'Thanks': On Negative Criticism

by Orit Gat

The commonplace complaint is that no-one reads reviews anymore, and that reviews sections are consequently a nonissue. But we should read reviews, and we should read them carefully and think about the huge role they play in a magazine. The reviews section in any given publication is oftentimes the largest section and covers a substantial number of artists. It is thus a place where we need to scrutinise representation, but also a place in which a magazine asserts its stakes: if the reviews section is an entryway into the features well, then both the artists covered and the writers assigned may be involved with it more closely in the future. It’s where writers learn to write and where artists often get their first significant bibliographical notation. Lastly, the reviews section has a significant financial role in any given magazine. The fact that advertising and revenue models are changing because of the internet only makes this more crucial. [read full essay]

'It’s a funny country...'

Charles Ferrall & Dougal McNeill, Writing the 1926 General Strike: Literature, Culture, Politics

reviewed by David Renton

The General Strike of 1926 has entered collective memory as a decisive moment in British industrial history. It was the the turning point when the two great strike waves which sit on either side of the first world war came to an end. After periods of ruling-class concession and then hostility it was the occasion when it became clear that there was not going to be a British counterpart to the Russian Revolution of 1917. All this history is often summarised in the one fact that everyone knows... [read more]

A Special Kind of Wealth

Zoe Williams, Get it Together: Why We Deserve Better Politics

reviewed by Elliot Murphy

With the recent election of a new Tory majority government, it is timely to consider Guardian columnist Zoe Williams’s urgent assessment of the central problems of British politics. Get it Together: Why We Deserve Better Politics reverses the common Tory mantra of ‘individual responsibility’ by insisting that if someone is in full employment and suffers from a lack of food and warmth, then the fault lies not with them, but with the structure of their utilities provider and food supply.... [read more]
 

The Dancing Narcissus

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Dancing in the Dark: My Struggle Vol. 4

reviewed by Hilary Ilkay

Meeting Karl Ove Knausgaard at the Edinburgh Book Festival last August was both a thrilling and terrifying experience. After binge-reading the first three instalments of My Struggle, I felt intimately connected to the narrating Knausgaard, who leaves no introspective stone unturned, but I had no idea what I would say when confronted with the grizzled, bearded Norwegian himself. Knausgaard lays bare the figures in his life, both transient and lasting, with as much candour as he does himself, and... [read more]

So Just How Fucked Are We?

Danny Dorling, Inequality and the 1%

reviewed by Luke Davies

According to Professor Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford: pretty fucked. Inequality and the 1% is more of a statistical overview than a polemic. Published towards the end of last year, now seems like a good time to remind ourselves of its existence. Because it’s devastating. And because it’s full of sober, irrefutable data analysis – it is a product of research, with 50 pages of footnotes. In other words, not the kind of public school... [read more]
 

We Need to Talk About Bifo

Franco 'Bifo' Berardi, Heroes: Mass Murder and Suicide

reviewed by Robert Barry

I have been getting worried about Franco Berardi. He seems upset. Should someone be checking up on him? From the evidence of his latest book for Verso, Heroes, the Italian writer and activist, known as Bifo, is in the midst of one god-awful funk: obsessing over catastrophe, spending all his time reading dubious websites composed of mass-murderers’ manifestos, seemingly incapable of finding enjoyment in any other form of media. ‘Why,’ he asks repeatedly throughout the text, ‘did I write... [read more]

The Question of Power

Victor Serge, trans. Mitchell Abidor, Anarchists Never Surrender: Essays, Polemics, and Correspondence on Anarchism, 1908–1938

reviewed by Ian Birchall

Victor Serge was witness to some of the most momentous events of the first half of the 20th century. He was an anarchist in Brussels and Paris, then, after a spell in jail, went to post-Revolutionary Russia. He supported the Revolution loyally for some years, then opposed the rise of Stalin, returned to the West and ended up in Mexico, escaping the Nazi occupation of France. Best known for his Memoirs of a Revolutionary (1951) and novels such as The Case of Comrade Tulayev (1967), he was also a... [read more]
 

‘An infinite degradation of everything’

Eric Hazan and Kamo, First Measures of the Coming Insurrection

reviewed by Stephen Lee Naish

If the proposed revolution in First Measures of the Coming Insurrection is successful then future generations will recall right-wing commentator and television host Glenn Beck unwittingly promoting the subversive literature that brought about the revolt. In 2014, Beck drew conclusions to mankind's downfall via the nihilistic content of a little-known philosophy book by Eugene Thacker entitled In the Dust of This Planet (2011), the popular TV show True Detective (the show’s writer Nic... [read more]

House-training the Id

Marina Warner, Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale

reviewed by Helen Tyson

Once upon a time, my mother took a school friend and me to a theatre production of Grimm’s fairy tales. I don’t remember much about the performance, but seared into my mind is one vivid scene: one of the ugly sisters, cloaked, hunched, sinister, and very ugly, reaches across and plucks out the other sister’s eye, a trail of bloody tendons spewing out like a rainbow in its wake. My seven-year-old self, more familiar with the 1950 Walt Disney Cinderella, with its friendly cooing birds,... [read more]
 

Against Foukant

Maurizio Ferraris, trans. Sarah De Sanctis, Introduction to New Realism

reviewed by Paul Ennis

Introduction to New Realism is an interesting text for a number of reasons. It is a short, but fruitful introduction into the English-speaking world of the Italian philosopher Maurizio Ferraris. Ferraris is a proponent of the philosophical position of new realism. What makes his thinking distinct is that Ferraris emerged as a thinker from a postmodern culture wherein antirealism was long considered the default position. The book is structured as follows: it begins with a detailed Foreword by... [read more]

Exploitation, Misery, Suffering, Poverty, Illness, Torture & Ignorance

Willie Thompson, Work, Sex and Power: The Forces That Shaped Our History

reviewed by Stuart Walton

The first of four epigraphs to Willie Thompson's global human history is Marx's dictum from The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: 'Man makes his own history, but he does not make it out of the whole cloth; he does not make it out of conditions chosen by himself, but out of such as he finds close at hand'. The historian, on the other hand, makes it out of just what he or she chooses to, and the abiding themes of any historical narrative, whether of biological evolution or of economic... [read more]