PAPERBACKS

! The Village that Died for England: the Strange Story of Tyneham by Patrick Wright, Vintage pounds 8.99. Tyneham is a Dorset coastal village, evacuated during WW2 and, despite promises, never repopulated. In telling its story, Wright becomes a social archaeologist of rural England, digging through the substrata of the physical, social and political landscape to lay bare a complex structure of competing interests. In the detail it is fascinating, but there's something wrong about the tone. Wright is too much the sardonic metropolitan, smirking at the dotty Merrie Englanders and guitar-strumming ecologists, the still-flourishing Tory squirearchy, the whingeing countryfolk, the nimby weekenders, all squabbling over the hedges, fields and barns of England. His favourite target of all, though, is Heritage, admittedly a hapless, sentimental concept which is quite unable to referee this demented rustic free-for-all. But if Wright has compassion for the deracinated of Tyneham, it is weaker than the desire to display his urbanity and wit.

! Marabou Stork Nightmares by Irvine Welsh, Vintage pounds 5.99. Roy Strang lies comatose and brain-damaged in a hospital bed after a suicide attempt. Aware of the fussing of nurses and visitors, he prefers to float away with his alter-ego Sandy Jamieson into a fictional African reality which owes something in its atmosphere to Rider Haggard, or maybe Glen Baxter. However, he also has an urge to trace the making of a rapist (himself) in the shitty, drug-choked, liquor-soused Scottish housing estate where he grew up. There is much pleasure in the comic detail, especially the portrait of Roy's father, a hard-drinking security guard. But the book's ambition to be more than a Kelman or a Roddy Doyle should be judged first by the success of the storytelling framework (so close to that of The Singing Detective) and second by his didacticism, emerging strongly towards the end and preaching zero-tolerance for violence against women. Maybe Welsh means to redeem some of the most violent sex scenes I've read since Last Exit to Brooklyn. If so, on a first reading, he doesn't quite do it.

! The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe by John Boswell, Fontana pounds 8.99. The author unearths scores of previously unremarked same-sex union ceremonies from between the 8th and the 18th centuries - as it happens, all of them for the joining of males. Lesbian couples, he argues, were relatively disregarded by the authorities and so had less (or no) need for such ceremonies. But why should that be? Was it because lesbian sex was not considered "real" - Queen Victoria's view adopted by British law? Boswell, unashamedly tendentious but a massive researcher, raises many such questions about the meaning of marriage and sexuality in our tradition. Ever since Kinsey, sex has been fed on an industrial scale through the plocketa-plocketa academic machine. That this book manages to add a few new gurgles and squeeches is impressive.

! The Sorcerer's Challenge: Fears and Hopes for the Weapons of the Next Millennium by David Shukman, Coronet pounds 7.99. The Americans who tried to defeat General Noriega by blasting him with rock music were pioneering an idea now, according to Shukman, under further consideration by the US army: a noise bomb which can cause "vomiting or bowel spasms" at a kilometre's distance. (With no entry for Meatloaf in the index, there's no way of knowing if this research includes the differential nausea induced by Heavy Metal groups.) It's just one of the schemes being passed proudly around the big table in the Pentagon war room, along with vehicle-disabling gas mines, robot locusts that hurl themselves destructively into aero engines etc. This is a chatty but interesting book majoring on shiny metal- type war-toys. I would have welcomed more on the insidious nightmare of military/genetic research.

! The Botticelli Angel by Harry Cauley, Penguin pounds 5.99. This tough but charming American fantasy tells the adventures of drifter John Tree whose protege Michael is a beautiful young man with two peculiar "wing-things" growing from his shoulders and the strange aura of a prelapsarian innocent. Whether or not Michael really is an angel, he certainly sings like one and so they set off on a rackety drive from Pittsburgh to Hollywood, where the angel's career in the movies will, John devoutly hopes, make them millions. That it won't happen is beside the point: the journey, with its tricks and treats and twists of fortune, is the thing. The setting of Cauley's fable - the 1920s - is apt. This is neither a Bunyan allegory nor a Kerouac road opera, but has some of the qualities of both.

! Lord Gnome's Literary Companion, ed Francis Wheen, Verso pounds 11.95. To say His Lordship's bookish chum is critical would be like describing Ron Knee as a shade off-colour. These book reviews from Private Eye are cover- to-cover vituperation - about authors, who appear as either freeloading lamebrains or con artists (a rare exception being the bald radio broadcaster Robert Robinson) and equally about publishers, agents or indeed anyone else in the book trade. It all gets a mite repetitive after a while, and many of the targets are sitting up on the firing range wearing day-glo suits. But this drawback is nothing compared to Wheen's absurdly pompous preface, asking you to consider his collection as meet for a thesis.

Contemporary Asian Architects by Hasan-Uddin Khan (Taschen pounds 11.99) ranges from Turkey, through the Arab world to the Far East. Sumet Jumsai's Bank of Asia building in Bangkok is a giant robot; Hong Kong's Tao Ho designs a vast shopping mall for Suzhou on a classical Chinese theme; Geoffrey Bawa of Sri Lanka conceives a timeless Buddhist temple. As well as huge official buildings, the book features dramatic homes, like (above) the Roof Roof House of Kuala Lumpur designed by Ken Yeang for himself

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
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.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones