Norman Mailer's messiah complex has finally snowballed into full-blown mad- ness. The literary heavyweight has announced that his new novel, The Gospel According to the Son, will be narrated by Jesus Christ. The result of a recent trip to the Bible Belt, the 225-page book (a mere pamphlet by Mailer's standard) will be published by Random House in the spring. It's supposedly written in an "Elizabethan style," and drawn from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Mailer, presumably still stinging after the unfriendly reviews of his Picasso biography, has issued a terse statement, revealing very little except that he intends to be neither "satirical" nor "pious". Meanwhile, the book's editor, Jason Epstein, has offered a baffling justification for the project: "It's all been done before, by Andrew Lloyd Webber in Jesus Christ Superstar," he told the New York Times. Rumours that Mailer's next novel will be about vicious cats that attack theatre- goers are unconfirmed.

Fantasy casting time. Beverly Hills 90210, the early Nineties zipcode of choice, has been renewed for an eighth season. But the ageing cast members of the former teen series will have to work hard to match the ratings of its far steamier sister soap, Melrose Place - especially with the addition to the Melrose roster of one Sarah Ferguson (if dubious on- line reports from the entertainment gossip-site E! are to be believed). The cranberry juice spokeswoman will apparently play a "sex-hungry, scandalous Brit who moves to Los Angeles, starry-eyed and eager to please."

The new exhibit at New York's Museum of Modern Art is polarising visitors. "Willem de Kooning: The Late Paintings, the 1980s" includes some 40 works by the great painter, who is now 93 and virtually incapacitated by Alzheimer's. The critical response has been generally warm, but those who see nothing in the show but senile doodles are accusing the art establishment of dishonesty and political correctness (it can't be denied that some of the paintings, especially the later ones, are painful to look at). The show is not, as some are saying, the culmination of a master's work; it is, however, a piercingly sad study of mental atrophy, and it leaves one with the unpleasant aftertaste of exploitation.

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