The Peace of Wild Things review – a rich harvest

A new edition of work by the American poet Wendell Barnes draws its slow-moving brilliance from the stillness of nature

This column is usually reserved for new collections, but there is a reason to break this rule for Wendell Berry. It is extraordinary that he is not better known. I was on the verge of saying he should be a household name, but households have never been his thing. His selected verse, in a new edition by Penguin, is the work of an outdoorsman; it aspires to Gerard Manley Hopkins’s idea that nature is, for all the depredations, “never spent”. This is poetry to lower blood pressure, to induce calm.

Berry’s gift, as a Kentucky farmer and as a writer, is to root himself as a tree might – not to commandeer nature but to cherish it. I do not think it fanciful to see these poems as a form of manual ...

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala review – coming out and coming of age

The son of devoutly religious parents realises he is gay in Iweala’s tentative follow-up to the acclaimed Beasts of No Nation

Related: The gentrification of Washington DC: how my city changed its colours

It has been 13 years since Uzodinma Iweala’s debut novel, Beasts of No Nation, was published to extraordinary reviews and a slew of prizes. The book, the moving story of a child soldier, Agu, caught up in an African war of relentless brutality, was turned into a film starring Idris Elba. The film was as forgettable as the book was memorable, highlighting the really remarkable thing about Iweala’s novel – the daring and unusual rendition of the protagonist’s perspective and linguistic register (something that Cary Fukunaga was unable to convey in his film). Agu’s voice in the book is a pidgin English that is, at first, difficult to comprehend, but increasingly forges a kind of ...

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Komarr, Chapters 15 and 16

Chapters 15 and 16 of Komarr are action packed! And a lot of that action is centered on that other guy in Ekaterin’s life, Nikolai Vorsoisson. For years, Nikki has been the target of Ekaterin’s ambition to one day be the proud mother of a kid who’s been cured of Vorzohn’s Dystrophy. She just wants this one thing.

Ekaterin is one of my favorite parents in the Vorkosigan Saga. She’s diplomatic, sensitive, encouraging, and always on the lookout for an experience that might spark a child’s interest. Nikki isn’t thrilled to learn that he has a mutation that his parents didn’t tell him about, but Ekaterin provides well-timed, age-appropriate information and emotional support so he’s OK, even though hearing about it this week probably compounded the trauma of his dad’s death. You know what? Nikki went to school all but one of the days this week anyway. It would have ...

How we made Peppa Pig

‘After its success, we’d go to meetings with lots of ideas for other shows – but they just wanted 3,000 more episodes of Peppa Pig’

Animation is a slow, laborious process. I’m way too impatient for it. I want a lunch and a life. So, after studying animation at Middlesex University, I became a producer instead. However, two guys I met there – Mark Baker and Neville Astley – stuck at it. By 2000, things had become very hand-to-mouth for them: they’d make an animated film, pitch another, then make it. So we decided to do something together and Peppa was one of our ideas.

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Going Native: Andre Norton’s Lord of Thunder

In light of some of the comments on previous entries in this reread, I think I should clarify what this series is about.

It’s a reread of books I loved as a child and a teen. That means it’s subjective. It’s about how I reacted then, and whether that reaction is the same now, or whether my feelings have changed. It is not a scholarly study. And yes, I do know how to do one. That’s just not what I’m doing here.

The early Nortons especially are of their time, as commenters have been diligent in informing me. And I understand that. I make a point of saying so, in so many words. But I’m reading them now, in 2018. And sometimes that means that what Norton thought she was doing well or knowledgeably has not stood up to the changes in our culture and understanding. Regardless of what ...

A field guide to spotting a good shag | Brief letters

Shags versus mullets | Black dresses at the Baftas | Childhood books | Missing the moon? | Pensioners making a difference

Your “Mullets we have loved” (In pictures, 17 February) was highly flawed. Half of these “mullets” were actually shags (Ronnie Wood, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Joan Jett).
Camilla Jackson
Bedworth, Warwickshire

• Your front page stated: “All three wore black dresses after a call for the awards to focus on industry rather than clothes” (Taking a stand at the Baftas, 19 February). However, on page 11, there were three columns commenting on what the actors were wearing. I am confused.
Mike Harrison
Bath

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The Stories We Tell: Five Books that Recycle Historical Legends

Let’s be honest: the line between history and fiction doesn’t really exist. After all, history is just stories we tell ourselves. The way we tell those stories says more about our time than about the times we’re examining. Reading about decades- or even centuries-old events in contemporary sources and then comparing how we talk—or don’t talk—about them now is a sobering insight into how writing history shifts what happened into what we think happened and how we process it long after the fact.

So when we write fantasy using history as our playground, we aren’t really rewriting history. We’re writing our own questions played out on a historical background. Fortunately for us, history is cyclical, and we keep needing the same questions answered again and again and again.

The very best books use those legends and histories so seamlessly that, after reading, you feel like you know true things. And ...

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