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

Notes on Aspirational Dating: Identity & Belonging in The Flamethrowers published 13/12/2013


Many of the book’s most poignant vignettes relate, in one way or another, to traces left behind: whether it is the protagonist photographing the tyre-marks of her motorcycle on the salt flats of Bonneville; or a colleague at the film lab relating his wonder at the macabre discovery of a real-life execution (of an Italian fascist by partisans in World War Two) among reels of stock footage – those ‘small integers of life’ preserved forever; or a fleeting description of an Asian pin-up girl on a 1950s calendar, ‘her face faded to grayish-green, smiling under all that lapsed time.’

By Houman Barekat.

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Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait published 12/12/2013

As a playmaker of phenomenal vision, Zidane had an unusual appeal for artists. His act of retaliatory violence heightened it, remaining enigmatic as neither he nor Materazzi provided a satisfactory explanation, and propelled Gordon and Parreno’s work out of its intended gallery context and into cinemas. Gordon, a Turner Prize winner in 1996, was fascinated with ways of playing with time on video, most famously in 24-Hour Psycho (1993), which slowed down Hitchcock’s film so that it lasted a day. Parreno was interested in the idea of the exhibition as a medium, with shows having a scripted starting-point from which limitless narratives could emerge, and Zidane was able to combine both of their concerns.

By Juliet Jacques.

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Stereolab & the Nineties art of influence published

Stereolab were sometimes attacked for creating from a desire to experiment rather than any deep emotional need, but Sadier’s oblique lyrics and detached delivery, perfectly balanced with Hansen’s dreamy backing vocals, contain as much feeling and more political urgency than most other bands of the mid-1990s, with one notable exception being the Manic Street Preachers, who cited McCarthy as their greatest influence and covered ‘We Are All Bourgeois Now’. If they were more for critics and curators than a mass audience, they were one of considerable verve and intelligence, whose understanding of music history and ability to meld their discoveries in adventurous ways made them one of the most interesting and inventive groups of their time.

By Juliet Jacques.

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The Body as Society, Prison, and Torture Device: José Donoso’s Fiction published 11/12/2013

José Donoso (1924-96) is a vast writer. Though considered part of the Latin American “Boom” of the 1960s, Donoso remained on the periphery of the movement, little known until he produced his masterpiece The Obscene Bird of Night in 1970. Though Donoso’s work shares some superficial surrealist, political, and indigenous touches with the famous writers of the era (Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa, Fuentes, and Cortazar being the big four), Donoso’s achievement is considerably different from theirs, and in my opinion inestimably greater, fit to stand alongside the equally brilliant Juan Rulfo.

By David Auerbach.

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Considerations on Replica Ruins published 08/12/2013

The structure had called my attention on several occasions. On walks through the Snaresbrook suburb in which it sat I would often peer through the locked gates and contemplate its use and history. It was not, as one local account had suggested, a disused cattle shed, but of a more residential character, albeit as a ruin. However, on one such occasion a laminated yellow planning notice skittered in the breeze, mounted by the council planning department and declaring the landowner’s intentions to seek permission to develop the site. It gave the address as ‘Forest Lawn’, which would later provide more clues towards its real identity and purpose.

Andrew Stevens takes a journey to the edge of Epping Forest.

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Review of Ravi Mangla’s Understudies published 04/12/2013

Ultimately, Mangla’s narrator has to confront these deeper questions of authenticity and meaning. As Understudies goes forward, he becomes more and more enamored with watching the actress, looking to her as the embodiment of all his conflicted and unfulfilled feelings about fame. His fascination, though, is really just a fascination with semblance.

Michael Jauchen on Ravi Mangla’s Understudies.

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A Switch in Time published 03/12/2013


The fast and the hyper-modern become interwoven with the ruinous and slow. Extinct animals and medieval warriors emerge in the midst of expressways and airports. The munch of cereal or the running time of a song are measured in their bracketed finitude. A song on the iPod runs through to its end. A playlist of songs runs to its end. Cycles of time-reckonings loop inside each other. These bracketed times get sutured onto other cycles—the roaring of a car-engine, speeding, halt, conversation, lull, laughter, forgetting. Concern and perspective shift from an activity to another, to another’s activity, perhaps simultaneously—each running its own cycle of start-finish. Each acknowledging the simultaneity of several other cycles such as itself. Worlds are shaped, reshaped, merged, disaggregated. Time-reckoning, be it counting, clocking, recording, mediating, is carried out in multiple registers, often simultaneously.

By Atreyee Majumder.

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Must we give up understanding to secure knowledge in economics? published 27/11/2013

Economics is harder than physics. It must be. It’s not much younger a science, having gotten its start with Adam Smith in 1776, a good 83 years before Darwin was able to put biology on a scientific footing. If economics were as easy as physics, it would have made more progress by now.

Alex Rosenberg and Tyler Curtain explain why economics is harder than physics.

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A human being made out of a statue published 14/11/2013

I didn’t yet know too much about Neruda’s life, but there was something suspiciously lightweight about it, there were obvious gaps in the story which surely anyone paying attention would notice. I thought of the pictures I’d seen of Robert Burns on the side of Coke bottles during the 2009 ‘Year of Homecoming’ in Scotland. The similar images of Hans Christian Anderson I’d seen in Denmark in 2006. I thought about how ripe writers are for being appropriated once they are safely dead.

By Rodge Glass.

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A Visit to the African Museum published 11/11/2013


There is something pathological, it occurs to me, in our enthusiasm for the picaresque aspects of the suffering of the disaffected and our despisal of the economic and political arrangements by which this enthusiasm is made possible: in our fervor for seeking out spectacles that provoke our outrage and our failure to see that our desire to have our outrage provoked is a symptom of our belonging to an economic class that is often, however indirectly, responsible for the spectacles that provoke this outrage. It is derisible, I then think, to cultivate an expertise in the suffering of the excluded and thereby gain ourselves a university chair or a post at a publishing house from which to declaim the evils of this suffering and exclusion to others who, like ourselves, depend far too intimately on the mechanisms by which this suffering and exclusion are produced ever really to break their ties to them. The intolerance suffusing my thoughts must relate to my irritation at having passed several hours on a bus after more than a week of uninterrupted work, because while the realities that upset me never go away, on a different day I might have been content or even cheerful.

By Adrian West.

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