IN&OUTTONIGHT REVIEWS 26 Tuesday, 8 September 2009 London Lite NICK HORNBYS last adult novel about a group of suicidal depressives who meet on top of a north London tower block was so wretched and clichd it could have been written by Ben Elton. After 2001s so-so How To Be Good, it seemed to signal a terminal decline in Hornbys creative fortunes. Thankfully, Juliet, Naked, a short novel focusing on the travails of a late-thirties couple in a dreary northern seaside town, is at least a partial return to form. Annie and Duncan have drifted along for 15 years, the main focus of their relationship being Duncans obsession with the music of Tucker Crowe, an American singer who produced one brilliant album in the mid- Eighties, and then disappeared. The couple fall apart when they disagree over the quality of a demo, acoustic-only version of Crowes one great album, Juliet, and soon Annie is corresponding with Crowe himself who concurs with Annies online dismissal of Juliet, Naked. The faults are obvious and many. Duncan is just too wet to exist, Annies therapist is a preposterous invention and Annie and Crowes online correspondence similarly unbelievable. But there are truths and not a little wisdom here. Fifty-two-year-old Hornby is clearly obsessed with his mortality and its his musings that anything to do with getting older rarely indicated good news that rescue Juliet, Naked from its deep flaws. PAUL CONNOLLY K elly OsbOurne is, were meant to feel, just like any other girl. sure, she parties with Paris Hilton, pole- vaults queues at The Ivy, lives in houses with names rather than numbers, is the offspring of a heavy metal superstar and his ballsy wife and, for three years of her youth, had an MTV camera crew camped in her front room recording her every fart and whine. but deep down shes, like, totally f****** normal. This autobiography, which doubles as an advice book for teenage girls, is Miss Osbournes first foray into literature and it probably wont be her last (though it should be). Celebrities like Kel crank out books at the same rate normal humans crank out poop. And, speaking of poop, theres quite a bit of it here. Theres plenty of pee too, actually. The phrase I nearly p***ed myself laughing! crops up regularly in the 304 pages, two of which are notes pages. I assume these are for Kellys young readership to jot down reactions to her stories. Its not surprising there are only two of these notes pages because Kels stories -- if you can spot them among swathes of padding, profanities, make- up advice and the news that she gets four sTI tests a year (Girls and boys, you need to protect yourselves) -- are remarkably thin on the ground. Knotted into the overall narrative Ozzy black sabbath Osbourne has kid and enters drug rehab the day after her birth, the family swaps british country- side for lA, MTV move into their house, daughter gets addicted to Vicodin and enters rehab, leaves rehab, re-enters rehab, goes to england to star in Chicago, returns to America, returns to rehab, leaves rehab, then writes book advising teenage girls how to avoid rehab -- I found two stories of note. Theres the time mum sharon threw her teenage daughter on the bed and, cackling with laughter, poured boiling wax onto her childs upper lip before ripping off a chunk of it -- weeing on top of her in the process. Then theres the news that whenever anyone offends her family, sharon defecates into a blue Tiffany & Co box and posts it to them. (Kelly is following her example, having weed on a friends carpet. lovely.) The remainder flip-flops between daft observations and not-so-veiled threats to mums X-Factor judging nemesis Dannii Minogue: I think karma is going to come knocking on Danniis door. later, she muses: People dont think london has a community feel, but I disagree... Kate Moss didnt live far away and Davinia Taylor and sadie Frost were just around the corner. see? Completely normal. I eagerly await my poop-in-a-box. REVIEWSBOOKS Kellysadvice reallystinks... Hornbyisbackontrackwith wisdomfromthedrearynorth Short on stories: Kelly Osbourne has remarkably little to say for herself FICTION A Week In December BySebastianFaulks(Hutchinson,18.99) HHHHI FAulKss latest novel is a sweeping contemporary satire that follows the fortunes of a disparate cast of london-based characters over a week in December 2007. These characters include Jenni, a Tube driver, Gabriel, a barrister, Hassan, whos considering a suicide bombing mission, his father Farooq, a lime pickle magnate, Veals, a hedge fund manager, and his wife, who anaesthetises herself with wine in her Holland Park mansion as her son smokes skunk up in the attic. The book is absorbing, funny and exhaustively researched -- especially the intricacies of Vealss Machiavellian plots. A few minor quibbles: some of Faulkss targets are too obvious -- he dwells on a TV programme that depicts people with mental illnesses being shut up in a camera-filled house. The passages on the financial crisis, though, are fascinating. The denouement takes place at a dinner party where one guest, sozzled, sums it up as such: Its a fraud as old as markets themselves. The only difference is that its been done on a titanic scale. At the invitation of the politicians. Hear, hear to that. And to this riveting read. OLIVIA WALMSLEY GORDON KERR was, I imagine, the sort of child who spent his time crouched in graveyards, toy noose around neck, pulling legs off ants. This macabre little tome -- subtitled The Final Hours Of The Notable And Notorious -- catalogues the expirations of celebrities from Alexander The Great (possible poisoning) and Charles Dickens (stroke) to Sylvia Plath (head in oven) and Princess Di (insert favourite conspiracy theory here). Its just the book youd find in Wednesday Addams satchel. Quirky facts abound. Bing Crosby left his children all his money but they couldnt touch it until they were 65; Joan Crawfords final words as she died of pancreatic cancer were to a fan praying for her health: Dammit! Dont you dare ask God to help me! But these are lively moments in a novelty book which does leave a slightly unpleasant taste in the mouth. M DE L In THIs thoughtful book on design, Deyan sudjic asks why objects look the way they do? To make us want them, and often, to make us not want things we have. sudjic, director of the Design Museum, cites pre-war adman earnest elmo Calkins, who said there are two types of things -- those we use and those we use up. To prosper, Calkins thought, we must see to it that we use up the kind of goods we now merely use. Its not all bad, theres always braun and Apple. WILLIAM LEITH The Language Of Things ByDeyanSudjic (Penguin,12.99) Newpaperbacks FICTION Juliet, Naked ByNickHornby(Penguin/Viking,18.99) HHHII WITH its ribald cartoonish cover, this book looks a bit vulgar. but dont be fooled -- its very well written. Here is a history of britains decline told through the lives and mistakes of the people who, in lettss view, brought about that decline, including Jeffrey Archer (scandal-flecked clown), John Prescott (gormless), Jimmy savile (a maniac) and more. you may not always agree with the author. but this is a useful, informed history -- and such fun! WL 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain ByQuentinLetts (Constable,7.99) FELIX QUINN is a bookseller and a masochist. He loves his wife, the beautiful Marisa. But love does not satisfy him. He needs more -- he needs Marisa to have sex with another man. Now this all sounds far-fetched, but Felix explains it beautifully -- and this is a very good novel. As a masochist, a connoisseur of loss, Felix understands the extent of his love. Feeling unsafe makes him feel alive. And loss, of course, is the wellspring of good storytelling. WL The Act Of Love ByHowardJacobson (Vintage,7.99) THE BIG READ Fierce ByKellyOsbourne(VirginBooks,14.99) HIIII MARTHA DE LACEY BOOK FOR THE LOO Dead Famous ByGordonKerr(Oneworld,12.99) HHHII Old Nick: Hornby faces up to mortality 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.html36.html37.html38.html39.html