The latest on books and the arts


Vernon's book cover. Photo: Hodder and Stoughton.
Polly Vernon’s Hot Feminist attacks cartoonish, bra-burning caricatures of feminism
By Barbara Speed - 26 May 12:18

Feminists: it’s OK to be hot. But you knew that already, right? 

Alone, not lonely: in her book, Kate Bolick explores the life choices of women who decide to be single. Photo: Willy Somma
The new spinster: Kate Bolick proves there's no need to pity unmarried women
By Alice Robb - 25 May 11:18

With record numbers of us choosing to stay single, Bolick's new book explores what it means for a woman to build a rich life alone.

Danny Boyle: The BBC is “as important to our democracy as Westminster”
By Harry Lambert - 22 May 23:06

Danny Boyle, the man behind the Olympics and the upcoming Steve Jobs biopic, speaks to the New Statesman at the opening of HOME, Manchester's answer to London's Southbank.

Pegg is best-known for comedy, but says he would still like to “do some serious acting”. Photo: Getty
Is it time to take Simon Pegg seriously?
By Ryan Gilbey - 21 May 18:18

The actor’s comments about the infantilisation of culture have caused a storm. Is he right to want to put away childish things?

Professor Andre van der Merwe (L) who carried out the transplant. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A radio programme on the world's first ever penis transplant had me staring at the radio
By Antonia Quirke - 21 May 17:04

The interviewer, Matthew Bannister – generally known for keeping conversations moving dizzyingly ever forwards – was unusually quiet.

Marc Warren plays The Gentleman in Jonathan Strange. Photo: BBC
1864 and Jonathan Strange both suffer for being modern
By Rachel Cooke - 21 May 16:27

Jonathan Strange is an oddly lacklustre affair, aimed, it seems to me, at a generation brought up on Harry Potter.

French twist: Anaïs Demoustier stars as Claire. Photo: IMAGE.NET
Dark comedy The New Girlfriend is a ravishing portrait of a family after death
By Ryan Gilbey - 21 May 15:43

The films of François Ozon are polymorphously perverse.

A giant head formed the set for the Royal Opera House's Król Roger. Photo: Bill Cooper/ROH
Król Roger’s music is beautiful – but overwhelmed by constant symbolism
By Caroline Crampton - 21 May 13:59

The production makes it very clear what we are supposed to think, which sadly detracts from the variety and ambiguity the composer worked into his score. 

Edmund Kean as Richard III (1814). To see him act was to “read Shakespeare by flashes of lightning”. Picture: VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES
How to be a great actor
By Benedict Nightingale - 21 May 11:02

From Kean to Dench, the best performers radiate an electricity that transcends the stage.

Flying fox: the young Sacks on his beloved BMW bike in Greenwich Village, 1961. Photo: Douglas White
A life in motion: the many passions of Oliver Sacks
By Erica Wagner - 21 May 10:58

Sacks has written of showing “extreme immoderation” in his passions. This new book reveals them.

A whale shark in an aquarium. Photo: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
David Vann's unhappy families return in Aquarium
By Anthony Cummins - 21 May 8:37

A refinement of his earlier work, Vann's new novel gives a socially determined take on how things fall apart.

The babyfood aisle at a Best Price supermarket. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
After Birth reveals the black comedy of motherhood
By Alice O'Keeffe - 21 May 8:04

This is the dark, nightmarish little voice inside every mother, the one we spend our lives trying to shut up.

The Breakfast in Bed Café is a desperate cry for help – Ikea should stick to meatballs and sofas
By Eleanor Margolis - 20 May 17:00

Why I hate the pathetic prescribed quirkiness of Ikea's new bed-based coffee house.

Charlize Theron as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road.
No, Mad Max: Fury Road is not a feminist masterpiece (but that’s OK)
By Tracy King - 20 May 13:18

Because most Hollywood films are so bad at dealing with female characters, Mad Max: Fury Road stands out for trying. But it still uses lazy, sexist tropes and clichéd plot devices.

In bloom: the golden flowers of a forsythia bush. Photo: Cyrus McCrimmon
To every place there is a season – or several
By John Burnside - 20 May 10:01

From the glorious July that I once spent deep in the Arctic Circle to the treacherous climate of central California.

God’s waiting room: residents of Naples still tend to paupers’ remains in the Fontanelle ossuary. Photo: Contrasto
The Fontanelle ossuary: in Naples’ stacks of skulls, all men are equal
By Tom Holland - 20 May 9:22

The bones housed in the Fontanelle ossuary speak to the conviction that the obscure deserve comemmoration, too.

An oak hangs over a lake in a Munich park. Photo: Johannes Simon/Getty Images
“Metamorphosis”: a new poem by Will Eaves
By Will Eaves - 18 May 14:24

Is it the drugs or is it me?

The walking trees come from a tram

the size of several hundred dogs.

A morphine glade. (Unscheduled stop.)


Curiouser. The pain is veiled –

a hard look misted but not missed,

an apiarist in white mourning.

Why women are becoming the key ingredient in making and marketing wine
By Frances Robinson - 18 May 13:21

What does the success of the Féminalise Wine Competition tell us about wine and women?

Critical Distance: This Week in Videogame Blogging #18
By Critical Distance - 18 May 9:57

A Kanye West fan game that doubles as a cult recruitment tool?

In the Frame: Welcome to the Next Five Years of Your Life
By Tom Humberstone - 15 May 16:53

Tom Humberstone’s weekly comic.

Wind back to war: a WWII Bristol Beaufighter. Photo: HAYNES ARCHIVE/POPPERFOTO
World War II novel A God in Ruins is fiction of the best kind
By Erica Wagner - 15 May 13:45

If Kate Atkinson's Life After Life pushed the boundaries of form, A God in Ruins is simpler - and tender.

Derek Ratcliffe in the field, 1989. Picture: WILL WILLIAMS
Nature's polyglot: the life and work of Derek Ratcliffe
By Mark Cocker - 15 May 12:59

Mark Cocker remembers the great naturalist's remarkable constellation of talents.

Mahabharata unbound: rewriting the world's longest poem
By Neel Mukherjee - 15 May 12:53

Coming in at three times the length of Paradise Lost, Carole Satyamurti's modern version of the epic is a remarkable achievement.

Words of the Lord: the significance of the Bible resides in the sum of our disparate readings of it. Photo: HAROLD M LAMBERT/GETTY IMAGES
The only way to approach the Bible is with intellectual humility
By Frank Cottrell Boyce - 15 May 12:47

The Bible is, as Wilson’s title has it, the book of the people. We build our meanings together.

Rule by gadgets: demonstrating the Apple Watch. Photo: Jacopo Raule/Getty Images
Anarchic Apple watches? Face it: we like rules
By Steven Poole - 15 May 12:37

The latest book by anarchist anthropologist David Graeber reveals the technological age as one of total bureacracy.

The set for The Vote. Photo: Channel 4 Screengrab
Channel 4's The Vote was dull - especially compared to the real drama of election night
By Rachel Cooke - 14 May 16:03

For thrills, I would take that exit poll over Judi Dench and Jude Law any day.

Anthony Sher. Photo: Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images
From Falstaff to Loman: behind the scenes with Antony Sher
By Antonia Quirke - 14 May 16:00

It seems that Sher is never not speaking on the radio or being spoken about.