SHELF LIFE

BOOKS
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Quentin Tarantino: the Man and his Movies by Jami Bernard, HarperCollins pounds 6.99. All two of them, though Bernard's analysis also takes in the screenplays for True Romance, Natural Born Killers, vampire-horror flick From Dusk Till Dawn, QT's first, ham-fisted effort My Best Friend's Birthday, the upcoming portmanteau movie Four Rooms, and a discussion of best buddy Roger Avery's Killing Zoe. The biographical details are thin enough: infant Quentin had an authority problem, high IQ and tendency to hyperactivity (his teacher recommended Ritalin). Bernard refutes the hillbilly childhood of legend, though Tarantino did have an alcoholic grandmaw in Tennessee. Drop-out Quen went to work in Video Archives, the store where a gang of wannabe directors overdosed on film and stocked the May We Suggest shelf with kung fu and blaxploitation. The real meat comes from the bitching and jealousy surrounding his rise to fame, as his friends take it in turns to perform the famous Mexican stand-off: "He betrayed me first!" "No, me first!" For a friend's birthday in the impoverished days, he created a "Favor Card": an IOU promising "any favor at any time, no matter how big, no matter how small, no notice be given". The friend did ask, in 1994 when he was out of work and Tarantino was famous: "He just gave me the silent treatment." All the accusations about him get an airing, from ripping off other people's ideas, to the contentious use of the word "nigger" in Pulp Fiction and the leaving of a threatening message on an acquaintance's answering machine: "I'll beat you like a woman!" On the other hand, no one who stays up all night playing the Grease, Saturday Night Fever and Welcome Back Kotter board games with John Travolta can be all bad. The photos are disappointing: it seems odd that instead of baby pictures of QT we get stills of Pulp Fiction, and while we do get a shot of the biographer, there isn't one of the friend who committed suicide in 1987, already despairing of ever being able to compete with Tarantino.

Prince Edward: A Biography by Ingrid Seward, Century pounds 16.99. It is not until chapter 12, entitled "Pretty Women", that Seward, who up till then has been airing all the doubts about the Prince's sexuality (heckled as a "poofter" on a visit to Australia, deemed "not heterosexual enough" for the Marines), gets around to declaring he's not gay. A good example of her writing style comes when a maidservant relieves Edward of his virginity, or, as Seward puts it: "took her royal duties seriously enough to lay down her virtue for the manly well-being of the Queen's youngest son". A few pages later she is "severely reprimanded ... for her foolish headstrong ways". Edward, it seems, gets on well with his father, but is not close to his mother or grandmother, who pays attention to her grandchildren according to their propinquity to the crown. Edward comes off rather well, as a not-too-bright but mostly decent fellow, though some of the anecdotes evidently intended to display his lack of affectation actually come across as clueless arrogance: when his parents came to see him in a school play, he "wrote labels and stuck them on the backs of two chairs... they read 'Mum' and 'Dad'." One assumes that most of the other boys also had mums and dads. Still, he couldn't hope for a more indulgent biographer. Scaring off a female reporter at Sandringham by firing more or less straight at her and warning "You may get hurt" is described as getting "a trifle over-excited under scrutiny", and the Marines fiasco is dealt with sympathetically. Edward's all right, but his peculiar family isn't.

Comments