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August 06, 1995|CHARLES SOLOMON

LETTERS FROM LONDON by Julian Barnes (Vintage: $13; 320 pp.). Julian Barnes' discussions of British politics display an erudite wit few American commentators can match. Reporting on the televised sessions of the House of Commons, he observes, "The Mother of all Parliaments--which is how the British are encouraged to think of their legislature--came across more like a fat sow rolling on her farrow." His description of the campaign to make political nonentity John Major into an acceptable candidate for Prime Minister has a distressingly familiar ring: ". . . The natural process of political presentation and self-presentation was underway: limitations were made into normality, normality into virtue." Barnes also comments on the reign and fall of Margaret Thatcher, the follies of the Royal Family, the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the financial shenanigans that shook the venerable Lloyd's of London.

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