Taylor claims gay issue 'not easy' for stars

Players' chief Gordon Taylor has defended professional footballers following claims that no big names would agree to appear in a video to launch a campaign against homophobia.

Bury Place Papers, By Frank Kermode

This collection of "Essays from the London Review of Books, 1979-2007" not only demonstrates Frank Kermode's dexterity and range; it also shows a sense of humour I hadn't picked up on before. In his 1986 review of three weighty Hemingway biographies, for instance, two of which focused on Hemingway's early years and his first marriage to Hadley Richardson, he comments, with some feeling, on the amount of detail included: "Although it may seem a little ungracious to say so, for she was an interesting woman, you may feel some regret that a thousand letters from Hadley to Ernest have survived." Kermode is nothing if not diligent: if he had to read every word of those letters, one senses that he would do so.

Album: Luke Haines, 21st Century Man (Fantastic Plastic)

The publication of his Britpop-based memoir Bad Vibes has increased the perception that all Haines' works, written or musical, are essentially autobiography laced with bitter socio-cultural critique. 21st Century Mandoes nothing to shake theAuteur's image as theangry man in the corner ofthe pub of pop. But angrymensometimes need to belistened to and the finalehere is a Harrison-esquetitle track that revisits thebleaker moments of the1970s and 1980swhilevowing he's going to "lay itall to rest". Believe that,you'll believe anything.

Book him! Sports biographies that went too far

Rugby League's Sean Long found himself in hot water this week when he revealed details about the betting scandal that saw him suspended from the sport.

Obits in Brief: Marvin 'Popcorn' Sutton

Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, who died on 16 March aged 62, was an Appalachian moonshiner from North Carolina who in 1999 published Me and My Likker, an autobiography and guide to moonshining.

The Autobiography of the Queen, By Emma Tennant

Here's a world in which our gracious monarch, sick to death of her public and private duties, ups stumps and heads for St Lucia, incognito. How on earth could the Queen even hope to do that? It is one of many unanswered questions in this engaging but unenlightening tale. It works well enough as a fable but less well as a novel, as something where thoughts and motives are properly investigated.

The Life of Samuel Johnson, By James Boswell

No, you won't read this majestic new edition of the grandaddy of all biographies by next week, or even next year. What you may well do, mightily assisted by editor David Womersley's notes, is cherish it for ever as a source for dips, browses and rambles around an inexhaustible life.

The Fighter, By Tim Parks

Not all of the writers, thinkers and politicians whom Parks considers in this volume of essays were "fighters": Thomas Hardy, Parks insists in an atypically anodyne run-through of familiar biographical details, didn't fight at all when the critics smashed Jude the Obscure to bits, and instead gave up novel-writing for good. Those who do fit the bill, however, tend to make for the sharper essays, so the opening one on D H Lawrence is a superlative piece of literary criticism, as is a subsequent essay on Dostoevsky.

Two Lives, by Janet Malcolm

This brief, immaculately written work casts a penetrating light on Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas and the strange biographical conundrums that surround them. Malcolm chips away at the mystery of how "a pair of elderly Jewish lesbians survived the Nazis". She probes the 50-year silence of a scholar entrusted with Stein's "electrifying" notebooks. But Malcolm's central concern is with the relationship between the author of the profoundly odd The Making of Americans ("this strangest of strange books") and her spiky companion, half slave, half dominatrix. A 1,000-page biography would not tell you more about them.

Orson Welles: Hello Americans by Simon Callow

Genius without portfolio

President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination, by Richard Reeves

Ronnie and his amazing fiscal follies

The Conjuror'S Bird, by Martin Davies

Biologist turns sleuth in quest for mystery bird - and its DNA

The Conjuror's Bird, by Martin Davies

Biologist turns sleuth in quest for mystery bird - and its DNA
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