In the critics this week

Joan Bakewell on older artists' motivation, a short story by Margaret Drabble and Omid Djalili's Dia

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This week, the Critics section of the New Statesman is curated by the writer, broadcaster and Labour peer Joan Bakewell. Bakewell talks to the writer Michael Holroyd and the artists John Bellany, Quentin Blake and Paula Rego about what keeps the fires of creativity in old age. "Many creative artists," Bakewell writes, "know no retirement and seem scarcely to notice the passing years." Asked about retirement, Michael Holroyd's answer is simple: "Never". While Paula Rego says: "Being old has changed me very little. I still go to the studio every day".

The novelist Margaret Drabble contributes "Perpetuity", a short story about temptation, disappointment and breaking free written exclusively for this special edition of the New Statesman. This week's lead book review is by the art historian and broadcaster Dan Cruickshank, who examines books by Sir Roy Strong and Iain Sinclair. Of Strong's confession to being "baffled" by the charge that English nationalism is often chauvinistic, Cruickshank writes: "He has no business being baffled about the way English patriots are perceived." Sinclair's "view of England and immigration," Cruickshank goes on, "is a corrective to Strong's assertion that a rural idyll 'offers an answer to the present crisis of English identity'".

In the Books interview, NS Culture editor Jonathan Derbyshire talks to the broadcaster Andy Kershaw about his autobiography No Off Switch. Of the decision taken by the former controller of Radio 4 Mark Damazer not to broadcast an episode of On the Ropes that Kershaw had recorded with John Humphrys, Kershaw says: "Did he think for a second what damage that was going to do to me? ... He didn't even have the moral courage to phone me and tell me himself. For two days he hid as I looked for him all over Broadcasting House."

Also in Books: Karl Miller, former literary editor of the NS and founding editor of the London Review Books, reviews Scenes from Village Life, a collection of stories by the Israeli writer Amos Oz; Sarah Bakewell (no relation) considers Tom Hodgkinson's paean to the simplicities of the medieval way of life in Brave Old World; Jackie Kay contributes a new poem, "House Arrest (for Auung San Suu Kyi)"; academic Philip Horne explains why he believes The Portrait of a Lady is Henry James's finest novel; and former Labour MP and now bestselling political diarist Chris Mullin reviews a new edition of Jad Adams's biography of Tony Benn: "In the end, [Benn] may be remembered as the Labour leader who never was, a man who traded power for influence".

Elsewhere in the Critics: the writer and critic Marina Warner adds her voice to those who have spoken out to defend the public provision of books in local libraries. Her local library in Kentish Town, she writes, "a communal, free, shared place where we can be quiet, alone, safely wrapped in our thoughts, as we meet others' minds through their words"; playwright Nell Dunn explains how medicine became an influence on her work; Ryan Gilbey reviews Terence Malick's latest film The Tree of Life; Rachel Cooke sings a hymn of praise to the BBC's Lyse Doucet; former HM chief inspector of prisons David Ramsbottom argues that the arts are crucial to rehabilitating prisoners; Antonia Quirke reviews an episode of Radio 3's Music Matters; and comedian Omid Djaili tells us about his week, which ended with his having to pay £1,546 to have his car unclamped.