All Features

Communism on the Second Floor

by Owen Hatherley

This is the authentic voice of post-1968 squatland, and it is not a shrill or hysterical one. It is found also in the famous Christiania in Copenhagen. A former barracks was occupied by young leftists, who then invited locals to come see 'the forbidden city' – and create it. Their manifesto called for 'a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible for the well-being of the entire community. This society is to be economically self-sustaining, and its common aspiration is to be steadfast in the conviction that psychological and physical destitution can be averted'. This is not the same thing as squatting a row of bombed-out terraces, and different even to the CPGB's 1940 occupation of the Savoy. It was not intended to draw attention to housing poverty, but to something else – that 'psychological destitution', represented by the entire post-war world of 9-5 work, technocracy, full employment, Fordism, predictability, the nuclear family, advertising, property development and municipal housing. [read full essay]

Don’t Be a Patsy: An Open Letter to Jordan B. Peterson

by Neil Griffiths

Your success in turning around the lives of young men is admirable and should be encouraged. But there is something that worries me, and I think it runs deep in you. When it comes to any dissent, you are quick to anger, even a little bitter, as if you’re carrying a slight from long ago, an unhealable wound. Ironically, it is as if you’ve taken a moment of life’s unfairness personally and can’t let it go – it’s become sublimated and now manifests itself as a kind of victimhood. Except, following your own wisdom, you’re not allowing yourself to be weak or cowed, but stride meaningfully and with purpose into the suffering world. But it’s still audible in the almost shrill way you speak about ‘the post-modernists’, when you refuse to discuss ‘white privilege’, when talking more generally about women and gender politics. It’s visible in your face – you start to flush and vibrate. [read full essay]

Untroubled Times: David Stubbs in conversation with James Cook

by James Cook

I talked to journalist and author David Stubbs about his recent book, 1996 & the End of History, an examination of the year as it unfolded in the UK in politics, music, light entertainment and sport. We also discuss Memory Songs, my alternative history of the Brit-Pop moment, told through analysis of the music that informed the era, and recollections of my time as a songwriter during the 1990s. [read full interview]

Three's Company

by Leon Craig

Although forms of non-monogamy have been practised since time immemorial, both tacitly and openly (think of the maitresse-en-titre, the eromenos and the cicisbeo), it is only relatively recently in the history of the Judaeo-Christian West that women have been able to talk about wanting something other than monogamous marriage to a man without incurring considerable censure. People have become increasingly disinclined to enforce normative social mores upon others, and as a consequence it has become more acceptable to question what were once considered non-negotiable conditions of adulthood, such as chastity, monogamy or the necessity of having a partner at all. If the rules do not suit you, they can be ignored or rewritten. [read full essay]

Universities Back From the Dead?

by Tom Cutterham

One of the most remarkable things about the last few months of strike action by UCU members has been the support shown by most of our current students. They have spoken out, joined picket-lines, and gone into occupation across the country – generating imagery reminiscent of the ‘Millbank generation’ to which many of their younger lecturers (including me) belong. These students aren’t just out there to defend our pensions. They’re there for a bigger cause: the ideal of the university as a community of learning, not another neoliberal marketplace. [read full essay]

Winter’s Immutable Poetics

by Ed Simon

A certain slant of light remains at the centre for any poetics of winter. Whatever else literature of those dark months takes as its concern – the crunch of snow underfoot, the strange material effervescence of one’s breath, even the liturgy of Advent – all aesthetics of solstice ultimately is about the half-luminescence of the low winter sun. To sing a song of winter is to sing a dirge. Representations of the season must deal with the expiring embers of daylight, effervescence’s spindly dying glow as the year progresses, the subtle yet sublime awareness of the hazy light of the shortening day. Approaching whatever collapse awaits us, feeling the rising temperatures of a 21st-century December, or perhaps knowing the grey ashen chill of future nuclear winter, what is reassuringly uncontrollable is the predictable tilt of our planet’s axis. Our seasons remain a pagan liturgy, enthralled to the motion of the sun and moon, and our poetry is similarly moved. [read full essay]

That Lunatic Risk

by Peter Mitchell

Daniel Ellsberg’s book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, is a curious book to bring out at such a time. Ellsberg is better known as the first great leaker of the secret state, a defence establishment defector who released the Pentagon Papers and found a long second life as a remarkably courageous and persistent activist against the military-industrial complex and the blind, futile violence of American foreign policy since the fifties. As he explains in The Doomsday Machine, though, he didn’t initially intend the Pentagon Papers to be his big gesture: he wanted to publish all the secrets he’d been accumulating about the US nuclear war apparatus and the grave danger he believed it posed to the world. [read full essay]

‘I can’t imagine writing without translation’: An Interview with Livia Franchini

by Thea Hawlin

Livia Franchini is a writer and translator from Tuscany, Italy. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in The Quietus, Visual Verse, Hotel, Funhouse, the White Review, Minima&Moralia and Nuovi Argomenti among others. In 2016 she co-founded CORDA, a journal about friendship in the time of new borders. In 2017 she joined the organising board for the first edition of FILL, Festival of Italian Literature in London – where she lives and is working on her first novel as part of a PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths. I spoke to her after the inaugural festival about teamwork, translation, and tearing down borders. [read full interview]

People Want to Be Heard: An Interview with Nathan Connolly, Lee Rourke and Gena-mour Barrett

by Dale Lately

'I think there’s a sort of deep trauma in society from precisely this lack of representation that we’re discussing. If you look at books being published it’s a very white middle class kind of affair, there’s no kind of even spread. This is very much what I felt when I entered publishing. In my experience there’s also an expectation from a working class writer to write a gritty realist drama and bring a certain set of psychological tropes to it. And for me that’s anathema. It doesn’t interest me. I’ve never really been interested in serving up what’s expected of me.' [read full interview]

Take Me To The River: A Journey Into Digital Fiction

by James Attlee

There is one aspect of smartphone technology we all now take for granted – your phone knows where you are. By extension, so does the creator of a piece of located fiction for that instrument, enabled therefore to release elements of narrative in particular locations or at chosen times, choosing backdrops for their storyline in the real world. However, this puts a new onus on the writer. Rather than conjuring up such settings from the imagination, they must be tested thoroughly for suitability. Are they easily accessible by public transport? Do they offer a safe space in which a participant can listen to audio or read text on a screen without getting knocked down by traffic or robbed when they take their phone from their pocket? How onerous is it, travelling from one location to the next? To drill down further into the technology, will GPS trigger effectively in the location you have ring-fenced remotely as the spot where a particular event will unfold, or will a tall building or other blind-spot get in the way? [read full essay]