'Virginia Woolf: Life, Art, Vision' at the National Portrait Gallery is a assemblage of portraits, each one a moment captured, defined; but together, they form a diverse arena of images, collectively communicating the partiality of any single attempt to represent their subject. The exhibition as a whole forms a portrait, but an anti-authoritative one, built out of fragments and glimpses which represent their subject as multiple, fractured, mutable. [read full essay]
Rachel Cooke, Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties
reviewed by Samantha Ellis
I thought I knew what women did in the Fifties. They baked cupcakes, wearing pinnies and circle skirts. Or they went mad in the suburbs, as per Marilyn French’s epic soap opera of despair The Women’s Room (1977). But the ten women Rachel Cooke celebrates in this sparkling book did something else: they had careers.
Which took some doing. Women still couldn’t take out mortgages in their own name, and couldn’t get a diaphragm without showing a marriage certificate. They felt guilty... [read more]
Georges Bataille, trans. Stuart Kendall , Louis XXX
reviewed by Robert Kiely
Georges Bataille’s work is profoundly heterogeneous, being linked to the domains of literature, anthropology, philosophy, economy, sociology and history of art. He is an intensely inward-looking writer, pre-occupied with his major themes - death, eroticism, sovereignty – endlessly. One of his major works is Inner Experience, a quasi-theological and mystical series of meditations, mixed in with semi-autobiographical fragments - almost all of his texts are this chimera-like. My used copy of... [read more]
Stefan Herbrechter, Posthumanism: A Critical Introduction
reviewed by John P. Merrick
If ‘anti-humanism’ sought to push us away from essentialist notions of the human, with all its liberal-ideological baggage attached, then post-humanism can be seen as the need to take seriously the non-human. This need springs from the fact that humans themselves are gaining the ability to become this ‘other’ of the human. We have the potential, then, to become ‘post-human’. This is due to the rapid development of prosthesis in its many forms, from the internet, new media, genetic... [read more]
Stefan Andriopoulos, Ghostly Apparitions: German Idealism, the Gothic Novel, and Optical Media
reviewed by Stuart Walton
The authorised version of the European Enlightenment holds that sovereign human reason, borne aloft on the currents of scientific investigation and discovery, put to rout the irrational forces of superstition and immaterial belief, bequeathing us an intellectual culture in which there would be absolutely no justification, say, three centuries later, for people still to be arguing about the existence of God. What this tidily linear narrative misses is that the immaterial was of continuing... [read more]
Eve Harris’s The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, long-listed for this year’s Man Booker Prize, seeks to elucidate an isolated world—the Haredi, or ultra-orthodox, Jewish community in Golders Green, London. The title reveals the plot: Chani Kaufman, 19 and a little too spunky for most Haredi boys, has finally been arranged to marry 20-year-old Orthodox-yet-secret-Coldplay-fan Baruch Levy.
The book grows from their union, with chapters taking on the perspective of two other characters in the... [read more]
Alain Badiou, Eric Hazan and Ivan Segré, Reflections on Anti-Semitism
reviewed by Eugene Brennan
Badiou and Hazan’s ‘“Anti-Semitism Everywhere” in France Today’, the first text in this two-part volume, situates French anti-Semitism within a historical continuity of harnessing anti-popular sentiment against the most recent arrivals in France. Marine Le Pen has lead her Front National party from widespread Holocaust-denial to brazenly offering kindness and friendship to the Jewish population. Her kindness towards the Jews does not, however, extend to other minorities in France. Le... [read more]
From the Keep-Calm-and-Carry-On aesthetic so beloved of middlebrow publishers and fashion designers, to the sort of atavistic monarchism sparked by the Diamond Jubilee and the Wills-and-Kate retro-domestic revival, the 1940s and ‘50s are – in contemporary argot – the hottest decades in the world right now.
Arguably, in a culture that has raided just about every other corner of 20th-century history to feed its consumer-kitsch sweet tooth, partying like it’s 1949 is merely another... [read more]
New York as a character in a mystery would not be the detective, would not be the murderer. It would be the enigmatic suspect who knows the real story but isn’t going to tell it.
So pens American crime writer Donald E. Westlake, whose words comprise the epigraph to Bleeding Edge, the latest installment in Thomas Pynchon’s varied and well-canvassed repertory. Revisiting the Big Apple as a setting for the first time since his 1963 debut, V, Pynchon heeds Westlake’s direction and employs... [read more]
Howard Caygill, On Resistance: A Philosophy of Defiance
reviewed by Alex Fletcher
‘Saints, hermits, but also intellectuals. The few who have made history are those who have said no.’ Pier Paolo Pasolini
Our present has been marked by the enduring iteration and persistence of resistances; from the Arab insurgencies, to the resistance of the indignados and aganaktismenoi, to the global eruption of the Occupy movement, to the ‘Taskim Republic’. Whether experienced as images on a screen, or on the street (through a blurred vision provoked by tear-gas) the last several... [read more]
James Heartfield, Unpatriotic History of the Second World War
reviewed by John Newsinger
James Heartfield has written one of the essential books on the Second World War. It is a relentless, uncompromising account of the conflict as a great clash of Empires. The war consumed millions of lives as the great powers battled for supremacy. It was fought in the interests of and for the benefit of the ruling classes with ordinary people in every country making the necessary sacrifices. Without any doubt, this is how the ruling classes themselves regarded the conflict; but, of course, in... [read more]