The latest on books and the arts


Perfect wavelengths: the new Blur album is a smooth blend of separate interests. Photo: LINDA BROWNLEE (BLUR), REX
Big audio bounceback: new albums by Blur and The Prodigy reviewed
By Kate Mossman - 01 May 8:28

The Albarn-Coxon concoction sounds surprisingly robust.

Pendle hill. Photo: Wikimedia commons
“On Approaching Pendle Hill”: a new poem by Ben Myers
By Ben Myers - 30 April 14:10

The path up to Pendle. The sleeping beast. The purple skies.
Folk tell of witches burned or branded or drowned or hung
up there. They tell of failed crops, stillborn calves, murrain.
Always the women. Always the witches. Never the men.

A graveyard. Photo: Public domain pictures
If the dead could talk, what would they say? The Dirty Dust gives voice to the buried
By Roy Foster - 30 April 14:10

Alan Titley's translation of Máirtín Ó Cadhain's Cré na Cille brings us a novel entirely in dialogue - and set in a graveyard.

Uneasy lies the head: a self-portrait by Bruno Schulz from The Booke of Idolatry (1920-22).
A protest against reality: the life and afterlife of Bruno Schulz
By Chris Power - 30 April 12:50

He influenced writers from Salman Rushdie to Danilo Kiš - now a new novel by Maxim Biller takes us deep into the legend of the Polish-Jewish novelist.

Dame Agatha Christie. Photo: AFP
Clever novelists know how to write a story. It’s the clever-clever ones who don’t
By Ed Smith - 30 April 12:07

Modernism's legacy seems to dominate refined taste - but you can't underestimate the power of a great story.

Russell Brand, presenter of The Emperor's New Clothes. Photo: Alex Huckle/Getty Images
Don't mention politics! Rhianna Dhillon risks it on Radio 1
By Antonia Quirke - 30 April 10:31

Perhaps what Dhillon was picking up on as patronising was that if you’re addressing a slightly younger audience you have a responsibility not just to keep distracting them with quotable outrages; their minds are less experienced.

Ghost-writing: Shelley Hennig in Unfriended
Facetime your fears: Unfriended is a surprisingly up-to-date horror film – set on a laptop screen
By Ryan Gilbey - 30 April 10:29

We’ve seen too many Friday the thirteenth films to buy the sight of teenagers venturing into the deep, dark forest, but the deep, dark internet is another matter.

Cut to chase: Tom Hughes plays Joe Lambe, MI5
Second-hand spooks (but first rate cheekbones): BBC2's The Game
By Rachel Cooke - 30 April 10:26

With Tom Hughes as lead and a script by Toby Whithouse, The Game gives us a lot to like - but doesn't do enough to surprise.

Blue Labour. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty, colour cast New Statesman
How to win the future: why Blue Labour is the way forward
By Phillip Blond - 29 April 9:21

In a world so highly individualised, what we need is a cultural rather than an economic politics.

Civil savages? Rachel Caine’s “god of all dogs”. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Where the wild things are: fiction that proves we're closer to nature than we think
By Erica Wagner - 29 April 8:00

Melissa Harrison's At Hawthorn Time and Sarah Hall's The Wolf Border take us to the brink of the anthropocene.

Life after death: survivors of the genocide from Sivas, central Turkey, gather in the southern Turkish city of Aintab (now Gaziantep), 1919. Photo: BRIDGEMAN IMAGES
There is no us and them: remembering the lost Armenians
By Elif Shafak - 27 April 12:30

Perhaps the most difficult word to pronounce aloud in the Turkish language is “soykirim” – genocide.

Mortal Kombat's Kung Jin.
Critical Distance: This Week in Videogame Blogging #15
By Critical Distance - 27 April 10:24

Introducing Mortal Kombat’s first openly gay character.

Far out: Hornsby’s career has taken him from Sheena Easton to Arnold Schoenberg via the Grateful Dead. Illustration: Tony Millionaire
How Bruce Hornsby survived a hit song
By Kate Mossman - 24 April 12:59

From the Grateful Dead to Arnold Schoenberg, via Tossers Wood.

In the Frame: Farage Begins
By Tom Humberstone - 24 April 9:02

Tom Humberstone’s weekly comic.

Soaking up the sun: another distinctive vintage rises through scrubland in a valley Down Under. Photo: Mehdi Chebil/Polaris/Eyevine
The freedom of Australian vineyards leaves tasters spoilt for choice
By Nina Caplan - 23 April 17:50

Before I even got near the reds, I found myself thinking of a short story by Tolstoy, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”.

Voice of experience: Toni Morrison in 1977. Photo: REX
Lionel Shriver: Toni Morrison picked the wrong subject in God Help the Child
By Lionel Shriver - 23 April 17:29

Toni Morrison has plenty of laurels on which to rest - and this new novel isn't terrible. But given the choice, I'd read Beloved anyday.

Avengers, assemble: in Marvel’s latest offering, the camera never stops moving.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is at once too much and never quite enough
By Ryan Gilbey - 23 April 17:20

If the Marvel fan base, like an elephant, is large but easily startled, Roy Andersson's minimalist vignettes in A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence ask the viewer to endure discomfort.

The gunpowder works. Original source unknown.
Tracing the aftershocks: the explosion in Kent that was felt in East Anglia
By Colm McAuliffe - 23 April 14:14

The story of an obscure munitions disaster during the First World War meets a fragile form of biography.

Dirty money: an oil-like mess at Tate Britain during a protest in April 2011. Photo: Jeff Blacker/Rex Features
Biting the hand that funds: is the Tate losing out from its association with sponsors BP?
By Barbara Speed - 23 April 14:11

The Tate has vowed not to take money from the arms industry or tobacco firms - but the oil firm's support is just as contentious.

No easy way: Dusty Springfield performing in 1965. Photo: Dezo Hoffmann/Rex
Good vibrations: Tracey Thorn’s new book crushes our ideas about what makes a good singer
By Jude Rogers - 23 April 12:44

Naked at the Albert Hall is a history of singing that hums with freshness and passion.

A singing wren. Photo: Wikimedia commons
The birds are getting louder: untangling the dawn chorus with Chris Watson
By Antonia Quirke - 23 April 12:37

Birds are able to discriminate between waveforms in a way we cannot - and their cries are mutating.

The show must go on: Hugh Bonneville (left) in W1A
Sharpening the pen: media satire W1A is back, and its aim is as sharp as ever
By Rachel Cooke - 23 April 12:32

The mockumentary's second season opens with an hour long special - but some of it hits a bit too close to home.

Sitting comfortably? Ed in 2010. Photo: Paul Stuart.
Ed Miliband has had mixed results as an opposition leader – but he might shine as prime minister
By Anthony Seldon - 23 April 10:47

A new book by Tim Bale takes us as close as possible to understanding the awkward enigma that is Ed.

Big fish: a Hackney market trader. Photo: Ridley Rd Portrait Project, © Kate Peters
What do you do? From financiers to fishmongers, a new book shows Britain at work
By Joe Moran - 23 April 10:45

Work is now something we are supposed to be "passionate" about. But Joanna Biggs' portraits of the British workforce show that cant and hypocrisy are as resilient as ever.

Cruel intentions: Hitchcock in London during the filming of Frenzy (1972). Photo: Rex
The fat man walks alone: how Hitchcock the ham became film's greatest artist
By Leo Robson - 23 April 7:43

Today, Hitchcock is reverred for his contribution to cinema. But his reputation as a "serious" director came late, as new biographies from Michael Wood and Peter Ackroyd reveal.

Iron Man in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”.
The politics of Iron Man: how Marvel sold an arms dealing billionaire to liberal America
By Tom Hart - 22 April 8:03

On paper Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, should be a super villain. But somehow, he’s a hero, and what’s more, he’s the only American superhero you want to have a beer with.

Mikheil Gelovani as Stalin.
How do you make a film about a dictator?
By Oliver Farry - 21 April 11:55

Beyond propaganda, trying to get under the skin of despots and dictators is a near-impossible task.