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This page is no longer in use, as of summer 2008 - if you have it bookmarked, please change it now: go to the new Culture Wars site, or use the archive button to look for older content.


Poetry Music and Performance


Books and ideas

A superficial balance China's New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society, by Daniel A Bell (PUP)
Like pretty much everywhere else on the planet nowadays, China is undergoing a cultural malaise triggered by the end of its recent ideology.
Bill Durodié

Best laid plans Britain's Lost Cities, by Gavin Stamp (Aurum Press)
In the 1960s, ‘local government leader and criminal’ T Dan Smith attempted to transform Newcastle into ‘the Brasilia, or the Milan, of the North’. As Stamp says, today’s Newcastle is ‘more like the Croydon of the North’.
Nicky Charlish

Uncivilised nation This is Civilisation, by Matthew Collings (21 Publishing)
In the past, whenever people have failed to change society for the better, they have nearly always taken to religion to console themselves. In our more profane times, when similar setbacks occur, we seek solace in culture or sport instead.
Aidan Campbell

Joy without mawkishness Miracles of Life - Shanghai to Shepperton: an autobiography, by JG Ballard (Fourth Estate)
Winning a short story competition in the student weekly newspaper, Varsity, in 1951 steered him from medicine towards writing – and he wanted to be the sort of writer ‘devoted to predicting and, if possible, provoking change’.
Nicky Charlish


The road to nowhere The Road Home, by Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus - Orange Prize 2008 WINNER)
If anyone can spot an incident in the book that doesn’t seem inspired by the Guardian editorials page, then I would be indebted if they would point it out.

James Topham

Savage civility Wolf Totem, by Jiang Rong - translated by Howard Goldblatt (Hamish and Hamilton)
Rong is dual spokesman: Outer Mongolian to the Chinese and Chinese to everybody else, not caught between fact and fiction but navigating a path between the two roles.

Sarah Boyes

Gleefully wretched The Isle of Dogs, by Daniel Davies (Serpent's Tail)
But then Davies does something halfway through which threw me utterly, so subtle it’s difficult to be sure whether it’s intentional.

David Bowden

The pinnacle of matriarchy When We Were Bad, by Charlotte Mendelson (Picador - Orange Prize for Fiction 2008 Shortlist)
Mendelson keeps a firm hand on her style. The prose is economical, and characters are stung off the page with sharply aimed epithets – Frances, for example, is described by her mother as ‘a particularly disappointing segment of tangerine’.

Dean Nicholas

Frustrated expectations Fault Lines, by Nancy Huston (Atlantic Books - Orange Prize for Fiction 2008 Shortlist)
Language, a recurring theme as the generations of the family move from country to country, is both a symbol of identity and an expression of the pragmatism of children, who learn to get along wherever they are.

Timandra Harkness


A forward motion 'No Platform' debate at Sussex University, 1-2 May 2008
Two campaigners reflect on two days spent arguing for the motion to abolish 'No Platform' at Sussex University.
Abigail Ross-Jackson, Luke Gittos


All-out, no-questions-asked frontal onslaught The Revenger's Tragedy, National Theatre, London
Once Kinnear is divested of the ludicrous wig and beard for his disguise, the play snaps into life and the caustic misanthropy of the plot takes hold. From here on in, aside from the occasional dull patch, the play whizzes along at quite a pace. Kinnear’s performance is incredibly precise.
Andrew Haydon

Unspecific and inaudible Hysteria, St Bartholemew's Hospital, London
It’s not only the outward appearance of the hall that works against the piece; the acoustics and ambience of the hall could not be less suited to performance. Certainly not to a piece clearly not made without such a high-vaulted cavernous space in mind.
Andrew Haydon

A bit of a frown and a pout Troilus and Cressida, Barbican, London
The whole of the Trojan war seems reduced to a fight between a Vauxhall gay S&M club and an Abercrombie and Fitch advert. The Trojans are all white vests, khakis and linen jackets, while the Greeks wear black combats, leather, and the occasional SS-style uniform.
Andrew Haydon

Politics and passion Rosmersholm, Almeida Theatre, London
It’s so neatly done it would feel painfully contrived were it not for Ibsen’s skill as a dramatist for making every detail so engaging that the conversations scarcely ever feel like mere exercises in exposition.
Andrew Haydon


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