Untroubled Times: David Stubbs in conversation with James Cook

by James Cook

I talked to journalist and author David Stubbs about his recent book, 1996 & the End of History, an examination of the year as it unfolded in the UK in politics, music, light entertainment and sport. We also discuss Memory Songs, my alternative history of the Brit-Pop moment, told through analysis of the music that informed the era, and recollections of my time as a songwriter during the 1990s. [read full interview]

Can Zombies Make History?

Emmanuel Todd, Who Is Charlie? Xenophobia and the New Middle Class

reviewed by Ian Birchall

The forthcoming French presidential elections will be haunted by the violence of the last few years. The appalling murders of the staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 were followed by massive demonstrations, involving up to four million people, under the slogan ‘Je suis Charlie’ [I am Charlie]. Amid this display of national unity and ‘republican values’ there were few discordant voices – but one which provoked considerable controversy was this little... [read more]

The Disease of Disinheritance

Kate Zambreno, Book of Mutter

reviewed by Adrian Nathan West

In his lecture on the metaphor, Borges speculates that abstract thought demands the suppression of the traces of bodily experience inherent to its language: the being with the stars that is consideration, the incubation that is brooding, the distance that abides inside of longing. His observation is germane to a dichotomy proposed by Kate Zambreno in 2012’s Heroines, which perseveres in the just-published Book of Mutter. Both are meditations on women’s lives as raw material, where all the... [read more]

Checking for What?

Adam Alter, Irresistible: Why We Can't Stop Checking, Scrolling, Clicking and Watching

reviewed by Samuel Gregory

What’s the deal with those couples you see in the pub staring at their phones in silence? Is it OK to find that odd, even sad, or does that make you a neo-Luddite, a reactionary old bore mourning the days when drinking dens were focal points of real-life face-to-face interaction? In Irresistible, Adam Alter argues that we are all that couple to one degree or another, each of us trapped in a loveless relationship with digital devices that are making us unhappier and unhealthier.... [read more]

Dangerous Liaisons: Intimacy Undone

Eimear McBride, The Lesser Bohemians

reviewed by Thea Hawlin

It is hard not to be awed by Eimear McBride’s follow-up to her award-winning debut A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (2013). Although echoes of her previous novel are clear, McBride presents a wholly new kind of story in The Lesser Bohemians. Like in Girl our protagonist is female, again on the cusp of adulthood, ‘before I became what I’ve become – a form of a thing,’ but the process of formation in Bohemians is stronger. Rather than remaining ‘half-formed’ or dissolving completely,... [read more]

‘We are all migrants through time’

Mohsin Hamid, Exit West

reviewed by Michael Duffy

Exit West will perhaps be termed a ‘refugee novel’, such is its immediate relevance to the global humanitarian crises that are simultaneously shaking and reinforcing the rhetorical significance of Western borders in relation to ideas of sovereignty, nationhood and identity. Since the 16th century, considerations of sovereignty have been largely predicated on the existence and maintenance of clearly delimited and enforceable national borders. In this slim novel, the focus of Mohsin Hamid’s... [read more]

Briefly Beguiling to the Senses But Ultimately Annoying to the Soul

Teju Cole, Known and Strange Things

reviewed by Laura Waddell

I wasn’t far into Teju Cole’s essay collection Known and Strange Things when I realised the book wasn’t what I had anticipated, drawn from the cover copy promising a ‘first collection of essays’ on ‘politics, photography, travel, history and literature.’ Rather than a series of cultural essays as such, it’s more a collection of brief reviews, many pre-published in magazines and reviews. Cole’s writing is elegant and his observations often insightful and enthusiastic; I’d... [read more]

A Rhetorical Prompt

Stuart Walton, In the Realm of the Senses: A Materialist Theory of Seeing and Feeling

reviewed by Jeffrey Petts

In the Realm of the Senses is subtitled ‘a materialist theory of seeing and feeling’ and is suitably structured in two parts: a ‘theory of the senses’ and a second part divided between chapters on each of the five senses (plus, disconcertingly, one on ‘the sixth sense’). Concerns soon mount about the approach and scope of the book. The first sentence sets the tone for the whole work: ‘The realm of the senses, in which humanity has allegedly dwelt ever since its spiritual craft... [read more]

'The Ultimate Freelance Knowledge Workers'

Liam Gillick, Industry and Intelligence: Contemporary Art Since 1820

reviewed by Kathryn Brown

Writing has been an integral part of Liam Gillick’s artistic practice for well over two decades. Ranging across art critical debate, political deliberation, self-reflection, and fiction, the space of the book is, for Gillick, intimately linked to the exhibition spaces of art. The essays comprising Industry and Intelligence began as the Bampton Lectures that Gillick presented at Columbia University in 2013. The resulting book continues the author’s exploration of writing as a vital testing... [read more]

Revealing the Cracks in Modern Architecture

Jesús Vassallo, Seamless: Digital Collage and Dirty Realism in Contemporary Architecture

reviewed by Christo Hall

We’re all staring at 2D images. Despite the tricks, cues and illusions that are fooling our brains to think otherwise, when we look at a photograph, digital or print, it’s a flat world brought to life by adept photographers and our imaginations. This illusion of depth perception has deadened us to the reality that if we navigate Times Square on Google Street View or wade through belfies on Instagram in order to daydream over #roomwithaview, we’re still staring at an oblong screen in our... [read more]

History Rewritten

Naomi Alderman, The Power

reviewed by Jason DeYoung

Naomi Alderman’s The Power is an exercise in what if: What if suddenly one day all of the women on the planet developed a power to shoot electricity out of their hands? What if the power was stronger in some and weaker in others? What if the patriarchy could no longer defend itself? What if women were the ones in power? In Alderman’s persuasive imagining, these what-ifs lend themselves to odd turns and even odder outcomes, yet the final result is an astonishing confirmation of the... [read more]