Books: In brief

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The Independent Culture
New Writing 3: An Anthology ed Andrew Motion and Candice Rodd, Minerva pounds 6.99. In the current who's-in who's-out critical climate, anybody who sticks their head above the parapet to promote new writing - some by unknown authors - needs a flak-jacket and a philosophical attitude to life. Sure enough, this year's excellent anthology (the third in an annual series published with the British Council) has attracted some predictable sneers. How spoilt can you get? Surely 500 pages of original writing, of this quality, is pretty amazing by anyone's standards?

Fiction - both extracts of novels and short stories - makes up the bulk of the book: this is especially important now that you can count on your thumbs the outlets for stories in this country. Some vigorous, enjoyable stuff comes from established writers: Candia McWilliam and Rose Tremain, for instance, and Hilary Mantel in whimsical mode. The less well-known names specialise in physical, oozy, foody work: Jane Harris's 'Those Nails', Elizabeth Smithers's 'Degustation Domestique', and 'Jack Sprat's Wife' by Kate Sekules, none of which should be read just after meals.

There is fine work from 19 poets, ranging from R S Thomas and Charles Tomlinson to Maura Dooley and John Burnside; novels-in- progress from Jim Crace and Jane Rogers; and a sprinkling of non-fiction includes Alan Rusbridger (very funny) on tabloids and a moving autobiographical piece from Ursula Owen. Can't wait to see what next year's editors will come up with.

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