Books: Paperbacks

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Now and Then

by Joseph Heller,

Scribner, pounds 7.99

275pp

THERE'S SOMETHING in the air at Coney Island. Like Woody Allen's Radio Days, these recollections of growing up in the resort have resulted in one of the author's most enjoyable works. Many incidents - such as kissing the wrong woman in hospital while his mother in a nearby bed was "practically levitating" to gain his attention - crop up in Catch-22. The past stays close to Heller. He says that a royalty windfall of $18,000 gave no more pleasure than the 10 cents he made as a newsboy, when a purchaser glanced at his paper before returning it.

The Telling

by Miranda Seymour,

Picador, pounds 6.99

230pp

ALTHOUGH A work of fiction, this deliciously atmospheric novel is loosely based on events. In April 1939 Robert Graves and Laura Riding arrived in America to stay with Schuyler and Katherine Jackson. Two months later, Riding had pinched Katherine's husband, Graves had returned to England and Katherine was committed to a mental home. The story is told by Nancy (the Katherine figure), now an old woman in the family's Cape Cod home. Thoughtful and intriguing: Seymour marries her talents as novelist and biographer with compelling results.

Pleasure Wars

by Peter Gay,

Fontana, pounds 9.99

324pp

THE BOURGEOIS, said Flaubert, "make me want to vomit and cry at the same time." This panoramic volume defends a species central to the 19th-century experience. Gay notes the Victorian bourgeoisie were more sexually unbuttoned than we believe. Though he ignited an artistic revolution, Manet was "conventionally unconventional", as was the Jewish businessman who offered his yacht to Wilde as prison loomed. Gay points to a piano boom and a douanier nuts about Cezanne, but his presiding genius is Freud.

The Exes

by Pagan Kennedy,

Scribner, pounds 6.99

208pp

THE EAST Coast Indie scene doesn't sound like the setting for a rollicking good time, but in the hands of Village Voice pundit Pagan Kennedy, even the most miserable rock chicks end up interesting. When Hank and Lilly stop sleeping with each other, they form the Exes, a band of ex-couples. Joining them are Shaz, a bisexual bassist, and her ex, Walt, a geek with a van and a large amount of Prozac. A love story told from four viewpoints which gets to grips with relationship fatigue and an all-consuming desire to make it on MTV.

Memoirs

by Madame de la Tour du Pin,

Harvill, pounds 14

468pp

THOUGH NO dazzling wit, Madame de la Tour du Pin was cursed to live in interesting times. An aristo with a strong resemblance to Marie- Antoinette, she was lucky to escape the guillotine. There is no denying her pluck. At the height of the terror, she dined on truffles pinched from revolutionaries. She fled to the US, where life was safer, if less refined: "I must explain what is meant by a log cabin..." A low point came when she returned to Europe: "Never have days seemed drearier than that month in Yarmouth." Many others have felt the same.

Master Georgie

by Beryl Bainbridge,

Abacus, pounds 6.99

224pp

LIKE LEON Garfield for grown-ups, Beryl Bainbridge's Victorian gents and pale-faced foundlings appear and disappear in swirls of fog. The enigmatic hero of the piece, Master Georgie, is a Liverpool doctor, photographer and drunk. The story of his and his family's ill-advised trip to the battlefields of the Crimea is told in a series of powerful vignettes - young soldiers resting in a cherry-filled forest, a survivor's photograph to be sent home - and enlivened by a cast of Bainbridge eccentrics and charlatans.

Saturday Night Forever: the story of Disco

by A Jones & J Kantonen,

Mainstream, pounds 9.99, 223pp

546pp

BORN IN Paris, the discotheque whizzed across the Atlantic before returning to Europe in the form of Boney M and Arabesque, who rhymed "Larado" with "desper-ay-do". The US Dept of Defense considered using "In the Navy" as a recruiting jingle - then they saw Village People. Disco proved to be fertile ground for movies, ranging from porn rip-off Saturday Night Beaver to Carlito's Way. Sexy, funny and fact-packed, this book is irresistible.

Joyride

by Dexter Petley,

Fourth Estate, pounds 10.99

216pp

THE HERO of Dexter Petley's second novel spends his youth motoring up and down the A21 in the back of his dad's old banger, dreaming of life on the road with Jack Kerouac, or at least Ken Kesey. Twenty years on he meets a bookish American in the cafe at Highgate Ponds, and within days is married and in flight to Connecticut to meet the in-laws. At last he has the chance to cruise the highways of his dreams, and put mileage between himself and his past. Kentish kitsch meets middle America in stateside portions.

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