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
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’.
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.
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’.
road to nowhere
The Road Home, by Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus - Orange Prize
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.
Wolf Totem, by Jiang Rong - translated by Howard Goldblatt (Hamish
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.
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
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’.
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.
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
no-questions-asked frontal onslaught The Revenger's Tragedy,
National Theatre, London
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
and inaudible Hysteria, St Bartholemew'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.
bit of a frown and a pout Troilus and Cressida,
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.
and passion Rosmersholm, Almeida
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.