Men of Letters: 100 Years of Hugh Trevor-Roper

by Minoo Dinshaw

The Oxford Examination Schools see a lot of action beside their official purpose. Here Christopher Ricks has displayed his agility and Geoffrey Hill his ferocity, during their respective reigns as Professor of Poetry. More recently the admirers of Hugh Trevor-Roper (1914-2003), Lord Dacre of Glanton and onetime Regius Professor of History, gathered here on a chilly January morning a few days before the centenary of his birth. Trevor-Roper’s literary executor, Blair Worden, welcomed the company – enough to fill the South School’s broad expanse – and said he believed ‘Hugh would be pleased, and indeed surprised.’ He also congratulated us on our range of ages. This range was technically rather than visibly wide; the glossy manes of a few young Prize Fellows of All Souls peeked out from the silver sea. [read full essay]

Out of Our Minds

Sam Byers, Idiopathy

reviewed by David Anderson

Idiopathy, the debut novel from Sam Byers, is billed as a novel of ‘love, narcissism and ailing cattle', a golden triangle of depth, surface and wit. I wonder if it is really of any of these things, or if it is really a novel about an integral lack, about characters locked into the frameworks of their lives, desperately searching themselves for a subject. The book is worked up from the short story 'Some Other Katherine', originally published by Granta in their Spring issue of 2012. It... [read more]

A Sentimental Streak

George Saunders, Tenth of December

reviewed by Mary Hannity

Readers of George Saunders’ first and most brilliant short story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (Random House, 1996), will be familiar with the strange spectacles of artifice and corporate cultivations of reality that compose his debut version of modern America, in which the approximated and poorly-rehearsed gimmick of the real supplants the real itself. In his most recent work, Tenth of December, only the remnants of this world remain. Less concerned with the miscarriage of good... [read more]

Meta-theory on theory

Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present

reviewed by Marc Farrant

Fredric Jameson, now 78, is undoubtedly the leading Marxist critic in North America, and has carried this mantle since at least the publication of The Political Unconscious in 1981. Arguably, however, Jameson is most well-known for the publication (originally in essay form) of Postmodernism: Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Duke University Press, 1991). Jameson's theorisation of postmodernism as the lived experience of late capitalism - of the time of a ‘perpetual present’ - has... [read more]

Having and Being Judith Butler

Judith Butler & Athena Athanasiou, Dispossession: The Performative in the Political

reviewed by Sarah Keenan

I had high hopes for this book. Iconic critical theorist and public intellectual Judith Butler teaming up with exciting young feminist theorist Athena Athanasiou to work towards an understanding of dispossession beyond the logic of possession. That is, to seek an understanding of, and take a normative stance in relation to urgent political issues of dispossession (such as forced migration, homelessness, foreclosures, and extreme disparities in wealth) without resorting to an argument that... [read more]

‘A man of heart, goodness and sensitivity’

Julian Barnes, Through the Window: Seventeen essays (and one short story)

reviewed by Alexis Forss

Julian Barnes may bristle at the attempt at maxim-coining, as he does at those of Connolly, Wilde, and La Rochefoucauld, but the attempt shall be made nonetheless: an author finding himself in possession of the Booker Prize shall also find himself in possession of a soapbox. That this soapbox may be experienced as more of a station of the cross than a venerated pulpit is borne out by the recent example of double-winner Hilary Mantel, whose comments on the Duchess of Cambridge were subtle and... [read more]

Our Interior Worlds

Deborah Levy, Black Vodka

reviewed by Sara D'Arcy

Following her recent success as an independently published Man Booker Prize 2012 shortlistee, Deborah Levy’s latest literary gem is a beguiling collection of short stories, Black Vodka. Like its predecessor, Swimming Home (And Other Stories, 2011), this slim volume of ten short stories is a testament to Levy’s power of subversion; complex motifs bubble disturbingly beneath seemingly conventional storylines. The collection explores the themes of love, depression and estrangement in... [read more]

The Grim Dance

Gregory Sholette and Oliver Ressler (eds.), It’s The Political Economy, Stupid: The Global Financial Crisis in Art and Theory

reviewed by Pascal Porcheron

It’s the Political Economy, Stupid is both a book and a series of artist-curated exhibitions intended as a response to the various crises that have engulfed the world’s economies, leading to one of the deepest, longest recessions in living memory. It is designed, as the book’s editors put it, to be ‘an object lesson in backtalk, of impertinence objectified’. Of course ‘impertinence objectified’ might easily be read as ‘stylised protest’, a fate made poignant by the book’s... [read more]

A Messy Business

Jeffrey Pilcher, Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food

reviewed by Sarah Emily Duff

In his collection of essays Recipes for Sad Women (Pushkin Press, 2012), the Colombian writer Héctor Abad warns his readers against ‘[t]hose who reproach you for your foreign dishes’: if they believe their past is unique, that they’re not a miscellaneous mixture of American, European and Africa, then let them devote themselves to cultivating their limited horizons. He suggests that those who insist upon eating only that which is absolutely ‘authentic’ should consume only... [read more]

Between reflection and engagement

Yvonne Sherratt, Hitler's Philosophers

reviewed by Matt Ellison

In Hitler’s Philosophers Yvonne Sherratt seeks to examine the role of thinkers living in Germany during the Third Reich. The study’s title, however, is something of a misnomer. She writes in her brief introduction that ‘“Hitler’s philosophers” refers to the group of thinkers surrounding Hitler before, during and after the Holocaust’. This too is misleading: under discussion here are not only prominent Nazi party members like Alfred Rosenberg, Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, but... [read more]

Apocalypse Tomorrow

Liam Sprod, Nuclear Futurism: The Work of Art in the Age of Remainderless Destruction

reviewed by Callam Green

It is reasonably safe to say that ‘end-times’ have been an obsession of every culture-producing civilisation throughout human history. The English language itself is terrified of non-ending, the sentence without a full stop signifies the boundless potentiality for language; how can a sentence mean anything when it isn’t formally ended? And ellipses? Their terror is slightly more palatable but only in the paradoxical sense of its formal signification of ending where there is plenty left... [read more]