The latest on books and the arts


The Voice.
Tracey Thorn: one round in today’s TV talent shows and I’d have been back in the library
By Tracey Thorn - 06 June 10:30

These shows can be harsh and cruel, but they are merely a microcosm of the world – a swift introduction to the realities of a career as a performer.

Keith Douglas: soldier-poet of the desert and the Second World War
By Adrian Smith - 06 June 9:01

In exposing the unchivalric side of WWII, Keith Douglas was the heir to Siegfried Sassoon.

Robin Hood and his outlaw band in an 18th-century engraving. Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Robin Hood: Henry VIII’s hero in green tights
By Amy Licence - 05 June 16:44

Dressing up as the medieval social justice warrior was among the young king’s favourite pastimes, and gave him a taste for a kind of role-reversal that was mirrored in his own court.

Bruce Springsteen in concert.
Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA at 30: soundtrack to my life
By Max Liu - 05 June 12:36

Bruce Springsteen's 1984 album Born in the USA is 30 years old this week. It has been the soundtrack to Max Liu's life, from the end of his parents' marriage to the beginning of his own.

Acres of oilseed rape in flower amid the limestone hills of Yunnan, southern China. Photo: George Steinmetz/Corbis
There is nothing very lovely about oilseed rape
By John Burnside - 05 June 12:32

Don’t be fooled by its seas of scented acid-yellow blooms, the plant otherwise known as canola is one of the world’s most unethical crops.

Na-na-na, can't hear you: wife or husband does not always mean the wind beneath my wings. Photo: Getty
To cheer myself up, I think of other people’s dreadful marriages
By Nicholas Lezard - 05 June 12:25

When I encounter the words “my wife” or “my husband”, I get, in some dark moods, a choking sensation beneath the breastbone.

Stuck in time: Hobart, Tasmania pictured in the 1950s. Photo: Getty
Tasmania, the island with a shameful past and a hopeful future
By Philip Hoare - 05 June 10:00

Australia’s timewarp island was the setting for atrocities against Aborigines in the 19th century and has a harsh treatment of asylum seekers today. Yet many see Australia as a liberal hope for the future. 

Don't cry for me: Elaine Paige in full flow performing a song from Evita at the 2012 Olivier awards. Photo: Getty
The day Elaine Paige went quiet
By Antonia Quirke - 05 June 10:00

She had you longing for the days when she would just pipe up, laughing dementedly, or refer to herself in the third person.

Tycoon tower: the 27-storey Antilia, Mumbai residence of Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, has come to symbolise Indian wealth disparity. Photo: Getty
Slumdog billionaires: the rise of India’s tycoons
By James Crabtree - 05 June 10:00

New non-fiction books by the novelists Arundhati Roy and Rana Dasgupta examine India’s troubled relationship with capitalism and the blurred links between political and business elites. 

Feed the world: Live Aid 1985, which Mark Ellen helped present. Photo: Getty
Mark Ellen: a big bad love affair with music mags
By Andrew Harrison - 05 June 10:00

Mark Ellen changed the face of music magazines with Smash Hits, Q, SelectMojo and finally The Word. His memoir is as “hectic, self-deprecating, quietly perceptive” as the man himself. 

Party people: clubbers in Birmingham in 2012. Photo: Getty
The nine-year bender: Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth
By Alice O'Keeffe - 05 June 10:00

For a good 50 pages, I thought the promise of “Withnail with girls” might actually be realised. But when it comes to partying, in art as in life, a little goes a long way.

Meat and greet: exterior of Simpsons-in-the-Strand pictured in the 1970s. Photo: Getty
To Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, home of patriarchal beards and imperial food fights
By Will Self - 05 June 10:00

Disraeli ate at Simpson’s; Gladstone, too; and George Bernard Shaw was a regular habitué until his greasy beard wavered too close to the spirit lamp on the carving trolley.

How James Joyce’s Dubliners heralded the urban era
By Eimear McBride - 05 June 9:49

It is through Joyce’s intimate rummagings through the city’s yens and wardrobes that we come closest to identifying its inhabitants.

Ken Loach.
Ken Loach has got us bang to rights: film critics know nothing about real life
By Ryan Gilbey - 04 June 17:39

The esteemed director joins Kevin Smith and William Nicholson among the ranks of writers and directors who blame critics, and their lack of experience, for disliking their films.

People wave the Portuguese flag during a protest against government's austerity policies in 2012. Photo: Getty
Why I’ll be cheering for Portugal, not Brazil, in the World Cup
By Oliver Farry - 04 June 15:08

Brazil tends to eclipse the very land whose colonial undertakings shaped it and gave birth to it – Portugal.

A protestor pleads with a People's Liberation Army officer not to attack students assembled in the square, 1989. Photograph: Peter Turnley/Corbis
Tiananmen’s hungry ghosts: 25 years on, the massacre still haunts modern China
By Isabel Hilton - 04 June 8:46

The events of 4 June 1989 continue to generate new crimes – the crime of remembering, and the crime of forgetting.

“You’re not a real cosplayer”: since when did dressing up for comics conventions lead to bullying?
By Margaret Corvid - 02 June 16:24

Cosplayers – particularly women – report being insulted, groped or harassed at conventions. How did this happen in a community that prides itself on friendliness and cooperation?

British flag with other flags and Big Ben. Photo: Karen Roe/Flickr
Why British awkwardness can make it tough having a foreign name
By Anoosh Chakelian - 30 May 17:30

From being given a curious stare to having your CV overlooked, having an ethnic name can bring out the worst in British awkwardness.

Only in designated areas: outdoor smokers in Melbourne, which may soon go completely smoke-free. Photo: Getty
Will Self: I don't decry the smoking ban but I do miss smoke
By Will Self - 30 May 12:12

Smoke draped a decent veil across interior vulgarities, while softening our loved ones’ hateful features. Designated smoking areas are an abomination. 

The original London diary: Samuel Pepys's journal. Photo: Getty
If only I had a diary, I’d be able to figure out what happened to the past seven years
By Nicholas Lezard - 30 May 12:02

Over the years, I have begun to see the attraction of going out less and less. I sit, like Mycroft Holmes in the Diogenes Club, daring anyone to talk to me.

Luminous blue eyes: Lorna Wishart in the 1940s. Photo: Francis Goodman/NPG
Fiercely unconventional and rampantly seductive: Lorna Wishart, the muse who made Laurie Lee
By Valerie Grove - 30 May 11:33

In her youth, Lorna was Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary and Becky Sharp rolled into one captivating and maddening creature. 

Two poems, by Tareq al-Karmy
By Tareq al-Karmy - 30 May 11:28

Translated by Liz Lochhead.

These little piggies went to market. Photo: Corbis
Business as usual: how we are dominated by the language of markets
By Rowan Williams - 30 May 11:16

Rowan Williams reviews Mammon’s Kingdom by David Marquand and wonders if Britain has lost all sense of moral purpose.

Artistic licence: Dan Stevens (Gilbert) and Emily Browning (Florence) star in Summer in February
Why novelists have a duty of care to the past
By Jonathan Smith - 30 May 11:10

As a novelist working from facts, you have a problem. History is suspect, as are the motives and methods of those who write it. Nevertheless, the sources are the same as those of a biographer.

Domestic rhythms: queue outside a Bombay dry food store in the 1970s. Photo: Getty
A dazzling portrayal of domestic strife: The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
By Jane Shilling - 30 May 11:08

In this novel of political activisim in 1960s Calcutta, Mukherjee's writing has fluent precision and a fine ear for the chaos of family life.

Lieutenant Elle Helmer at the Vietnam War Memorial. Image: still from The Invisible War, a Cinedigm/Docurama Films release
The Invisible War: rape is not an “occupational hazard” of serving in the military
By Caroline Criado-Perez - 30 May 9:04

Kirby Dick’s Oscar-nominated documentary reveals the extent to which rape in the military is ignored and covered up.

In the Frame: Imagine my...
By Tom Humberstone - 30 May 9:04

Tom Humberstone’s weekly comic.

Last dance: Barry Ward and Simone Kirby in Jimmy's Hall by Ken Loach
Emotional blackmail on the Emerald Isle: Jimmy’s Hall by Ken Loach
By Ryan Gilbey - 29 May 17:02

Jimmy’s Hall returns Loach to early-20th-century Ireland, the site of a previous success. The new film could be called The Wind That Shakes the Barley IIThis Time It’s Heart-Warming.

From windmills to modernism: Piet Mondrian’s long journey towards a true style
By Michael Prodger - 29 May 17:00

The new exhibition at the Turner Contemporary gallery explores the artist's 25-year development from unremarkable Dutch landscapist to cerebral star of rectilinear cubism.

J R R Tolkien's Beowulf: one man's passion for the threshold between myth and reality
By John Garth - 29 May 16:00

The literary landscape has changed since Tolkien’s day in a way he would neither expect nor acknowledge: he is now more famous than the “fairy stories” that obsessed him.