The Daily: Michelle Obama is fan of Downton
Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Daily: November 13

Written by Catriona Grew
Michelle Obama begs ITV for Downton Abbey DVDs
Michelle Obama is such a fan of Downton Abbey that she has decided she can't wait until the third series of Britain's best-loved costume drama returns to air on US television in January 2013 – and has reportedly contacted ITV to ask for some DVDs of the new episodes. ITV is delighted to have been approached by the First Lady, and trusts that the Obamas will be careful not to ruin the finale for the rest of the show's overseas fans. What's more, Downton Abbey stars Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern were invited to the President's White House dinner for David Cameron in March earlier this year – such is the Obamas' enthusiasm for the show!

Salman Rushdie and John Le Carre end 15 year feud
One of modern literature's most notorious feuds has finally been reconciled – John Le Carre and Salmon Rushdie have both said that they regretted falling out over the freedom to insult religion. The quarrel originally played out in the letters section of The Guardian in 1997; particularly fiery moments included Rushdie calling Le Carre "a pompous ass" and Le Carre rejoining by accusing Rushdie of "self-canonisation". However, Rushdie seemed keen to bury the hatchet at Cheltenham Literature Festival last month, and accompanied his apology with the declaration that "'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' is one of the great novels of post-war Britain". Yesterday, Le Carre confirmed to The Times that peace had indeed been reached, adding that "I admire Rushdie for his work and courage, and respect his stand".

History Boys writer returns with "mordantly funny" new play
"People", Alan Bennett's latest play to open at the National Theatre, sees Frances de la Tour (whose previous works include "Rising Damp" and "Harry Potter") shine as a former Sixties model who can no longer afford to maintain her crumbling stately home. " The National Trust, a smooth-talking auctioneer and a roguish porn film-maker compete for her favour in a play that achieves "just the right mixture of wit and understated poignancy," thanks to Nicholas Hytner's apt direction. Linda Bassett ("East is East", "Calendar Girls") and Selina Cadell further fortify Frances de la Tour's strong performance – and Bennett has "lost none of his edge".

Tate Modern unveils "A Bigger Splash"
The Tate Modern's most recent offering, "A Bigger Splash", is a sprawling, chaotic and entertaining survey of performance art since the 1950s. The stars of the show are Jackson Pollock's "Summertime" and David Hockney's "a bigger splash" – and in addition to the paintings are a pair of films that document the two artists at work. The films chart the concentration and creativity of these two giants of the modern art scene; alongside the paintings themselves, they offer the onlooker compelling insight into the relationship between process and product. Other memorable aspects of the exhibition include a cross-dressing Andy Warhol and Niki de Saint Phalle using her shotgun to paint: you can expect a kaleidoscopic, feisty and altogether memorable show.

Judit Polgar: the best female chess player of all time
Judit Polgar is a chess-playing phenomenon; she was the youngest ever grandmaster at 15, the only woman in the top 100, and was in the top ten during her peak. Her forthcoming schedule is dominated by the London Chess Classic in December, when she will do as she has always done and play as the lone female against the eight top male players, including world champion Vishy Anand and world No 1 Magnus Carlsen. With the exception of a brief mid-career slump after the birth of her daughter in 2006, Polgar is at the top of her game despite having a family and two children. She now juggles a successful career in competitive chess, two young children, running a chess foundation in Hungary and writing a book on an educational programme centred on the game. "My life is complex and rich now", she says – she is an example to us all.

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