All Reviews

After Alienation

Tonino Guerra, trans. Eric Mosbacher, Equilibrium

reviewed by Jessica Sequeira

For years I had an Il deserto rosso poster on my wall, and for years I wanted to be Monica Vitti, with her piercing look and black sweater and air of mystery (and in this film, the technicolor-tinted russet hair I coveted). I loved the way the actors and images subtly captured the melancholy of inner worlds, as well as those moments of solitude and awareness beyond words. People merely sitting on a bench, or looking at one another, conveyed infinities. This delicate form of alienation, this... [read more]

The Paths Not Taken

Ronald Grigor Suny, Red Flag Wounded: Stalinism and the Fate of the Soviet Experiment

reviewed by Samuel Gregory

In his 2006 television essay on the Soviet dictator, Jonathan Meades takes a shot at those, Russian or otherwise, who express ‘a sly admiration for Uncle Joe.’ Like Hitlerians, he asserts, they’re beyond the pale. But despite a body count broadly within the same ballpark, Stalin’s legacy has taken a different course to Hitler’s: his Georgian birthplace is open to the public as a celebratory house museum, and the state he ruled over with divine authority for a quarter of a century... [read more]
 

Pissed Off

Barbara H. Rosenwein, Anger: The Conflicted History of an Emotion

reviewed by Alexandre Leskanich

Without exception, my earliest memories of being extremely angry occurred at school. Because I didn’t like being bullied and belittled (which is to say, made to feel powerless so someone else could feel powerful), blows as well as words were frequently exchanged. Regrettably, one of my nastier tormentors could properly punch: schooled in the noble art, he memorably delivered a perfect left hook to my liver, leaving me immobilised. On another occasion, I attempted to throttle an unpleasant... [read more]

What the 'Rules' Are

Rachel Mann, A Kingdom of Love

reviewed by Liam Bishop

A Kingdom of Love is Rachel Mann’s first collection of poetry. Mann is an Anglican priest and whilst we might expect religious symbols and icons to work their way into her poetry, there’s another level to this devotion that extends beyond the symbolic. Initially, we’re taken on a quest to understand how we might engage with sublime forces beyond our existence, but then this turns into a more complicated examination of the imperceptible rules that structure the language we use every... [read more]
 

Plop, plop, plop, plop

Laura Waddell, Exit

reviewed by Alexandra Marraccini

It is telling that Laura Waddell’s Exit, a volume in Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series, has a blurb from both the first minister of Scotland and a well-known architectural writer. The series is popular across a wide cross-section of the curious-minded, not least because all the books are sized conveniently as objects themselves for a pocket or tote, and can be read easily on the go, even as they are serious contributions to the discourse. Waddell’s Exit is happily no exception; though... [read more]

Refutations and Rebuttals

Martin Hägglund, This Life: Why Mortality Makes Us Free

reviewed by Marc Farrant

In 1979 the band Talking Heads released a song entitled ‘Heaven’. Some of the lyrics are as follows: ‘Heaven is a place / A place where nothing / Nothing ever happens’. The song is melodic and wistful; compassionate in form and irreverent in content. It is both soothing and satirical at the same time, suggesting that feeling and emotion need not be profound to be real. In This Life: Why Mortality Makes Us Free, Swedish philosopher Martin Hägglund takes up this argument against... [read more]
 

The Badness of Romance

Curtis Sittenfeld, Rodham: A Novel

reviewed by Erin McFadyen

If you google ‘romance novel,’ you’ll see that people also ask ‘why are romance novels so bad?’ In Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham, a romance of the highest order, Hillary Rodham dumps Bill before his first Senate campaign. Sittenfeld’s Hillary isn’t a factual one, but it’s important to the project of the book that she doesn’t totally transcend the indexical either. Rather, she’s stencilled against both the author’s speculation on history as it didn’t happen, and the tropes... [read more]

Life is Precious

Jon Mitchell, Poisoning the Pacific: The US Military's Secret Dumping of Plutonium, Chemical Weapons, and Agent Orange

reviewed by Venetia Welby

When monsters in horror movies roar grotesquely into view, it’s often the revelation that they’ve been there all along that’s the big scare. It’s a powerful trope: the axe murderer is locked in the house with you, the bomb is in the attic. We have always known that the US military does some dubious things to protect us. It has had to, we understand, for the safety and happiness of the free world; it has been constantly at war for peace for the best part of a century. Every so often,... [read more]
 

A Restless Thinker

Marcello Musto, The Last Years of Karl Marx: An Intellectual Biography

reviewed by Daniel Whittall

In the millions of pages written about Karl Marx, his final years have been somewhat neglected. Sven-Eric Liedman’s biography A World to Win, published in English translation in 2018, assesses Marx’s late notebooks and correspondence on Russia in depth but gives limited attention to the other aspects of Marx’s latter years, including his important trip to Algeria. Mary Gabriel’s excellent Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx attends to the later years but nevertheless treats Algeria... [read more]

Don't Misconstrue Me

Luke Brown, Theft

reviewed by Andre van Loon

Paul Wright is a thirty-something part-time bookseller and magazine writer. With self-conscious downbeat humour, Paul-as-narrator tells us how he writes two pages for a magazine called White Jesus; one about books, one about haircuts: I set forth in Hackney and Peckham, approach strangers, and ask if I can snap a picture to feature in the London Review of Haircuts. Alongside their picture in the magazine and online I award their hairstyle between one and five pairs of scissors. . . Hair... [read more]