Paperbacks: The Man Who Hated Football
The Probable Future
A Round-Heeled Woman
Bound for Glory
Dude, Where's My Country?
Exchanging Soho for Bungay is a brave step for any metropolitan, and the hero of journalist Will Buckley's comic debut nearly cracks under the pressure.
The Man Who Hated Football by Will Buckley (FOURTH ESTATE £10.99 (282pp))
Exchanging Soho for Bungay is a brave step for any metropolitan, and the hero of journalist Will Buckley's comic debut nearly cracks under the pressure. Jimmy Stirling is a football writer for a Sunday broadsheet who uproots his young family in search of free schools and a bigger house. Now marooned in a dismal field, his future looks as bleak as the landscape. His five-year-old twins fail to socialise at the new infant school, and his wife, B, is in danger of going potty. Though not as potty, it turns out, as Jimmy, who, sidelined by his fellow hacks, is sent to cover lower-league games in places such as Halifax. His knowledge starts to slip, and his sports coverage gets increasingly inventive. When his father dies, his interest in football withers and a mid-life crisis looms. Even if the footie riffs do nothing for you, Buckley's bitingly funny portrait of East Anglian society make up for the laddish commentary. Stirling's outings among the Puffa-jacketed locals include a night out with the Waveney Valley book club ("someone thought that they'd spotted Louis de Bernières entering the pet shop in Harleston"). Like all the best humorists, Buckley has an instinctive sympathy for the talented bullshitter who lives in perpetual fear of being found out. EH
The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman (VINTAGE £6.99 (322pp))
There's something a little hokey about Alice Hoffman's fiction, but a little tempting too. Her early novels were well-spun stories of family dysfunction, sprinkled with a touch of magic realism. Her 16th goes a little heavy on the fairy dust. The Sparrows are a Massachusetts clan that with each new generation produces a young girl with supernatural powers. The latest clairvoyant, Stella, can predict how people will die - a Salem-like gift which lands nearest and dearest on the wrong side of the law. Gingerbread clapboards provide the backdrop for some unlikely redemptions. EH
A Round-Heeled Woman by Jane Juska (VINTAGE £7.99 (228pp))
"Before I turn 67 - next March - I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me. NYR Box 10307." Thirty years on from divorce, Jane Juska, a former English teacher, decides she has been celibate too long and places a personal ad in The New York Review of Books. When the first package of responses plops into her mail box, she nearly expires from excitement. Being of an academic inclination, she grades potential dates on their way with words. Honest about looks ("what once went up goes down") as well as needs, this go-getting sexagenarian finds no shortage of offers. EH
Wild Boy by Jill Dawson (SCEPTRE £7.99 (291pp))
The image most people carry around of the "Wild Boy of Aveyron" is the dark, spindly creature from Truffaut's 1971 film L'Enfant Sauvage. Jill Dawson's novelistic interpretation is no less startling. A 12-year-old child is found naked in the hills of the Tarn, and taken by a doctor at the National Institute for Deaf Mutes. Is he Rousseau's noble savage, or an abandoned waif? The hero turns out to be not Dr Itard but Mme Guerin, the women who cared for the "wild boy" for 28 years. In a persuasive and thought-provoking novel, Dawson's descriptions of the boy's first bath are heartbreaking. EH
Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie (PENGUIN MODERN CLASSICS £8.99 (320pp))
The ultimate hobo hero, Woody Guthrie turned his Depression-era drift around an America plagued by poverty and injustice into the fuel of a path-breaking musical career. Without Woody's shining example as a protest troubador with a great lyrical gift, no Dylan; and no Springsteen, either. What's more, he found time (in 1943) to pen this sparklingly fresh and dramatic memoir of life with a guitar on the road, in the bars, and in the box-cars, from his native oil-boom Oklahoma to California and the bright lights of New York. Joe ( Primary Colors) Klein contributes a preface on Woody's "wild, heterodox and overpowering sense of freedom". BT
Blair's Wars by John Kampfner (FREE PRESS £7.99 (401pp))
Now updated, the New Statesman political editor's punchy and perceptive account of the evangelical warrior in No 10 and his crusades will retain its importance during the fallout from this week's Butler report. From Kosovo to Baghdad, Kampfner highlights the mingled streak of "naivety and hubris" that led the PM into so many battle-fronts, both defensible (as in Sierra Leone) and dodgy in every way (Iraq). Well-sourced, revealing proof of how personality can still shape politics. BT
Dude, Where's My Country? by Michael Moore (PENGUIN £7.99 (269pp))
He's big, he's bad, he's noisy and he's extremely pleased with himself. He has good reason to be. The man in the baseball cap is currently wreaking havoc around the Western world with his pen, his camera and his big, big mouth. Michael Moore's Bushwacking methods may have the delicacy of a juggernaut but, boy, are they effective. Most of all, he asks questions so good that they may oust Dubya. "We have" he concludes "a long and proud history of propping up madmen". CP
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