Jane Austen, perfect social observer, must have perceived only too well the wounds that her challenging life had dealt her. But her confidante and sister Cassandra, possibly under orders from beyond the grave, burned nearly all her intimate letters. Two centuries since the regrettable day Cass decided to make a pyre, the novels Jane Austen left behind continue to make up the material of her soul.
Yet those six spined works never seem to be enough. We are insatiable when it comes to Jane. We... [read more]
Zygmunt Bauman, Does the Richness of the Few Benefit Us All?
reviewed by Nathaniel Barron
The Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) is famous for having (among other things) sewn a noted parchment to the inside of his suit jacket. The emblazoned note served to remind Pascal of a personal, highly charged event of religious revelation - the so-called la nuit de feu (‘Night of Fire’) - whereby a luminous clarity momentarily possessed the Frenchman. ‘From about half past ten in the evening until about half past twelve,’ Pascal said of the night, ‘Fire!’ And yet the... [read more]
Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep
reviewed by Maya Osborne
Recently, a friend said to me that she had banned herself from checking her emails over the weekend, but after an internal battle she had given in and logged on. We are more and more prone to checking our emails if we wake in the middle of the night, and no post on Sunday is as quaint an idea as a village green. Jonathan Crary observes in his 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep that the machinic ‘sleep mode’ ‘supersedes an off/on logic, so that nothing is ever fundamentally "off"... [read more]
Yvan Craipeau, trans. David Broder, Swimming Against the Tide: Trotskyists in German Occupied France
reviewed by Ian Birchall
The Second World War remains a matter of controversy. Two recent books - Donny Gluckstein’s A People’s History of the Second World War (Pluto, 2012) and James Heartfield’s An Unpatriotic History of the Second World War (Zero, 2012) - have argued powerfully that the war was a struggle between empires rather than a crusade against fascism. But what these books failed to give was any account of those who held such a position at the time, and how they put their theory into practice.
Yvan... [read more]
Norman Rush’s third novel, Subtle Bodies, acts like a debut in more than one way; this is Rush’s first book about America, and it is his first of a reasonable length to expect a mass audience. Perhaps with this in mind immense care has been taken with its composition. The plot is paced precisely, keeping the novel concise whilst also acquainting the reader with characters who are evoked with practiced roundedness, both personally and politically. This deft presentation of narrative and... [read more]
Jennifer Dawson’s debut novel, The Ha-Ha, was published in 1961, two years before Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and seven years after Antonia White’s Beyond the Glass. It is a novel very much of its time: it follows the hospitalisation, breakdown and tenacious recovery of an educated young woman who finds herself a square peg to the round hole of identity.
The opening of the novel finds the narrator, Josephine, in recovery. She has been hospitalised in a quietly, disturbingly... [read more]
‘American poets keep going down to the shoreline to struggle with their daemons,’ writes critic Harold Bloom, and Colum McCann’s beautiful new novel TransAtlantic shows that the Irish do it, too. In McCann’s novel water, whether the Atlantic Ocean or the Irish Sea, is the site of mourning, with waves the backdrop for all manner of sorrows. Water is a fitting constant for a novel of such vast scope: TransAtlantic crosses generations and continents, following the intersecting lives of... [read more]
Bradley L. Garrett, Explore Everything: Place Hacking the City
reviewed by Andrew Blackman
At first glance, ‘place hacking’ may seem like just another form of escapist thrill-seeking. Sneak into a construction site, poke around inside Battersea Power Station, run along train tracks to discover abandoned Underground stations. Dodge the security guards and the alarms and the speeding trains, and take trophy photographs of yourself in places you’re not supposed to be.
In an age of heightened governmental security measures and increasing privatisation of public space, however,... [read more]
When the judges of the 2008 Frank O'Connor Award didn't bother reducing their longlist to a shortlist, deciding instead that Jhumpa Lahiri's collection Unaccustomed Earth should win outright, the decision was marked by a refreshing levity. Why even pretend to enter into the pointless discussions about readability when major book prizes are doled out arbitrarily anyway? Debate about whether or not the collection should have won is irrelevant, but what can be said of Unaccustomed Earth is that it... [read more]
The virtual absence of the Virgin Mary from the New Testament is so at odds with the proliferation of her myth and image in Christianity, and more specifically Catholicism, that it is almost to be disbelieved. The most famous woman in Western Culture, and the paragon of virginity, womanhood and motherhood, the perfect symbol of Christian love and obedience, and, to borrow a description of Artemis from Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary, ‘radiating abidance and bounty, fertility and... [read more]