The Essay and the Internet

by Orit Gat

As our relationship with the internet and the enormous amounts of information we read on it changes, so do our publishing strategies. There is a lot at stake in conversations about economies of attention online. The future of the online essay — maybe the future of the essay — depends on the publishing platforms we come up with. It would be too easy, too optimistic, too complacent to say that the internet liberates us from the mundane considerations of print, especially when thinking about the increasingly corporate structure of the web. [read full essay]

Do You Believe in Explanation?

Anne Carson, Red Doc>

reviewed by Željka Marošević

The Canadian poet Anne Carson is too much of a riddle for some. Recently she has been the ‘inscrutable’ Anne Carson (New York Times), as well as the ‘obscure, mannered and private’ Anne Carson (Harpers). Part of the problem seems to be a question of form. Carson won’t sit still. The Beauty of the Husband is a ‘fictional essay in 29 tangos’; in her translation Antigonick the words are written out on pages overlaid with illustrated semi-transparent paper, while her previous... [read more]

The Chimera of Cult

Nadifa Mohamed, The Orchard of Lost Souls

reviewed by Alexis Forss

Nadifa Mohamed’s debut novel, 2010’s Black Mamba Boy, offered both a semi-fictionalised account of her father’s tumultuous youth in the Horn of Africa region and a perspective of the Second World War from that neglected theatre of operations. It won her many plaudits and inclusion on Granta’s 2013 list of the best young British novelists, but I found it to be a problematic work. Throughout I felt that Mohamed described to no purpose, most egregiously in her scene-setting, in which a... [read more]

Where Are We Now?

Douglas Morrey, Michel Houellebecq: Humanity and its Aftermath

reviewed by Nicolas Padamsee

What should an artist feel towards life? For Michel Houellebecq, the answer is simple: ‘profound resentment.’ The author of five novels, five poetry collections, a novella, a poetic manifesto, a critique of HP Lovecraft and a set of letters with Bernard-Henri Lévy, he has won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Prix Novembre, the Grand Prix National des Lettres, the Prix Interallié and the Prix Goncourt. Meantime he has met with a salvo of accusations and been subjected to... [read more]

No Escape From Fallibility

Richard Bernstein, Violence: Thinking Without Banisters

reviewed by Matt Ellison

Hannah Arendt used the expression ‘thinking without banisters [denken ohne Geländer]’ to describe a way of thinking and judging without recourse to transcendental grounds. Writing in response to world wars and mass executions, Arendt believed that the standards handed down by tradition were no longer adequate to the demands placed upon thinking in the modern age. What was required was not the reproduction of tired philosophical categories, but a new way of thinking (which she distinguished... [read more]

The Limits of Colour-Blind Marxism

Diane Frost & Peter North, Militant Liverpool: A City on the Edge

reviewed by David Renton

For supporters of today’s Socialist Party (previously ‘Militant Labour’, or just ‘Militant’) the Militant-led Labour council of 1983-1987 is one of the proudest moments in the whole history of the British working class. It was a ‘historic event’ on the scale of Chartism or the Paris Commune. It was one of just two occasions when Margaret Thatcher’s government suffered a setback: ‘No other section of the British working class, apart from the miners in 1981, humbled the... [read more]

Our Necessary Shadow

Tom Burns, Our Necessary Shadow: The Nature and Meaning of Psychiatry

reviewed by Luke Brunning

Oncologists are rarely derided. Hospital wards are rarely shadowed by the taint of the discipline’s gamut of spurious interventions, mistakes, and oddities. Similarly, we seldom interrogate the motivations of orthopaedic surgeons. Nor do crowds gather on the streets to protest under the banners of the ‘anti-obstetrics’ movement. Psychiatry, on the other hand, remains a source of fear, suspicion, and hostility – not to mention a source of colourful reformist advocates like the... [read more]

A Life In Gags

Sam Lipsyte, The Fun Parts

reviewed by Gee Williams

For a start, the title of Sam Lipsyte’s new short fiction collection, The Fun Parts, niggled me throughout a first reading. All fun? Surely not? Like most of the male protagonists in these thirteen stories – and even when given ladybits and called Tovah, as in ‘The Climber Room’, they are men – Mr Lipsyte seems to have had a troubled history, especially publishing wise. One of his novels, he claims, was rejected 30 times. Now, though, he’s been lionised as the new Joseph Heller,... [read more]

Time is like, a thing

Tao Lin, Taipei

reviewed by Jake Elliott

In 2009 Tao Lin told Michael Silverblatt, ‘I want to do the purest form of a certain style.’ They were discussing his recently published novella Shoplifting from American Apparel, but the purity of style he described to Silverblatt has found full manifestation in Taipei, published this June. Taipei is Tao Lin’s third novel. After publishing two novels (Eeeee Eee Eeee and Richard Yates), a short story collection (Bed), two collections of poetry (you are a little bit happier than i am and... [read more]

Ideology Without Ideology

Slavoj Žižek (ed.), The Idea of Communism 2: The New York Conference

reviewed by Luke Davies

Alain Badiou's contribution to this collection of papers (from a 2011 New York conference entitled, 'Communism: A New Beginning') straight away deals with the difficult subject of communism's shady past. Writing on its relation with terror, he argues for the need of a new 'historical sequence' in which 'the absolute necessity for the communist Idea in opposition to the unbounded barbarism of capitalism' can be realised alongside an acceptance of 'the undeniably terroristic nature of the... [read more]

A Press Release is A Perfidious Thing

Marie Calloway, What Purpose Did I Serve in Your Life

reviewed by Alexis Forss

What Purpose Did I Serve In Your Life, the debut work of blogger Marie Calloway, is a work that is formally distinguished and thematically urgent in ways that both belie and betoken the author’s 21 years, but that’s not what’s really at stake here. Indeed, reviewing this book has made me guilty of a number of things, among them two minor infractions of Anthony Lane’s maxims for critics: 1) never read the publicity material, and 2) whenever possible, pass sentence on the day after... [read more]