Paperbacks

2nd August 1996 at 01:00
Now here's a canny idea. Write a book about your family holiday. I mean, you've got three sardonic teenage children, all prone to quirky behaviour and intelligent witticisms, and your spouse has a pathological fear of flying and American freeways which is why you're going to drive across the United States.

Of course, publication will be easier if you're an established novelist and playwright and also friendly with young Mr Faber. But, while many readers may feel their own version of Nigel Williams' From Wimbledon to Waco (Faber Pounds 5.99) could be equally amusing, it has to be said his holiday journal reads seductively well.

Alternatively you could ask Mr Faber to publish your last year's diary. This time it might help if you can recount your phone conversations with David Bowie, the medical advice you were given by Pavarotti and how you presented the Turner Prize. Plus making albums with the bands U2 and James, producing Elvis Costello and visiting America, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Egypt and Italy.

All this happens in A Year with Swollen Appendices (Faber Pounds 9.99), artist and musician Brian Eno's diary for 1995. The eponymous extra bits include essays on ambient music, axis thinking and CD-Roms. It's all remarkably unpretentious, frank and full of gossip.

Another happy field to plunder is your childhood. The Irish novelist Aidan Higgins has done that in Donkey's Years (Minerva Pounds 6.99) which describes his adolescence in Kildare and his young manhood as a puppeteer. He was born in 1927 when sanitary arrangements (described in literally earthy detail) were such as to make this picture of childhood one you may hesitate to use in class. The chapter on his Jesuit boarding school, Clongowes College, is equally frank as its title suggests: "The Bracing Air of Sodom".

This isn't Ballykissangel. You need to appreciate things genuinely Irish: it's rather like growing up with a highly literate playboy of the Western World. Higgins also has a marvellous recall of detail that will stir many memories.

Holiday time is not just for nostalgia. Brian Eno offers us some "unthinkable futures". Tanned skin will again be a mark of the peasantry. Pharmaceutical companies will sell drugs to "pacify" children under names like "Mr Sandman" and "Land of Nod". And successful children will be traded between schools for huge transfer fees.

Adrian Berry's The Next 500 Years (Headline Pounds 7.99) is more scientific. What chance of colonising Mars? Extending the human life span enormously? Avoiding earth-shattering asteroids? Preserving human personalities on disk?

It's more restful to stick to what really matters. Why was there apple blossom in June in Jane Austen's Emma? Is Alec a rapist (in Hardy's Tess)? And Is Heathcliff a Murderer? John Sutherland gently taxes the brain in this series of literary puzzles, published by Oxford (Pounds 3.99) in their World's Classics series. What I want to know is: Is it a coincidence that all these puzzles refer to other World's Classics?

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