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In the Critics this Week

An American writing special with Elif Batuman, Dave Eggers and Jonathan Derbyshire on David Foster W

In the critics' section of this week's New Statesman, culture editor Jonathan Derbyshire reviews David Foster Wallace's final novel, The Pale King, admiring one of the few novelists to "have taken as seriously ... to obligation to write truthfully about the way in which we live today". This "unfinished, uneven" novel is, both Derbyshire and the late Wallace's editor Michael Pietsch agree, "spectacular". Sophie Elmhirst interviews Dave Eggers and finds him a man whose "resistance to accepting credit is perhaps the sign of someone who feels he has been over-praised ... singled out because of his writerly fame at the expense of unsung grafters". This week's critic-at-large, Elif Batuman, recalls her short-lived experience of creative writing courses, and wonders whether they have "damaged America's literary imagination".

Olivia Laing reviews A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan ("an audacious, surprisingly affecting novel-in-pieces"), and David Herman hails a younger generation of Jewish-American writers - work which is "neither pious nor solemn". Our film critic, Ryan Gilbey considers Meek's Cutoff, a film which, directed by Kelly Reichardt, offers a "predominantly female slant on the Western"; whilst TV critic Rachel Cooke writes on The Kennedys, currently showing on the History channel. Confused by its "schlocky terribleness" she wonders why it's so "alluringly awful" - "the writers have piled in every bit of scandal", and this "lust for tabloid completion crowds out nuance, not to mention good writing".

Elsewhere, Andrew Billen visits the Lyttelton Theatre to watch "an overly grand production" of Rocket to the Moon by Clifford Odet. Directed by Angus Jackson, the production is "leisurely", though both plot and characters "struggle to fill" a "beautiful set reminiscent of an Edward Hopper painting". Sanjoy Roy watches the Pet Shop Boys' foray into ballet ("a publicist's dream"), which rapidly reveals itself to be "a profusion of styles and cultural references": "it is, in truth, all rather too much", and "choreography seems to largely chase itself around the set". On the radio, Antonia Quirke listens to Bahamas on More 94 FM, concluding that the only entity that can be deemed "incredible" by a Bahamian deacon who "knows that there is very little on earth that defies credibility" is Rihanna.