Books: Cover Stories

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The Independent Culture
BIOGRAPHER HILARY Spurling is to have her long-deserved moment in the sun. BBC TV have just paid a handsome sum for rights to her latest book La Grande Therese. Published this week by Profile Books in the same charmingly diminutive format in which they did Alan Bennett's The Clothes they Stood Up In, the book tells the story of a complete nobody who reinvented herself so convincingly that she became one of the most powerful women in late 19th-century France. But her claim to be the illegitimate daughter of a billionaire was a hoax. The scandal when Therese was unmasked rocked the Bourse and ruined investors. The whole embarrassing affair was then swept under the carpet, to be uncovered by Spurling during research for her recent Matisse biography.


PUBLISHERS HAVE been in a scramble to buy a collection of short stories that will "provide an antidote to the Booker-fever" of next autumn. All Hail the New Puritans will be edited by Matt Thorne and Nicholas Blincoe, and contributors will be required to write according to "a tough code of ethics", promising to reject allegory, symbolism and word-play. The collection, eventually bought by Fourth Estate, is inspired by Dogme, the sect of purist Danish film-makers; its contributors are rumoured to include Alex Garland and Toby Litt.


SUMMER HAVING returned for an encore, we can again tuck in to tubs of ice cream. At pounds 25, Lick Sticks & Bricks: a global history of ice cream is not much dearer than a large pot of Haagen-Dazs and, at 672 pages, is something of a brick itself. Designed to resemble an outsize ice-cream sandwich and published by Unilever, the owners of Walls, it takes us through 4000 years of consumption, from the ice cellars on the banks of the Euphrates to the launch of the Magnum. Pim Reinders spent three years on his, um, magnum opus, which reveals how Catherine the Great's tea service included 116 ice-cream cups and that young President Eisenhower worked in an ice- cream factory.


The blurb for Obsessions, the final TV tie-in by the Two Fat Ladies, is either perspicacious or unfortunate. The authors, it says, "are in heaven". Well, one of them is.