Books: Cover Stories

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The Independent Culture
MORE TROUBLE for the Royal Opera House in the form of a diary kept by Mary Allen, who survived seven months as Chief Executive. A House Divided is said to rival the best political diaries in its accounts of "backstabbing and intrigue" as Allen apparently reveals "an organisation beset with bitter rivalries, management intrigue and a total absence of financial control". The book is published by Simon & Schuster in November, though Culture Select Committee chairman and ROH scourge Gerald Kaufman will presumably be sending for an early copy.

SALMAN RUSHDIE enjoyed his new-found freedom from fear on Monday at a party to celebrate the luscious cookbook How to Eat by his friend Nigella Lawson. He found himself high in Celeb Heaven as assembled literati rubbed offal canapes with the Lawson dynasty (father Nigel still looking svelte), TV faces from Melvyn Bragg to Vanessa Feltz, and even the occasional model (Marie Helvin). The only jarring note was struck by the venue: a monumental bar called AXIS with Futurist murals daubed over neoclassical decor that recalled Il Duce's railway stations. Next stop for a smart book launch: Roma Termini?

J K ROWLING'S novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has been on the children's bestsellers since publication last year. Now Bloomsbury is publishing a so-called adult version. Ian Hislop has described the novel as "the children's equivalent" of the phenomenal Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

AS THE world prepares for C S Lewis - the musical, plus numerous repackagings to mark his centenary - the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are trying to claim him as one of their own. The Euro-wide organisation is sending out letters reminding people of Lewis's essay "The Problem of Pain", in which he renounced animal research and suggested that, if we are prepared to cut up animals, than why not "imbeciles, criminals, enemies or capitalists for the same reasons?" PETA is asking Lewis scholars to "speak out, as Lewis did... It will be a step toward renewing the soul of mankind".

WHAT WITH Cormac McCarthy and Nicholas Evans, the west is very much in vogue. Now Annie Proulx, of The Shipping News fame, has penned a 10,000- word novella, Brokeback Mountain, set among cowboys in her home state of Wyoming, 30 years ago. Charmingly packaged by Fourth Estate at pounds 3.99, it's an ideal stocking-filler for anyone already thinking about presents - or a great treat for yourself.