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The furore over the categorisation of “Get Out” is misjudged

COMEDY is a multiplicitous genre. It is both “low”—farcical, vulgar, reliant on physical gags—and “high”, dealing in sophistication and witty repartee. There are both “Old” and “New” forms, one offering political commentary and the other relying on archetypal characters and everyday situations. It runs the gamut of styles, from stand-up …

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A “revealing” look at Jonas Kaufmann pulls all punches

In Conversation with Jonas Kaufmann. By Thomas Voigt. Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 255 pages; £20.  WHY the Three Tenors but not the Three Sopranos? Why is Caruso seen as pioneering the gramophone record and not Nellie Melba, who instead gave her name to a dish of peaches and cream? Why are tenors …

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A historian on the myths of American trade

Clashing over Commerce: A History of US Trade Policy. By Douglas Irwin. University of Chicago Press; 832 pages; $35. TRADE-policy wonks are gluttons for punishment. In good times, their pet topic is dismissed as dull. In bad, they find trade being faulted for everything. As Donald Trump blames America’s economic woes …

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A member of the liberal elite on his tribe’s failings

WTF. By Robert Peston.Hodder & Stoughton; 277 pages; £20. ROBERT PESTON is a quintessential member of the British liberal establishment. The son of a leading economist, he glided from Balliol College, Oxford, to the Financial Times to the BBC to ITV, where he presents his own show, “Peston on Sunday”. “In …

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A Finnish novel on the dark side of the beauty business

Norma. By Sofi Oksanen. Translated by Owen Witesman.Knopf; 306 pages; $26.95. Atlantic Books; £12.99. LOOK at a female celebrity’s head and you will often see a product of the world’s fastest-growing yet least-regulated businesses. The traffic in human hair for use as extensions had its traditional headquarters in India and China. …

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A corrective to northern-focused histories of India

Shiva down south Coromandel: A Personal History of South India. By Charles Allen.Little, Brown; 432 pages; £25. WITH all of the gods in the Himalayas celebrating Shiva’s wedding, goes the Tamil myth, the Earth started to tilt perilously towards the north. The sage Agathya journeyed south to restore balance, bringing with …

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The incredible inventiveness of Hedy Lamarr

SHE was considered “the most beautiful woman in the world”, and had one of the most iconic faces of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood. She provided the inspiration for Snow White and Catwoman. Other actresses tried to look like her, and leading men sought to be with her. But Hedy Lamarr’s …

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The Mayflower generation and the burden it bears

The Mayflower. By Rebecca Fraser .St Martin’s Press; 384 pages; $29.99. Published in Britain as “The Mayflower Generation”; Chatto & Windus; £25. THE story of the Mayflower and its passengers has been told so many times that one cannot help wondering whether the ship’s importance has been overstated. It is …

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The state of Kurdish cinema

WHEN Zaradasht Ahmed, a Norwegian-Kurdish director, began shooting his war documentary, a complicated process spanning more than five years awaited him. “Nowhere to Hide” (2016, pictured), an immersive account of a male nurse working and raising a family in Iraq, was shot collaboratively by Mr Ahmed and the nurse himself, …

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Italy’s World Cup exit is far from an apocalypse

“FINE” (“the end”), howled the front page of La Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy’s most popular sporting newspaper. “Apocalisse, disastro” wailed Corriere dello Sport, one of its rivals. Muted supporters, some of them weeping, filed out of bars across the land. An impotent 0-0 draw against Sweden in Milan’s San Siro stadium on November 13th, following a …