News Greg Wallace: Michael Gove praised him as one of the 'Magnificent Seven' superheads running state schools

Greg Wallace's decision is said to have surprised staff at five schools he ran successfully in east London

101 Star Bars: Prince Arthur, London E8

For those of a certain literary vintage, the idea of a pub in London Fields will bring to mind hideous images of Keith Talent playing darts in the Black Cross, in Martin Amis's 1989 novel London Fields. The Black Cross would not make a round-up of fictional Star Bars – unless it was a highly specialised list of sticky-carpeted hell holes in which to plan your own murder – but fortunately in this case the truth is much nicer than fiction.

Arts & Books: Bitch, snipe, carp, wail

Literary feuds are rare. But when they happen, they can last a lifetime. The pen is always nastier than the sword.

Failing railways: Filth and squalor by the sea

THE INDEPENDENT'S appeal has exposed concern over the many stations, mainline terminals and unstaffed halts that have been deprived of cash for years.

Good Venue Guide - 45: Flowers East Gallery, E8

Date of birth: September 1988.

Must Have: Dead ringer

OK, so the magazines are full of what we should be wearing in April, but we can't buy any of it for at least another month. What's a fashion fan to do? Melanie Rickey has the first fashion tip for 1998. Buy a Sovereign ring.

Postcode from the edge: Hackney expressions

Never ventured east of Liverpool St? The rich cultural and historical life of London Fields may surprise you

Her master's voice

As an American policewoman, Martin Amis still sounds like Martin Amis. And that's what we want

Independent choice: literature for lads

For a while, it looked as though masculinity was in crisis - confused, embarrassed, uncertain what it wanted. But to judge by the latest crop of paperback-original novels, all that has changed. Now men have sorted out what they want, and their list of demands turns out to be surprisingly easy to fill: they're not interested in successful careers or steady girlfriends (none of the first-person narrators in these books has either) so long as they can have alcohol, drugs, punk rock, a modicum of violence and occasional sex with their best mate's ex-girlfriend.

BOOK REVIEW / Confessions of a failed revenger

THE INFORMATION Martin Amis Flamingo £15.99

EXHIBITIONS / A brush with the unexpected: A rare, new survey of more than 50 British abstract painters at Flowers East shows us what we're missing

I FEEL warmly towards the big show at Flowers East, 'British Abstract Art Part One: Painting' (there will be a parallel sculpture occasion next year). And I gather that the contributing artists have also been happy with the project. Sixty painters were invited; only four declined, and practically everyone in the exhibition has sent work of merit: not a token of what they do, but something new and heartfelt.

Letter: Boys' club

IN A review of Martin Amis's new collection of journalism ('Bad habits in good company', Review, 3 October) Hermione Lee tells us that the 1989 'women judges . . . refused his novel London Fields a place on a Booker shortlist on grounds of its violent anti-female pornography'.

Art blossoms out despite bleak picture: In the second of our series on creative businesses, Angela Flowers talks to Richard Lander

Nobody could pretend that these have been anything other than terrible times for art galleries. The large buyers have gone into hibernation and there is an endless list of galleries that have gone bust.

BOOK REVIEW / Cool, with occasional showers: 'The Weather in Iceland' - David Profumo: Picador, 13.99 pounds

AT LEAST there isn't a walk-on character called 'David Profumo' here, employed as the sort of tricksy, tongue-in-cheek decoy you get in the fictions of, say, Clive James. In most other respects, though, David Profumo's new novel seems studiedly cavalier about maintaining the illusion of a distance between author and narrator. Which is odd when you consider the strenuously unattractive impression made by the latter.

Where nothing really happens: England was once the centre of the world, the backdrop of choice for so many great novels. But our contemporary writers mostly shun their home territory - too grey, too dull, too done already. So is it all over for the English novel?

IN JOHN UPDIKE's story, 'A Madman', which he wrote in the 1960s, Updike, writing in the first person, describes an American character walking the streets of London. 'The city,' he writes, 'overwhelmed our expectations. The Kiplingesque grandeur of Waterloo Station, the Eliotic despondency of the brick row in Chelsea where we spent the night in the flat of a vague friend, the Dickensian nightmare of fog and sweating pavement . . . all this seemed too authentic to be real, too corroborative of literature to be solid.' Later, in a taxi, he continues: 'We wheeled past mansions by Galsworthy and parks by A A Milne; we glimpsed a cobbled eighteenth-century alley, complete with hanging tavern boards, where Dr Johnson might have reeled and gasped the night he laughed so hard - the incident in Boswell so beautifully amplified in the essay by Beerbohm.' What does this say about an American's-eye view of London? That nothing written about London after 1914 had successfully stamped itself on the American's imagination? That 18th- and 19th-century descriptions were so vivid that they're impossible to forget? And what about that 'too corroborative of literature to be solid'? Here, Updike is telling us about a place which, 100 years ago, had been turned into a myth, a city which, as the centre of an Empire, had emanated literary importance. This place was the centre of the world. It made a great backdrop for stories.

XXXXXXX: A Kiscellany

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