The latest on books and the arts


Smog in Beijing. Photo: Getty
Life after west: Influencing Tomorrow by Douglas Alexander and Ian Kearns
By David Clark - 28 February 13:09

The era of global liberalism ended in crisis and retreat and world power is now shifting east. How does our foreign policy adapt?

Melvyn Bragg. Photo: Getty
Radio: In Our Time; The Essay
By Antonia Quirke - 28 February 12:53

Two programmes in one day discussed the era of the Crusades.

Television: Inside No 9; Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness
By Rachel Cooke - 28 February 12:09

Two of the League of Gentleman offer up a sublime new series, while Jonathan Meades’s films about concrete architecture are his richest yet.

In the Frame: Kafka's Pitch
By Tom Humberstone - 28 February 11:37

Tom Humberstone's weekly observational comic for the New Statesman.

Big Brother is watching you. Photo: Getty
Theatre: 1984 and The Mistress Contract
By Andrew Dickson - 28 February 11:25

Orwell’s dystopian vision is convincingly staged but Abi Morgan’s latest is like a visit to Room 101.

Orbit Ever After.
Bafta Shorts 2014: Eight small wonders, stocked with infinite space
By Ryan Gilbey - 27 February 16:00

The short film, unlike the short story, is a stray with no home - which is why a cinema release of the eight short films that competed at the Baftas is a joyous subversion of the norm.

So who will clean up at the Oscars? Nobody, most likely
By Ryan Gilbey - 27 February 15:32

If I had my way, David O Russell's complex, sublime American Hustle would sweep the board - but the fact is no single film is likely to take the whole haul, and the smart money's on the earnest and populist.

A Margaret Thatcher Spitting Image puppet. Photo: Getty
The voice of the Iron Lady: how hard is it to imitate Margaret Thatcher?
By Caroline Crampton - 27 February 15:00

Meeting the man behind Spitting Image's rubbery Maggie.

A lone woman enters the Foyles shop on Charing Cross Road, London, in 1958. Photo: Getty
I don’t want to be a rare successful female writer. I just want to be a successful writer
By Sophia McDougall - 27 February 11:47

More often than not, when you pick up a new book in a bookshop, it will be by yet another white man, meaning that white and male will be what the next set of Big Names will look like. How can we break out of this self-reinforcing cycle?

Wilfred Owen: The Peter Pan of the trenches
By Rowan Williams - 27 February 7:20

The anti-heroic reading of the First World War did not begin with Blackadder - Wilfred Owen has far more to answer for than Richard Curtis, says the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Gary Shteyngart.
Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart: Reborn in the USA
By Erica Wagner - 25 February 11:10

The Russian-American novelist's memoir shuttles back and forth between the deep past of his Soviet childhood to the glimmering possibilities of George Bush Sr's America.

The Vikings invented soap operas and pioneered globalisation - so why do we depict them as brutes?
By Ronald Hutton - 25 February 11:00

A new exhibition at the British Museum shows how closely the world of the Vikings mirrors our own.

A crowd of people experiencing a reality mediated via technology. (Image: Getty)
The mindfulness racket: the evangelists of unplugging might just have another agenda
By Evgeny Morozov - 24 February 16:44

"Our debate about distraction has hinged on the assumption that the feelings of anxiety and personal insecurity that we experience when interacting with social media are the natural price we pay for living in what some technology pundits call 'the attention economy'."

The narrative in Gone Home (2013) is akin to a detective story.
All work, all play: the art of videogame writing
By Scott Knight - 21 February 9:53

Videogames are designed and programmed for action, which means storytelling has the capacity to be complex and engaging in ways not possible in other media.

New Statesman
In the Frame: The Myth of Climate Change – 2014 Edition
By Tom Humberstone - 21 February 9:30

Tom Humberstone’s weekly observational comic for the NS.

David Bowie performing in 2003. Photo: Getty.
Let’s not pretend: David Bowie’s Brit Award was for being alive
By James Medd - 20 February 11:58

Musicians and pundits need to get over their obsessive, nostalgic hero-worship. In 2014, David Bowie is irrelevant.

20 years after his death, we still know so little of Derek Jarman
By Colin MacCabe - 20 February 11:50

A facsimile of his only book of poems, A Finger in the Fishes Mouth, and a new book of sketches, thoughts and quotations, brings Jarman's art into fuller and more luminous perspective.

Stealing the market: “Hollywood directors can do what they want. It’s not a fair
Feng Xiaogang: the Chinese Spielberg
By Megan Walsh - 20 February 11:47

With new cinemas in China popping up at the rate of ten a day, Feng Xiaogang is the Chinese answer to Steven Spielberg: a reliable box office hitter.

New Statesman
Richard Hamilton helped define the 1960s but they don’t define him
By Thomas Calvocoressi - 20 February 11:40

Unlike Warhol or Lichtenstein – overexposed and often in London – or the more instantly accessible Caulfield or Blake, Hamilton flies slightly under the radar: a hugely influential ideas man but not quite a household name.

Naked ambitions: sex “drives every poem that was ever written”. Illustration by
Phalluses and fallacies: Germaine Greer on the poetry of sex
By Germaine Greer - 20 February 11:31

All poetry is driven by sex, whether or not it acknowledges the impulse.

Measure of a man: will robots ever have the capacity to feel human emotions?
Reprogramming science fiction: the genre that is learning to love
By Andrew Harrison - 20 February 11:28

From Battlestar Galactica to Spike Jonze’s new film Her, modern science fiction is growing up and humanising.

Stacy Martin and Shia LaBeouf.
Oops! I did it again: Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac
By Ryan Gilbey - 20 February 11:00

The sexual exploits of Joe, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg and newcomer Stacy Martin, are depicted without modesty - but the film stops short of being pornographic, tempered as it is by comedy, provocation and grim detail.

New Statesman
Thought crimes: inside the consciousness of a damaged, damaging man
By Randy Boyagoda - 20 February 10:19

In <em>Andrew’s Brain</em> by E L Doctorow, the historical and the grand meld with the ordinary and affecting in a story that also features “an international dealer in Munchkins”.

Photo: akasped on flickr.
It’s Valentine’s Day phone-in time, or rather, text-in
By Antonia Quirke - 20 February 9:36

Increasingly, listeners tend to text instead, something that has changed the dynamic of the phone-in to no end.

The cast of Babylon.
Channel 4's Babylon: not much cop
By Rachel Cooke - 20 February 9:27

So much seemed right about this show, but it failed to deliver a grin.

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot
Pussy Riot and the new age of dissident art
By Daniel Trilling - 19 February 9:50

Neither of these two new books about the feminist art collective leave one optimistic about the immediate future of Russian politics, but they show the deep effect the saga has had.

A sculpture by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan in Milan.
Swearing: the fascinating history of our favourite four-letter words
By Kate Wiles - 18 February 12:45

The most commonly-used swear words reveal more about our medieval past than just attitudes towards sex and body parts.

New Statesman
Nanni Balestrini’s “Tristano”: the love story with 100 trillion possible plotlines
By Juliet Jacques - 17 February 12:07

Digital technology has finally made it possible for Tristano to be printed as the author intended. But should it be judged on its central device alone?

Finger-picking good: the English folk musician Martin Simpson in 2013
Martin Simpson: “Folk music is like an Olympic sport”
By Erica Wagner - 17 February 10:34

The singer and guitarist Martin Simpson on the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Pete Seeger's politics and why Mumford & Sons "bemuse" him.