All Reviews

Shadow Play

Erik Mortenson, Ambiguous Borderlands: Shadow Imagery in Cold War American Culture

reviewed by Douglas Field

In ‘Everybody’s Protest Novel’, (1949) James Baldwin described America as a ‘country devoted to the death of the paradox.’ Writing during the early stages of the Cold War, Baldwin recognised the Manichean structures of US politics and culture which upheld rigid distinctions between black and white, American and Un-American, gay and straight. While Baldwin’s work critiqued such neat divisions for ‘overlooking, denying, evading . . . complexity,’ a number of his contemporaries,... [read more]

Collini at the Hot Gates

Stefan Collini, Speaking of Universities

reviewed by Rafe McGregor

Stefan Collini is Professor of Intellectual History and English Literature at Cambridge and one of Britain’s foremost public intellectuals. His emphasis as a public intellectual has recently shifted from modern intellectual history to the higher education system, specifically the analysis and critique of the causes and consequences of the Browne Review in 2010. Speaking of Universities follows What are Universities For? (2012), and Collini has also expressed his concern with the direction... [read more]
 

No Place Like Home

Nancy Green & Roger Waldinger eds., A Century of Transnationalism: Immigrants and their Homeland Connections

reviewed by Susan Burton

I began reading this book in my dentist's waiting room. He's a Swede who commutes to the United Kingdom weekly to tend his NHS practice. Afterwards, I drove into town in my South Korean Hyundai car, which was manufactured in India. I bought some T-shirts in Primark, the labels of which say they were made in Bangladesh. Then I drove home where my neighbours, mostly health workers at the nearby hospital, are German, Singaporean Chinese, Nigerian and Albanian. In the evening, I watched a news... [read more]

Deus ex machina

Owen Vince, The Adrift of Samus Aran

reviewed by John O'Meara Dunn

When a small press starts a pamphlet series with a publication about a fictional Nintendo Entertainment System character, we know we are entering into the realm of the niche interest. ‘I wonder if I am capable/ of love. I take meals,/inside of me – I don’t make eye contact, /or speak,’ delivers the poem’s speaker, a tiny 2D action figure in the original 8-bit NES game but here in this 'fifteen part persona poem' expressed with a psychology that is human in its neurosis. Lines like... [read more]
 

'Life took on so much color. . .'

Kathleen Collins, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?

reviewed by Lucie Elliott

Whatever happened to Interracial Love? is the title of Kathleen Collins’ collection of short stories and a question posed throughout. The stories were written between 1970 and 1980, published for the first time in the UK by Granta, almost 40 years since their conception and 30 years since Collins’s untimely death at 46. Collins had worked as an editor, a French teacher and Film professor at CCNY; she was also a playwright, known in academic circles as a pioneer in black independent... [read more]

‘We were looking for nothing’

Cara Hoffman, Running

reviewed by Jason DeYoung

Heads up, Cara Hoffman’s Running is not about that deeply middle-class pastime of putting on trainers and hoofing a 5k with other well-fed, health-minded locals. Running in Hoffman’s book is lying – it’s a hustle – done by a cast of wasters who work the inbound trains, selling unsuspected tourists on low-end hotels in the red-light district of Athens, Greece. In exchange, these kids get a little drinking money and a roof over their heads. It’s a close-to-the-bone existence that... [read more]
 

History On the Front Lines

Eric Foner, Battles for Freedom: The Use and Abuse of American History

reviewed by Tom Cutterham

Born to a family of communists and labour organisers in 1940s New York, and trained as a historian there in the 1960s, Eric Foner has for the best part of a generation been one of the leading historians both in and of the United States. His retirement from Columbia University last year has provided a number of opportunities to reflect on Foner's towering intellectual achievements – including a conference in his honour at Columbia this month, and this book, which collects some of his... [read more]

‘Collective composition, modularity, iterability, and virtuality’

Haun Saussy, The Ethnography of Rhythm: Orality and Its Technologies

reviewed by James Williams

In its subtitle, ‘Orality and Its Technologies,’ The Ethnography of Rhythm anticipates comparisons to what doubtless remains the most familiar touchstone in discussions of orality, Walter J. Ong’s 1982 work Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. Haun Saussy’s account, though, amounts to a deft sidestepping of some of the temptation toward grander narrative which Ong’s classic reading may provoke. Instead of insisting upon any sharp distinction between orality and... [read more]
 

An Enclosure Not Of Imprisonment

Alex Wong, Poems without Irony

reviewed by Alex Assaly

Alex Wong’s Poems without Irony demands an uneasy amount of ‘intelligence’ and ‘care’ from its readers. The collection never panders. Nor do its poems ever indulge readers’ idle tastes, sentiments, and ideas. Poems without Irony, rather, invites and challenges. Its poems ask their readers to ‘enter into’ the self-governing worlds created and communicated by them; and to come equipped with the literary and the experiential knowledge to navigate them. To accept these invitations... [read more]

Can Zombies Make History?

Emmanuel Todd, Who Is Charlie? Xenophobia and the New Middle Class

reviewed by Ian Birchall

The forthcoming French presidential elections will be haunted by the violence of the last few years. The appalling murders of the staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 were followed by massive demonstrations, involving up to four million people, under the slogan ‘Je suis Charlie’ [I am Charlie]. Amid this display of national unity and ‘republican values’ there were few discordant voices – but one which provoked considerable controversy was this little... [read more]