'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]

Plain Old Mattress Ticking

Wendy Cope, Life, Love and the Archers: Recollections, Reviews and Other Prose

reviewed by Gee Williams

Wendy Cope published her first collection of poetry, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, in 1985. But far from attaching herself to the brand of Amis senior, Cope has become a brand in her own right, strong enough to coax investment from the fiercest Dragons’ Den. I’m one of those delighted to spend my time on her, always sure of a favourable return. And I’m in good company. That first book has sold 180,000 copies, amazing for any poetry book, let alone a first, let alone by a woman, let... [read more]

Peeling the Onion

Antoni Kapcia, Leadership in the Cuban Revolution: The Unseen Story

reviewed by Mike Gonzalez

Antoni Kapcia’s most recent book on Cuba (he has published several, principally on culture) could hardly have been better timed. Leadership in the Cuban Revolution presents its main argument in an odd cover design in which Fidel Castro’s face is blocked out by a large pink circle. In fact the book appeared just a few months before Raúl, Fidel’s brother and leader of Cuba since Fidel’s retirement in 2006, announced on December 17 a historic agreement with the US to end its 55-year... [read more]
 

The Horrible and the Miserable

Robert P. Waxler, The Risk of Reading: How Literature Helps Us to Understand Ourselves and the World

reviewed by Stuart Walton

The risk that Robert Waxler refers to in the title of this unapologetically conventional homage to literature is that books might suggest something to their readers about their own lives that the readers didn't already know. Life is a journey, a ceaseless and imperfect and necessarily incomplete quest for self-identity, but novels and stories can provide the guideposts by which we navigate through it, unlike the absorbent screens of the digital age, which are perniciously distracting and... [read more]

The Elemental Aspects of Existence

Marilynne Robinson, Lila

reviewed by Rachel Sykes

To a growing and often fanatical readership, Marilynne Summers Robinson is unrivalled as a writer of American prose. The author first rose to prominence when her second novel, Gilead, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2005, and by the time President Obama awarded her the National Humanities Medal in 2010 Robinson was literary fiction’s worst kept secret, wildly popular amongst book groups, journalists, literary critics and, indeed, the President. 'I feel like I know y’all,' Obama... [read more]
 

Where Have All The Philosophers Gone?

Richard Marshall, Philosophy at 3:AM: Questions and Answers with 25 Top Philosophers

reviewed by Jeffrey Petts

The day I first looked at 3:AM the latest End Times interview by Richard Marshall shared the website’s homepage with a review of Russell Brand’s Revolution, a juxtaposition worthy of Marshall’s concern: ‘where have all the philosophers gone?’ Marshall describes 3:AM as ‘a self-proclaimed underground mag’, essentially iconoclastic rather than philosophical, often anti-academia, and generally publishing in areas related to fiction and the arts. His series of interviews began as an... [read more]

Party Politics in the West Indies

CLR James, The Life of Captain Cipriani: An Account of British Government in the West Indies, with the pamphlet The Case for West-Indian Self Government

reviewed by Christian Høgsbjerg

In his classic cultural history of cricket and civilisation, Beyond a Boundary (1963) the great Trinidadian Marxist CLR James recalled the time when ‘the Trinidad workers in the oilfields moved’ during the mass strike of 1937. ‘They were followed by masses of people in all the other islands, closing one epoch in West Indian history and opening another. One Government commentator, in reviewing the causes, was kind enough to refer to the writings of CLR James as helping to stir up the... [read more]
 

Guerrillas In The Mist

Peter Wolfendale, Object-Oriented Philosophy: The Noumenon’s New Clothes

reviewed by Dominic Fox

An alternative title for Pete Wolfendale’s Object-Oriented Philosophy: The Noumenon’s New Clothes might have been A Defence of Philosophy; for what Wolfendale has written, in the form of a polemic against the ‘Object-Oriented Philosophy’ of Graham Harman, is a repudiation that unfolds into a systematic explication of Wolfendale’s own philosophical commitments. It is ultimately a defence of philosophical seriousness, of a particular way of holding such commitments and consenting to be... [read more]

'There’s something unpleasant here’

Yasushi Inoue, trans. Michael Emmerich, Life of a Counterfeiter

reviewed by Dan Bradley

The title story in this collection opens with the writer's admission of failure: 'Nearly a decade has passed since the Ōnuki family first asked me to compile a biography of the painter Ōnuki Keigaku, and I have yet to complete it.' The biographer soon abandons his fruitless work and sets off into the countryside to investigate forgeries created by a mysterious painter named Shinozaki, mentioned in Keigaku's diary. And though the title leads us to believe that the life of Shinozaki – forger,... [read more]
 

The Opposite of Hallelujah

Jason Holt (ed.), Leonard Cohen and Philosophy: Various Positions

reviewed by Andrew Marzoni

It’s hard to know whether Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer could have imagined that their brand of ideology critique would one day be subsumed by the very ‘culture industry’ it was designed to confront, but one must look no further than Open Court’s Popular Culture and Philosophy® series to see the dollars that can be squeezed out of a rudimentary understanding of Hegel and Kant. Since this catalog of academic anthologies was inaugurated with the inevitable Seinfeld and Philosophy: A... [read more]

‘It Is Poetry That Needs The Revolution’

Marius Hentea, TaTa Dada: The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara

reviewed by Ian Birchall

‘Total pandemonium. The people around us are shouting, laughing, and gesticulating. Our replies are sighs of love, volleys of hiccups, poems, moos, and miaowing of medieval Bruitists. Tzara is wiggling his behind like the belly of an Oriental dancer. Janco is playing an invisible violin and bowing and scraping. Madame Hennings, with a Madonna face, is doing the splits. Huelsenbeck is banging away nonstop on the great drum, with Ball accompanying him on the piano, pale as a chalky... [read more]