'Thanks': On Negative Criticism

by Orit Gat

The commonplace complaint is that no-one reads reviews anymore, and that reviews sections are consequently a nonissue. But we should read reviews, and we should read them carefully and think about the huge role they play in a magazine. The reviews section in any given publication is oftentimes the largest section and covers a substantial number of artists. It is thus a place where we need to scrutinise representation, but also a place in which a magazine asserts its stakes: if the reviews section is an entryway into the features well, then both the artists covered and the writers assigned may be involved with it more closely in the future. It’s where writers learn to write and where artists often get their first significant bibliographical notation. Lastly, the reviews section has a significant financial role in any given magazine. The fact that advertising and revenue models are changing because of the internet only makes this more crucial. [read full essay]

Reality Hunger

Chris Killen, In Real Life

reviewed by James Pulford

Behind the bluster and the speculative sightings of literature’s own four horsemen, the suggestion that the internet could be the death of the novel – an idea seriously entertained by some – is underpinned by an interesting question: how do novelists writing today acknowledge the presence of the internet and digital media in their fiction? Much has been made of the power of social media in particular and its influence on human behaviour and relationships, and fiction writers, always keen... [read more]

The Rotating Bed

Paul B. Preciado, Pornotopia: An Essay on Playboy’s Architecture & Biopolitics

reviewed by Jane Cleasby

Those coming to Paul B. Preciado’s Pornotopia: An Essay on Playboy’s Architecture & Biopolitics having read the genre-splitting, sexually graphic critical memoir that was 2013’s Testo Junkie may be surprised at the former’s comparable conventionality. Save for the preface and the postscript, Preciado is barely visible in the pages of Pornotopia, and readers may be disappointed to find his writing in a much more traditionally academic style. This is likely due to the book’s genesis as... [read more]
 

Using Buildings as Cyphers

Sharon Rotbard, White City, Black City: Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa

reviewed by Alison Hugill

In his essay ‘On the Concept of History’, Walter Benjamin writes - quoting the Austrian dramatist Hugo Hofmannsthal - that the true historian must ‘read what was never written.’ Echoing this sentiment, and taking up the task, Sharon Rotbard remarks that ‘…the most interesting chapters in Tel Aviv’s account of itself are, without doubt, the ones that have been left out.’ From this conceptual starting point, he aims to lay bare the myth of Tel Aviv’s architectural history,... [read more]

The Question of Age

Robert Pogue Harrison, Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age

reviewed by Peter Marshall

In the preface to his new book, Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age, Robert Harrison states that the question his book intends to examine, ‘How old are we?’ specifically refers to the ‘we’ of post-war America, and sets readers up for what we can assume will be a cultural critique by way of a philosophic and historic reflection on the phenomenon of age. There are plenty of instances when one should trust the work more than the author, and this is one. Though Juvenescence is... [read more]
 

Intoxicology

Johann Hari, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

reviewed by Stuart Walton

'Of the making of books about drugs these days, there seems no end,' said Nicholas Lezard in the Guardian, opening a review of my own contribution to the field 14 years ago. And nor should there be. While the amorphous terminology never changes, drugs – by which we might mean the entire field of intoxication practices, licit and illicit – go on multiplying as fast as freelance laboratories can alter their molecular structures to produce new compounds. Meanwhile, the ancestral substances... [read more]

Moonbeams on Her Brow

Daisy Hay, Mr & Mrs Disraeli: A Strange Romance

reviewed by Polly Bull

In 1868, Mary Anne Disraeli was awarded a peerage by Queen Victoria. With the new title of Viscountess Beaconsfield, she became a darling of the English public. Newspapers sang her praises, calling her the ‘First Rose of England’ and claiming that the Queen had never done ‘a more popular act’. Mary Anne was seen as the ideal wife of a great man: the outgoing Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. The new title not only recognised her own virtue, but that of a husband who had asked the Queen... [read more]
 

Rival Dealer

Alexander R. Galloway, Laruelle: Against the Digital

reviewed by Dominic Fox

Philosophy promises something. Students of philosophy are enticed by this promise; amateur philosophers keep the flame alive. Professional philosophers are in a sense professional promisers, makers and curators of philosophical promises. No matter how skeptical or reticent they may be, how epistemically humble or ontologically parsimonious, they maintain the promissory structure of philosophy. One day, but not yet – not yet, but soon – philosophy will deliver on its promise. The... [read more]

Forever Love

Sam Riviere, Kim Kardashian's Marriage

reviewed by Frith Taylor

'When did poems start having to fuck with people constantly?' Sam Riviere, 2014. With Kim Kardashian's Marriage, Sam Riviere continues many of the themes of his earlier collections, 81 Austerities (2012) and Standard Twin Fantasy (2014). An uncompromising examination of contemporary life, this collection explores ideas of celebrity, artifice, performance and voyeurism, with the humour and irreverence that has become characteristic of Riviere's poetry. Charting Kim Kardashian's 72-day... [read more]
 

99% of 1.2 Billion

Arundhati Roy, Capitalism: A Ghost Story

reviewed by Maya Osborne

Capitalism is a greedy, vampiric fiend in Arundhati Roy’s Capitalism: A Ghost Story. It gnaws at the lifelines of well over 99% of India’s population and mainlines its acquired riches into a select few bejewelled, oily capitalists. In a nod to the Occupy! movement, she proclaims: ‘[the 1%] say that we don’t have demands … they don’t know, perhaps, that our anger alone would be enough to destroy them.’ The first page of the first essay sets the tone: ‘in a nation of 1.2 billion,... [read more]

'Events Are Dust'

Frances Stracey, Constructed Situations: A New History of the Situationist International

reviewed by Julian Cosma

Winston Churchill’s approach to communism, especially in the interwar period, was distinctly, almost obsessively epidemiological. His speeches and essays were peppered with quotes such as ‘Bolshevism is not a policy, it is a disease’ or alternatively, a ‘pestilence’. Individual figures were not exempt from medical designation. Lenin was a German-bred bacillus sent to inflect Russia, and Trotsky was ‘like the cancer bacillus.’ This anti-bolshevism was buttressed by respect for... [read more]