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Byline: JOHANNA THOMAS-CORR

Diary of a Bad Year by JM Coetzee (Vintage, ?7.99) YOU'VE seen the split-screen film, now read the split-screen novel. The twice-winning Booker Prize writer lays out his tale like a threepart musical score. Do you read down or across? An elderly writer compiles short political essays (top of the page) while scribbling down his feelings for an alluring neighbour (next strip down) whom he persuades to type up his manuscript. But as her jealous lover hatches an elaborate computer fraud, the writer grapples with something every bit as alarming: his typist's opinions (bottom strip) are shaping his work.

This is not the first time Coetzee has presented a mirror of himself his protagonist is a South African writer transplanted to Australia. But this time, he's claiming he's had it with novels. It reads like JC's valediction don't pass it up.

The Fighter by Tim Parks (Vintage, ?7.99) TIM Parks uses the theme of conflict as an excuse to range around his interests, from Dostoevsky, Zola and Hardy to historical, cultural and social aspects of his adoptive homeland, Italy.

The title essay paints a full-blooded portrait of his most beloved brawler, D H Lawrence, who ran off with a married woman because "I must have opposition, something to fight or I shall go under", but whom, as TS Eliot remarked, displayed "an incapacity for what we ordinarily call thinking". …