PAPERBACKS

Asylum by Patrick McGrath, Penguin pounds 6.99. "The catastrophic love affair characterised by sexual obsession has been a professional interest of mine for many years now." Handily, our psychiatrist-narrator is working in a late-Fifties mental hospital when a classic instance falls into his lap. Edgar, the inmate, is a handsome, fleshy man, a former artist, in for murdering, decapitating and then "enucleating" his wife (ie he tore her eyes from her face). Stella, the inamorata, is the elegant but frustrated wife of a hospital shrink. They dance at a hospital party, his erection pressing at her leg. They make assignations in the hospital gardens. They run away to London and live, for a time, the life of bohemian and muse ... McGrath uses his narrator a bit like Conrad used his Marlow. We watch events unfolding at third hand, via prose which is clinically calm. The institutional details - "it was the summer of 1959 and the Mental Health Act had just been passed" - are psychological sensitive, and quietly turned to Gothic effect. This is a neat, tight, frisson-filled tragedy, the sort of thing Hitchcock would have loved to have filmed. Interestingly, it is dedicated to Jack Davenport, the actor who played Miles in This Life.

Hungry For You : From Cannibalism to Seduction - A Book of Food by Joan Smith, Vintage pounds 8.99. Which anecdote did Samuel Pepys consider "the best Story I ever heard"? The one "about a gentleman that persuaded a country fellow to let him gut his oysters or else they would stink". Boom- boom. And there's plenty more where that comes from in this fascinatingly all-over- the-place book. Joan Smith splits her food selections more pedagogically - and much more thoughtfully - than most anthologists do. "The Art of Starvation" deals with anorexia, "Eating Shit" with poisons as well as coprophagia, "La Dolce Vita" with the Brillat-Savarin tradition of gastronomy as the good life. Each comes headed with a neat, issues-raising mini-essay. There's a very fine section on dieting as "Obsession", nicely capped with excellent Muriel Spark Plan for Corporeal Reduction, as outlined in A Far Cry From Kensington: eat the same as you always do, but cut all the quantities in half. And Smith wittily ends the book with recipes for Peperoni Arrostiti and Fegato alla Veneziana - among other sensuous but straightforward delicacies - and with a scandalously cream-topped, impeccably Elizabeth David, Mont Blanc chestnut puree for pud.

! Oyster by Janette Turner Hospital, Virago pounds 7.99. Imagine a Picnic at Hanging Rock in Castlemaine XXXX country. That's what the creeping dread and mystery of this novel is like. Outer Maroo is a Queensland outback settlement which strives its utmost never to appear on maps. On the face of it, the people live like Pennsylvanian Amish, good time-warped fundamentalist Christians. But they are mining the opal fields which lie beneath their grazing. And they are stockpiling Kalashnikovs in readiness for the coming millennial war. Recently - "Two years Ago", "Last Week" "This Week" is how the chapter headings move - Old fuckatoo, the desert stench, has been thickening. What really happened to Susannah Rover, the uppity Anne of Green Gables-like schoolteacher? And what of the appalling Oyster and all the daft young Americans he lured to his cult? JTH cleverly combines a tough critique of the whole staunch-Protestant frontier-fiction mythology with an Australian meditation on the horrors of empty heat and dust.

Polaroids from the Dead by Douglas Coupland, Flamingo pounds 8.99. "This book," says Coupland, "explores the world that existed in the early 1990s, back when the decade was young and had yet to locate its own texture." Sixties survivors mixing with grunge kids at the California Grateful Dead concerts, 1991: Ossi Berliners in 1994, "a headless bear of jealousy that slouches through the Brandenburg Gate, not knowing what it wants, only that it wants more". Born in 1961 - and hence rather old now to identify with his original Generation X youth thang - Coupland appears, throughout these intermingled essays and short factions, to be maturing well. There's a particularly fine, Benjamin-like meditation on the LA suburb of Brentwood, desirable once for its very anonymity, famous now and for ever as the empty, "de-narratised" neighbourhood in which Nicole and OJ Simpson made their marital home.

X20 by Richard Beard, Flamingo pounds 6.99. The hero of Richard Beard's first novel is a young man who is trying to stop smoking. That's what "X20" refers to, and that's why the story is divided like a fag-packet into 20 agonising parts. Gregory, 30, is a late starter but a professional one, a paid guinea-pig for a tobacco company. The connections he uncovers in his insomniac ramblings range wide and strike pretty true: the pathetic rings puffed by the smoker around the probability maths of cancer: "an article in Cosmopolitan which said that cigarettes are a substitute for the mother's breast"; the sublime sexiness of girls with ashtray mouths. Up until now, the only novel worth reading about smoking has been Italo Svevo's magnificent Confessions of Zeno (1927). It's nice to have another to help prop up the duty-frees.

Manchester Pieces by Paul Driver, Picador pounds 7.99. Paul Driver writes like a Mancunian Stephen Dedalus. The first in this series of autobiographical essays, "My Manchester", is like a tourist's potted history, only with no punctuation. The last, "Salford Toccata", is constructed contrapuntally, "recapitulating, too, the book's kaleidoscopic form". A radio producer and music critic, Driver was, he tells us, as a schoolboy convinced of his musical "genius". But arriving at Oxford as a northern pleb in the 1970s knocked that notion on the head: "uprooted from Salford's dullness and normality, deprived of a minor local fame, I floated uncertainly through my Oxford days and homesick nights". This book sees the author revising the primal scene of his artistic trauma, embellishing his thoughts about his Nana ("much later, he discovered it was a northern working-class endearment") by putting himself into the third person and numbering the paragraphs from 1 to 28. The effect ("Ethics and Aesthetics of Grandmother"? - oh, for heaven's sake, please, no) I found a bit sophomoric and tiresome. Other reviewers, however, liked this book a lot.

PANTHEON RETURNS NEXT WEEK

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
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.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...