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Sunday Times Books LIVE

Kate Sidley

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Paper Weight: Take salt with this punch line

One of the upsides of growing up is that by the time you reach a certain age – around 35 or 40, for most – you have made your way through a reasonable chunk of life, weeded out some non-starters, made some good choices.

You know that you prefer golden delicious to granny smith. You know that yellow doesn’t suit you and merlot gives you a hangover. You’ve been exposed to a sufficiently large number of friends, lovers, perfumes, Victoria sponge recipes, and such, and identified The One who Works for You. And you’ve found The Hairdresser. This is no small matter.

It is vitally important to have the right hairdresser. More important than having the right hair, even. I’m not Kate Middleton or Anne Hathaway, and no one takes much interest in my hair. Besides, it’s short, and could probably be managed by anyone.

But if you are in need of a cut and colour, you find yourself in the company of your hairdresser for close to two hours, every six to eight weeks, so it is crucial that you find a convivial hairdressing companion.

My Hairdresser-with-a-capital-H is Moggi. Among her many fine traits, she is well read, and eager to talk books as she snips away. One time, I read her bits of Diary of Mrs Stephen Fry and she had to stop cutting every few minutes so we could shriek and slap our thighs before continuing. She also keeps her salon stocked with the very best reading materials in Joburg.

No Hello magazines from the late Jurassic period for us. Indeed, I challenge you to find another hairdresser where you can choose between Uncut, National Geographic Traveler, Vanity Fair and Scientific American. All new copies, not old hand-me-downs with ominous-looking stains and floppy corners.

Personally, I would never touch a book or a magazine in a doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room unless I was wearing full biohazard gear. Can you imagine the germ factory that is the four-year-old décor mag in a doctor’s office?

At Moggi’s there are new and different magazines every visit. Last week I swooned to discover the latest edition of Literary Review.

This is not easy to come by in South Africa and will set you back a good few rands. A subscription for 11 issues is over £100. For that money you don’t even get glossy pictures of Scarlett Johansson.

You do, however, get smart, jargon-free writing about literature. Top writers contribute witty, insightful pieces about a wide array of books. I enjoyed a fascinating piece on a new book, The Pike: Gabriele D’Annunzio, Poet, Seducer & Preacher of War, by Lucy Hughes-Hallett on the sexually voracious Italian poet.

There was a review of William Dalrymple’s new book on Afghanistan and another on Sorry! The English and their Manners, by Henry Hitchings, who I feel sure was a character from Dickens.

Most entertaining was a review of Assholes: A Theory, by Aaron James. The aforementioned assholes are defined by their entitled ways and their obliviousness to others’ rights and complaints. Assholeness is nothing short of a moral failing, and it’s on the rise. Don’t say you were not warned.

Seriously, Literary Review is so good you may not need to read the actual books at all.

Kate Sidley is the Sunday Times Books Columnist


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