The editors' blog
~ Posted by Simon Willis, August 19th 2014"Minetti", by the Austrian novelist and dramatist Thomas Bernhard—staged at Edinburgh's Lyceum Theatre—is a play on a play. The eponymous Minetti is an old actor who hasn't worked for 30 years. He walks into a hotel lobby in Ostend. It's New Year's Eve and there's a snowstorm blowing outside. He's there for a meeting, he says, with the artistic director of a small-town theatre where he's due to play King Lear. But the director isn't there, and while he waits he talks, endlessly, to anyone hanging around—the concierge, a girl waiting for her boyfriend, a mysterious woman getting drunk on her own—about art, provincialism and how he lost his job as a theatre director in Lübeck and spent the rest of his life in a tiny town called Dinkelsbühle, where he grew vegetables, bottled sauerkraut and rehearsed Lear every day in front of the mirror. The parallels between Lear and Minetti are obvious: both have lost their power, their influence, and their minds, and if Minetti doesn't knock about the lobby naked as Lear does on the heath, at least his underpants are showing.read more »
- Simon Willis, August 18th 2014 If the Irish poet Paul Muldoon was a sofa, he would be one of those battered brown-leather sofas—sagging, effortless, cool and comfortable—as much at home in the pub as in a stylish apartment. He published his first collection while he was still a student, and now occupies many of poetry's highest perches: poetry editor of the New Yorker, a professor at Princeton and a Pulitzer Prize-winner. But with his shock of unruly grey hair and his black-framed glasses there's something of the ageing rock star about him, and some of his author photographs show him holding a guitar. From countless frontmen he's borrowed the trick of delivering an important line to a particular member of the audience, and holding their gaze unflappably. Yesterday at the Edinburgh International Book Festival he read from "Maggot" (2010), a collection largely about "sex and the dead", and "The Word on the Street" (2012), a volume of song lyrics written under the influence, he explained, of the songwriters Cole Porter and Warren Zevon. read more »
~ Posted by Charlie McCann, August 13th 2014When Belle & Sebastian, the Glaswegian indie group, formed in 1996, they were quick to attract a devoted fan base. Part of the allure was their impenetrable mystique. The band didn’t give interviews and they didn’t do publicity shots.read more »
~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, August 12th 2014read more »
~Posted by Nicholas Shakespeare, August 8th 2014A “dripping roast” is how some in Cambodia describe the hugely expensive UN-backed trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders.read more »
~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, August 8th 2014read more »
~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, August 6th 2014
How many children should you have?
A British sitcom in the 1990s called “2point4 Children” followed the lives of the Porter family: mum, dad, son and daughter. The title played on the once-average number of children per family in Britain. (The average fertility rate was 2.4 in the 1970s; it dipped to 1.7 in the mid-1990s and is now back up to around 1.9.) The global average today is 2.5—the population is rising.
For our last Big Question, we asked six writers: how many children should you have? We then asked readers to enter the moral maze by voting in our online poll. Stats aside, it is a deeply personal decision, and one that most of us will have to make. There are many things to take into consideration, including the cost, your sanity, a child’s happiness and the planet.read more »
~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, August 5th 2014
When you see an old friend after a couple of decades, it’s the changes that you notice first: the wrinkles and the greying hair. It’s the same with places, as I was reminded when I recently went back to Bali, 21 years after I first lost my heart to the island. The wrinkles are the urban sprawl and the new developments in the south of the island. The greying hair is the nose-to-tail traffic in the capital, Denpasar, and all the way from there to Ubud, the island’s self-proclaimed cultural capital.
In the centre of Ubud there is now a Starbucks a stone’s throw from the royal palace, and the streets are clogged with people-movers shuttling tourists to and from the luxury hotels nearby. One of the first of these, and probably the most famous, is the Amandari hotel, which used to overlook a secluded valley of rice terraces and tropical vegetation—an uninterrupted palette of greens. Today, as you stand on the terrace, an ugly grey scar spoils the bottom right-hand corner of the view, where building work for a new Ritz-Carlton hotel scours the valley floor.read more »
~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, July 31st 2014
For staff birthdays we often celebrate with a cake in the office and an off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday”. Recently, we presented a colleague with a pile of gourmet marshmallows instead. He seemed pleased, and we felt fashionable for a few moments, but between chews there were murmurs that we should have stuck with cake—or even better, a cupcake each.
Cupcakes are cake in its preeminent form, and they have been the tiny giants of the bakery world for more than a decade. According to the Canadian journalist David Sax in “The Tastemakers”, his new book about contemporary food trends, it's mainly thanks to a 20-second clip in an episode of “Sex and the City” that aired in 2000. When Carrie sat on a bench outside Magnolia Bakery in New York’s West Village and took a bite from a hand-held frosted-sponge delight, a trend was born. The cupcake was instantly lifted from a kids' treat to an adult indulgence, with all the attendant sex appeal.read more »
~ Posted by Charlie McCann, July 29th 2014
If you're a truck driver following a SatNav or a tourist clutching a city guide, the question "what is a map?" is simply answered: it helps us get from A to B. But “Mapping It Out”, an elegant 240-page volume published this month, is an “alternative atlas of contemporary cartographies”. Here, maps produced by professional geographers lie side by side with maps made by scientists and mathematicians, writers and designers, artists and architects—everyone from Yoko Ono to our columnist Tom Standage.
read more »