In the Critics this week

Julian Assange, Shirley Bassey and questionable Booker prize judges.

This week's issue of the New Statesman contains our autumn books special. Our critic at large, Jonathan Bate, Provost of Worcester College, Oxford and one of the country's leading Shakespeare scholars, writes about our fascination with the Tudors. More important in the Tudor period than Henry VIII's sexual indiscretions or Elizabeth I's spy network, he argues, was the development of of the printing press. The NS's lead book reviewer John Gray reviews Arguably, a collection of Christopher Hitchens's journalism, former WikiLeaks staffer James Ball assesses about Julian Assange: the Unauthorised Autobiography and Dava Sobel talks to Jonathan Derbyshire about her latest book A More Perfect Heaven. Elsewhere, Leo Robson wonders how qualified this year's Man Booker Prize judges are for their role and Ryan Gilbey reviews Lars Von Trier's latest film, Melancholia. Plus: Karl Miller on Diana Athill, Vernon Bogdanor on Max Hastings, Ed Smith on Rafael Nadal, Lisa Appignanesi on Darian Leader and madness, Antonia Quirke on our attitude towards robots, Will Self on body piercings and Rachel Cooke on Shirley Bassey.

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On Wheels

A new poem by Patrick Mackie

The hills swarm and soften towards the end of the day just as
flames do in a fireplace as the evening
loosens and breaks open and lets out night.
A nasty, grotesque, impatient year ended,
and the new one will be bitter,
tired, opaque. Words wrangle in every inch of air,
their mouths wide open in stupid shock
at what they have just heard every time they hear anything. Venus,
though, blazes with heavy wobbles of albeit frozen
light. Brecht, who I like to call my
brother just as he called Shelley his,
has a short late poem where he sits by a roadside, waiting
while someone changes the wheel on his car,
watching with impatience, despite not liking
either the place that he is coming from or
the place that he is going to. We call it
connectivity when in truth it is just aggression
and imitation writ ever larger. Poems, though,
are forms of infinite and wry but also briskly
impatient patience. Brecht’s poem seems to end,
for instance, almost before you
can read it. It wheels. The goddess is just a big, bright
wilderness but then soon enough she clothes
herself again in the openness of night and I lose her.

Patrick Mackie’s latest collection, The Further Adventures Of The Lives Of The Saints, is published by CB Editions.

This article first appeared in the 18 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Age of Lies

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