The Diary: Damien Hirst; Fi Glover; Cindy Sherman; Queer Up North; Espresso Book Machine

Damien Hirst's been hard at work these days, apparently, not pickling things or "delegating" work to his assistants but staging a dramatic return to good old-fashioned painting.

Damien Hirst is back on the paint gang

Damien Hirst's been hard at work these days, apparently, not pickling things or "delegating" work to his assistants but staging a dramatic return to good old-fashioned painting. A source has revealed that for the past year (and in spite of the distraction of a multi-million pound Sotheby's auction last autumn) he has been creating up to 10 massive, gold-framed triptychs in the style of Francis Bacon (whom Hirst has collected in the past), and which the White Cube gallery's Jay Jopling is discreetly showing to prospective collectors. The source, who claimed to have seen the large-scale paintings, said some were painted in monotones with others depicting three-dimension style interiors, with just a few skulls and dots scattered here and there. Last year, Hirst told 'The Independent' he would consider lowering the price of his work to meet the recession, but it does not appear to be the case in this instance – each painting is said to be selling for a rather exclusive price tag of £7m.

Read and feed

Fi Glover, the Radio 4 presenter and judging chair for this year's Orange Prize for fiction, told me the task – which involved reading an inordinate number of books on the long list, and then repeating some of them for the short list – was perfectly timed to coincide with the birth of her daughter, Honor, which meant she could read and "feed" at the same time. "Whenever I sat down to do it, I'd just pick up a book." Nonetheless, she called it a "once in a lifetime" experience that verged on the "sado-masochistic".

Behind the Times

Cindy Sherman, recently in the capital to unveil her latest show at the Sprüth Magers gallery in Green Park, was apparently left smarting at a write-up of the exhibition by the 'Sunday Times' art critic, Waldemar Januszczak. Her disapproval came from a comment wherein he accused Sherman of having a "big butt" in her youth. Sherman, always pin-thin, was baffled by his description of her derrière. One source said Januszczak may have confused a decade-old encounter with the artist, Nan Goldin, with Sherman.

New wave opera

We thought opera was getting down with the kids when the Royal Opera House offered 'The Sun' newspaper readers tickets for an opening night performance for £7.50. Well, now it's got just plain wacky, with Queer Up North proposing to an underwater opera created by Juliana Sapper, the American soprano, in Manchester's retro Victoria Baths. The performance in the magnificent listed building, nicknamed the Taj Mahal of swimming, is called 'You Who Will Emerge from the Flood', and will come complete with transforming lights and a 50-strong Manchester Water Chorus, on 17 May.

Espresso's a bit latté

The Espresso Book Machine is supposed to be a super-duper literary creation that whisks up a book on demand in the bat of an eye, and it is apparently taking America by storm. But its arrival in Britain appears to have got off to a rather tardy start. A press launch for the Espresso was cancelled last week because the actual machine had been slow in arriving on these shores. It was set to be installed at Blackwell on London's Charing Cross Road, on Thursday afternoon.

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