COMIC 'iALITS JOHN BARLOW Eating Mammals (FOurth Estate 914.92%

Eating Mam/rials Is John Barlow's debut and contains three raucously entertaining novellas. each allegedly loosely based on real events and delivered in a voice that is assured. imaginative and arcaner stylish. Exhibitrng a wonderfully Judged taste for macabre. gothic comedy (think RC3 VI/odehouse re writing Tales of the Uriexpectedi Barlow is a toy to read with each of the three yarns packed to bursting with outrageous characters and ludicrous plots told with a real warmth.

And so we get the tale of a man who earns celebrity by eating anything ('Eating Mammals'i: the adventures of a winged cat around 19th century England "The Possession of Thomas Bessie'i and the extraordinan,’ wedding celebrations of a pie making couple in rural Yorkshire i' The Donkey Wedding at Cornersal'i. It's all delivered with total ioie—de-yivre. making Eating Mani/mils a rattling good read for lovers of the fantastical and bi/arre sides of life. (Doug Johnstonei


Big If

(Atlantic Books HUSH) O.

A funny thing happened on the way to the denouement. Well. for funny read .nterininable. Certainly this reader lost the way. fro/en out by the rninutiae of plot and char;icterisatiori and left numb by this second novel from a '~.'.’l’lt(}f on an artiici roll. So. as Cilla once guix/ed Michael Came in a moment of

exrstential weakness. what's it all about. Alfie? Big It is Taxr [)r/ver meets West Wing with a touch of that inferior flick in which Clint played the president's l,)odyguard. Still. there are a few funnies along the way at least. One of the protagonists grew up in a place called Fffing. a name not Intended to be amusing which, of course. only serves to

make it more so. And her atheist dad used to irk the neighbours by doctoring the dollar bills for ‘In God We Trust' to read ‘In Us We Trust". How magnificently (in American.

(Rodger Fvansi

iRAVl I ()(EIJI lAll NIVEN GOVINDEN We Are the New Romantics (Bloomsbury 513.9% O

we are the new romantics

(Bay DJ and hetero Amy burn around I. urope taking and leaving part time Jobs and temporary lovers. Throughout. the tone is descriptiver breathless and the characters brainless. giVing the writer every reason to offer a superfic:al take on

I urotrashing without ever really getting inside the characters' heads. Actually. the writer's more interested in getting inside his characters' pants. evidenced in the opening line: ‘I ast night I fell out with Amy when she caught me sucking off her boyfriend under

the table of some stinking Europop club in not so gay Parrs.‘

The book. for the most part. stays in the nether regions. The young writer says he spent three years making "dodgy conceptual films in Goldsmiths'. but cinema's loss is hardly literature's gain, wrth lines like: ‘he woke me around lunchtime by licking my face like a St F3<>rrizir(l. ()r (i iiiziii who's seriously missing his fellatro.‘

(Tony McKibbini


The Sky is Falling on Our Heads

(Sceptre Eli/1.92% OOOO

I'd wager a hefty wad that Rob Penn sniftered one or two drains before scribing this. his first book. Challenging the idea of y-xhat it means to be a Celt today. our playful protagonist and Ivlanxman travels through Scotland. Ireland. the Isle of Man. Wales. Cornwall and Brittany to the bottom of the Celtic fringe. His aim: to take on the guise of a bard and examine this modern-day identity through the festivals and (:Irzir;i(:t(2rs; ll(} encounters.

Penn's social observations are comically astute. The chapter on Edinburgh's Beltane Festival is particularly strong. ‘It's only lam but there are already casualties: prostrate bodies on the cold. muddy earth: a fight; the happy. happy sound of a young girl retasting a can of Mclfcran‘s Export. And he nicely articulates a city in which cosmopolitan delights (and an odd array of At ssiesi Juxtapose with Celtic lustre. Not your conventional travel writing fare but far more enjoyable as a result. (Anna IvlilIari


(Faber £710.99) .00.

There's something very Dickensian about this. Sarah Hall's second book reads with all the colour. guts and flair of the 19th century tale- spinner as it follows the story of Cy Parks from his beginnings in Morecambe Bay to adventures on Coney Island. The Electric Michelangelo is populated with oddballs in murky.


Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry

blood-swilling dens such as his mother's guest house that specialises in care for the consumptive or the tattoo parlour where he learns his trade.

Huge amounts of

(Atlantic Books $28.99» 0...


research have gone into specific local histories of both resorts and one chapter is now loaded with significance and poignancy. as the narrator discusses Morecambe's dangerous guicksands. ‘They could pull down and swallow a whole adult body in 1:") minutes or less. like an egg in the muscular throat of a snake.’ Sarah Hall's own prose style is egually tough. and gobbles you up With robust Vitality. (Ruth Hedges)

A unique facet of Molvanian life

The disintegration of the former USSR had many peculiar side effects. For one thing, we wouldn’t see that nice red flag with the hammer and sickle much any more and it also meant literally tens of new independent states sprung up including, somewhat inconspicuously, Molvania. Each one of these new nations had a wish to develop a lucrative illegal smuggling trade, with the tourist industry as a secondary fall back, hence the publishing of this most matter of fact travel guide.

Molvania lacks the architecture of Venice, the history of London or the art of Rome so, to the untrained eye, Molvania is barren, industrially retarded, culturally backward, foggy, smoggy, a dingy lump of land that gained independence purely because no one else wanted it. This is a rather simple reading of the facts as, like anywhere, there is more to things than meets the eye. This guide details all the unique facets of Molvanian life: National Fertility Day, the cut-price student dental work and the curious mutant fish of Lake Vjaza. We also get to savour culinary delicacies like salted cod and lemon rind or pork surprise, the surprise being that it's made from zucchini, all washed down with an invigorating glass of zeerstum, a local garlic


The only glitch with this exhaustive tome is that it fails to convey anything about the whole number of other places you could visit before coming to this corner of the world. But if Molvania sounds like your kind of holiday destination, then you truly deserve this book. (Mark Robertson)

‘8 Mar