Happiness and Tears: The Ken Dodd Story By Louis Barfe
Head of Zeus, £20
Much of Ken Dodd’s comedy arose from his appearance: hair sticking up as if electrified, two huge protruding teeth, large pointed nose and the ever-present “tickling stick”. The British comic’s mad, energy-charged zany act enthralled his audiences for decades as he fired out gags. He was happy to keep on perennially doing the same thing and it paid (he left £27.7 million in his will). The title suggests a possible look at the darker side of Dodd but there is far more on the “happiness” than the “tears”. We do learn that he had no social life to speak of, was engaged to one woman for 24 years until her death and then to another for 40 tears and was extremely tight with money. A readable tribute to the funny public man but too little probing of the gloomy private one.
The Second Shift By Clare Gallagher Self-published, ¤35
Clare Gallagher’s quietly furious photobook, The Second Shift, arrived just as Oxfam Ireland revealed Irish women contribute 38 million hours of unpaid care work every week. This, 50 years after Second Wave Feminism? A photography lecturer at Belfast School of Art, Gallagher’s third book, named by the Guardian as one of 15 best of 2019, worries away at getting the domestics done, while calling for resistance to capitalism’s neatest trick: getting women to work for free. Her photos focus tightly on the unacknowledged banal – overflowing laundry, overstuffed bins, food detritus in the sink, fogged-up windows, as well as tender portraits of her three sons. There’s a savage poem by Leontia Flynn and Joan Rivers: “I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes – and six months later you have to start all over again.”
The 24-Hour Cafe By Libby Page Orion Books, £12.99
Stella’s 24-hour cafe is a charming place, somewhere to take refuge in the hours that can sometimes be hard to fill, a haven in a city when it can be hard to find somewhere to be when other people’s hectic lives mean they are elsewhere. Libby Page sets her follow-up to The Lido in a London cafe with a cast of night owls and early risers. Their stories are of friendship and kindness, marriage and separation, love, loss and betrayal, the staples of easy-to-read fiction. Hannah and Mona, the waitresses who watch the ebb and flow of customers, have their own stories, but it’s their friendship that forms the backdrop. Gentle, sweet and bittersweet tales unfold with the ticking of the clock and the gurgle of the coffee machine.