The latest on books and the arts


God’s houses: arboretums recall the architectural grandeur of churches. Photo: Mike Vardy/Science Photo Library
Botanical gardens are the cathedrals of our times
By John Burnside - 18 February 10:20

In the bleak midwinter, there are few walks more energising.

"Let's go with Labour" (1964). Photo: People's History Museum
The People’s History Museum in Manchester is the most forthright museum I’ve ever visited
By Stephanie Boland - 17 February 12:02

A new exhibition, Election! Britain Votes, at the People’s History Museum in Manchester explores the nature of democracy in a candid and sincere fashion that is far removed from the complacency we often get when museums try and do politics.

Pablo Larrain with the silver bear for The Club. Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty
Wayward priests and sexual neuroses: highlights from the Berlin Film Festival
By Ryan Gilbey - 17 February 12:00

There was far more to the festival than Fifty Shades.

Time regained: a panel from Richard McGuire's haunting graphic novel Here.
Substance abuse: How form meets content in three new graphic novels
By Yo Zushi - 17 February 10:31

Scott McCloud's The Sculptor, Richard McGuire's Here and Joe Sacco's Bumf.

Cardboard Computer's Kentucky Route Zero.
Critical Distance: This Week in Videogame Blogging #6
By Critical Distance - 16 February 15:52

Game cinematography and the player as director.

The Berlin film festival.
Genau or never: Timelines and plotlines alike confuse at the Berlin Film Festival
By Ryan Gilbey - 16 February 9:42

Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups is insipid – but Andrew Heigh's 45 Years proves it's not all bad. 

Actors Jamie Dornan (L) and Dakota Johnson attend the "50 Shades Of Grey" New York Fan First screening at Ziegfeld Theatre on 6 February 2015 in New York City. Photo: Getty Images
50 Shades of Grey: a film about male power, idealising emotional abuse as sexy when it isn't
By Zoe Margolis - 13 February 17:41

All good relationships are built on respect, trust and consent - and the one at the centre of this film contains none of that.

Tick-tock-box politics: Big Ben gets cleaned
Slimeballs and sleeping bags: BBC2's Inside the Commons
By Rachel Cooke - 13 February 11:44

In Parliament, deals are being cut everywhere. Some are gruesome, others merely farcical.

A student takes notes. Photo: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images
I was 13 when my English teacher asked me to go camping. I thought it was because he loved my poetry
By Suzanne Moore - 13 February 11:20

Mr Greenaway pursued me and another girl in the class and I felt almost literary. Then my mum went and ruined everything.

In the Frame: Generation gap
By Tom Humberstone - 13 February 10:58

Tom Humberstone’s weekly comic.

A health worker administers the polio vaccine to children in Yemen. Photo: Reuters
How immunity became a political issue: Eula Bliss’s timely study of disease and vaccination
By Steven Poole - 13 February 9:49

With "anti-vaxxers" dominating the headlines, Biss's new book is a thoughtful examination of how people feel about vaccines.

Dawkins with the band in the studio.
Richard Dawkins to feature on Finnish metal band Nightwish's new album
By Stephanie Boland - 13 February 9:43

The biologist-turned-atheist campaigner is sampled on the band's forthcoming Endless Forms Most Beautiful.

David Cameron unveils this year's campaign poster. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Instant messaging: looking back on the golden age of political advertising
By Bryan Appleyard - 13 February 9:00

Sam Delaney’s Mad Men and Bad Men: What Happened when British Politics Met Advertising captures forty years of politics – through posters.

Andy Warhol's cookie jar collection at Magnificent Obsessions. Photo: Peter MacDiarmid/Getty Images
From Warhol to Hirst, artists’ collections give a personal take on the twentieth century
By Stephanie Boland - 12 February 15:07

The Barbican's Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector.

Actors Jamie Dornan (L) and Dakota Johnson at a fan screening of Fifty Shades Of Grey. Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images
More M&Ms than S&M: Fifty Shades of Grey is noxiously sweet – and totally blank
By Ryan Gilbey - 12 February 13:10

We can’t disparage these actors any more than we can blame a man in a hammerless world for failing to bang a nail into the wall.

Visitors to a sanatorium in Transnistria, which does not recognise the USSR's collapse.
World on a wire: two books reveal the truth about life in modern Russia
By David Patrikarakos - 12 February 10:57

Peter Pomerantsev's Nothing is True and Everything is Possible meets Rory MacLean and Nick Danziger's Back in the USSR.

A glass of wine in Savoie. Photo: William Craig Moyes
The grapes of sloth: Nina Caplan relaxes in Savoie's vineyards
By Nina Caplan - 12 February 10:52

Buckets, bobsleds and a battery-powered bike.

Ash trees in Gloucestershire. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Finding a better word for “tree”: why naming the landscape could be the thing to save it
By Lucy Purdy - 12 February 10:23

Photographer Dominick Tyler began the “The Landreader Project” to collect countryside vocabulary after finding his own impoverished. Could saving the Earth be a matter of language?

Mark E Smith, lead singer of The Fall.
Totally mired: The Big Midweek reveals the dark side of The Fall
By Austin Collings - 12 February 10:21

Steve Hanley and Olivia Piekarski's new book lifts the lid on one of the most turbulent bands in pop.

Vanishing act: Branwell's portrait of the Brontës
The phantom menace: in search of the real Branwell Brontë
By Frances Wilson - 12 February 10:16

Sanctuary: a Novel dramatises the lives of the writerly sisters - and their forgotten artist brother.

Erich Maria Remarque. Photo: Albert Harlingue/Roger Viollet/Getty Images
The Promised Land: Erich Maria Remarque's unfinished final book has a humane power
By Adam Kirsch - 12 February 10:13

The fragmented last work from the author of All Quiet on the Western Front.

“Autumn crocus”: a new short story by David Vann
By David Vann - 12 February 10:10

A retelling of the gruesome story of Medea’s revenge.

Artwork: Nina Kogan/AKG
“Nina Kogan’s Geometrical Heaven”: a new poem by Clive James
By Clive James - 12 February 10:02

Two of her little pictures grace my walls:
Suprematism in a special sense,
With all the usual bits and pieces flying
Through space, but carrying a pastel-tinged
Delicacy to lighten the strict forms
Of that hard school and blow them all sky-high,

Seduced by the devil. Image: Manuel Harlan.
Europe and its demons: How To Hold Your Breath at the Royal Court Theatre
By Barbara Speed - 11 February 12:19

Beyond the intellectual weight of the play's message the production falls a little flat.

ENO's The Mastersingers of Nuremberg. Photo: Catherine Ashmore
Topped in translation: two new London operas make a case for English-language productions
By Alexandra Coghlan - 10 February 15:26

The English National Opera’s  The Mastersingers of Nuremberg and the Royal Opera’s L’Ormindo show that translated music-theatre can be exceptional.

Critical Distance: This Week in Videogame Blogging #5
By Critical Distance - 09 February 13:24

Which Lord of the Rings game would Sauron play?

In the Frame: Nineties Montage
By Tom Humberstone - 06 February 10:00

Tom Humberstone's weekly comic.

Liv Corfixen with her husband Nicolas Winding Refn. Photo: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
“My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn” shows the toll that filmmaking can take on directors
By Ryan Gilbey - 06 February 9:31

The film, made by Winding Refn’s wife Liv Corfixen, is an intriguing contribution to the film-behind-the-films genre and a revealing study of ambition and vulnerability.