:: Reviews

Practivist Criticism published 05/06/2017

Practical Criticism is about pedagogy, public education, politics, not the production of an elite hermeneutic cadre or an exquisite academic in-group. Contrary to commonly-held belief, the ‘close reading’ method I.A. Richards pioneered was not intended as a donnish amusement – it had a broader social purpose. It is this purpose which Joseph North’s book hopes to reclaim, or at least to remodel.

Brendan Gillott on Joseph North‘s Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History.

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Hour of the Wolf published 03/06/2017

The horror that slides across the book is a terminal dread, ‘a white sea, a white death’. The dread is clenched in clean icy prose that, as the blurb has it, results in an incantationary text which includes all the usual suspects from occult literature: ‘robed figures and furry men, ice caves and deserts, god and serpent, shapelessness and sacred geometry, mysterious artifacts and unfolding perceptions…in a pentangle of overlaid story bodies, each sinking deeper into its own true consciousness, while at the same time constructing an indexical sequence of translation from raw sense to mediated artiface, a primer of the dissolution of life into text.’ What else it raises is the spectre of Miltonic and Shakespearean whiteness, and the failed theodicies of Leibniz, Malebranche and Arnauld.

Richard Marshall reviews M Kitchell‘s Hour of the Wolf.

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Homo Sovieticus and Mind Control published 30/05/2017

Psikhon was the biomagnetic medium described by Velminski as, ‘… an agent of “infection” for influencing, controlling and steering the psyche along cybernetic lines… scientific insight and aesthetic practice belonged to a political-ideological program founded on the premise that mental events could directly produce real-world effects… The flexible “mechanism” at work corresponded to the fraught mode of civil engineering that shaped the Cold War… Fittingly, the political-medical aspect of Psikhon , which Khlebnikov envisioned and Gulyaev thought he could measure by means of his Aurathron, reached its apogee when the Soviet Union was in the course of collapsing and the masses had to be “recharged with healing forces.”

Richard Marshall reviews Wladimir Velminski‘s Homo Sovieticus.

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Urban fabric: Spoon’s Carpets published

Caless invokes Jonathan Meades’ dictum that “The banal is a thing of joy, everything is fantastical if you stare at it long enough.” That there is beauty in something as underappreciated as a pub floor-covering. Thus, we encounter designs influenced by the pub’s architecture, such as the radiant sun sitting directly beneath the domed ceiling in the Admiral Colingwood. Designs that reflect local history and culture, like the Windlesora’s absorption of regal insignia or the Celtic influence of the Eccles Cross in Manchester. And designs that are simply magnificent in and of themselves.

By John P. Houghton.

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Dog’s Odyssey: A Review of David Clerson’s Brothers published 25/05/2017

Brothers review

Is their father a dog, or a dog of a father? Are the brothers boys or flesh-sculpted changelings that drift between feral states of being? Are they metaphor or inexplicably metaphysical? The elder brother is one-armed, the younger one’s arms stumpy due to his bloody genesis, sculpted from his brother’s amputated limb by the hands of their knife-wielding deaf and half-blind mother. She has mutilated one of them in order to carve the other into being. The logic of David Clerson’s Brothers is that of nightmare.

Des Barry reviews Brothers by David Clerson.

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Poems from the Dirty Road: Jonathan Travelstead’s Conflict Tours published 23/05/2017

Conflict Tours

Travelstead’s writing occupies the interstitial spaces between poetry and narrative and prose. He avoids the war-as-gauzy-dream vernacular in favor of a literary realism that accurately depicts the mundane chores of war – his first collection, How We Bury Our Dead, was full of it. Conflict Tours is, in contrast, about the aftermath.

Mike Murphy reviews Conflict Tours by Jonathan Travelstead.

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Redemption of Existence published 22/05/2017

One could hardly feel, on the grounds of critical attention alone, the need for yet another study of Adorno. However, just because something is well known does not necessarily mean it is known well. Too much has been written about Adorno’s ‘melancholy spirit’ and, particularly in America, ‘expressions of regret concerning his exacting aesthetic standards and mandarin sensibility have become de rigueur’. Too little has been written on Adorno’s relation to the concept of ‘existence’ and the influence of Kierkegaard, above all, but also of Husserl and Heidegger.

James Lello on Peter Gordon‘s Adorno and Existence.

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Writing Between Species: Yoko Tawada’s Memoirs of a Polar Bear published 16/05/2017

Memoirs of a Polar Bear review

Benjamin’s method of literal reading is, to my mind, precisely what we should bring to Yoko Tawada’s playful and fascinating new novel Memoirs of a Polar Bear. This is not just because the Japanese-German author is deeply indebted to Kafka, it is also because Memoirs of a Polar Bear is constructed out of three intergenerational polar bear-narrated fictions.

Dominic O’Key reviews Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated by Susan Bernofsky.

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Femicide Machine and The Iguana 43 published 14/05/2017

‘Borderization’, a Mexico where, ‘ … everything is becoming a border, a twilight zone in which anything can happen. A border that, in spite of the best efforts of civil society and institutions to find a dignified and viable means of coexistence, spreads like a scourge of crime, impunity, the loss of respect for life, the disappearance of persons as an industry of extermination… Empires – like nation-states – become decadent when they become unable to guarantee the integrity of their sovereignty and their territory. In recent years – due to ancestral inequality, the disaster of the globalised economy, the fall of the authoritarian presidency, the slow institution of a new political system of the drug trafficking boom, police and judicial corruption and the migration of workers – Mexico’s borders have suffered from a series of perverse effects that tie together a multi-faceted erosion of everything from the national contract to public security.’

Richard Marshall on Sergio González Rodríguez‘s The Iguala 43 and The Femicide Machine.

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Dread Town published 13/05/2017

In 1964, the Smethwick ward of Birmingham had been the site of a Conservative Party general election campaign associated with the slogan ‘If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour’. The racially charged atmosphere prompted a visit to Smethwick the following year by civil rights activist and former Nation of Islam member, Malcolm X, just days before his assassination in New York. Before the decade’s close, in 1968, Enoch Powell delivered his ‘rivers of blood’ speech to the Birmingham Conservative Political Centre. In 1976, Eric Clapton had voiced his support for Powell’s anti-immigrant stance in a racist rant during a concert at the city’s Odeon theatre which catalysed the formation of the ‘Rock Against Racism’ movement.

Zaheer Kazmi on Sharon Duggal‘s The Handsworth Times.

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