In The Critics this week

David Cameron's student days, Patti Smith, and the return of our theatre critic.

Two things in particular make this a week to remember: one is the return of our theatre critic, Andrew Billen, who reviews Serenading Louie at the Donmar Warehouse; the other is the launch of our Young Music Critic competition, introduced with an exclusive essay on the future of arts criticism by Norman Lebrecht.

As part of this week's Tory special, David Cameron's former tutor Vernon Bogdanor reviews Tim Bales's new book, The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron.

Elsewhere, Jude Rogers reviews Patti Smith's memoir of her time with Robert Mapplethorpe and Robin Yassin-Kassab takes on Joshua Ferris's new novel, The Unnamed. And Ferris himself answers our questions in The Books Interview.

Plus, there are the usual columns from our award-winning critics: Rachel Cooke (on the BBC's latest US drama import, Damages), Antonia Quirke (on radio coverage of the Baftas), and Will Self (on the rise of the all-day breakfast). Ryan Gilbey is away this week, so Lisa Mullen reviews Michael Moore's latest film effort, Capitalism: a Love Story.

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Poem: "When the Americans came"

“Do you have vampires around here?”

When the Americans came,

they didn’t take to our gardens:

the apple orchard smelling of wild garlic,

foxgloves growing among the runner beans.


“Do you have vampires around here?”

a visitor from Carolina asked me.

It was a shambles, Wilfred knew that,

nodding wisely as though apologising


for the ill manners of King George,

the clematis purple in the thatched roofing.

But come the softe sonne,

there are oxlips in Fry’s woods,


forget-me-nots in the shallow stream,

lettuce and spring onions for a salad.

It’s certain that fine women eat

A crazy salad with their meat*


I tried to tell them. But they weren’t women,

and didn’t care to listen to a boy.

They preferred the red rosehips

we used for making wine.


Danced outside the village church

round the maypole Jack Parnham made.

Now they’re gone,

the wild garlic has returned.


* W B Yeats, “A Prayer for My Daughter”


William Bedford is a novelist, children’s author and poet. His eighth collection of verse, The Bread Horse, is published by Red Squirrel Press.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood