Arts surgery - Issue 29 - Magazine | Monocle

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Books - Need-to-reads



John Lanchester

An apt and humorous title in reaction to the financial crisis from the Debt to Pleasure author. His book has been lauded for its more colourful coverage of 2009’s fiscal fiascos than the more bland efforts of economists.

The Last Resort

Douglas Rogers

Award-winning travel writer and journalist Douglas Rogers returns to Zimbabwe, the country where he was raised on a farm. Rogers’ childhood changed when Mugabe tried to reclaim the land but his parents refused to leave and expressed their defiance by sporting a shotgun.

Life as a Literary Device

Vitali Vataliev

The Polish émigré has finally got round to putting his witty way with a crisis onto the page, by explaining – in amusingly circuitous routes – how literature has saved him over the years. Along with Haruki Murakami’s running memoir and Martin Amis’ Experience – it’s a memoir, an exercise in attitude and a fascinating window onto the creative process.

God Of Manga

Osamu Tezuka

When Osamu Tezuka created the animation Astro Boy, he created a national icon. This visually delightful book pays tribute to Tezuka’s works and includes a fascinating foreword by the creator of cult manga film Akira.


Imperial Bedrooms

Bret Easton Ellis

Fast forward 25 years from Less than Zero and Ellis revisits Clay – now a successful screenwriter battling strong feelings for an actress who wants a part in his movie. Ellis has said his favourite television show is the scripted MTV reality show The Hills, and his absorption of the genre bounces out of his long awaited July return.

No and Me

Delphine de Vigan

Film-rights have been snapped up for this bestseller in France and Italy that tells the story of Lou Bertignac’s friendship with a homeless girl called No (with an IQ of 160). Lou is heartbroken when the brainbox hobo disappears – the search for the girl is a voyage of self-discovery.


Miguel Syjuco

It’s a literary mystery: opening with the dredging of Filipino national icon Crispin Salvador’s corpse from the Hudson River. His death is investigated by literary students who uncover his last unpublished manuscript, exposing corruption behind the Filipino ruling family.

The Dead Republic

Roddy Doyle

The final instalment in the Henry Smart trilogy from Ireland’s blockbuster literary export. This time Henry returns to Ireland with John Wayne and director John Ford, who appointed him in the book’s prequel as an IRA consultant on his film The Quiet Man.

Ruby’s Spoon

Anna Lawrence Pietroni

Pietroni’s debut novel generated buzz at this year’s Frankfurt bookfair. Set in 1930s England, it tells the story of a motherless teenager, Ruby, who finds emotional refuge in a mysterious grey-haired lady who arrives from the coast.

The Unnamed

Joshua Ferris

Already snapped up by film producer Scott Rudin and due for a February pressing, Ferris’s second book tells the tale of Tim Farnsworth, a family man who walks out one day on everything familiar to him and away from his old self in a devastating tale of life taken for granted. And then not.

Music - Albums and gigs

A label for chilly nights

Bella Union

The most reliably inspiring label of late has a keen ear for wintery offerings: nautically bearded Kiwi singer-songwriter Lawrence Arabia drops a Lennon-laced LP of loveliness in time for the snows; while the Texan pastoralists, Midlake, return in February with The Courage of Others, the strumming-along-to of which should not be entertained without donning a rustic jumper perfumed with bonfire smoke.

Balmy African days

On a warmer note, 2010 is another year nearer to African bands making a kettle-drum-shaped hole in the charts and hearts of the rest of the world. Johannesburg’s BLK JKS’s remorseless grooves are set for another outing on a new album ensuring they’ll be one of the toasts of the festival circuit from the mud of English fields to the sands of the Festival au Desert in Mali. Congo’s Staff Benda Billi debut their thrilling street-fighting live sound in Europe and Nairobi’s Just A Band have beefed up their sound with beats for a shot at the afro-dance-pop crown (it’s still being beaten into shape).

Bearded heroes

Lindstrøm & Christabelle

Norway’s bearded wonder of a disco maestro gets the most stubborn shoes shuffling with earthquake bass, nagging arrangements and synths like a swarm of hornets. On January’s Real Life Is No Cool, Christabelle – AKA Solale – adds her smoky broken English to a Moroder-ish album of sun-up delight.

The Growlers

Talking of bearded wonders, LA’s The Growlers, have finally got their frazzled surf-rock shit together for an album of scattered harmonic inspiration is both wonderful and what-the-fuck? The Doors and Devendra Banhart are the soul brothers that spring to mind. If you can find it again, that is.

Gilles Peterson

With his fraying passport in hand and reputation as a musical polymath intact, Peterson does a little show-and-tell after a long trip getting under the skin and the rhythms of Cuba. Beyond the Buena Vista Social Club is a scene fizzing with pioneering street sounds and reinterpreted classics in cool jazz, incendiary afro-pop, and freak-out latin funk. Roll-up, but bring roll-on.

Playing the Dane

Private is the brainchild of Denmark’s hyperactive uber-producer Thomas Troelsen, known for sprinkling his magic dust over Danish X-Factor winner Martin and Korean megastar Boa. Private’s spring release – My Secret Lover – is an album that leans heavily on 80s pop royalty: Jacko, Prince and Madonna soundalikes splash joyfully through the mix.


New signings to the ever-estimable 4AD, Copenhagen’s Efterklang push out a little ’un – Magic Chairs – in February. The never-knowingly-pigeonholed Danes mix electro, rock and modern classical, like they’re scoring a time-travelling fairytale.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

Don’t let the bandwagon following this prodigious blind Aborigine allow you to take your ears off the music. Currently strumming follow-ups to his spellbinding Gurrumul album, Yunupingu’s tour of intimate venues will be an essential spring ticket.

Beth Jeans Houghton

How many talented girls with a piano and a poncho or a guitar pick and a Penguin Classic in their pocket have been tagged early with the old “new Kate Bush”? Millions! This 19 year-old Geordie lass with a fine line in guitar tales is a real find – catchy, witty, pretty. The Hot Toast EP is out now, the LP is out in the spring.

Visual Arts - The show business


Chris Ofili

Tate Britain, London

January to May Ofili’s first major public solo show in the UK for over a decade, Tate will collect more than 45 of his works including The Holy Virgin Mary, as well as recent works completed at his new base in Trinidad.

Pipilotti Rist: Homo sapiens sapiens

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

January to April
A rare chance to see the Swiss artist’s mesmerising ceiling video, being shown here as the conclusion to the Louisiana’s The World Is Yours exhibition project

4th Bucharest Biennale


May to July
At 22, curator Felix Vogel is probably the youngest guy ever to be put in charge of a biennale. For this he has chosen the German term “Handlung” as his theme, translated as both “need for action” and “thin on plot”. We hope not the latter.

Contemporary Istanbul December

The fourth edition of this annual art fair, Turkey’s leading contemporary art galleries, alongside a few chosen from abroad, will bustle into one venue in Istanbul for four days.


Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present

MoMA, New York

March to May
Including more than 50 videos, photographs, and sound installations, MoMA will also play host to performers who will be re-enacting the Yugoslavia-born artist’s live works.


Medicine and Art: Imagining a Future for Life and Love

Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

Until March
Run in conjunction with London’s Wellcome Trust, Mori will play host to 150 works, each dealing with the relationship between human anatomy and scientific study, including sketches by Da Vinci and photographs by Damien Hirst.


17th Sydney Biennale

May to August

The last biennale in Sydney saw attendance up 37 per cent on the previous event, so hopes are high for its 17th edition. Organised by David Elliott, it is entitled Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age.

Film - Screen selects

Romanian wave

Romanian talent is currently making waves thanks to Palm d’Or winning director Cristian Mungiu whose latest film, Tales from the Golden Age, is a witty portrayal of Romanian life through a series of shorts. Romanian actress Anamaria Maria is also attracting attention. She will star in the spring release Storm. A political thriller inspired by the Serbian War Crime trials, which is directed by Hans-Christian Schmidt.

Most anticipated

The American

Released autumn
Based on a Martin Booth novel about an American assassin, this is the second time photographer Anton Corbijn takes the helm for a feature film, following critical success with his Joy Division picture, Control. This time George Clooney plays the lead role as an American assassin hiding out in Italy for what he vows to be his last assignment.

Society tales

There are few places where family values are more integral to society than in Confucian China and Japan. Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda echoes the legendary Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story in the film Still Walking, where the now grown-up children visit their elderly parents. Chinese director Zhange Ke Zia’s 24 City tells a history of three generations through the conversion of a state factory in Chengdu into luxury apartments. Both films are released in the spring.

The return of American heavyweights

Clint Eastwood, just shy of 80, is busy as ever: February’s Invictus looks at Nelson Mandela’s efforts to reunite a country steeped in apartheid through the language of sport by teaming up with the South African rugby team. Oliver Stone releases the sequel to Wall Street in April. Michael Douglas returns as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.

Don’t miss:


The witty, moving and slush-free story of a group of Sri Lankan slumdogs who come up with an ingenious way to seek their riches in Germany – by entering a handball competition. But, like most of us, they actually have no idea how to play the game.

44 Inch Chest

Broken by the discovery of his wife’s infidelity, a man seeks the restoration of his ego via a kangaroo court trial of the kidnapped lover. An exploration of masculinity, heartbreak and self-pity, from the writers of cult film Sexy Beast, it is both profane and provocative, with a delightful cast.

Green Zone

In his newest work with director Paul Greengrass, Matt Damon is a US army inspector in post-invasion Iraq. In his search for WMDs, Damon and his crew find instead an elaborate cover-up. A timely retrospective on the start of an on-going slice of history.

Nowhere Boy

Artist Sam Taylor-Wood makes her directorial debut as she traces the life of John Lennon from his childhood. Caught between his mother and the aunt who raised him, Lennon escapes through music. Sensitive, insightful and visually beautiful, it is a fresh and imaginative take on an otherwise exhausted cultural icon.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

DVD, various dates
Stieg Larsson’s series of chilly Swedish thrillers were always populated, paced and placed in a filmic style, despite their grizzly nature. And, despite the novels’ international popularity, the film is a Swedish one, reverting to the name the English-language book always should have had; Men Who Hate Women. Expect, a full-frontal rendition of the tattoo tale.

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