The Arts

Where Are The Stories For Our Times?

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What a decade! How do you encapsulate it? Murmurings and mutterings; the rejection of global economics, the rejection of free movement. As more parts of the world become unstable, the pressure on those areas which are relatively calm increases. They’re safe havens for cash and companies, property and tourism. With the reduction of popularity in […]

Catching The Mood: How Writers Hit Or Miss

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There’s a writers’ saying; If you try to jump on a bandwagon, it’s already too late too board. This is because writing is like slow cooking or gardening – it takes a long time to see the final result. Yet some writers manage to ride the national mood. There’s a simple reason why fantasy films […]

Banksy VS Constable

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So graffiti warrior Banksy has beaten Constable to the position of Britain’s favourite artist (even though it should be stressed that this is a fake-news poll created to flog us Samsungs). Still, the result seems likely. Should we be surprised? His art is accessible and addresses current concerns for the majority of the nation now […]

What I’m Watching/Reading This Week

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‘The Chocolate Cobweb’ is a taut novel by Charlotte Armstrong (most recently filmed with Isabel Huppert in the lead) adding a strange froideur to its very 1950s storyline, which involves a poisoning interrupted by a neighbour, who unwittingly removes the evidence in a handkerchief (the contents of a spilled chocolate cup). Domestic suspense is very […]

Stickability

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What makes a book, a film, a scene, a song or a play stay in the mind? It’s a question writers wrestle with constantly. Often it’s a case of the ‘sevens’; when you’re seven years old everything is exciting and new, and any old rubbish sticks with you forever. I’m horrified at how often the […]

‘1984’ 33 Years On

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This is the latest in a series of blog posts that looks at George Orwell’s book from ever-lengthening perspectives. There are always two dates to mention when dealing with George Orwell’s masterwork – the year of its publication (1949) and the year in its title. Orwell inverted the title as he was writing it, but […]

The Man Who Saved Britain

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I’m currently on a sailing boat with friends from Washington and London, and somehow one evening we still ended up talking about James Bond. What is it with Bond? It is hard to overestimate the effect 007 had on post-war readers and audiences. Here was the first English hero who didn’t own a sensible jumper; […]

The Man & The Boat

A Night to Remember (10)

As the publication of ‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’ gets nearer (it’s still not until October), I’m reminded that I had to leave out of it as much as I put in. Here’s one little story that I was forced to set aside, although if the book is a success perhaps it will enter a […]

Into The Unknown: A Fun But Frustrating Look At SF

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I like the quirkiness of exhibitions at the Barbican; the toothpaste-tube space at the Curve gallery is awkward, being too high and too narrow, and simply not big enough, with the result that shows are often divided into three parts on different floors – yet part of the fun can be trying to find where […]

Black Humour: The Comedy Tool That’s Too Hot To Use

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US comic Kathy Griffin got herself into hot water after holding up the severed head of Trump in a video post.  CNN fired her and she broke down in tears. The Daily Mail, that fine source of good taste, squealed like a stuck pig about her ‘offensiveness’, and Griffin promptly apologised for her appalling lack […]