BOOKS FICTION: SHELF LIFE

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2 BOOKS FICTION: SHELF LIFE Subtitled "Interpreting an Icon", Wayne Koestenbaum's Jackie Under My Skin (Fourth Estate pounds 16) is a lengthy exercise in free-association, as the author neurotically questions images of the immaculate Mrs Onassis in an attempt to liberate his "inner Jackie". This book is entirely without depth, but this is not inappropriate to the subject. When Jackie died, "Fifth Avenue seemed deprived of its pre- eminent resident, Central Park of its sprite, Manhattan of its motivation." Koestenbaum finds himself among all the weirdos and obsessives on the pavement at Jackie's funeral, and the tension of this book lies in his uncomfortable awareness that he isn't so far from being a crazed fan himself. The funeral, from this outsider's viewpoint, is eerily evoked: the tramp who screams "Jackie was a slut!", the spontaneous applause at the sight of the casket, the glimpse of Jackie's sister Lee Radziwill which prompts the bizarre thought: "Lee's all we have left now." But he's still got the pictures, the magazine photo-spreads dating back to the Sixties. "Has Jackie ever appeared in your dreams? If so, what does her appearance there signify? If one were to compile a new Interpretation of Dreams ... what would Jackie mean? (What would Tony Curtis? Mia Farrow? Ringo?)" When will Koestenbaum get round to answering his own questions? For the rest, he offers inappropriate, sometimes distasteful classical references a la Paglia. Jackie, bloodstained, next to her dead husband, is Judith to his Holofernes, symbolically complicit in his death; in her trademark disguise, like Daphne: "she turns into a tree (scarf and sunglasses are bark) because she does not want to be ... pursued."

2 "Don't look now Tony, but there's a woman over there you must never have anything to do with." Anthony Quinn's stern grandmother did him a disservice with her lurid warnings against putas, the actor recounts in One Man Tango (Headline pounds 17.99), written with Daniel Paisner. Famed for his Zorba and his unenlightened attitude to the fair sex, Quinn was brought up by two strong women, mother Manuela and grandmother Sabina, who advised him to drip lemon juice on the breasts of his girlfriends to see if they had VD. "I no longer remember what the lemon juice was meant to signify ... but I never lost the image." Quinn's macho posturing began early after his father Francisco died aged only 29 (a vivid photo of him is reproduced here). Before marrying the daughter of Cecil B De Mille, Quinn managed to see off the predatory Mae West, who snarled "Boy, either you are one smart cookie or one stupid sonofabitch, I can't quite figure" when he innocently deflected her advances. Saying poignantly, "I will never get used to playing grandfathers and withered shells," 80-year-old Quinn rages against the dying of the light, and comes across as a wonderfully crusty character.

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