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In the Critics this Week

Philip Pullman on the Anglican tradition, misunderstanding what it means to be secular and commentar

The "Critic at large" in this week's New Statesman, Philip Pullman, explains what it means to be a "Church of England atheist". Asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the magazine's guest editor this week, to define his relationship to religion, Pullman redefines himself according to what David Eagleman calls a "possibilian", writing that "just because I haven't seen or heard from him, it doesn't mean that God doesn't exist." But despite his lack of belief in a higher authority, Pullman writes that it is his cultural experience of being brought up in the Church of England tradition that helps to define his sense of self. "I am English and I was brought up to go to church every Sunday, to say my prayers, to behave in certain ways in church... We can't abandon these early memories, by which I mean both that it's impossible and that it would be wrong."

Film Critic Ryan Gilbey praises director François Ozon's sense of comedy and subtle thoughtfulness in his latest film, Potiche, where an unglamorous Catherine Deneuve shines as an overlooked housewife. "With its 1970s factory-floor settind and battle-of-the-sexes themse, the picture may resemble for UK viewers a visually sumptuous version of Carry On at Your Convenience". "Ozon has made an authentic romp with an underlying prickliness," he writes, "[this film] is candyfloss laced with barbed wire."

The Books Interview this week is with Cees Nooteboom. The Dutch author talks to Duncan Robinson about the cathartic nature of writing and discusses how his work has evolved since he wrote his first novel at the age of 22. Terry Eagleton offers his thoughts on what it means to be secular as he reviews a new collection of essays, The Joy of Secularism, edited by George Levine and published by Princeton University Press. "Most recent defences of secularism, not least those produced by "Ditchens" (Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens), have been irate, polemical affairs, powered by a crude species off-the-peg, reach-me-down Enlightenment," he writes, "This present collection of essays, by contrast is a much less fiercely contested affair...Indeed, the blandness of some of the book's contributors could benefit form a judicious dose of Hitchens-like waspishness."

Elsewhere, the NS's television critic, Rachel Cooke, is captivated by Case Histories, a new detective drama set in Edinburgh and based on Kate Atkinson's crime novels. Will Self comments on the mass irrationality that is perpetuating the senseless conflict in Afghanistan, and radio critic Antonia Quirke sharpens her claws to take a dig at Radio 1Xtra's Tim Westwood. "I suppose we're talking about a natural process here, this movement from "Oh God, that man's such a twat" to "proud to be a twat" to "loveable twat" to "national treasure"...It's a very British idea", she writes "But Westwood? Somebody stop the wheel."

Further reviews and comment: the New Statesman's culture editor Jonathan Derbyshire reviews Graham Swift's latest novel, Wish You Were Here, Helen Lewis-Hasteley talks to Alan Moore about his epic novel, Jerusalem, and Maurice Glasman explain why politicians shouldn't take David Brooks so seriously as he review his newest book, The Social Animal: a Story of How Success Happens, which offers a "readable presentation of research findings from the fields of behavioural and cognitive psychology, as well as neuroscience, and also guide to how to become a better person."