Judith Orr

Ball & Chain

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Nicky Falkof, Fusion, £10.99

This is a lively diatribe against the institution of marriage and, at a time when big white, ridiculously expensive weddings seem to be all the rage, it is a timely read. Falkof rages against the idealisation of marriage and the deluge of propaganda from popular culture that encourages young women to believe that the "big day" should mark the pinnacle of their aspirations.

Lions for Lambs

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Director: Robert Redford; Release date: 9 November

This is a high risk movie. It's an anti-war film that is not dressed up as a thriller, a love story or an action movie. Instead it is a bold political debate about the impact of the "war on terror" on every level of society played out by some of Hollywood's finest.

The Deportees

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Roddy Doyle, Jonathan Cape, £16.99

Roddy Doyle's great strength is his ability to get inside his characters' shoes. This new collection of stories, some in several episodes, is no exception.

In The Pram we see working as a nanny for a rich Dublin family through the eyes of a young Polish woman, or, in New Boy, a Nigerian boy's first day at a new school. The theme of all the stories is immigration.

Tony Benn on life on the outside

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Gordon Brown, the Left outside the Labour Party and the power of popular protest - Tony Benn speaks to Lindsey German and Judith Orr

How different is your political life today, recorded in the latest instalment of your diaries, from your time in parliament?

Before my wife Caroline died she said that if I ever left parliament I should say that I left to devote more time to politics. People laugh, but I've never done so many meetings and broadcasts, and I've written four books, so I have fulfilled that objective.

Writing in an Age of Silence

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Sara Paretsky, Verso, £12.99

Sara Paretsky's fictional private eye, VI Warshawski, is from a different mould to most. She is a woman, for a start, and she sides with the poor and vulnerable against the rich and corrupt corporate powers of Chicago.

Writing in an Age of Silence is part memoir and part political polemic. Its title refers to what it means to be a writer under George Bush's presidency after 9/11, in a time of the Patriot Act, and massive attacks on civil liberties and freedom of speech.

Howard Zinn on Making History

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Pathbreaking historian and political activist Howard Zinn talks to Judith Orr about his life, war, class politics and taking sides.

Can I take you back to your memories of childhood in Brooklyn?

This was the 1930s during the depression. My father and mother were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. My father was from the Austro-Hungarian empire, my mother from Siberia. They came to the US and worked in factories, met one another and got married.

Can Things Only Get Better?

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The decision by Labour MPs to deny party members the chance to choose their new leader means Gordon Brown will take office at the end of June. Judith Orr looks at the problems he will face and the state of the Labour left, while Michael Bradley examines the response from the unions.

Gordon Brown's time has finally come. On 24 June he will take on the post he has coveted for over a decade. Brown quickly received some good press. The Mirror's headline was "A Leader Born to Serve Us", and there was a three point boost in the polls. The fact that there is a bit of a "Brown bounce" is not surprising. It could hardly be otherwise - he is replacing one of Britain's most unpopular prime ministers. There is a palpable relief that Tony Blair is finally going, and for some a desperate hope that "things can only get better".

Interview: Ariel Levy

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'Raunch culture isn't about opening our minds to the possibilities of sexuality. It's about reiterating one particular shorthand for sexiness'

In her book Ariel Levy decries the rise of "raunch culture", which sees pornography and stripping passed off as a form of women's liberation. Levy spoke to Judith Orr about her work and the debates it has sparked.

From "Bus Pass Boob Jobs", the title of a recent Channel 4 programme about women over 60 getting breast implants, to the packed pole dancing classes at Cambridge university - society seems to be embracing an image of women's sexuality that in the past would have been identified with the world of pornography.

Tragedy of What Could Be

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Review of 'Brokeback Mountain', director Ang Lee

It's been dubbed 'the gay cowboy movie', although the promoters prefer to talk about it as just a 'great American love story' - presumably for fear of scaring homophobic cinemagoers. Commentators, including Madonna, have described the two lead men as 'brave' for playing gay men. Is it braver than to play, say, a serial killer or a rapist? For all that has changed in attitudes since the early 1960s in which Brokeback Mountain is set, the reaction to the movie reveals much that hasn't.

Intimate Truths

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Judith Orr takes on the right wing moralisers - review of 'Kinsey', director Bill Condon

There are websites set up expressly to challenge it, letter writing campaigns to the press to denounce it, and the person on which it's based is blamed for the degeneration of US society. Kinsey has sent the Christian right in the US into apoplexy.

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