Paperbacks: Solzhenitsyn cavorts at Studio 54

20th Century Dreams

by Nik Cohn & Guy Peellaert Secker pounds 15

In a garishly lit motel room somewhere in middle America, the late Diana, Princess of Wales, disrobes, awaiting her date for that evening, who is none other than the Artist formerly known as Prince. He arrives in a flood of neon light, almost tripping over her carelessly discarded court shoes. He bears a bottle of foaming champagne and two glasses. "She always was an impetuous girl," notes Max Vail.

Nik Cohn, the pop and street culture chronicler, whose 1969 rock history, Awopbobaloobop Alopbamboom, is the definitive text on that subject, is the bearer of Vail's tidings. Guy Peellaert brings Vails' reminiscences to shocking life in a series of 85 computer-generated scenarios, scary in their verisimilitude. derives from the journals left by this mysterious old man who, in his lifetime, was the missing link between every celebrity you care to mention.

Born in St Petersburg at the turn of the century, his long life was spent moving and shaking the ladders of power. His journey took him to Vienna, Berlin, Paris, London and, with a fatal inevitability, America. His is the story of celebrity worship, and it ends with the century's psyche gone pear-shaped. But, boy, did we have fun along the way.

None more so than Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who, when in New York, loves to party. Here we find him cavorting in Studio 54, with John Travolta, Liza, Bianca and Dali. "`Isn't this to die for?' Truman [Capote] asked. But Alexander, busy with pleasure, couldn't spare the breath to reply."

Michael Jordan is playing a pickup game in the schoolyard, showing the kids some moves. It's all about hard work, he tells them, and "never forgetting the bottom line: `All God's children got swoosh'." And that message from our sponsors has to be the last word on celebrity.

Except it isn't, as Robert Mapplethorpe can testify. "The Bible's too freaky for me," he tells Rudolf Nureyev. "Everone dies in it." So the last image reveals Marilyn Monroe's bedroom, festooned with photos of JFK and his brother. She lies dead on her bed, her face hidden by a heart- shaped cushion, a policeman bearing down on her.

This marvellous book's resonance lies in its juxtaposition of personalities and the prose extracts that subtly and tangentially make (non)sense of it all.

Chocolate Lizards

by Cole Thompson

No Exit Press pounds 6.99

This excellent little publishing house prides itself on providing the jaded book-buyer with "more than just the usual suspects". Cole Thompson, who went to Stanford University on, of all things, a golf scholarship, is their latest find. His broke and desperate hero is an aspiring actor who, having lost his wad during a bus-ride poker game, is stranded in Abilene, Texas. Luckily he meets a hard-drinkin', oil-drillin' wild-catter who has a job for him. But first they must persuade a sinister cattle rancher to sign away his land. Enter Tex-Ann, a gum-snapping blonde whose acting skills surpass our poor bewildered hero's. As Larry McMurtry says, this is "West Texas oil-field gothic".


by Eric Hobsbawm

Abacus pounds 8.99

The distinguished historian delivers his thoughts on Communism, dividing this collection of essays into five areas that cover all aspects of revolution. The first part deals with the period of the Communist International, and he makes it clear that cracks were already starting to appear. He quotes a prescient Italian communist leader trying to explain to Gramsci that they could not "in the interest of their national movement" afford to oppose Stalin. Thus the hegemony of the Soviet comintern and, later, the magnitude of Tito's machinations. This is an extraordinarily clear-sighted and accessible work of hindsight and especially rewarding in its exposition of guerrilla warfare and anarchistic zeal.

Fat Hen

by Richard Francis

Fourth Estate pounds 6.99

The Manchester chronicler excavates the surreal reality of working- class life in 1940s Stockport. The Willises lead an uneventful life in their ordinary terraced house. Dad goes to the pub, Grandpa drinks mugs of Camp coffee before bedtime, and young Donald plays with his mates at school. But then Dad moves a piano and makes a discovery, his wife becomes involved with another woman in a way she cannot describe, and Donald convinces himself that he died at the age of six. Francis grants his characters an astonishing reserve of fantasy life which he shows to be the underpinning of their sense of identity. He does this with sympathy and comic flair.

Churchill: A

Photographic Portrait

by Martin Gilbert

Pimlico pounds 15

Of course, Churchill has already made an appearance in Cohn's alternative history of this century (above). But here he appears in a more familiar guise, Gilbert's brief being to celebrate rather than provoke. Many of these photographs have never been printed before, and were rescued from fading originals, or glass-plate negatives on the verge of destruction. The result is a comprehensive photographic record of the man and his cigar. Of most interest, however, is the selection of cartoons - some satirical, most affectionate, but all of them pithy and to the point. As a whole, the book provides a multi-faceted portrait, from which Gilbert adduces a reverential commentary.

Wise Children

by Angela Carter

Vintage pounds 6.99

When will the makers of bonnet and corset dramas turn their attentions to the ribald and exciting work of Carter? This is one of her liveliest novels, deriving its energy and plot twists from Shakespeare; its setting and linguistic high-jinks from the lower reaches of our culture. Dora and Nora Chance are the illegitimate twin daughters of a great Shakespearian actor. They are disowned by his family and the theatrical tradition that he represents. So the Lucky Chances appear in music hall and nude revues lampooning Hamlet, whose soliloquy ends up as a sketch wherein the girls dress as hotel porters with a parcel to deliver to "2b or not 2b".

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own