Y: The Descent of Men (Little. Brown $14.95»

After the success of Darwin's Ghost. Steve Jones' update of The Origin of SpeCIes. he has deCided to tackle Darwin's other great work. The Descent of

an. The result is a fun, fact-packed meander through all that is maleness. not JtlSl in Our own species. but of many others too.

t:ull of triVIa to ama/e and ast0und your friends. this is not so much a scientific study as a series of anecdotes linked by a common theme. For Example. did you know that the total amount of sperm produced by males worIdWide is arOund 1.0()O.()OO| per day? Or that female wasps can choose whether to have male or female offspring?

Interesting and amusing as these facts are. there's a more serious message in th:s book: biologically speaking. the male is in decline. There may be little you guys can do about it. but at least ‘/()U can EtllltlSC yourselves discovering why. (Kirst Knaggsl



Public Property (Faber £712.99) .0

‘Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.‘ Wordsworth. Poet Laureate. 1843—50. In Andrew Motion's first collection since he took up the post in 1999. he hasn't exactly taken his predecessors words to heart.

There are moVing poems here. such as

104 THE LIST 1/ .’


Baudolino (Secker 8. Warburg $318) .0000

Umberto Eco’s latest tale begins and ends with the destruction of Constantinople, and travels through Europe, across the Orient and into the fabled land

of Prester John. Its subject is the adopted son of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Baudolino is a prophet, an academic, a man who

has loved princesses and bestial women, who has

saved and destroyed cities, found the holy grail and the head of John the Baptist, travelled to the ends of the earth and told stories so tall they scrape the very firmament of heaven.

Placing a congenital liar at the heart of a

sprawling epic may seem like a dubious tactic, but

it fits perfectly. After all, what are legends but grand fictions built around kernels of truth?

Baudolino recalls almost any fantastic travelogue

you’d care to mention, borrowing from the

Odyssey, Gulliver’s Travels and the tales of Sinbad,

and mingling classical references with the same refreshing sense of wonder that infused The Hobbit and Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It’s an

instructive parallel, both because JRR Tolkien and

CS Lewis were medieval scholars and because glorious journeys have all too rarely surfaced in adult fiction in the modern age.

Eco combines inspiring narrative with medieval religious and modern literary theory and his faux-

biography is gripping throughout. lt probes the depths of the middle ages and reveals a chaotic mix of the classical, medieval and dark ages in which high civilisation and thoughtless cruelty are the nearest of neighbours. Baudolino is a fiction about fiction and it is glorious. (James Smart)

‘What is Given'. about a man who becomes a down-and—out but the mood is evoked by the subject matter rather than Motions dry. unengaging and pedestrian style. For example. 'The Wall' begins: ‘I have forgotten whatever/It was I wanted to say/Also the way I wantedrl'o say it. Form and music.‘

Publicw Property

Some in this collection are personal and some are official. like ‘The Game'. commissioned by Childline. or 'l‘he British Galleries'. by the V&A. But the collections title, Public Property. sounds slightly resentful. One might almost think he didn't want the job. that's fine by me. Simon Ariiiitage. anyone? (Anna Shipman)

i ' ()2! M’i'd"


City of the Beasts (Flamingo $12.09. C...

Amongst the recent trend for third rate imitations of l atin American magical realism, readers shouldn't allow themselves; to forget that in the right hands. it (:ziii t)(> Elli inVigorating genre. Isabel Allende s one of the best (and best- selling) in the style. ai id this novel aimed at young adults upwards is a romp of a story which manages to send a serious environmental message without appearing loo didactic.

Fifteen year-old Alex Cold is dragged to the Ania/on by his intrepid and eccentric explorer gran iii search of a mythical ape like beast. As they encounter indigenous peoples and a habitat undei

Scraping the firmament of heaven

threat their ()l)l(}(lll\.’(}f3 and outlooks change. and ‘.'./llll(} the story might be simplified a little to accommodate younger readers. the narrative pace never lets up.

Throughout. Allende manages to keep the blend of fantasy and reality just right and the result is an easy page turner that also viiakes you think a little. ll)oug .Johiistonel

(Itll lUHAl (Iltl l l()|f%lvt PETER ACKROYD Albion iChatto 2i Wiiidus 5‘2?» COO

After the critical success of Peter Ackioyd's last l)l()](}(‘,l. / o/idon, seii‘e authors may haye l?t?(3l‘. tempted to bask in the \‘JéllllTIll of acclaiin toi a little while. But not the prolific Ackioyd.

l xpanding his focus to encoii‘pass a nation. he has atteii‘pted to trace

legends; '::.=t;ira heritage and identzt .' “(in -.s A gilt. waxes. l);,/1iv\r\,iyu*

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