:: Reviews archive ( click for articles pre-2006) 2000-2005, click for articles pre-2006)

Luxury Complex: Remembering Satan published 30/03/2015

Luxury Complex Cover Art

Writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely business. It does eventually become a collaborative process of sorts, but only at the bitter end, working through final drafts with editors and quibbling over fonts with cover designers. Last Friday was a very different experience for me. It was fun even. For a short while I became involved with a gang of artists.

Simon Crump on Luxury Complex: Remembering Satan.

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Surrogate Transcendence: Terry Eagleton’s Culture and the Death of God published 24/03/2015

Culture and the Death of God

The enormous difficulty of locating a surrogate commensurate with the social, moral and political power of a departed Almighty is the provenance of Terry Eagleton’s bracing intellectual history Culture and the Death of God. Its central argument – that genuine atheism is both difficult and rare – seems at first blush a bit of wishful apologism, the death rattle of a proud but exhausted cultural model. After all, the diminishment of the sacred is no longer merely the overbold conjecture of an intellectual fringe element. And yet, by way of an ironically Darwinian feat of cultural adaptation, He remains alive and well – if, admittedly, much transformed.

Dustin Illingworth reviews Terry Eagleton‘s Culture and the Death of God.

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defamiliarising reality published 16/03/2015

The reader is forced to focus on Indigo as a fiction and as a fabrication – but the effect, perversely, is not to call into doubt the fiction, but rather to call into doubt reality, or, more precisely, the ability to distinguish between what is real and what is fictional. Indigo suggests that it is possible for the Borgesian map of the empire to be so perfect that it covers the whole of the empire, but it goes further.

Timothy Kennett reviews Clemens J. Setz‘s Indigo.

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Retracing the Expanded Field published 14/03/2015


This volume ‘… revisits a moment in which architecture functioned as a model for the visual arts not because of its monumental or institutional character but as a resource for a series of epistemological and compositional strategies tested in spatial and urban domains – and when the visual arts, in turn, proposed an alternative pattern for architecture that undermined the conventional iconicity and monumentality of buildings…’

Richard Marshall reviews Retracing the Expanded Field.

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Beyond the visible plane published 24/02/2015

Max Blecher - Adventures

Blecher’s book is being compared to those of Kafka and Bruno Schulz, authors whose work is similarly attended by a kind of extratextual loss and impossibility — which would be an unfair comparison if Blecher did not so clearly share their preoccupation with the limits of substance, and even more, their skillfulness in rendering the uncanny into prose.

Colin Torre on Adventures in Immediate Irreality by Max Blecher.

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Life-like published 22/02/2015


This is tough knotted, hard-hearted artifice. Its audacious operation is a newly articulated subordination of erotic laceration. Here ecstatic torments are managed as metrosexual assimilation and sublimation. The novel is a jigsaw that requires a reader to wonder whether multiplication of perspectives fragments and dismantles or accumulates and deepens. The surface narrative is smooth and quick, hardly stirring the air. That’s not where the intensity lies. The wild apollonian tautness is in the architecture, is caught in the style and the structure which butchers the joints of the book’s universe. The surface remains perfectly self-controlled and attentive, a state of pale distraction that Benjamin defined as perfected modernism.

Richard Marshall reviews Toby Litt’s Life-Like.

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history turned upside down published 19/02/2015

We are given very little idea at first of what is really going on in these stories, and where, when, and why. But then you remember Rachel Kushner’s novels, and begin to suspect that most of these histories have been made up. In the first story, ‘The Great Exception’, there is an Admiral, a Queen, and a Greek Cartographer: I feel like I know them; do I know them? Or should we take Nabokov as our guide, when he tells us: ‘Fiction is fiction. To call a story a true story is an insult to both art and truth’? I think that approach is wiser.

Julian Hanna on Rachel Kushner‘s The Strange Case of Rachel K.

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Fables of the Reconstruction published 17/02/2015


The Rebellious Life of Mrs Rosa Parks is not an easy read. Like Parks herself, Theoharis asks hard questions, and tells it like it is. Only a fool would argue nothing gets better, but two months before Bush laid a wreath at Parks’s casket, his government sat on its hands as the overwhelmingly black neighbourhoods of New Orleans were blasted by seawall. Theoharis’s book is a series of challenges: to people who believe racism a thing of the past, to Northern Americans who cast the civil rights struggles as good Northern liberals versus bad redneck wingnuts. It is also a challenge aimed at British people who look down on Americans for their sordid little race problem, while downplaying or ignoring the vast history, and active presence, of bigotry and small mindedness in this country. Above all, this story of Rosa Parks is a testament to the power of history. As the great Southern novelist William Faulkner said: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’

Max Dunbar reviews Jeanne Theoharis’ The Rebellious Life of Mrs Rosa Parks.

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things to charm a storyteller published 16/02/2015


Listener and broadcaster in Radio Benjamin have a furtive, strained relationship. Inhabiting the same room – for ‘the radio listener, as opposed to every other kind of audience, receives the programming in his home’ – the two are invisible to one another. Benjamin’s broadcast is a space of compromise, where the valence of sound is afforded only by the conspicuous loss or suspension of sight and touch.

Polly Dickson on Walter Benjamin‘s Radio Benjamin, edited by Lecia Rosenthal.

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Sunday Rationalism published 30/01/2015

Many so-called postmoderns found their way back to Kant one way or another, and Châtelet fits with a certain ‘90s moment in that regard too. But the result is simply too extravagant to be commensurate with the Grandma Simpleton Kantianisms of yesteryear. Châtelet’s commitment to autonomy is much more Turbo. Deleuze thought much of Foucault’s ‘diabolical sense of humor’, which he linked to an ontological seriousness in Foucault’s work. This same union is at work in their generational confrere. The ‘Sunday rationalism’ that Châtelet skewers is a rationalism born of boredom. The real scandal is that thought would be a matter of leisure time, and not work, not life as such. Aghast at this scene, Châtelet seeks a rationalism of the everyday, of the plainly quotidian rather than the consumerist daily.

Knox Peden reviews Gilles Châtelet’s To Live and Think Like Pigs.

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