The latest on books and the arts


Fifteen years on, Radiohead's Kid A is the best evocation of the failures of New Labour
By Max Harris - 24 February 12:01

Fifteen years after Kid A, Max Harris looks back on a record that serves as a searing critique of the New Labour years

Neil Gaiman. Photo: Rex Features
Distraction techniques: Neil Gaiman’s new book proves you can’t read a short story online
By Frank Cottrell Boyce - 24 February 9:25

Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances reminds us that stories demand all our attention.

Critical Distance: This Week in Videogame Blogging #7
By Critical Distance - 23 February 15:19

Ableism in horror games.

The Oscars 2015: the full list of winners
By Anna Leszkiewicz - 23 February 10:43

And the Oscar goes to...

Julie Walters at the Royal Festival Hall, London in 2010. Photo: Richard Saker/Rex
Julie Walters: “I don’t think I’m posh enough to be a dame”
By Mark Lawson - 19 February 17:42

The actress on work, travel – and why she'd be perfectly happy growing tomatoes. 

The satellite television channel that also helps make up BBC Arabic. Photo: LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages
1,001 Days and Nights: radio proves pivotal as BBC Arabic turns 77
By Antonia Quirke - 19 February 17:15

It broadcasts 24 hours a day from Morocco to Iran - but how does one explain BBC Arabic radio?

A spa treatment room. Photo: Merlin resort, Thailand/Flickr
Tracey Thorn: I know just how uptight I am when I find myself at a spa and unable to chill
By Tracey Thorn - 19 February 17:05

I envy calm people for their apparent immunity to overexcitement or overreaction.

Village people: Michael Gambon in The Casual Vacancy.
From Pagford to the Punjab: Sunday night rivals The Casual Vacancy and Indian Summers both fall short
By Rachel Cooke - 19 February 16:52

J K Rowling adaptation The Casual Vacancy and Channel 4's Indian Summers lack something for our critic.

James MacMillan in action.
Conjuring sound: James MacMillan conducts a retrospective of his own works
By Caroline Crampton - 19 February 16:27

Appearing at the Barbican with the BBC Singers and London Sinfonietta, the composer's hands seem to shape music out of thin air.

Barbara Hepworth’s Reconstruction (1947). © BOWNESS, HEPWORTH ESTATE.
Britain can’t make it: a Hayward Gallery exhibition struggles to make sense of the past
By Michael Prodger - 19 February 12:34

History Is Now: 7 Artists Take on Britain is a confused hotch-potch of ideas.

Civil war re-enactors at Gettysburg. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
Laird Hunt's Neverhome: the civil war isn’t just something in America’s past
By Erica Wagner - 19 February 11:59

A novel of the American Civil War that combines realism with the powerful folklore surrounding defiant women.

Outside the Strand bookstore in New York. Photo: Kathleen Tyler Conklin on Flickr via Creative Commons
The crack of the spine: why do we find wear and tear in books so comforting?
By Oliver Farry - 19 February 9:42

Objects that feel lived in give us a comforting feeling of having come a long way, of having been through the years and having done some hard work to get there.

Elephants on the move. Photo: Michael Lorentz/AFP/Getty Images
“18”: a poem by Iain Banks
By Iain Banks - 19 February 9:25

A work by the late author.

Anne Tyler. Photo: Clara Molden/Camera Press
Generation game: can novelist Anne Tyler save the modern saga?
By Leo Robson - 18 February 15:51

Conceived by Zola and sullied by Jonathan Franzen, the modern saga is in poor health. But Anne Tyler might be its saviour.

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.