No One Gets Out Alive: An Interview with Joanna Walsh

by Thea Hawlin

Dubbed by Deborah Levy as ‘fast becoming one of our most important writers,’ Joanna Walsh is the award-winning author of Hotel (Bloomsbury, 2015) and Vertigo (And Other Stories, 2016). I spoke with her on the launch day of her debut digital book, Seed, a novella that blooms, wilts, and grows as you read it. [read full interview]

History On the Front Lines

Eric Foner, Battles for Freedom: The Use and Abuse of American History

reviewed by Tom Cutterham

Born to a family of communists and labour organisers in 1940s New York, and trained as a historian there in the 1960s, Eric Foner has for the best part of a generation been one of the leading historians both in and of the United States. His retirement from Columbia University last year has provided a number of opportunities to reflect on Foner's towering intellectual achievements – including a conference in his honour at Columbia this month, and this book, which collects some of his... [read more]

‘Collective composition, modularity, iterability, and virtuality’

Haun Saussy, The Ethnography of Rhythm: Orality and Its Technologies

reviewed by James Williams

In its subtitle, ‘Orality and Its Technologies,’ The Ethnography of Rhythm anticipates comparisons to what doubtless remains the most familiar touchstone in discussions of orality, Walter J. Ong’s 1982 work Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. Haun Saussy’s account, though, amounts to a deft sidestepping of some of the temptation toward grander narrative which Ong’s classic reading may provoke. Instead of insisting upon any sharp distinction between orality and... [read more]

An Enclosure Not Of Imprisonment

Alex Wong, Poems without Irony

reviewed by Alex Assaly

Alex Wong’s Poems without Irony demands an uneasy amount of ‘intelligence’ and ‘care’ from its readers. The collection never panders. Nor do its poems ever indulge readers’ idle tastes, sentiments, and ideas. Poems without Irony, rather, invites and challenges. Its poems ask their readers to ‘enter into’ the self-governing worlds created and communicated by them; and to come equipped with the literary and the experiential knowledge to navigate them. To accept these invitations... [read more]

Can Zombies Make History?

Emmanuel Todd, Who Is Charlie? Xenophobia and the New Middle Class

reviewed by Ian Birchall

The forthcoming French presidential elections will be haunted by the violence of the last few years. The appalling murders of the staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 were followed by massive demonstrations, involving up to four million people, under the slogan ‘Je suis Charlie’ [I am Charlie]. Amid this display of national unity and ‘republican values’ there were few discordant voices – but one which provoked considerable controversy was this little... [read more]

The Disease of Disinheritance

Kate Zambreno, Book of Mutter

reviewed by Adrian Nathan West

In his lecture on the metaphor, Borges speculates that abstract thought demands the suppression of the traces of bodily experience inherent to its language: the being with the stars that is consideration, the incubation that is brooding, the distance that abides inside of longing. His observation is germane to a dichotomy proposed by Kate Zambreno in 2012’s Heroines, which perseveres in the just-published Book of Mutter. Both are meditations on women’s lives as raw material, where all the... [read more]

Checking for What?

Adam Alter, Irresistible: Why We Can't Stop Checking, Scrolling, Clicking and Watching

reviewed by Samuel Gregory

What’s the deal with those couples you see in the pub staring at their phones in silence? Is it OK to find that odd, even sad, or does that make you a neo-Luddite, a reactionary old bore mourning the days when drinking dens were focal points of real-life face-to-face interaction? In Irresistible, Adam Alter argues that we are all that couple to one degree or another, each of us trapped in a loveless relationship with digital devices that are making us unhappier and unhealthier.... [read more]

Dangerous Liaisons: Intimacy Undone

Eimear McBride, The Lesser Bohemians

reviewed by Thea Hawlin

It is hard not to be awed by Eimear McBride’s follow-up to her award-winning debut A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (2013). Although echoes of her previous novel are clear, McBride presents a wholly new kind of story in The Lesser Bohemians. Like in Girl our protagonist is female, again on the cusp of adulthood, ‘before I became what I’ve become – a form of a thing,’ but the process of formation in Bohemians is stronger. Rather than remaining ‘half-formed’ or dissolving completely,... [read more]

‘We are all migrants through time’

Mohsin Hamid, Exit West

reviewed by Michael Duffy

Exit West will perhaps be termed a ‘refugee novel’, such is its immediate relevance to the global humanitarian crises that are simultaneously shaking and reinforcing the rhetorical significance of Western borders in relation to ideas of sovereignty, nationhood and identity. Since the 16th century, considerations of sovereignty have been largely predicated on the existence and maintenance of clearly delimited and enforceable national borders. In this slim novel, the focus of Mohsin Hamid’s... [read more]

Briefly Beguiling to the Senses But Ultimately Annoying to the Soul

Teju Cole, Known and Strange Things

reviewed by Laura Waddell

I wasn’t far into Teju Cole’s essay collection Known and Strange Things when I realised the book wasn’t what I had anticipated, drawn from the cover copy promising a ‘first collection of essays’ on ‘politics, photography, travel, history and literature.’ Rather than a series of cultural essays as such, it’s more a collection of brief reviews, many pre-published in magazines and reviews. Cole’s writing is elegant and his observations often insightful and enthusiastic; I’d... [read more]

A Rhetorical Prompt

Stuart Walton, In the Realm of the Senses: A Materialist Theory of Seeing and Feeling

reviewed by Jeffrey Petts

In the Realm of the Senses is subtitled ‘a materialist theory of seeing and feeling’ and is suitably structured in two parts: a ‘theory of the senses’ and a second part divided between chapters on each of the five senses (plus, disconcertingly, one on ‘the sixth sense’). Concerns soon mount about the approach and scope of the book. The first sentence sets the tone for the whole work: ‘The realm of the senses, in which humanity has allegedly dwelt ever since its spiritual craft... [read more]