15 NOVEMBER 1997, Page 38

Jonathan Cecil

I read two excellent — wildly different autobiographies: Frank Muir's — mellow, hilarious, at times nicely astringent (A Kentish Lad, Bantam, £16.99) — and Stephen Fry's painful resuscitation of a delinquent childhood — tempered with all manner of amusingly provocative comment (Moab is my Washpot, Hutchinson, £16.99).

Rose Collis's biography of Nancy Spain brings a forgotten media person and era brilliantly to life (A Trouser-Wearing Character, Cassell, £20).

Of novels I admired, though hardly enjoyed, Roddy Doyle's The Woman who Walked into Doors (Minerva, £6.99) which shows a bleaker, more despairing side of this immensely talented realist.

I dipped once more into Anthony Powell's Music of Time sequence. In the light of the entertaining but greatly com- pressed television version there have been many — sometimes hostile — reappraisals, but few have pointed out the author's poet- ic side — especially as portrayer of London — or his uniquely detached, unmalicious character comedy. Of snobbism I can find little trace. Comparisons with Powell's mutual admirer Evelyn Waugh are unhelp- ful: Proust and Balzac would be more apposite.

For unadulterated enjoyment, do buy the latest Oldie annual (Oldie Publications, £9.99).