All Essays

ESSAY Something Spurious, Borrowed, Or Just Made Up

by Maddalena Vatti

Strangers I Know, a book about Durastanti’s family history and upbringing between Brooklyn and a small village in the south of Italy, starts off as an autobiography — or, rather, as a reflection on autobiography as a literary form itself — to transform into a shape-shifting text where the work on form and language is an ongoing, deliberate effort. Perhaps precisely because it is from a linguistic rupture that the author’s memories (and this book) originate: being born to deaf parents whilst also having to straddle two languages and places of origin. [read full essay]

ESSAY Permanent Victims

by Stuart Walton

Disaffected young men of the Westworld have begun to believe that everything is loaded against them. Their self-respect has been stolen from them, they believe, by women who won't look twice at them. Their innate physical strength and their yearning to take on leadership roles are redundant attributes, while the breakdown of all their relationships is invariably blamed on them. They have willingly become what they never imagined being — permanent victims. [read full essay]

ESSAY Je Suis Fuccboi

by Huda Awan

What does it mean to connect with someone? What does it mean to see yourself in someone else? Is the former even possible without the latter? It’s potentially a solipsistic way of looking at the world, but then, what’s the alternative? A self-conscious and reflexive engagement with experiences that are ostensibly not our own? That feels worse because it is, to my mind, ultimately inauthentic. It means you’re interested because you ought to be, not because you genuinely are. Understanding and empathy become a moral imperative, not something instinctive, intuitive. [read full essay]

ESSAY Feeling Comes First

by Aaron Penczu

Neuroscience so confidently identifies consciousness with the cerebral cortex — the densely-folded, outer layer of grey matter in mammal brains — that surgeons sometimes question whether children born without one require anaesthetics at all. Yet these children cry, laugh, play, and distinguish familiar from unfamiliar stimuli — behaviours difficult to imagine alongside the total absence of experience. Animals whose cortex has been surgically removed continue to navigate mazes, eat, procreate, and nurse their young; if anything they are more active, and more emotional, than their normal peers. [read full essay]

ESSAY On the Buses

by Claire Thomson

Today, taking public transport often feels like taking a calculated risk. A risk that is continuing to shut many people living with disabilities or health conditions out of swathes of public life. The windows of Glasgow’s buses have little stickers on them declaring that, in order to allow for proper ventilation on the bus, they do not close fully. Glasgow’s passengers have proven these stickers wrong. Over the months, perhaps because of the cold or a lack of conviction in the importance of ventilation to prevent transmission of COVID-19, many of these windows have been forced closed. If I am feeling brave, I pull the windows open. Sometimes others close them. [read full essay]

ESSAY Review 31's Books of the Year 2021

by Review 31

Our end-of-year selection features two debuts: Sarvat Hasin’s contemporary retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, which is praised for its ‘propulsive energy and a refreshing lack of linguistic reserve’; and Egyptian-American poet Moheb Soliman’s collection of poems on the theme of place and belonging. There are also more familiar names including Cynthia Ozick and Gwendoline Riley, whose ‘genius’ novel My Phantoms was criminally overlooked for the Booker. Other choices include George Saunders’ ‘warm and vivacious’ Russian literature primer, Frank Wynne’s ‘absolutely essential’ collection of LGBTQ writing, translator Polly Barton’s ‘thoughtful and erudite’ essay-memoir about language and culture, and Charles Boyle’s The Other Jack — ‘a book about what we talk about when we talk about books.' [read full essay]

ESSAY There is Nothing Better

by Stuart Walton

The historian Barbara Rosenwein is the latest to wonder whether a typology of the myths of love might be teased out of the centuries-long obsession with its elusive ideal. She distinguishes five of these: the miraculous kinship that unites soulmates; the transcendent rapture of the besotted state; selfless devotion to the loved one; ineradicable yearning that feeds on itself; and the blinkered carnal rampancy of the sex appetite. For all that its elements have propagated into five, there is an unmistakable hint here of Plato's triune definition of the soul, descending from the noble ideals housed in the head to the spirited adventures of the heart, and thence to the importunate hungers of the nether regions — the belly and genitals, their lust for possession. [read full essay]

ESSAY Think Local

by Josh Mcloughlin

Like much of the north, Preston is still battling the chronic after-effects of Thatcherism and deindustrialisation. As in most areas controlled by Labour councils, it suffered deep cuts to local government budgets after the 2007–8 Banking Crisis, leading to a contraction of services and provision across the board, from transport to social care. The big idea behind the ‘Preston Model’ is that, instead of waiting for Westminster to sort things out, locals decided to take action to reverse decline and regenerate their area. ‘At the heart of community wealth-building’, Brown and Jones explain, ‘is the belief that ordinary individuals and groups are capable of taking ownership, direction and control of their own resources in order to improve their own lives.’ [read full essay]

ESSAY All This Badness

by Huda Awan

At its core, the Contemporary Tech Essay sets out to show how the internet and tech industry are warping our lives. In doing so, it will tend to cover one or two dominant themes. The first is self-optimisation, such as tech’s fixation on bio-hacking, evolutionary psychology, and nutrition over gastronomy. The second is surveillance: writers often return to areas such as data, targeted ads, and ‘God View.’ Take ‘The Night Gym’ and ‘Monstrous Energy’ from The Disconnect, both of which exemplify the former theme, and both of which link the availability of contemporary products and services geared towards maximising the hours in the day as stemming from a techno-capitalist culture. [read full essay]

ESSAY Mix, Match, Move On

by Stuart Walton

The approach of Bob Dylan's 80th birthday has prompted the anticipated flurry of reassessments and revisitations, reflections on the cultural significance of American popular music's prickliest and most defiantly enduring troubadour, revisions of earlier revisionist biographies, another round of genuflections, heartfelt encomia, and the laboured raking of long memories, bitter and bad as well as warm and honeyed. There is more than enough Dylan to go around, and way more than enough Dylanology, and yet who would deny the old stager another moment in a more august limelight than the stuff they sell by the yard these days? [read full essay]