SHELF LIFE

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The Independent Culture
"Mary Selway is casting a film for Handmade with a peculiar title. 'With-Some-Bloody-Thing' or other. Wants you to read a couple of pages." This lucky break gave Richard E Grant (he speared the role with his inspired rendering of the line "Fork it!") not only instant access to Hollywood aristocracy ("every film offered afterwards would be the result of playing this alcoholic, unemployed and unemployable actor") but also the title of his book of film diaries, With Nails (Picador pounds 16.99). We begin with Withnail and I, and its brilliant, irascible auteur Bruce Robinson ("How can we be behind schedule? It's only lunch-time on the first day"). Sadly for Grant, personal tragedy intervenes: "HOW DO YOU BURY YOUR CHILD?" In LA, whip-practice for Warlock: "Two ARSE-BUSTING hours later, drenched from the gruel of swing, curve, shuffle, withdraw and THAAAA-WACK! my right arm feels as if it has been wired up to an artificial wanking machine." During Henry And June, the uxorious Mr Grant gets all knotted up about co-star Uma Thurman's fling with Gary Oldman: he knows Oldman's wife, Lesley Manville. Fortunately he can use all these terrible feelings (his own father was cheated on, too) in his role as a weedy cuckold. His craft involves such pain ("I have read numerous doorstopping tomes about ACTING, but none have really conveyed HOW this stuff WORKS"). Grant is forever blubbing, holding his wife's "small Scottish hand" and worrying about his skinny physique: "Am seriously thinking about asking the cinematographer to use a Cinemascope lens to widen things out a bit." Reading the works of Anais Nin and Henry Miller, he concludes: "The wonderful illusion that good writing induces, is the belief that, were you around with them then, you would have been one of them, and definitely best friends" - the illusion fostered by this delightful book also.

Jarvis Cocker made his first canny career move aged five, by contracting meningitis. The illness damaged his eyesight and meant nerdy glasses. "I looked like an ugly girl," says Cocker, "the only kid on the block with long hair and skinny-rib jumpers" - which, knitted by mum, hung down like dresses. Curiously, in Martin Aston's Pulp (Pan pounds 7.99), "the definitive history" of the band, it's not Jarvis so much as fellow band- member Russell Senior who comes across as a quipster. The two first met when Cocker worked in a fish-shop: "He was one of the best performing fishmongers I'd ever seen," says Senior. "People would ask, 'Have you got any crabs on you, cock?' and he'd say, 'Ooh, missus, the trouble with me.' " Pulp beat Morrissey's deaf-aid into a cocked hat in the modish disability stakes when Jarvis fell off a second-floor Sheffield window- ledge, trying to impress a girl. Later appearances on stage in a wheelchair were deemed distasteful, perhaps because, as Senior commented: "you kept getting up and walking off at the end of performances." This cheerful hagiography comes with, as they say, never-before-seen pictures.

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