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.

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".


Debbie Harry on stage in 1980 (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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"The Anatolian Fertility Goddess": a poem by Fiona Pitt-Kethley

Across the Golden Horn in Karakoy. . . 

Across the Golden Horn in Karakoy,
a maze of ancient, crooked, cobbled streets
contains the brothels of old Istanbul.
A vendor at the bottom of the hill
sells macho-hot green chilli sandwiches.
A cudgel-wielding policeman guards the gate.
One year, dressed as a man, I went inside
(women and drunks are not allowed in there).
I mingled with the mass of customers,
in shirt, grey trousers, heavy walking boots.
A thick tweed jacket flattened out my breasts.
A khaki forage cap concealed my hair.
The night was young, the queues at doors were short.
Far down the street a crowd of men stood round
and watched a woman dancing in a house.
Her sixty, sixty, sixty figure poured inside
a flesh-tone, skin-tight, Lycra leotard,
quivered like milk-jelly on a shaken plate.
I’ve seen her type before in small museums –
primeval blobs of roughly sculpted stone –
the earliest form of goddess known to man.

Fiona Pitt-Kethley is a British poet, novelist and journalist living in Spain. Her Selected Poems was published in 2008 by Salt.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad