Diary: A book for bedtime?

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The Independent Online

No doubt you've read enough by now about Jonathan Franzen and this year's Great American Novel, Freedom. So, what of next year's Great American Novel: The Pale King, the posthumous, unfinished final work by Franzen's friend, David Foster Wallace, who took his own life in 2008? Due for publication in April 2011, The Pale King is about the "soul-crushing tedium" endured by workers at a tax-return processing centre. Wallace struggled with the work and, Franzen told me at the launch party for Freedom, "If he'd finished it I think he'd be alive today. Boredom is a tough subject to tackle in a novel and, arguably, Dave died of boredom." Franzen hasn't read the full text of his friend's last book, but admits such challenging material is unlikely to enjoy the same commercial success as Freedom. Then again, Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times' lead book reviewer, whom Franzen calls "the stupidest person in New York" has declared herself a fan of Dave's work – so perhaps everyone else will jump on the bandwagon.

* Rachel Johnson, almost as ubiquitous as Franzen at present, revealed yesterday that we might be seeing yet another Johnson on our screens. One brother, Boris, we know about. Another, Jo, has just entered the Commons as MP for Orpington. Their father, Stanley, is a politician and journalist (for The Independent, among others). NowRachel has told Nick Ferrari of LBC Radio that third brother Leo – whom she describes as "the darker horse of the Johnson family" – is about to launch a television career. Leo is no slouch, by all accounts. Last year, he sold his sustainability consultancy to PwC, where he's now a partner. Sadly, he was on a plane from South America when I called his office for more details. Rachel let slip only that his potential TV career was "to do with the environment".Stanley Johnson knew nothing of the project, but assured me Leo is "extremely talented... he made a brilliant film called Eating and Weeping in 2002 [an IMDB search confirms its existence], a kind of pre-Borat take on America. But then, I just read the newspapers to find out what my kids are doing." As do we all, Stanley, as do we all.

* Howard Marks – former teacher, drug smuggler and autobiographer – featured in cameo roles in the films Human Traffic (1999), Ecstasy (2007) and Killer Bitch (2010). But his appearance in the new film about his own life, Mr Nice, has ended up on the cutting-room floor. "I was a little bit upset," the ex-con, 65, told me at the film's premiere this week. "But, you know, it happens." Marks is portrayed onscreen by his friend and fellow Welshman Rhys Ifans, who's just happy to have found a Welsh icon to portray: "All we had were singers, which I'm not great at, and sportsmen, which I'm devastatingly bad at," Ifans tells the Radio Times. "So I can't be a fly-half, can't be Shirley Bassey – but I can roll a seven-skinner [that's a large marijuana cigarette, readers]."

* More from the memoirs of ex-Oasis drummer Tony McCarroll, who, we learned yesterday, was responsible (along with Liam Gallagher) for "accidentally" damaging the cars of Manchester United stars Paul Ince and Eric Cantona while working as a car valet in the band's early days. Soon after being fired from the band, McCarroll found himself back in the same job, helping to clean David Beckham's black Ferrari Spider. He claims he and his employer, known only as "Big Un", mistakenly disabled the car's retractable roof just as a "coiffured and lotioned" Beckham prepared to drive it to Old Trafford to sign a new contract with United. The glum superstar was forced to take his Cadillac Escalade 4x4 to the meeting instead. Soon after he drove off, however, McCarroll (a Man City fan) miraculously fixed the Ferrari's roof. These things happen.

* "Piers Morgan undresses a Hollywood hottie," announces the cover of next month's GQ magazine, in which Morgan interviews Jessica Alba. Meanwhile, his new wife, Celia Walden, featured in yesterday's Telegraph, writing about her "first steps on the path to infidelity": she's joined a website that facilitates extra-marital affairs. Married life can be a challenge, can't it?