Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age

by Olivia Arigho Stiles

A new exhibition at the Barbican explores the relationship between photography and architecture in the epoch of modernity. It is testament to the enduring power of the city in the artistic imagination, exposing the aching desolation of the urban landscape, inhuman and austere – but also, conversely, its site as a crucible of resistance. [read full essay]

Beyond Good and Evil

Margaret Atwood, MaddAddam

reviewed by Robert M. Detman

Margaret Atwood suggests that her works, grounded in science, posit a possible reality, and thus she prefers to call them ‘speculative fiction’ in lieu of ‘science fiction’ or any other popular alternative. The MaddAddam trilogy exemplifies her notion that ‘We’ve always been good at letting cats out of bags and genies out of bottles, we just haven’t been very good at putting them back in again.’ The sentiment is particularly relevant today as technology continues to advance... [read more]

A Hyperbolic Fudge

Federico Campagna, The Last Night: Anti-Work, Atheism, Adventure

reviewed by Jamie Mackay

Almost 35 years have passed since the brutal repression of the Italian autonomist movement by a Catholic-Communist monster-state but its capacity to provoke the wrath of ideologists across the political spectrum is as palpable as ever. The playful tactics and rhetoric of the new European protest movements, particularly their unified rejection of a homogeneous identity, demonstrate just how enduring the influence of this adventurous insurrection continues to be for those taking up the fight for... [read more]

Prometheanism and the Precautionary Principle

David Keith, A Case for Climate Engineering

reviewed by Nick Srnicek

To put it mildly, David Keith’s A Case for Climate Engineering is a timely book. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently released its latest report on the state of climate science, issuing new warnings about the severity of climate change. At the same time, observers are worried that a political stalemate is likely to emerge from the Warsaw meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). We have new certainty about the coming... [read more]

Productive Tension

Laura Frost, The Problem With Pleasure: Modernism and its Discontents

reviewed by Ruth Jackson

In his Roots of Romanticism (1999), Isaiah Berlin set out the central tenets of the Enlightenment project in 18th-century Europe: That all genuine questions can be answered, that if a question cannot be answered it is not a question;… that all these answers are knowable, that they can be discovered by means which can be learnt and taught to other persons;… [and] that all the answers must be compatible with one another. In our 21st-century European context, we know better than to be... [read more]

The Audacity of Grave-Robbery

Andrew Greig, Fair Helen

reviewed by Minoo Dinshaw

The title page of Andrew Greig’s latest novel Fair Helen announces that we have to deal with ‘a veritable account of “Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea”, scrieved by Harry Langton’. This may seem of a piece with the unpretentious gorgeousness of the dust-jacket and the faintly Tolkienian map of ‘the Borderlands’. But Harry Langton is a necessary as well as an enjoyable creation. Without him, Greig might find himself exposed in the intimidating territory of retelling one of the most... [read more]

The Truth of Illusion

Simon Critchley & Jamieson Webster, The Hamlet Doctrine: Knowing Too Much, Doing Nothing

reviewed by Joel White

The history of the stage and screen production of Hamlet has been haunted by the exclusion of the ambiguous in favour of the particular. These exclusions have facilitated the movement from what is arguably a scattered constellation of ideas in Shakespeare’s original text into a Hamlet with one organising theme. They act to rationalise and produce a coherent meaningful form from the fragmentation of reflection that appears throughout the play. The Laurence Olivier film, for instance, entirely... [read more]

Hearth and Home

Edward Hollis, The Memory Palace: A Book of Lost Interiors

reviewed by David Anderson

I had this book on the shelf for a couple of weeks before I got around to it. Or I would have done, had I not shortly before its receipt been abruptly forced to dismantle my shelves, and pack up the flat, ready for an undefined period of semi-vagrancy. In truth, I have carried The Memory Palace around in a sports holdall, intermittently replacing it in the modest stack of volumes that make up my mobile library. Perhaps, over the past few weeks, I've taken too literally Adorno's claim that 'to... [read more]

Great Art Exists in the Margins

Sergio De La Pava, A Naked Singularity

reviewed by Matt Lewis

No review of Sergio de la Pava’s debut novel would be complete without a comment on the fact that this now-prize-winning novel was originally self-published. Armed with an unwieldy manuscript of more than one thousand pages, the author (a public defender in his mid-thirties) was turned down by more than eighty publishers. In spite of these rejections, de la Pava decided to publish the book himself using the print-on-demand company Xlibris. Thanks in part to the assiduous solicitation of his... [read more]

'This is what I’m capable of when I let myself go’

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]

LOL/OMG he is crazy

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]