All Reviews

‘What we could be if we dared’

Charlie Fox, This Young Monster

reviewed by Leonora Craig Cohen

Charlie Fox has such good taste, one could forgive him almost anything. This Young Monster is a long, extremely erudite rant about the connections between queerness, monstrosity and the creative drive, with a particular focus on photography and film. Increasingly of interest to academics and cultural critics, the monster is a multivalent symbol for societal rejection, ambiguous identity, and the physical horror of adolescence, among other things. As JJ Cohen put it in Monster Culture (Seven... [read more]

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman

Elif Batuman, The Idiot

reviewed by Josie Mitchell

Elif Batuman’s The Idiot is a portrait of the artist as a painfully young woman: naive, earnest and cripplingly self-conscious. Selin – daughter of Turkish immigrants and ‘tallest living member’ of her family, ‘male or female’ – has just started her first year at Harvard. It’s the mid-1990s, and email is brand new. Arriving on campus, Selin is offered an Ethernet cable: ‘What do we do with this, hang ourselves?’ Over the next twelve months, Selin buys an Einstein poster for... [read more]

Neighbourhood Activism

Dirk Kruijt, Cuba and Revolutionary Latin America: An Oral History

reviewed by Mike Gonzalez

Dirk Kruijt’s Cuba and Revolutionary Latin America is an early contribution to what will certainly be a bumper crop of books revisiting the Cuban experience after Fidel’s death and the rapprochement between Obama and Raul Castro. Donald Trump’s policy on Cuba (as on most issues) is unclear, but from occasional Twitter comments, it appears he is likely to roll back US policy on Cuba to some degree – though, as a faithful servant of big capital, now busy opening business opportunities on... [read more]

'O tempora! O mores!'

Stoddard Martin, Monstrous Century: Essays in 'the Age of the Feuilleton'

reviewed by Stuart Walton

Is there any need to wonder which century it is that stands shamed by its monstrosity in the title of Stoddard Martin's timely collection? If Alain Badiou recently sought to recuperate its image under the polemically unqualified rubric of The Century (2005), Martin joins the majority in his disapprobation of the wretchedness of the interlude that extended from Art Nouveau to the internet age, from experimental aesthetic dynamisms of one sort and another to the global communications morass, and... [read more]

The Uses of Division

Jane Austen, Teenage Writings

reviewed by Francis O'Gorman

When did the category of teenager, as we comprehend it, come into existence? The Oxford English Dictionary dates the word to the United States in 1941 and ‘teenage’ to 1921 in British Columbia. In Great Britain at the end of the 18th century, the category as now understood was certainly not available. The age of consent, apart from anything else, was only raised from 12 to 13 in 1875 (and to 16 only in 1885). That alone meant the early teenage years were sharply different from ours. And of... [read more]

Citizens of Somewhere

David Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics

reviewed by Abigail Rhodes

‘How did the pollsters manage to get is so wrong?’ has been a consistent question asked in news headlines since the unpredicted Conservative parliamentary majority in the 2015 general election. Leading leave campaigners in the UK’s 2016 EU Referendum appeared just as stunned by the result as those who had voted to remain. In both of these instances, the voting intention polls had offered no evidence that prepared us for the final outcome. Such mystifying circumstances were mirrored in... [read more]

‘A climax could be perfunctory’

Emily Witt, Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love

reviewed by Rebecca Watson

There is very little that the mind feels which the body does not reflect – in heat up the stomach, chill across the skin, weight in your chest. It is no wonder that we are so obsessed with sex, when it allows the connection between the body and the mind to be felt in unified action, when it is a moment where we can lose inhibitions, time, our very selves – plunging into, as Eimear McBride described it recently, the ‘God-knows-where’. It’s impossible to fully narrate the experience –... [read more]

Apparently Personal

Emily Berry, Stranger, Baby

reviewed by Jenna Clake

In her recent interview with Ralf Webb in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Emily Berry discusses the problematics of considering poetry as ‘autobiographical’. Berry says: I reject that term in relation to poetry, because it doesn’t seem to fit. An autobiography is meant to be an account of a person’s life, and, on the whole, you’re not going to get a poem that is a straight description of a person’s life — it’s usually an essence of that. We settle, then, on a term coined... [read more]

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]