In Marshall I saw my shadow self. In Mike Davis I recognised my angrier part, the undertow that tugged with my Marshall part, the loving part. These were the two souls dwelling in my breast, dwelling in my feeling and thinking about cities as well. I was more dystopian than utopian. Funnily enough, this is what I wanted to discuss with Marshall, who’d become a friend. We’d agreed to see each other, to talk about a letter he’d sent me about an article I’d sent him. [read full essay]
‘Welcome to our safe house!’ Thus began the 2018 TS Eliot Prize readings, which were hosted ten days ago, as they always are, in the the most eminent of the arts bunkers stationed on the South Bank. It was a Sunday night, and the Royal Festival Hall, capacity 2,900, was full, enthralled by the booming Doncaster tones of compere Ian McMillan. This year the prize was more diverse than ever before: full gender parity had been achieved, and not one but three non-white poets were included. There was even an Irishman. They were all excellent. [read full opinion]
By all accounts, the city of Rome should have passed into the footnotes of history long ago, a sad victim of multiple sackings, internecine division, depopulation and egregious neglect. Case in point: in the early fifth century, a roaming military force of Visigoths crept uncomfortably far into Italy, bypassing the new capital Ravenna, and encircling Rome. Negotiations faltered, and in 410 CE the city was systematically, scrupulously levelled. The sacking was, by the standards of its age,... [read more]
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, A New Hope for Mexico
reviewed by Daniel Whittall
On July 1st Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO as he is more commonly known, and his National Regeneration Party, MORENA, won 53% of the vote in the Mexican elections. Their victory came as little surprise to those who had followed the polling, which had put them as the front runners for some time. Having run twice before – 2006 and 2012 – and lost out marginally, under circumstances where electoral fraud was likely used to overcome him, AMLO now has a governing majority that even the... [read more]
William Blake saw, in the age of scepticism, Enlightenment philosophy heralded as damaging to what he thought was the unifying power of the poetic vision. Should the sun and moon be overcome by doubt ‘they’d immediately go out’ he wrote in ‘Auguries of Innocence’. Andrew Wynn Owen, in his collection which draws on images and arguments from religion and science, also questions what scepticism might mean for our aesthetics. He takes us to a similar time of wonder and trouble.
... [read more]
Francis Plug, the protagonist of Paul Ewen’s novel series of the same name, is ‘a brilliant, deranged new comic creation.’ On the cover of most novels, there is always one quotation like this that stands out against the rest. Looking back through my recent memory; Philip Roth’s American Pastoral is ‘raging and elegiac,’ Gonzalo C. Garcia is ‘a deep and hilarious new literary voice’ and Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled is ‘one of the strangest books in memory.’
At their best,... [read more]
Edouard Louis, trans. Lorin Stein, History of Violence
reviewed by Stephanie Sy-Quia
There is something suspicious in the ways Edouard Louis’s 2014 debut novel, The End of Eddy, has generally been discussed, in its branding as a novel of growing up gay and poor in post-industrial Northern France, which even appears in the blurb. The phrase is now de rigueur for reviewers: ‘growing up gay and poor’ (James Macaulay in The Washington Post), ‘growing up gay in a violent, neglected town in Northern France’ (Kim Willsher in The Guardian), ‘growing up gay in industrial... [read more]
A common reference in reviews of Anna Burns’ Booker Prize-winning Milkman is head judge Kwame Anthony Appiah’s comments in praise of the novel: that it will help people to think about #Metoo, that its portrayal of the Troubles is comparable to the fractured societies in contemporary Lebanon and Syria, and that although it is a difficult read – akin to ‘climbing to the summit of Snowdon’– it is ‘worth it when you reach the top.’ While Appiah’s associations (which Burns has... [read more]
You know the image: the apartment is clean, airy and quiet with a just ripe fruit bowl. The shower is even in temperature and power, and the bed not too soft, nor too hard (‘Ah’, you sigh at the end of another productive day, ‘just right’). There’s a large desk by the window that looks out across the endless, slowly swaying sea. The sun warms, never glares.
You place, gently, in the middle of the desk, a notepad. Next to it sits a smooth-nibbed pen. The cliché comes to you (a... [read more]
The war on terror waged across Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border has continued unabated since 9/11, but the methods by which it is fought seem increasingly modern and technological. Transcripts from drone operators have shown neutralised targets being referred to as ‘bug splats,’ ‘dismounts’ and ‘squirters’ – impersonal and dehumanising terms that reflect the physical and rhetorical distance with which the American military is able to go about its business. Although Red Birds... [read more]
In a recent issue of the London Review of Books, the historian of popular reactions to British Empire Linda Colley observed that political systems can often be strengthened by military victories. Since the drafting of the American constitution in 1787, she continued, the United States has enjoyed martial success, from the expansionist wars against native Americans and against Mexico to victories in colonial wars and in the two world wars. Even defeat in Vietnam was mitigated by the 8,000 miles... [read more]
James Cook, Memory Songs: A Personal Journey Into the Music That Shaped the 90s
reviewed by Thom Cuell
For James Cook, a memory song is 'a piece of music so bound up with my past it is almost a physical part of it, like an old school book.’ In this book, which combines the memoir of a struggling musician trying to make it in the pre-Britpop boom with intelligent and sensitive critique of artists ranging from John Barry to Nirvana, Cook analyses the songs which marked important stages in his life, as well as their impact on the broader musical scene.
The bulk of Memory Songs is concerned... [read more]