Paperbacks: State of the Union<br/> Lazy Eye<br/> The Possibility of an Island<br/> Alternatives to Sex<br/> How to Walk in High Heels <br/> Men of Tomorrow<br/> Margrave of the Marshes

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The Independent Culture

State of the Union by Douglas Kennedy (ARROW £6.99 (608pp))

After a previous novel set during the McCarthy era, Douglas Kennedy brings us up to speed with the Nixon years in an upmarket blockbuster about picket-fence adultery and Woodstock radicalism. Hannah Buchan is a classic Kennedy-era heroine. A disappointment to her academically-minded parents, she marries straight out of college, and settles down in small-town Maine. One year into domestic bliss she receives an unexpected visit from one of her father's protégés, "cute radical" Tobias Judson. With husband Dan out of town, she's faced with a dilemma: another early night with Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, or 24 hours of hairy sex with the bearded Tobias? The narrative tempo notches up a gear when Tobias reveals that he's on the run from the Feds. When we next meet her, 30 years on, her comfortable life with Dan is set to implode. Somewhere in Middle America, born-again Tobias is penning a kiss-and-tell memoir about his years as a revolutionary beatnik.Pitched part way between John Irving and Desperate Housewives, this is a beach book that won't leave you feeling cheated or short-changed. EH

Lazy Eye by Donna Daley- Clarke (POCKET BOOKS £6.99 (256pp))

The young hero of Donna Daley-Clarke's prize-winning debut is a 1966 baby named "Geoffhurst" in honour of England's success in the World Cup. Ten years on, and his father Sonny, a footballer, quits the game for a job in a factory. Soon after, he snaps, and, during a domestic argument, murders his wife. This well-paced novel is a memorable portrait of a Seventies adolescence, and of the moments before an ordinary man becomes a killer . EH

The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq (PHOENIX £7.99 (423pp))

"The dream of all men is to meet little sluts who are innocent, but ready for all forms of depravity." The narrators of Houllebecq's novels aren't pleasant, and Daniel, a comedian, has nothing good to say about Islam or women over 40. Houellebecq concentrates Daniel's toxicity further by having him cloned. Unlike his progenitor, "Daniel 24" lives in a sexless world destroyed by environmental disaster. Houellebecq keeps us listening, even when we know we should leave. EH

Alternatives to Sex by Stephen McCauley (GRANTA £10.99 (289pp))

In this amiable, funny novel, McCauley - author of the novel-turned movie The Object of My Affection - entertains us with a series of bonnes bouches on dating, marriage and real estate. The setting is post 9/11 Boston, and 44-year -old estate agent William Collins has decided to end his sex bender with men he's met on the internet and to focus on his ironing. Not much happens, but William's fellow-travellers put Will and Grace's clichéd repartee to shame. EH

How to Walk in High Heels by Camilla Morton (HODDER £7.99 (256pp))

This book sounds like a bible for the Sex and the City generation, and Carrie Bradshaw's favourite footwear does indeed feature prominently. "I think you must always show some toe cleavage," says Manolo Blahnik, one of a number of "experts" who have contributed. Luckily, it gets better. It is, in fact, packed with handy hints on almost every aspect of contemporary life, from how to burn a CD, read a map and "achieve perfection". Apparently it involves a fortnightly Brazilian. CP

Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones (ARROW £8.99 (384pp))

As Superman returns, learn about his true origins from this zestful, loving history. The cartoon superheroes of the 1930s came from Jewish slums in New York or Cleveland. Young writers and artists turned their own struggles into myths. Hitler wasn't fooled, and banned the "Jewish" Superman. BT

Margrave of the Marshes by John Peel (CORGI £7.99 (508pp))

In the "Great Britons" poll, Peel ranked at 43: above King Arthur, below Guy Fawkes. This quirky, endearing memoir - half completed before his death, the rest told by his wife, Sheila - has chivalric and incendiary aspects. Peel's youthful yarns of family and (public) school excel at an edgy English surrealism: Waugh meets Python. Then Sheila fills out the years of fame with warm family tales to make a double-A side hit. BT

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