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TWENTIETH CENTURY POP CULTURE. By Dan Epstein. Carlton Books pound;19.99. 256pp

Reading this book straight through is like eating a pound of Jelly Babies and Liquorice Allsorts in one go - an act of guilty pleasure to be followed by an attack of mental indigestion. Every year from 1945 is given four pages of iconic photographs (turning from black and white to lurid colour as the Fifties turn into the Sixties), lists of Oscar winners, top TV shows, best-selling records and laconic items of news from the world of adults.

Spaced between them, under catchy headlines, are stories about the stars and styles, cars and clothes that have enticed teenagers into states of arousal, bliss, envy and illusion.

This s a world in which the death of Martin Luther King rates nine words while the birth of The Partridge Family rates nine square inches of smirking imagery. Whether you're old enough to remember Ronald Reagan as a film star or young enough to think Monica Lewinsky is quite an old lady, there's something here to help you wallow in self-indulgence.

It won't help you to think clearly about what pop culture means; there is no real argument, just an exhaustive trek across the surface. Nor can you follow any thematic path, such as looking up drugs or protest or fast food - there is no index. But at least the book's exclusive American focus ensures the happy absence of Sir Cliff Richard.

Tom Deveson

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