Books: Paperbacks

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Food in England

by Dorothy Hartley,

Little, Brown, pounds 15

676pp

The cover of this compendium, first published in 1954, bears an endorsement by the Blessed Delia that it is "a must for any keen English cook." Well, it certainly reveals the wealth and variety of English peasant food, but how much cooking you'll do from it is debatable.

A page devoted to goose grease, (which is the essential ingredient in the cuisine of south-west France) notes merely that it can be used as a sandwich filling (beat to a cream, then mix with lemon-juice, chopped onion and parsley), before passing on to other uses, including hot poultices, and smearing on the ears of sheepdogs in cold weather.

Having gathered a rich harvest of culinary lore, Hartley misses no chance to pursue diversions - and very enjoyable they are, too.

Curiously, this celebration of our indigenous cuisine must have been written at the peak of rationing, a period which initiated a nadir in English cooking. It is pleasing that many topics touched on by Hartley, from traditional pig breeds to the wood-burning stove, are enjoying a revival.

Though a bit of a know-all, Hartley makes a rare slip on the vexed issue of Yorkshire pudding. It should not be cooked, as she suggests, below the dripping beef (the result would be too soggy), nor should it be served with the meat (in Yorkshire, at least). The book is a joy, not so much for cookery ideas as for sheer wealth of weird and wonderful information it contains. Did you know that a combination of honey and beeswax was medieval chewing gum, while the bull's testicle cord was used as a pulley in grandfather clocks? An excellent reissue. CH

The Cure For Love

by Jonathan Bate,

Picador, pounds 6.99

267pp

AUTHOR OF The Genius of Shakespeare - an absorbing and popular demystification of the bard and his works - critic and essayist Jonathan Bate has chosen psychic drama of a more private nature as the subject of his first novel. After a fall from a Scottish crag, "William" is suffering from post-traumatic amnesia. With the help of a psychotherapist, a sensitive 30-something called Laura, he pieces together memories of an unhappy marriage, biking in the Lakes, and an erotic escapade. A narrative of puzzles and critical theories, Bates deconstructs the power of poetic licence.

The Time of Our Time

by Norman Mailer,

Abacus, pounds 7.99

1,286pp

A CHUNKY tome which tests the limits of the paperback format, this quirky retrospective is arranged broadly in chronological order. (The penultimate piece is a chapter from his Blakean epic about Pharonic Egypt - but that's Mailer for you). Though his first novel The Naked and The Dead retains its power, it is Mailer's non-fiction which takes the laurels. Works like The Armies of the Night and The Executioner's Song knock his rivals - Capote, Vidal and Wolfe - into a cocked hat. You reel at the energy, diversity and, yes, genius displayed in this essential book.

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