"Our technology has outpaced us to the degree that human understanding is no longer at the centre of it." Olivia Sudjic
September 2015
A fruitful distillation of old and new

A fruitful distillation of old and new

Patrick Marber’s Three Days in the Country at the National Theatre. “A ripe-soft pear” was Gustave Flaubert’s term of affection for his good friend Ivan Turgenev. Taken out of context, the term is hardly a compliment. Une poire molle is someone who lacks character, conviction, mettle; yet Flaubert must have meant something very different. According...
London models

London models

Professional models are a purely modern invention. To the Greeks, for instance, they were quite unknown. Mr Mahaffy1, it is true, tells us that Perikles used to present peacocks to the great ladies of Athenian society in order to introduce them to sit to his friend Pheidias, and we know that Polygnotus introduced into his...
Petina Gappah: Trillion dollar questions

Petina Gappah: Trillion dollar questions

Petina Gappah’s dazzling debut story collection An Elegy for Easterly (2009) was shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and won the Guardian First Book Award. She tells me how the acclaim and attention surrounding her first book caused her to rethink the novel The Book of Memory, and reflects on her literary...
The eye of the Gorgon

The eye of the Gorgon

The middle of August, and by extension the end of summer, is the time of the Perseids – magnificent, prolific meteor showers, majestic shooting stars inspiring us with awe at this glimpse of eternity and immensity, but also forcing us to shudder at the prospect of chaos and human mortality. They herald divine illumination and...
Joy, not fear

Joy, not fear

Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, longlisted for the National Book Award, is a subtly subversive novel in two halves about impetuous college sweethearts who marry young and learn valuable lessons across three decades about love, art, creativity and power. She shares some hints about keeping the creative urge in check.   1. The blank page...
On the couch

On the couch

Sebastian Faulks’ sweeping novel Where My Heart Used to Beat tells the story of an English doctor who has lived through the best and worst of the 20th century and, holed up on a small island off the south coast of France, is challenged by his host to confront his past. We ask what makes...
Other Africas

Other Africas

Most first-time visitors’ images of Africa are shaped by the safari experience, which is defined by its artificiality. Camping hundreds of miles from the nearest office block or high street, they learn every detail of an elephant’s sex life but catch only brief glimpses of how the locals live. Western reporters, in contrast, are drawn...
We go to the gallery

We go to the gallery

Have you taken children to a gallery recently? Did you struggle to explain the work to them in plain, simple English? With this new Dung Beetle book, both parents and young children can learn about contemporary art, and understand many of its key themes. The jolly, colourful illustrations will enable your child to smoothly internalise...
Risk and persist

Risk and persist

Umi Sinha’s debut novel Belonging is a beautifully crafted epic of love and loss, ethnicity and homeland, telling the interwoven story of three generations from the darkest days of the British Raj in India to the aftermath of the First World War in rural Sussex. Here are some tips and hints she gleaned from completing the novel, and...
All the wrong subjects

All the wrong subjects

I like to think I’m not one to hold a grudge, but listen to this: When I was at school, we had one meeting with a Careers Officer in year 10 (or, the fourth year, as we used to call it). As I remember it, she was a woman with big spectacles, a clipboard and...