All Reviews

The Search for a Moment

John Burnside, Something Like Happy

reviewed by Alan Bowden

What is the substance and value of daily life? How is that value related to the construction of a narrative that in both preceding and following the present moment provides a structure that can generate meaning and experience? How active a hand should one take in constructing one’s own narrative, in consciously generating meaning in the objects, events, and interactions of daily life? One strand in the burgeoning field of everyday aesthetics maintains that the value of everyday life comes... [read more]

Through pewtery clouds

Amy Sackville, Orkney

reviewed by Eli Davies

On the surface the story of Orkney is familiar, perhaps even tired: Richard, a jaded literature professor in his sixties, seduces and marries a younger student, a pale, dreamy twenty-one year old, unnamed throughout, and whisks her away on their honeymoon. This is very much Richard’s story and the book deals with many of the themes one might associate with such a template – male ego, insecurity, a preoccupation with youth and old age. He is not a sympathetic character, but Sackville’s... [read more]
 

The Least Worst Form of Government

Brian Roper, The History of Democracy: A Marxist Interpretation

reviewed by Stuart Walton

A comprehensive critique of democracy would hardly lack for ammunition. As a political form democracy is limited by the overall level of social and intellectual advancement of the people who constitute its motivating principle. Electorally, its insistence on regular ballots, subject as they are to the vicissitudes of public opinion, produces an endless oscillation of political direction, with the result that the aims and achievements of one particular government may be promptly partially undone... [read more]

‘I couldn’t decide whether I done good or bad'

William Luvaas, Ashes Rain Down: A Story Cycle

reviewed by Andre van Loon

Imagine a world in which ashes rain down from the sky. A world in which there are heat waves of such intensity that roads liquefy and armies are mobilised to protect their countries’ right to drinking water. In which there is wind of such ferocity that lizards are sucked clean off trees, never to be seen again. In which there are plagues of flies, ‘not just common house flies but carrion flies, fat-bodied, metallic bluebottles and viridescent greenbottles, typically associated with... [read more]
 

No hope; no release

Carl Cederström and Peter Fleming, Dead Man Working

reviewed by Steffen Böhm

The economic, social and political crisis the world currently faces is not only to do with debt (public or private) but also work. While left- and right-wing politics and entire countries seem to be engaged in a battle of words over how to deal with the fact that there is literally no more money in the public coffers (bearing in mind that the elites have never been richer), what has always united the political centre-ground is an ideology of work. In Cameron’s austerity Britain people... [read more]

Reanimation

Vladimir Nabokov, Laughter in the Dark

reviewed by Nicolas Padamsee

Asked what his position in the world of letters was, Nabokov replied, with customary wit: ‘Jolly good view from up here.’ His pantheon of major writers was offbeat and exclusive. Pushkin, Shakespeare, Bely and Tolstoy were among those accorded a place, but he was not afraid to spurn an illustrious name – DH Lawrence, Mann, Wolfe, Lorca, Dreiser, Camus, Forster: all ‘second-raters’ – and his animadversions could be delightfully trenchant. Wilde was a ‘rank moralist and... [read more]
 

The New World in Our Hearts

Federico Campagna and Emanuele Campiglio (eds.), What We Are Fighting For: A Radical Collective Manifesto

reviewed by Mike Gonzalez

The cover of this collection of essays announces that ‘millions fear what the future will bring but also dare to dream of a different society.’ No-one would deny the truth of both those propositions. The age of austerity, the latest stage of neo-liberalism’s assault on the majorities of the world, has thrown a curtain across the future, and condemned us to live in a perpetual repetition of an intolerable present. Across the spectrum of official politics, parliamentary parties merge into... [read more]

In Defence of Novels

Daniel Punday, Writing at the Limit: The Novel in the New Media Ecology

reviewed by Mélissa Mahi

We live in a time that is more saturated by information than any time before in history. That information is no longer limited to text, but arises out of multiple media. The convergence of audio, video and text in digital culture challenges the traditional role of the written word as society’s primary source of knowledge production. In Writing at the Limit, Daniel Punday introduces us to authors who are ‘eager to understand what makes the traditional novel distinctive among storytelling... [read more]
 

Misfit for the World

Jack Zipes, The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre

reviewed by Belinda Webb-Blofeld

Those already familiar with Jack Zipes will know his seminal scholarly work, Fairytales and the Art of Subversion (Wildman, 1983), of which 2013 marks 30 years since publication. The only problem with creating a groundbreaking work is how to ensure that subsequent works live up to the standard of the earlier success. In The Irresistible Fairy Tale, Zipes sets out to 'demonstrate that the historical evolution of storytelling reflects struggles of human beings worldwide to adapt to their changing... [read more]

The Passion of the Concept

Peter Hallward & Knox Peden (eds.), Concept & Form, Volume One: Key Texts from the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

reviewed by Matt Ellison

The essays collected in Concept and Form, Volume One, many of them appearing for the first time in English, mark the most fruitful period in 20th century French intellectual history. The Cahiers pour l’Analyse was a journal founded in 1966 and edited by Jacques-Alain Miller, Jean-Claude Milner, Alain Grosrichard and François Regnault, a group of Louis Althusser’s former students at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris. The journal continued Althusser’s philosophical and... [read more]