Saturday 31 May 1997
Domestic Manners of the Americans by Fanny Trollope (Penguin, pounds 8.99) After her Cincinnati store went belly up in 1830, Fanny Trollope (Anthony's mum) recouped the family fortunes with a hilarious, beady-eyed portrait of post-colonial life, salted with knocking copy. Though she genially chastised Americans for their love of pop culture, Mrs T reserved her deepest venom for slavery. Many of her views (eg, her loathing of evangelism) will strike a chord with modern visitors.
Dancing on the Grave by Nigel Barley (Abacus, pounds 8.99) Even in Africa, where death is less of a taboo than here, Barley's obsession with post- mortality was considered excessive ("You are like a vulture"). His anecdotal survey is replete with gallows humour. The Torajans of Indonesia keep bodies in the house (a body makes a handy cassette shelf). In Ecuador, the deceased is used as a gaming table. Yet such quirks aren't restricted to foreign climes. Barley cites our own Jeremy Bentham, on public view for 150 years. Skittering round the world, he reveals death as a mirror of life in its bizarre diversity.
Dangerous Pleasures by Patrick Gale (Flamingo, pounds 5.99) These delightful stories are just as entertaining as Gale's many well-received novels. Particularly fond of miserable women and petulant children, the collection includes a Barbara Pym-ish skit about the denizens of a cathedral close, a cautionary tale of a bad-tempered girl who gets locked in a wardrobe, and the story of a long-suffering wife who decides it's her turn to receive oral sex.
Helium by Tim Earnshaw (Gollancz, pounds 6.99) The actors of Spinal Tap managed to pull off flawless English accents. Brit Tim Earnshaw does the same in reverse with his wisecracking creation Gary Wilder - a beer- swilling Californian and ex-member of the Sixties surf band "The High". This funny, sharply written first novel catches up with Gary in pot-bellied middle age, and tells what happens when he discovers an unnerving power to float like a balloon. More grounded than it sounds.
Girls Will be Boys edited by Liz Evans (Pandora, pounds 7.99) According to Evans, the front line of rock journalism is a tough place for women to be. Sharing blueberry pancakes with Courtney Love, or hanging out with Liam Gallagher in Japanese love motels may be better than working in Woolworths, but the line between groupie and girl reporter is often blurred. This lively homage to girl power includes Lucy O'Brien on "Clitrock", Suzanne Moore on Sinead O'Connor's "attitude problem" and Liz Evans herself at home with Kurt, Courtney and baby Frances.
Strange and Well Bred by Sophia Watson (Sceptre, pounds 6.99) Dulcie admires her cousin Jody's long legs, shiny hair and Gwyneth Paltrow complexion. After a few days staying with posh relatives in Pimlico, this northern lass finds herself taxi-ing to and from the King's Road as well. A pleasant romance of Hooray Henries and interior designers, with just enough veiled references to the author's own family (the Waughs) to keep it interesting.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
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Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food