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This review is taken from PN Review 156, Volume 30 Number 4, March - April 2004.

FUN IN TRANSYLVANIA PETER RILEY, The Dance at Mociu (Shearsman Books) £8.95
RICHARD CADDEL, Writing in the Dark (West House Books) £8.95
TONY BAKER, Three Part Invention & other scored occasions (West House Books) £4.50

Count on fun in Transylvania. Guests of Count Kalnoky make themselves at home in Transylvanian village guesthouses with wood-burning stoves, joining mine host for dinner at his castle; or if a day trip to a local fortified church doesn't tempt you, how about a tour with poet-musicologist Peter Riley (garlic necklaces supplied) to savour the local hospitality and village dance tunes. Of the two - a holiday advertised in this week's Times and Riley's quirky account of his field trips amongst some of the poorest people in Europe - I know which I'd take. Riley's poetry has mostly concerned itself with English landscapes and attendant reflections on the social process which, though persuasive in part, are always spoken from a plateau implying a certain distance or removal from its sharp end. These qualities are part of the baggage he takes with him on holiday - and yet, as with the poetry, something stops you from altogether dismissing his account as the wishful thinking of a well-heeled tourist. There is acuteness of observation, a sense of humour, even a certain self-ironising wit to go along with the blitheness, smooth landscape-making, and a misty watercolourist's take on other people's lives. `There is a lot of begging, do you think it is necessary?' he asks a guide, following a description of crippled men, cartwheeling gypsy girls, and other people sometimes so deformed he has taken their antics for street theatre. `Yes,' he is told, `it is necessary.'

He's good on ...


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