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FOURTH ESTATE, the publisher which has done more than any other to whet our appetite for quirky titles, has just signed up a particularly eccentric story. Wings of Madness is the biography of Alberto Santos-Dumont, the dapper Brazilian inventor of the steerable balloon. A member of turn-of-the-century Paris high society, he liked nothing better than to balloon into town, tether his craft to a nearby gaslight and dine at a fashionable restaurant. His dream was that such vehicles would be available cheaply to all and, in order to accustom people to life at high altitude, he'd entertain dinner guests in his Champs Elysées apartment at a table suspended from the ceiling. Sadly, his life ended in suicide in 1932, when he became depressed that planes - in which he'd also been a pioneer - were being used for military purposes in the Brazilian civil war. Largely unknown, his colourful story will be brought to life by Paul Hoffman, author of another quirky Fourth Estate book, The Man Who Loved Only Number

FOURTH ESTATE, the publisher which has done more than any other to whet our appetite for quirky titles, has just signed up a particularly eccentric story. Wings of Madness is the biography of Alberto Santos-Dumont, the dapper Brazilian inventor of the steerable balloon. A member of turn-of-the-century Paris high society, he liked nothing better than to balloon into town, tether his craft to a nearby gaslight and dine at a fashionable restaurant. His dream was that such vehicles would be available cheaply to all and, in order to accustom people to life at high altitude, he'd entertain dinner guests in his Champs Elysées apartment at a table suspended from the ceiling. Sadly, his life ended in suicide in 1932, when he became depressed that planes - in which he'd also been a pioneer - were being used for military purposes in the Brazilian civil war. Largely unknown, his colourful story will be brought to life by Paul Hoffman, author of another quirky Fourth Estate book, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers.

WITH 48 hours to go to the announcement of this year's Booker Prize, Bloomsbury - who have an author in contention this year - have announced that Michael Ondaatje, who won in 1992 with The English Patient, will grace their list once more. Anil's Ghost, seven years in the writing, is described as "a profoundly disturbing and timeless work of art and a revelatory journey" which will "surprise" readers.

ONE OF the great thespian talents of our times has finally agreed to write his memoirs: Sir Nigel Hawthorne, who came to national attention playing Sir Humphry in Yes, Minister, and who is about to arrive in London with King Lear, has signed with Hodder & Stoughton. Publication is scheduled for 2002.

THE BRITISH Library has become the first public sector institution to go online. Anyone dialling in to the free Internet service will have access to the BL's online catalogue and picture library. Details at www.bl.uk

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