Provence and the Côte D’Azur

(by J McCulloch) The South of France may have slipped down the rankings of getaways for the great and good but it is still a superb region in which to luxuriate. This beautiful guide is not only packed with information; it is packed with the right information, first-hand and canny and laced with photos that are almost better than being there.  

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The Sheltering Sky

(Paul Bowles) We cannot in this instance agree with the Big V’s view that this book is “an utterly ridiculous performance, devoid of talent.”[1] Bowles did admire Nabokov and his reaction to this verdict upon his most famous book makes for nice speculation. But then, VN was never a fan of the existentialists. Port and Kit Moresby try a Saharan trek to salvage their loveless marriage and end up destroyed by kif, heat, sexual assault, typhoid and catatonia, a fairly accurate reflection (death from typhoid aside) of the real life of Paul and Jane Bowles. Appalling experiences related in commonplace…

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The Caretaker

(by Harold Pinter) Pinter-esque power games, full of menace, pauses, hopelessness and procrastination; we’re all still waiting for the weather to break in order to collect those papers from Sidcup! (Jonathon Pryce played Davies aka Jenkins in Adelaide in March 2012; P ‘liked’, L did not). We both commend the film version with Donald Pleasance, Alan Bates and Robert Shaw.)

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Paris: A Guide to the City’s Creative Heart

(by Janelle McCulloch) A sumptuous celebration and guidebook in one, this is the refreshing literary equivalent of taking Dom Pérignon with Coupe Hélène. Janelle McCulloch isn’t just a style guru; she is an informed omnivore of culture (see her magnificent website, A Library of Design). In this book she presents the world’s favourite city in an easy, informed way, helping newbies negotiate and appreciate the profusion of arrondisements and letting old hands savour the incomparable glamour and high style of the City of Lights. No point in buying only one copy as a gift because you’ll never give it away….

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Mephisto

(Klaus Mann) Haughty toad sucks up to artsy-nazis to progress in the theatre; his Faustian bargain gets him more than expected. It’s not hard to see why the estate of Gustaf Gründgens, the actor whose role as Mephistopheles bewitched that drama-lover Goering, sought to have the book banned by a German constitutional Court (in the old days they would simply have lobbed it on the bonfire).

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