:: Criticism archive ( click for articles pre-2006)

The Curious Legacies of the Brothers Grimm published 22/12/2014

There’s a sense of improvised sketching in them, as if the torso of some earlier attempt is being hinted at, some failed draft to get further. But that is just an illusion. The tales refuse the fixture of print, its authorities and policemen and prefer the threads and cobwebs of speech that become theophanies of an unwritten and ever-long tragedy fit for laughter and sacrifice. These are tales from the undercurrents of shamanic crazies, the terrifying anonymous oddness of women from the family tree of Sycorax.

Richard Marshall on Jack Zipes on the Brothers Grimm.

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“breeding and feeding” published

Tiffany views her role as a wife, devoid of a career, as a parallel to Stephen’s term for the ornithological lifestyle. She “breeds and feeds” now, after entering her thirties with a useless liberal arts degrees and a series of menial jobs. Marriage offers Tiff the promise of financial stability, above anything else. “Breeding and feeding” may not be such a pejorative. For Tiff, aside from economic freedom and the ability to read, think, and observe, her married life is comprised almost solely of unwanted sexual attention from an inexperienced and selfish sexual partner.

Patrick Disselhorst on Nell Zink‘s The Wallcreeper.

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For the Chymically Wasted Old Reader: A note on Marc Vincenz and Tom Bradley’s This Wasted Land and its Chymical Illuminations published 20/12/2014

If Vincenz and Bradley have proved nothing else by their beautiful book, it is the final excommunication of The Waste Land from the literary into the manumission of capable and fecund literacy.

T. Thilleman on Marc Vincenz and Tom Bradley’s This Wasted Land and its Chymical Illuminations.

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the slowdown perspective published 19/12/2014

New centers are created out of peripheries. New peripheries face centers with fresh ambition. The colonizer and colonized morph into new entities. The purchase of cultural capital, such as indigenous medicine, offers yet new doors into industrial modernity. The extension of the project of late capitalism comes to ride on the shifting position-alities and strategic moves of those that carry such cultural capital.

Atreyee Majumder analyses the representations of postcolonial capital accumulation in James Cameron’s Avatar.

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The Body and the Gaze: On Jacques Rancière’s Intervals of Cinema published 16/12/2014

It is the spectator, as ever, who matters to Rancière; he argues that it is still the case that art is conceived as being either a transmission of knowledge from a pedagogical artist to a spectator, thus creating a hierarchical relation between artist and spectator, or, on the contrary, an attempt to bring the spectator into the same position as the artist, thus denying her freedom precisely as a spectator. Rancière instead insists that the criticism of culture must instead create a position of the emancipated spectator, who is creating her own work in defiance of the hierarchical relations by which art has usually been defined.

Tristan Burke on Jacques Rancière‘s The Intervals of Cinema.

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beautiful losers published 11/12/2014

To wring success from failure, and printed beauty from online ephemera, and then to strike the balance between weightless comedy and surprising scholarly depth: let’s just say The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure does more than a book of humour is required to do. Taken as a whole, it brings to mind the spontaneous pleasure of a barstool conversation with an overeducated but unpredictable, boozy and boisterous, wholly unpretentious friend.

Julian Hanna on C. D. Rose‘s The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure.

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Postmodern Cold War published 10/12/2014

Reading military memoirs of the 2000s, you get the sense of a cultural shift: the transition from conventional warfare to asymmetric or three block war, where soldiers spend as much time working with communities and trying to win ‘hearts and minds’ as actually fighting physical enemies. This approach has even been called postmodern war. Maybe we are now in the middle of a postmodern Cold War. In a fascinating report for the Institute of Modern Russia, analysts Peter Pomerantsev and Michael Weiss explored how this works in modern practice. Vladimir Putin’s regime rules by information as much as violence. His propaganda channel RT combs the West for cranks, neo-Nazis and fantasists, which it presents as ‘experts’ to lend credibility to staged reports and conspiracy theory directed against democratic countries. A Buzzfeed reporter even uncovered ‘troll farms’ — battalions of internet commenters to spread similar rhetoric.

Max Dunbar reviews Jeremy DunsNews of Devils: The Media and Edward Snowden.

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More Than That: Contemporary Complexity in Mathias Énard’s Street of Thieves published 08/12/2014

Mathias Énard is a writer whose literary identity and spirit seem unbounded. Deep knowledge of the past and presentiments of the future inform his perspectives and insights into the present. With Street of Thieves, he’s written an accessible novel of ideas and politics, propelled by longing for love and freedom.

Lee Klein on Mathias Énard‘s Street of Thieves.

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Grave Desire published 06/12/2014

Simone de Beauvoir in Force of Circumstance of 1963 writes of a night with Sartre, Bost, and Giacometti at the Golfe Restaurant where the sculpturer of Godot’s tree told the story of Sergeant Bertrand the nineteenth-century necrophiliac. The rest of the evening was spent addressing the issue of how one judges obscene unprecedented crimes. Finbow’s great book is an open invitation to join that essential conversation. Why essential? The world has become an inventory of such obscene unprecedented crimes. What Finbow makes us wonder is why we’ve stopped the conversation. This astonishing silence is our putrid wound.

Richard Marshall reviews Steve Finbow‘s Grave Desire: A Cultural History of Necophilia.

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handbook of transgression published 05/12/2014

I’ll admit to being intimidated by the sheer sprawling menace of the work, and the way it willfully eludes any straightforward summary. Perhaps it will suffice to note that most of it seems to imply the notion of ritual – ritual mutilation, ritualistic horror presided over by initiates of a shadowy religious order – and that the eponymous luminol is a chemical sometimes used in crime scene investigation, glowing blue when it reacts with iron in the blood. So the brief, disturbing episodes that make up the work are framed from the outset as a mere trace of the horror that happened before the reader chanced upon the scene.

Diarmuid Hester reviews Laura Ellen Joyce‘s The Luminol Reels.

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