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Greta Gerwig’s charming solo directorial debut

“ANYBODY who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.” The quote from Joan Didion (a writer who, like Greta Gerwig, was born in California’s capital) rather sets the tone of “Lady Bird”. It is a coming-of-age story, following Christine (Saoirse Ronan), a teenager longing to get …

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A surreal take on the war in Syria

LIWA YAZJI, the writer of a new play at the Royal Court, must have known she was inviting accusations of gimmickry when she included a real flock of live goats in her script. Critics would surely complain that the caprine members of the cast of “Goats” were a mere contrivance, …

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Sexual politics on stage

AFTER a night of drunken flirting, Amber and Tom, two college freshmen at Princeton, end up in bed together. Sex was something they both seemed to want. When Tom had resisted playing a game at a keg party earlier in the evening, Amber suggested he should relent “if you wanna …

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OMG, the internet is ruining language, amirite? Wrong

OMG, the kids and the internet are ruining the English language, amirite? The sentiment is so common that it hardly bears a reply, except maybe “meh”. There is certainly plenty of terrible writing on the internet, plagued by indifferent spelling, punctuation and grammar and a lack of any attention to …

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A songwriter’s new perspective after 8,980 miles on the train

He’s come to look for America PLANES are practical, buses are cheap and cars grant freedom. But trains are for romance. A century after America’s railway heyday, the country’s ageing trains still enjoy an anachronistic glamour. Few people are immune to the charms of a sluggish, traffic-free chug across states, …

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Women and Boko Haram

Some of the luckier ones got away Women and the War on Boko Haram: Wives, Weapons, Witnesses. By Hilary Matfess. Zed Books; 288 pages; $24.95 and £14.99. ON APRIL 14th 2014, militants from Boko Haram, a group of Islamic extremists, snatched 276 schoolgirls from their dormitories in north-east Nigeria. The …

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Nadia Murad’s tale of captivity with Islamic State

The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight against the Islamic State. By Nadia Murad and Jenna Krajeski. Tim Duggan Books; 306 pages; $27. Virago; £18.99. THIS is a disturbing book. Many readers will find parts of it hard to stomach. But anyone who wants to understand the …

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How America’s economy is rigged by special interests

The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality. By Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles. Oxford University Press; 232 pages; $24.95. To be published in Britain in December; £16.99. PITY the Washington wonk at this moment. America’s political dysfunction looks forbiddingly irreparable, its government implacably …