24 NOVEMBER 1990, Page 30

Christopher Hawtree

Most of my reading this year has, of course, been in Victor Silvester's Modern Dancers' Handbook, but I have also en- joyed Justin Cartwright's Look At It This Way (Macmillan, £13.95), Alan Judd's Ford Madox Ford (Collins, £15), William Boyd's Brazzaville Beach (Sinclair - Stevenson, £13.95), Ronnie Spector's Be My Baby (Macmillan, £13.95), A.N. Wil- son's C.S. Lewis (Collins, £15), Peter Ackroyd's Dickens (Sinclair-Stevenson, £19.95), Samuel Johnson's Dictionary (Longman, £200), Ray Monk's Wittgen- stein (Cape, £20), Russell Davies's Ronald Searle (Sinclair-Stevenson, £18), Anthony Burgess's You've Had Your Time (Heine- mann, £17.95), Graham Greene's Reflec- tions (Reinhardt, £14.95) and Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine (Heinemann, £13.95). A great discovery was Michel Dansel's Au Pere Lachaise (Fayard, F130) — a comic mas- terpiece published in 1972 and yet to be translated: it sets the world's strangest graveyard in an even stranger light — especially after dark. I disliked A.S. Byatt's heavily- trumpeted Possession (Chatto, £12.95): nowhere in these 500 pages is there the least trace of observed life, merely an accumulation of clumsy allusions whose effect is parochial in the worst sense. The prose is a prime example of what Justin Cartwright has called 'can-opener English'. I did not believe a word of Gilbert Adair's Love and Death on Long Island (Heine- mann, £12.95). The obsessive touring of outlying cinemas was far better managed by Julian Barnes in Before She Met Me.