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In the Critics this week

Julia Copus on time in art and literature, Toby Litt on Blondie and a new short story from John Burnside.

New Statesman
Debbie Harry on stage in 1980 (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In the Critics section of this week’s New Statesman, our Critic at large is the award-winning poet Julia Copus, who explores the role of time in art and literature. Considering the legend of Hero and Leander, Copus writes: “Though Leander’s fate is undoubtedly tragic, to my mind it is Hero who deserves the greater part of our sympathy, as she sets about the daily and unenviable task of waiting.” Human beings, Copus continues, “have long felt the need to regulate the passage of time”. A good example is the use of slow-motion in cinema: “the determination on the faces of the runners in Chariots of Fire, the menace of that walk in Reservoir Dogs, the mix of fear and elation that precipitates Thelma and Louise’s plunge over the edge of the Grand Canyon into their final sunset.”

In the latest in our programme of original fiction, poet, novelist and NS nature columnist John Burnside contributes a new short story, “Perfect and private things”, written exclusively for the New Statesman.

In Books, Toby Litt reviews Dick Porter and Kris Need’s book about Blondie, Parallel Lives. “Blondie had never been big on polished perfection,” Litt observes. “Their difficulty was that, for a very brief time, they – and their singer [Debbie Harry] – achieved it.” Also in Books: Talitha Stevenson reviews Missing Out by Adam Phillips; Sarah Churchwell on Edith Wharton’s letters to her governess Anna Bahlmann; and Alec MacGillis, senior editor at the New Republic and a seasoned Washington hand, reviews David Maraniss’s biography of the young Barack Obama.

Elsewhere in the Critics: Ryan Gilbey reviews Florent-Emilio Siri’s new film Cloclo; Rachel Cooke on True Love on BBC1; Antonia Quirke on Radio 3’s Private Passions; and Will Self’s "Madness of Crowds".