Twitter and the Novel

by Andrew Marzoni

Twitter’s character limit has proven attractive to recent crafters of narrative, among them Teju Cole, whose novel Open City won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award in 2012. In an interview with Wired, Cole credited Twitter for engaging ‘the part of me that makes sentences. I try to shape a sentence that works. … When you’re writing fiction and longform prose, you think about the best sentences, of course, and you work on them. But when you’re tweeting, the sentences are isolated, they’re naked, and so there is that much more scrutiny on how they work.’ On the one hand, Twitter is like poetry, in that ‘every single line has a certain punch and precision to it’; on the other hand, it is like a drug: ‘I’m addicted to it the way I’m addicted to coffee or to my headphones: guiltlessly.’ [read full essay]

Party Politics in the West Indies

CLR James, The Life of Captain Cipriani: An Account of British Government in the West Indies, with the pamphlet The Case for West-Indian Self Government

reviewed by Christian Høgsbjerg

In his classic cultural history of cricket and civilisation, Beyond a Boundary (1963) the great Trinidadian Marxist CLR James recalled the time when ‘the Trinidad workers in the oilfields moved’ during the mass strike of 1937. ‘They were followed by masses of people in all the other islands, closing one epoch in West Indian history and opening another. One Government commentator, in reviewing the causes, was kind enough to refer to the writings of CLR James as helping to stir up the... [read more]

Guerrillas In The Mist

Peter Wolfendale, Object-Oriented Philosophy: The Noumenon’s New Clothes

reviewed by Dominic Fox

An alternative title for Pete Wolfendale’s Object-Oriented Philosophy: The Noumenon’s New Clothes might have been A Defence of Philosophy; for what Wolfendale has written, in the form of a polemic against the ‘Object-Oriented Philosophy’ of Graham Harman, is a repudiation that unfolds into a systematic explication of Wolfendale’s own philosophical commitments. It is ultimately a defence of philosophical seriousness, of a particular way of holding such commitments and consenting to be... [read more]

'There’s something unpleasant here’

Yasushi Inoue, trans. Michael Emmerich, Life of a Counterfeiter

reviewed by Dan Bradley

The title story in this collection opens with the writer's admission of failure: 'Nearly a decade has passed since the Ōnuki family first asked me to compile a biography of the painter Ōnuki Keigaku, and I have yet to complete it.' The biographer soon abandons his fruitless work and sets off into the countryside to investigate forgeries created by a mysterious painter named Shinozaki, mentioned in Keigaku's diary. And though the title leads us to believe that the life of Shinozaki – forger,... [read more]

The Opposite of Hallelujah

Jason Holt (ed.), Leonard Cohen and Philosophy: Various Positions

reviewed by Andrew Marzoni

It’s hard to know whether Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer could have imagined that their brand of ideology critique would one day be subsumed by the very ‘culture industry’ it was designed to confront, but one must look no further than Open Court’s Popular Culture and Philosophy® series to see the dollars that can be squeezed out of a rudimentary understanding of Hegel and Kant. Since this catalog of academic anthologies was inaugurated with the inevitable Seinfeld and Philosophy: A... [read more]

‘It Is Poetry That Needs The Revolution’

Marius Hentea, TaTa Dada: The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara

reviewed by Ian Birchall

‘Total pandemonium. The people around us are shouting, laughing, and gesticulating. Our replies are sighs of love, volleys of hiccups, poems, moos, and miaowing of medieval Bruitists. Tzara is wiggling his behind like the belly of an Oriental dancer. Janco is playing an invisible violin and bowing and scraping. Madame Hennings, with a Madonna face, is doing the splits. Huelsenbeck is banging away nonstop on the great drum, with Ball accompanying him on the piano, pale as a chalky... [read more]

A Theatre of Others

Simon Critchley, Memory Theatre

reviewed by Dominic Jaeckle

The ‘history’ of writing, Martin Heidegger would claim in his late study on Parmenidean thought, is one of the main reasons for the increasing destruction of the word: ‘(t)he typewriter tears the word itself from something “typed.” […] Mechanical writing provides this “advantage,” that it conceals the handwriting and thereby the character. The typewriter makes everyone look the same.’ The problems surrounding this inculcation of technology within a reading of a unanimist... [read more]

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Jeffrey Reid, The Anti-Romantic: Hegel Against Ironic Romanticism

reviewed by Alex Fletcher

The trope of irony, it is easy to forget – especially after several decades of a particular form of postmodern irony and its new incarnation in the completely vacuous form of hipster irony – used to carry a significant socio-political, aesthetic and philosophical weight. Marx dispatched countless opponents through his masterly deployment of it and Socrates was obliged to sip hemlock because of its corrupting and corroding force. ‘Drinking the Kool-Aid’, was how Hal Foster referred to... [read more]

'What Could Be More Romantic?'

Emmanuel Carrère, Limonov

reviewed by James Everest

Emmanuel Carrère’s novel Limonov was first published in French in 2011. Recently (and impeccably) translated by John Lambert, it has had an oddly muted reception. In the London Review of Books, Gary Indiana quoted the term ‘pseudo-biography’ that appears on the book’s US dust-jacket, before sliding smoothly towards the judgement that ‘Limonov’s real life, as it happens, is particularly resistant to the kind of heroic narrative Carrère wishes to mould it into.’ In the Guardian,... [read more]

A Metal Box

Walter Benjamin, Radio Benjamin

reviewed by Stuart Walton

If the Frankfurt School is properly thought of as maintaining a profoundly critical stance towards the media of mass communication alongside which it developed in the first half of the 20th century, it is equally fair to say that its approach was full of ambivalence. Theodor Adorno famously held radio responsible for 'the regression of listening', in which a studiously contemplative attitude to grown-up music was replaced by the less onerous passive reception of its classics in broadcast form,... [read more]

Default (Philosophy) Man

Lars Iyer, Wittgenstein Jr

reviewed by Luke Davies

The middle-aged, middle-class white man in a state of crisis – this is a familiar enough literary theme. Its central figure has been especially prominent in 20th-century literature – from J. Alfred Prufrock to Leopold Bloom, from Jean-Baptiste Clamence to Humbert Humbert. Out of time and place, these essentially romantic characters struggle to align themselves with modern values, signalling the paradigmatic shifts that they bestride. As Hermann Hesse wrote of his own such creation, Harry... [read more]