All Reviews

Biscuits in the Parsonage

George Monbiot, Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis

reviewed by Tom Cutterham

For a month in 2013, one small neighbourhood in the South Korean city of Suwon banned cars from its streets. Local authorities widened the pavements, and gave out bicycles and electric scooters to residents. ‘Cafes and restaurants spilled into the streets,’ George Monbiot reports in his new book Out of the Wreckage, ‘and people began to connect in ways that were impossible before.’ Without cars and their infrastructure cutting through the common spaces, community could return to old... [read more]

A Cavalcade of Waynes

Wayne Holloway-Smith, Alarum

reviewed by Erik Kennedy

Some books of poems contain a part that overwhelms the whole, like an apple in a bowl of berries. In Wayne Holloway-Smith’s full-length debut, Alarum, that part is the 12-page meditation on class, brutality, and guilt entitled ‘Some Violence’. Although there is a political dimension to the violence of the title, Holloway-Smith does not report or catalogue it, as someone like James Fenton or Carolyn Forché might. And although the violence is local – domestic – Holloway-Smith does not... [read more]

Be Here Now

Richard Power Sayeed, 1997: The Future that Never Happened

reviewed by Alex Niven

My abiding memory of 1997 is of a music video that emerged towards the end of the year. Officially a charity single for Children in Need, but actually an encomium for the BBC and its licence fee, the all-star cover of Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ released in late November was something like a dying fall for the ’94-’97 interval – that weird, quixotic glitch in the neoliberal timeframe. Everything about this curious micro-period was summarised in the song and its heavily rotated... [read more]

A Precarious Privilege

Kate Briggs, This Little Art

reviewed by Annie McDermott

I don’t know how stockings are made nowadays, Roland Barthes says in a lecture he delivered in 1980, but when I was a child they were knitted. He describes growing up surrounded by women who were ‘obsessed with the risk of getting a hole in their stockings’ which would then form a ladder, and the gesture ‘whereby a woman would wet a finger in her mouth and apply it to the weave, cementing it with saliva, and in this way she would stop it.’ He remembers, too, a tiny stall of... [read more]

This Is Normal

Anna Feigenbaum, Tear Gas: From the Battlefields of World War I to the Streets of Today

reviewed by Peter Mitchell

Consider the gas-mask dancers of Gezi Park. In 2013, during the occupation of Taksim Square, dancers – whirling dervishes, ballet dancers – started to put on shows, spinning and dipping in their full regalia, with the addition of the gas masks which were by then becoming the cardinal symbol of the protests. The images quickly gained traction within the feverish meme-jockeying that surrounded Gezi, and no wonder: there’s something indecently powerful in the juxtaposition of dervish robes... [read more]

Some Freaks

James Miller, UnAmerican Activities

reviewed by Jude Cook

The loosely linked short stories in James Miller’s third book – it’s not quite a novel, despite the back-cover blurb, though this is not to diminish it one iota – focus, in the words of its meta-narrator, on ‘a subterranean America full of un-American activities.’ This, at first glance, might appear to be familiar, even hackneyed, territory, supported by the book’s impressive quasi-graphic-novel cover, which drips with junkyard spares, palms, neons and law enforcement officers in... [read more]

An Unusual Fecundity

Jean Giono, trans. Paul Eprile, Melville: A Novel

reviewed by Jason DeYoung

Although Jean Giono’s short book (105 pages) begins in a biographical vein, it is not the historical Herman Melville that it depicts. Instead, the narrative soon drifts into the depths of the hypothetical and the fictional. Melville, in the process, becomes a kind of spirit-summoning: both a tribute to the American writer, and, as Edmund White puts in his introduction, the product of Giono ‘trying on’ Melville as an alter ego. The narrative itself describes only a brief episode. In a... [read more]

A Most Unnarcissistic Poet

Frank Bidart, Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016

reviewed by Ben Leubner

Frank Bidart’s Half-Light contains half a century’s worth of poetic output and runs to 665 pages. There are, however, only 144 poems total, and a mere ten of those poems, which I’ll discuss briefly in what follows, take up over a third of the volume, 244 pages, to be precise. Bidart has thus been prolific in his career in terms of sheer volume, not unlike Robert Lowell, but also fairly restrained in terms of the number of actual poems published, where in this regard he has more in... [read more]

What Happens Now?

Naomi Klein, No is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need

reviewed by Claire Potter

It’s a year after the American Election Day that shook the world, and a new book that seeks to explain the disaster of Donald Trump’s victory drops every few weeks. We political historians are scrambling to keep up. Last month, Hillary Clinton’s What Happened? hit the stands. How does it feel to be a smart and seasoned politician and lose to an uneducated novice? Not good! Not good at all! This month, it was Hacks, Donna Brazile’s account of the train wreck at the Democratic National... [read more]

The Self-Advertising Male

Philip Mann, The Dandy at Dusk: Taste and Melancholy in the Twentieth Century

reviewed by Stuart Walton

It is the melancholy of manifest individualism that it proves to be anything but inimitable. What begins as the exquisite crafting of the esoteric persona, initially conceived against the prevailing orthodoxy, becomes reified into a style for others to emulate, and before one has blinked, a whole social movement, or the fleeting fancy of this week, has been generated from the most minute scrutiny of the self. Individualism depends, fatally, on a surrounding milieu of homogeneous conformism, in... [read more]