Saturday 19 October 1996
Mind Readings: Writers' Journeys Through Mental States edited by Sara Dunn, Blake Morrison and Michele Roberts (Minerva, pounds 7.99) Depression is the writer's occupational hazard, and this collection of essays, poems, stories and confessions by well-known authors - published to mark the 50th anniversary of the mental health charity, Mind - explores the dark side of the psyche from a myriad of different angles. High- (or if you prefer, low-) lights include Rosie Boycott laying bare her alcoholism, Zoe Heller in praise of Prozac and Wendy Cope's hilarious analysis of her relationship with her shrink.
Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Daniel C Dennett (Penguin, pounds 9.99) Endlessly stimulating, this extended advocacy of full-blown Darwinism (''the best single idea anyone has ever had") is a glorious tour de force. Utilising analogies ranging from Borges' Library of Babel to the use of spandrels in architecture, Dennet hammers home the ineluctable fact that Darwin explained the world - and everything discovered since supports his theory. What we hypothesise as God is ''something dogged and mindless''. Dennett's lucid exegesis of this ''dangerous idea'' is uncompromising and revelatory.
Junk Mail by Will Self (Penguin, pounds 7.99) Reading one article by Will Self can be exhilarating, but a whole book of them seems rather too much of a good thing. Cool and pseudy by turns, his prose crackles with wit one minute and irritates the next. Nearly half the pieces in this collection of journalism are about drug abuse - gritty reportage rather than flights of philosophical fancy - but other subjects range from the author's lucubrations concerning an operation on his penis to interviews with Damien Hirst and J G Ballard.
Looking for George by Helena Drysdale (Picador, pounds 6.99) As a student in 1979, Drysdale had a dangerous fling with an Orthodox priest in Romania. In subsequent letters, George risked voicing his hatred of the Ceausescu regime and asked Drysdale to marry him so he could flee. Suddenly, he ceased to write. Prompted by guilt, she returned to Romania in the aftermath of the 1989 revolution only to discover that George had died, a political prisoner in a mental hospital. Drysdale's quest has resulted in a brooding work of undeniable passion.
Cuba and the Night by Pico Iyer (Quartet, pounds 6) Richard, a big-shot photo- journalist, falls for a local beauty called Lourdes while on (unfeasibly) protracted assignment in Cuba. Despite her fondness for Havana's racy nightlife, Lourdes is desperate to leave. Unable to marry because his divorce hasn't come through, Richard calls on Hugo, a gawky English schoolmaster, to act as stand-in groom. But things don't go to plan. The book ends with Richard standing in the English rain, staring through a window at the loving newly-weds in their dank Winchester cottage. At a guess, authorial trauma may have prompted this richly atmospheric, if underpowered, yarn.
filmFilm producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
voicesJust when you thought you could find a man, get married, and have a baby by the age of 35... it turns out you’re too late, says Grace Dent
Swedish stars ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
musicAs Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder rake in the royalties from their classics, why there hasn't been a decent festive hit for 20 years?
theatreAuthor Daniel Rosenthal recalls the mishaps that almost brought the curtain down on the likes of John Gielgud and Diana Rigg
lifeAs the Royal Mail plans to phase out deliveries on two wheels, it's no wonder posties are in a spin
musicThe 21-year-old beat Ella Eyre and Chlöe Howl to win the honour
lifeFull of the joys and want to help your fellow man? December isn't the time to do it
Arts & Ents blogs
The desolation of the Weinstein brothers: Film producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
Christmas songs: the best and the worst
Your Money, Money, Money please - Abba ask fans for £195 pledges on direct-to-fan website
Not all right on the night
Lost Peter Sellers films Dearth of a Salesman and Insomnia Is Good for You hailed as the movie equivalent of 'finding Dead Sea Scrolls'
- 1 Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute in Soweto
- 2 French café starts charging extra to rude customers
- 3 Australia: Gay marriage law reversed by high court less than a week after first weddings
- 4 Exeter to Edinburgh and back in a day: How one fresher's lost bet left him facing a 900-mile round trip
- 5 Australia incest case: Severely deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
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