The latest on books and the arts
Not everyone’s Christmas looks like this. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty
Suzanne Moore: I never learned exactly what my mother put in the buckets brewing under the bed
By Suzanne Moore - 19 December 17:39

Jay the lesbian gannet made our Christmas much less tense than normal. The home-made Baileys flowed.

The Phil Spector Christmas album is the aural equivalent of being inside a snowglobe. Photo: Getty
Tracey Thorn: Not for me the party songs. Come, listen to the clanging chimes of doom!
By Tracey Thorn - 19 December 16:48

Is there a darker Christmas lyric than Band Aid’s “Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you”?

Back to the bleak house: a playground and flats in the Estonian village of Purksi, in a former Soviet border protection zone
Minority report: the plight of Estonia’s ethnic Swedes
By Sigrid Rausing - 19 December 14:07

Estonia’s Swedes survived revolution, invasion and exile. Their struggles tell the story of 20th-century Europe.

Transport of delight: Porters on a railway platform in Liverpool, 1890s. Photo: Getty
Making tracks: the parallels between cinema and train travel
By Antonia Quirke - 19 December 13:10

All was harmony, until Jon mentioned the legend of how people in the audience in 1896 had ducked when the train suddenly appeared on-screen.

Love, anarchy, and wonderful violence: how to remember Rik Mayall
By Jenny Landreth - 19 December 12:41

The death of Rik Mayall in June 2014 quite rightly made the front page of every newspaper. There is no one better than the BBC to make a warm and loving tribute to a comedy hero.

In the Frame: Customs
By Tom Humberstone - 19 December 12:07

Tom Humberstone’s weekly comic.

Vision of life unfrozen: ice skaters by the Dutch painter Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634). Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty
Christmas cards were my window to another world
By John Burnside - 19 December 11:44

The child of a grey coal town in Calvinist Scotland, I was hungry for imagery, wild about colour and, even though I accepted that I would never live there, desperate for proof of some other world.

Will Self and Nick Lezard by Jackson Rees.
Will Self: I couldn’t believe the Hovel was as bad as Nick Lezard makes out, so I went to see it
By Will Self - 19 December 11:27

From without in the chilly night, the Hovel – which is a maisonette above a shop – looked cosy; I could see lamplight and books ranged on shelves.

Independent spirit: Burke as "the Man in the Moon", holding forth on liberty and revolution (1790)
Doctor to the body politic: how a Whig outsider became a Tory hero
By David Marquand - 19 December 10:30

David Marquand on why Edmund Burke still strikes political sparks. 

Head to head: Wilkinson with Cromwell's skull
Barbarism begins at home: a macabre history of severed heads
By Andrew Harrison - 19 December 10:26

Far from being a benighted practice from popular fiction – the sort of thing that you might find in an H Rider Haggard novel – it turns out that beheadings went hand in hand with western empires.

Shami Chakrabarti in 2013. Photo: Getty
Keep it civil: Shami Chakrabarti’s On Liberty
By Sophie McBain - 19 December 10:24

This is “my story and the story of Liberty”, Chakrabarti writes, but she offers no more than the odd glimpse into her life.

Addicted to espadrilles: Joe Perry (left) and Steven Tyler of US rock band Aerosmith
Boys’ own tales: four rock stars who refused to grow up
By Stuart Maconie - 19 December 10:22

Stuart Maconie wades through books by monsters of rock Carlos Santana, Neil Young, Joe Perry and Billy Idol. 

A customer uses an RBS cash machine in Edinburgh. Photo: Getty
Power to the economists: new books by Ha-Joon Chang and John Lanchester
By Charles Kenny - 19 December 10:15

Both books are based on the premise that if the general public knew more about finance and economics things might be better.

Fully booked: fans queue outside Waterstones on Piccadilly for a book-signing. Photo: Getty
Eyes on the prize: a brilliant satire of the Booker set
By Ben Myers - 19 December 10:12

A novel about those writers who attract fans so ardent that the work is never enough.

Death becomes her: the sinister glamour of Guy Bourdin
By Yo Zushi - 18 December 17:05

Did Bourdin really cause a 20-year-old model to pass out when he covered her entire body with glue and pearls?