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Paperback reviews

Billy And Girl by Deborah Levy (Bloomsbury, £7.99)

Levy's recent Booker short-listing has allowed for the release of her backlist, and the re-publication of this short novel from 1996. It's a slightly surreal but oddly appropriate tale of the eponymous siblings who have to fend for themselves in a Tim Burton-esque England after their father commits suicide and their mother vanishes.

The Death Of King Arthur by Simon Armitage (Faber, £7.99)

The 15th-century poem the Alliterative Morte Arthure followed Old English linguistic patterns in its account of Arthur's legendary status and final battle with his nephew Mordred. Armitage has handled these patterns with enough sensitivity, as well as bursts of energy and enthusiasm, so as to render the constant and occasionally irritating alliteration almost unnoticeable.

The Girl In The Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender (Windmill, £7.99)

You have to love quirky set-ups and precocious characters to appreciate this collection of short stories from the mistress of the surreal. Some faintly transgressive sex rescues them from the drawer marked "twee", but otherwise Bender is a specific taste (although her New York Times bestseller status indicates a popular kind of specificity).

The Shadow Of A Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation Of The King James Bible by Harold Bloom (Yale University Press, £11.99)

Bloom's literary appreciation takes in several Bibles – the King James version and the Geneva Bible, as well as the Hebrew and Greek texts – whilst arguing contentiously as ever for women scribes who penned Deborah's War Song and Miriam's Song Of The Sea, as well as acknowledging how "uneasy" the "great prophets" make him.

Lesley McDowell

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