Saturday 21 December 1996
The Jimi Hendrix Experience by Jerry Hopkins (Plexus, pounds 9.99) Though Hopkins does a fair job on the facts of Hendrix's early life - we learn how the hero of the underground beat a car-stealing rap by joining the paratroopers - he comes unstuck with the music: "a single noise from the cosmos...football- field-sized sheets of steel falling from the tops of cliffs." Understandably, the audience at the first Jimi Hendrix Experience gig in Croydon were "numbed". How a backing guitarist on the chitterling circuit was suddenly transformed into rock's most innovative performer is unexplained - but we are amply enlightened about sex and drugs and post-mortem litigation.
Dear Dodie: the life of Dodie Smith by Valerie Grove (Pimlico, pounds 10) Brought out just in time to coincide with the recent film, this lively biography of the woman who created 101 Dalmatians reveals her as a delightfully English eccentric, even if it doesn't manage to establish her as anything more than a minor talent. Her happy Lancashire childhood was followed by a miserable youth as an unsuccessful actress, during which she developed her tastes both for married men and exotic costumes. She worked as a shop assistant in Heals before turning to writing. In her prime, it was as a playwright that she was most famous, though one gets the impression that her plays would seem rather fey and sentimental today. (Ps.You're not meant to judge a book by its cover, but the spotty jacket is such a triumph of graphic design that it deserves a mention.)
Making the Cat Laugh: one woman's journal of single life on the margins by Lynn Truss (Penguin, pounds 6.99) In past ages, a lone female with a cat was in danger of being prosecuted for witchcraft. These days, she's more likely to become a columnist, judging from this collection of pieces written for the Times, the Listener and Woman's Journal. Lynn Truss's doting attitude towards her feline friends is, in fact, the least funny thing in the book. It's her knack for lateral thinking - for pointing out the obvious in such a way that it becomes hilariously surreal - that provides the laugh- out-loud moments.
Strange Landscape by Christopher Frayling (Penguin/BBC, pounds 6.99) Stemming from Frayling's televisual "journey through the Middle Ages", the text is as patchy as the series - wonderful about the great medieval cathedrals, long-winded on Abelard and Heloise. The introduction, which underlines the significance of the Middle Ages today, is stuffed with embarrassing lists of heavy metal bands and suchlike. Frayling provides an exciting entree to an alien era, but it is unforgivable that this edition has been ransacked of all illustrators.
Journals Mid-Fifties: 1954-1958 by Allen Ginsberg (Penguin, pounds 12.50) A pyrotechnical display of poetry, pornography and pronunciamentos from the poet as he straddles his 30th year. Modesty is not his strong suit - "Plato, Shakespeare, Michelangelo and Ginsberg all loved boys." Younger readers mystified by the appeal of a soggy old mystic only have to read a single page of this litany for a powerful reminder why Ginsberg exerted such influence in the Sixties. One highlight is a sleazy European tour with fellow Beats: "Peter needs a shave. I need a bath. Gregory needs a new personality."
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: Learn from Quebec's mistakes and beware of promises. Vote Yes.
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Revealed after 75 years of secrecy: 'Fifi' the glamorous WW2 special agent who tested British spies' resolve
- 5 Have you heard about the film Singapore has banned its people from watching? Well, you have now
Laurie Lee's Rosie: What is it like to inspire a writer's work and be immortalised forever on the page?
Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
Doctor Who series 8: Time Heist pictures revealed ahead of episode 5
The Walking Dead season 5 air date, trailer and season 4 recap
Star Wars 7 leaked set photo of Adam Driver changes everything
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'