Most writers scratch and fidget, gaze longingly at the telephone, developneurotic ticks, suffer fits of envy, fury, self-pity... and then get alittle writing done. Anthony Burgess, on the other hand, seems to havewritten a chapter before breakfast, knocked off a couple of book reviewsbefore lunch, written a symphony over crumpets and tea, and finallyrelaxed by reading THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY in Mandarin translation. Hisenergy must have provoked suspicion among his peers, who failed to giveEARTHLY POWERS the Booker Prize it so richly deserved. The novel may behis greatest achievement: charting eighty years in the life of KennethToomey as he crosses continents, meets artists and Nazis, Americancultists and a devil-bashing Pope. It is a picaresque comedy that looksinto some of the darkest recesses of the 20th Century. It is huge,rambunctious, and encyclopedic. And don't let that put you off: this(slow) reader finished it in four days. So chuck out that wretchedthriller. Make EARTHLY POWERS your holiday read.