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In our latest issue


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With audio                                               

However pervasive Cute may be,
it isn’t as cute as it likes to appear, argues Simon May. From Hello Kitty and Pokémon to the works of artists Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons, Cute’s infantile fluff has a darker side, oscillating between sentimental vulnerability and an addictive escape route from the menace of our no longer knowing who calls the shots in our world or what meaning we have, other than as perpetual consumers

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With audio  

When Ruth Pavey bought four acres of woodland in Somerset she was quite sure why she had done it but could not have put her reasons into words. Writing A Wood of One’s Own was one way of discovering and teasing out those words. Her initial explanations—quoted here— take her back to her family’s origins in the West of England, but the backbone of the book is a meditation on the pleasures of working without a strict plan. CLICK TO READ MORE

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A chronological record of all Bruce Springsteen’s recordings, album by album, by Brian Hiatt, a senior writer on Rolling Stone since 2004. The book is based on Hiatt’s five interviews with Springsteen over those 15 years, together with newly gathered anecdotes from band members and other material. It sets out to reveal the facts behind how the songs were written and recorded as well as their lyrical meaning and, where appropriate, their historical context. CLICK TO READ MORE

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Duane Tudahl, a former editor on multiple Emmy-nominated television programmes, has been writing about Prince and the Minneapolis music scene for two decades. In this expanded version of his best-selling 2017 study, Tudahl charts the moment in Prince’s career when he went from being a cult favourite performing largely for a local black audience to a mainstream success with a world following and strong corporate interest. CLICK TO READ MORE

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In 1911 Robert Best spent a year at the School of Applied Art in Düsseldorf in preparation for a career at his father’s light-fittings factory in Birmingham. The Düsseldorf school had been headed by Peter Behrens and attracted impor tant new teaching methods, but Best found it eccentric and no more appealing than German secondar y education, which he deplored. He warmed more to Germany’s musical culture and quickly befriended the family with whom he lodged, but his affection for Germany evaporated when war broke out three years later. CLICK TO READ MORE

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In the 18 months from the autumn of 1940, Marie Bader sent 154 letters from her tiny flat in Prague to her second cousin Ernst Löwy, hundreds of miles away. Bader, born 1886, had lived mostly in Karlsbad but had fled following Hitler’s invasion of the Sudetenland in 1938. Her letters speak of an intense but late-flowering love affair, and of the trauma shared by Jewish people all over Europe at that time. The flow of letters ends abruptly in April 1942. Marie was deported to Theresienstadt and then murdered in Poland. CLICK TO READ MORE

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Royal Academician Emma Stibbon’s fascination with environments in flux has taken her to some of the most vulnerable parts of the world, including the Antarctic and High Arctic and volcanic areas in Hawaii and Stromboli. Her travel sketchbooks show her working at speed in often inhospitable conditions, where snowflakes can spot the page and ice crystals freeze the edge of ink washes. The original drawings can be seen alongside other works by Stibbon at Alan Cristea Gallery from 3 July. CLICK TO READ MORE

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Trevor Pateman taught for twenty years at the University of Sussex, contributing to courses in philosophy, linguistics, critical theory and creative writing. In Prose Improvements he develops a contextualist approach, allowing the author back into the discussion of the text and, for example, arguing for context-dependent punctuation. One essay includes John le Carré’s response to Pateman’s observations about a crucial line in A Perfect SpyCLICK TO READ MORE

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Having promoted him as a social theorist in Frankfurt in the early 1930s, Max Horkheimer worked closely with Theodor Adorno in America, where the soporific ef fects of capitalism, as they saw it, helped inspire a shared pessimism about mass culture. In 1956, twelve years after their Dialectic of Enlightenment came out, they spent three weeks discussing the idea of a new Communist Manifesto and exploring Marxist themes of theory and practice, labour and leisure, and domination and freedom. This transcript of their talks was compiled by Adorno’s wife Gretel. CLICK TO READ MORE

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Western culture has periodically valued reason above superstition but for better or worse, the greater part of our history has been dominated by the irrational. One gives birth to the other in an endless cycle, and our best efforts to set things straight sooner or later go into reverse. In this extract from his new book, Justin E.H. Smith takes the example of the joke to show how a defender of the Enlightenment might account for the hypocrisy and limitations innate in Enlightenment discourse. CLICK TO READ MORE

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Unforgettable Portraits is a compilation of award-winning images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, an international showcase for the very best photography featuring natural subjects. The best of these are selected by a panel of experts and then make up an exhibition that the Natural History Museum tours worldwide each year for twelve months. Rosamund Kidman Cox, the editor of the book that accompanies the exhibition, was previously editor ofBBC Wildlife Magazine for 23 years and has co-edited books including Frozen Planet, Life and Planet Earth. CLICK TO READ MORE

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Tim Mackintosh-Smith