The Diary: Damien Hirst; Cate Blanchett; Granta magazine; Assassination Diaries; Bram Stoker
Arifa Akbar is literary editor of The Independent and i newspapers. She has worked at The Independent since 2001 as a news reporter and arts correspondent before joining the books desk in 2009. She was a judge for the Orwell Prize for books, 2013, and is currently a judge of the Fiction Uncovered Prize, 2014.
Friday 20 April 2012
Stop making an exhibition of yourself
Damien Hirst's butterfly enclosure is one of the most visited – and guarded – parts of his current show at Tate Modern in London, so the small army of gallerists specially trained in handling the hundred tropical butterflies that are flying in a cordoned space were rightly concerned when a spirited boy bombed his way into the enclosure and started handling the fauna around him. "A lot of butterflies were landing on him," said one onlooker. He and his posse of navel-high friends had gained access into the gallery a day before the official opening and gallerists were stunned to discover that he knew exactly how to handle the butterflies – by lifting them up not from their wings, but from their undercarriage. "He was also telling his friends to be careful," the onlooker added. Who was this mini enfant terrible? A blonde-haired boy called Connor, whose father is one Damien Hirst.
The naked truth about Cate's star turn
Cate Blanchett's performance in Big and Small at the Barbican in London has been hailed as "mesmerising" and "magnificent". While I wouldn't dare to disagree, I would only add that a friend pointed out that it was also um, rather physical, though all in the best possible taste: a man in swimming trunks is briefly de-briefed; a large lady appears on stage wearing very little (while shooting up); and a leaner lady whips off her top on stage (she modestly turns her back to the audience). None of it takes away from Blanchett's fine performance as a lost soul looking for a connection in a play exploring alienation and post-war Teutonic guilt. A source at the Barbican reminded me that this was stark and serious drama, not a nude-fest. I'm duly chided.
Edgy art or a storm in a tea cup?
Granta magazine's front covers are becoming miniature works of art, it would seem. Jake and Dinos Chapman designed the creepy cover of the "Horror" edition last year. Now, Paul Smith has helped to create the cover of their latest edition, Granta 119: Britain, out in May, which explores the state of the nation (with work by Adam Foulds and Mark Haddon among others). Michael Salu, the magazine's artistic director, explains: "We worked with Sir Paul Smith and his team to create an image that we feel is beautiful yet disquieting, and saturated with generations of British identity and understanding." And the unsettling image in question? A chipped china tea-cup. My mother would absolutely agree.
A few months ago, an anonymous manuscript landed on the desk of the publisher Next Century Books, which appeared to be a diary account of a contract killer. A second instalment came some days later, making it clear to NCB publisher, Tim Purcell, that the writer was seeking publication. What was less clear, says Purcell, was how "true" this account was. There are descriptions of assassinations on the Cote d'Azur, for example, that seem to be based on actual happenings, he says. As far as he's concerned, the jury's out on whether a real life assassin has been documenting his or her work, but you can judge for yourself as Assassination Diaries: The Bishop is now out as a download.
They're sticking their necks out for Bram
Tonight promises to be an important night for "Stokies", who will pay their respects to Bram Stoker, the founding father of literary vampirism and author of Dracula. They are set to mark the centenary of his death by collecting at Golders Green Crematorium, in north London, where Stoker's ashes will be "uncovered in an elaborate ceremony complete with speeches and toasts". His family will be watching on. A Bram Stoker Centenary Symposium will take place on the same day at nearby Keats House, where Professor Elizabeth Miller, of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, will make public the content of Stoker's lost Dublin journal, discovered in an attic on the Isle of Wight.
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