BOOKS: PAPERBACKS

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Aubrey Beardsley: A Biography Matthew Sturgis

Flamingo pounds 8.99

When Aubrey Beardsley died, aged 25, in 1898, he had become one of the defining figures of the fin de siecle. Sturgis's biography of this superlative draughtsman is as elegant and shrewd as its subject. His account of Beardsley's childhood sets the tone for what was to come: at the age of six, Aubrey was giving piano recitals at fashionable London houses, and had decided that his memorial should be a portrait bust "because I am rather good- looking". This precocity is explained in terms of an early diagnosis of tuberculosis. Sturgis entertains with tales of Beardsley's glittering social milieu, which included Whistler, Max Beerbohm, Burne-Jones, and most famously, Oscar Wilde. And his account of the religious scruples and sexual frustration which were integral to his style is evidence of the sensitivity with which he deals with this troubled, facetious and manipulative man.

Paris Trance

Geoff Dyer

Abacus pounds 6.99

Four twenty-something ravers in Paris discover that once you have reached the highs of sexual and emotional intimacy, the only way is down. In his latest novel, Geoff Dyer dissects the melancholy of eroticism and the falling of the scales from the eyes of a young person abroad. Dyer writes for and about young men; like them he can be stultifyingly self-conscious (which, at times, makes his writing drag), but he is also energetic and impassioned. He is rapidly accruing a cult following, and for anyone who likes sex, drugs, drinking and debating the meaning of life, he's your man.

High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess

Charles Fleming

Bloomsbury pounds 7.99

While waiting to be photographed for an interview to promote Demolition Man, Sylvester Stallone baulked at the colour of the walls in his hotel suite; they were pale yellow. The interview had to be delayed long enough for the entire suite to be repainted peach. When Demi Moore (known as Gimme More by those who should know) was due to attend a premiere for A Few Good Men, she was dismayed to discover that her bags had been packed on top of each other in the jet that had been hired to fly her there. It was pointed out that she had too much luggage to pack it any other way. So Moore demanded, and got, a bigger plane. Astonishing instances of greed, moral vacuity and downright degeneracy are strung together by lifeless prose in this account of how Hollywood films get made.

Pig Earth

John Berger

Bloomsbury pounds 6.99

Everybody's favourite Marxist in the 1970s, poet, critic and novelist John Berger takes as his subject the decline of peasant cultures for the first volume of his Into Their Labours trilogy. But Berger is not just a polemicist, the strength of his writing lies in its poetic aspirations. Set in a small Alpine village, he relates the stories of doggedly independent peasants bent on survival, expecting nothing but to be allowed to live the life to which they were born. But they do so with a dignity and tenacity that inspires Berger (who lived in such a village) to celebrate them with compelling lyricism. Lucie Cabrol is his most memorable creation, and through her life he welds the stark realism of calves being born and pigs slaughtered to a sensual appreciation of language as a means of spiritual transcendence.

Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History

ed Robert Walser

Oxford pounds 23.50

Not as arid as these academic studies of jazz can be - Walser aims in Keeping Time to show that jazz's history is not just about names, dates but issues, ideas, and social movements. To do so, he extracts from the writings of all the big names: critics Leonard Feather and Gunther Schuller, novelists Josef Skvorecky and Langston Hughes. The most illuminating pieces come from the horses' mouths. When Billie Holiday and Charles Mingus put pen to paper, the rhythms and cadences of their music never leave them. LP

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