Complete Prose

Woody Allen (Picador £7.99) Whether as ’pervert', ’crazy' or ’all washed up', Woody Allen has been wrongly tagged more often than a parcel sent to Timbuktu by Mr Magoo Mail. So there's something terribly appropriate about the inappropriateness with which this first paperback anthology of his three books has been named.

Fellini and Bergman - two of Woody's heroes could have Complete Prose. But Allen? Just look at the guy jittery, bugging out, shooting his mouth off like a cross between Jackie Mason and Sigmund Freud. Allen doesn't have prose, he has babblings, jottings and scribblings.

It's hard to believe that he can possibly favour Complete Prose, a title as pompous as it is tedious. Allen, on screen and on page, has always been first with a pin when inflated self-importance floats by.

Take Without Feathers (1975), the first book in this collection despite being published second. ’How wrong Emily Dickinson was!’ he notes while spoofing the diary of an angst-ridden Kafka-esque writer, ‘Hope is not "the thing with feathers". The thing with feathers has turned out to be my nephew. I must take him to a specialist in Zurich.’

Allen is an erudite and cultured man with a firm grasp of literature, film, art, history, religion and

‘An ideal bedside companion’

Will Self

philosophy but is constantly aware of the folly of pretension and mercilessly sends up any character too in love with their own mind. In his films we have had absurd poetry-spouting gangsters, jack-ass comedy and drama theorists and even Allen himself, as a television writer in Manhattan whose intellectual sensibilities cause him to abandon true love.

Within these pages, too, there is no room for pseuds. There is a brilliant noir spoof centring on a ring of call- girls with literature majors, an attack on academia via an analysis of a writer's laundry, philosophical tracts (‘Can we actually "know" the universe? My God, it‘s hard

enough finding your way around in Chinatown') and pompous restaurant criticism (’Was Spinelli trying to say that all life was represented here in this antipasto, with the black olives an unbearable reminder of mortality?’). All the time these attacks are sprung with the ferocity of a sneering terrier, acid of tongue and arched of eyebrow. Complete Prose may be a misnomer, but, from the title page in, this is faultless. Those who only know Allen from his ’early funny stuff' should buy a copy sharpish but be aware that, behind the surreal gags and clever one-liners, this paper cuts. (Peter Ross) Complete Prose is out on Fri 4 Dec

COMEDY PROFILE Eddie Izzard: Dress To Kill

Eddie Izzard with David Quantick and Steve Double (Virgin £14.99) it * t *

During his last American tOur, Eddie Izzard -- comic, transvestite and genius of the non-seqwtur gave half a dozen interViews to comedy writer DaVid Quantick and posed lots for photographer Steve DOuble. The result is a predictably Izzardian portrait of the man behind the lipstick.

While other comics create a structured autobiography, lxxard prowdes telling glimpses of his itinerant childhood, death of his mother, love of football, route to stand-up or encyclopaedic knowledge of films. Just at the moment when you think you are building a cohesive picture of the man, the iriiage blurs out of focus as he leaps onto another topic. Equally, Double's photography is beautifully shot and fashion-cOiiscious but, tantalisingly, isn’t telling enough.

Consequently, there are no headline-

creating revelations, l/7ard's stand-up comedy is already highly personal. We already know about his cross-dressing, his politics, his love of ram and his curious delight in cats behind the sofa.

Quantick's success is to find those bits which are not anecdotal enough to stand up for themselves and get lzzard talking about them. Quantick’s failure is in trying to get behind the anecdotes to discover what makes lxzard tick. For that, I suspect, we \‘VIII have to wait until Eddie gets In The Psychiatrists Chair.

Dress To Kill comes highly rated for Izzard's fans and is better value than the tour programmes, more revealing than the Sunday supple- ment intei‘Views and far better photographed than the publicity stills. (Thorn Dibdini

First writes

Putting debut authors under the microscope. This issue: Mark 8. Cohen

Who he? Mark 8. Cohen was Glasgow- born and bred to a Journalist/author mother and head maths teacher father. Havmg graduated in Interpreting and Translating from Heriot-Watt, he spent two years as a parliamentary research assistant before movmg into the City where he is now a director at a merchant bank.

His debut It’s called Brass Monkeys and details the rise and demise of Hugh Driftwood, a Junior Cabinet member in the cock-up prone administration of Edward Burgins. When you realise that the book is in the Tom Sharpe mould, you know what kind of rise he's experiencmg. And Sure enough, Driftwood gets slowly sucked into sexual shenanigans at the hands of one Ros Flato. Norma Major described it as ‘an outrageously funny book, which stretches the truth into farce'. And let's face it, she's gOing to know. Basically It's a timely look at politics, power and the moment when they come into conflict through hubris and over-ambition, A combintation that is never likely to be untimely.

First line test ‘A reporter and cameraman from breakfast TV were camped Outside the front door.’

Cast Hugh Driftwood, an unlikely candidate for PM, despite his lslington residence; Vanessa, Hugh's stepmother and media tycoon, Ros Flato, the pillar- box lipped cause of Hugh’s downfall, Alistair Sloach, sleaZy former spin- doctor and man With his own eye on the position of Almighty Leader. What's next? His second novel is The Butcher’s Ball due out next June and is a riotous romp thrOugh the world of high finance. Lots of money, sex, death, that kind of malarkey.

(Brian Donaldsoni

Brass Monkeys is published in paperback by Hodder <9 Stooghton at £5.99.

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3 l7 Dec I998 THE lIST 111