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The Independent Culture
Home Truths

by David Lodge

Secker & Warburg, pounds 8.99

DAVID LODGE has written a play about writers before. The Writing Game made flesh the frightening notion of a residential writing course. His new drama, , now re-packaged as a novella, explores a novelist's encounter with the press.

Adrian Ludlow, a once distinguished novelist, now lives in obscurity in a cottage near Gatwick. After a career spent trying to recapture the "royal flush" of rave reviews he received for his first novel, he now devotes his time to compiling literary anthologies.

Enter Sam Sharp, Adrian's best friend from university, now a successful screenwriter. En route to the airport he disturbs the Ludlows' Sunday breakfast brandishing a vicious newspaper profile of himself by celebrity interviewer Fanny Tarrant. The friends hatch a plot to stitch Ms Tarrant up - Adrian will agree to be interviewed by her, and then publish a satirical profile of the hackette in a rival Sunday paper. So begins Lodge's stagey deconstruction of the journalistic interview as Fanny Tarrant and Adrian embark on a game of flirtation and confession.

While Lodge's novella may have nothing revelatory to say about the dodgy ethics of the media machine, it's a mine of wicked observations about the writerly life. The description of Adrian, skulking in his dressing- gown while his wife assesses the reviews on publication day - "the Observer was B+, the Telegraph A-" is just one of this short read's many delights. EH

The Archers Anarchists' Survival Guide

by Ian Sanderson

Boxtree, pounds 6.99, 169pp

UNFORTUNATELY, THIS is not an instant book about the implosion of a certain mayoral candidate, but an obsessional assemblage of squibs, games and gags inspired by Ambridge. It would be anorakish, were it not rather amusing, such as the recipe for Ruth's Steak and Kidney Pie ("Ingredients: 1 x Fray Bentos pie. Turn over to gas mark 9 and remove after half an hour's whingeing"). Potty he may be, but Sanderson makes some salient points: how come Ambridge church has a choir of King's College standard?

The Penguin Book of Hollywood

by Christopher Silvester

Penguin, pounds 12.99, 696pp

THIS IS a Godzilla of an anthology. Many entries, such as Stephen Bach's dissection of the $38m flop Heaven's Gate, sprawl for over a dozen pages. Lillian Ross's brief sketch of Louis B Meyer is hilarious: "Sentimentality! What's wrong with that? Love! Good old-fashioned romance! Is it bad?" The assiduous Silvester has turned up witty fragments from Jean Harlow and PG Wodehouse. More obvious choices include Julia Phillips's flakey memoirs ("Scorsese and I split a Quaalude"). It deserves to be a smasheroo.