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

Fables of the Reconstruction published 17/02/2015


The Rebellious Life of Mrs Rosa Parks is not an easy read. Like Parks herself, Theoharis asks hard questions, and tells it like it is. Only a fool would argue nothing gets better, but two months before Bush laid a wreath at Parks’s casket, his government sat on its hands as the overwhelmingly black neighbourhoods of New Orleans were blasted by seawall. Theoharis’s book is a series of challenges: to people who believe racism a thing of the past, to Northern Americans who cast the civil rights struggles as good Northern liberals versus bad redneck wingnuts. It is also a challenge aimed at British people who look down on Americans for their sordid little race problem, while downplaying or ignoring the vast history, and active presence, of bigotry and small mindedness in this country. Above all, this story of Rosa Parks is a testament to the power of history. As the great Southern novelist William Faulkner said: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’

Max Dunbar reviews Jeanne Theoharis’ The Rebellious Life of Mrs Rosa Parks.

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things to charm a storyteller published 16/02/2015


Listener and broadcaster in Radio Benjamin have a furtive, strained relationship. Inhabiting the same room – for ‘the radio listener, as opposed to every other kind of audience, receives the programming in his home’ – the two are invisible to one another. Benjamin’s broadcast is a space of compromise, where the valence of sound is afforded only by the conspicuous loss or suspension of sight and touch.

Polly Dickson on Walter Benjamin‘s Radio Benjamin, edited by Lecia Rosenthal.

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Sunday Rationalism published 30/01/2015

Many so-called postmoderns found their way back to Kant one way or another, and Châtelet fits with a certain ‘90s moment in that regard too. But the result is simply too extravagant to be commensurate with the Grandma Simpleton Kantianisms of yesteryear. Châtelet’s commitment to autonomy is much more Turbo. Deleuze thought much of Foucault’s ‘diabolical sense of humor’, which he linked to an ontological seriousness in Foucault’s work. This same union is at work in their generational confrere. The ‘Sunday rationalism’ that Châtelet skewers is a rationalism born of boredom. The real scandal is that thought would be a matter of leisure time, and not work, not life as such. Aghast at this scene, Châtelet seeks a rationalism of the everyday, of the plainly quotidian rather than the consumerist daily.

Knox Peden reviews Gilles Châtelet’s To Live and Think Like Pigs.

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Bullet Points: A review of The Missing Pieces by Henri Lefebvre published 28/01/2015

The Missing Pieces

The complexity of Lefebvre’s poem is belied by the simplicity of his project. Lefebvre provides no index, no table of “missing” contents; the organisational principles of the poem must be inferred (or not). Lefebvre’s poem characterises its author as one who knows loss, who attends to loss—and perhaps to everything—better than we do, one who has been remade by his attendance upon perdition and un-making.

Daniel Bosch on The Missing Pieces by Henri Lefebvre.

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Infinite Fictions published 23/01/2015


These are the only serious questions for readers and writers now. Winters’ sense of yearning running through all his essays here is an immense inquietude. He’s nailed the portable solitude of reading, its source in the noise of the universe’s silence.

Richard Marshall reviews David WintersInfinite Fictions.

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The Age Of The Crisis Of Man published 18/01/2015


There are TV sets in every room and the grim politics of this techno-human relationship is quickly established. Greif makes clear that Yoyodyne aerospace and Republicanism grow up side by side. What Pynchon starts to articulate is a creepy, X-Filey sense that technology is draining us away.

Richard Marshall reviews Mark Greif‘s The Age of the Crisis of Man.

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Marie NDiaye’s Lost Souls published 16/01/2015

It’s a truism that terrible or unpleasant things, when they take their place in a work of art, can afford readers and viewers great pleasure or enjoyment. That which is most feared in life may be most welcome in literature. As Aristotle says, “we enjoy looking at the most accurate representations of things which in themselves we find painful to see, such as the forms of the lowest animals and of corpses.” The meaning of Marie NDiaye’s writings seems to stand in close relation to this principle.

Jacob Siefring on Marie NDiaye‘s All My Friends and Self-Portrait in Green.

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Don’t Worry About the Future published 14/01/2015

One of the book’s truly thought-provoking themes is the tendency of gizmos to quickly go out of fashion. In “The Longhand Option”, Dinesh Allirajah’s satirical take on the future of writing, a granny coming to visit her family sends her luggage ahead. “The blimp contained one item of office equipment: a pen. There was also an electronic breadmaker – ‘That thing was an antique when she bought it,’ – Dill eventually managed to say – and sixteen bags of flour.” You sense that the breadmaker must have been bought new. As for the pen, it can be programmed to guide the user’s hand, yet fails to overcome that ancient, never-ageing condition, writer’s block.

Anna Aslanyan reviews Beta-Life (Martyn Amos and Ra Page eds.)

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Balzac’s Physiology of the Employee published 13/01/2015

Does being demoralized but self-aware save those of us who manage it? It must, to some degree. Balzac’s The Physiology of the Employee can be read by those who are not self-aware, and the reward of studying it can teach a despairing employee to recognize their despair as well as to locate allies in the annals of history.

P.T. Smith on Honoré de Balzac‘s The Physiology of the Employee.

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Are we electoral fundamentalists? published 05/01/2015

At the heart of Van Reybrouck’s book is a provocative contestation of the commonly held belief that “democracy” is synonymous with “elections.” Based on a comparative and historical analysis of democracy’s evolution from Ancient Greece to the Renaissance, the French and American Revolutions to present day, Van Reybrouck proposes a bi-representative system. Alongside elections, he says, we should re-introduce the classical Athenian practice of sortition, or the drawing of lots.

Claudia Chwalisz on David Van Reybrouck‘s Contre les élections.

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