News

“The Vagina Monologues”, 20 years on

IN 1996, sitting on a high-backed stool in a tiny theatre in downtown New York, Eve Ensler declared that she was “worried about vaginas”. What followed was “The Vagina Monologues”, a fictional series of accounts based on more than 200 interviews the playwright had conducted with women of different races …

News

A thoughtful dramatisation of life in the Calais “Jungle”

IT IS a rare play that starts before you’ve even walked into the theatre—but so it is with “The Jungle”. Every audience member is pre-assigned a “country” for the night, a section of the auditorium that corresponds to a nationality of the migrants cooped up at the camp in Calais …

News

The benefits of a university education

A University Education. By David Willetts. Oxford University Press; 432 pages; $32.50 and £25. IN 1945 there were 500 universities across the globe. Today there are more than 10,000. As universities continue to displace apprenticeships and the armed forces as the main path to adulthood in the rich world, scrutiny …

News

Chloe Benjamin is a novelist to watch

The Immortalists. By Chloe Benjamin. Putnam; 346 pages; $26. Tinder Press; £16.99. SOME novels are portraits, some are page-turning puzzles. Still others are meditations on the mysteries of life. “The Immortalists”, a family story with a twist, is a bit of all of those. The tale of four siblings marked …

News

Where do new words come from?

WHERE do new words come from?  Few are purely invented, in the sense of being coined from a string of sounds chosen more or less at random. Most tend to be existing words given new meaning (“to tweet”). In other cases, a word changes its parts of speech (“to Photoshop”, …

News

The arcane world of Japan’s taiko drummers

Drum roll THERE is a felicitous double meaning to Kodo, the name of the celebrated Japanese drumming ensemble. Its written characters mean “drum child”. But an infinitesimally different stressing of the second syllable will give you the character which means “heartbeat”. The company regards this accidental ambiguity as a symbolic …

News

Enrico Fermi, father of the nuclear age

The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age. By David Schwartz. Basic Books; 451 pages; $35 and £27.99. JUST before daybreak on July 16th 1945 Enrico Fermi lay down in the open desert of New Mexico. At 05:30, the world’s …

News

The economists’ diet

Elastic demand The Economists’ Diet: The Surprising Formula for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off. By Christopher Payne and Rob Barnett. Touchstone; 288 pages; $25. DO YOU indulge in QE (quantitative eating)? Do you have a high marginal propensity to consume chocolate? Then you might be piqued by a diet …

News

“Black Mirror” continues to excel at limited world-building

SINCE the launch of “Black Mirror” in 2011, critics have lauded Charlie Brooker for his dark and thought-provoking stories. Stephen King called the anthology series “terrifying, funny, intelligent”. Jon Hamm was reportedly such a fan that he asked to appear (he got his wish, starring in season two). Indeed, a …

News

“Hostiles” is a bloody depiction of the American frontier

“HOSTILES”, a bleak and bloody western, opens with a horrific act of violence. In New Mexico in 1892, a homesteader is cutting wood while his wife gives their two daughters a grammar lesson and cradles their newborn baby. Four Comanches ride towards the house, guns and bows drawn, to steal …