IN&OUTTONIGHT REVIEWS 24 Tuesday, 3 November 2009 London Lite N EWSFLASH! Apparently there is a recession going on. You just might have read about the credit crunch in the papers or on the internet. Theres been the odd story on TV, too. And now, if you can stomach reading any more, Ben Eltons written a book about it. Welcome to the crazy City boy world of Lucky Jimmy Corby, for whom money is both the object and no object. Jimmys got a twinkle in his eye and a brand-new Discovery in the underground car park. He and his close band of pals are riding high, living the life, dripping success. But the luck cant last. Elton must surely have assembled a cast of the most unsympathetic characters ever. We have the chief exec of a major bank, a fast-and-loose futures trader, an MP, a pretentious architect and a layabout living off the success of his wifes nauseat- ingly twee business. All we need to complete the set is for one of them to be the head of Haringey social services. But theres no doubt these characters are rooted in reality. You may have read only this weekend about the City broker Nicholas Beano Levene, who allegedly gambled -- and lost -- up to 70m of his clients cash by spread betting on sports results and the financial markets. Therein lies the problem with topical fiction: true life is so often more interest- ing -- and funnier. Levene apparently suggested he had specialist shares knowledge before punt- ing tens of thousands with which hed been entrusted on the recovery prospects of Northern Rock, or how many red cards were issued in a footy match. And thats a much more sexily stupid way to blow a fortune than any of those devised by Eltons banking behemoth Rupert or Lucky Jim. Also, with the books customary little bit of politics focusing on the MPs expenses scandal, the embarrassment of Eltons Cabinet hopeful Henry pales in comparison to the moat-cleaning, duck island-building, pantyliner-claiming antics of our genuine elected representatives. But thats not to say Meltdown is with- out its merits. Its written engagingly enough, there are some funny lines and (against expectations: Jimmys charisma really reaches out from the page) you warm to the central characters of Jimmy and Monica as they come to the not par- ticularly Earth-shattering conclusion that money wasnt buying them happiness. Its an easygoing read, but possibly not great escapism for those who really are facing financial trouble. REVIEWSBOOKS Bencashesin on the crunch Racyartcriticsintellectual sequelneedstobesexedup Topical: Ben Elton jumps on the recession gravy train science Dont swallow Your Gum And Other Medical Myths Debunked ByDrAaronCarrollandDrRachelVreeman (Penguin,7.99) HHHHI IS IT true that if you dont close your eyes when you sneeze your eyeballs will pop out? That eating at night makes you fat? Or that men with big feet have big penises? Even if you think you dont care, you should buy this book and you will instantly become the most popular and scintillating (or irritating and smug) person in the pub. (The answer to all of the above is no, if youre interested -- they are all myths.) The authors, American doctors, have analysed every bit of data ever published on 70 pop-med questions and their conclusions make truly fascinating reading. Never again will you worry that you havent drunk eight glasses of water a day -- it turns out that most of the water we need is in the food we eat and actually we should be careful not to drink too much water. Having green snot, as opposed to yellow, doesnt mean you need antibiotics -- even though some doctors think it does. And, sorry, but nothing can cure a hangover except not drinking too much in the first place. ANNE SHOOTER BRACE yourselves, Picoult fans. The latest release from the author of My Sisters Keeper is a change from her tried-and-tested mother has an ill or troubled child, gets angry, alienates her husband and ends up in court model. It opens with a woman stumbling out of a graveyard with no recollection of who she is. When the worlds biggest and most beautiful film star picks her up from the police station and takes her to one of three beautiful homes, she realises shes unbelievably blessed. But as memories of her childhood and marriage resurface, so do the memories of what drove her to the graveyard. Picoult has kept the engaging character portrayal and emotional melodrama that runs through all her novels while, refreshingly, giving us a new plot and a single narrator. Why the sudden change of heart? Well, it turns out Picture Perfect was first published in the States in 1995 -- before Picoult came up with her winning formula. LAUREN PAXMAN MOST of us know that James Lovelock is the man who came up with the Gaia theory -- that the Earth is a self-regulating system, almost like a living thing. Well, here is Lovelocks story. Its rather like a kitchen sink drama; I imagined parts of it in black and white. The early hardship, the childhood in Brixton and Orpington, the austerity of being a student in the war. Lots of climate science here, too, and its all very clearly explained to the reader. WILLIAM LEITH He Knew He Was Right ByJohnandMaryGribbin (Penguin,9.99) Newpaperbacks MeMOiR Jealousy: The Other Life Of catherine M ByCatherineMillet(SerpentsTail,10.99) HHHII I fully expected to read this book about literary trivia with a smirk, and I did. Here is a cornucopia of memorable stuff from books. Theres the woman who eats a urinal cake in American Psycho, the Earl of Oxford breaking wind in John Aubreys Brief lives, and the man who eats his girlfriend in Black Mischief. And did you know Henry James was often constipated? And that Thomas Hardys heart might have been eaten by a cat? WL curiosities Of Literature ByJohnSutherland (Arrow,7.99) WHY is this book about perfumes so hugely engrossing? Its a list of the authors impressions of every perfume theyve ever heard of. They like some perfumes, and dislike others, and say why. The writing is brilliant. Charlie! is described as crude and sour. Poison is the beast that defined the Eighties. Opium was the most cogent statement ever made by balsams but smells dated -- unlike No. 5, by Chanel, which is, like this book, gorgeous. WL Perfumes: The A-Z Guide ByLucaTurinandTania Sanchez(Profile,12.99) THe biG ReAD Meltdown ByBenElton(Bantam,18.99) HHHII siMOn WeLLs cHicK LiT Picture Perfect ByJodiPicoult(Hodder&Stoughton,14.99) HHHHI I DEVOuRED french art critic Catherine Millets first and hugely successful memoir, The Sexual life Of Catherine M. While on holiday in Croatia I happily read aloud the particularly smutty sections (of which there were many) to my then-boyfriend as we hopped on and off ferries, wandered around monasteries and disported ourselves across beaches. Sadly, a reading of the dirty bits in her sequel, Jealousy, wouldnt fill my bus ride to the office. Granted, Millet explores in it what she sees as the great and last taboo -- her own unexpected jealousy when she discovers her husband has been unfaithful. But its a rather hypocritical taboo, since she has entertained infinite lovers and, as chronicled in The Sexual life, has enjoyed everything from swinging to gang-bangs, both with and without her husband. She ponders her reaction. At length. It is essentially 180-odd pages of Parisian intellectual navel-gazing, but an excellent example of the genre. And it does make Millet easier to relate to. She forages through her husbands office for evidence of his affairs and drives herself half-mad with insecurity. Just like the rest of us, then. JANE MULKERRINS Infidelity: Millet with husband Jacques Henric 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