All Reviews

'Prison Can Put Your Brain to Death'

Ashwin Desai, Reading Revolution: Shakespeare on Robben Island

reviewed by John Green

There have been literally hundreds of books written about the apartheid period in South Africa, both by outsiders and those who fought and suffered under the system. Reading Revolution provides a unique perspective on the anti-apartheid struggle and a fascinating insight into how literature can sustain resistance and keep hope alive, as well as fundamentally changing lives. Ashwin Desai has interviewed many of those who were incarcerated on Robben Island for their opposition to the apartheid... [read more]

Laying Down a Marker

Joseph McCartin , Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, The Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America

reviewed by Richard Sharpe

On 3 August 1981, approximately 13,000 US air traffic controllers struck for higher wages and shorter working hours. That day Ronald Reagan, in his first year as president, gave them 48 hours to return to work or be fired; Federal employees were prohibited by law from going on strike. The vast majority did not return to work but parts of the leadership of their union, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), already knew that the strike was doomed. The striking... [read more]
 

The Boomerang and the Map

Stephen Graham, Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism

reviewed by Jeff Heydon

Living in downtown Toronto during the G20 summit in the summer of 2010 was instructive. Myriad CCTV cameras were erected, additional police were imported from multiple municipalities close to the city, and a barrier was established around the Convention Centre that would protect the leaders of nations from the Great Unwashed. A new Toronto was produced – a city where the condition of living became a process of negotiation and where attempts were made to avoid any act that would qualify as... [read more]

The Present: After the Future

Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, After the Future

reviewed by Veronica Simmonds

In After the Future, the Italian autonomist philosopher Franco Berardi presents us with the present. The long haul towards progress is shown to have groaned to an exhausted halt. We see ourselves climbing out of the steel contraption hurled forth by the Futurists and peering out at the sprawling landscape of the fractalised cells that we have become. Berardi’s latest work offers us a bold invitation. He invites us to acknowledge that the conception of the future that we believed in for the... [read more]
 

How to Find a Better Life?

Julieta Aranda et al. (eds.), Are You Working Too Much? Post-Fordism, Precarity, and the Labor of Art

reviewed by Nina Power

The notes at the back of this latest e-flux collection state that one group of contributors, the Precarious Workers Brigade, ‘have a policy of including information on the context in which their work appears.’ To this end, they detail the dates when the piece was written (March - April 2011), the number of people involved in writing it (nine), that their text is also available online for free and is licenced under a Creative Commons licence, how they spent the $750 they were paid for the... [read more]

Innovations in Exile

Gregory Sholette, Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture

reviewed by Theo Reeves-Evison

For 2011’s annual charity gala at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary art, Maria Abramovic hired six female performers to re-enact her signature work Nude with Skeleton (2002). In contrast to the original, filmed performance, in which Abramovic lies under a replica skeleton made to the dimensions of her body, for the gala event performers were hired as decorative table centrepieces under strict instructions to ‘remain in the performative’ even if that meant enduring physical or verbal... [read more]
 

Joining the Dots

Barry Miles, In The Seventies: Adventures in the Counterculture

reviewed by David Renton

This book, Miles’ memoir of the 1970s, begins and ends with narratives of two relationships. The first is his friendship with the poet and countercultural icon Allen Ginsberg and in particular a year Miles spent in America collecting records of the poet’s public performances; the last is his employment from 1976 as a journalist on the New Musical Express, as a result of which he witnessed the birth of punk. At its best, the book offers compelling descriptions of celebrated figures... [read more]

Bodgery; Fopdoodle; Twittersphere

David Crystal, The Story of English in 100 Words

reviewed by Gareth Carrol

To try and tell the story of such a ubiquitous language as English in a mere 100 words would seem rather a fool’s errand. How can one even begin to cover the breadth, diversity and longevity of English in such a short span? The widespread influence of other languages that can be seen throughout our everyday vocabulary, and the proliferation of slang, technospeak and general linguistic evolution would suggest it is an impossible task, but David Crystal manages, as he so often does, to deliver... [read more]
 

It's The Song I Hate

Ben Watson, Adorno for Revolutionaries

reviewed by Ian Birchall

Ben Watson’s writing on music is the very antithesis of ‘easy listening’. He has a poet’s love of language and a leftist’s love of polemic. He skips, sometimes disconcertingly, from music to philosophy, from literature to politics to (sometimes rather shaky) history. He has powerful enthusiasm – mainly for musicians you’ve probably never heard of – and powerful distaste. Given the many causes for grief and anger in this world, it is bewildering to see so much fury directed... [read more]

Retracing a Century

Lucio Magri, The Tailor of Ulm: Communism in the Twentieth Century

reviewed by John Green

The title of Magri’s book takes its inspiration from Bertolt Brecht’s poem about an 18th century German tailor in the city of Ulm, who thought he could fly, but jumping off the local church spire he ended up like a shot bird, dead on the town square. Brecht’s point was that even if we fail at something once, history can make it possible in the long term. Even though the author develops his perspectives from his experience within the Italian Communist Party (PCI), his analysis is balanced... [read more]