Inside the psychiatric hospitals and churches of rural China – in pictures | Art and design

A woman with lamb, holding a cross in Shaanxi, 1992 Lu says: ‘My visual treatments are influenced by two great painters, Piero della Francesca and Johannes Vermeer. Francesca’s works have a quiet, solemn atmosphere; they have clear spatial structure and the figuration is unassuming yet powerful. Vermeer’s pictures portray simple settings that are serene yet …

Malcolm Gladwell meets Ben Fountain: ‘So much of politics is absurd and dumb’ | Books

Ben Fountain’s 2016 election year essays for the Guardian have been expanded into a new book which tries to make sense of what happened and where America stands today. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Outliers, first wrote about Fountain in an article for the New Yorker titled Late Bloomers in which he …

The human league: what separates us from other animals? | Books

You are an animal, but a very special one. Mostly bald, you’re an ape, descended from apes; your features and actions are carved or winnowed by natural selection. But what a special simian you are. Shakespeare crystallised this thought a good 250 years before Charles Darwin positioned us as a creature at the end of …

In these dark times, embracing laughter is an ethical choice | Charlotte Wood | Culture

Because we live in such very dark times, I’ve been thinking about laughter and art. If you feel as I do, some days you’ll see no hope for humanity. We’ve destroyed much of the planet already and seem hellbent on continuing that destruction. People all over the world suffer unspeakable violence and deprivation. We in …

Siren Song by Seymour Stein review – memories of Talking Heads, Madonna and the Ramones | Books

On a New York City night in late summer, 1976, three former art students were playing at a club called Max’s Kansas City. Observing them from a ringside table were a couple who looked a little older than most of the club’s clientele, and a lot less cool. But there they sat, front and centre, …

‘My dog was looking into my eyes as she died’: the grief of losing a pet is real | Marieke Hardy | Life and style

When the tired-looking woman at the animal emergency clinic shuffled into the holding room wearing an apron spattered startlingly with blood, she told me I had a choice. I could submit my dear, doddery 14-year-old Staffy to some major surgery to determine whether the painful spots in her beautiful belly – causing her now sleepless …

Know thyself… by writing your first novel | Life and style

Writing a novel is a scary prospect. They’re so long and winding, they can seem never-ending. The main obstacle might seem to be starting – the terror of the blank page – but the real stumbling block lies elsewhere. There is no reason in the world why you can’t write a novel and the only …

A story about Harry Kane and Russian history is inspiring schoolkids to read | Football

Amid the avalanche of words written for football fans during the World Cup, perhaps the most unusual and original will be those created by children’s author Tom Palmer. Unlike the reporters and pundits who are documenting events in Russia, Palmer has a very particular mission. Throughout the tournament he is posting daily entries of a …