BOOK REVIEW / Life-affirming malice: If you're talking to me your career must be in trouble - Joe Queenan: Picador, pounds 5.99

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The Independent Culture
ANYONE not already familiar with Joe Queenan's work for American magazines like Rolling Stone and Movieline can get a good idea of what to expect from this collection by a quick flick through the index. 'Sting - outacted by dwarf . . . Streisand, Barbra - dates man who married Melanie Griffiths twice'. Queenan expresses the sort of thoughts that many of us might have but do not quite articulate. In Britain, where attitudes towards film stars are less deferential, Queenan's irreverence about Hollywood is not the novelty it is in America. But his flip, corrosive style and obvious love for the subject carry him through, so when he insists that these pieces were 'written in a spirit of cheerful, life-affirming malice, not the noxious, downbeat variety' you believe him.

Queenan is not the 'mean-spirited turnip' he likes to make out. There is generosity as well as spite in his assessments and when he talks to people - notably Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon and Keanu Reeves - the results are far more interesting and, by implication, respectful, than the run-of-the-mill celebrity interview. And the devotion to frivolity cannot conceal a well-developed moral sense, especially when he swaps easy targets (pop stars with film careers) for the odd difficult one. He attacks the brutish machismo of Oliver Stone: 'If Stone were not peddling a politically fashionable Anti-Americanism that never goes out of style in Hollywood, feminists would be all over him as one of the most reactionary sexist film-makers of all time.'

This is about as serious as he gets. Elsewhere, one-liners like 'If God is truly all-knowing and all-powerful, an omnipotent force, why doesn't he do something about Daphne Zuniga?' hold sway to amusing effect. His appreciation of Melanie Griffiths ('The message of Melanie Griffiths is a message of hope. But it is also a message of defiance.') makes a convincing case for sarcasm as the highest form of wit.

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