Creative Sensemaker

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A rundown of the week’s cultural moments, books, films, music and more by Tortoise Media, the slow news agency

By Matt d’Ancona

Welcome to the latest Creative Sensemaker from Tortoise Media.

Umberto Eco, defined ‘hyperreality’ as simulations that attempted to improve on reality. Disneyland and Las Vegas are prime examples. Netflix’s The Crownseason four of which can now be streamed in full – is another.

Some commentators are outraged by the occasional liberties taken by the show’s writers. If you want a rigorous historical account of these years, then consult the tremendous books on the Queen by Sarah Bradford, Ben Pimlott, and Robert Hardman. Meanwhile, enjoy season four for what it is, rather than something it was never intended to be.

Here are this week’s recommendations:

A couple standing with their heads touching


Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix, 24 November)
Based on J.D. Vance’s 2016 memoir, which was hailed as a manual for those seeking to understand the forces that Donald Trump harnessed to defeat Hillary Clinton. With neat symmetry, the movie appears during the last sordid weeks of his presidency.

Industry (BBC iPlayer)
Another drama set in the heady, cut-throat world of high finance? Yes, but this is nothing like Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. It’s more like Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire Of The Vanities, as if reimagined for millennials. Not to be missed.

The Life Ahead (Netflix)
If the 86-year-old Sophia Loren is Oscar-nominated for her role in this film, she will become the oldest contender for the Best Actress statuette. She plays a Holocaust survivor who provides childcare for the offspring of sex workers in a seaside Italian town. Directed by Edoardo Ponti, the film has real class.

A woman and a boy walking down a european street


Send Them To Coventry by Pa Salieu
This debut mix tape by the British-Gambian rapper is already one of my musical highlights of 2020.

Franz Schmidt: Complete Symphonies by Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and Paavo Järvi
Only the third widely available recording of Schmidt’s four-symphony cycle, this is a remarkable achievement, captured live in Frankfurt over five years.

London Jazz Festival (until 22 November)
There’s still plenty to enjoy online in this year’s line-up, including a fascinating discussion of music in the age of Black Lives Matter.

A man on the front of an album cover
A man playing the cello


Dearly by Margaret Atwood
Atwood’s first collection of poetry for more than 10 years reminds us that the mighty novelist and two-time Booker Prize-winner was a poet first.

The Moth And The Mountain: A True Story Of Love, War, And Everest by Ed Caesar
What compelled Maurice Wilson to board a fragile plane in 1933, with the intention of flying to Everest and climbing to its summit? You’ll be gripped to the very last sentence.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama
The first volume of Obama’s presidential memoirs sold nearly 890,000 copies in the US and Canada in the first 24 hours of its publication. And justly so, because the 44th President is probably the finest writer to have held the office since Lincoln. Not just a book for political obsessives.

Two book covers on a grey background
A book cover on a grey background

...and finally

Three cheers for the theatrical club THESP and its founder Gilly Hopper for her new compilation Intermission, which poses the question: what happens when theatres go dark? All proceeds will go to Acting for Others, which provides financial and emotional support to theatre workers in times of adversity. You can pre-order your copy – a two-for-one special – here.

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Matt d’Ancona
Editor and Partner
Tortoise Media

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