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]

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]
 

Bullshitting Jobs

Jamie Woodcock, Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres

reviewed by Benjamin Noys

My idea of hell is working in a call centre. I hate using the phone at the best of times, don’t like sales, lack the capacity to ‘smile down the phone’, and don’t do well under constant observation. Of course, even if we don’t work in a call centre we all have the call centre experience of being cold-called. Usually once you have rushed to pick up the phone there is a pause, which is the warning sign, and sometimes you can hear the voices of those working in the call centre humming in... [read more]

Oh well, whatever, nevermind

Robin Wasserman, Girls on Fire

reviewed by Sharlene Teo

Teenage girls have an indomitable foothold in the literary and popular imagination. How unforgettably they have been evoked in fiction, from Francoise Sagan’s sly nymphette Cecile in Bonjour Tristesse through to Jeffrey Eugenides’s pantheon of inscrutable, suicidal Lisbons in The Virgin Suicides. Robin Wasserman’s Girls on Fire aspires toward that oeuvre, with mixed results. Wasserman’s chutzpah is apparent from the novel’s opening section, which takes the form of lofty missive:... [read more]
 

In Your Face

Stewart Home, Defiant Pose

reviewed by Anna Aslanyan

Defiant Pose, first published 25 years ago, was written over a couple of months in 1989. 'I felt that if I wrote quickly,' Stewart Home says in his afterword to the anniversary edition, 'the text would have a greater sense of pressure and urgency.' Despite a two-year gap between that moment and the book's publication, the 1991 blurb claimed: 'Defiant Pose is a story straight from today's headlines.' Many of them remained front-page stuff in 2016. In fact, a quick look at the recent papers... [read more]

Cuts, Breaks, Rips: On Disruptive Poetics

Anne Carson, Float

reviewed by Ralf Webb

Anne Carson begins her ‘novel in verse’ Autobiography of Red (1998) with an essay on the ancient poet of the Greek west, Stesichorus. She remarks that Stesichorus’ poem the Geryoneis – which tells of the mythical monster Geryon’s elimination by the hero Herakles, a narrative that Carson contemporises and subverts in Autobiography – today only remains as sparse textual fragments. These fragments, Carson writes, ‘read as if Stesichorus had composed a substantial narrative poem then... [read more]
 

American Anxiety

Jay McInerney, Bright, Precious Days

reviewed by Andre van Loon

‘You never see The Donald at the kind of parties I go to!’ – Jay McInerney Bright, Precious Days is Jay McInerney’s latest Manhattan novel, a glitzy tale of well-to-do New Yorkers who attend dinner parties and charity events but go to bed illicitly or ignored, riddled with anxiety. While writing the novel, McInerney thought of naming it Thin City, and one sees why instantly. Few of the writers, editors, models, socialites and financiers inhabiting his rarefied universe eat anything... [read more]

Contested Spaces

Henry Heller, The Capitalist University: The Transformation of Higher Education in the United States since 1945

reviewed by Mike Gonzalez

It is one of the most potent ironies of the neoliberal age that the expansion of the universities has also meant a narrowing of their contribution to social understanding. For those of us born into the era of ‘critical courses’ and university occupations, the hope was that the education sector would produce critical citizens, interrogators of governments and institutions, free thinkers driven by moral and ethical principles. And their debates would be informed by a sense of history, whose... [read more]