All Reviews

Intersecting Fact & Fiction

April Bernard, Miss Fuller

reviewed by Amanda Civitello

There exists in historical fiction an inherent tension between the factual and the invented. In her recent novel Miss Fuller, poet April Bernard attempts to reconcile a sense of responsibility toward the historical record with her novelist’s right to poetic license. Bernard’s originality and lyrical prose are more than worthy of her subject, the American Transcendentalist feminist writer Margaret Fuller, but the book, caught as it is between fact and fiction, never quite decides what kind... [read more]

The French Technique

Ian James, The New French Philosophy

reviewed by Marjorie Gracieuse

Ian James’ new book offers a compelling account of the most recent and interesting figures that constitute the actuality and singularity of the contemporary French philosophical landscape. It is a thought-provoking exposition of the conceptual work of seven living French thinkers, extending from Jean-Luc Marion to François Laruelle via Jean-Luc Nancy, Bernard Stiegler, Catherine Malabou, Jacques Rancière and Alain Badiou. Combining philosophical acumen and critical analysis, James’ book... [read more]

It Should Be Easy

Paul Krugman, End This Depression Now!

reviewed by Sam Caleb

Recently I went to see the excellently timed and executed production of Timon of Athens at the National Theatre. Harsh, unremitting and bleak, this under-read Shakespeare play casts its lead, Timon, as a somewhat profligate benefactor who falls prey to his beneficiaries’ unwillingness to equal his generosity. From fine dining and high-society back-patting Timon slumps to slumming it, pushing a trolley around an inner-city wasteland. After saying some rather misanthropic last words he then... [read more]

All You Need Is a Pair of Running Shoes

David Renton, Lives; Running

reviewed by Steve Platt

One of the defining images of the 2012 Olympics is of Mo Farah crossing the finishing line in the 10,000 metres final for his second gold medal. Arms spread wide, head pushed high and eyes popping in a mix of effort, excitement and sheer astonishment at the nature of his achievement, his face is stretched with a grin broad enough to swallow the whole stadium. It calls to mind an earlier iconic moment for British athletics at the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Sebastian, now Lord Coe and chairman... [read more]

Born Between Mirrors

Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station

reviewed by Hugh Foley

What would it mean to have a profound experience of art? This is the question posed by Ben Lerner’s debut novel, Leaving the Atocha Station. After three collections of poetry - most recently the extraordinary Mean Free Path - Lerner has produced a Künstlerroman that, rather than charting the development of the sensitive artist, repeatedly questions the value of his project. This novel probes the purpose of poetry, ‘deadest of all media’, and art itself in a world where aesthetic creation... [read more]

An Imitation of Life

Sheila Heti, How Should a Person Be?

reviewed by Tom Cutterham

How much longer will publishers, booksellers and lawyers maintain the illusion of a border between fiction and non-fiction? There’s a disclaimer in the front of How Should a Person Be?, as in any other novel, that tells us that all the things portrayed are either ‘products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.’ But the legal angle is a red herring. Plenty of publishers have been sued for defamation in books that were sold from the fiction shelves. So what’s really at... [read more]

Keeping It Simple

Helen Sword, Stylish Academic Writing

reviewed by Gareth Carrol

Everyone who has studied at university level will be aware that academic writing can, at times, be incredibly dense, esoteric and generally quite hard to read. This can present quite a challenge to students making their way in a field, but it also has implications for academia more generally. Over-formal, stodgily written reports, theses and journal articles can make individual disciplines quite closed, with the potential result that important research and findings that deserve a wide audience... [read more]

A Political Monolith

Samuel Farber, Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959: A Critical Assessment

reviewed by Mike Gonzalez

For an earlier generation Cuba came to represent the return of a dream. After a decade of Cold War and the catastrophic stand-off between the US and Russia, the Cuban revolution of 1959 announced to the world that the giant had feet of clay. The anti-imperialist sentiment spreading through Latin America had made itself felt in those times as Rockefeller and Nixon were greeted by violent demonstrations wherever they went in the region. Yet until that 1st of January it seemed that the US could... [read more]

A Double Critique

Alain Badiou, The Adventure of French Philosophy

reviewed by Marika Lysandrou

Hater of democracy, nostalgic adherent to Maoism, dogmatic promoter of insurrectionary politics — these are some of the charges laid at Alain Badiou’s door. In The Adventure of French Philosophy his engagements with thinkers such as Sartre, Deleuze and Foucault, among others, do not in themselves acquit him of such charges but a consideration of his entire body of work certainly does. Although aspects fundamental to Badiou’s thinking — such as the role of philosophy in relation to... [read more]

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]