Joe Ballantyne: Whoops, by John Lanchester

For my money, Whoops is far and away the best book I’ve read about the financial crisis. It’s clear, concise and at times even funny. John Lanchester is first and foremost a novelist – but then perhaps it takes someone who produces fiction to write effectively about a crisis caused by made up money.

Sarah King: Gauguin, Tate Modern

Tate Modern’s blockbuster Gauguin show runs till 16th January in London. It is lucid and contains some wonderful things but I found it full of unexpected comedy. Famously curmudgeonly, Gauguin lived a life of self conscious provocation; the frontage he made for his house in the Marquesas Islands bore a legend roughly translated as house of fun, aimed, with as much venom as wit, at his pious neighbours. He seems to have died of sheer rage in a dispute with colonial tax officials in his adopted home. But the most absurd feature of his immersion was his failure over many years to learn the language that surrounded him. He picked up snatches of it to use with his art, only to discover the banality of their meaning later. Art is full of contradictions and that his reputation is a triumph of positioning and image making was a theme of the show. His magpie-like plundering of everything around him was a means to his end but for this viewer, along with the myth making, there was a strong whiff of fraud.

Andy Stubbings: It’s All Their Fault

The favourite thing that I’ve stumbled across this year was probably the anti-Boomer manifesto It’s All Their Fault. It’s a real angry screed, but at the same time it expresses the kind of frustration I have been  surprised (and maybe a little disappointed) not to see more of this year, directed by the younger generation towards their elders. Maybe we need to wait for 2011 for that. I liked it so much I got a t-shirt made (and then found that nobody in the UK knew what a Boomer was).

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