ARTS / Cries & whispers

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The Independent Culture
AUTUMN: season of mists and mellow furniture catalogues. None mellower than the new one from Habitat, which they describe as 'inspirational', 'exhilarating' and 'full of vibrant photography shot on location in India, Warsaw and the UK'. Sitting on the desk as I write, it makes me feel under- dressed. Reams of luscious matt paper, in gorgeous muted shades of mulberry and truffle and above all natural, which used to be a state but has recently become a colour.

In the pictures, what catches the eye is not so much the furniture as the reading matter tossed casually upon it. Some are what you'd expect: the Independent arts page, the Guardian Section 2, hip magazines like Blast and Raygun. Some are not, and one name recurs: that of Ezra Pound, poet, critic and pillar of modernism. Here he is on page 10: a dogeared copy of The Cantos, perched on the arm of a saffron sofa, next to a cobalt coffee cup. And blow me down, he's on page 11 too - a suspiciously similar copy of the same work, in another room, toasting quietly on a magnolia radiator. Then he takes a break, before returning for an encore on page 27 (detail, above) - a book about him, in the 'Writers and Critics' series, placed centre-page, surrounded by cushions in natural-dye cotton, arranged in a tableau which recalls The Adoration of the Magi.

Now, books do furnish a room, but if ever an author was not a lifestyle accessory, it's Ezra. Pound for pound, he is weighty. Uncomfortable. Nobody's cushion. If he has to be an item of furniture, he's a piece of angular, chiselled granite, which you're not sure whether to sit on, put your drink on, or clamber up to reach the top bookshelf. What on earthenware is he doing in a Habitat catalogue? Next week: T S Eliot - the greetings card.

YOU MAY have seen the ads for a revolutionary telephone service, 'TrackLine'. It enables you, the record buyer, to hear one of a choice of 500 discs, so that you may decide whether you like the album before splurging pounds 15 on a CD. By pressing digits on your phone you can fast-forward, rewind, and switch to different tracks, just like at home. Even better, there is a 'Beat the System' number, 'which gives useful hints on how to review chosen albums as quickly as possible, thereby saving time and money. An average album of 13 tracks can be reviewed in one minute'. This could change the lives of my record-reviewing colleagues, so I rang the 'Beat the System' number.

It repeated the instructions that I already had in written form. Undeterred, I set out to review Meat Loaf's Bat out of Hell II in one minute flat. There were 10 seconds of preamble before the music started, 15 seconds of overwrought piano, and then Meat Loaf started to sing. As time was running short, I flicked to the next track, and heard five seconds of a basic drum beat followed by a refrain of 'I want my money back'. In came the guitar, and . . . that was that, my minute was up, and I still had serious doubts about whether I was equipped to review the album. I want my money back indeed.

THE Arts Clerihew, having started strongly, has reached a point where most of the entries are about me. So this correspondence is now closed. Thanks to all who entered.

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