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14 July 2011

In the Critics this week.

The Merchant of Venice in Vegas, the latest Indian blockbusters and Nicholas Lezard on ambulances.

By Staff Blogger

In the Critics in this week’s issue of the New Statesman, in anticipation of the 2,000th Test in the history of cricket on 21 July and the 100th meeting between England and India, our critic at large Tim Adams writes about Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar’s skill and appeal. Adams quotes Tendulkar’s belief that “the match starts much, much earlier than the actual match. Preparation and readiness are everything.” The author of On Being John McEnroe, Adams sheds light on Tendulkar’s fascination with Wimbledon: “he watched those mesmerising Wimbledon finals” between McEnroe and Björn Borg “with a sense of wonder.”

In this week’s lead book review, John Gray looks at Titus Awakes: the Lost Book of Gormenghast. Gray describes Titus Awakes as “a treasure salvaged from the ruins.” It was based on a fragment abandoned by Mervyn Peake in July 1960, and later turned into the book Search Without End by his wife Maeve Gilmore. Gray praises Peake’s literary style: “The most distinctive feature of the Gormenghast books is the playful exuberance with which they recount scenes of horror and madness.”

The Books Interview with Aravind Adiga, winner of the Booker Prize for his debut The White Tiger, looks at influences upon his work, especially his experiences as a resident of Mumbai: “There’s a new dynamism and energy in this country and I think the novel should reflect that.”

Toby Litt reviews No Off Switch: an Autobiography by Andy Kershaw. The book gives Kershaw “a chance to tell his heavily lawyer-vetted side of this story and to bring it to a close”. Though Litt fears that “Kershaw’s voice doesn’t transfer to the printed page without loss”.

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Kasia Boddy looks at Karl Miller’s new collection of critical essays, Tretower to Clyro: Essays. “The American novelist Ralph Ellison once declared: ‘While one can do nothing about choosing ones relatives, one can, as artist, choose one’s ‘ancestors’.’ Miller’s new collection of critical essays is mainly about such choices.”

In a review of All the Time in the World by E L Doctorow, a collection of 12 short stories, Leo Robson notes that “it is astonishing that a writer who has shown so little interest in the short story over the years should achieve even belated and intermittent mastery of the form.”

Undercover Muslim: a Journey into Yemen by Theo Padnos, is examined by Ziauddin Sardar, who finds that “Padnos’s infantile orientalism adds nothing to our understanding of Muslim extremism.”

Andrew Billen praises the production of The Merchant of Venice by the RSC in Stratford. Transposed to Las Vegas, the production “is not only glamorous, it is also very clever.”

The long-awaited adaptation of Sarah Waters’s novel The Night Watch, BBC2 is reviewed by a disappointed Rachel Cooke, who reports that although “it would be hard to knock any of the acting,” structural problems turned The Night Watch into “a slow burn.”

Our classical music critic Alexandra Coghlan talks to Roger Wright, director of the Proms, and writes that his “respect for tradition has shaped his success as much as his innovation.”

Film critic Ryan Gilbey reviews the latest Indian blockbusters. Murder 2 is, the “customary Bollywood daftness notwithstanding…a glossy, confident thriller executed with panache.” And, Gilbey goes on, “Genre mash-ups…don’t come much brasher than Bbuddah…Hoga Tera Baap“, which finds to be “pleasantly nutty.”

On the radio, Antonia Quirke discusses various programmes, noting that after July there is a “higher-than-usual quotient of contributors talking about themselves… one imagines Marr and Melyvn ordering grilled sole as their bikinied companions suck pencils.”

Finally, in his “Down and Out in London” column, Nicholas Lezard gives an anecdotal account of living in W1 and wonders whether “the ambulance drivers know that on their dashboards they have the power to leave a trail of heart-attack victims in their wake”.