CRIES & WHISPERS

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The Independent Culture
n A NEW plague stalks the land. It's there in your sitting-room, oozing out of the telly. It's there on your way to work, up on the billboards, down on the station platforms. It's the latest thing in advertising: bossiness.

Time was when adpersons only ordered us to do the thing that a particular ad was for. Eat Shredded Wheat. Drinkapintamilkaday. Join the Professionals. As long as you bought their product, they were happy. These days, ads don't want your money, they want your life. "Be comfortable with you are," a poster instructs us. The picture shows a man playing beach cricket with his dog. The ad is for a soft-shoe company.

"Power is nothing without control," declares a tyre maker, better-known for publishing pneumatic calendars. "Success," observes a sports-watch manufacturer. "It's a mind game." "There are more things that bring us together than keep us apart," affirms an airline, famous for its less than fraternal treatment of small rivals.

Why this sudden sanctimony, this epidemic of nannying? I blame the vogue for self-help books and management manuals. To go into the business section of your local Waterstone's is to stumble into a babel of platitude, truism and generalisation. And it has occurred to someone that if this stuff sells books, it will probably shift shoes, tyres and air tickets.

n THE latest in my series of well-known events that didn't actually happen comes from H R F Keating, the crime writer. It is a well-established fact that the immortal phrase "Snap, crackle and pop" was coined by Eric Ambler, who worked in advertising before becoming, in Graham Greene's estimation, Britain's best thriller writer. "I put this in print, more than once," Keating writes, "the last time in an introduction to a reprint of Epitaph for a Spy, which Eric asked to see. He wrote to me to say no, it was someone else at the agency he worked for." This raises the question - who? If anyone has any information (or another fact that wasn't), please fax me on 0171 293 2027.

n THE Sunday Times, flagship of Wapping, is doing a partwork on the centenary of the cinema, an A-Z of film makers and shakers. This was announced in an ad in the Times which said the series would cover everyone "from Isabel Adjani to Fred Zimmerman". Better known, presumably, as Fred Dylan. Someone must have spotted this: next day, the ad appeared again, but said "from Isabel Adjani to Fred Zinnerman". Alas, the series got underway the day after that. Otherwise they might have had time to work out that the correct spellings are Isabelle Adjani, and Fred Zinnemann.

n MORE on Carrington, the forthcoming film about Dora Carrington, painter, Bloomsbury personage and lifelong not-quite-lover of Lytton Strachey, which I mentioned approvingly last week. Christopher Hampton's screenplay is based on Michael Holroyd's classic biography Lytton Strachey. Inspired by the film's success at Cannes, where it was the only contender to collect two awards, a French publisher has issued a tie-in book. It is entitled, naturally, Carrington. And the contents? A chunk of Lytton Strachey.

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