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]

Director's Cut

Paul Fischer, A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power

reviewed by Stephen Lee Naish

It is no coincidence that North Korea seems to exist as an almost real-time movie. The country comes across in weird combination of gangster films like The Godfather, and Once Upon a Time in America, and the old science fiction adaptations of 1984 and Brave New World, played out over a seventy year period with no end credits in sight. The Kim dynasty, thus far including Kim Il-sung, his son Kim Jong-Il, and since 2011, Jong-il's young son Kim Jong-un, are the main stars of the picture, prima... [read more]

'No Words Came'

Simon Critchley, Notes on Suicide

reviewed by Pascal Porcheron

At the tail-end of spring nine years ago, my uncle, who I hated and barely knew, boarded a train from London to Hastings. At the station in Hastings, he walked to the beach. At the beach, he slashed his wrists and walked into the sea. At some point he stopped walking and, we can only surmise, the water gradually lifted his feet from the sea bed and carried his body further from the shore. Perhaps the tide beat him back towards the land, and he was forced to swim out to his fate. Perhaps the... [read more]

Art and the 'Real'

Christoph Cox, Jenny Jaskey & Suhail Malik eds., Realism Materialism Art

reviewed by Hatty Nestor

Realism Materialism Art is an anthology of essays published by the Centre of Curatorial Studies at Bard College, New York, in conjunction with Sternberg Press. To uncover the relationship between realism and materialism within the sphere of art, the editors have selected a rich combination of exhibitions, talks and theorists through which to discuss current questions in critical theory. Featuring essays by Graham Harman, Boris Groys, Christoph Cox and Susan Schuppli, Realism Materialism Art... [read more]

‘Upturned carts, cobblestones, pieces of furniture...'

Eric Hazan, A History of the Barricade

reviewed by Ian Birchall

Barricades are even more old-fashioned than Jeremy Corbyn. They belong to an age before opinion polls and focus groups, when people simply took to the streets to fight for what they believed were their rights. Barricades were a means of defence, but they could be more than that, enabling a rebel population to trap forces with superior weaponry. In 1588 the inhabitants of Paris erected a network of barricades ‘so dense that soldiers were caught as if in a net, under fire from the barricades... [read more]

History on the Flip-side

Harry Harootunian, Marx After Marx: History and Time in the Expansion of Capital

reviewed by Marie Louise Krogh

The 7th of October 1917 marks the date of a ruptural reconfiguration not only of the social, economic and political history of Russia, but also of the intellectual landscape of Western Europe. Until this point European Marxists had – following some of Marx's own suggestions – seen the most 'advanced' capitalist economies as the inevitable site of the coming revolution. With the overthrow of the Tsar and the subsequent failure of the Bavarian Council Republic, all this changed. Western... [read more]

Of Slashes and Hyphens

Rachel Price, Planet/Cuba: Art, Culture, and the Future of the Island

reviewed by Dunja Fehimović

Rachel Price's Planet/Cuba is a timely, insightful and innovative study of contemporary Cuban culture. Nevertheless, the eye-catching cover and strikingly stark title of this significant text turn out to be its first stumbling blocks, establishing unfair and false expectations regarding the kind of relationship between Cuba and the world that it develops and that constitutes one of its most innovative proposals. The slash that separates the two nouns, also known by the telling technical name of... [read more]

Angst Squared

Francis O'Gorman, Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History

reviewed by Phil Jourdan

The quiet agony of worrying is a familiar topic for this reviewer. It feels necessary to state this outright, though I couldn't say why. This defensiveness, however, is quite in keeping with the spirit of Francis O’Gorman’s Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History. Its worried author spends the first dozen or so pages of his book on worrying mostly worrying about how tricky the act of writing about worrying has proven and will continue to prove to be. This book is itself an act of... [read more]

Press Management and the Spin Principle

Paul Brighton, Original Spin: Downing Street and the Press in Victorian Britain

reviewed by Elliot Murphy

While its title may not be entirely accurate – given that its chronological span also encompasses a considerable chunk of the late Georgian period and the reign of William IV – Paul Brighton’s Original Spin: Downing Street and the Press in Victorian Britain is a perceptive and comprehensive account of how successive British prime ministers from Pitt the Younger to Rosebery dealt with the numerous problems and possibilities the emerging print media presented. As the three major Reform Acts... [read more]

'Mortality Will Be Sexy'

Dodie Bellamy, When the Sick Rule the World

reviewed by Jean-Thomas Tremblay

In the essay ‘In the Shadow of Twitter Towers,’ from her recent collection When the Sick Rule the World, Dodie Bellamy writes: ‘This piece has 117,002 characters. That’s 836 tweets. Some students—even in graduate writing programs—make each sentence a new paragraph. It’s like they don’t know how to connect one thing to another. Perhaps these one sentence paragraphs best reflect our current reality—a series of discrete bits—better than my horse and buggy paragraphs that trot... [read more]

Pap and Pralines

Terry Eagleton, Hope Without Optimism

reviewed by Stuart Walton

One of the central dilemmas of late modern experience has been the question of how it may be possible to retain hope in the face of widespread catastrophe. To go on whistling in the dark after the mounting evidence of atrocity is the demeanour of the unhinged, but to surrender to nihilistic fatalism, in the sense of believing in nothing other than fate, only comforts catastrophe's perpetrators. If disillusioned consciousness refuses to be pacified with Pope's suggestion that hope springs... [read more]