'No Amount of Screaming Would Have Helped Us'

by Jude Cook

As with Helle’s burning chair, Krasznahorkai’s message seems to be that human beings will persist in their nature, until transformed into something else. Total oblivion is not a quality of the cosmos. The true melancholy of resistance, as seen with Helle’s striving narrator, is mankind’s persistent refusal to give up hope, or the stubborn determination Beckett saw as key to the human condition: You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on. Both authors catch the authentic note of sadness; of endurance in the face of impossible odds [read full essay]

The Mental Game

David Foster Wallace, String Theory

reviewed by Melanie White

Tennis rarely seems to figure among the best literary sports-writing. Baseball and boxing are two well-covered arenas (Gay Talese on the former, in his profile of Joe DiMaggio, for example, and Norman Mailer’s ground-breaking participatory chronicling of the latter). Hunter S. Thompson’s famously wild, kinetic take on the Kentucky Derby for Rolling Stone revealed at least as much about himself as the actual event, memorably conjuring the frenzied scene in his signature Gonzo style.... [read more]

Cult Figure

David Clark, Victor Grayson: The Man And The Mystery

reviewed by Ian Birchall

‘Nationalisation of land, canals and railways . . . the eight-hour work day . . . universal education and free school meals . . . abolition of the House of Lords.’ One can imagine the sage, moderate journalists and politicians admonishing us that such ‘extreme’ programmes do not win elections. But in the summer of 1907 it was just such a radical programme that launched Victor Grayson (1881 – 1920) on his brief but spectacular career with a by-election victory in the West Yorkshire... [read more]

Declaring Allegiance

AO Scott, Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty and Truth

reviewed by Daniel Green

In Better Living Through Criticism, AO Scott first of all demonstrates that he is eminently qualified to be the chief film critic of The New York Times. On the basis of what the book reveals about Scott’s breadth of knowledge, interpretive skill, and belief in the importance of criticism, we would be justified in concluding that this own reviews, whether we ultimately agree with them or not, are written from a comprehensive understanding of the history and purpose of criticism and with a... [read more]

Eagleton’s Aesthetic Education

Terry Eagleton, Culture

reviewed by Rafe McGregor

Terry Eagleton is Distinguished Professor in the Department of English & Creative Writing at Lancaster University. He was a student of Raymond Williams at Cambridge and has, according to the publicity information from Yale University Press, published more than one book each year for the last 50 years. He is best known as one of the United Kingdom’s foremost public intellectuals, as a very influential Marxist literary critic, and as the author of Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983), the... [read more]

What is the Rent Trap?

Rosie Walker & Samir Jeraj, The Rent Trap: How We Fell into It and How We Get Out of It

reviewed by Tom Gann

In The Housing Question (1872), Friedrich Engels distinguished between the permanent condition of capitalist housing in which ‘the working class generally lives in bad, overcrowded and unhealthy dwellings’ and its periodic conjunctural intensification. In the late 1860s the ‘sudden rush of population to the big towns’ was the spark for the intensification of the crisis, but there are a range of possible factors that can intensify a chronic housing crisis. These intensifications have two... [read more]

Setting the Record Straight

Richard Seymour, Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics

reviewed by Elliot Murphy

Richard Seymour’s latest book, Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics, is a damning account of some of the most virulent media attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party. His main intention here is to chart the rise of Corbyn; or rather, the rise of the institutional and popular forces which allowed him to win the Labour leadership campaign so decisively. This is ‘the first time in Labour’s history that it has a radical socialist for a leader.' Corbyn was... [read more]

The Senator from Wall Street

Doug Henwood, My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency

reviewed by Tom Reifer

2016 has been a US Presidential primary season unlike any other, with the rise of self-declared democratic Socialist, though really just an honest New Dealer, US Senator Bernie Sanders, running as a Democrat and a series of right wing ideologues, notably New York billionaire Donald Trump, now the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, having secured the required delegates for the Republicans, a party that Noam Chomsky recently called the most dangerous organisation in world history, what... [read more]

Beyond Discourse

David J. Getsy (ed.), Queer

reviewed by Kristian Vistrup Madsen

‘I will not agree to be tolerated. This damages my love of love and of liberty.’ David Getsy came across this line in Jean Coteau’s The White Book (1989) as a teenager and it is one that has remained central to his understanding of what it means to be queer. Getsy is the editor of a new anthology just published by the Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press in their Documents of Contemporary Art series. Queer gathers 80 documents around this theme as it relates to contemporary art practices and... [read more]

‘A bunch of hoops to jump through'

Juliet Jacques, Trans: A Memoir

reviewed by Claire Potter

‘I decided my name should be Juliet when I was ten,’ Juliet Jacques confessed in her inaugural blog post for the Guardian that inspired Trans: A Memoir. She then ‘swiftly buried’ this thought, one that lurked in the back of her mind and returned forcefully at 17. By day, Jacques didn’t stick out in her London suburb. She was an avid football fan and a good student as she privately explored who Juliet might be. On festive occasions when the rules of masculinity relaxed, an evolving... [read more]

First as Farce, Then as Tragedy

Owen Hatherley, The Chaplin Machine: Slapstick, Fordism and the Communist Avant-Garde

reviewed by Benjamin Noys

There are two things you might not associate with the communist avant-garde of the 1920s: a taste for comedy and a taste for all things American. You would be wrong. Owen Hatherley’s The Chaplin Machine is an exploration of this seemingly unlikely conjunction, of a world where Henry Ford, Charlie Chaplin, and Lenin are all being thought and brought together. Hatherley aims to recover this strange utopian moment, in which constructing socialism involved a turn to the potentials of comedy to... [read more]