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The Independent Culture
Valerie Grove's 'Dear Dodie', a life of Dodie Smith, was published by Chatto in January

I was alerted to the unpronouncable T. Coraghessan Boyle by a cartoon in the New Yorker of a woman in a bookshop, demanding ''Have you got the latest by T Whatsisface Boyle''. I picked up The Tortilla Curtain and loved it. He mirrors the dread and horror of modern life in a manner reminiscent of Richard Ford's Independence Day, but in a much crisper way. If I read fiction it has to be something that gets the crackle of real life. This does the trick.