The editors' blog
~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, September 16th 2014
When I stepped into the Victoria and Albert museum in London this week, on my way to see the Horst exhibition, I came across a man dusting a Rodin sculpture of a naked woman. How fitting. Posterity has shown that it is almost impossible to talk about Horst P. Horst's photography without using the word "sculptural". The erstwhile art director of French Vogue, where Horst made his name shooting fashion in the 1930s, said that his pictures gave the impression that, if you were able to walk around them, the models would look equally good from all sides, like a sculpture. Carmen Dell'Orifice, who first modelled for him in 1946 aged 15, later said: "Horst understood how light falls on an object. He saw me as a living sculpture to be projected through his photographs."read more »
~ Posted by Anthony Gardner, September 15th 2014
With its soaring neo-Gothic arches, eavesdroppers’ balconies and conspiratorial corners, the Union Chapel in Islington could easily be a stage set for a palace intrigue, which made it the ideal venue for a discussion between Hilary Mantel, the author of “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies”, and the actress Harriet Walter. The title of their talk, co-hosted by Intelligent Life and the Royal Society of Literature on Thursday evening, was “The Lives of Others”, but the discussion also encompassed the alternative lives each might have led. And though they explored the mental process of inhabiting a character, they revealed it is often a physical process, too.
Hilary Mantel gave a riveting account of starting “Wolf Hall”. Undecided about which viewpoint to take, she had heard the opening words—“So now get up”—not just in, but above her head; she formed a picture of a boot seen sideways on, and felt cobblestones under her cheek. “In a simple twist of being,” she explained, “I was in Thomas Cromwell’s body—and then all the decisions about the novel had been made.”
Harriet Walter spoke of being dependent on playwrights’ research and imagination: “I have to go back down the passage they came forward from, to meet them halfway.” She does this primarily through the music and rhythm of their language, but even as a child she registered the physical expression of character: “I could infer what people were thinking from the way they walked. It was as if my body could disintegrate and reconstitute itself as them.” For her, taking a new role is like setting up home with a second husband: “You become a different version of yourself.”read more »
~ Posted by Tom Shone, September 12th 2014
So there they were, on stage together for the first time in 31 years, Steve Reich (right) and Philip Glass (left), the Lennon and McCartney of minimalism—Glass slouching behind his keyboard at one end of the stage, Reich behind his. Glass probably was sitting erect, but everything about the man, from his mad professor hair to his billowing corduroy pants, aspires to the status of a puddle. Reich, wearing a baseball cap, sat almost immobile but for his hands. They played one of Reich’s pieces first, “Four Organs”, in which a percussionist lays down a steady heartbeat on maracas, while four organists take repeated stabs at a single chord, adding a 7th or an 11th, coming in a beat earlier, teasing it long, deconstructing and reconstructing it—like a piece of music remembering itself. “Four Organs” nearly caused a riot when it was first heard at Carnegie Hall in 1970. Finally, a flurry of movement from Reich, like a cat bundling itself up to pounce, and the piece ends. The applause is rapturous.read more »
~ Posted by Anthony Gardner, September 11th 2014
For the past three years, residents of Kensal Rise in north-west London have been campaigning to save their beloved library, which Brent Council had closed and stripped despite intense local opposition. A compromise seems finally to have been reached—part of the building will survive as an independent library, run by volunteers, while a developer will turn the rest into flats. Last Sunday night some 250 people filled the nearby St Martin’s Church for a fundraising celebration, and to commemorate the man who opened the library in 1900: Mark Twain.read more »
~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, September 10th 2014
Pinning down Ali Smith’s genius is like trying to pocket moonbeams. No sooner have you found an adjective that seems to nail it, you realise the opposite is also true. Her writing is playful yet profound, modest but effervescent, wise but never jaded, satirical yet generous (generous in particular). “How to be Both” is the most uplifting book I’ve read this year. When I heard it had made the Man Booker prize shortlist, I shouted with delight.read more »
~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, September 9th 2014
Alecky Blythe’s “Little Revolution” at the Almeida in London last week never quite caught fire, unlike the post-Duggan riots in Hackney that it took as its subject matter. Verbatim theatre, the process Blythe favours, asks actors to mimic, as closely as possible, the recorded words of real people piped to them via an earpiece. For an audience, so much of live theatre’s magic lies in an unspoken deal with the actors: we respond with a wave of emotion, they surf it. But this style straitjackets the cast into following the exact rhythms and timings of the original dialogue, so they can’t respond to our reactions—with a longer pause, say, or extra emphasis—but have to plough straight on.
The comedian Ronni Ancona played a Pembury estate mother with a wayward son and a nice line in put-downs. “Can you imagine?” she said to me afterwards. “Someone who came up through the clubs, not being able to play the laugh?”read more »
~ Posted by Melanie Grant, September 8th 2014
There is something about the creak of a sumptuous leather jewellery box opening that can truly silence a woman. And so it was at a recent viewing at Graff Diamonds when I came face-to-face with a brooch called the "Royal Star of Paris” (above). The piece contains a thrilling 107-carat yellow diamond, called the Graff Sunflower, and a 100-carat brilliant white diamond, called the Graff Perfection. The gems were so magnificent that mute appreciation was my only response.
Rare stones such as these, which are important because of their size, colour and clarity, are often named after their founder or owner so that they can be tracked throughout history. “Every stone has a distinct personality,” says Laurence Graff, the chairman of Graff Diamonds, a London-based jeweller that specialises in big stones. “It is our duty to uncover the secrets hidden within its infinite depths, and this is a responsibility we take very seriously.” It takes teams of gemmologists, stone cutters and designers to guide a big stone on its journey from “rough” to leather box. Specialised computer-software is used to map out the inner flaws of each rough stone, followed by extensive planning, cutting and finally polishing. The process can take Graff’s in-house team months, and each gem is reassessed at every stage as the personality of the stone is revealed.read more »
~ Posted by Jainnie Cho, September 3rd 2014
When I was a rookie reporter in Korea I was assigned to cover the finance ministry. The pressroom at the government complex near Seoul was a sweaty, testosterone-fuelled workplace, full of middle-aged male reporters who regularly smoked, drank and ate dog-meat stew (bosintang) for lunch at a nearby restaurant. For them, eating dog meat (commonly thought to enhance virility) was proof of their “manliness”. And as a 20-something female, joining them was a shortcut to proving my worth as a “serious” journo.
Eating dog meat is a custom in several Asian countries. Koreans have eaten dogs for centuries, mainly during “dog days” (sambok), the three hottest days of the year, as an energy-boosting summer treat. And during the Korean war in the 1950s, when food was scarce, it became more common. It is now banned in some parts of Asia (the Philippines, Taiwan and Singapore), but in Korea it remains a legislative grey area—neither completely banned nor strictly legal. Dog-meat restaurants can still easily be found in Seoul’s back alleys. But, according to local industry figures, there are now less than half (around 700) than there were 30 or 40 years ago.read more »
~ Posted by Charlie McCann, September 2nd 2014
Last week, the supermarket chain Aldi removed copies of “Revolting Rhymes”, Roald Dahl’s take on traditional fairy tales, from its Australian stores following complaints from a few customers about the language used in the book. One outraged customer commented on Aldi’s Facebook page that the book had “an unacceptable word in it for kids!!! Not ok!”
The unacceptable word was “slut”, found in Dahl’s pulpy re-telling of "Cinderella". The prince falls in love with Cindy at the palace ball, and after she slips away at midnight he desperately tries to find her. His search soon turns into a rampage: he beheads the scheming Ugly Sisters, turns on Cindy and, blinded by his fury, cries, “Who’s this dirty slut? Off with her nut! Off with her nut!”read more »
~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, September 1st 2014read more »