SOCIAL HISIORY MARK KURLANSKY Salt iJonathan Cape 5‘ l #109) .0.
M A a x K 0 iii'Agusny‘ ..
Salt is great. Especially on chips. steak. chicken and in soup. You '-.'.ron't find a bigger fan of NaCi than your l'(}‘.’|(?‘.‘.'(3l'. But is it worth £50 pages? Mark Kurlansky seems to think so. a’though haying ploughed through this com;)rehensive. >ainstakingly researched yet soriie\.'-/hat laborious hook on the white stuff. perhaps he's somewhat misguided.
Kurlansky has hit pay dirt in the past with riveting and well-written histories of cod and the Basque nation. but this o\./er|y-(letailed telling of the story of everyone-s favourite (:ondiriient is perhaps stretching the hookreading puhlic‘s love of leftfield histories a little too far.
Salt has played a huge part in the development of human ciyiisation. marnly thanks to its foo(l-preser‘\.ririg gualities. but as the hook switches from early mining techniques in China to recipes in lll(}(Il0‘.’£tI Europe and beyond. the whole thing becomes slightly monotonous and lacks focus. Salt is great. but Salt is Just OK. il)oug Johnstonei
IPAVII DRAMA DAVID MASIEL Chasing Moneymaker iSceptre Sf l «1.9%
1),.“ iii HASII'ZI,
The Arctic is one of the world's last
98 THE LIST '-'- I)". l cl, 9t,“ x
Be My Knife iBloomsbury 5:16.99) 00.
Israeli author David Grossman’s latest novel begins with a lonely bookseller writing an anonymous letter to
a woman who captivated him at a class reunion.
Bizarrely, the object of Yair’s desire, Miriam, replies, and so begins a very strange, intense love affair. ‘I want to be able to say myself: “I bled truth with her”,’ says Yair. ‘Be a knife for me, and I, I swear, will be a knife for
With Yair and Miriam, Grossman has created a pair of
awkward characters who can only achieve real
intimacy through anonymous intercourse; a potentially rich premise, particularly in an age in which compulsive
emailing threatens face-to-face communication.
Respectable, middle aged and married, the pair are horribly disappointed with the way their lives have turned out and long to recreate the passions of youth. Yair in particular, through his desperate, confessional letters, reveals himself to be living almost a double life in his imagination, like a contemporary Walter Mitty, while Miriam attempts to avoid an arduous past by
filling her life with bland distractions.
Yet, Grossman squanders his chance to really engage
readers early on. Yair’s letters to Miriam, which
comprise some two-thirds of the book, are indeed
he my lent/2'
Messy, convoluted and alienating
nakedly confessional, but consist of such a messy, convoluted, desperate purge of ideas and
neuroses as to be utterly alienating. By the time Miriam’s restrained, measured correspondence takes over, the reader is too
exhausted to care how Grossman will resolve this curious relationship. (Allan Radcliffe)
wiltlernesses. But for Henry Seine. it also happens to he the place he earns his living. labouring for long hours on ships and icel')reakers.
David Masiel spent a decade working in the northern ice fields. and his novel is unsurprisineg vivrd. bringing to life a regior‘. of the globe that is occasionally celebrated as a monument to the stupidity and tenacity of Victorian explorers before being forgotten again by the fickle popular imagination.
Seine is not a happy man. His wife has left him for a man named Larry. and he is followed by a jlllX that has killed most of his prevrous shipmates. Those that remain are headcases to a man. Salvation comes in the form of the strong ‘.'/lII and warm body of Julia Lew. while Seine has a chance to do some rescuing of his own when he picks up a mysterious SOS. Chasing Moneymaker is a gripping read. and one that casts human nature against a stark. telling backdrop.
ltl-I_AI |(')NSHIP DRAMA LISSA EVANS Spencer’s List iVik.ng
I-rom the pen of l-Z'ither Ted and Goodness
Gracious Me's producer comes a beautiful. darkly humorous novel about relationships. And house pets. The plot revolves around a small collection of people each with their own perspective of life in a little pocket of north London where everyone is connected. either as neighbours. relatives or just good friends.
The central character. Spencer. is mourning the slow and painful death of Mark. his boyfriend. working his way through the grief by completing an itinerary of London tourist attractions set out by Mark before he died. As he moves through the list. his friends and family work at bringing him out of the depression that h; s set in.
Along the way. he manages to kill off almost the entire menagerie of house pets he inherited and eventually finds that there is life after Mark. A
wrckedly sharp but incredibly moving tale of everyday lives. iAly Burt)
TEEN DRAMA CHRISTOPHER RICE
A Density Of Souls (Pan COHEN O
In New Orleans. Meredith. Brandon. Greg and Stephen like to play in the cmnetery. But their lives are changed forever when they go to high school and decide not to speak to Stephen any more because he is gay. Then Greg's brother dies. Then Greg shoots himself. Then Meredith gets drunk. Then everyone falls in love With Stephen. Then . . . OK. that's enough about the ‘stOry'.
This is bad. Scream meets The Secret H/story at M/dnight In The Garden Of Good And Evrl. penned by an angsty talentless teenager With ideas so far above hs station it's not even funny. A
Densrty Of Souls stumbles mindlessly from meaningful silence to enigmatic comment. taking in plot devrces that might be predictable if the book was remotely engaging. Mommy Anne Rice. of Intervrew With A Vampire fame. is clearly the orin reason this transparent wish- fulfilment exercise ever saw an agent. let alone the light of day. (Anna Shipman)
SOCIAL TRAVELOGUE JON RONSON
Them i’Picador $27.99)
Imagine you had a radio that tuned in not to the stations but the interference around them. Perhaps you would call it a Ronson. Because that's what the self-styled humorist does in this entertaining study of global power.
Attempting to (‘letermine if there is a 'secret room from which a tiny elite rules the
world'. Jon Ronson bodyswerves the capitalists. the politicians and the state authorities and heads out to the static that fills the airwaves around them.
Here he finds the conspiracy theorists — fascists. socialists. religious zealots and those. suc i as Davrd Icke. who believe in alien reptiles — all egually convrnced that some greater power is ll‘. control. In his interwews. ne does to the extremists what The Sopranos did to the Mafia: sit their: in their living rooms and cut them down to domestic Si/e.
As wrttily observed as it is atlventurously researched. Tire/7i paints an oddball picture of a paranoid planet pre and post— 1 1 September.
MODERN FABI E MAURICE GEE Ellie And The Shadow Man iFaher $512.00) .00.
The title of Maurice Gees new novel is actually terribly misleadng. lllllilyllig as it does. some after dark. supernatural schlcck horror ioi. e- tryst. l". fact. the cencept of the Shadou': Mar‘ is not iiitr'odti<:(-:-(l ,i'itif three (iuarters of the ;r‘.to this story of a you"; Zealarrd girl's eventful gourney l'IIO ‘.'./oriia:‘lioou. and "er ll‘t?tl:’.£ili(3"f3 .>r‘ love and freedorri.
The table of Me ‘ree spirited i.'.'o:i‘.ar: hatttrig; corivent‘ona. l‘ilOl'Of; against an u'ifold 'ig backdrop of late HOtl‘. century sociopolitical change cotde easily describe one of Onr'a‘i's mawkish hooks o‘ the week. Yet (Bee rizrithy avoids sent.me"ta .ty. while he storyline contains enough Surprises to make it constantly compelling.
Hrs heroine is "ully