IN&OUTTONIGHT REVIEWS 24 Tuesday, 7 July 2009 London Lite S O whO do you think is the most important figure in London music? Vince Power, ex-head honcho of the Mean Fiddler group and now chief of the Vince Power Music Group? Perhaps you think its the chief executives of the mega promoters AEG and Live Nation. Or what about Guy hands, the venture capitalist currently in charge of cutting costs at EMI? Damon Albarn, perhaps, frontman of the revivified Blur? Nope. Perhaps surprisingly, none of these guys would even be in business right now if it wasnt for Brother Rahere, a 12th-century Augustinian friar who, in 1133, was allowed by henry I to stage a three-day fair in aid of the priory and hospital he had established in Smithfield. St Bartholomews Fair became Londons first festival, an annual celebra- tion of music, theatre and ribaldry that lasted until 1855, when it was shut down by the authorities who didnt like the lower orders having a good time and who were swayed by people who should have known better such as poet william wordsworth who whinged, what a hell, for eyes and ears. what anarchy and din! history doesnt record too much more of his anti-festival rant but I bet it included something along the lines of: You cant understand a word theyre singing, and you cant tell the boys from the girls. This wonderful nugget of information regarding the history of popular music in our great city is representative of the strengths of this book written by music journalist Paul Du Noyer. hes excellent on the deep history of music in London, especially with regard to the music hall phenomenon that followed St Barts fair, and which also provoked huge spumes of snobbery from the middle and ruling classes (nothing much changes, eh?). From music hall he moves on to the big bands and their charismatic leaders such as Billy Cotton, who was born in London in 1899, played drums and bugle for the Army in the First world war, and then football for Brentford and wimbledon. Its here that Du Noyers Liverpudlian roots flash briefly to the surface with an unwar- ranted attack on wimbledon, but then they were the club that beat his favourite team 1-0 in the 1988 FA Cup Final. The latter parts of the book, in which he discusses London pop stars such as David Bowie, Ian Dury, Marc Bolan, Blur and Madness among others, are not as strong. Its not down to Du Noyers research (although his decision to downplay the contribution of the won- derful Nick Lowe is as puzzling as it is annoying) rather than to an overfamili- arity with the subject matter. If you love Blur or The Kinks then youll already be aware of their histories and connections to various parts of London. Theres very little new to be read here. Another weak point is a slight understatement of the importance of black music in the capital. however, these minor cavils aside, Du Noyers account is compelling, thought- ful and very readable. REVIEWSBOOKS Diaryofasinglegirlsquest fortruelove...withoutsex HUMOUR Magnificent Bastards ByRichHall(LittleBrown,10.99) HHHHH AMERICAN comedian and writer Rich hall is best known as his alter ego, the convicted country singer Otis Lee Crenshaw. But pretty much any of the characters in his superb latest collection of short stories would provide him with quality comedy material. Smug carbon neutral couple wendy and Ross try to justify the seven round trips they made to Guatemala during the adoption of their daughter (If you wish to print off Emilys pic, please, please use recyclable paper). Fifteen- year-old Rachel invites 2,300 of her MySpace friends to a party at her parents house and, when they dont do enough damage, invites 45,000 to destroy the house properly. Perhaps the most memorable, to anyone whos ever been to Oxford Circus anyway, is the character Reginald Dawson, who writes the handbook Successful Secrets To Standing On A Corner holding Up A Golf Sale Sign. he offers tips like 99.99% of the traffic coming toward you will give you a dismissive, even hostile look and continue on. Congratulations! Youve been noticed. Congratulations to Mr hall on another exceptional collection of stories. LAUREN PAXMAN IRVINE WELSH is a master at drawing you into a seedy, drug-fuelled world, and fans will love these short stories from the writer of Trainspotting. He immerses you in his characters lives -- from a man more concerned about missing the Hibs v Hearts football match than his wifes life, to the friends left reeling when one of them dies on a night out. Drugs play a role in almost every story -- often destructive, but sometimes the key to a reconciliation, as in Kissing And Making Up, about two men in love with the same woman. Most of the stories appeared in previous compilations -- many out of print -- and only the last tale, I Am Miami, is new. Even here, old characters reappear: Carl Ewart and Terry Juice Lawson, from Welshs novel Glue. Welsh makes no attempt to compensate for the colloquial speech of his characters but the stories are all the more captivating for it. TAMARA ABRAHAM IN ThIS epic American novel a young guy gets sucked into an important family, a little like Brideshead Revisited or The Line of Beauty. Corey Sifter works as a handyman on the estate of a rich power broker with two gorgeous daughters and a wife who is bonkers. Its the Seventies: Nixon is in the white house, Vietnam is throbbing away and Corey gets involved with a man who may become the next president. There is crime, sex and death, but Canin never quite goes over the top. WILLIAM LEITH America, America ByEthanCanin (Bloomsbury,7.99) Newpaperbacks MEMOIR Chastened: No More Sex In The City ByHephzibahAnderson(Chatto&Windus,12.99) HHHII ELIzAbETH PISANI is an epidem- iologist who has spent years looking at the spread of Aids. She has some fascinating facts. One: those who have recently caught HIV, which causes Aids, are more infectious than those who have had it for a while. Two: HIV spreads faster where there is less premarital sex, because more men in these places visit prostitutes. In short, she writes, more women having premarital sex equals less HIV. Wow. WL The Wisdom Of Whores ByElizabethPisani (Granta,8.99) ThIS is about how to be happy when you dont have everything. It explores the virtue of making do with what you have, as opposed to the vice of wanting what you cant have. But didnt India Knight write a book about the wonders of shopping, called The Shops? Yes, she did -- and thats why this one is interesting; it describes Knights conversion from one mind-set to another. Being thrifty, she tells us, makes you happy in a way that shopping never can. Make things! Eat offal! WL The Thrift Book ByIndiaKnight (Penguin,7.99) THE BIG READ In The City: A Celebration Of London Music ByPaulDuNoyer(Random House,18.99) HHHHI PAUL CONNOLLY SHORT STORIES Reheated Cabbage ByIrvineWelsh(JonathanCape,18.99) HHHHI IN 2007 Hephzibah Anderson vowed not to have sex for a year. As feats of endurance go, its not quite up there with scaling the north face of the Eiger, but it did lead to a lot of soul- searching by the single 30-year-old, plus this book, which will delight or irritate according to your tolerance for flowery writing like, Once the waves of aching have passed, youll become attuned to the contours of your own desire. Carrie bradshaw she isnt. Anderson began by reflecting shed had enough of sex without love, so maybe it was time to look for love without sex. Except sex means going all the way. Everything else -- including snogging or sleeping next to men -- is fine. And she does plenty of both. Anderson hoped chastity would let her find romance, but seems as flighty as the guys she dates. She flirts and kisses men with girlfriends, men who live thousands of miles away and men who just arent that into her, and ends her year with a toxic bachelor straight out of Sex And The City. Despite not coming to any great conclusions, I found her very likeable. Did sex bring me any closer to love? One particular flirtation has since progressed at tantalising leisure, she hints at the end -- the tease. AMBER COWANPillow talk: Anderson Park live: Blurs Damon Albarn should give thanks to a friar Howour citycame torock index.html2.html3.html4.html5.html6.html7.html8.html9.html10.html11.html12.html13.html14.html15.html16.html17.html18.html19.html20.html21.html22.html23.html24.html25.html26.html27.html28.html29.html30.html31.html32.html33.html34.html35.html