Voices Goggle box: the blocky looks of the Oculus Rift belie the breath-taking experience of what the wearer sees

This technology is about to change the way you perceive the world – and yourself

BOOK REVIEW / No fools like the old: The laughing academy by Shena Mackay, Heinemann pounds 13.99

IF YOU put all the characters from Shena Mackay's new story collection in one room simultaneously and spent any time there, you'd be ready for the Laughing Academy (Funny Farm) yourself. Taken in manageable doses as directed, however, these creations embarrass, alarm and charm the reader nicely, with only one side-effect: for days afterwards, you may expect of the most ordinary people a raffishness they do not possess.

Letter: Wavelength congestion on a crowded isle

Sir: As a regular listener to Radio 4 FM, I must take exception to your argument (leading article, 30 April) that music gains more from stereo transmission on FM than the spoken word. I for one would greatly miss the realism brought to Radio 4 drama by stereo transmission, and FM transmission.

BOOK REVIEW / From the drawing class to the boudoir: 'Alias Olympia' - Eunice Lipton: Thames & Hudson, 12.95 pounds

WHEN Manet's Olympia was first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1865, the critics reacted with howls of rage. Such was the volume of imprecations against 'the vicious strangeness of this woman of the night, a sort of female gorilla, a grotesque' that the authorities cordoned off the painting against possible assault from canes and umbrellas while the artist himself, frankly puzzled by the brouhaha, left hurriedly on a trip to Spain.

CLASSIC THOUGHTS / Swarms of bees and poppies: Continuing our occasional series of reflections on classic literature, Gabriel Josipovici considers the lofty realism of Homer's Iliad

'THE DEAD writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did,' T S Eliot has someone say. And the reply comes: 'Precisely, and they are that which we know.' Not only that though. Old books are there to remind us of ways of looking and thinking that we have forgotten or that modern culture has kept hidden from us. And of no book is this truer than of the Iliad.

BOOK REVIEW / In bed with Magdalena: 'The Love Queen of the Amazon' - Cecile Pineda: Hamish Hamilton, 9.99

CECILE PINEDA has achieved an impressive feat of gringo legerdemain. An American writer living in San Francisco, where she is well known for her experimental theatre work, she has set her third novel a couple of thousand miles to the south, in the Peruvian city of Malyerba. Her book still reads like a North American work, however. The dialogue may be littered with words such as nina, pobrecita and putamadre, but people also call each other 'dummy'. The Love Queen of the Amazon is a romp of a tale none the less. Ana Magdalena, a pupil at a convent, jumps naked into the river to save a drowning (female) friend, and is promptly expelled from school by the nuns on a charge of impropriety. This is both ridiculous and unfair, and when Ana Magdalena ends up in her friend's bed on the latter's wedding night, it is clear that realism, on the simple level of plausibility, is not going to be much of an issue.

BOOK REVIEW / The singing flight of the frump: 'Tsvetaeva' - Viktoria Schweitzer, Tr. Robert Chandler & H T Willetts: Harvill 20 pounds

MARINA TSVETAEVA imbibed her mother's sublime Romanticism - adoration of art, music, literature and noble sacrifice - with the milk of her many wet-nurses. Her quiet father (who created what is now the Pushkin Museum) provided the wherewithal for servants, education and holidays in dachas, while her mother strode about announcing: 'Money is filth]' This was the springiest of launch-pads for the future poet who never really came down to earth, even though the revolutionaries burned down their Moscow house and ultimately wrecked her life. It is easy to see that someone like Tsvetaeva would have driven the Social Realists mad.

BOOK REVIEW / Manet's girl who did it her way: Olympia: Paris in the Age of Manet by Otto Friedrich, Aurum pounds 19.95

OTTO FRIEDRICH suspects a feminist plot. He sees it in the way architect Gae Aulenti and curator Francoise Cachin took down the goddess Olympia from her altar-like position in the Jeu de Paume and consigned her to a side wall in their new Musee d'Orsay. Whatever the truth behind that rehang, it is certain that Manet's portrait of the naked Victorine Meurent has had a rough time recently. Gerald Needham's Manet, 'Olympia' and Pornographic Photography claimed that the hidden source of Manet's inspiration was not so much Titian's Venus of Urbino but the stereoscopic photographs of women, undressing or pulling off their stockings, which were widely available in mid-19th-century Paris. Manet's Olympia is just another poor street-girl, obliged to display herself for the male spectator.

BOOK REVIEW / Stock-still lives with a photo finish: Beyond Impressionism - Gabriel P Weisberg: Thames & Hudson, pounds 38

TIMES AND tastes may be a-changing, but there is at least one area of Western middle-class life that remains the same. A good majority still believes, as it has for the whole post-war era, that the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists reign supreme in art. Although the recession is biting into exhibition programmes, we can rest assured that the Royal Academy will grant us our annual dose of Vincent, Edouard, Claude or Paul, and that the publishers will keep up the flow of posters, books, calendars and cards.

Between the Lines: Miner triumphs: Director Peter Gill on fineness of spirit in the plays of D H Lawrence

'There] Isn't that fine? That's what they can do in France. It's so heavy and full and voluptuous: like oranges falling and rolling a little way along a dark blue carpet; like twilight outside when the lamp's lighted: you get a sense of rich, heavy things, as if you smelt them, and felt them about you in the dusk: isn't it?'

BOOK REVIEW / Life (sentences) and hard labour: 'Metaphysics as a guide to morals' - Iris Murdoch: Chatto, 20 pounds

This book is based on the Gifford Lectures that Iris Murdoch gave in Edinburgh in 1982, and is a grand elaboration of her earlier The Sovereignty of Good (1970). It is a great congested work, a foaming sourcebook, about life, imagination, tragedy, philosophy, morality, religion and art. It feels as if it has grown to its present length of 200,000 words by radical tmesis, a long and uninhibited process of interpolation of new sentences into a cherished and increasingly gravid text.
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Career Services

Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?