ESSAY Fatigue and Futility

by Eloise Hendy

Coined by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1974 when, after an extended period of working long hours, he found himself incapable of experiencing joy, ‘burnout’ has become a buzzword in recent years. An enervating psychic state marked by emotional exhaustion, a pervasive sense of futility, and the depletion of empathy, care and compassion, the condition is now frequently used as an umbrella term for the cognitive damage and distress wrought by the conditions of late capitalism. Indeed, according to Anne Helen Petersen, author of Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, it shouldn’t be understood as ‘an affliction experienced by relatively few . . . but, increasingly, and particularly among millennials, the contemporary condition.’ [read full essay]

OPINION This Column is Live

by Nina Ellis

Nine months ago, I barely knew what live-streaming was. But after Cambridge closed in March, my PhD supervisor sent me an article about working remotely, which suggested ‘Study With Me’ YouTube videos. These are livestreams or recordings of people studying, often in libraries: my favourite, by Jamie of The Strive Studies, has over a million views. I played it over and over in the corner of my screen as I prepared for my doctoral registration exams last June, and it almost made me feel like I was in a library too. [read full opinion]

Larger than Life

Phoebe Stuckes, Platinum Blonde

reviewed by Nina Hanz

‘Their heavy footsteps, out of tune with the timbre / of my stilettos. I wasn’t wearing stilettos / but I think you will imagine that I was’. In ‘Bleach’, the opening poem of Phoebe Stuckes’ debut poetry collection Platinum Blonde, these lines strike upon two key themes which unravel throughout the book. First, they introduce the object of scale, mass and excess: the heavy steps of a wide gait, the light timbre of a quick shuffle, this also occurs earlier in the poem, ‘I liked the... [read more]

Isolating Bricolage

Rebecca Watson, little scratch

reviewed by Genevieve Sartor

Rebecca Watson’s relentless debut novel, little scratch, propels readers with its experimental approach to language that ricochets the thoughts and actions of a nameless female narrator across each page. The novel’s presentation, which is varyingly reminiscent of an excel spreadsheet, a Twitter feed, and the vanguard, unconventional prose of modernist literature, weaves difficult subject matter into a new narrative fabric. This jarringly presented and deceptively simple text reflects... [read more]

Attachment Theory

Rita Felski, Hooked: Art and Attachment

reviewed by Nell Osborne

In 2015, in The Limits of Critique, Rita Felski argued that critique, a term she uses to characterise the predominant institutionalised practices of interpretation, solicits the critic to adopt a stance and tone of ‘ferocious and blistering detachment’. The critic’s encounter with a text is driven by ‘desire to puncture illusions, topple idols and destroy divinities,’ that is both combative and paranoid. Towards the end of this book, Felski invokes Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as one... [read more]

Psychoanalysis Retold

Emma Lieber, The Writing Cure

reviewed by Mersiha Bruncevic

Talking about dreams is tricky. This difficulty is expressed in various ways, but essentially the challenge is this: can words ever give a truthful account of what is experienced in sleep? If you dream of a sheep and then write or talk about that sheep, are you really describing what you saw? After all, it is a widely held belief that an image perceived while asleep is a code packed with unfulfilled wishes, memories and neuroses. A dream-sheep is always a desire-wolf in disguise. Emma Lieber... [read more]

It Goes on Forever

John Cooper Clarke, I Wanna Be Yours

reviewed by Peter Mitchell

I went to a party dressed as John Cooper Clarke once. The theme was Dress As Yr Idols. I was in possession of a physique, a pair of trousers and a tie that were almost skinny enough, plus I had just about enough hair that, if doused in coca-cola and back-combed like Nicky Wire said to, it’d approximate his beetling updo. More importantly it was easy and I got to go around roaring the lines from Beasley Street — ‘people turn to poison / quick as lager turns to piss / sweethearts are... [read more]

Weapons Against the Hereafter

Matthew Sweeney, Shadow of the Owl

reviewed by Daniel Fraser

There is an immediate difficulty, or perhaps rather a temptation, that presents itself when forming a response to any 'last book', particularly one produced under circumstances such as those in the background of Matthew Sweeney's final volume of poetry Shadow of the Owl. The poems it contains were largely composed in the period leading up to the author's death in August 2018 from motor neurone disease. They are poems full of portents and dark symbols, meetings with apparitions and last meal... [read more]

What We Call Progress

Fredric Jameson, The Benjamin Files

reviewed by Stuart Walton

In his mid-twenties, Walter Benjamin wrote a formative essay on the historical evolution of language. Anticipating by a generation the critique mounted by key figures in the Frankfurt School, in relation to which he was more of a distantly orbiting satellite than a component star, he staged an inquiry into the archaic origins of the linguistic faculty, tracing the route by which its original nominative purity might have ramified into the instrumental version of communication to which more or... [read more]

The Worry Economy

Elisa Gabbert, The Unreality of Memory: & Other Essays

reviewed by Jonathan Gharraie

Close to the beginning of this elegant, chewy collection of essays, Elisa Gabbert describes arriving at the Rice University campus on the morning of 9/11, and watching her fellow students watch the unfolding tragedy with ‘that air of disbelief that can seem almost casual.’ The casual note, whether absurd, funny, or melancholic, is important to Gabbert. She never allows it to dominate, but it’s a reliable way of leavening her rich textual mix of facts and scientific theories. The book is... [read more]

Right There on the Surface

Kathryn Scanlan, The Dominant Animal: Stories

reviewed by Jon Doyle

In ‘Theses of the Short Story’, a suitably succinct essay by Ricardo Piglia, the Argentine author and critic suggests that every short story is in fact two. ‘A visible story hides a secret tale,’ he writes, ‘narrated in an elliptical and fragmentary manner.’ The surface narrative has a subterranean twin, one no less tangible or ‘real’. Like the mind with its conscious and unconscious, neither of these discrete threads are dominant, indeed they are strangely intertwined. ‘The... [read more]

Both Idea and Entity

Robert Selby, The Coming-Down Time

reviewed by Ben Leubner

Robert Selby’s debut collection of poems, The Coming-Down Time, is a marvellous volume of lyrics the main subjects of which are family legacies, history, love, England, and poetry. The volume is divided into three sections, the first and third of which are numbered sequences. East of Ipswich opens the volume and is a sequence of 20 lyrics in memory of Selby’s maternal grandparents, the main focus being on his grandfather, who served in the Second World War as an artillery man. The poems... [read more]