:: Reviews

Is Time Travel Possible? Are We Close to Doomsday? And Other Big Deals… published 04/08/2018

The Doomsday Argument applies anthropic thinking to our place in history.  It says (roughly), we should favour the prospect of imminent human extinction on the grounds that our location, qua randomly selected humans, is more probable if a large fraction of all humans there will ever be have already lived.  In other words, the argument runs, if we apply anthropic reasoning to our location in history, we should increase our probability for history being close to its end.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Alasdair Richmond.

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Drift: A review of The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner published 31/07/2018

If DeLillo’s ambiguous American voice looks for its place through roving across the multitudinous American landscape in Underworld, then in The Mars Room, Kushner looks to place her voice in two confined spaces, the strip club and the prison, contrasting various forms of solitude, through circumstance, through choice or as a mode of self-protection. Though the novel itself is made of voices, they are solitary – the perspectives from which they write are uniquely alone.

Katie Da Cunha Lewin reviews The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner.

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opening one’s lonely body: olivia laing’s crudo published

Virginia Woolf describes how one’s many selves are ‘built up, one on top of another, as plates are piled up on a waiter’s hand’. Olivia Laing’s Crudo chooses to examine the stack in its entirety. In her biography of post-punk poet and novelist Kathy Acker, Chris Kraus writes that ‘Acker saw her “self” as composite. To make her “self” larger, she sought to cannibalize the intelligence of others whenever possible.’ Kraus and Acker were contemporaries, vague acquaintances, and shared a relationship with cultural theorist Sylvère Lotringer. Neither condemning nor forgiving, Kraus’ biography quietly states Acker’s pretensions: ‘In London, she played chess with Salman Rushdie’. It simultaneously respects and makes space for Acker’s preoccupation with bodily relationality.

By Imogen Morrell.

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Masters of Illusion published 25/07/2018

Being a specialist or expert—in any field—is supposed to project an image of competence based on verifiable evidence of competence. In questioning this, The Econocracy is in essence an exercise in the deflation of economic expertise. If their argument is right, then we have little reason to believe that economists are bona fide experts, let alone ones we should leave to their own devices.

Alexandre Leskanich reviews The Econocracy by Joe Earle, Cahal Moran, and Zach Ward-Perkins.

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Lost Artifice: A review of Lost Empress by Sergio De La Pava published 24/07/2018

On its surface, Lost Empress pays homage to the Hoosiers and the Rudys of the world; we know, as we do with all feel-good sports stories, that the Patterson Pork and the IFL are going to achieve a healthy measure of success. At its core, however, Empress is a conversation with the reader. From its informal structure to its colloquial phrasings, the novel reads more like an incredibly eloquent anecdote shared at some bar with its literary bedfellows.

Brian Birnbaum reviews Lost Empress by Sergio De La Pava.

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She Was Never Here published 18/07/2018

Images of crumpled paper covered in stricken-through lines and painted over fragments of text, photographs of the manuscript bought by and housed in the Princeton University library, accompany this collection of autobiographical aphoristic poems. These illustrations manifest the unfulfillable desire of the editor and translators to evidence the selection, transcription, and translation process each artifact underwent. My own repetition of the words printed on her blackboard is an attempt to salvage an intact posthumous text from the wreck that is the oeuvre of a poet who not only died before her time, but also overedited and disowned much of her work.

Elisa Taber reviews The Galloping Hour by Alejandra Pizarnik.

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The Sacrifice Throw: SJ Fowler’s The Wrestlers published 13/07/2018

There’s a very old consciousness here, one wanting to create his own metaphor for poetry. Torn between realism, wanting to reproduce things as they are – the conversations, asides, fragmentary sights, because they’re strong and necessary as metaphors – and invention, via dislocation or substitution of materials or shape, or contrasts which by themselves take the object as it were away from both itself and the originals, there’s a sense of pushing and pulling both ways from all directions. And everything tends towards yielding materials that are being pushed around like this, and pulled, which are the very strong subjectivities in play but also a subjectivity you and I can have and share in, so this is push and pull, or fancy dialectics where ‘being clever is not armour’, as Fowler has it early on, where his ‘… hill of necessity turns to taste’, shows ‘taste’ as just this, you fighting with your other selves, or something like that.

Richard Marshall reviews SJ Fowler‘s The Wrestlers.

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While the Earth Remains: Brandon Brown’s The Four Seasons published 09/07/2018

I’m thinking that in a European language Brown could perhaps have been a kind of subtle prose writer; in this English, he’s consummately a poet. Maybe one of the reasons I keep thinking about what else Brown might have been is that I’m still surprised he is at all. Even so, he shows a strong swerve in the genealogy of North American vanguard poetics. Language operates as an apparently reliable vehicle for sentiment and event. A discernible “I” (or “us”?). Traditional narrative techniques recur, albeit scattershot, bent through the days. Lineation breaks out.

Dylan Byron reviews The Four Seasons by Brandon Brown.

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from the perspective of the monsters: The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh published 26/06/2018

The book is breathtakingly bold in its rewriting of the myths women get told over and over again: your parents never meant to hurt you, the men are coming to save you, you’ll love the baby when it’s here. Just as the girls refashion personalities they can live with out of the temperaments created by their parents’ abuse, so The Water Cure refashions truths out of abusive truisms: even if your parents thought they were being kind, they still hurt you; the men’s version of saving you will kill you; the love that you can spare is sometimes not enough.

Leon Craig on The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh.

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Good Orientalism: Robert Irwin vs Ernest Gellner on Ibn Khaldun. Boom! published 23/06/2018

I was surprised when I read that Irwin specifically rejects Gellner’s approach to reading Khaldun. He accuses this sort of reading as intellectual tourism. He says that to claim Khaldun as a ‘a superb inductive sociologist, a practitioner, long before the term was invented, of ideal types, a brilliant account of one extremely important kind of society’, as Gellner summarized him, is an example of pernicious Orientalism whereby western scholars impose western ideas onto their eastern material. This is an ungenerous and loaded accusation that doesn’t fairly represent Gellner’s reading of Khaldun. It’s doubly strange because Irwin has brilliantly written about how Edward Said’s book ‘Orientalism’ was a calumny against a whole field of scholars working in the field of Orientalism.

Richard Marshall reviews Robert Irwin’s biography of Ibn Khaldun.

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