An Absence Made Present

by Thom Cuell

With The Holy Bible the Manics created a myth that would haunt their future. This extraordinary album will be the band’s legacy, one which they can never fully embrace nor truly escape from. It has been re-released twice in special editions, for the 10th and 20th anniversaries of its release; they have also vowed never to perform songs from it again. When I first encountered the Manics, in the downtime between The Holy Bible and Everything Must Go, they were a band on hiatus, with no definite sign they would return – the madwoman in the attic of British rock. Since then, they have enjoyed commercial success, fallen in and out of fashion, and created eight albums. Fans have grown up, left, returned. Borrowing from Joseph Heller, if they were charged with not writing anything as good since The Holy Bible, they could justifiably respond with ‘no, but neither has anyone else’. [read full essay]

Movement as Political Act

Reece Jones, Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move

reviewed by Dominic Davies

In January 2011, 15-year-old Felani Khatun began the return journey from India with her father, where he had been working without a visa, to their home country of Bangladesh. The family had been working illegally because acquiring passports is such a densely bureaucratic – and for Felani’s family, far too expensive – process. Instead, Felani and her father paid a smuggler $50 to arrange for their crossing. Though pre-2000 the border had been lightly guarded, terrorist attacks in Mumbai... [read more]

Minute Particulars

Thomas Davis, The Extinct Scene: Late Modernism and Everyday Life

reviewed by Guy Stevenson

Recent work on inter-war modernism has emphasised a shift from psychological introspection – exemplified by figures like TS Eliot, James Joyce and Ezra Pound – to active re-engagement with the outside world. The latter camp, chastised by George Orwell in 1940 as ‘eager-minded schoolboy[s] with a leaning towards Communism’, are the main subject of this book – a group of British writers and artist that included WH Auden, Christopher Isherwood and Henry Moore and whose politics were... [read more]
 

Politics By Other Means

Joe Kennedy, Games without Frontiers

reviewed by Alfie Bown

Joe Kennedy is a theorist and a football fan. His book Games without Frontiers critiques neither and instead seeks to redeem both via their not-so-unusual connections. Kennedy explores how political and theoretical concerns play out in and through football, and how football implies important things in its various theoretical and political contexts. Far from seeing the game as merely a symptom of or distraction from political and social concerns, Kennedy reveals the deeply complex and... [read more]

Obligingly Noxious

Slavoj Žižek, Disparities

reviewed by Stuart Walton

Halfway through his latest theoretical work, Slavoj Žižek undergoes an exploratory colonoscopy. Naturally, he does nothing so dull as share its results with us, but is more fascinated by the fact that, after the procedure, the consultant discreetly offers him a DVD of the examination. What on earth is one expected to do with it? Žižek wonders whether it might make a nice change to the bill of fare on the nights he gets together with old friends to watch a classic film. Playing next in this... [read more]
 

Did We Lose It At The Movies?

Kelly Oliver, Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from The Hunger Games to Campus Rape

reviewed by Claire Potter

Since the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States a few weeks ago, feminists in the United States, along with most liberals, have been in a state of collective vertigo. A boorish and offensive man with no political education, Trump has opened the door to the nation’s most misogynistic and racist id. No one is sure what will happen next, but we can be confident that books like Vanderbilt University philosopher Kelly Oliver’s Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from The Hunger... [read more]

Everything and Nothing

Molly Prentiss, Tuesday Nights in 1980

reviewed by Mark West

There is a great joy in reading about people falling in love with art. Such is this joy's power that a writer need only offer the barest narrative outline – discovery, infatuation, transformation – and the reader will fill in the gaps with their own histories. Novels like Molly Prentiss' Tuesday Nights in 1980 summon those romantic fixtures of artistic life – glamorous poverty, bands of outsiders, troubled geniuses – and these familiar tropes, like Roland Barthes' ‘readerly texts,’... [read more]
 

Bullshitting Jobs

Jamie Woodcock, Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres

reviewed by Benjamin Noys

My idea of hell is working in a call centre. I hate using the phone at the best of times, don’t like sales, lack the capacity to ‘smile down the phone’, and don’t do well under constant observation. Of course, even if we don’t work in a call centre we all have the call centre experience of being cold-called. Usually once you have rushed to pick up the phone there is a pause, which is the warning sign, and sometimes you can hear the voices of those working in the call centre humming in... [read more]

Oh well, whatever, nevermind

Robin Wasserman, Girls on Fire

reviewed by Sharlene Teo

Teenage girls have an indomitable foothold in the literary and popular imagination. How unforgettably they have been evoked in fiction, from Francoise Sagan’s sly nymphette Cecile in Bonjour Tristesse through to Jeffrey Eugenides’s pantheon of inscrutable, suicidal Lisbons in The Virgin Suicides. Robin Wasserman’s Girls on Fire aspires toward that oeuvre, with mixed results. Wasserman’s chutzpah is apparent from the novel’s opening section, which takes the form of lofty missive:... [read more]
 

In Your Face

Stewart Home, Defiant Pose

reviewed by Anna Aslanyan

Defiant Pose, first published 25 years ago, was written over a couple of months in 1989. 'I felt that if I wrote quickly,' Stewart Home says in his afterword to the anniversary edition, 'the text would have a greater sense of pressure and urgency.' Despite a two-year gap between that moment and the book's publication, the 1991 blurb claimed: 'Defiant Pose is a story straight from today's headlines.' Many of them remained front-page stuff in 2016. In fact, a quick look at the recent papers... [read more]

Cuts, Breaks, Rips: On Disruptive Poetics

Anne Carson, Float

reviewed by Ralf Webb

Anne Carson begins her ‘novel in verse’ Autobiography of Red (1998) with an essay on the ancient poet of the Greek west, Stesichorus. She remarks that Stesichorus’ poem the Geryoneis – which tells of the mythical monster Geryon’s elimination by the hero Herakles, a narrative that Carson contemporises and subverts in Autobiography – today only remains as sparse textual fragments. These fragments, Carson writes, ‘read as if Stesichorus had composed a substantial narrative poem then... [read more]