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The Independent Culture
Iron John by Robert Bly, Element pounds 6.99. Invaluable contribution to New Age dinner-party psychobabble but incomprehensible to more ordinary folk. A dreary mixture of psuedo-everything that has become a bible for menopausal males. Succour for the seven-stone weakling and his muscle-bound opponent but no room for the man in the middle, nor humour. The mother did it and no one gets the girl.

Among the Thugs by Bill Buford, Mandarin pounds 4.99. Tom Wolfe-type reportage of life among the football hooligans. Buford, an American living in Cambridge where his day job is literary editor of Granta, followed the 'thugs' through the Eighties, that shameful era for British fans which brought the Heysel stadium and Channel ferry riots. But there's something troubling about this outsider's look. His avoidance of easy reactions occasionally leans disconcertingly towards celebration: 'Violence is one of the most intensely lived experiences and, for those capable of giving themselves over to it, is one of the most intense pleasures.' Hmm.

The South by Colm Toibn, Picador pounds 5.99. Katherine Proctor runs away to Spain from the stifling respectability of a middle-class marriage in rural Ireland, and, when love fails her again, from Spain back to Ireland. But not home. It is the unforgiving Fifties and there is no return and no certainty in Katherine's life beyond her need to paint. A first novel, Toibin's simple but powerful prose has a direct, almost visual quality that handles with ease the constantly changing landscape.

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