24 NOVEMBER 1990, Page 30

Jonathan Cecil

Frances Partridge's latest collection of diaries, Hanging On: 1960-1963 (Collins, £15) is, as ever, beautifully written and observed. Neither sparing nor pitying her- self, her account of coping with tragic bereavement is heartening as well as heart- rending. There is also a great deal of humour: her appreciation of people's foi- bles is all the more devastating for being quite unmalicious.

I enjoyed Hugo Williams' poems in Self-Portrait with a Slide (Oxford, £5.95). He is a true original with a powerful, comic, grotesque streak but even better in more realistic vein: wistfully pin-pointing the trivial details and disappointments of life.

Reviewing several 'show-business' books I was struck by the poverty of the illustra- tions except in Michael Freedland's Ken- neth Williams (Weidenfeld, £15). Photo- graphs can tell one more about performers than any amount of purple prose and backstage gossip. One such book, how- ever, not needing illustrations is Ken Tynan's Profiles, now in paperback (Nick Hem, £9.95). His pen-portraits were as brilliant as his judgment of plays was uncertain. By the way, isn't it cheering that, with the collapse of communism, no one need be ashamed any more of not enjoying Brecht!