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

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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A Review of Ned Beauman’s “very internety” thriller Glow published

Works by novelists such as Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo and David Foster Wallace all predate ubiquitous internet use, but they share some qualities that are commonly identified as “internety”: they are digressive, they are baggy, they are non-linear and often confusing, they mix registers and tones and slangs and technical information, they mess with space and time. Ned Beauman is clearly influenced by all these authors. He shares their interest in the novel’s capacity for encyclopedic reference.

Timothy Kennett on Ned Beauman‘s Glow.

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9 lives of class war published 29/11/2014

There are moments in hell when Dante’s wrath is provoked but kept under control. Similarly with Ray, his anger is controlled and just. In Hell God is Wrath and Vengeance and Dante learns to understand that in this context they are attributes of Divine Justice. Home is clear that the context of Ray’s life is a Hellish place and so his secularized version of anger and revenge amongst the cruel and exploitative toffs is to be understood as similarly just.

Richard Marshall reviews Stewart Home‘s The 9 Lives of Ray The Cat Jones.

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Tony White’s Sinuous Traces published 22/11/2014

Missorts II is a parable about the underground republic of letters launched at a time when huge subterranean rivers of discontent and unrest roll. Anonymous marches, the international phenomenon of the Occupy movements, these are our brief eruptions but there is always the fear of state crackdown that means messages are coded, discrete and secret. Betrayals and misreadings hurt in this advanced state of suspicion. They happen at all levels.

Richard Marshall on Tony White‘s Missorts Volume II.

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Wittgenstein’s Radiator and Le Corbusier’s treacherous knot. published 15/11/2014

Airplanes in the first world war were all typically made out of wood. Wood, however, was exactly the treacherous-knot material that Le Corbusier feared. Metal, on the other hand, was thought less susceptible to error and so very soon after the first war planes were being made of metal. These early planes couldn’t actually fly but were deemed superior to the wooden ones that could because they represented error free reality. Metal collapsed the distinction between explanation and description. The price of this collapse, Hughes writes, ‘ … was flight itself.’ She asks the obvious question: ‘ If airplanes do not need to be able to fly, do explanations need to tell the truth?’

Richard Marshall on Francesca Hughes’s wondrous Architecture of Error.

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Turing-cops and cyborg cat-women published 04/11/2014

How should we approach these visions? To be sure, it isn’t easy to subject them to a sober academic analysis, and that’s the mounting difficulty that Noys must have faced and wrestled with as he was working on this book. If, to quote Elvis Costello, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” then what is it like to write about Nick Land? It’s challenging, no doubt. About as challenging as talking sense to “Turing-cops,” and persuading them that going on a “death-trip” might not be a good idea.

Carl Cederström reviews Benjamin Noys’ Malign Velocities.

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