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This review is taken from PN Review 166, Volume 32 Number 2, November - December 2005.

VIVA FENWICKS BARRY MACSWEENEY, Horses in Boiling Blood (Equipage) £8.00
DAVID HERD, Mandelson! Mandelson! A Memoir (Carcanet) £7.95
RICHARD PRICE, Lucky Day (Carcanet) £8.95

Horses in Boiling Blood is Barry MacSweeney's high-octane swansong: barrelling though Newcastle's valley of stone, he's running on empty, but attains escape velocity by squirting the nitro of Guillaume Apollinaire's poetry - 'the last great thing I will ever understand' - directly into wide-open carburettors. It's a case of 'love and theft'. 'Zone', 'La Chanson du Mal Aimé' and the poems to Lou are gleefully ripped off, his muse wooed with the promise of a new bra from Fenwicks, as the poet self-dramatises, reckless and giddy with poetry, revisiting his teenage years. The cast of his previous poetry, his mythology, reels past: Pearl, the illiterate Northumbrian girl, his girlfriend Jackie Litherland, Robert Johnson, Blake, Dylan, Christopher Smart, Chatterton, Rimbaud, Jeremy Prynne - mysteriously inhaling ether to fore-shorten a gruelling train ride in the poet's company - Percy Shelley; numerous others. It's an exhilarating but disturbing book. Emotionally last ditch, a Buffalo Bill's Last Ride made possible by desperate transfusions, it is shadowed by impending death at every step, which it disregards, looking forward with an antic, almost optimistic high-spiritedness. A tender, funny, erotic last stand by somebody going out the way they wanted to. What a great pity he's no longer with us.

              Howay man pet we'll go to the Fujiyama for sushi and beef
              Come on honeybunch I'll buy you a new bra in Fenwick's
I'll buy it while you drift elegantly to the food department to buy the Napoli ...


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