Books: Richard Sennett's The Craftsman, 1980s Greece and the Imposters. Art: Phillips de Pury's Japanese art sale, the Berlin Biennial and Simon Starling. Film: 21, the King of Kong and Scorsese's Shine of Light. Music: Nick Cave, Envelopes and Monade.
- The Craftsman
Arguing that good craftsmanship in all areas of our lives is essential to personal happiness, Sennett explores philosophically “the desire to do something well, concretely for its own sake”. What comes out of Sennett’s book – itself a handsome example of artisan bookmaking – is an idea of the best “craft” being inclusive, ethical and even philanthropic.
Shawna Kenney spent 10 years getting to know the “imposters”, a strange sub-tribe of lookalikes who exist in Hollywood peddling next-best-thing photo opps. There’s a whiff of desperation about these ropy Supermen, clunk-head Shreks and ageing Marilyns – but you can’t help admiring them, while crying inside. A fascinating insight into the parasitic fame game.
- What Does China Think?
Against a backdrop of crane-crammed skylines, think-tanker and Monocle contributor Mark Leonard attempts to answer his large titular query in one focused volume. Outlining the hopes and fears of China’s leading businesspeople, politicians and strategists, Leonard makes it clear that all roads do not lead West and that we all should be hoping the wang of peaceful politics wins over the BA of imposing supremacy by force.
- Small Wars Permitting
In this volume, the 2007 BPA foreign correspondent of the year digs behind the traditionally masculine world of bullets and bloodshed to expose the true cost of conflict. From Benazir Bhutto’s first election in 1988, to a friendly fixer whose death became one of many in Afghanistan in 2006, this collection paints human faces on war’s ugly canvas. — PT
- 92 Acharnon Street
Published by Eland Books, this account of life in run-down 1980s Athens is where The Magus meets Ken Loach. English professor Lucas gets a post at Athens University and discovers a city that is by turns beguiling, infuriating, hilarious and tragic. We meet some acutely observed characters: the toadish head of English, big-hearted taverna owner, Babi, and an army of Greek grannies. Lucas’s empathy for a people terrorised by war and the military junta makes this much more than beach reading.
- Kyobai: Japanese Art & Culture sale Phillips’s first themed auction in London of works by the best contemporary Japanese artists will feature pieces by Monocle favourites Yoshimoto Nara and Takashi Murakami (above), as well as artists rare outside Japan. We predict huge international interest – and sales. Phillips de Pury, London; 3 April, 7pm
Simon Starling – Cuttings
The Glasgow-based 2005 Turner Prize winner creates sculptural work wittily inspired by Henry Moore for a city that owns one of the largest Moore collections outside Britain. Power Plant, Toronto, until 11 May
5th Berlin Biennial
Curated by bright young curators Adam Szymczyk and Elena Filipovic, Europe’s most conceptual Biennial in its sharpest stadt profiles mainly new work by 50 artists over four venues, night and day. 5 April-15 June, multiple venues, Berlin
- Glück – welches Glück
A study on the nature of happiness in seven themed sections – using artwork, scientific objects and curios to ask: what puts a smile on your face? Hygiene-Museum, Dresden
- 21 (Film)
Kevin Spacey is awkwardly cast as manipulative maths professor Mickey Rosa in this loose adaptation of Ben Mezrich’s true-life tale Bringing Down the House. Rosa enlists gifted but impoverished student Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) to join his team of MIT students who have cracked the blackjack code and plan to make their fortune in Vegas. Although a predictable, multiplex-pleasing romance between Campbell and teammate Jill (Kate Bosworth) is a slight slip, 21 gives maths a pleasing Vegas shimmer.
- The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (DVD)
In this unlikely documentary, two (grown) men battle it out David and Goliath-style for the title of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong arcade champion. The uncontested title-holder for over two decades is Billy Mitchell, a Floridian gaming legend with a successful hot sauce empire who is revered by fans all over the world. Steve Wiebe is the underdog from Washington: a novice gamer who in his lifetime has never come first in anything. What follows is the moving tale of a man who struggles to regain the respect of all those who doubted him, including himself, and a fascinating insight into the weird world of competitive arcade gaming.
- Shine a Light (Film)
In autumn 2006, after decades of fandom played out in the one-track minded soundtracking of his movies, Martin Scorsese finally tied the Rolling Stones down to performing three nights at New York’s Beacon Theater with the aim of capturing the most intimate, onstage-feeling footage of the band. The result, from a set list of underplayed gems (including a stunning pedal-steel “Far Away Eyes”) and stone cold classics, is a breathtaking lesson in stagecraft as much as songwriting. Although topped, tailed and intercut with Spinal Tap-ish offstage wrangling, this is less a rockumentary than the definitive concert movie about the definitive rock’n’ roll band, directed by a master.
- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
The 14th dark, witty and amused masterwork from the man and his muckers variously recalls Byron with irony, Hogarth with a Steinway and Hieronymous Bosch with a migraine. Brand Bad Seed is checked and correct: religious fetishism, musical virtuosity and Cave’s gothic lyrical fireworks. Hell-bent and brilliant, “Larry” was well worth the resurrection.
Like kids with the key to their parent’s drinks cabinet, these Franco-Swedish scamps don’t give a fig for finesse, so long as the cocktails do the job. Their second album is a joyous collision between primary-coloured power-pop, Blur’s more boisterous moments and England’s long-lost indieists Elastica. While a streak of Scandinavian restraint rescues the kitchen sink from the mix, Here Comes The Wind is a shoe-in party piece: mad, bad and dangerous to dance to.
Monade is the name Laetitia Sadier gives to the time spent away from her other band, Stereolab. It’s far from time off: Sadier keeps her band busy with a record based on a river, whose flow ensures verses and choruses sweep by only to be breathily recollected minutes and tracks later, as they meander towards music’s big brine. But where Monstre Cosmic’s musical skeleton is classical, its heart and soul is a jazz-flecked dream of what would happen if Francoise Hardy had drunk Syd Barrett’s pint of acid and replaced him as Pink Floyd’s elegantly-wasted magus.