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The Independent Culture
Does the Sun Rise Over Dagenham? New Writing from London ed Katie Owen, Fourth Estate pounds 9.99. We are constantly assured by those in the know, that London is the centre of the universe. Cool Britannia, Damien Hirst, Terence Conran restaurants, um

The opener, Damien Croft's "Hacivat", about importing watermelons and people into the UK from Turkey, is a sweet but unsatisfying tale that whets the appetite and makes the editor's point - this won't be a ride around the Tower of London on a double-decker bus. More likely we'll be smuggled into town under a pile of fruit.

"Feathers in Our Knickers", by Louis de Bernieres, is brilliantly irreverent. The lightness of his touch and the easiness with which the difficult lives of his Londoners are understood and respected is wonderful. Truancy, under- age sex, vandalism and attempted suicide has never been so much fun. It's the best by quite a way and its place in the middle of the collection works as a refreshment to reward and sustain the reader through those that are not such a pleasure.

The other two established writers, Nicola Barker and Emily Perkins, are as strategically placed: they almost bookend the collection. The title story by Doina Cornell can afford to be so raw after the entertaining though straightforward piece by Barker. Perkins, bringing up the the rear, takes the weight off Daphne Rock's bleak, uncompromising and compelling account of a teenage mother forced into painful revelation. Similarly, Andrew Dempster's mysterious collage of letters, press clippings and public announcements, and Reuben Lane's charming observations are fortunate to flank de Bernieres.

Lane, on one of his wanders, comes across "Boxes of still oranges and knobbly roots of ginger. Satellite dishes. Church spires with Gothic bumps. Rainbow swings and astro turf." The newer writers provide the astro turf and the swings, without which the view of the church would be nice, but not very London.

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