Paperbacks: Risky Business, by Al Alvarez

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The Independent Culture

Alvarez's desire to escape lit crit and go "beyond all this fiddle" bears fruit in this journalistic trawl that ranges from rock climbing to the infantilisation of Las Vegas. He still writes brilliantly about literature – an essay on Saint Exupéry includes a brisk exploration of the relationship between art and aviation, while a critique of Thom Gunn explores his late fulfilment as a poet when Aids struck San Francisco – but one of the most perceptive pieces here is an account of the author's experience of a Grateful Dead gig, even though Alvarez admits, "I had never been to a rock and roll concert." Maybe he should give the Arctic Monkeys a whirl.

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