:: Reviews

“They can sag a little, can’t they?”: The extraordinary careers of two divas from Berlin published 23/12/2015


As we read through Wieland’s thoroughly researched and riveting account of both women’s lives, we, the readers, become moral detectives.

Jenny McPhee reviews Karen Wieland‘s Dietrich & Riefenstahl

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Child’s Play: On William Gass’s Eyes published 22/12/2015


This playfulness is most clearly on display when Gass is exploring the life of things. “To the things themselves!” is, of course, an old philosophical injunction, the battle-cry of phenomenologists searching for a less critical, yet still concrete kind of truth in the lived experience of the world around us. But, never just a philosopher (though it has served as a distinguished career for him), Gass interprets this command with as much irreverence as he can muster, diverting it to ends both more comic and more tragic.

Michael Duffy reviews Wiliam H. Gass‘s Eyes.

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Chantal Akerman:Now published


A young woman, naked but for a pair of briefs, critically examines her image in a full-length mirror, noting what she considers her most pleasing features with approval and unsparingly enumerating the bits of her she doesn’t like so much. It’s funny, moving and definitely not erotic; the grimace with which she announces the results of her hypercritical self-study ‘I have hairs on my chin’ leaves little space for fantasy.

Bridget Penney reviews Chantal Akerman‘s posthumous exhibition ‘Now.’

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After something else: A review of Emblems of the Passing World by Adam Kirsch published 17/12/2015

Emblems of the Passing World

A given poem in Emblems is liable to be framed by a received idea, a distorting lens, a weak premise, the mustering of a detail that is not present, or some combination of the above. It doesn’t help that the verse lines and stanzas are also liable to be at some points over- and at some points under-wrought, even in the same piece.

Daniel Bosch reviews Emblems of the Passing World by Adam Kirsch.

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I can only speak for myself published 10/12/2015

Looking at Pictures

Alluding to the difficult interpolation of consumption and observation, Looking at Pictures draws attention to selfishness as a critical epithet central to our habits in the museum, suggesting that we design ourselves appropriately to the digestion of work – soft work rather than hard – that paints little beyond a picture of personality as reflected in the abstract objects of creative labour.

Dominic Jaeckle reviews Looking at Pictures by Robert Walser.

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A Book Review That is Not One: On Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts published 09/12/2015

The Argonauts made me think about the books that might be written if many scholars/writers were not bound by idiosyncratic and capricious so-called “standards” or genre conventions of scholarship and publication. I finished the last pages of the book wishing there were more books like this—which is admittedly an awkward thing to think in relation to a book that strikes one again and again as so excellently singular. Still, I found myself thinking about various writer/critic friends, thinking “so and so could write a great book like this!”—“like this” meaning the hybrid nature of autotheory that Nelson has mastered, but that we recognize in the works of Roland Barthes, Virginia Woolf, Susan Sontag, and somewhat rare others who occupy the bizarre canon of criticism.

By Christopher Schaberg.

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Eyes published 08/12/2015


As is custom for Gass, these fictions have exemplary sentences: long and short, full of metaphor, rich sound, syncopation, intelligence, gravity, and comedy — architectural wonders both intricate and unbridled as Gaudi’s buildings and grand and severe as Serra’s steel. They are treats both for the mind whose mouth speaks them aloud or the mind with an inner ear to the sound of thought philosophical, lyrical, and holy hewn. Sound before story? Guts before glory? Maybe, but in Gass the sound is the story. One leads the other like wind gusting up a kite, but the wind is also the story because it gives the tale good weight, though it can sometimes be invisible, just like Gass’s famed metaphor in a public debate with John Gardner about fiction as Gardner said, “…what I think is beautiful, he [Gass] would not yet think is sufficiently ornate. The difference is that my 707 will fly and his is too encrusted with gold to get off the ground,” to which Gass replied, “There is always that danger. But what I really want is to have it sit there solid as a rock and have everybody think it is flying.”

Greg Gerke reviews William H Gass‘s Eyes.

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A Hotel Citizen: On Joseph Roth’s The Hotel Years published 07/12/2015


In this melting pot of staff and travelers (“Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, and even atheists”), a sort of post-national commune was formed in which people were free to come together as what Roth romantically called the “children of the world.” The hotel emerges here as something of a makeshift home for the nomadic journalist, a stillness, however transient, to savor.

Dustin Illingworth reviews The Hotel Years by Joseph Roth.

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♥ Attack: A review of The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky published 03/12/2015

The Letter Killers Club - A review

Of all the ideal readers imaginable, the reader who reads from beginning to end without once being swept off or shocked out of her wits, the reader whose critical faculty never falters and whose energy drips evenly across art and life — that reader is the most temptingly robust. The reader who, as it were, leans back has the double advantage of knowing her own position and seeing the bigger picture.

Gabriel Crouse reviews The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky.

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Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism by Alfie Bown reviewed published 02/12/2015

Bown’s use of the Lacanian-Žižekian idea of ‘the big Other’, introduced in the text as an imaginary “god-like figure who appears to watch over us and has the power to ensure our conformation to the order of things,” is a brilliant distillation of the way in which our society functions on praise and affirmation of our opinions and tastes, as well as how our society is obsessed with putting ideas and experiences out into the world via social media.

Stephen Lee Naish reviews Alfie Bown’s Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism.

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