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

certified copies: notes toward a theory of the knockoff published 07/07/2014

To see the original as no less conditional than the copy may just be more workable than the opposite, in which beauty is an ontological question. If any beauty I encounter is, by virtue of its being a copy, a mediated experience – and potentially degraded as a result – the world in which the work of art is created, or copied for that matter, becomes a secondary one on a hierarchy of being.

Erik Anderson on IKEA, knockoffs, and copies—certified or otherwise.

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Long Pause, Romantic Music, Silence published 01/07/2014

The goal of subtitles is clear: to cross linguistic and auditory barriers. And to achieve this objective the subtitler must not only translate between languages, but she must convert between entirely separate media… In common with poetry, subtitles at their best show the union of the physical properties of language and its ideal potential… These subtitles are to say, I’m still here. The machine has not broken. Please don’t walk away.

Laura Legge on subtitles, poetics, and silence.

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Mysterium on Paper: Scriabin Scores published 27/06/2014

My method was derived explicitly from Scriabin’s unfinished monstrosity: the Mysterium. It’s a week-long rite, an apocalyptic liturgy of “omni-art” that absorbs and dissolves the entire sensorium: not just the visual, but auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, and even the famous “sixth sense” of the Buddhists, comprising manas and dharma. My particular art form, literary, can be said to engage the sixth sense most directly.

Writer Tom Bradley reflects on his practices of ekphrasis whilst paying homage to the influence of Alexander Scriabin on his titles Family Romance and We’ll See Who Seduces Whom.

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Return of the Why: A review of Sophie Hannah’s The Telling Error published 26/06/2014

There is an endless audience for this kind of murder. There is even a crime subgenre, ‘cosy crime’, defined by Waterstone’s as ‘exactly as it sounds, cosy, relatively gentle and always satisfying.’ No other genre puts as much emphasis on the experience of the reader. George Orwell described the ideal condition: ‘Your pipe is drawing sweetly, the sofa cushions are soft underneath you, the fire is well alight, the air is warm and stagnant. In these blissful circumstances, what is it that you want to read about? Naturally, about a murder.’ Are you sleeping comfortably? Let us peruse the shattering of other lives.

Max Dunbar reviews Sophie Hannah’s The Telling Error.

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now we are all angry published 16/06/2014


In the UK, the mantle of urban guerilla was taken up by a group who called themselves the Angry Brigade – the subject of Carr’s considerate and in-depth account, which describes the group’s history from genesis to conviction. It is a journey that follows the protagonists from their radicalization and rejection of society’s values, through the wild underworld of freedom fighters and libertarian politics, to their eventual entrapment and prosecution by the law. Part-history, part-noir detective story, the reader can hardly help but hold their breath as the story relentlessly progresses to its inevitable climax.

Gyorgy Furiosa on Gordon Carr‘s account of the Angry Brigade.

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Knausgaard: norse dwarf, norse god published 25/05/2014

He conjures up an immense solipsistic myth of fears and furies, monsters and agonies, a perpetual fury against a realisation that death is his fate and that his life, each viciously wounded and maimed moment of it, from childhood to the present, is precariously hovering at the brink of a terrifying emptiness, a meaningless hole into which everything is falling. In a state of panic he rages against this and chases a world through improvised language written down at speed that runs out towards the primitive vivacity of his own subjectivity. It is against erasure that he casts his spells and as he does so he becomes both terrifically powerful and knowledgeable and at the same time small and ugly and strange. Who wouldn’t want to read this?

Richard Marshall on Knausgaard’s My Struggle.

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Kinks and Quirks published 18/05/2014

When you first learn of her desire for suffering, it seems to be caused by her numbness, the only way out of which, for her, is to experience physical pain. She goes down this route, first self-inflicting it, then resorting to the help of others. Things swiftly progress from clothes pegs to nipple clamps, with a nail torn off in between, and then to a dominatrix’s whip. It appears that Cora is, after all, able to feel things: she usually needs a fix after realising she has failed on all fronts, or when overcome by anger towards her family. The numbness is still occasionally mentioned, although its significance is somewhat diluted by emotions raging inside. Perhaps this is what happens when you are deeply troubled; reading about other people’s conditions is a bit like listening to their dreams: to be able to interpret them you need a degree.

Anna Aslanyan reviews Heidi James‘s Wounding.

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Buildings Must Die published 03/05/2014

Zizek writes: ‘The feeling for the inert has a special significance in our age, in which the obverse of the capitalist drive to produce ever more new objects is a growing mountain of useless waste, used cars, out-of-date computers, etc, like the famous resting place for an old aircraft in the Mojave desert. In these piles of stuff, one can perceive the capitalist drive at rest.’

Richard Marshall reviews Stephen Cairns’s and Jane M. Jacobs’s Buildings Must Die. A Perverse View of Architecture.

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Another day, another dollar published 02/05/2014

A good rule for good literature might be this: that the best writing is that which renders the inconsequential with the greatest consequence—since what else would be more worthy of merit? This logic appears to find its apotheosis in Gustave Flaubert’s striving to create an aesthetics of “nothing” (after all, “the finest books are those which have the least subject matter.”) That this impulse is not only perceivable through an investigation of the question of time, but that time itself (as both an experience and concept) structures this very impulse from the beginning, is precisely what Michael Sayeau sets out to prove.

Marc Farrant reviews Michael Sayeau‘s Against the Event.

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Types of Silence published 30/04/2014

The silence of forgotten shrines. The silence of open manholes. The silence of a perfectly turned epigram. The silence of a ball aloft in the air. The silence under stars. The silence outside a raucous bar. The silence in the movement of an electron. The silence an astronaut must hear if he lets himself hear outer space.

Jeffrey Zuckerman reviews Jenny Offill‘s Dept. of Speculation.

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