'It’s not just about making people relive shit when they read; it’s also about showing on the page that these events and these violences don’t come out of nowhere, and they have far-reaching consequences. I wanted to put all of that experience on the page. I wanted that to be what people are reading: all the silliness and the complexity and the childishness of the protagonist as she heals, when she’s trying to be in her body again, and be sexual again, and the pain of it. I wanted to talk about all of the things that aren’t just the original violent incidents themselves.' [read full interview]
The case against war had been strongly put. The best argument against the war was the cost in lives. What the official commemoration of the dead did was to take all the grief that might have counted against the war-mongers and turn it instead into part of the case for war. The dead were now called the ‘fallen’ (though most had been struck down). The killing was sanctified as a ‘sacrifice’ — the ‘Greatest Sacrifice’. [read full essay]
Katharine Smyth, All The Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf
reviewed by Ben Leubner
Katharine Smyth’s memoir, All The Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf, might have been more precisely subtitled, Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, as it is by way of that novel in particular that Smyth attempts to understand certain events in her own life, especially her father’s long struggles with alcoholism and cancer, a combination that cost him his life at a young age. Smyth draws expertly from both Woolf’s life and her entire body of work... [read more]
Keith Kahn-Harris, Strange Hate: Antisemitism, Racism, and the Limits of Diversity
reviewed by William Eichler
On a train last summer, I made the mistake of putting David Hirsh’s Contemporary Left Antisemitism (2018) on the shared table. The elderly, white lady sat opposite, glanced at it. It’s all a ‘smear’, she said. I asked what she meant and, identifying herself as a Labour member, she delivered a medley of the greatest hits: we’re-an-anti-racist-party; I’ve never witnessed antisemitism; and anyway what about Palestine. She then shared her own version of an old classic. Growing up under... [read more]
Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux, The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives, 1660-1900
reviewed by Anna Parker
Writing to Horace Walpole in 1737, the general and politician Henry Seymour Conway described a cross-country carriage journey that he had shared with ‘an immense, fat, brandy-faced female’. His discomfort grew when the woman started to eat, pulling her tie-on pocket out from under the folds of her dress and emptying its contents. It turned out that ‘what I took for a simple pocket [was] a cornucopia, for it disembogued itself successfully of 20 different stores of raisins, almonds,... [read more]
JA Smith, Other People’s Politics: Populism to Corbynism
reviewed by Ed Rooksby
There is no doubt that the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, closely followed by the election of Donald Trump, delivered a heavy double blow to the liberal order. Leave’s victory, like Trump’s, defied all predictions and thus brought with it a sudden sense of profound disorientation. Literally overnight, as the referendum vote was counted, the liberal centre’s taken-for-granted assumptions about the fundamental solidity of the prevailing order fell apart, producing a... [read more]
To be honest, I didn’t think I’d manage to read Ducks, Newburyport. My mental health was not good and even much shorter books defeated me. I wasn’t reading much at all really, if you discount research, which I only managed as a distraction on the tube. Depression not only takes the general joy out of life, it likes to focus on specifically joyous things as well, and a 1000-page one-sentence novel published by Galley Beggar was likely to be a joyous thing.
It was around 11am on... [read more]
Writing about music has been the tall order and the short straw in appreciation of the arts since the advent of aesthetic theory. For elusive reasons, music signifies at deeper levels than such as can be captured linguistically, making the act of articulating its effects as fraught an enterprise as hanging ectoplasm on a washing-line. Where it speaks in its own overt languages in compositions for voices – 'Spem in alium numquam habui', 'O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!', 'E lucevan le stelle'... [read more]
Józef Czapski, trans. Eric Karpeles, Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp
reviewed by Mersiha Bruncevic
The painter, writer and diarist Józef Czapski (1896-1993) passed away in a small town outside Paris at the age of 96. Czapski had lived there since the end of World War II. Ailing and blind, he spent his final days listening to Chopin on an old cassette tape. The last thing he ever wrote, despite his blindness, were a few words in shaky script: ‘Bonnard, Matisse, Goya, Proust’, then, in block letters, ‘KATYN, KATYN, KATYN’. To most readers, this last word carries little meaning. To... [read more]
When Virginia Woolf visited the home of the celebrated author, Thomas Carlyle, she mused on how writers appear to imprint themselves onto their surroundings. ‘It would seem,’ she considered, ‘that writers stamp themselves upon their possessions more indelibly than other people,’ having ‘a faculty for housing themselves appropriately, for making the table, the chair, the curtain, the carpet into their own image.’ Carlyle had been dead for several years when Woolf first visited his... [read more]
These truths we hold to be self-evident:
- Motherhood is work.
- Motherhood is unpaid work.
- Motherhood is unpaid work which comes at the expense of paid work.
- Motherhood is unpaid work which, because it comes at the expense of paid work, is often subcontracted to other women, who are paid. Often, in the words of Megan Stack, ‘They [are] poor women, brown women, migrant women.’ And, she writes, ‘They were important to me, primarily, because they made me free.’ Stack is writing... [read more]
To me, there are two Norways. There is the peaceful, idyllic Norway that was voted the world’s Happiest Country in 2017. And then there is the darker Norway: the Norway of Scandi noir, the Norway that has known mass-scale violence like the July 2011 terror attacks. Henrik Nor-Hansen’s Termin, translated by Matt Bagguley, is definitely set in this second Norway. Nor-Hansen is concerned thematically with violence, disillusionment, and suburban socioeconomic changes. In particular, he’s... [read more]