Death and Life in Knausgaard

by Andy Merrifield

The search for answers became Knausgaard’s quest for self-clarification, his attempt to find wholeness again – or perhaps to find wholeness for the first time. It was a literary quest as much as anything else: how to find the right words to represent a life, prompted by a sudden insight into death. Writing wasn’t and still isn’t cathartic for Knausgaard; he insists on that. It is torture, a twisted medium that buys time, that somehow offsets death. My Struggle became Knausgaard’s personal struggle, his trial, perhaps even The Trial. Only here K. is Knausgaard himself, and The Trial in question is one in which Knausgaard – let’s henceforth call him K. – is both judge and jury. The case that follows is to prove his own innocence – or guilt. In My Struggle, K. accuses himself. [read full essay]

Briefly Beguiling to the Senses But Ultimately Annoying to the Soul

Teju Cole, Known and Strange Things

reviewed by Laura Waddell

I wasn’t far into Teju Cole’s essay collection Known and Strange Things when I realised the book wasn’t what I had anticipated, drawn from the cover copy promising a ‘first collection of essays’ on ‘politics, photography, travel, history and literature.’ Rather than a series of cultural essays as such, it’s more a collection of brief reviews, many pre-published in magazines and reviews. Cole’s writing is elegant and his observations often insightful and enthusiastic; I’d... [read more]

'The Ultimate Freelance Knowledge Workers'

Liam Gillick, Industry and Intelligence: Contemporary Art Since 1820

reviewed by Kathryn Brown

Writing has been an integral part of Liam Gillick’s artistic practice for well over two decades. Ranging across art critical debate, political deliberation, self-reflection, and fiction, the space of the book is, for Gillick, intimately linked to the exhibition spaces of art. The essays comprising Industry and Intelligence began as the Bampton Lectures that Gillick presented at Columbia University in 2013. The resulting book continues the author’s exploration of writing as a vital testing... [read more]
 

Revealing the Cracks in Modern Architecture

Jesús Vassallo, Seamless: Digital Collage and Dirty Realism in Contemporary Architecture

reviewed by Christo Hall

We’re all staring at 2D images. Despite the tricks, cues and illusions that are fooling our brains to think otherwise, when we look at a photograph, digital or print, it’s a flat world brought to life by adept photographers and our imaginations. This illusion of depth perception has deadened us to the reality that if we navigate Times Square on Google Street View or wade through belfies on Instagram in order to daydream over #roomwithaview, we’re still staring at an oblong screen in our... [read more]

History Rewritten

Naomi Alderman, The Power

reviewed by Jason DeYoung

Naomi Alderman’s The Power is an exercise in what if: What if suddenly one day all of the women on the planet developed a power to shoot electricity out of their hands? What if the power was stronger in some and weaker in others? What if the patriarchy could no longer defend itself? What if women were the ones in power? In Alderman’s persuasive imagining, these what-ifs lend themselves to odd turns and even odder outcomes, yet the final result is an astonishing confirmation of the... [read more]
 

Movement as Political Act

Reece Jones, Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move

reviewed by Dominic Davies

In January 2011, 15-year-old Felani Khatun began the return journey from India with her father, where he had been working without a visa, to their home country of Bangladesh. The family had been working illegally because acquiring passports is such a densely bureaucratic – and for Felani’s family, far too expensive – process. Instead, Felani and her father paid a smuggler $50 to arrange for their crossing. Though pre-2000 the border had been lightly guarded, terrorist attacks in Mumbai... [read more]

Minute Particulars

Thomas Davis, The Extinct Scene: Late Modernism and Everyday Life

reviewed by Guy Stevenson

Recent work on inter-war modernism has emphasised a shift from psychological introspection – exemplified by figures like TS Eliot, James Joyce and Ezra Pound – to active re-engagement with the outside world. The latter camp, chastised by George Orwell in 1940 as ‘eager-minded schoolboy[s] with a leaning towards Communism’, are the main subject of this book – a group of British writers and artist that included WH Auden, Christopher Isherwood and Henry Moore and whose politics were... [read more]
 

Politics By Other Means

Joe Kennedy, Games without Frontiers

reviewed by Alfie Bown

Joe Kennedy is a theorist and a football fan. His book Games without Frontiers critiques neither and instead seeks to redeem both via their not-so-unusual connections. Kennedy explores how political and theoretical concerns play out in and through football, and how football implies important things in its various theoretical and political contexts. Far from seeing the game as merely a symptom of or distraction from political and social concerns, Kennedy reveals the deeply complex and... [read more]

Obligingly Noxious

Slavoj Žižek, Disparities

reviewed by Stuart Walton

Halfway through his latest theoretical work, Slavoj Žižek undergoes an exploratory colonoscopy. Naturally, he does nothing so dull as share its results with us, but is more fascinated by the fact that, after the procedure, the consultant discreetly offers him a DVD of the examination. What on earth is one expected to do with it? Žižek wonders whether it might make a nice change to the bill of fare on the nights he gets together with old friends to watch a classic film. Playing next in this... [read more]
 

Did We Lose It At The Movies?

Kelly Oliver, Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from The Hunger Games to Campus Rape

reviewed by Claire Potter

Since the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States a few weeks ago, feminists in the United States, along with most liberals, have been in a state of collective vertigo. A boorish and offensive man with no political education, Trump has opened the door to the nation’s most misogynistic and racist id. No one is sure what will happen next, but we can be confident that books like Vanderbilt University philosopher Kelly Oliver’s Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from The Hunger... [read more]

Everything and Nothing

Molly Prentiss, Tuesday Nights in 1980

reviewed by Mark West

There is a great joy in reading about people falling in love with art. Such is this joy's power that a writer need only offer the barest narrative outline – discovery, infatuation, transformation – and the reader will fill in the gaps with their own histories. Novels like Molly Prentiss' Tuesday Nights in 1980 summon those romantic fixtures of artistic life – glamorous poverty, bands of outsiders, troubled geniuses – and these familiar tropes, like Roland Barthes' ‘readerly texts,’... [read more]