The latest on books and the arts


Werner Herzog. Photo: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty
Film is a contact sport: Werner Herzog on the physicality of directing
By Antonia Quirke - 20 April 11:57

Do "whatever it takes" to get your film made.

The Swedish family in Force Majeure witnesses a controlled avalanche.
Force Majeure's manipulative morality feels like a passé dinner-party game
By Ryan Gilbey - 20 April 11:41

The more outlandish the film becomes, the looser its grip.

In the Frame: Game of Downing Street
By Tom Humberstone - 17 April 15:17

Tom Humberstone's weekly comic.

System of a Down's Serj Tankian on his tour for recognition of the Armenian genocide
By Anoosh Chakelian - 17 April 15:10

The Armenian-American metal band, System of a Down, is doing a special tour for the Armenian genocide centenary. We catch up with the lead singer to find out why.

Holey private: dreams of health for loadsamoney. Photo: BBC
Theatres of the absurd: the unadulterated horror of Harley Street
By Rachel Cooke - 16 April 17:17

Six months of treatment for cancer? A mere £30,000 at London's most exclusive clinics.

Stork fetish: our cultures encourage us to believe that the breeding instinct is universal. Photo: Bridgeman Images
Caught in the parent trap: the fierce social politics of not having children
By Rachel Cooke - 16 April 17:01

Why don't I have children? The answer is simple: I never reached the point where I wanted them.

We are stardust: the restrained elegance of Clive James's Sentenced to Life
By John Burnside - 16 April 17:01

"The world you quit / Is staying here, so say goodbye to it."

Prince Charles with his father at the Badminton Horse Trials in April 1965. Photo: Ray Bellisario/Popperfoto/Getty
Beyond the call of duty: the Prince Charles problem
By Richard J Evans - 16 April 16:55

Charles seems unable to keep his mouth shut on political issues.

A detail of Otto Dix's portrait of the psychiatrist Dr Heinrich Stadelmann (1922) Picture: Art Gallery of Ontario/Bridgeman Images
Walking wounded: our often barbaric struggle to cure mental illness
By John Gray - 16 April 16:35

Insanity was "a disease of civilisation".

David Bowie in 1973. Photo: Michael Ochs/Gettuy
From the archive: Martin Amis on the "mild fad" of David Bowie
By Martin Amis - 16 April 14:37

The feelings David Bowie aroused will vanish along with the fashion built around him, argued Martin Amis in 1973.

Larkin outside the University of Hull in 1979. Photo: Jane Bown/Topfoto
From the archive: Philip Larkin on the voices of poets
By Philip Larkin - 16 April 14:03

All my antiquarian rage boils at the thought that nobody thought to record Hardy.

A technician works on the main transmission mast of the BBC Broadcasting House in Langham Place, April 1931. Photo: Hulton/Imagno/Getty
From the archive: E M Forster defends the freedom of the BBC
By E M Forster - 16 April 13:34

The world is large and the opinions in it conflicting.

American B52s bomb Vietnam. Photo: STF/AFP/Getty Images
I was the morning DJ: the original Good Morning Vietnam shows a Hollywood History
By Antonia Quirke - 16 April 10:57

It came as no surprise to hear him confess, with a hint of suppressed but immense weariness, the extent to which Hollywood has used history as nothing but an enourmous prop room.

The atrium at the British Museum. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Neil MacGregor, Kevin Spacey and Nicholas Hytner: exeunt stage right
By Mark Lawson - 10 April 17:35

Three titans of British culture are stepping down this year. Mark Lawson looks at their legacy – and the space they’ll leave behind.

In the Frame: News Blocker
By Tom Humberstone - 10 April 11:14

Tom Humberstone’s weekly comic.

Kyle Chandler in Bloodline. Photo: Saeed Ayani/Netflix
Blame it on the binge: when you get to Bloodline, it may be time to take a Netflix break
By Rachel Cooke - 09 April 16:42

Netflix thinks of its audience in much the same way as small children think of ducks: keep the bread coming and fast, or they'll soon waddle away.

Girls keep it together in front of their rock’n’roll idols. It’s men who turn into gibbering wrecks
By Suzanne Moore - 09 April 15:38

Middle aged men are complete emotional wrecks verging on hysteria a lot of the time.

The Culture Debate in progress. Photo: @BBCArts
Four things we learned from the culture debate
By Caroline Crampton - 08 April 21:34

Everyone agrees about everything. Almost.

Matt Smith as Bully in Lost River.
Ryan Gosling's directorial debut, Lost River, proves he isn't perfect after all
By Ryan Gilbey - 08 April 17:04

This film isn’t bad. Worse: it’s mediocre.

As a 12 year old, Twin Peaks was the most exciting thing I had ever seen.
What made Twin Peaks so special?
By Christian Donlan - 08 April 11:35

Nothing since has been able to measure up to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Nothing has had its power. Why not?

The big, bad apple: New York’s Queensboro Bridge, linking Manhattan and Queens. Photo: MOMENT
In Atticus Lish’s sweeping novel of 21st-century New York, even love seems pointless
By Olivia Laing - 08 April 10:10

Preperation for the Next Life is remarkably well-researched, but doesn't forget the profound intimacy of life on the margins.

Deep in the roar: Niagara Falls, from an 1860 painting by Frederic Church. Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The lost landscape of America: chasing the vanishing sublime
By John Burnside - 08 April 9:10

While the landscapes of Thoreau and Watkins have been preserved by their art, John Burnside finds the wilderness that once covered America neutralised.

Soap opera yarn-spinner: Vargas Llosa. Photo: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Mario Vargas Llosao confuses porny, blockbuster daydreams with intricacy
By Leo Robson - 08 April 9:10

Repeitition is the default mode in The Discreet Hero - an abberation in Llosa's career which confuses quantity with literary quality.

Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
"The Glen": a new poem by Kathleen Jamie
By Kathleen Jamie - 08 April 8:57

“It’s nothing to us”, you might shrug...

Billie Holiday and her dog Mister in 1947. Photo: William P Gottlieb Collection
The bottle, the blues and Billie Holiday
By Yo Zushi - 07 April 17:06

Lady Day, a century after her birth.

Critical Distance: This Week in Videogame Blogging #13
By Critical Distance - 07 April 12:07

The representation of autism in games.

Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson in Sweeney Todd at the ENO. Photo: Tristran Kenton
Meat is murder: Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel in Sweeney Todd at the London Coliseum
By Caroline Crampton - 02 April 16:24

A subversive semi-staging of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd brings the infamous barber back to London.

A girl wears a fine dress from an earlier era.
The Spitalfields Nippers show the East End before the welfare state
By The Gentle Author - 02 April 15:49

Horace Warner's photographs of the Spitalfields Nippers shows what happened to some of society's most vulnerable - and reminds us of the value we must place on their protection.

Song of songs: a 19th-century illustration of a nightingale from an engraving by Kronheim. Photo: Private Collection/Look and Learn/Bridgeman Images
Helen Macdonald: Our springs grow emptier as the birdsong falls silent
By Helen Macdonald - 02 April 15:22

Every year, the hedgerows are quieter. The author of H is for Hawk mourns the loss of the spring birds – and issues a warning for the future.