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

Materialities of Myth published 19/11/2013


Oulipan tricks and intricacies abound: from the recurring April fool’s fish motifs, to the Sisyphean circularities of Harold playing himself in a play which re-enacts his own escape. The layered formal framework adds convoluted threads which put pressure on the authenticity of the narrative with amusing but sometimes unnecessary flourishes. These distractions are underpinned by something more interesting however: an uncomfortable examination of the constraints of the shifting modes of narrative presentation. And it is here that the novel truly stretches past its formal constraints, allowing the process of ‘fabrication’ (both literal and metaphorical) to be continually interrogated.

Daniel Fraser reviews Philip Terry‘s Tapestry

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Writing in Built Up Areas published 11/11/2013

In contrast to the pictures, the text is full of details, both visible and invisible to the eye; there are plenty of historical facts and everyday trivia unearthed by Rogers as he plans and goes on his expeditions that take him as far as Erith Pier in the east and Hounslow Heath in the west. Some of this information comes from books whose titles range from the esoteric The 21 Lessons of Merlin: A Study in Druid Magic & Lore to the practical County of London Plan, 1943; the rest is obtained through fieldwork. On one such occasion, eager to find out what wassailing is, Rogers joins a group of locals in Hackney for this fertility ritual, which involves singing and drinking to fruit trees, an unorthodox way to explore the Lea Valley on a cold January day.

Anna Aslanyan reviews John RogersThis Other London.

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honest work: an experimental review of an experimental translation published 09/11/2013


If you want the real review, you’ll have to hire a camera crew to follow me for the rest of my life. Pretend you’re the book’s author and translator searching for evidence you’ve had an effect on me. If you see no effects, you’ll have your answer. If you do see effects, you’ll have to ask yourself whether my reactions were genuine or if I performed for you and your readers’ benefit.

Matthew Jakubowski on Chantal Wright‘s translation of Yoko Tawada‘s Portrait of a Tongue.

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Raw Power published 07/11/2013

What’s most interesting about Science Fiction, some would say, is its dystopian bent. The genre twitches if not bulges with works containing a pulse-pounding progressive inclination complete with overarching themes that speak of anxieties about and enthusiasms for the unraveling of society. Eschewing pseudo rationality and techno fetishism such works deal not so much with prediction, but instead hold a mirror up to the present. Radical ideas are applied to fantastic narratives by writers like Orwell, Dick, and Dave Wallis (Only Lovers Left Alive). But the grooviest, hottest and horniest of these is surely Robert Anton Wilson, high and fly and way too wet to dry.

So, why is the late RAW largely forgotten and overlooked these days? This is the teasing question raised by John Higgs, the main speaker at a recent event at London’s Horse Hospital to celebrate Wilson’s life and achievements.

By Richard Cabut.

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Levinas Defaced published 25/10/2013

Sparrow brilliantly captures [Alphonso] Lingis’s work: it reads as though ‘William James and Levinas were coopted to author all of the guide books in the Lonely Planet series’. ‘The time’, he writes incontestably, ‘is ripe for Lingis studies to be extended.’ Lingis is the itinerant philosopher, the Levinas that Levinas sometimes — but all too rarely — seems to be; an evil twin, a deviant Levinas, a Levinas perverted by spending too much time with Nietzsche and Bataille. His appeal for Sparrow is obvious; perhaps more than anyone he has reinvigorated the concept of sensation for phenomenology.

Will Rees reviews Tom Sparrow‘s Levinas Unhinged.

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Adventures in Truth published 16/10/2013

One might, such as I do, curiously wonder what such a fertile opportunity would yield from some of our current compelling contemporary philosophers given this opportunity, such as Catherine Malabou, Jacques Rancière, Peter Osborne, McKenzie Wark, Babette Babich, Tom Cohen, Quentin Meillassoux, Judith Butler, Simon Critchley, Eugene Thacker, Graham Harman, Slavoj Zizek, Julia Kristeva, Adrian Johnston, Ray Brassier and of course Arthur Danto (and many others). Still vibrating with this fuzzy and dreamy indulgence, let us now turn to the “truth” of the matter. With admirable aplomb, Bernard-Henri Lévy (considered to be one of France’s most influential intellectuals — read pop philosopher — if not its most innovative) has curated a sumptuous art exhibition entitled Adventures of Truth at Olivier Kaeppelin’s Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence (inaugurated in 1964 by dealer Aimé Maeght). I found it artistically exciting, but I was somewhat ambivalent, and thus disappointed from a discursive standpoint, concerning its philosophical aspects. In this classic modernist-based exhibition, Lévy posed the question of whether and when philosophy or painting triumph over each other, beginning with Plato’s banning of art from his ideal Republic. Dip in the Braque pool, anyone? Stroll in the Miró labyrinth?

By Joseph Nechvatal.

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The Worm and the Garden published 08/10/2013

Thieves, rapists, drug dealers and other predatory men poured into the Haight: Charlie Manson was one of these men. By now Manson had modified his pimp dream to the fashion of the area, and was able to build up a hardcore of female disciples. He styled himself as a guru of light and love, and targeted the young, shy, strung-out and damaged, who after repeated words of powerful but ultimately meaningless rhetoric (‘The way out of a room is not through the door; just don’t want out, and you’re free’) were ready to sign their liberty, person and possessions over to him. But there was a problem. To hear Guinn tell it, Haight-Ashbery in the late 1960s teemed with gurus, prophets, seers and mystics: it was like a scene from Life of Brian. Manson knew that if he should lose sight of his followers at a party, he risked losing them to some other fellow just down from an LSD trip and raving of the Way and the Light. It was his need for control as well as the sake of his self belief that led to the Tate/La Bianca murders.

Max Dunbar reviews Jeff Guinn‘s Charles Manson biography.

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begin with the scars at the bottom published


What might blood say if it could speak—not only the blood as it pulses through one’s veins, but also the blood that is let in the act of a murder, the stains it leaves behind on furniture old enough to have supported monarchical bodies? What, then, might an exegesis of blood, lineage, promise, and betrayal entail? What do inhabited and uninhabited spaces have to offer one keen on tracing images back to their origins: what might these interiors and both their real and imagined occupants say to bear witness to a wound laid bare, as raw as history and as ripe as a knife?

K. Thomas Kahn reviews Jason Schwartz‘s John the Posthumous.

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From A to X published 12/09/2013

And time, let’s not forget, is the main dimension of the book. Here are A. and X., exchanging their watches: “All we could do was wear each other’s time”. “Time all scrambled up” is the key motif, the state when “[t]ime is suspended, left hanging” being the norm rather than the exception to the book’s continuity rules. The anisotropic nature of time echoes the lack of symmetry which A. is trying to mend. If “coming face to face with the Other is a non-symmetrical relationship,” then symmetry can be restored by imposing some order on the Other. When a situation doesn’t allow for a neat solution it can be twisted around: “You aren’t my happiness, but maybe I was yours?”

Anna Aslanyan reviews Masha Tupitsyn‘s Love Dog.

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How Not to Read Literature published 11/09/2013


What can we expect the beginning reader to have read? What can we expect any reader to have read? The answer is nothing. And the question is irrelevant. The fact is that a book about reading, or a book setting out to teach anyone anything, shouldn’t expect the person to know anything in order for the writer of said book to do a halfway decent job. If Eagleton makes a claim, he should back it up. It’s as simple as that. And then no one has to guess what anyone else has read. But Eagleton’s lack of evidence to provide support for his claims, though a tell-tale sign of his laziness, is not the worst of his transgressions.

Alex Estes skewers Terry Eagleton‘s latest.

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