All Reviews

The Last Word

Geoff Dyer, Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room

reviewed by Dan Barrow

It's the image, perhaps, of the back of a man’s balding head, bobbing slightly as he creeps towards a building where he neither wholly wishes to go, nor is wholly expected. Or a tracking shot of scattered coins, a Russian icon, lying on black and white tiles, under a glistering layer of water (a similar flicker – a film, notably, of flame in a grate – prompted Coleridge to reminiscence in ’Frost at Midnight’). Or a dog making its way without trepidation through the water on the... [read more]

Border Country

Étienne Balibar, Politics and the Other Scene

reviewed by Marc Farrant

At a recent event at the London Review Bookshop to mark the launch of Verso's sixth Radical Thinkers collection (which includes the reissuing of Étienne Balibar's seminal Politics and the Other Scene), the esteemed French philosopher responded to Nina Power's opening gambit on the nature and future of Europe with a further question of his own: 'are we in Europe?'. The remark was met with a rippling burst of hysterical laughter, largely emanating from Balibar’s most avid middle-aged... [read more]

The Extrovert and the Introvert

Mark Godfrey, Alighiero E Boetti

reviewed by Tom Snow

The work of late Italian artist Alighiero Boetti (1940 – 1994) has proven a difficult fit within institutional discussions of art since the 1960s. Frequent association with the Arte Povera group (the term, meaning literally ‘poor art’ or ‘impoverished art’, was coined by art critic Germano Celant in the late 1960s and subsequently developed throughout the 1970s), has seemed equally problematic insomuch as the term accounts only for the earliest elements of the artist’s widely varied... [read more]

Future Past Tense

Douglas Murphy, The Architecture of Failure

reviewed by Rosa Ainley

The joy of this book lies in the scope of its reference: from the 19th century to the as-yet unbuilt and unviewable. It takes as its first failure Victorian palaces of iron and glass and advances to Google Earth urbanism – renderings of impossible angles and locations which only a satellite can appreciate. The author’s powerful critique of the supposedly radical proponents of architecture is brutal and incisive, a welcome move away from the well-trodden cultural clichés. The Architecture... [read more]

One-Dimensional Universe

George Dyson, Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe

reviewed by Robert Barry

In 1983, the American film WarGames ended with a computer called Joshua suffering a nervous breakdown when it realised that thermonuclear war, like tic-tac-toe, is a game you cannot win. The whole thing comes about because of a conversation held about an hour and a half earlier between Joshua, voice synthed and hooked up to a stereo hi-fi system in a suburban bedroom, and a teenage computer hacker named David Lightman (played by Matthew Broderick). ‘Shall we play a game?’ asks the... [read more]

Dear Führer...

Henrik Eberle (ed.), Letters to Hitler

reviewed by Belinda Webb-Blofeld

This collection of letters to Hitler is neatly organised into three sections – 1924-32, 1933-38, and 1938-45. Overall, the collection highlights the eerily fanatic following Hitler achieved, particularly from young men. Few women wrote to the Führer during the first period. That Hitler became so adored by these young men signifies the crisis of masculinity that contaminated the nation following the devastation of World War I. But that is not all – for Hitler’s followers also hankered... [read more]

The Hipster Myth

Jake Kinzey, The Sacred and the Profane: An Investigation of Hipsters

reviewed by Sebastian Truskolaski

Jake Kinzey’s book-length essay The Sacred and the Profane is the latest offering in a slew of recent titles concerned with an elusive cultural phenomenon – the hipster. The blurb at the back of the book lays out the task ahead: to answer questions like ‘Why don’t hipsters want to be called hipsters?’ and ‘Why do they act like they are different when they are just like all the other hipsters?’ Apparently, ‘If you can’t stand hipsters, are a hipster, or don’t know what a... [read more]

A Second-Rate Justice

David Renton, Struck Out: Why Employment Tribunals Fail Workers and What Can be Done

reviewed by Simon Behrman

Since the economic crisis hit in 2007 unemployment in the UK has risen by over a million. This has been accompanied by the coalition government’s threat to further deregulate employment law so as to make it easier to fire workers. Now, more than ever, workers are in need of every bit of protection available to them. For most people this includes the right of access to Employment Tribunals, which have the power to hold employers to account for unfair dismissals, discrimination at work and... [read more]

Sketching Theory

Terry Eagleton, The Event of Literature

reviewed by David Winters

‘Literary theory,’ the historian Gerald Graff has remarked, ‘is what is generated when some aspect of literature … ceases to be a given and becomes a question to be argued in a generalised way.’ Graff’s definition might look like a platitude, but its prosaicness is its strength. It’s surely the case, as Graff implies, that any systematic account of literature is always already ‘theoretical.’ With this in mind, theory should be understood less as a phase in the history of... [read more]

Cottage Industry

David Berry (ed.), Revisiting the Frankfurt School: Essays on Culture, Media and Theory

reviewed by Andy Murray

There are few categories in the history of Marxism as indeterminate as that of ‘Frankfurt School’. Since this term came into common parlance in the 1960s to refer to the associates of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, it has often been used simply to refer to Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin. These two have become the subject of an academic specialisation that produces a massive output of publications and symposia, a cottage industry its own right. The bright light... [read more]