Stage Paralysis

by Stephen Lee Naish

When you suffer from stage fright you are inexplicably aware of almost every single body movement: a curve of the lip, a twitch of the finger, a closing of one eye. You begin to wonder how these actions are making you appear to the audience. This suddenly becomes your core concern. Recently, whilst re-watching the first-season of Friends, Chandler Bing summed this up when he weighed up the decision to go and talk to a beautiful woman: ‘I'm very, very aware of my tongue.’ Then a strange external shutdown begins and you enter into a place where all your internal chemicals combine in a twisted science experiment overseen by the ghost of Timothy Leary. At that precise moment you become aware of the growth of your own fingernails and hair. Star Wars fans might say this sounds a lot like The Force, though it offers no such powers [read full essay]

Exploitation, Misery, Suffering, Poverty, Illness, Torture & Ignorance

Willie Thompson, Work, Sex and Power: The Forces That Shaped Our History

reviewed by Stuart Walton

The first of four epigraphs to Willie Thompson's global human history is Marx's dictum from The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: 'Man makes his own history, but he does not make it out of the whole cloth; he does not make it out of conditions chosen by himself, but out of such as he finds close at hand'. The historian, on the other hand, makes it out of just what he or she chooses to, and the abiding themes of any historical narrative, whether of biological evolution or of economic... [read more]

What Will We Do With Our Fear?

Eula Biss, On Immunity: An Innoculation

reviewed by Peter Marshall

Early in 2015, following years of growing unease about the safety and necessity of vaccination, an outbreak of measles that began in Disney World resulted in over 100 cases of the once eradicated disease being reported throughout the United States. The parents who chose not to vaccinate their children, and so precipitated the outbreak, were not religious nor were they necessarily right-wing science deniers. Many were affluent, educated, white, and from the upper middle-class. That is, they came... [read more]

The Thought of Pain and the Pain of Thought

Simon Morgan Wortham, Modern Thought in Pain: Philosophy, Politics, Psychoanalysis

reviewed by Joel White

It was in the waiting room of a hospital that I first picked up Simon Morgan Wortham’s Modern Thought in Pain: Philosophy, Politics, Psychoanalysis. Surgery was looming around the corner. Pain, in its bodily, immanent and imminent sense, was on the mind. Before I began to read, pain, as situated between the body and the mind, the material and the ideal, the past and the future, was present in all its ignominious facets. In fact, the dualisms that the thought of pain or the pain of thought... [read more]

All That Isn't

Kelly Link, Get In Trouble: Stories

reviewed by Miles Klee

Before I read Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble, I only knew her fabulist work by reputation. I actually own an earlier short story collection – she’s one of those literary unicorns who has made a name for herself without bothering about the albatross of a novel – but, and I can’t believe I’m admitting this, its ugly cover is too much. I’ve never brought myself to crack it open. Further evidence of my superficiality: I dived into her new anthology head first, head over heels in love... [read more]

A Local Theatre for Local People

Terry Coleman, The Old Vic: The Story of a Great Theatre from Kean to Olivier to Spacey

reviewed by Belinda Webb-Blofeld

A couple of months ago I watched Tree at the Old Vic, a two-man play that was a taut 90 minutes without intermission. The hubby and I were seated in the Stage Dress Circle, a few narrow rows towards the back of the theatre. And I recalled the note in Terry Coleman’s informative and well paced history of this theatre, that even though the Vic is today the same size as it was in its earliest days, it had once accommodated more than treble the audience. There were no stalls then, only a pit,... [read more]

Cognitive Mapping

Alberto Toscano & Jeff Kinkle, Cartographies of the Absolute

reviewed by Alex Fletcher

In a world abounding with mapping devices of various kinds (from SatNavs to GoogleMaps and GIS) there is nonetheless a surfeit of social, political and economic disorientation. Visual art and literature (as well cinema and television) often explore cartographic forms as a means for manufacturing a fragile compass for orienting the increasingly complex spatial and social relations of contemporary global capitalism. Yet such cartographic prominence, as Alberto Toscano & Jeff Kinkle highlight in... [read more]

The Prophet Reassessed

Paul Le Blanc, Leon Trotsky

reviewed by Ian Birchall

One of the most remarkable figures of the Russian Revolution was Leon Trotsky, a brilliant writer – as a young man his nickname was ‘The Pen’ – a great orator, addressing crowds of thousands, and a formidable organiser, building the Red Army during a ruthless civil war. But by 1928 Trotsky was forced into travelling from one place of exile to the next and was eventually murdered on Stalin’s orders, being denounced as a ‘faithful servant’ of fascism. Paul Le Blanc’s short... [read more]

Reality Hunger

Chris Killen, In Real Life

reviewed by James Pulford

Behind the bluster and the speculative sightings of literature’s own four horsemen, the suggestion that the internet could be the death of the novel – an idea seriously entertained by some – is underpinned by an interesting question: how do novelists writing today acknowledge the presence of the internet and digital media in their fiction? Much has been made of the power of social media in particular and its influence on human behaviour and relationships, and fiction writers, always keen... [read more]

The Rotating Bed

Paul B. Preciado, Pornotopia: An Essay on Playboy’s Architecture & Biopolitics

reviewed by Jane Cleasby

Those coming to Paul B. Preciado’s Pornotopia: An Essay on Playboy’s Architecture & Biopolitics having read the genre-splitting, sexually graphic critical memoir that was 2013’s Testo Junkie may be surprised at the former’s comparable conventionality. Save for the preface and the postscript, Preciado is barely visible in the pages of Pornotopia, and readers may be disappointed to find his writing in a much more traditionally academic style. This is likely due to the book’s genesis as... [read more]

Using Buildings as Cyphers

Sharon Rotbard, White City, Black City: Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa

reviewed by Alison Hugill

In his essay ‘On the Concept of History’, Walter Benjamin writes - quoting the Austrian dramatist Hugo Hofmannsthal - that the true historian must ‘read what was never written.’ Echoing this sentiment, and taking up the task, Sharon Rotbard remarks that ‘…the most interesting chapters in Tel Aviv’s account of itself are, without doubt, the ones that have been left out.’ From this conceptual starting point, he aims to lay bare the myth of Tel Aviv’s architectural history,... [read more]