Saturday 09 August 1997
Alan Bennett: in a manner of speaking by Daphne Turner (Faber, pounds 9.99) You can see why Bennett wasn't keen on being the subject of a full-scale lit crit study. "We hear a great deal about lavatories in the plays," comments Turner, before embarking on a po-faced analysis of the comic masterpiece, Forty Years On. Her perceptions are keen-eyed and intelligent - "his plays are constantly interested in people who are trapped and caged" - but the ironic humour which is central to Bennett's oeuvre evaporates when placed under the critical microscope.
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding (Picador, pounds 5.99) Fans of Bridget Jones's weekly diary in The Independent will be glad to find that one of the happier years in her life is now heading the paperback bestseller chart in novel form. Not that Bridget's metamorphosis from Home Alone singleton into the kind of woman men like to take on weekend mini-breaks happens overnight. Before she drives into the sunset with a nerd in a diamond-patterned sweater she has to get over her crush on Daniel Cleaver, the rogue male in the publishing house where she works. And lose half a stone before Christmas. And give up smoking.
Honey From a Weed by Patience Gray (Prospect, pounds 12.99) Part memoir, part cook-book, this quirky classic is the fruit of a 30-year stint accompanying a sculptor around Italian and Greek marble quarries. No book plumbs deeper into the Mediterranean culinary tradition. Gray is wonderfully evocative about ingredients and techniques - though it is doubtful how many readers will try Gummarieddi (young lamb's pluck cooked on the spit). In the section on lentils, the author finds room for a disquisition on farting in EngLit.
Jim Thompson: Omnibus 2 (Picador, pounds 8.99) It would be hard to imagine a more pathetic bunch of low-lifes than the inhabitants of Jim Thompson's Fifties paperbacks. His door-to-door salesmen, hotel bell-boys and punch- drunk boxers are looking for any action they can get, but don't know what to do when the great-looking "babe" finally arrives. While the first Omnibus contained Thompson's best-known novels, this volume makes available five more, including Savage Night and A Hell of a Woman. Noir at its darkest ... and daftest.
Graceland: going home with Elvis by Karal Ann Marling (Harvard, pounds 9.95) In this brilliant, if highly personal, guide to both the man and his home, Marling explains how the Presley shrine differs from other places of tourist pilgrimage: "The house is full of things that we all have or used to have, or used to want, or hate." Though it is easy to scoff at Graceland's decor ("a violent Christmastime-lipstick-cherry-coke-fire-engine-hellfire red") and the Polynesian-themed Jungle Den, Marling insists that Elvis was "the last great Dixie regionalist", on a par with William Faulkner.
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
voicesPeople moan that Christmas is too commercial, the spirit lost. But it is a time to over-indulge, and always has been, says DJ Taylor
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the workshops of this Renaissance city?
food + drinkA trifle without custard? Surely not! Nonsense – and here’s three to finish your festive meal that prove it
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Arts & Ents blogs
Heavy rain and years of 'benign neglect' may have caused Apollo Theatre roof collapse
Christmas TV guide 2013: Look beyond the usual shows for the best festive telly
Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
Justin Bieber isn't retiring from music after all
The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
- 5 Police seize possessions of rough sleepers in crackdown on homelessness
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