The latest on books and the arts
Pegg is best-known for comedy, but says he would still like to “do some serious acting”. Photo: Getty
Is it time to take Simon Pegg seriously?
By Ryan Gilbey - 21 May 18:18

The actor’s comments about the infantilisation of culture have caused a storm. Is he right to want to put away childish things?

Professor Andre van der Merwe (L) who carried out the transplant. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A radio programme on the world's first ever penis transplant had me staring at the radio
By Antonia Quirke - 21 May 17:04

The interviewer, Matthew Bannister – generally known for keeping conversations moving dizzyingly ever forwards – was unusually quiet.

Marc Warren plays The Gentleman in Jonathan Strange. Photo: BBC
1864 and Jonathan Strange both suffer for being modern
By Rachel Cooke - 21 May 16:27

Jonathan Strange is an oddly lacklustre affair, aimed, it seems to me, at a generation brought up on Harry Potter.

French twist: Anaïs Demoustier stars as Claire. Photo: IMAGE.NET
Dark comedy The New Girlfriend is a ravishing portrait of a family after death
By Ryan Gilbey - 21 May 15:43

The films of François Ozon are polymorphously perverse.

A giant head formed the set for the Royal Opera House's Król Roger. Photo: Bill Cooper/ROH
Król Roger’s music is beautiful – but overwhelmed by constant symbolism
By Caroline Crampton - 21 May 13:59

The production makes it very clear what we are supposed to think, which sadly detracts from the variety and ambiguity the composer worked into his score. 

Edmund Kean as Richard III (1814). To see him act was to “read Shakespeare by flashes of lightning”. Picture: VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES
How to be a great actor
By Benedict Nightingale - 21 May 11:02

From Kean to Dench, the best performers radiate an electricity that transcends the stage.

Flying fox: the young Sacks on his beloved BMW bike in Greenwich Village, 1961. Photo: Douglas White
A life in motion: the many passions of Oliver Sacks
By Erica Wagner - 21 May 10:58

Sacks has written of showing “extreme immoderation” in his passions. This new book reveals them.

A whale shark in an aquarium. Photo: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
David Vann's unhappy families return in Aquarium
By Anthony Cummins - 21 May 8:37

A refinement of his earlier work, Vann's new novel gives a socially determined take on how things fall apart.

The babyfood aisle at a Best Price supermarket. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
After Birth reveals the black comedy of motherhood
By Alice O'Keeffe - 21 May 8:04

This is the dark, nightmarish little voice inside every mother, the one we spend our lives trying to shut up.

The Breakfast in Bed Café is a desperate cry for help – Ikea should stick to meatballs and sofas
By Eleanor Margolis - 20 May 17:00

Why I hate the pathetic prescribed quirkiness of Ikea's new bed-based coffee house.

Charlize Theron as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road.
No, Mad Max: Fury Road is not a feminist masterpiece (but that’s OK)
By Tracy King - 20 May 13:18

Because most Hollywood films are so bad at dealing with female characters, Mad Max: Fury Road stands out for trying. But it still uses lazy, sexist tropes and clichéd plot devices.

In bloom: the golden flowers of a forsythia bush. Photo: Cyrus McCrimmon
To every place there is a season – or several
By John Burnside - 20 May 10:01

From the glorious July that I once spent deep in the Arctic Circle to the treacherous climate of central California.

God’s waiting room: residents of Naples still tend to paupers’ remains in the Fontanelle ossuary. Photo: Contrasto
The Fontanelle ossuary: in Naples’ stacks of skulls, all men are equal
By Tom Holland - 20 May 9:22

The bones housed in the Fontanelle ossuary speak to the conviction that the obscure deserve comemmoration, too.

Taylor Swift as Catastrophe. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood, Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj: what makes a great pop star alter ego?
By Anna Leszkiewicz - 19 May 12:05

A new name and haircut doth not an alter ego make.

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