Philip Pullman: 12 Years A Slave was filmed with great imaginative engagement

Cultural life: The author gives his book, film, TV and music picks

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The Independent Culture

Books

The Pike by Lucy Hughes-Hallett. A wonderful subject, the appalling and brilliant Fascist poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, and a treatment of his life that fizzes with life and originality. And another life, but a complete contrast: Life, Art, Words, by Boel Westin, the biography of Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins. The book feels dutiful and ploddish, but Jansson was a magician, and anything about her is fascinating.

Films

12 Years a Slave is as good as I’d heard it was. Anyone can film cruelty and oppression; Steve McQueen did it with a depth of imaginative engagement. Spike Jonze’s Her was very disappointing. The pitiful whining self-obsession of all the human characters (plus a mumbling Joaquin Phoenix) made it hard going.

Television

Like everyone else, I loved The Bridge. It made an interesting contrast with Salamander, the Belgian police serial. The Bridge had a richness of characterisation that kept it continually surprising, whereas Salamander was a boxful of clichés. ¬

Music

I buy every CD of Prokofiev’s 2nd Piano Concerto that comes out. The two latest versions I’ve bought are by Yuja Wang with Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, and Yundi Li with Seiji Ozawa and the Berlin Philharmonic.

Philip Pullman will be talking at the Oxford Literary Festival (oxfordliteraryfestival.org) 22 to 30 March.

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