John Lanchester

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita – more specifically, on the evening of my 35th birthday, last week – I saw Tom Cruise. He was sitting at the next table in a restaurant, accompanied by his equally small and perfectly formed wife Nicole Kidman and eight buddies. I suppose the world’s two most famous Scientologists, apart of course from John Travolta and the late L. Ron himself, were in town for the premières of their respective new movies. Or perhaps this was just another symptom of the reinvention of London as the hippest, most happening, furthest-molecule-forward-on-the-cutting-edge city since Periclean Athens. (Actually, the alacrity with which the locals have fallen on Newsweek’s emetic paean to ‘Cool Britannia’ and Vanity Fair’s ditto to ‘Swinging London’ is a medium-sized symptom of decline in itself – but I digress.) Cruise was giving the dinner, it turned out, and he did a certain amount of pantomime with the wine, swirling and sniffing and sipping, before nodding with great formality and permitting it to be poured; after which everyone else swirled and sniffed and sipped and nodded with great formality, too. It wasn’t hard to work out who was the Alpha Male.

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[*] Eat Fat by Richard Klein (Picador, 247 pp., £15.99, 24 January, 0330 34293 2).