Annabel Davis-Goff
October 09, 1992 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Alma

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Gordon Burn
publisher
Houghton Mifflin
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A

Noel Coward, who wrote the line, ”Extraordinary how potent cheap music is,” appears as a minor character in Alma, a novel about Alma Cogan, a British pop star of the ’50s whose tinny sound (”Bell Bottom Blues,” ”Sugartime”) is still evocative. Cogan died at 34 of cancer in 1966, but in Gordon Burn’s beautifully original blend of fact and fiction she is still alive, although Cogan and the culture she represents have been erased, seemingly overnight, by the music of the ’60s, by the cult of youth, the cult of explicit sexuality, and by the internationalization of the entertainment industry. As Alma’s moment fades and she becomes poor and dependent on alcohol, Burn offers some powerful insights into the not entirely unrelated subjects of violence and celebrity. A

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