SEX COMEDY Candace Bushnell Four Blondes (Abacus £6.99)

Manhattan-based writer Candace Bushnell may be competing for readers and six-figure advances in a market currently flooded with candy-covered ’women's’ fiction. Yet, in terms of wit, insight and irreverence, she beats the Armani trouser suits off her Bridget Jones clone contemporaries.

Bushnell achieved instant fame as the writer of Sex And The City, originally a sassy, up-front newspaper column. Pursuing Bridget's career path, the column later became a bestselling novel and was subsequently developed into a TV series. Having worked as a journalist, including a stint as contributing editor to Vogue, Bushnell was perfectly positioned to satirise the mating rituals of Manhattan high society.

‘When I first started writing the column and then the book came out, there were so many women who would come up to me and say: "This is me. This is about my life and nobody has done it before",’ Bushnell has said. ’And I think that's why the TV series has been so successful; they've made women feel like it’s about their lives.'

Hmmm, maybe down your local, Candace. Of course, Bushnell's claim will amuse those women who are more Babycham and Lambrusco than champagne and cocktails. For most of us, Sex And The City is sheer escapism and its popularity is probably less due to reader/viewer identification than to the unapologetic shallowness of its characters. Like Britain's Helen Fielding or Ireland's Marian Keyes, Bushnell writes about materially successful, sexually active and, often, whiningly



Candace Bushnell

‘lane Austen with a martini' fiNDAY rucoupu

dissatisfied women.

What’s refreshing about Bushnell's writing is her lack of heavy-handed sentimentality. Readers are

rarely invited to sympathise with her high-powered heroines. Her characters are presented to us warts and all, blissfully lacking in self-awareness and almost entirely devoid of redeeming features. Bushnell's glamorous models and writers and actresses may attempt to embark on a journey of self-discovery but will always end up back where they started, trapped by their own neuroses and


Bushnell's latest book, Four Blondes, continues in the

MUSlC ANALYSIS Ben Thompson Ways Of Hearing (Orion £14.99)

a \

A celebratory magnum of pop

Hilarious, bitter and very, very juicy

same vein, focusing on the illicit love affairs and disastrous attempts at self-betterment suffered by four, well, blonde women. Oh, and did I mention they're also rich, successful, glamorous blah-di-blah? The four tales are fast-paced, stylishly written and hilarious with a bitter, dark edge. Though Bushnell says so herself, it's a compulsive read. ’lt's a more . . . in-depth book than Sex

And The City, and it's very funny and very, very juicy.’

(Allan Radcliffe)

For those unfamiliar With the heady world of cultural studies (and by Jesus there should at least be a sensible few) John Berger published an iconic work in the 1970s called Ways Of Seeing. This was a cultural analysrs of how we look at Visual media, be it film, art or otherwrse. The very nature of Berger’s writing coupled With his groundbreaking thoughts made this an intrigumg, if often unintelligible tome.

Ben Thompson has expanded on Berger’s initial prinCIples to produce a more accessible book in Ways Of Hearing. ’The idea was to do a companion volume that was actually based on a completely contradictory set of prrncrples,’ explains Thompson, ’It’s a bit like ’No Pigeons’, that answer record to TLC's 'No Scrubs' that those ugly men With terrible v0ices made. I wouldn't want peOpIe to think they’d have to know Ways Of Seeing to understand what Ways Of Hearing was about, as I didn't refer to Berger's book at all While writing it.’

Thompson’s books looks at the condUIts which we use to absorb music: radio, film, TV etc, and follows this With case studies on the varied likes of Orbital, Captain Beefheart and Meat Loaf. He concludes With a genre- speCific ponder on just how we receive

and perceive the mu5ic we love and


This may all seem frighteningly academic but Thompson’s genial style is far from It. A music journo for many years, he has an easy, if excrtable turn of phrase and can cram Crass, Kylie and King Crimson into one sentence With fascmating ease.

’The aim of the book was to try and do justice both to the physical joy of listening to music and the broader impact of pop, both on other art forms and sooo-political reality in general.’

Heady talk perhaps, but this is

something even more simple than that,

a book skilfully celebrating one of our

finest and most effective art forms: pop mUSIC. (Mark Robertson)



First writes

Putting debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Micheline Aharonian Marcom

Who she? Born in Dhahian, Saudi Arabia in 1968, Marcom is a descendant of Lebanese Armenians who came to the USA Getting a good grounding for a novelistic career, she studied Literature at UC Berkeley in California, writing a thesis on ’The Myth Of Genoc ide' and was the proud Winner of Graduate Fiction at Mills College She still lives there today

Her debut Ethnic cleansing is not a new phenomenon and Marcom has chosen the period l915 18 (when over a million Armenians liv:ng in Turkey died, disappeared or were deported) as a backdrop for her debut, Three Apples Fell From Heaven As a granddaughter of one Victim, she has been able to combine family memories and history to create fiction that could easily be fact. Marcom is not the first novelist to choose Armenian genoc ide as a subject matter, Peter Balakian's Black Dog Of Fate, Fran/ Werfel’s The Forty Days of Musa Dagh and Peter Najarian's Daughters of Memory have all received acclaim for dealing With the same topic:

Basically Stories of numerous characters weave together, followmg the tragic events of their lives before and after the genocide occurs Me“. of the Village disappear for good or come back raVIng; a young boy is disguised as a girl by his mother Who cannot bear to see him taken from her, a young girl goes abOut her rituals, liying in fear.

Compare and contrast Marcorn's debut is billed as evoking the big works by Amy Tan and Lours de Bernieres.

First paragraph test ’She writes it late at night, While you are dozmg Runicxir says things like/And so, and so/There was and/There was not/ Rumour tells stories, this is the story she writes (Loursa Pearson)

I Three App/es Fell From Heaven is published by HarperCo/lins priced £72.99.

(fir-(r [VJ/IA! /Ic'ru'c'll Ill, \

1—1 5 Feb 2001 THE lIST103