All Reviews

The Audacity of Grave-Robbery

Andrew Greig, Fair Helen

reviewed by Minoo Dinshaw

The title page of Andrew Greig’s latest novel Fair Helen announces that we have to deal with ‘a veritable account of “Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea”, scrieved by Harry Langton’. This may seem of a piece with the unpretentious gorgeousness of the dust-jacket and the faintly Tolkienian map of ‘the Borderlands’. But Harry Langton is a necessary as well as an enjoyable creation. Without him, Greig might find himself exposed in the intimidating territory of retelling one of the most... [read more]

The Truth of Illusion

Simon Critchley & Jamieson Webster, The Hamlet Doctrine: Knowing Too Much, Doing Nothing

reviewed by Joel White

The history of the stage and screen production of Hamlet has been haunted by the exclusion of the ambiguous in favour of the particular. These exclusions have facilitated the movement from what is arguably a scattered constellation of ideas in Shakespeare’s original text into a Hamlet with one organising theme. They act to rationalise and produce a coherent meaningful form from the fragmentation of reflection that appears throughout the play. The Laurence Olivier film, for instance, entirely... [read more]

Hearth and Home

Edward Hollis, The Memory Palace: A Book of Lost Interiors

reviewed by David Anderson

I had this book on the shelf for a couple of weeks before I got around to it. Or I would have done, had I not shortly before its receipt been abruptly forced to dismantle my shelves, and pack up the flat, ready for an undefined period of semi-vagrancy. In truth, I have carried The Memory Palace around in a sports holdall, intermittently replacing it in the modest stack of volumes that make up my mobile library. Perhaps, over the past few weeks, I've taken too literally Adorno's claim that 'to... [read more]

Great Art Exists in the Margins

Sergio De La Pava, A Naked Singularity

reviewed by Matt Lewis

No review of Sergio de la Pava’s debut novel would be complete without a comment on the fact that this now-prize-winning novel was originally self-published. Armed with an unwieldy manuscript of more than one thousand pages, the author (a public defender in his mid-thirties) was turned down by more than eighty publishers. In spite of these rejections, de la Pava decided to publish the book himself using the print-on-demand company Xlibris. Thanks in part to the assiduous solicitation of his... [read more]

'This is what I’m capable of when I let myself go’

Rachel Cooke, Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties

reviewed by Samantha Ellis

I thought I knew what women did in the Fifties. They baked cupcakes, wearing pinnies and circle skirts. Or they went mad in the suburbs, as per Marilyn French’s epic soap opera of despair The Women’s Room (1977). But the ten women Rachel Cooke celebrates in this sparkling book did something else: they had careers. Which took some doing. Women still couldn’t take out mortgages in their own name, and couldn’t get a diaphragm without showing a marriage certificate. They felt guilty... [read more]

LOL/OMG he is crazy

Georges Bataille, trans. Stuart Kendall , Louis XXX

reviewed by Robert Kiely

Georges Bataille’s work is profoundly heterogeneous, being linked to the domains of literature, anthropology, philosophy, economy, sociology and history of art. He is an intensely inward-looking writer, pre-occupied with his major themes - death, eroticism, sovereignty – endlessly. One of his major works is Inner Experience, a quasi-theological and mystical series of meditations, mixed in with semi-autobiographical fragments - almost all of his texts are this chimera-like. My used copy of... [read more]

All Too (Post-) Human

Stefan Herbrechter, Posthumanism: A Critical Introduction

reviewed by John P. Merrick

If ‘anti-humanism’ sought to push us away from essentialist notions of the human, with all its liberal-ideological baggage attached, then post-humanism can be seen as the need to take seriously the non-human. This need springs from the fact that humans themselves are gaining the ability to become this ‘other’ of the human. We have the potential, then, to become ‘post-human’. This is due to the rapid development of prosthesis in its many forms, from the internet, new media, genetic... [read more]

God is in the TV

Stefan Andriopoulos, Ghostly Apparitions: German Idealism, the Gothic Novel, and Optical Media

reviewed by Stuart Walton

The authorised version of the European Enlightenment holds that sovereign human reason, borne aloft on the currents of scientific investigation and discovery, put to rout the irrational forces of superstition and immaterial belief, bequeathing us an intellectual culture in which there would be absolutely no justification, say, three centuries later, for people still to be arguing about the existence of God. What this tidily linear narrative misses is that the immaterial was of continuing... [read more]

The Fictions of Faith

Eve Harris, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman

reviewed by Dana Drori

Eve Harris’s The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, long-listed for this year’s Man Booker Prize, seeks to elucidate an isolated world—the Haredi, or ultra-orthodox, Jewish community in Golders Green, London. The title reveals the plot: Chani Kaufman, 19 and a little too spunky for most Haredi boys, has finally been arranged to marry 20-year-old Orthodox-yet-secret-Coldplay-fan Baruch Levy. The book grows from their union, with chapters taking on the perspective of two other characters in the... [read more]

Anti-Semitism Everywhere?

Alain Badiou, Eric Hazan and Ivan Segré, Reflections on Anti-Semitism

reviewed by Eugene Brennan

Badiou and Hazan’s ‘“Anti-Semitism Everywhere” in France Today’, the first text in this two-part volume, situates French anti-Semitism within a historical continuity of harnessing anti-popular sentiment against the most recent arrivals in France. Marine Le Pen has lead her Front National party from widespread Holocaust-denial to brazenly offering kindness and friendship to the Jewish population. Her kindness towards the Jews does not, however, extend to other minorities in France. Le... [read more]