Book reviews: Dusty | Prison | You Are Here | The Telephone Gambit
DUSTY BY ANNIE J RANDALL (OUP, £12.99)
"WHAT have I done to deserve this?" asked Dusty Springfield in her collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys. She might have been thinking of this painfully earnest study. It's not that it's under-researched or unintelligent or lacking in real insight even – and it's true that a talent like Dusty's deserved more than the usual showbiz cut-and-paste. But, where's the jouissance? All the magnetism and mystique of what Randall (nicely) calls the "Queen of the Postmods" gravely unpacked and solemnly itemised; all that camp energy reduced to sad scholasticism.
PRISON BY EDWARD MARSTON (National Archive, 18)
REMARRIAGE, observed Dr Johnson, represented the triumph of hope over experience. The same might be said of the idea that "prison works". Marston's history of a grim institution goes back only as far as medieval times, but its hopeless ineffectiveness is evident throughout. From the "durance vile" of the Middle Ages to the "holiday camp" of today, the fundamentals of existence behind bars have hardly changed. Prison strikes a nice balance between the dismal and the enjoyably macabre.
YOU ARE HERE BY CHRISTOPHER POTTER (Hutchinson, 20)
THIS "Portable History of the Universe" is awe-inspiring in its reach. It ranges easily over millions of miles and takes in billions of centuries at a stroke, yet at the same time it's somehow intimate and conversational in its manner. The engaging medium is the message, perhaps: to contemplate the universe, suggests Potter, is "to find ourselves at two poles at the same time: we are uniquely special and we are insignificant". Playing both poles against the middle with extraordinary aplomb, his book opens up to us the vastness of the cosmos.
THE TELEPHONE GAMBIT BY SETH SHULMAN (Norton, 11.99)
JAMES Watt, John Logie Baird, Alexander Fleming, John Boyd Dunlop … The list of Scottish inventors is almost endless. Which is just as well, given that it looks as though we may be about to lose a biggie. Alexander Graham Bell, says Shulman, far from having invented the telephone himself, hijacked the patent application of American researcher Elisha Gray. Unlikely as it may sound, the evidence is extensive – and damning. And in Shulman's hands it all unfolds as tensely, as suspensefully, as any thriller.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west