Books: Pick of the week

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The Independent Culture
Itching to buy Magnus Irvin's new book? You will be. This hand- crafted, limited-edition publication contains a rather bizarre free gift - a live flea. You can pick up your bouncing new pet by rummaging your way through 2,000 similarly peculiar books at this year's Artists' Book Fair, at the Barbican next Friday.

There are dainty Japanese-style paper books in the shape of apples from Heashin Kwak, a cute volume of cut-out Dolly clones by Karen Bleitz (above), and from French artist Etienne Rozsaffy big-hinged canvases in Rothko- esque colours which you can reassemble to make new patterns. Irvin's flea is leaping around between a selection of 12 original lithographs bound within the padded covers of a cushioned chair seat.

These quirky livres d'artiste first saw life with the Futurists at the turn of the century, and were revived by the Surrealists, the Situationists and the Fluxus group. Over the last five years, dozens of young British artists have had their glue and scissors out. Witty, collectable and cheap, books at the fair start at well under a fiver. Scoop up a handful of teeny concertina'd pamphlets in pristine white envelopes by Scottish poet-artist Ian Hamilton Finlay, or dig out a papery scrap of history by Yoko Ono.

As well as the more conceptual volumes, there are elegant fine-press editions. Invest in classy editions by David Hockney, Damien Hirst and Paula Rego, or enjoy embossed hand-bound versions of classic writers.

Meanwhile, the Cheltenham Literature Festival winds up this weekend. Today there's Bridget Jones, Howard Marks, Ian Dury, Richard Dawkins and Edward Heath. Tomorrow, choose from Pat Barker, William Boyd, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Richard E Grant.

London Artists' Book Fair, Concourse Gallery and Foyer, Barbican Centre, Silk St, London EC2 (0171-638 4141) 23-25 Oct; Fri & Sat 10am-7pm; Sun 12-7.30pm, admission free

Cheltenham Literature Festival (01242 227979) continues to 18 October

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