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In the Critics this week

John Gray on science and myth, Alex Preston on tax havens and Will Self on the connection between qu

In the Critics section of this week's New Statesman, now available in good newsagents everywhere, our lead book reviewer, John Gray, enjoys the "light and graceful prose" of Philip Ball's Unnatural: the Heretical Idea of Making People but finds this exploration of scientific ambition to be ultimately "self-defeating". Also in Books, our City and finance columnist, Alex Preston, is swept along by a forceful stream of invective in Nicholas Shaxson's Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World, which exposes a murky system of offshore wealth.

Meanwhile, Olivia Laing considers the stylistic influence of Ernest Hemingway on David Vann's grief-ridden novel Caribou Island. The popularity of computer games proves an intriguing topic for Helen Lewis-Hasteley to ponder in her review of Jane McGonigal's Reality Is Broken and Toby Litt discusses the "morbid textures" created by the twin film-makers, brothers Stephen and Timothy Quay. Roy Hattersley discusses the strengths and weakness of Robert Tressell's The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, a "bible of sentimental socialism", on the centenary of the author's death.

The modernist poet Ezra Pound is the subject of this week's Critic at Large, Helen Carr, who urges us to appreciate a "superbly gifted writer" regardless of his disastrous flirtation with fascism. Elsewhere, our film critic Ryan Gilbey praises the subtlety of David O Russell's The Fighter, while Rachel Cooke finds that HBO's Boardwalk Empire fails to live up to the hype. The NS culture editor, Jonathan Derbyshire, reports on an inspirational celebration of the German writer W G Sebald, which featured Patti Smith. Finally, Will Self muses on the "connections between ordinary eateries and mass murder".


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