Sunday 03 September 1995
Walt Disney - Hollywood's Dark Prince by Marc Eliot, Deutsch pounds 9.99. The debunking of the West's cultural icons continues apace with this mesmerising and meticulously researched hatchet job on America's legendary cartoonist. Far from being the squeaky-clean uncle everybody took him for, the creator of Bambi and Mickey Mouse was, it transpires, a plagiarising, alcoholic, neo-fascist anti-semite - and that was on his good days. Scattering anecdotes and scalpel-sharp insights in all directions, Eliot propels us through Disney's life and work, from his grim Kansas childhood to his virtual canonisation as symbol of all that was fine and healthy about America. En route we discover a bitter, spiteful, emotional husk who broke strikes, spied for the FBI and who, in the trademark emotional wholesomeness of his animations, was apparently seeking redemption from the purgatory of his own private life.
Twenty Twenty by Nigel Watts, Sceptre pounds 5.99. Watts' rip-roaring fourth novel takes us firmly into Ray Bradbury territory, conjuring images of a futuristic world slumped in terminal, dust-blown decline. Books have been replaced by the sterile horrors of digiback, trashy motel rooms cost $420 a night and the Earth has succumbed to "existentialist crime": "acid spraying, spiking food with poison, dousing with gasoline - it was the new entertainment." Against this apocalyptic backdrop a diseased author types out the remainder of his days in the blasted wastes of northern Canada whilst at a remote Californian research institute scientists work to develop a new virtual reality holiday program for armchair tourists. The two scenarios gradually uncoil towards each other, providing not merely an adrenaline-pumping thriller but also an imaginative critique of the way in which human perceptions are increasingly distorted by the onward rush of technology.
Women in England 1500-1760: A Social History by Anne Laurence, Weidenfield pounds 12.99. Not, perhaps, the most inspiring title, but this remains a meaty, masterful and engrossing study of gender and society from the Reformation to the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Working within a voluminous frame of reference, and skating gracefully from the individual to the general, Laurence explores the jungle of early modern female experience with the sagacity and enthusiasm of a feminist David Attenborough. Marriage, childbirth, sex, work, faith, crime, education - each is hoisted from time's sump and illuminated with charismatic prose. It is much to her credit that she has steered a clear course between the Scylla and Charybdis of feminist historiography, presenting women as neither the victims nor heroines of society; although her overall thesis - that during this period opportunities for females to work and hold office gradually diminished - is undeniably pessimistic.
Consequences by Helen Muir, Pocket Books pounds 5.99. Like a cobra launching itself at a juicy toad, Helen Muir pounces with venomous wit on the twilight world of middle-aged romance. Pushy Hooray journalist Ruth Bly meets and falls for depressive narcoleptic cartoonist Leonard Derbyshire at a singles soiree at the Melstar Hotel. Their juddering, ill-fated courtship is conducted amid a swirling cast of glorious weirdos - flamboyant, snow-rinsed editor Conroy "Sweetie" Sweeting, cross-dressing cavalry officer Captain Tania Galway-Lamb - and leads inexorably to the outer reaches of romantic misadventure. Weaving rib-tickling satire with social commentary, Muir creates an elastic world where eccentricity is the norm and sexual banana-skins lie round every corner.
The Penguin Companion to European Union by Timothy Bainbridge and Anthony Teasdale, Penguin pounds 9.99. This is the closest you're likely to come to a clear, concise and readable account of what the European Union's all about, and hence required reading for anyone with the remotest pretensions to elementary Euro-nous. A series of mini-essays, arranged alphabetically, it leads us with admirable clarity and lack of techno-jargon though the history, composition and machinery of the EC. It's the sort of thing you want beside you during News At Ten to explain all those acronyms against which Tory Eurosceptics fulminate so entertainingly.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Emma Watson on Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak: 'Even worse than seeing women's privacy violated is reading the comments'
- 2 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 3 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 4 Cee Lo Green: It is only rape if the victim is conscious
- 5 Nigerian witch-finder Helen Ukpabio threatens legal action against human rights organisations
Scottish independence referendum: Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai and Frightened Rabbit to play in support of Yes campaign
Jessica Chastain demands Scarlett Johansson-fronted Marvel superhero movie
Downton Abbey series 5 start date revealed: ITV drama to return in late September
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Olivia Colman and Mary Berry top Radio Times' female power list
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain