'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]

Interpreting Sontag

Jonathan Cott, Susan Sontag: The Complete Rolling Stone Interview

reviewed by Marika Lysandrou

Against being ‘ghettoized’ as a female writer; against demagogic interpretations; against ‘digging’ behind works of art to find their true meaning; against viewing the act of taking a photograph as innocent of its didactic purpose – Susan Sontag certainly expressed formidable ideas in her various critical works. The Complete Rolling Stone Interview, which is a transcription of over three hours’ of conversation between Jonathan Cott, editor of Rolling Stone magazine, and Susan... [read more]

Pushing Labour Leftwards?

Arthur Stanley Newens, In Quest of a Fairer Society: My Life and Politics

reviewed by Ian Birchall

The recent death of Tony Benn prompted the question: what has happened to the Labour left? A similar question is posed by the autobiography of Stan Newens. Newens was a Labour MP from 1964 to 1970, and again from 1974 to 1983; after that he was for fifteen years a Member of the European Parliament. His memoirs, clearly based on detailed notes, record his activities over several decades; to someone like myself, a little younger than Newens and a rank-and-file activist, they provide a fascinating... [read more]

Looking Through the Window

Patrick Keiller, The View From The Train: Cities & Other Landscapes

reviewed by David Anderson

A train is an extraordinary bundle of relations because it is something through which one goes, it is also something by means of which one can go from one point to another, and then it is also something that goes by. Michel Foucault's 1967 sketch of the ‘heterotopia’ identified one of rail travel's peculiar qualities: that mixture of attachment and detachment with the world outside the window. It's not dissimilar from what Michel de Certeau had to say in The Practice of Everyday Life,... [read more]

What Is The State?

Louis Althusser, On the Reproduction of Capitalism: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses

reviewed by Daniel Whittall

In the quest for the clearest exemplification of Louis Althusser’s conceptualisation of the State, as formulated in On the Reproduction of Capitalism, one could do much worse than to settle on the Mark Duggan case. Duggan, as is now well known, was executed on the streets of London by officers of the Metropolitan Police. The Met, ensured that their public relations operation went into overdrive immediately, putting out a systematic campaign of disinformation. In the immediacy of the event,... [read more]

‘The finest books are those which have the least subject matter’

Michael Sayeau, Against the Event: The Everyday and the Evolution of Modernist Narrative

reviewed by Katie Da Cunha Lewin

Michael Sayeau’s Against the Event: the Everyday and Evolution of Modernist Narrative is an intensive study into the way the event shapes and constructs narrative in the modernist movement. Sayeau blends contextual socio-political details that informs modernism as a whole, with analysis of the structural imperatives he finds in modernist texts to suggest the inextricable relationship between the event in the life of the subject and the event in the scope of society. The introduction... [read more]

What Survives

Morrissey, Autobiography

reviewed by Nicolas Padamsee

The contours of life are not the contours of art: the former coils, the latter arrows. We wend our way forwards with caducuous dreams, stop-start careers and capricious slews, whereas (successful) fictional characters follow a lodestar – their motivations fixed, their attachments delineated, their nadirs and their peaks manifest. For this is what lures us to films and novels: definiteness, the placement of pattern. So. What then of the autobiography? Well, the salient lure is... [read more]

The phallus par excellence

EDA Collective, Why Are Animals Funny? Everyday Analysis: Volume 1

reviewed by Jamie Mackay

Research culture in the humanities has always been elitist, but never has it been so cut-throat and drained of vitality. While established thinkers cling to their hard-earned brands a new generation of dialecticians fight tooth and nail over raw morsels of funding, their self-esteem secured only by conservative dreams of more bloody and radical days. The university is a depressing place to do theory. So often friendships are left to a series of ‘what if’s as groups are torn apart by... [read more]

‘Crystallized, perfected, adorned'

Judith Butler, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism

reviewed by Maya Osborne

The late and great critic Edward Said is aptly evoked in Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism when Judith Butler writes that ‘Since there is no self without a boundary, and that boundary is always a site of multiple relations, there is no self without its relations.’ This proposition forms part of Butler’s critique of Zionism, and it levels with the possibility that if we deny this necessarily multiple relation to boundaries, we are dangerously placing ourselves in a world... [read more]

True Value

Ben Marcus, Leaving the Sea

reviewed by Jake Elliott

Leaving The Sea is only the third offering of Ben Marcus’s fiction we have seen in the UK. 2012 saw the publication of his masterpiece The Flame Alphabet by Granta, who have also had the good sense to republish his earlier work The Age of Wire and String with beautiful illustrations by Catrin Morgan. Given the outstanding quality of his writing, I can only assume that plans are in place to bring Notable American Women to UK readers without forcing them onto the internet and the custom of... [read more]

A Nasty and Brutal Business

Christopher Hale, Massacre in Malaya: Exposing Britain’s My Lai

reviewed by John Newsinger

For many years the British Army had a reputation as experts in counterinsurgency. Whereas both the French and the Americans had suffered humiliating defeats in Indo-China, Algeria and Vietnam, the British had not only successfully crushed insurgencies in Malaya, Kenya and elsewhere, but also managed the task without resorting to the brutality, torture and overkill that discredited other counterinsurgency campaigns. In the 1990s, this reputation was reinforced by the British performance in... [read more]