In the Critics this week

John Gray on Richard Holloway, Richard Evans on A N Wilson and Claude Lanzmann interviewed.

In the Critics in this week's New Statesman, the NS's lead book reviewer John Gray is entranced by Richard Holloway's memoir Leaving Alexandria.This is "a profound, personal investigation of the virtues and flaws of religion," Gray writes, "and the most stirring autobiography I have read in a great many years." Holloway's thinking on religion, Gray argues, is "searching and subtle", and his agnosticism "poses a more fundamental challenge to Christianity than any that has been posed by the so-called new atheists".

In the Books Interview, Sophie Elmhirst talks to John Lanchester about his new novel Capital. This is both a book about London, Lanchester says, and a book about the ubiquitous language of money. Of the latter, he says: "It's like ... a code written on the surface of things; it's in flow all around us, all the time ... I was keen to ... see some of the specific ways in which specific sums of money exert different forces on different characters at different times."

Also in Books, the leading historian of the Third Reich Richard J Evans reviews A N Wilson's Hitler: a Short Biography. Noting that Wilson doesn't appear to read German, Evans writes: "[He does not] seem to have thought very hard or taken much care over what little reading he has done". All we find, Evans concludes, is "evidence of the repellent arrogance of a man who thinks that because he is a celebrated novelist, he can write a book about Hitler that people should read, even though he's put very little work into writing it and even less thought."

Other book reviews: Olivia Laing on Hope: a Tragedy by Shalom Auslander; Ed Smith on American Gridlock by H Woody Brock; David Shariatmadari on Patriot of Persia by Christopher de Bellaigue.

Elsewhere in the Critics: Jonathan Derbyshire profiles Claude Lanzmann, resistance fighter, writer and director of Shoah; Ryan Gilbey on Trishna, Michael Winterbottom's updating of Tess of the d'Urbevilles; Rachel Cooke is dismayed by the "tick-box drama" of White Heat on BBC2; Helen Lewis pays tribute to Peter Cook; Ludovic Hunter-Tilney meets Alice Coleman, scourge of the tower block; and Antonia Quirke listens to Desert Island Discs. PLUS: "Posthumous", a poem by Olivia Byard; Will Self's Madness of Crowds; and The Fan by Hunter Davies.

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Brexit… Leg-sit

A new poem by Jo-Ella Sarich. 

Forgot Brexit. An ostrich just walked into the room. Actually,
forget ostriches too. Armadillos also have legs, and shoulder plates
like a Kardashian.  Then I walked in, the other version of me, the one
with legs like wilding pines, when all of them

are the lumberjacks. Forget forests. Carbon sinks are down
this month; Switzerland is the neutral territory
that carved out an island for itself. My body
is the battleground you sketch. My body is
the greenfield development, and you
are the heavy earthmoving equipment. Forget
the artillery in the hills
and the rooftops opening up like nesting boxes. Forget about

the arms race. Cheekbones are the new upper arms
since Michelle lost out to Melania. My cheekbones
are the Horsehead Nebula and you are the Russians
at warp speed. Race you to the finish. North Korea

will go away if you stop thinking
about it. South Korea will, too. Stop thinking
about my sternum. Stop thinking about
the intricacy of my mitochondria. Thigh gaps
are the new wage gaps, and mine is like
the space between the redwood stand
and the plane headed for the mountains. Look,

I’ve pulled up a presentation
with seven different eschatologies
you might like to try. Forget that my arms
are the yellow tape around the heritage tree. Forget
about my exoskeleton. Forget
that the hermit crab
has no shell of its own. Forget that the crab ever
walked sideways into the room.
Pay attention, people.

Jo-Ella Sarich is a New Zealand-based lawyer and poet. Her poems have appeared in the Galway Review and the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017.

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear