Books: Paperbacks

Christopher Wood: An English Painter by Richard Ingleby, Alison & Busby pounds 14.99. When talented artists die young, there is often little to add to ritual expressions of frustrated promise. But Christopher Wood's demise in 1930 at 29, when he fell under a train at Salisbury station, was sufficiently odd for his friends Ben and Winifred Nicholson to commission a detective agency's investigation. Wood's short life was marked by a number of bisexual affairs, drug addiction, money worries and the demands of a doting mother. Anthony Powell, who knew Wood, called him a typical figure of the 1920s: looked and dressed like the Prince of Wales, eloped with a Guinness heiress, smoked opium with Jean Cocteau and knew Picasso. Ingleby's well-balanced biography gives as full account as possible of Wood's death and makes a committed but not excessive case for him as a painter. The colour illustrations (see above) show clearly that he had, as well as the influence of Van Gogh, Picasso and Matisse, a distinctive vision and technique of his own.

English Settlement by D J Taylor, Vintage pounds 6.99. Publishers like to be able to blurb their literary titles as thrillers but the snail-crawl plot of this one, extra-modishly tagged a "financial thriller", surely falls foul of the Trade Descriptions Act. Fiction can always thrill by its piercing wit and startling characterisation, but Taylor falls short here too. Aiming to cut a section through London at the moment when Thatcher passed the baton to Major, it is narrated by Scott Marshall, a freebooting American management consultant. As he researches a makeover for a porn-king's Fourth Division football club, Scott passes page after page after page of judgement on the English - their class hang-ups, sexual repressions, hypocrisy and perfidy. The satire is predictable, the voice and vocabulary unbelievable. Words like "otiose", "transpires" and "inchoate" are as anglo as a St Michael label, and if they really tripped this easily off young Scott's tongue, he'd be no rhinestone-cowboy accountant.

A User's Guide to the Millennium: Essays & Reviews by J G Ballard, Flamingo pounds 6.99. This collection shows Ballard's engagement with films, visual art, comic books, sex, sf, war - he has little apparent interest in theatre, music and poetry. J G is an expert at creative referencing: Warhol, "the Disney of the amphetamine age"; Hockney, a 20th-century Alma-Tadema; Naked Lunch "the Lenny Bruce Show rewritten by Dr Goebbels ..." I admire, too, the witty imagery: Hockney's photo collages like looking "through the eyes of a concussed bumblebee" and William Burroughs "a hit-man for the Apocalypse". Like any good reviewer he pinpoints the telling detail - in a biography of Presley noting that Elvis was a natural blond; of Dali that he once delivered a lecture in a diving suit; and, in a review of Mein Kampf, that alongside fussy old Chamberlain and Petain, Hitler still seems a modern figure: "The psycho- path never dates." But the most satisfying, poised and moving piece was written for the 50th VJ Day anniversary, in which Ballard returns to the Shanghai internment camp where much of his boyhood was spent.

The Heart of India by Mark Tully, Penguin pounds 6.99. For 30 years we listened to Mark Tully's voice reporting on the affairs of his native India on BBC Radio. Tully was able to evoke a petty village incident in a remote province or a disaster of Bhopal proportions with equal authority and in remarkably concise terms. In this collection of nine pieces he is concerned with the former of these two aspects of the sub-continent. Originally conceived as reportage, Tully eventually decided to fictionalise his stories of the little and unconsidered peoples of India. They are very good stories, too, often with the sly, ironic humour of folk tales. One concerns the agonies of a farmer's barren wife; another the confusion that education can bring to young women; a third the rivalry of two Untouchable brothers; a fourth a revenge killing. As the title implies, Tully is saying - and Gandhi would have agreed - "here, among the poor, is the vital centre of my country". And you can believe him, partly because you discern that calm, engaged voice coming through the prose.

Rajiv Gandhi and Rama's Kingdom by Ved Mehta, Yale pounds 9.95. By coincidence, Mark Tully is not the only veteran reporter of the Indian scene to have a collection out in paperback. These New Yorker-length news essays, less down-home than Tully, concentrate largely on the soap opera of New Delhi's high politics, the ins and outs of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty which ruled independent India for most of the first 40 years of its existence. A continental empire, ruthlessly centralised on Delhi, India is like the Soviet Union in many respects (Mehta even has an essay entitled "Rajiv's Perestroika") but there are also aspects that resemble the Mogul courts of old, not least in the combination of pride and corruption displayed by the ruling elite, which Mehta actually calls a democratic monarchy. He is an extremely readable commentator, whether telling the story of Mrs Gandhi's falling out with her daughter-in-law, the rise of Rajiv, the assassinations of two Gandhis or the very different destructions of the Bhopal chemical factory and the Ayodhyah mosque. Invisible Crying Tree by Tom Shannon and Christopher Morgan, Black Swan pounds 6.99. These letters between Morgan, a farmer, and Shannon, serving life for murder, resulted from a penfriend scheme that aimed to give lifers a "window on the world". It opens a window for us into prison life - the cardphone economy, the drugs and hooch, the everyday anxieties and priorities which circumscribe and fill a prisoner's days and nights. Read this book and you will never again think that life inside is null. Prison is a place of constant tension, with the need to be always alert to the many dangers and opportunities which hourly present themselves to the body or the mind. Shannon's letters, convincingly authentic, are therefore priceless documents of life under sentence of life, as eloquent in their own unassuming, misspelt, illiterate way as Oscar Wilde himself.

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game