Cover Stories: Jane Fonda; Portobello Books; Audrey Niffenegger

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The Independent Culture

Celebrity biography often promises far more than it delivers, with million-dollar price tags attached to books that end up piled high and sold cheap. Thus Jane Fonda's memoir, bought for c.$500,000 by Ebury before Christmas, seems quite a bargain. In town last week, Fonda was fêted at the Mirabelle in Mayfair, where she talked about the book, scheduled for June. She held everyone spellbound: funny and feisty, highly critical of Bush and Blair, and totally contemptuous of Rupert Murdoch, in whose newspapers she will not appear. Her promotional visit in June is something to look forward to.

* A happy start to 2005 for Philip Gwyn Jones, dispensed with by HarperCollins this time last year when it grounded his fine Flamingo list. He has announced a new publishing company, Portobello Books, to be funded by film producer Eric Abraham - whose Portobello Pictures won a 1997 Academy Award for Kolya - and Sigrid Rausing, anthropologist and philanthropist. Gwyn Jones, who has worked with such authors as Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, Doris Lessing and Douglas Coupland, will publish 15 to 20 books a year, with a focus on international fiction and "politically engaged non-fiction".

* American author Audrey Niffenegger is well on her way to literary superstardom. Her first novel The Time Traveler's Wife is already a bestseller. It's also our online book group's book of the month. Niffenegger will be in conversation with Christina Patterson at Waterstone's, Piccadilly on 27 January at 7pm. Tickets £3 from 020 7851 2400. Come out from behind your computer!

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