Sunday 30 June 1996
! The Information by Martin Amis, Flamingo pounds 6.99. The antiheroic Richard Tull - whose plot to destroy his hated friend and literary rival Gwyn Barry is also the book's - comes through as one of the very best literary losers, up there with Ed Casaubon and most of the characters in New Grub Street. Richard's commitment to pre-postmodernist and, he considers, "tautly leashed" fictional prose count for nothing when the publisher's reader, settling down to his latest submission, invariably develops incipient brain damage after half a dozen pages. The odious Gwyn's bloodless New Age utopias are purest trex, yet it is he who collects awards and fans while Richard, in obscurity, now simmers and prickles, now moults and wilts. Amis has made previous incursions into the grebby end of Ladbroke Grove and the infection of urban self-pity. But he's never been quite so funny about it.
! The Hollow Years: France in the 1930s by Eugen Weber, Sinclair-Stevenson pounds 12.99. France seemed a glamorous destination to wealthy travellers between the wars, with its Paris Exhibition, Train Bleu, rich cuisine, wines and above all, an intact reputation as the cultural capital of the world. The reality, as this social history shows, was grimmer. France had not finished mourning her 1.4 million dead from the Great War when the whole thing started again in 1939. The years between were marked by severe social and economic anxiety: a million more women than men, legions of disabled veterans, a massive rise in immigration, a declining religious faith but a suffocating Catholic heritage for those who remained, industrial unrest, a disastrous defence policy and a misguided attempt to strut the diplomatic stage with insufficient military back-up. This gloomy scene helps explain the disgrace of Vichy, which seems to be an important part of Weber's purpose.
.!The Vanishing Princess by Jenny Diski, Phoenix pounds 5.99. The construction of male points of view holds little charm for Diski. These short stories cherish the inner life of women, in particular their obsessive desires, their fantasies, their ideas of bliss. One story celebrates the satisfactions of an extra-marital affair; another traces the protagonist's life in terms of her fixation on bathrooms; a third - a graceful thematic inversion - deals with a woman's joyful, but temporary, relief from her obsession. A mild irony seasons all of this, but you also bite on the odd, hard little hairball of self-doubt and once or twice, more fundamentally, "a bone- deep knowledge of my own inability", as one of the narrators puts it.
! To Be Honest With You by Linford Christie, Penguin pounds 5.99. This is primarily for athletics fans, as running and not writing is what Linford's into. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, he was raised for his first seven years by a doting granny while his parents sought a better life in Britain. They can't have found it because when he came to the UK he found them in poverty in West London. He also discovered snow, playground racism, the disciplinary chaos that was ILEA education, and the fact that he was good at sport. So he is characteristic of many British blacks of his generation, except that happens to be the first Brit of any colour to have run 100 metres in under 10 seconds. He puts the case that black people in sport are important because they are "easing the racial problem". But what he thinks is in no way as vital as what he does.
! The Primitive by Stephen Amidon, Indigo pounds 5.99. Amidon's erotic thriller is set firmly in negative-equitised, corporate-downsized, Newt Gingrich- ised America. The hero David, redundant from his job on a charitable trust which once dispensed money to the poor, now glumly copywrites for a predatory property company while his wife drives herself to exhaustion keeping a beleaguered public radio station afloat. But David's life develops wheelspin when he pulls a pretty but mysterious girl from her wrecked car. Soon he's mired in sexual obsession, leading to involvement in a political conspiracy which itself encapsulates the political and social ills that made David's cosy life so provisional and anxious in the first place. Amidon - working in a field once tilled by Raymond Chandler - does so to good effect.
Judy Chicago's monumental installation 'The Dinner Party' is a triangular banqueting table with place settings for 39 famous women - Sappho, Virginia Woolf, et al. Around each setting are embroidered the names of hundreds of other women, some now all but forgotten; the whole piece, created in collaboration with many female artists, weavers and embroiderers, is a symbolic history of Western Civilisation seen through women's eyes. The Dinner Party (Penguin pounds 15) is the artist's own tour through this rich and densely allusive work. Above, Soujourner Truth's plate
Books And it is whizzpopping!
MusicThey're running their own restaurants
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Dentist who illegally killed Cecil the lion blames local guides for the scandal
- 2 Kate Winslet thanked 'particularly horrible' girl who bullied her at school after Titanic success
- 3 Norwich paedophile ring: Woman at centre of gang who made children 'sexual play things' guilty of 23 offences
- 4 Black and ethnic minority people twice as likely to be hit by Tory cuts than white people, report finds
- 5 Walter Palmer: American dentist revealed as the killer of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe
New on Netflix August 2015: From Narcos and Spellbound to Kick Ass 2 and Dinotrux
Listen! Beowulf opening line misinterpreted for 200 years
Heath Ledger's father reveals dead actor's 'Joker diary' written during The Dark Knight
Game of Thrones season 6: New toy line suggests Jon Snow is not among the dead
Spectre: Ellie Goulding is almost definitely singing the theme song to the next Bond film
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
The last thing Labour needs is a leader like Jeremy Corbyn who people want to vote for
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
Labour leadership contest: I would never quit the party, says Liz Kendall