Paperbacks

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama, Penguin pounds 10.99. As rival ideologies die out and liberal democracy is recognised as the highest form of human government, have we reached the end of mankind's social evolution? Or will there always be counter-tendencies - above all megalothymia, the desire to be recognised as superior to others - which threaten political equilibrium? Contentious and complacent as this reworking of Hegel can seem, it's one of the few far- seeing intellectual works of our time.

New Writing Two, ed Malcolm Bradbury and Andrew Motion, Minerva pounds 6.99. After a shaky start, this British Council- backed annual series of new British writing is looking promising. The Grand Old (Wo)Men are well represented (Ted Hughes, John McGahern, Fay Weldon); there are novel extracts from Amit Chaudhuri and Esther Freud; a story from Iain Sinclair, among many; Hugo Young on Britain Now; and poems from Grace Nichols, Glynn Maxwell, Michael Hofmann, Selima Hill and others. See the new talent, too - Sarah Gracie and Alison Habens, in particular.

The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge, Penguin pounds 5.99. It was on the night of his 32nd birthday that Captain Oates made the famous remark about going outside and being some time, after the precious morphine had failed to finish him off. Bainbridge's short fictional recreation of Scott's ill-fated voyage to the Pole, related by the five expedition members in turn, brings the scene to life: 'I wanted to kiss (Birdie Bowers) goodbye, but I was too shy', Scott tells us. Then: 'I only had to crawl a few yards; the pelting snow rained down like music . . . And oh, how warm it was.' One of Bainbridge's best.

Moving Targets: Women, Murder and Representation, ed Helen Birch, Virago pounds 8.99. A fascinating but uneven collection (contributors include Nicole Ward Jouve and Melissa Benn) on media(ted) images of the female killer - why women kill, and how they are treated by the apparatus of law. Helen Birch brings off the tricky feat of deploring the demonisation of Myra Hindley without appearing to condone her crimes, but other essays are marred by an excess of exclusive jargon and sub-Lacanian puns.

Illusions of Triumph by Mohamed Heikal, Fontana pounds 7.99. An Arab view of the Gulf war, not pro-Saddam, of course, but emphasising how much the West miscalculated his resilience, failed to appreciate residual Arab unity, and, as we enter 'the second oil century', faces a tense, frustrated Middle East. Chastening.

Tangier: City of the Dream by Iain Finlayson, Flamingo pounds 7.99. After a 20- page race through the Tangier of earlier eras ('a white tooth gleaming in the dark head of Africa', etc), the book settles down to what it knows best, literary gossip about 20th-century American and European visitors: Cecil Beaton, Paul and Jane Bowles, Joe Orton, William Burroughs, and all the rest in search of cheap drugs and sex, mint tea and medinas.

Comments