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Monday 21 January 2019

Femme bookend: Ready-made script in cowboy classic

The Big Novel

It's the great John Wayne's ultimate cowboy role, a forthcoming Coen brothers remake. True Grit by Charles Portis, a story whose tight prose is revered by writers, is reissued by Bloomsbury, with an introduction by The Secret History author Donna Tartt.

Our heroine, 14-year-old Mattie Ross, sets out to avenge her father. She's a farm girl, who defines her social setting with the snobbish: "We had clear title to 480 acres of good bottom land on the south bank of the Arkansas River."

True Grit is famous for its brilliant, terse exchanges -- the most famous: "Do you need a good lawyer?"

"I need a good judge."

Don't read it on the train. You'll gulp it down in one great mouthful, but when you look up, you'll be sitting forgotten in a siding outside Limerick Junction.

The Chicklit

The sensational news is out: Richard Woodruff, Democratic Senator for New York, is having an affair with a staffer, and he's slid her into a nice job.

In Jennifer Weiner's fastseller Fly Away Home (Simon & Schuster), the senator's wife Sylvie boxes Dickie's ears and goes home to the Connecticut seaside to have a think, calling her two daughters in under her wing. Will she go back to her straying husband?

Sylvie is the quintessential political wife -- Mrs Perfect, married to Senator Boyish Charm. But now she sheds her Botoxed bodywork, learns to cook and reconnects with the girls. And what a mess they are: one, a doctor, having a hot (and so funny) affair to escape her dank hubby; the other struggling with addiction. Witty and fast, this is a book that'll have you gazing at the pols in their sharp suits and wondering . . .

The Big Non-Fiction

It was the fall of Communism that bust the economic bubble, John Lanchester theorises in Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay (Penguin). When the capitalist and Communist countries had a 'beauty contest', we had to be the good guys. We were "the most admirable societies the world had ever seen".

But when the Berlin Wall came crashing down, and with it the Communist states of Russia, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia and the rest, there was no more need for virtue.

If you want to know how the bubble burst and why, read this horribly funny book, written just before Ireland's recent Great Unpleasantness.

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