The latest on books and the arts


Mortal Kombat's Kung Jin.
Critical Distance: This Week in Videogame Blogging #15
By Critical Distance - 27 April 10:24

Introducing Mortal Kombat’s first openly gay character.

Far out: Hornsby’s career has taken him from Sheena Easton to Arnold Schoenberg via the Grateful Dead. Illustration: Tony Millionaire
How Bruce Hornsby survived a hit song
By Kate Mossman - 24 April 12:59

From the Grateful Dead to Arnold Schoenberg, via Tossers Wood.

In the Frame: Farage Begins
By Tom Humberstone - 24 April 9:02

Tom Humberstone’s weekly comic.

Soaking up the sun: another distinctive vintage rises through scrubland in a valley Down Under. Photo: Mehdi Chebil/Polaris/Eyevine
The freedom of Australian vineyards leaves tasters spoilt for choice
By Nina Caplan - 23 April 17:50

Before I even got near the reds, I found myself thinking of a short story by Tolstoy, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”.

Voice of experience: Toni Morrison in 1977. Photo: REX
Lionel Shriver: Toni Morrison picked the wrong subject in God Help the Child
By Lionel Shriver - 23 April 17:29

Toni Morrison has plenty of laurels on which to rest - and this new novel isn't terrible. But given the choice, I'd read Beloved anyday.

Avengers, assemble: in Marvel’s latest offering, the camera never stops moving.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is at once too much and never quite enough
By Ryan Gilbey - 23 April 17:20

If the Marvel fan base, like an elephant, is large but easily startled, Roy Andersson's minimalist vignettes in A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence ask the viewer to endure discomfort.

The gunpowder works. Original source unknown.
Tracing the aftershocks: the explosion in Kent that was felt in East Anglia
By Colm McAuliffe - 23 April 14:14

The story of an obscure munitions disaster during the First World War meets a fragile form of biography.

Dirty money: an oil-like mess at Tate Britain during a protest in April 2011. Photo: Jeff Blacker/Rex Features
Biting the hand that funds: is the Tate losing out from its association with sponsors BP?
By Barbara Speed - 23 April 14:11

The Tate has vowed not to take money from the arms industry or tobacco firms - but the oil firm's support is just as contentious.

No easy way: Dusty Springfield performing in 1965. Photo: Dezo Hoffmann/Rex
Good vibrations: Tracey Thorn’s new book crushes our ideas about what makes a good singer
By Jude Rogers - 23 April 12:44

Naked at the Albert Hall is a history of singing that hums with freshness and passion.

A singing wren. Photo: Wikimedia commons
The birds are getting louder: untangling the dawn chorus with Chris Watson
By Antonia Quirke - 23 April 12:37

Birds are able to discriminate between waveforms in a way we cannot - and their cries are mutating.

The show must go on: Hugh Bonneville (left) in W1A
Sharpening the pen: media satire W1A is back, and its aim is as sharp as ever
By Rachel Cooke - 23 April 12:32

The mockumentary's second season opens with an hour long special - but some of it hits a bit too close to home.

Sitting comfortably? Ed in 2010. Photo: Paul Stuart.
Ed Miliband has had mixed results as an opposition leader – but he might shine as prime minister
By Anthony Seldon - 23 April 10:47

A new book by Tim Bale takes us as close as possible to understanding the awkward enigma that is Ed.

Big fish: a Hackney market trader. Photo: Ridley Rd Portrait Project, © Kate Peters
What do you do? From financiers to fishmongers, a new book shows Britain at work
By Joe Moran - 23 April 10:45

Work is now something we are supposed to be "passionate" about. But Joanna Biggs' portraits of the British workforce show that cant and hypocrisy are as resilient as ever.

Cruel intentions: Hitchcock in London during the filming of Frenzy (1972). Photo: Rex
The fat man walks alone: how Hitchcock the ham became film's greatest artist
By Leo Robson - 23 April 7:43

Today, Hitchcock is reverred for his contribution to cinema. But his reputation as a "serious" director came late, as new biographies from Michael Wood and Peter Ackroyd reveal.

Iron Man in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”.
The politics of Iron Man: how Marvel sold an arms dealing billionaire to liberal America
By Tom Hart - 22 April 8:03

On paper Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, should be a super villain. But somehow, he’s a hero, and what’s more, he’s the only American superhero you want to have a beer with.

Mikheil Gelovani as Stalin.
How do you make a film about a dictator?
By Oliver Farry - 21 April 11:55

Beyond propaganda, trying to get under the skin of despots and dictators is a near-impossible task.

David Mamet in 1992. Photo: Johnny Boylan/Rex
Red flag to a raging bull: David Mamet’s move to the right
By Ryan Gilbey - 21 April 8:46

Ryan Gilbey examines Mamet’s plays for clues to his changing politics.

Julian Huppert speaking at the New Statesman Debate on the EU. Photo: Chris Boland
Europe: in or out? The Cambridge Literary Festival New Statesman Debate
By Tom Gatti - 20 April 13:47

The Ukip and Lib Dem candidates for Cambridge clash over Europe in a packed debating chamber.

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".