Books: Paperbacks

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger (Fourth Estate, pounds 6.99)

"Perfect" is used here in a technical sense, meaning "a storm that could not have possibly been worse". In this extraordinary work, Junger explores the fatal impact of one such fury - the Halloween storm of 1991 - upon the six-man crew of the Andrea Gail, a US swordfishing boat. Junger braids a host of material into his account - the worldwide increase in wave heights may be due to tightened laws reducing the amount of spilled oil which once calmed troubled waters - but the book's irresistible hook is a painstaking reconstruction of the crew's experiences up to and including the moment of drowning. This Conradian work about the human price of fish is immensely impressive.

A Skin Diary by John Fuller (Vintage, pounds 5.99)

Poet John Fuller's latest offering - the diary entries of a 19th-century foetus - is less pretentious than it sounds. A celebration of birth and creation, and the mysterious vocabulary of the Welsh hills, Fuller's hands- on prose splits cells and metaphors with elemental ease. This nine-month stay in a farm girl's womb is best read aloud, preferably when pregnant or hormonally high.

Duchamp: a biography by Calvin Tomkins (Pimlico, pounds 15)

The New Yorker's veteran observer of the art scene has written an absorbing life of the great Marcel which ranks alongside Richardson's four-volume Picasso for its detailed portrayal of both man and milieu. So how did he manage to compress Duchamp, arguably this century's most influential artist, into one bulky tome? The reason is that Duchamp's career (unlike his ardent sex life) virtually ceased at the age of 36 when he switched to chess. But his small corpus is so richly potent that the ever-readable Tomkins has no shortage of material. His analysis of The Bride Stripped Bare ("Basically a motor", explained the artist, "running on love gasoline") is a treat.

Jack Maggs by Peter Carey (Faber, pounds 6.99)

Clever, imaginative and a more enjoyable read than his best known novel, Oscar and Lucinda, Peter Carey's latest book (an historical thriller set in 1830s London) tells the intriguing tale of Jack Maggs - a deported criminal recently returned to England to settle some old, and mysterious, scores. Newly illuminated by gas-light, and populated by such Dickensian- sounding characters as Percy Buckle, Miss Halfstairs and Henry Phipps, Carey's London throws up con-men and debt-collectors at every corner.

Jane Austen by David Nokes (Fourth Estate, pounds 9.99)

In this engaging and persuasive reinterpretation, Nokes suggests that, in a similar way to Shelley, Jane Austen's surprisingly sanguine character ("I am a wild beast. I cannot help it") was posthumously etiolated by her starchy relatives. Nokes reveals that the flesh-and-blood Jane "always loved to shock people and took a wicked girlish delight in saying the unsayable". Far from being a wallflower, she threw herself into "concerts, fireworks, shopping and scandal", and fell for a dashing young Irishman until his family kibboshed the affair. Nokes's prose fizzes in pursuit of his entertaining, slightly improper heroine who was "a connoisseur of human curiosities".

The Cafes of Paris by Christine Graf (Constable, pounds 8.99)

If you're planning a few days in the City of Light, this enjoyable tour of zinc bars, salons de the and other places of refreshment makes a lot more sense than a ponderous cultural guide. You could plan your trip round legendary drinking holes: the Procope, where Robespierre directed the terror; the Brasserie Lipp, where Henry Miller's lectures on prostitution provoked a fellow American to remark, "For Christ's sake, Hank, why don't you write a book?"; and Maxim's, where the farceur Feydeau responded to the explanation that his single-clawed lobster had been in a fight with the line: "Then bring me the winner!" An even better idea would be to follow Graf's suggestions of more humble joints where real people go.

The Farewell Symphony by Edmund White

(Vintage, pounds 6.99)

The third in a series of autobiographical novels, The Farewell Symphony finds writer Edmund White fast approaching 30 - still unpublished, unloved, and about to leave New York for Paris. Raunchy, philosophical and always kind, White records the intimate history of that generation of gay men who came of age in the Fifties, came out in the Sixties and lived long enough to die of Aids in the Nineties. At his funniest on French snobs and American fogies.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Glazier

    £16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist historic buildi...

    Recruitment Genius: Office and Customer Services Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small but very busy (and f...

    Recruitment Genius: Portfolio Administrator

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...

    Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer - Midlands

    £35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot