Baby ('akes. The British are so embarrassed by discussions of sex - btit to assume that you're protecting your children by not giving them explicit instructions is deadly.

I Iomosexual or heterosexual the threat is just as great. 'l'herc‘s nothing like having someone close to you die of AIDS to make you completely take stock ofthings.

Me: Christopher Ishcrwood likened your writing to Dickens. Waugh and \V'odehouse. Do you thing you belong to a British tradition of novel'.’

AM: Americans tend to think in terms ofsoap-opcras because that's the only tradition they‘re familiar with. The comic episodic novel is certainly a British form. so yes. I think I do belong more to a British tradition. Me: Are you interested in comedy than satire?

AM: My novels are what you'd call ‘funny'. but I‘m just as content to make people cry as laugh. 'I‘here‘s a strong sentimental vein running

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«2‘ A “‘ through the book: the attempt of Michael to recover from the death of his lover is perhaps the most poignant part. There‘s pathos in Mary Ann‘s efforts to conceal her husband‘s infertility from him. to keep nurturing his desperate desire for children.

More general conversation

followed. Me: You mention the Vietnam war almost in passing in Baby Cakes. Would you like to write more specifically about it'.’ AM: Not really, no. I don’t personally feel bitter aboutthe war—l volunteered, and I wasn't in a position to be traumatized by it. It was a terrible waste oi lite and the experience of Vietnam veterans was not, until recently, considered worth discussing or legitimate. But i really hate this Rambo mentality. No man can or should have to live up to that image. My grandmother, who spoke all over Britain before the First World War about female suitrage, once said to me that any woman who is all woman, or any man who is all man, is a complete monster, unlittor human company. I subscribe to that view.

Me: Do you find it irritating that media presentations of homosexuals tend to be very affected and camp? AM: It‘s ironic that there has been a concerted effort for centuries (receiving the full support of homosexuals) to keep homosexuality invisible. As long as that occurs. people are going to assume that the noticeable is the typical. I‘m often asked why I make such a big issue of being gay. when it‘s just a natural part of my private life. The answer is that people aren't used to talking to gay people as extraordinarily uneventful as I am.

What a modest. charming chap! A

very talented writer too . . . AND Christopher Ishcrwood was a close friend. . . (Tessa Sundman)

56 The List 12 Dec— 8 Jan