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In the Critics this week

Craig Raine on Hockney, Alec MacGillis on the Obamas and Colm Toibin on Alice James.

The Critic at large in this week's New Statesman is the poet and novelist Craig Raine. In the first of a series of essays on the visual arts for the NS, Raine considers David Hockney's "abiding concern with the nature of representation". For Hockney, Raine argues, "photography's hegemony is finished ... For [him], the camera is only a near equivalent to the way we experience reality ... Hockney's aim is to place the viewer inside the painting." The results, Raine thinks, are not uniformly successful, but there are undeniable "high points" in this show. "Allow four hours at least," Raine advises. "There's a lot to look at, a lot to think about."

In Books, the American political journalist Alec MacGillis reviews Jodi Kantor's The Obamas: a Mission, a Marriage. "With a writerly touch, Kantor conveys the oddly regal universe of the White House though the eyes of a couple who, just a few years earlier, had been living in a mid-sized apartment and had 'campaigned in 2008 as being citizens of the real world'". The problem with Kantor's account, MacGillis writes, is that it "assumes a prevailing inside-the-Beltway view of the Obamas' challenges". (Jodi Kantor will be the subject of next week's Books Interview.)

In the Books interview, Sophie Elmhirst talks to Marwan Bishara about his new book The Invisible Arab. Bishara insists that the role of social media in the Arab Spring should not be underestimated. "Technology had an important contribution to make ... [It] allowed the youth to open up to the rest of the world."

Also in Books: Novelist Colm Toibin writes an appreciation of Alice James, sister of William and Henry. "What she and her two eldest brothers shared, what sets them apart and makes their lives of such continuing interest, was the quality and intensity of their self-consciousness." Other reviews: Leo Robson on Hemingway's Boat by Paul Hendrickson; Mona Siddiqui on Heaven on Earth by Sadakat Kadri; George Eaton on Why It's Kicking off Everywhere and Rare Earth by Paul Mason; and Jonathan Derbyshire on The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.

Elsewhere in Critics: Ryan Gilbey on The Descendants; Rachel Cooke on We'll Take Manhattan (BBC4); Andrew Billen on Travelling Light at the National Theatre; "Test Card", a poem by David Briggs; Antonia Quirke on The Politics of Pandas (Radio 4); and Will Self's Madness of Crowds.