:: Reviews

Wanderer within the wastes: On Anselm Kiefer’s Walhalla published 28/09/2017


The literary is a continually recurring presence in Kiefer’s work. The motif of lead books, often suspended with their pages open and exposed, the textual fragments daubed across pictorial canvasses, and the words of white chalk smudged across the surfaces of his sculptures, result in an oeuvre whose four corners are contaminated with language. Central to this linguistic taint is the figure of Celan whose own ruined poetics haunts a similar space to the one occupied by Kiefer’s artworks. A focal point for the art of both is the Second World War and, more particularly, the Shoah. The problem which the genocidal acts perpetrated by the Nazis have for art, for philosophy, and for the understanding of what it means to be human, continue to reverberate through history to the present.

Daniel Fraser on Anselm Kiefer’s Walhalla.

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Treading Water and Light: A Tetralogy by Marc Vincenz published 26/09/2017

Becoming the Sound of Bees

Vincenz is every bit as pelagic as Conrad and Melville. He’s faced with a new kind of watery element that “spits and froths green bile along her worn edges”. He provides a searingly vivid picture of our current pathological ecosystem, where “something always has to be made, and something else has to be made to make it” and “torn billboards still intrude with their ambition”. Along the way we meet people who recur with all the idiosyncratic solidity of the most gripping fiction.

Tom Bradley reviews a tetralogy by Marc Vincenz.

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The Rite of Lusus Naturæ published 24/09/2017

On the canvas green book cover of the Portobello edition of Such Small Hands, we see a compact pink figurine, her head almost too big or too adult for her body, and her hands, too small. They are clutched fists at her waist, long-hanging fruit refusing to ripen.

Yelena Moskovich reviews Andrés Barba‘s Such Small Hands.

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Last Exit to Beckton published 23/09/2017

The style aims for T. S. Eliot, recounting lost souls going about their hollow lives in the unreal city, but reads more like J. R. Hartley, betraying his befuddlement at the modern world. And we don’t stop there. Shared desk spaces, that most benign of office space management innovations, are a repeated cause of anger beyond all reason. Yet even worse than the “shared desk digital zombies” are the “phone addicts” with their “smart electronic devices” who are most guilty for the snuffing out of London’s soul. How, why, is never quite made clear.

John P. Houghton reviews Iain Sinclair‘s The Last London.

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The New Spoilt published 22/09/2017

Being raised in gentrified York for a while I have known families like this, and parties like these. When individual psychopathy, stoked by rural isolation, becomes group psychopathy. The most terrifying aspect of it all is that you are simply not surprised by such events. As you know that hidden behind the Agas, under the lavish carpets, and festering in the drinks cabinet is a very English savagery waiting to spring forth, with no self-awareness. Goddard describes English savagery in 2017 with wit, subtle insight, and compelling accuracy. Dostoevskian in scope, psychoanalytical in depth, Nature and Necessity is grimly addictive. I found myself both savouring, and in awe of many lines that are almost surgical in their insight.

Guy Mankowski reviews Tariq Goddard‘s Nature and Necessity.

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Mister P. Goes To Town: A review of Making It by Norman Podhoretz published 20/09/2017

After Podhoretz had finished Making It, he sent it off to his Columbia professor, Lionel Trilling. Trilling—like most of the other Family members who read the manuscript—advised Podhoretz to throw it away. Trilling was worried that his former student had been too frank about his hunger for worldly acclaim. It made no difference how good the writer was: anyone who admitted so casually to craving attention, envy, and a high salary would be scorned out of their profession.

Jackson Arn reviews Making It by Norman Podhoretz.

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The Vivid Resurrection of a Post-Punk Literary Icon published 19/09/2017

After Kathy Acker engenders a powerful desire to read (or reread) all of Acker’s work in the light of Kraus’s revelations of the connection between Acker’s lived life with the art that emerged from it. Not that it’s necessary to have read Acker before reading this biography – hopefully Kraus’s book will help new readers find the work.

Des Barry reviews After Kathy Acker by Chris Kraus.

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Chancing Repetition published 12/09/2017

There is something unmistakable about a double take: that sudden claim of interest in an object initially clocked without much ado—a face peripherally scanned, maybe a voice overheard, one almost too familiar to be attended at first. The ordinary thing become peculiar, significant. An uncanny kind of recognition; an awkward one, tentative or unreliable, a misrecognition, even. Perhaps it was the face of someone you had hoped to see, or feared you might. In any case, we double take when we suspect something is worth a second look, however casual, patient, or risky. Voluntarily or not, we enquire further.

Christian Coppa reviews ‘A Certain Sense of Order’ by tick tock.

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Foucault Now published 11/09/2017

More than thirty years since his death, the self-proclaimed “historian of the present” falls ever farther from our present and farther from the latest work in the eras he studied. What, then, explains Foucault’s continuing influence, not just on academics nursing some intellectual hangover from drinking the koolaid of too much high theory during the disco era, but on some of our most important social critics, such as Judith Butler?

Peter Gratton looks at the enduring appeal of Michel Foucault.

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At Home in Hell: a review of Equipment for Living by Michael Robbins published 05/09/2017

At Home in Hell: A review of Equipment for Living by Michael Robbins

Robbins subscribes to the belief that all art—even the most blatantly commoditised art of pop music—“exposes the contradictions of the present dispensation and thus preserves the yearning for the other better world that can be achieved only by negating the existing one”. For Robbins, it’s wrong to say that all these films and songs and novels and poems and pictures simply make capitalism more beautiful. Rather, they make it more bearable by promising something else beyond the logic of exchange.

James Draney reviews Equipment for Living by Michael Robbins.

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