All Essays

ESSAY The Lives of Others

by Charles Fernyhough

Writers have a duty to ask what is involved in letting a reader inhabit a different worldview. How, when and under what conditions can – and should – writers try to master a perspective that is different from their own? Every author will answer this differently, and all writers will have to work out for themselves which doors might swing open and what lines must never be crossed. But each one I have spoken to has defended it as a right that can, with the appropriate knowledge and sensitivity, be earned. The best literature celebrates this magic trick, but also feels for its boundaries. Dare to imagine, it tells us, but do it with respect, and do it well. [read full essay]

ESSAY Remembering the War Dead

by James Heartfield

The case against war had been strongly put. The best argument against the war was the cost in lives. What the official commemoration of the dead did was to take all the grief that might have counted against the war-mongers and turn it instead into part of the case for war. The dead were now called the ‘fallen’ (though most had been struck down). The killing was sanctified as a ‘sacrifice’ — the ‘Greatest Sacrifice’. [read full essay]

ESSAY (The Refusal) To Work Forever

by Elliot C. Mason

Subjectivity, in this capitalist work ideology, is based on representing a universal form – based on being a site of accumulation, a place of value-production. Poetry resists this spatialising movement. So while every moment of constant work is another restriction on the feminised and racialised body – in different ways, but both with the result of rejection to the periphery – these poets that place resistance to work in the striking snap of slowness, the antithesis of productive capital, can withdraw a subversive way of being from beneath the sweaty bodies constantly performing for the totality of labour. [read full essay]

ESSAY Letter from a Nation of Freemen

by Ed Simon

You can be killed in a school, a movie theatre, a shopping mall, a bar, a concert, a church, a synagogue, a mosque, a goddamn garlic festival. Because this is what it’s like living in America as the second decade of the new millennium draws to a close. If there are still Americans in the future on the other side of that divide, in a hopefully fairer, saner, better nation, please read this as a missive from foreign country. This is a civilian letter in this grim war, and what I’d tell all of you fortunate enough not to wake up everyday with push notification of a mass shooting in your neighbourhood is that in the United States we’re scared and scarred, jarred, anxious, frightened, and most of all exhausted. [read full essay]

ESSAY At The Right Distance

by Leon Craig

‘Loss, I thought, did not have to be a void of grief and pain, it could also be an encounter’ realises Echo, the protagonist of Saskia Vogel’s debut novel Permission, as she is comforted by her dominatrix lover. While staying with her parents in a coastal town outside Los Angeles, she goes climbing with her father in a nearby cove and he suddenly disappears into the waves. As harbour patrol and the rescue divers slowly abandon the search, she remains trapped in her parents’ house, isolated from her mother by their shared sorrow and desperate for distraction. Driving around the cliffs looking for somewhere to be alone, she is forced into continually re-encountering her lost adolescence. [read full essay]

ESSAY A Party in Four Parts

by Minoo Dinshaw

David Cameron had inherited a party split by Europe; he did not know or care much about the older, underlying tension and started a bar-fight that ripped right across it. He ended up leaving behind him a party in at least four parts: Whig Remainers, grey-faced Establishment spectres (they produced Theresa May and are now led by Jeremy Hunt); idealistic, sometimes confusing Tory Remainers, of whom Rory Stewart is the most persuasive example; Whig Brexiteers, blithely ahistorical venture capitalists; and Tory Brexiteers, atavistic and excitable backwoodsmen. [read full essay]

ESSAY Governments Get the People they Deserve: Anger, Class Snobbery and the Gilets Jaunes

by Laurane Marchive

When Notre-Dame started burning, I knew about it within four minutes. But when the Yellow Vest riots started, I wasn’t aware of it for ten days. As videos of the protests eventually emerged on my Facebook news feed, I was confused: I assumed they were old clips or even fakes. None of my Parisian friends had mentioned the situation, so how could it really be happening in their neighbourhoods? Upon discussing it with other London French expats, they turned out to share my confusion: they had no idea anything amiss had been going on, as no one in their networks had brought it up either. There were riots in the streets of Paris, and Parisians didn’t seem to care. [read full essay]

ESSAY Class and the Arts: A Crisis of Representation

by Luke Davies

There's a striking absence of prominent working-class voices in the British media, especially those belonging to the younger generation. And there is a gross underrepresentation of working-class characters in films, TV shows and literature: a 2014 LSE survey of creative industries found that only 10% of authors, writers and translators come from backgrounds typically associated with the working-classes, whilst in the category of visual media (including TV and film) for directors, arts officers and producers the figure is as low as 3%. Certainly there are anomalies (Sally Rooney's Normal People and Francis Lee's God's Own Country being two striking examples) but the general picture is undoubtedly bleak. And yet, there’s little public outcry. If you are poor and British, the likelihood is you feel under-represented and that no-one gives a shit. And while the left have been happy to tolerate this, the right have been able to take advantage by making a series of jingoistic appeals, the undercurrent of which is: if they won't fight your corner, we will. [read full essay]

ESSAY So, enter the Mother

by Jess Cotton

Motherhood is the space of impossible choices, the space of incommensurable care. It is no wonder that the political stakes of thinking motherhood are so high and that the literary and historical forms that it engenders are fragmentary, historical, ahistorical, messy, philosophical, utopian, capacious and careful (none of these impulses should be seen as incompatible or contradictory – motherhood is the space of contradictory feelings). Writing about motherhood at this particular juncture of financial austerity, political turmoil, hard borders and imminent climate disaster is a reminder of the ways in which social reproduction is being intensified in unsustainable ways in the present. It should also be seen as part of a desire to denaturalise female generosity, to acknowledge pregnancy not as an inevitable stage of female identity. [read full essay]

ESSAY In Praise of Walking: A Hunt Through Three Novels

by Matthew Turner

Amid the aftershocks of another monumental reordering of the world with digital technologies, revisiting nature through walking and reading can be a way of reconstructing perception, and reimagining the self through observation and imagination. Three books: Out of the Woods by Luke Turner, Mothlight by Adam Scovell and Lanny by Max Porter, all explore this organic catalyst for reflection. They offer a new type of dérive through looking closely at what is at hand at a moment when skewing typical modes of perambulation around a city or place conjures images of cars veering onto footpaths. Each of the three books also delivers a different perception of the quintessential British walk and uncovers some of its complex and illusive meaning. [read full essay]