The latest on books and the arts
Michael Dobbs at the House of Cards Netflix screening, 2013. Photo: Getty
House of Cards creator Michael Dobbs: "I must have sold my soul"
By Anoosh Chakelian - 07 July 13:53

The man behind television's most masterful political operator reveals the inspiration for his story, gives advice to the PM on the powers of persuasion, and recalls his own real-life political dramas.

Azealia Banks singing. Photo:Getty
From Nina Simone to Azealia Banks: female singers who aren't afraid to swear
By Liv Constable-Maxwell - 07 July 11:58

The new documentary What’s Happened, Miss Simone makes an interesting point about the power of women singers using swear words.

There are quite a few BDSM signifiers in the video to BBHMM. Photo: YouTube screengrab
Rihanna's BBHMM video has horrified many feminists – but I saw an empowering BDSM fantasy
By Margaret Corvid - 06 July 16:04

The last time I looked, a heavy black leather collar covered in D rings is not what supposedly goes with a bikini this year.

Olivia Colman stars in London Road, a musical about the murder of prostitutes in Ipswich.
London Road is a musical about the Ipswich prostitute murders - and it's a triumph
By Ryan Gilbey - 03 July 12:04

In that grey area between documentary and fiction, the movie finds a new kind of truth.

A losing game: Amy Winehouse at her Camden Town home in 2004. Photo: Karen Robinson/The Guardian
Mawkish tabloid fare: how the Amy Winehouse film fails
By Kate Mossman - 02 July 15:02

This film laments the way Winehouse's life was intruded upon while relying on the same methods to create drama.

Tessa Thompson (left) plays Sam in Dear White People.
Dear White People is clever - but too shallow to match the complex reality of race in America
By Ryan Gilbey - 02 July 14:43

Dear White People never exactly loosens up; the screenplay would make a good PhD thesis.

Mess hall: Tiggy (centre) faces up to reality with Denise and Vinny
Are posh people filthier than us? Yes - but their stories matter, too
By Rachel Cooke - 02 July 14:31

I wondered if there had ever been a lover. Had her parents been kind? When she cared for her ailing father, who had dominated whom?

Incredulous: Not the face Sandra Bullock was making as Steve Wright introduced her. Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Sandra Bullock visited the studio - but Steve Wright kept talking as though she wasn't there
By Antonia Quirke - 02 July 13:59

“Sandra Bullock is quite simply the world’s most successful actress,” he informed Sandra Bullock.

Richard Dadd’s Halt in the Desert. Image: British Museum
The dangerous mind of Richard Dadd
By Michael Prodger - 02 July 9:35

Richard Dadd painted some dazzling visions abroad but found peace within the walls of Broadmoor.

A highway patrol officer guarding shops from looters during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Photo: Peter Turnley/Corbis
Keeping it real: All Involved by Ryan Gattis
By Leo Robson - 02 July 9:29

This novel about the 1992 Los Angeles riots holds itself to a standard of verisimilitude – of the raw, unvarnished, authentic – that is is deeply immersive and deathly dull.

Life lessons from Arnold Schwarzenegger
By Yo Zushi - 02 July 9:24

To dismiss him as a right-wing cigar-chomper would be to disregard that rare phenomenon – a true star, an embodiment of the aspirations of his time.

The rise and fall of Peg Plunkett, 18th-century courtesan and consummate memoirist
By Sarah Dunant - 02 July 8:49

If sex in the past – in the sense of what people did to each other, in or out of bed – is notoriously hard to pin down, the larger history of sexuality and society is most rewarding.

Home to roost: the robin was recently voted the national bird but the house martin is our true human familiar. Photo: John Short / Design Pics
House martins, the little dolphins that love to slide on your roof
By Richard Mabey - 02 July 8:47

Martins are in steep decline now, but once their mud-cup nests, slung under eaves, were a familiar sight across Britain.

Backhand compliment: Roger Federer in 2014. Photo: Yunus Kaymaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
How Roger Federer made tennis beautiful again
By Simon Kuper - 02 July 8:43

This very enjoyable biography-cum-autobiography illuminates not just Federer’s place in tennis history but also the way in which the author converted his psychological problems into sporting fandom.