Book of the Week Archive

Monday, August 18, 2014

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    On the New by Boris Groys
    "On the New" looks at the economies of exchange and valuation that drive modern culture's key sites: the intellectual marketplace and the archive. As ideas move from one context to another, newness is created. This continuous shifting of the line that separates the valuable from the worthless, culture from profanity, is at the center of Boris Groys's investigation which aims to map the uncharted territory of what constitutes artistic innovation and what processes underpin its recognition and appropriation.

Monday, August 11, 2014

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    The House of Twenty Thousand Books by Sasha Abramsky
    This is the story of Sasha Abramsky's grandparents, Chimen and Miriam Abramsky, and of their unique home at 5 Hillway, around the corner from Hampstead Heath. In their semi-detached house, so deceptively ordinary from the outside, the Abramskys created a remarkable House of Books. It became the repository for Chimen's collection of thousands upon thousands of books, manuscripts and other printed, handwritten and painted documents, representing his journey through the great political, philosophical, religious and ethical debates that have shaped the western world. Chimen Abramsky was barely a teenager when his father, a famous rabbi, was arrested by Stalin's secret police and sentenced to five years hard labour in Siberia, and fifteen when his family was exiled to London. Lacking a university degree, he nevertheless became a polymath, always obsessed with collecting ideas, with capturing the meanderings of the human soul through the world of great thoughts and thinkers. Rejecting his father's Orthodoxy, he became a Communist, made his living as a book-dealer and amassed a huge, and astonishingly rare, library of socialist literature and memorabilia.

Monday, August 04, 2014

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    50 Years of Recuperation of the Situationist International by McKenzie Wark
    From antiglobalist activists and corporate adbusters to online hackers and guerilla street artists, the influence of the Situationist International (SI) is writ large across our contemporary cultural landscape. Formed in 1957 as a merger of four European avant-garde groups with backgrounds in Marxism and Lettrism, the SI would over the next decade introduce many key intellectual and artistic concepts to us, including the society of the spectacle, pyschogeography, unitary urbanism, and at least one major work of critical and utopian architecture in Constant's New Babylon: City for Another Life. In 50 Years of Recuperation McKenzie Wark, the critically acclaimed author of A Hacker Manifesto, explores how our contemporary understanding of art, politics, and even reality itself has been shaped by these original culture jammers.

Monday, July 28, 2014

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    The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth
    Everyone knows the date of the Battle of Hastings. Far fewer people know what happened next... Set in the three years after the Norman invasion, The Wake tells the story of a fractured band of guerilla fighters who take up arms against the invaders. Carefully hung on the known historical facts about the almost forgotten war of resistance that spread across England in the decade after 1066, it is a story of the brutal shattering of lives, a tale of lost gods and haunted visions, narrated by a man of the Lincolnshire fens bearing witness to the end of his world. Written in what the author describes as 'a shadow tongue' - a version of Old English updated so as to be understandable for the modern reader - The Wake renders the inner life of an Anglo-Saxon man with an accuracy and immediacy rare in historical fiction. To enter Buccmaster's world is to feel powerfully the sheer strangeness of the past.

Monday, July 21, 2014

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    Critique of Everyday Life: The One-Volume Edition by Henri Lefebvre
    Lefebvre's classic analysis of daily life under capitalism in one complete volume... The three-volume text by Henri Lefebvre is perhaps the richest, most prescient work about modern capitalism to emerge from one of the twentieth century's greatest philosophers and is now available for the first time in one complete volume. Written at the birth of post-war consumerism, Critique was an inspiration for the 1968 student revolution in France. It is a founding text of cultural studies and a major influence on the fields of contemporary philosophy, geography, sociology, architecture, political theory and urbanism. Lefebvre takes as his starting point and guide the "trivial" details of quotidian experience: an experience colonized by the commodity, shadowed by inauthenticity, yet remaining the only source of resistance and change. This is an enduringly radical text, untimely today only in its intransigence and optimism.

Monday, July 14, 2014

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    Signs and Machines: Capitalism and the Production of Subjectivity by Maurizio Lazzarato
    "Capital is a semiotic operator": this assertion by Felix Guattari is at the heart of Maurizio Lazzarato's Signs and Machines, which asks us to leave behind the logocentrism that still informs so many critical theories. Lazzarato calls instead for a new theory capable of explaining how signs function in the economy, in power apparatuses, and in the production of subjectivity. Moving beyond the dualism of signifier and signified, Signs and Machines shows how signs act as "sign-operators" that enter directly into material flows and into the functioning of machines. Money, the stock market, price differentials, algorithms, and scientific equations and formulas constitute semiotic "motors" that make capitalism's social and technical machines run, bypassing representation and consciousness to produce social subjections and semiotic enslavements. Lazzarato contrasts Deleuze and Guattari's complex semiotics with the political theories of Jacques Rancire, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, Paolo Virno, and Judith Butler, for whom language and the public space it opens still play a fundamental role. Lazzarato asks: What are the conditions necessary for political and existential rupture at a time when the production of subjectivity represents the primary and perhaps most important work of capitalism? What are the specific tools required to undo the industrial mass production of subjectivity undertaken by business and the state? What types of organization must we construct for a process of subjectivation that would allow us to escape the hold of social subjection and machinic enslavement?

Monday, July 07, 2014

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    Bible and Novel: Narrative Authority and the Death of God by Norman Vance
    The Victorian novel acquired greater cultural centrality just as the authority of the scriptures and of traditional religious teaching seemed to be declining. Did the novel supplant the Bible? The novelists often adopted or participated in a broadly progressive narrative of social change which can be seen as a secular replacement for the theological narrative of 'salvation history' and the waning authority of biblical narrative. Victorian fiction seems in some ways to enact the process of secularization. But contemporary religious resurgence in various parts of the world and postmodern scepticism about grand narratives have challenged and complicated the conventional view of secularization as an irreversible process, an inevitable 'disenchantment of the world' which is an aspect and function of the grand narrative of modernization. Such developments raise new questions about apparently post-Christian Victorian fiction. In our increasingly secular society novel-reading is now more popular than Bible-reading. Serious novels are often taken more seriously than scripture. Norman Vance looks at how this may have come about as an introduction to four best-selling late-Victorian novelists: George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Mary Ward and Rider Haggard. Does the novel in their hands take the place of the Bible? Can apparently secular novels still have religious significance? Can they make new imaginative sense of some of the religious and moral themes and experiences to be found in the Bible? Do Eliot and her successors anticipate some of the insights of modern theology and contemporary investigations of religious experience? Do they call in question long-standing rumours of the death of God and the triumph of the secular?

Monday, June 30, 2014

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    Barbarism by Michel Henry
    This is the first English-language translation (by Scott Davidson) of Michel Henry's compelling philosophical critique of capitalism, technology and education. Barbarism represents a critique, from the perspective of Michel Henry's unique philosophy of life, of the increasing potential of science and technology to destroy the roots of culture and the value of the individual human being. For Henry, barbarism is the result of a devaluation of human life and culture that can be traced back to the spread of quantification, the scientific method and technology over all aspects of modern life. The book develops a compelling critique of capitalism, technology and education and provides a powerful insight into the political implications of Henry's work. It also opens up a new dialogue with other influential cultural critics, such as Marx, Heidegger and Husserl. First published in French in 1987, "Barbarism" aroused great interest as well as virulent criticism. Today the book reveals what for Henry is a cruel reality: the tragic feeling of powerlessness experienced by the cultured person. Above all he argues for the importance of returning to philosophy in order to analyse the root causes of barbarism in our world.

Monday, June 23, 2014

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    The Conquest of Plassans by Émile Zola
    The arrival of Abbé Faujas in the provincial town of Plassans has profound consequences for the community, and for the family of François Mouret in particular. Faujas and his mother come to lodge with François, his wife Marthe, and their three children, and Marthe quickly falls under the influence of the priest. Ambitious and unscrupulous, Faujas gradually infiltrates into all quarters of the town, intent on political as well as religious conquest. Intrigue, slander, and insinuation tear the townsfolk apart, creating suspicion and distrust, and driving the Mourets to ever more extreme actions. The fourth novel in Zola's Rougon-Macquart sequence, newly translated by Helen Constantine, The Conquest of Plassans returns to the fictional Provençal town from which the family sprang in The Fortune of the Rougons. In one of the most psychological of his novels, Zola links small-town politics to the greater political and national dramas of the Second Empire.

Monday, June 16, 2014

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    Revolution at Point Zero by Silvia Federici
    The essays collected in this volume represent the years of research and theorizing on questions of social reproduction and the consequences of globalisation. Originally inspired by Federici's organisational work in the Wages for Housework movement, the topics discussed include the international restructuring of reproductive work and its effects on the sexual division of labour, the globalisation of care work and sex work, the crisis of elder care and development of affective labour. A brief history of the feminist movement and a contemporary critique of capitalism.

Monday, June 09, 2014

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    The Illiterate by Agota Kristof
    Narrated in a series of brief vignettes and translated into English for the first time, The Illiterate is Agota Kristof’s memoir of her childhood, her escape from Hungary in 1956 with her husband and small child, her early years working in factories in Switzerland, and the writing of her first novel, The Notebook.

    From the introduction by Gabriel Josipovici:

    ‘This story of exile and loss, of how, for the refugee, the country in which she eventually settles, however kind and well-meaning its inhabitants, will always be a poor and inadequate substitute for the country of one’s birth, its language always an alien thing, however proficient she becomes in it – this is the story of so many people today that it is perhaps the story of our time, and Agota Kristof should perhaps be seen as our transnational bard.’

Monday, June 02, 2014

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    Speculations V: Æsthetics in the 21st Century by Speculations Journal
    Ever since the turn of the century aesthetics has steadily gained momentum as a central field of study across the disciplines. No longer sidelined, aesthetics has grown in confidence. While this recent development brings with it a return to the work of the canonical authors (most notably Baumgarten and Kant), some contemporary scholars reject the traditional focus on epistemology and theorize aesthetics in its ontological connotations. It is according to this shift that speculative realists have proclaimed aesthetics as "first philosophy" and as speculative in nature. With speculative realism aesthetics no longer necessarily implies human agents. This is in alignment with the general speculative realist framework for thinking all kinds of processes, entities, and objects as free from our allpervasive anthropocentrism which states, always, that everything is "for us." This special issue of Speculations: A Journal of Speculative Realism explores the ramifications of what could be termed the new speculative aesthetics. In doing so, it stages a three-fold encounter: between aesthetics and speculation, between speculative realism and its (possible) precursors, and between speculative realism and art and literature.

Monday, May 26, 2014

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    The Poems of Rowan Williams by Rowan Williams
    'I dislike the idea of being a religious poet. I would prefer to be a poet for whom religious things mattered intensely.' In the poems collected in this book, Rowan Williams writes of many things. He visits the Holy Land, commemorates the deaths of parents and close friends, explores elements of ancient Celtic culture; poems are inspired by works of art, landscapes rural and urban, and historical figures from Tolstoy to Simone Weil. What connects poem to poem is the poet's vividly sensual language, his formal mastery, and how he can address, specifically and particularly, what matters most intensely. 'Earth is a hard text to read', writes Welsh poet Waldo Williams in a poem translated here. For Rowan Williams, this very reading is the task of the poet.

Monday, May 19, 2014

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    Julian of Norwich, Theologian by Denys Turner
    For centuries readers have comfortably adopted Julian of Norwich as simply a mystic. In this astute book, Denys Turner remedies this misapprehension, offering a sensitive new interpretation of Julian and the significance of her work. Turner argues that this fourteenth-century thinker's sophisticated approach to theological questions places her legitimately within the pantheon of other great medieval theologians, including Thomas Aquinas, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Bonaventure. Julian wrote but one work in two versions, a Short Text recording the series of visions of Jesus Christ she experienced while suffering a near-fatal illness, and a much expanded Long Text exploring the theological meaning of the "showings" some twenty years later. Turner addresses the apparent conflict between the two sources of Julian's theology: on the one hand, her personal revelation of God's omnipotent love, and on the other, the Church's teachings on and her own witnessing of evil in the world that deserves punishment, even eternal punishment. Offering a fresh and elegant account of Julian's response to this conflict - one that reveals its nuances, systematic character, and originality - this book marks a new stage in the century-long rediscovery of one of the English language's greatest theological thinkers.

Monday, April 28, 2014

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    Turning the Page: The Evolution of the Book by Angus Phillips
    This is an exciting period for the book, a time of innovation, experimentation, and change. It is also a time of considerable fear within the book industry as it adjusts to changes in how books are created and consumed. The movement to digital has been taking place for some time, but with consumer books experiencing the transition, the effects of digitization can be clearly seen to everybody. In Turning the Page Angus Phillips analyses the fundamental drivers of the book publishing industry - authorship, readership, and copyright - and examines the effects of digital and other developments on the book itself. Drawing on theory and research across a range of subjects, from business and sociology to neuroscience and psychology, and from interviews with industry professionals, Phillips investigates how the fundamentals of the book industry are changing in a world of ebooks, self-publishing, and emerging business models. Useful comparisons are also made with other media industries which have undergone rapid change, such as music and newspapers.

Monday, April 21, 2014

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    The Private Life: Why We Remain in the Dark by Josh Cohen
    The war over private life spreads inexorably. Some seek to expose, invade and steal it, others to protect, conceal and withhold it. Either way, the assumption is that privacy is a possession to be won or lost. But what if what we call private life is the one element in us that we can't possess? Could it be that we're so intent on taking hold of the privacy of others, or keeping hold of our own only because we're powerless to do either? Josh Cohen uses his experience as a psychoanalyst, literature professor and human being to explore the conception of private life as the presence in us of someone else, an uncanny stranger both unrecognisable and eerily familiar, who can be neither owned nor controlled. From John Milton and Henry James to Katie Price and Snoopy, from philosophy and the Bible to pornography and late-night TV, The Private Life weaves a richly personal tapestry of ideas and experience. In a culture that floods our lives with light, it asks, how is it that we remain so helplessly in the dark?

Monday, April 14, 2014

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    The Content Machine by Michael Bhaskar
    This ground-breaking study, the first of its kind, outlines a theory of publishing that allows publishing houses to focus on their core competencies in times of crisis. Tracing the history of publishing from the press works of fifteenth-century Germany to twenty-first-century Silicon Valley, via Venice, Beijing, Paris and London, and fusing media theory and business experience, The Content Machine: Towards a Theory of Publishing from the Printing Press to the Digital Network offers a new understanding of content, publishing and technology, and defiantly answers those who contend that publishing has no future in a digital age.

Monday, April 07, 2014

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    The Communism of Thought by Michael Munro
    The Communism of Thought takes as its point of departure a passage in a letter from Dionys Mascolo to Gilles Deleuze: “I have called this communism of thought in the past. And I placed it under the auspices of Hölderlin, who may have only fled thought because he was unable to live it: ‘The life of the spirit between friends, the thoughts that form in the exchange of words, by writing or in person, are necessary to those who seek. Without that, we are by our own hands outside thought.’” What, in light of that imperative, is a correspondence? What is given to be understood by the word, let alone the phenomenon? What constitutes a correspondence? What occasions it? On what terms and according to what conditions may one enter into that exchange “necessary,” in Hölderlin’s words, “to those who seek”? Pursuant to what vicissitudes may it be conducted? And what end(s) might a correspondence come to have beyond the ostensible end that, to all appearances, it (inevitably) will be said to have had?

Monday, March 31, 2014

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    Bela Tarr, the Time After by Jacques Ranciere
    From Almanac of Fall (1984) to The Turin Horse (2011), renowned Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr has followed the collapse of the communist promise. The time after is not the uniform and morose time of those who no longer believe in anything. It is the time when we are less interested in histories and their successes or failures than we are in the delicate fabric of time from which they are carved. It is the time of pure material events, against which belief will be measured for as long as life will sustain it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

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    Can't and Won't by Lydia Davis
    Lydia Davis has been universally acclaimed for the wit, insight and genre-defying formal inventiveness of her sparkling stories. With titles like A Story of Stolen Salamis, Letters to a Frozen Pea Manufacturer, A Small Story About a Small Box of Chocolates, and Can't and Won't, the stories in this new collection illuminate particular moments in ordinary lives and find in them the humorous, the ironic and the surprising. Above all the stories revel in and grapple with the joys and constraints of language - achieving always the extraordinary, unmatched precision which makes Lydia Davis one of the greatest contemporary writers on the international stage.

Monday, March 17, 2014

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    The No Variations by Luis Chitarroni
    A self-negating series of notes for an unfinished work of fiction, this astonishing book is made up of ideas for characters and plots, of literary references both real and invented, and is populated by an array of fictional authors and their respective literary cliques, all of whom sport multiple pseudonyms, publish their own literary journals, and, in turn, produce their own ideas for books, characters, and poems... A dizzying look at the backrooms of literature, where aesthetic ambitions are forever under siege by petty squabbles, long-nurtured grudges, bankrupt publishers, and self-important critics, The No Variations is a serious game, or perhaps a frivolous tragedy, and is one of the great “novels” of contemporary Latin American literature.

Monday, February 24, 2014

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    Culture and the death of God by Terry Eagleton
    How to live in a supposedly faithless world threatened by religious fundamentalism? Terry Eagleton, formidable thinker and renowned cultural critic, investigates in this thought-provoking book the contradictions, difficulties and significance of the modern search for a replacement for God. Engaging with a phenomenally wide range of ideas, issues and thinkers from the Enlightenment to today, Eagleton discusses the state of religion before and after 9/11, the ironies surrounding Western capitalism's part in spawning not only secularism but also fundamentalism, and the unsatisfactory surrogates for the Almighty invented in the post-Enlightenment era. The author reflects on the unique capacities of religion, the possibilities of culture and art as modern paths to salvation, the so-called war on terror's impact on atheism, and a host of other topics of concern to those who envision a future in which just and compassionate communities thrive. Lucid, stylish, and entertaining in his usual manner, Eagleton presents a brilliant survey of modern thought that also serves as a timely, urgently-needed intervention into our perilous political present.

Monday, January 20, 2014

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    Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice by Martha C. Nussbaum
    How can we achieve and sustain a "decent" liberal society, one that aspires to justice and equal opportunity for all and inspires individuals to sacrifice for the common good? In this book, a continuation of her explorations of emotions and the nature of social justice, Martha Nussbaum makes the case for love. Amid the fears, resentments, and competitive concerns that are endemic even to good societies, public emotions rooted in love – in intense attachments to things outside our control – can foster commitment to shared goals and keep at bay the forces of disgust and envy. Great democratic leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr., have understood the importance of cultivating emotions. But people attached to liberalism sometimes assume that a theory of public sentiments would run afoul of commitments to freedom and autonomy. Calling into question this perspective, Nussbaum investigates historical proposals for a public "civil religion" or "religion of humanity" by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mill, and Rabindranath Tagore. She offers an account of how a decent society can use resources inherent in human psychology, while limiting the damage done by the darker side of our personalities. And finally she explores the cultivation of emotions that support justice in examples drawn from literature, song, political rhetoric, festivals, memorials, and even the design of public parks. "Love is what gives respect for humanity its life," Nussbaum writes, "making it more than a shell."

Monday, January 13, 2014

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    Criticism of Theology by Roland Boer
    Criticsism of Theology offers commentary on the engagements with religion and theology by a range of Marxist philosophers and critics. Boer's aim is to gather insights in order to develop a comprehensive theory of religion. Following hot on the heels of Criticism of Heaven (Haymarket, 2009), for which he received scholarly acclaim, Richard Boer's latest volume in the Criticism of Heaven and Earth series (which will ultimately comprise five volumes) is guaranteed to find an excited critical niche.

Monday, January 06, 2014

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    Simone Weil and Theology by Lucian Stone and A. Rebecca Rozelle-Stone
    Simone Weil - philosopher, religious thinker, mystic, social/political activist - is notoriously difficult to categorize, since her life and writings challenge traditional academic boundaries. As many scholars have recognized, she set out few, if any, systematic theories, especially when it came to religious ideas. In this book, A. Rebecca Rozelle-Stone and Lucian Stone illuminate the ways in which Weil stands outside Western theological tradition by her use of paradox to resist the clamoring for greater degrees of certainty. Beyond a facile fallibilism, Simone Weil's ideas about the super-natural, love, Christianity, and spiritual action, and indeed, her seeming endorsement of a sort of atheism, detachment, foolishness, and passivity, begin to unravel old assumptions about what it is to encounter the divine.

Monday, December 23, 2013

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    Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert by John Drury
    George Herbert wrote, but never published, some of the very greatest English poetry, recording in an astonishing variety of forms his inner experiences of grief, recovery, hope, despair, anger, fulfilment and - above all else - love. He was born in 1593 and died at the age of 39 in 1633, before the clouds of civil war gathered, his family aristocratic and his upbringing privileged. He showed worldly ambition and seemed sure of high public office and a career at court, but then for a time 'lost himself in a humble way', devoting himself to the restoration of the church at Leighton Bromswold in Buckinghamshire and then to his parish of Bemerton, three miles from Salisbury, whose cathedral music he called 'my heaven on earth'. When in the year of his death his friend Nicholas Ferrar, leader of the quasi-monastic community at Little Gidding, published Herbert's poems under the title The Temple, his fame was quickly established. Because he published no English poems during his lifetime, and dating most of them exactly is impossible, writing Herbert's biography is an unusual challenge. In this book John Drury sets the poetry in the whole context of the poet's life and times, so that the reader can understand the frame of mind and kind of society which produced it, and depth can be added to the narrative of Herbert's life. (T.S. Eliot: 'What we can confidently believe is that every poem in the book [The Temple] is in tune to the poet's experience.') His Herbert is not the saintly figure who has come down to us from John Aubrey, but a man torn for much of his life between worldly ambition and the spiritual life shown to us so clearly through his writings.

Monday, December 16, 2013

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    War And The Iliad by Simone Weil
    War and the Iliad is a perfect introduction to the range of Homer's art as well as a provocative and rewarding demonstration of the links between literature, philosophy, and questions of life and death. Simone Weil's The Iliad, or the Poem of Force is one of her most celebrated works—an inspired analysis of Homer's epic that presents a nightmare vision of combat as a machine in which all humanity is lost. First published on the eve of war in 1939, the essay has often been read as a pacifist manifesto. Rachel Bespaloff was a French contemporary of Weil's whose work similarly explored the complex relations between literature, religion, and philosophy. She composed her own distinctive discussion of the Iliad in the midst of World War II—calling it "her method of facing the war"—and, as Christopher Benfey argues in his introduction, the essay was very probably written in response to Weil. Bespaloff's account of the Iliad brings out Homer's novelistic approach to character and the existential drama of his characters' choices; it is marked, too, by a tragic awareness of how the Iliad speaks to times and places where there is no hope apart from war. This edition brings together these two influential essays for the first time, accompanied by Benfey's scholarly introduction and an afterword by the great Austrian novelist Hermann Broch.

Monday, November 18, 2013

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    The Lives of the Novel: A History by Thomas G. Pavel
    This is a boldly original history of the novel from ancient Greece to the vibrant world of contemporary fiction. Thomas Pavel argues that the driving force behind the novel's evolution has been a rivalry between stories that idealize human behavior and those that ridicule and condemn it. Impelled by this conflict, the novel moved from depicting strong souls to sensitive hearts and, finally, to enigmatic psyches. Pavel makes his case by analyzing more than a hundred novels from Europe, North and South America, Asia, and beyond. The result is a wide-ranging survey of the novel and a provocative reinterpretation of its development. According to Pavel, the earliest novels were implausible because their characters were either perfect or villainous. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, novelists strove for greater credibility by describing the inner lives of ideal characters in minute detail (as in Samuel Richardson's case), or by closely examining the historical and social environment (as Walter Scott and Balzac did). Yet the earlier rivalry continued: Henry Fielding held the line against idealism, defending the comic tradition with its flawed characters, while Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot offered a rejoinder to social realism with their idealized vision of strong, generous, and sensitive women. In the twentieth century, modernists like Proust and Joyce sought to move beyond this conflict and capture the enigmatic workings of the psyche. Pavel concludes his compelling account by showing how the old tensions persist even within today's pluralism, as popular novels about heroes coexist with a wealth of other kinds of works, from satire to social and psychological realism.

Monday, November 11, 2013

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    The Flame of Eternity: An Interpretation of Nietzsche's Thought by Krzysztof Michalski
    The Flame of Eternity provides a reexamination and new interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy and the central role that the concepts of eternity and time, as he understood them, played in it. According to Krzysztof Michalski, Nietzsche's reflections on human life are inextricably linked to time, which in turn cannot be conceived of without eternity. Eternity is a measure of time, but also, Michalski argues, something Nietzsche viewed first and foremost as a physiological concept having to do with the body. The body ages and decays, involving us in a confrontation with our eventual death. It is in relation to this brute fact that we come to understand eternity and the finitude of time. Nietzsche argues that humanity has long regarded the impermanence of our life as an illness in need of curing. It is this "pathology" that Nietzsche called nihilism. Arguing that this insight lies at the core of Nietzsche's philosophy as a whole, Michalski seeks to explain and reinterpret Nietzsche's thought in light of it. Michalski maintains that many of Nietzsche's main ideas--including his views on love, morality (beyond good and evil), the will to power, overcoming, the suprahuman (or the overman, as it is infamously referred to), the Death of God, and the myth of the eternal return--take on new meaning and significance when viewed through the prism of eternity.

Monday, November 04, 2013

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    The Antinomies of Realism by Fredric Jameson
    The Antinomies of Realism is a history ofthe nineteenth-century realist novel and its legacy told without a glimmer of nostalgia for artistic achievements that the movement of history makes it impossible to recreate. The works of Zola, Tolstoy, Perez Galdos, and George Eliot are in the most profound sense inimitable, yet continue to dominate the novel form to this day. Novels to emerge since struggle to reconcile the social conditions of their own creation with the history of this mode of writing: the so-called modernist novel is one attempted solution to this conflict, as is the ever-more impoverished variety of commercial narratives – what today's book reviewers dub "serious novels," which are an attempt at the impossible endeavor to roll back the past. Fredric Jameson examines the most influential theories of artistic and literary realism, approaching the subject himself in terms of the social and historical preconditions for realism's emergence. The realist novel combined an attention to the body and its states of feeling with a focus on the quest for individual realization within the confines of history. In contemporary writing, other forms of representation – for which the term "postmodern" is too glib – have become visible: for example, in the historical fiction of Hilary Mantel or the stylistic plurality of David Mitchell's novels. Contemporary fiction is shown to be conducting startling experiments in the representation of new realities of a global social totality, modern technological warfare, and historical developments that, although they saturate every corner of our lives, only become apparent on rare occasions and by way of the strangest formal and artistic devices. In a coda, Jameson explains how "realistic" narratives survived the end of classical realism. In effect, he provides an argument for the serious study of popular fiction and mass culture that transcends lazy journalism and the easy platitudes of recent cultural studies.

Monday, October 28, 2013

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    The Poetic Imagination in Heidegger and Schelling (Bloomsbury Studies in Continental Philosophy) by Christopher Yates
    The imagination is a decisive, if underappreciated, theme in German thought since Kant. In this rigorous historical and textual analysis, Christopher Yates challenges an oversight of traditional readings by presenting the first comparative study of F.W.J. Schelling and Martin Heidegger on this theme. By investigating the importance of the imagination in the thought of Schelling and Heidegger, Yates' study argues that Heidegger's later, more poetic, philosophy cannot be understood properly without appreciating Schelling's central importance for him. A key figure in post-Kantian German Idealism, Schelling's penetrating attention to the creative character of thought remains undervalued. Capturing the essential manner in which Heidegger's ontology and Schelling's idealism intersect, The Poetic Imagination in Heidegger and Schelling likewise presents an introduction to better understanding Heidegger's later thought. It reveals how his engagement with Schelling encouraged Heidegger to recover and refine the imagination as a poetic, as opposed to reductive and dogmatic, collaborator in the life of truth. Tracing the theme of imagination in new readings of these major thinkers, Yates' study not only acknowledges Schelling's provocative place in post-Kantian German Idealism, but demonstrates as well the significance of Schelling's philosophical focus and style for Heidegger's own concentration on the creative vocation of human artistry and thought.

Monday, October 14, 2013

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    Maurice Blanchot and Fragmentary Writing by Leslie Hill
    Writing in fragments is often held to be one of the most distinctive signature effects of Romantic, modern, and postmodern literature. But what is the fragment, and what may be said to be its literary, philosophical, and political significance? Few writers have explored these questions with such probing radicality and rigorous tenacity as the French writer and thinker Maurice Blanchot. For the first time in any language, this book explores in detail Blanchot's own writing in fragments in order to understand the stakes of the fragmentary within philosophical and literary modernity. It attends in detail to each of Blanchot's fragmentary works (Awaiting Forgetting, The Step Not Beyond, and The Writing of the Disaster) and reconstructs Blanchot's radical critical engagement with the philosophical and literary tradition, in particular with Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Heraclitus, Levinas, Derrida, Nancy, Mallarm, Char, and others, and assesses Blanchot's account of politics, Jewish thought, and the Shoah, with a view to understanding the stakes of fragmentary writing in Blanchot and within philosophical and literary modernity in general.

Monday, October 07, 2013

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    The Hamlet Doctrine by Simon Critchley
    What are we to do in our information-saturated age? Do we know too much to be able to act? Have we all become Hamlet in the tragedy of modern life? In this riveting and thought-provoking re-examination of Shakespeare's most famous tragedy, philosopher Simon Critchley and psychoanalyst Jamieson Webster show that the story of Hamlet reveals more about the modern world than we might expect. It is more than a drama upon the stage - a play about nothing, no less - but a searing anatomy of the dilemma of human existence in a world that is out of joint. Who is the real hero of the play, the Prince or Ophelia? Along the way, Critchley and Webster consider the political context and stakes of Shakespeare's play, its relation to religion, the movement of desire, and the incapacity to love. Listening to writers, philosophers and analysts, they formulate the Hamlet Doctrine - when knowing too much leads only to doing nothing, rather than something. The Hamlet Doctrine is a passionate encounter with the play that affords an original look at this work of literature and the prismatic quality of the play to project meaning.

Monday, September 30, 2013

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    Ranciere Now by Oliver Davis
    The French philosopher Jacques Rancière is well known across the world for his groundbreaking contributions to aesthetic and political theory and for his radical rethinking of the question of equality. This much-needed new collection situates Rancière's thought in a range of practical and theoretical contexts. These specially commissioned essays cover the complete history of Rancière's work and reflect its interdisciplinary reach. They span his early historical research of the 1960s and '70s, his celebrated critique of pedagogy and his later political theory of dissensus and disagreement, as well as his ongoing analysis of literature and 'the aesthetic regime of art'. Rancière's resistance to psychoanalytic thinking is also explored, as are his most recent publications on film and film theory. Contributors include Tom Conley, Carolyn Steedman, Geneviève Fraisse, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jeremy Lane, and many more. The book also includes a brand new interview with Rancière, reflecting on his intellectual project and developing new lines of thought from his latest major work, Aisthesis.

Monday, September 23, 2013

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    Standing in the Sun by Anthony Bailey
    Joseph Mallord William Turner is arguably Britain's greatest and most mysterious painter, whose range of work encompasses seascape and landscape, immensely powerful oil paintings and intimate watercolours. His friend and colleague C.R. Leslie remembered him thus: 'Turner was short and stout, and had a sturdy, sailor-like walk. He might be taken for the captain of a river steamboat at first glance; but a second would find more in his face than belongs in any ordinary mind. There was that peculiar keenness of expression in his eye that is only seen in men of constant habits of observation'. The son of a Covent garden barber and a woman who died in Bethlehem Hospital, Turner achieved fame and fortune during his lifetime. Although he possessed a wide-ranging imagination, he was an often incoherent speaker and writer, and his muddled will produced much discord - it is a wonder that, despite avaricious relatives and incompetent lawyers, so many of his works are now in the hands of the nation, and publicly proclaim his genius. In this previously unavailable biography, Anthony Bailey has drawn upon archival material, scholarly literature and research, as well as studying many of Turner's sketchbooks, paintings and watercolours. Uncovering fresh material, as well as pulling together previously known facts, Bailey sheds new light on this complicated and secretive artistic figure.

Monday, September 16, 2013

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    Why Philosophize? by Jean-Francois Lyotard
    Why Philosophize? is a series of lectures given by Jean–François Lyotard to students at the Sorbonne embarking on their university studies. The circumstances obliged him to be both clear and concise: at the same time, his lectures offer a profound and far–reaching meditation on how essential it is to philosophize in a world where philosophy often seems irrelevant, outdated, or inconclusive. Lyotard begins by drawing on Plato, Proust and Lacan to show that philosophy is a never–ending desire – for wisdom, for the ‘other’. In the second lecture he draws on Heraclitus and Hegel to explore the close relation between philosophy and history: the same restlessness, the same longing for a precarious unity, drives both. In his third lecture, Lyotard examines how philosophy is a form of utterance, both communicative and indirect. Finally, he turns to Marx, exploring the extent to which philosophy can be a transformative action within the world. These wonderfully accessible lectures by one of the most influential philosophers of the last 50 years will attract a wide readership, since, as Lyotard says, ‘How can one not philosophize?’ They are also an excellent introduction to Lyotard’s mature thought, with its emphasis on the need for philosophy to bear witness, however obliquely, to a recalcitrant reality.

Monday, September 09, 2013

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    All Power to the Councils! by Gabriel Kuhn
    In November 1918, Imperial Germany was in turmoil. The First World War had brought millions of casualties and defeat. The Kaiser fled. While the Social Democrats grabbed power, radicals across the country rallied to establish a socialist society under the slogan "All Power to the Councils!". The Spartacus League staged an uprising in Berlin, council republics were proclaimed in Bremen and Bavaria, and workers' revolts shook numerous German towns. The rebellions were crushed by the Social Democratic government with the help of right-wing militias like the notorious Free Corps. This paved the way to a dysfunctional Weimar Republic that witnessed the rise of the National Socialist movement. This documentary history presents manifestos, speeches, articles, and letters from the German Revolution, introduced and annotated by the editor. Many documents are made available in English for the first time. The volume also includes appendixes portraying the Red Ruhr Army that repelled the reactionary Kapp Putsch in 1920, and the communist bandits that roamed Eastern Germany until 1921. All Power to the Councils! provides a dynamic and vivid picture of a time with long-lasting effects for world history. A time that was both encouraging and tragic.

Monday, September 02, 2013

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    Blanchot and Literary Criticism by Mark Hewson
    Blanchot's writings on literature have imposed themselves in the canon of modern literary theory and yet have remained a mysterious presence. This is in part due to their almost hypnotic literary style, in part due to their distinctive amalgam of a number of philosophical sources (Hegel, Heidegger, Levinas, Bataille), which, although hardly unknown in the Anglophone philosophical world, have not yet made themselves fully at home in literary theory. This book aims to make visible the coherence of Blanchot's critical project. To recognize the challenge that Blanchot represents for literary criticism, one has to see that he always has in view the self-interrogation that characterizes modern literature, both in its theory and its practice. Blanchot's essays study the forms and the paths of this research, its solutions and its impasses; and increasingly, they sketch out the philosophical and historical horizon within which its significance appears. The effect is to revise the terms in which we see the genesis of the modern literary concept, not least of the manifestations of which is literary criticism itself.

Monday, August 19, 2013

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    Mirages and Mad Beliefs: Proust the Skeptic by Christopher Prendergast
    Marcel Proust was long the object of a cult in which the main point of reading his great novel In Search of Lost Time was to find, with its narrator, a redemptive epiphany in a pastry and a cup of lime-blossom tea. We now live in less confident times, in ways that place great strain on the assumptions and beliefs that made those earlier readings possible. This has led to a new manner of reading Proust, against the grain. In Mirages and Mad Beliefs, Christopher Prendergast argues the case differently, with the grain, on the basis that Proust himself was prey to self-doubt and found numerous, if indirect, ways of letting us know. Prendergast traces in detail the locations and forms of a quietly non-dogmatic yet insistently skeptical voice that questions the redemptive aesthetic the novel is so often taken to celebrate, bringing the reader to wonder whether that aesthetic is but another instance of the mirage or the mad belief that, in other guises, figures prominently in In Search of Lost Time. In tracing the modalities of this self-pressuring voice, Prendergast ranges far and wide, across a multiplicity of ideas, themes, sources, and stylistic registers in Proust's literary thought and writing practice, attentive at every point to inflections of detail, in a sustained account of Proust the skeptic for the contemporary reader.

Monday, August 12, 2013

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    Levinas Unhinged by Tom Sparrow
    Through six heterodox essays this book extracts a materialist account of subjectivity and aesthetics from the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. More than a work of academic commentary that would leave many of Levinas s pious commentators aghast, Sparrow exhibits an aspect of Levinas which is darker, yet no less fundamental, than his ethical and theological guises. This darkened Levinas provides answers to problems in aesthetics, speculative philosophy, ecology, ethics, and philosophy of race, problems which not only trouble scholars, but which haunt anyone who insists that the material of existence is the beginning and end of existence itself.

Monday, July 29, 2013

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    The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen
    An elderly woman agrees to sell her life to a blocked writer she meets at a book fair. She needs to talk - her husband has not spoken since a family tragedy some months ago. She claims that her grown-up children are doing well, but the writer imagines less salubrious lives for them, as the downturn of Finland's economic boom begins to bite. Perhaps he's on to something. The Human Part is pure laugh-out-loud satire, laying bare the absurdities of modern society in the most vicious and precise manner imaginable.

Monday, July 22, 2013

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    How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton
    What makes a work of literature good or bad? How freely can the reader interpret it? Could a nursery rhyme like Baa Baa Black Sheep be full of concealed loathing, resentment, and aggression? In this entertaining book, Terry Eagleton addresses these intriguing questions and a host of others. In a series of brilliant analyses, Eagleton shows how to read with due attention to tone, rhythm, texture, syntax, allusion, ambiguity, and other formal aspects of literary works. He also examines broader questions of character, plot, narrative, the creative imagination, the meaning of fictionality, and the tension between what works of literature say and what they show. Unfailingly authoritative and cheerfully opinionated, the author provides useful commentaries on classicism, Romanticism, modernism, and postmodernism along with spellbinding insights into a huge range of authors, from Shakespeare and Jane Austen to Samuel Beckett and J.K. Rowling.

Monday, June 17, 2013

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    Genius, Power and Magic: A Cultural History from Goethe to Wagner by Roderick Cavaliero
    Before unification in 1871, Germany was a loose collection of variously sovereign principalities, nurtured on deep thought, fine music and hard rye bread, somewhat lacking in cultural cohesion. Yet between the end of the Thirty Years War and unification under Bismarck, Germany became the land of philosophers and poets, writers and composers. Roderick Cavaliero provides a fascinating overview of Germany's cultural zenith and its artistic exports - including the literature of Goethe and Grimm, the music of Wagner, Schumann and Mendelssohn and the philosophy of Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Schiller and Kant. Providing a comprehensive and highly-readable account of Germany from Frederick the Great to Bismarck, Genius, Power and Magic is fascinating reading for anyone interested in European history and the extraordinary cultural legacy of this golden age.

Monday, June 10, 2013

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    No Medium by Craig Dworkin
    In No Medium, Craig Dworkin looks at works that are blank, erased, clear, or silent, writing critically and substantively about works for which there would seem to be not only nothing to see but nothing to say. Examined closely, these ostensibly contentless works of art, literature, and music point to a new understanding of media and the limits of the artistic object. Dworkin considers works predicated on blank sheets of paper, from a fictional collection of poems in Jean Cocteau’s Orphée to the actual publication of a ream of typing paper as a book of poetry; he compares Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased De Kooning Drawing to the artist Nick Thurston’s erased copy of Maurice Blanchot’s The Space of Literature (in which only Thurston’s marginalia were visible); and he scrutinizes the sexual politics of photographic representation and the implications of obscured or obliterated subjects of photographs. Reexamining the famous case of John Cage’s 4’33”, Dworkin links Cage’s composition to Rauschenberg’s White Paintings, Ken Friedman’s Zen for Record (and Nam June Paik’s Zen for Film), and other works, offering also a “guide to further listening” that surveys more than 100 scores and recordings of “silent” music. Dworkin argues that we should understand media not as blank, base things but as social events, and that there is no medium, understood in isolation, but only and always a plurality of media: interpretive activities taking place in socially inscribed space.

Monday, June 03, 2013

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    Literature Suspends Death: Sacrifice and Storytelling in Kierkegaard, Kafka and Blanchot by Chris Danta
    This is the first book-length study of how three important European thinkers - Kierkegaard, Kafka and Blanchot - use the Binding of Isaac to illuminate the sacrificial situation of the literary writer. Danta shows that literature plays a vital and heretical role in these three writers' highly idiosyncratic accounts of the Akedah. His claim is twofold: firstly, that all three authors choose to respond to the Genesis narrative by manifesting literature; and, secondly, that each heretically endows literature-or fiction-with the power to suspend the sacrifice. Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac is traditionally read as the story of faith in action. But what does it mean to play the game of not-quite-belief with the story of religious faith? By examining the literary and heretical treatments of Isaac's sacrifice in the work of Kierkegaard, Kafka and Blanchot, this book develops an original account of literature as a form of sacrificial thinking. For each, writing acts, like God's sacrificial demand of Abraham, to suspend the writer's usual relation to his daily and earthly responsibilities.

Monday, April 15, 2013

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    Prehistoric Times by Alyson Walters
    Eric Chevillard is a bright new talent in the French literary scene. His style, with its burlesque variations, accelerations and ruptures, takes the reader into a frightening and jubilatory delirium. In Prehistoric Times, Chevillard's characters are reminiscent of the inhabitants of Beckett's world: dreamers who in their savage and deductive folly try to modify reality. In an entirely original voice, Chevillard asks looming, luminous questions about who we really are.

Monday, April 08, 2013

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    The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker
    A Dutch woman rents a remote farm in rural Wales. She says her name is Emilie. She has left her husband, having confessed to an affair. In Amsterdam, her stunned husband forms a strange partnership with a detective who agrees to help him trace her. They board the ferry to Hull on Christmas Eve. Back on the farm, a young man out walking with his dog injures himself and stays the night, then ends up staying longer. Yet something is deeply wrong. Does he know what he is getting himself into? And what will happen when her husband and the policeman arrive?

Monday, April 01, 2013

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    East Wind: China and the British Left, 1925-1976 by Tom Buchanan
    East Wind offers the first complete, archive-based account of the relationship between China and the British Left, from the rise of modern Chinese nationalism to the death of Mao Tse tung. Beginning with the "Hands Off China" movement of the mid-1920s, Tom Buchanan charts the mobilisation of British opinion in defence of China against Japanese aggression, 1931-1945, and the role of the British left in relations with the People's Republic of China after 1949. He shows how this relationship was placed under stress by the growing unpredictability of Communist China, above all by the Sino-Soviet dispute and the Cultural Revolution, which meant that by the 1960s China was actively supported only by a dwindling group of enthusiasts. The impact of the suppression of the student protests in Tiananmen Square (June 1989) is addressed as an epilogue. East Wind argues that the significance of the left's relationship with China has been unjustly overlooked. There were many occasions, such as the mid-1920s, the late 1930s and the early 1950s, when China demanded the full attention of the British left. It also argues that there is nothing new in the current fascination with China's emergence as an economic power. Throughout these decades the British left was aware of the immense, unrealised potential of the Chinese economy, and of how China's economic growth could transform the world.

Monday, March 25, 2013

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    Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red by Dr Alex Prichard
    The history of the left is usually told as one of factionalism and division. This collection of essays casts new light to show how the boundaries between Marxism and anarchism have been more porous and fruitful than is conventionally recognised. The volume includes ground-breaking pieces on the history of socialism in the twentieth-century.

Monday, January 07, 2013

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    Expect Anything, Fear Nothing: The Situationist Movement in Scandinavia and Elsewhere by Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen
    The Situationist movement was an international movement of artists, writers and thinkers that in the 1950s and 1960s tried to revolutionize the world through rejecting bourgeois art and critiquing the post-World War Two capitalist consumer society. The book contains articles, conversations and statements by former members of the Situationists’ organisations as well as contemporary artists, activists, scholars and writers. While previous publications about the Situationist movement almost exclusively have focused on the contribution of the French section and in particular on the role of the Guy Debord this book aims to shed light on the activities of the Situationists active in places like Denmark, Sweden and Holland. The themes and stories chronicled include: The anarchist undertakings of the Drakabygget movement led by the rebel artists Jørgen Nash, Hardy Strid and Jens Jørgen Thorsen, the exhibition by the Situationist International “Destruction of RSG-6” in 1963 in Odense organised by the painter J.V. Martin in collaboration with Guy Debord, the journal The Situationist Times edited by Jacqueline de Jong, Asger Jorn's political critique of natural science and the films of the Drakabygget movement.

Monday, December 31, 2012

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    continent Year 1 by Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
    Edited by Jamie Allen, Paul Boshears, Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, A. Staley Groves and Nico Jenkins. continent journal maps a topology of unstable confluences and ranges across new thinking traversing interstices and alternate directions in culture, theory, politics and art. continent. Year 1 comprises a selection of issues 1.1-1.4 collects a variety of thoughts and tropes from the 2011 issues ranging from work on Greek poetry to deep brain recordings, from speculative realism to the fragments as a unit of prose, and from queer theory to mass murder. This collection presents the fruits of an intense collaboration throughout the different zones of the Academy. With contributions by Jamie Allen, Alain Badiou, Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, A. Staley Groves, Graham Harman, Nikos Karouzos, Evan Lavender-Smith, Renata Lemos-Morais, Feliz Molina, Timothy Morton, Gregory Kirk Murray, Maggie Nelson, Michael O’Rourke, Gilson Schwartz, Ben Segal, Nick Skiadopoulos, Karen Spaceinvaders, Phillip Stearns, John van Houdt, and Ben Woodard.

Monday, December 24, 2012

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    The Making of the Indebted Man by Maurizio Lazzarato
    The debtor-creditor relation, which is at the heart of this book, sharpens mechanisms of exploitation and domination indiscriminately, since, in it, there is no distinction between workers and the unemployed, consumers and producers, working and non-working populations, between retirees and welfare recipients. They are all "debtors," guilty and responsible in the eyes of capital, which has become the Great, the Universal, Creditor. In The Making of the Indebted Man, Maurizio Lazzarato shows that, far from being a threat to the capitalist economy, debt lies at the very core of the neoliberal project. Through a reading of Karl Marx's lesser-known youthful writings on John Mill, and a rereading of writings by Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Michel Foucault, Lazzarato demonstrates that debt is above all a political construction, and that the creditor/debtor relation is the fundamental social relation of Western societies. Debt cannot be reduced to a simple economic mechanism, for it is also a technique of "public safety" through which individual and collective subjectivities are governed and controlled. Its aim is to minimize the uncertainty of the time and behavior of the governed. We are forever sinking further into debt to the State, to private insurance, and, on a more general level, to corporations. To insure that we honor our debts, we are at once encouraged and compelled to become the "entrepreneurs" of our lives, of our "human capital." In this way, our entire material, psychological, and affective horizon is upended and reconfigured. How do we extricate ourselves from this impossible situation? How do we escape the neoliberal condition of the indebted man? Lazzarato argues that we will have to recognize that there is no simple technical, economic, or financial solution. We must instead radically challenge the fundamental social relation structuring capitalism: the system of debt.

Monday, December 17, 2012

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    The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance by Franco "Bifo" Berardi
    The Uprising is an Autonomist manifesto for today's precarious times, and a rallying cry in the face of the catastrophic and irreversible crisis that neoliberalism and the financial sphere have established over the globe. In his newest book, Berardi argues that the notion of economic recovery is complete mythology. The coming years will inevitably see new surges of protest and violence, but the old models of resistance no longer apply. Society can either stick with the prescriptions and "rescues" that the economic and financial sectors have demanded at the expense of social happiness, culture, and the public good; or it can formulate an alternative. For Berardi, this alternative lies in understanding the current crisis as something more fundamental than an economic crisis: it is a crisis of the social imagination, and demands a new language by which to address it. This is a manifesto against the idea of growth, and against the concept of debt, the financial sector's two primary linguistic means of manipulating society. It is a call for exhaustion, and for resistance to the cult of energy on which today's economic free-floating market depends. To this end, Berardi introduces an unexpected linguistic political weapon – poetry: poetry as the insolvency of language, as the sensuous birth of meaning and desire, as that which cannot be reduced to information and exchanged like currency. If the protests now stirring about the world are to take shape and direction, then the revolution will be neither peaceful nor violent – it will be linguistic, or will not be at all.

Monday, December 10, 2012

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    The Communist Horizon by Jodi Dean
    Jodi Dean unshackles the communist ideal from the failures of the Soviet Union. In an age when the malfeasance of international banking has alerted exploited populations the world over to the unsustainability of an economic system predicated on perpetual growth, it is time the left ended its melancholic accommodation with capitalism. In the new capitalism of networked information technologies, our very ability to communicate is exploited, but revolution is still possible if we organize on the basis of our common and collective desires. Examining the experience of the Occupy movement, Dean argues that such spontaneity cannot develop into a revolution and it needs to constitute itself as a party. An innovative work of pressing relevance, The Communist Horizon offers nothing less than a manifesto for a new collective politics.

Monday, December 03, 2012

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    Unpatriotic History of the Second World War by James Heartfield
    Sixty million people died in the Second World War, and still they tell us it was the Peoples War. The official history of the Second World War is Victors History. This is the history of the Second World War without the patriotic whitewash. The Second World War was not fought to stop fascism, or to liberate Europe. It was a war between imperialist powers to decide which among them would rule over the world, a division of the spoils of empire, and an iron cage for working people, enslaved to the war production drive. The unpatriotic history of the Second World War explains why the Great Powers fought most of their war not in their own countries, but in colonies in North Africa, in the Far East and in Germany's hoped-for Empire in the East. Find out how wildcat strikes, partisans in Europe and Asia, and soldiers mutinies came close to ending the war. And find out how the Allies invaded Europe and the Far East to save capitalism from being overthrown. James Heartfield challenges the received wisdom of the Second World War.

Monday, November 26, 2012

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    Why Are We the Good Guys? by David Cromwell
    One of the unspoken assumptions of the Western world is that we are great defenders of human rights, a free press and the benefits of market economics. Mistakes might be made along the way, perhaps even tragic errors of judgement such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But the prevailing view is that the West is essentially a force for good in the wider world. Why Are We The Good Guys? is a provocative challenge of this false ideology. David Cromwell digs beneath standard accounts of crucial issues such as foreign policy, climate change and the constant struggle between state-corporate power and genuine democracy. The powerful evidence-based analysis of current affairs is leavened by some of the formative experiences that led the author to question the basic myth of Western benevolence: from schoolroom experiments in democracy, exposure to radical ideas at home, and a mercy mission while at sea; to an unexpected encounter with former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, the struggles to publish hard-hitting journalism, and the founding of Media Lens in 2001.

Monday, November 05, 2012

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    The Artist as Mystic: Conversations with Yahia Lababidi by Alex Stein
    The Artist as Mystic is a set of lyric conversations between aphorists Yahia Lababidi and Alex Stein. These conversations constitute what Australians call a ‘Songline’ — a set of sacred songs that allow the reader/listener to navigate through an unknown terrain, in this case, populated by tortured and ecstatic souls: Kafka, Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Rilke, Kierkegaard and Ekelund. These visionaries are masterfully evoked in this very fine work of biography and criticism. But these writings are more than the sum of notes on a page, they are song. The Artist as Mystic passes the test of all great writing, not only to delight, but to leave us knowing something of the subject, and ourselves, that we hadn’t considered before.

Monday, October 29, 2012

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    White by Sean Pemberton
    WHITE is an immense feat of close description of an unnamed city during a single day in summer. Open-field sections convey the immediate sensations of a person wandering the city. Continuous prose sections give vignettes of objects and events in the city. The prose is dispassionate, uninflected, solely focused on surfaces. There is no plot development; indeed, cause and effect remain a mystery. Sean Pemberton was born in Worcester in 1963, grew up in Malawi and Zambia, and now lives in Derry. He has had short stories published in Fire and The Text. This is his first novel.

Monday, October 22, 2012

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    Days and Nights in W12 by Jack Robinson
    Days and Nights is a discursive ramble through the streets of London W12 featuring unlikely stories, true history and idle speculation. In this new edition, more than double the length of the original (published in 2007), the original cast is joined by pirates, buskers, Dickens, a gorilla, a clairvoyant, carrots, Arthur Machen, Walt Disney, a duke of Redonda, Ford Madox Ford, pigeons, a sex worker, the old woman who swallowed a fly and others.

Monday, October 08, 2012

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    Many Subtle Channels by Daniel Levin Becker
    What sort of society could bind together Jacques Roubaud, Italo Calvino, Marcel Duchamp, and Raymond Queneau - and Daniel Levin Becker, a young American obsessed with language play? Only "The Oulipo", the Paris-based experimental collective founded in 1960 and fated to become one of literature's quirkiest movements. An international organization of writers, artists, and scientists who embrace formal and procedural constraints to achieve literature's possibilities, "The Oulipo" (the French acronym stands for "workshop for potential literature") is perhaps best known as the cradle of Georges Perec's novel A Void, which does not contain the letter e. Drawn to the Oulipo's mystique, Levin Becker secured a Fulbright grant to study the organization and traveled to Paris. He was eventually offered membership, becoming only the second American to be admitted to the group. From the perspective of a young initiate, "The Oulipians" and their projects are at once bizarre and utterly compelling. Levin Becker's love for games, puzzles, and language play is infectious, calling to mind Elif Batuman's delight in Russian literature in The Possessed. In recent years, "The Oulipo" has inspired the creation of numerous other collectives: "The OuMuPo" (a collective of DJs), "The OuMaPo" (marionette players), "The OuBaPo" (comic strip artists), "The OuFlarfPo" (poets who generate poetry with the aid of search engines), and a menagerie of other Ou-X-Pos (workshops for potential something). Levin Becker discusses these and other intriguing developments in this history and personal appreciation of an iconic - and iconoclastic - group.

Monday, October 01, 2012

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    Nuclear Futurism: The work of art in the age of remainderless destruction by Liam Sprod
    Starting from the end of history, the end of art and the failure of the future set out by such ends, Nuclear Futurism reinvigorates art, literature and philosophy through the unlikely alliance of hauntology and the Italian futurists. Tracing the paradoxes of the possibilities of total nuclear destruction reveals the terminal condition of culture in the time of ends, where the logic of the apocalyptic without apocalypse holds sway. These paradoxes also open the path for a new vision of the future in the form of experimental art and literature. By re-examining the thought of both Derrida and Heidegger with regards to the history of art, the art of history and their responses to the most dangerous technology of nuclear weapons the future is exposed as a progressive event, rather than the atrophied and apocalyptic to-come of the present world. It is happening now, opening up through the force of art and literature and charting a new path for a futural philosophy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

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    Irony on Occasion: From Schlegel and Kierkegaard to Derrida and de Man by Kevin Newmark
    What is it about irony that makes it an occasion for endless critical debate? This book responds to this question by focusing on several key moments in German Romanticism and its afterlife in twentieth-century French thought and writing. It includes chapters on Friedrich Schlegel, Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Mann, Jean Paulhan, Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Derrida, and Paul de Man.

Monday, September 03, 2012

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    Artwork as Social Model by Stephen Willats
    Stephen Willats’ art practice addresses contemporary social and cultural issues. His polemic takes ideas beyond the norms and conventions of the object-based art world, to explore possibilities inherent within communal groups. In many of his projects he has collaborated with members of diverse communities in a variety of everyday settings, initiating interventions that build on the richness and complexity of self-organisation to determine and reinforce a sense of identity. The result is a body of artworks with a dynamic, interactive, social function. This manual, which includes texts, interviews and artwork from five decades of practice, is intended as a tool for any artist or practitioner looking to find a meaningful relationship with contemporary society. It proclaims, and argues for, a culture that promotes the fluid, transient, relative and complex society from which it stems.

Monday, August 27, 2012

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    Continental Philosophy and Philosophy of Religion by Morny Joy (editor)
    This is the first book that provides access to twelve Continental philosophers and the consequences of their thinking for the philosophy of religion. Basically, in the second half of the twentieth century, it has been treated from within the Anglo-American school of philosophy, which deals mainly with proofs and truths, and questions of faith. This approach is more concerned with human experience, and pays more attention to historical context and cultural influences. As such, it provides challenging questions about the way forward for philosophy of religion in the twenty-first century.

Monday, August 20, 2012

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    The Year of Dreaming Dangerously by Slavoj Zizek
    Call it the year of dreaming dangerously: 2011 caught the world off guard with a series of shattering events. While protesters in New York, Cairo, London, and Athens took to the streets in pursuit of emancipation, obscure destructive fantasies inspired the world’s racist populists in places as far apart as Hungary and Arizona, achieving a horrific consummation in the actions of mass murderer Anders Breivik. The subterranean work of dissatisfaction continues. Rage is building, and a new wave of revolts and disturbances will follow. Why? Because the events of 2011 augur a new political reality. These are limited, distorted—sometimes even perverted – fragments of a utopian future lying dormant in the present.

Monday, August 13, 2012

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    A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys Through Urban Britain by Owen Hatherley
    In A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, Owen Hatherley skewered New Labour’s architectural legacy in all its witless swagger. Now, in the year of the Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, he sets out to describe what the Coalition’s altogether different approach to economic mismanagement and civic irresponsibility is doing to the places where the British live. In a journey that begins and ends in the capital, Hatherley takes us from Plymouth and Brighton to Belfast and Aberdeen, by way of the eerie urbanism of the Welsh valleys and the much-mocked splendour of modernist Coventry. Everywhere outside the unreal Southeast, the building has stopped in towns and cities, which languish as they wait for the next bout of self-defeating austerity. Hatherley writes with unrivalled aggression about the disarray of modern Britain, and yet this remains a book about possibilities remembered, about unlikely successes in the midst of seemingly inexorable failure. For as well as trash, ancient and modern, Hatherley finds signs of the hopeful country Britain once was and hints of what it might become.

Monday, August 06, 2012

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    Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    Despite Dietrich Bonhoeffer's prior theological achievements and writings, it was his correspondence and notes from prison that electrified the postwar world six years after his death in 1945. The materials gathered and selected by his friend Eberhard Bethge in Letters and Papers from Prison not only brought Bonhoeffer to a wide and appreciative readership, especially in North America; they also introduced to a broad readership his novel and exciting ideas of religionless Christianity, his open and honest theological appraisal of Christian doctrines, and his sturdy faith in face of uncertainty and doubt.

Monday, July 30, 2012

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    Alien Phenomenology, or What it's Like to be a Thing by Ian Bogost
    In this book, Ian Bogost develops an object-oriented ontology that puts things at the center of being – a philosophy in which humans are elements but not the sole or even primary elements of philosophical interest. Bogost encourages professional thinkers to become makers as well, engineers who construct things as much as they think and write about them. Alien Phenomenology is a succinct exploration of object-oriented ontology (OOO) in conversation with posthuman phenomenology. “If ontology is the philosophical study of existence” Bogost explains, “OOO puts things at the center of being. We humans are elements, but not the sole elements, of philosophical interest.”

Monday, July 23, 2012

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    The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings by Alain Badiou
    In the uprisings of the Arab world, Alain Badiou discerns echoes of the European revolutions of 1848. In both cases, the object was to overthrow despotic regimes maintained by the great powers — regimes designed to impose the will of financial oligarchies. Both events occurred after what was commonly thought to be the end of a revolutionary epoch: in 1815, the final defeat of Napoleon; and in 1989, the fall of the Soviet Union. But the revolutions of 1848 proclaimed for a century and a half the return of revolutionary thought and action. Likewise, the uprisings underway today herald a worldwide resurgence in the liberating force of the masses—despite the attempts of the ‘international community’ to neutralize its power. Badiou’s book salutes this reawakening of history, weaving examples from the Arab Spring and elsewhere into a global analysis of the return of emancipatory universalism.

Monday, July 16, 2012

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    Zizek and Communist Strategy by Dr Chris McMillan
    Good theory; bad politics - this is how Zizek's works have been described. Now Chris McMillan argues that Zizek's reading of global capitalism could reinvent political subversion. He highlights the political consequences of Zizek's fundamental concepts, such as the Lacanian Real, universality and the communist hypothesis. He argues that Zizek's turn to Communism represents the ultimate significance of Zizek's work for the 21st century and a marked new direction for Zizekian theory. While Zizek's work attracts a lot of labels, most of them pejorative - communist, conservative, anti-semantic - Chris McMillan identifies Zizek's unique and productive contribution to social and political theory, constructing his work as a response to the difficulties of contemporary social theory and the political deadlock of global capitalism.

Monday, July 09, 2012

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    Badiou and Philosophy by Simon Duffy
    From Cantor to category/topos theory, from Lacan to Lautman and from Sartre to the subject, these 13 essays engage directly with the work of Alain Badiou. They focus on the philosophical content of Badiou’s work and show how he connects both with his contemporaries and his philosophical heritage. This is an important collection for anyone interested in the work of Badiou and contemporary Continental philosophy.

Monday, July 02, 2012

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    Bubbles: Spheres I - Microspherology by Peter Sloterdijk
    An epic project in both size and purview, Peter Sloterdijk's three-volume, 2,500-page Spheres is the late-twentieth-century bookend to Heidegger's Being and Time. Rejecting the century's predominant philosophical focus on temporality, Sloterdijk, a self-described "student of the air," reinterprets the history of Western metaphysics as an inherently spatial and immunological project, from the discovery of self (bubble) to the exploration of world (globe) to the poetics of plurality (foam). Exploring macro- and micro-space from the Greek agora to the contemporary urban apartment, Sloterdijk is able to synthesize, with immense erudition, the spatial theories of Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Gaston Bachelard, Walter Benjamin, and Georges Bataille into a morphology of shared, or multipolar, dwelling – identifying the question of being as one bound up with the aerial technology of architectonics and anthropogenesis.Sloterdijk describes Bubbles, the first volume of Spheres, as a general theory of the structures that allow couplings – or as the book's original intended subtitle put it, an "archeology of the intimate." Bubbles includes a wide array of images, not to illustrate Sloterdijk's discourse, but to offer a spatial and visual "parallel narrative" to his exploration of bubbles.

Monday, June 25, 2012

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    The Philosophy of Art by Theodore Gracyk
    The Philosophy of Art is a highly accessible introduction to current key issues and debates in aesthetics and philosophy of art. Chapters on standard topics are balanced by topics of interest to today's students, including creativity, authenticity, cultural appropriation, and the distinction between popular and fine art. Other topics include emotive expression, pictorial representation, definitional strategies, and artistic value. Presupposing no prior knowledge of philosophy, Theodore Gracyk draws on three decades of teaching experience to provide a balanced and engaging overview, clear explanations, and many thought-provoking examples. All chapters have a strong focus on current debates in the field, yet historical figures are not neglected. Major current theories are set beside key ideas from Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Marx, and Hegel. Chapters conclude with advice on further readings, and there are recommendations of films that will serve as a basis for further reflection and discussion.

Monday, June 18, 2012

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    Sanctuary by Brian Dillon
    Sanctuary is a fiction set in the ruins of a Modernist building on the outskirts of a city in Northern Europe. The structure, a Catholic seminary built in the 1960s and abandoned twenty years later, embodies the failure of certain ambitions: architectural, civic, and spiritual. But it is the site too of a more recent disappearance. A young artist, intent on exploring the complex and its history, has gone missing among the wreckage. Months later his lover visits the place, unsure what she is looking for, and finds herself drawn into the strange nexus of energies and memories that persist there. Sanctuary is a story about what survives — of bodies, ideas, objects and the artistic or literary forms that might describe them—in the wake of catastrophe. Invoking key works of the last century—the fiction of Samuel Beckett and Alain Robbe-Grillet, the art of Robert Smithson, the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Chris Marker and Andrei Tarkovsky — it maps a small but resonant portion of the ruins of the recent past.

Monday, June 11, 2012

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    Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism by Slavoj Zizek
    For the last two centuries, Western philosophy has developed in the shadow of Hegel, whose influence each new thinker tries in vain to escape: whether in the name of the pre-rational Will, the social process of production, or the contingency of individual existence. Hegel's absolute idealism has become the bogeyman of philosophy, obscuring the fact that he is the dominant philosopher of the epochal historical transition to modernity; a period with which our own time shares startling similarities. Today, as global capitalism comes apart at the seams, we are entering a new transition. In Less Than Nothing, the pinnacle publication of a distinguished career, Slavoj Zizek argues that it is imperative that we not simply return to Hegel but that we repeat and exceed his triumphs, overcoming his limitations by being even more Hegelian than the master himself. Such an approach not only enables Zizek to diagnose our present condition, but also to engage in a critical dialogue with the key strands of contemporary thought - Heidegger, Badiou, speculative realism, quantum physics and cognitive sciences. Modernity will begin and end with Hegel.

Monday, May 28, 2012

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    The Serpent and the Lamb: Cranach, Luther, and the Making of the Reformation by Steven Ozment
    This compelling book retells and revises the story of the German Renaissance and Reformation through the lives of two controversial men of the sixteenth century: the Saxon court painter Lucas Cranach (the Serpent) and the Wittenberg monk-turned-reformer Martin Luther (the Lamb). Contemporaries and friends (each was godfather to the other's children), Cranach and Luther were very different Germans, yet their collaborative successes merged art and religion into a revolutionary force that became the Protestant Reformation. Steven Ozment, an internationally recognized historian of the Reformation era, reprises the lives and works of Cranach (1472-1553) and Luther (1483-1546) in this generously illustrated book. He contends that Cranach's new art and Luther's oratory released a barrage of criticism upon the Vatican, the force of which secured a new freedom of faith and pluralism of religion in the Western world. Between Luther's pulpit praise of the sex drive within the divine estate of marriage and Cranach's parade of strong, lithe women, a new romantic, familial consciousness was born. The 'Cranach woman' and the 'Lutheran household' - both products of the merged Renaissance and Reformation worlds - evoked a new organization of society and foretold a new direction for Germany.

Monday, May 21, 2012

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    Stephane Mallarme by Roger Pearson
    At the age of fifty Stephane Mallarme (1842-98) spoke of his published work as very precise reference points on my mind's journey. In Stephane Mallarme, Roger Pearson charts that journey for the first time, blending a biographical account of the poet's life with a detailed analysis of his evolving poetic theory and practice. A poet on this earth must be uniquely a poet', he declared at the age of twenty-two, and he duly lived a poet's life. But what is a poet's life? What is a poet's function? In his poems, in complex prose statements, and by the example of his life, Mallarme provided answers to these questions. To Mallarme, being a poet meant many things: a continuous, lifelong investigation of language and its expressive potential; and bringing people together, as much in life as in poetry. His Tuesday salons were famous with visitors including Yeats, Rilke and Verlaine, as well as the artists Manet, Renoir, Whistler and Gauguin; his poetry inspired music by Debussy, Ravel and Boulez; and his poem A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance spread over 20 pages and combining verse with varied typography inspires poets and visual artists to this day. Poetry was a way of bringing all human beings together in heightened awareness and an understanding of the magnificent act of living.

Monday, May 14, 2012

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    The House of Ulysses by Julian Rios
    Julián Ríos's latest comic extravaganza is at once a serious literary excavation and a lecture as delivered by Groucho Marx on the subject of that great (and often imposing) cornerstone of world literature: James Joyce's Ulysses. Every book is born out of an earlier book (or books), and much as Joyce's novel unraveled Homer scene by scene, Ríos's The House of Ulysses returns the favor, giving us the story of several bickering characters hoping to get to the bottom of Joyce's masterpiece (by force, if necessary), their conversation walking the line between a slapstick parody of the Joyce industry and a legitimate "guide for the perplexed." Focusing on each of Ulysses' characters, ideas, and references in turn, The House of Ulysses provides a playful, punning, ideal companion for the experienced Joycean and cautious Ulysses-procrastinator alike: one novel dreaming its way through another.

Monday, April 30, 2012

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    The Event of Literature by Terry Eagleton
    In this characteristically concise, witty, and lucid book, Terry Eagleton turns his attention to the questions we should ask about literature, but rarely do. What is literature? Can we even speak of "literature" at all? What do different literary theories tell us about what texts mean and do? In throwing new light on these and other questions he has raised in previous best-sellers, Eagleton offers a new theory of what we mean by literature. He also shows what it is that a great many different literary theories have in common. In a highly unusual combination of critical theory and analytic philosophy, the author sees all literary work, from novels to poems, as a strategy to contain a reality that seeks to thwart that containment, and in doing so throws up new problems that the work tries to resolve. The "event" of literature, Eagleton argues, consists in this continual transformative encounter, unique and endlessly repeatable. Freewheeling through centuries of critical ideas, he sheds light on the place of literature in our culture, and in doing so reaffirms the value and validity of literary thought today.

Monday, April 23, 2012

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    In Praise Of Love by Alain Badiou
    A new century, new threats to love... Love without risks is like war without deaths - but, today, love is threatened by an alliance of liberalism and hedonism. Caught between consumerism and casual sexual encounters devoid of passion, love - without the key ingredient of chance - is in danger of withering on the vine. In In Praise of Love, Alain Badiou takes on contemporary'dating agency'conceptions of love that come complete with zero-risk insurance - like US zero-casualty bombs. He develops a new take on love that sees it as an adventure, and an opportunity for re-invention, in a constant exploration of otherness and difference that leads the individual out of an obsession with identity and self.Liberal, libertine and libertarian reductions of love to instant pleasure and non-commitment bite the dust as Badiou invokes a supporting cast of thinkers from Plato to Lacan via Karl Marx to form a new narrative of romance, relationships and sex - a narrative that does not fear love.

Monday, April 16, 2012

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    Oppressive Light: Selected Poems by Robert Walser
    Oppressive Light: Selected Poems by Robert Walserrepresents the first collection of Robert Walser's poetry in English translation and an opportunity to experience Walser as he saw himself at the beginning and at the end of his literary career – as a poet. The collection also includes notes on dates of composition, draft versions the printed poems represent, which volume of the Werkausgabe the poems were first published in, and brief biographical information on characters and locations that appear in the poems and may not be known to readers.

Monday, April 09, 2012

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    Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution by David Harvey
    Cities have long been the pivotal sites of political revolutions, where deeper currents of social and political change are fleshed out. Consequently, they have been the subject of much utopian thinking about alternatives. But at the same time, they are also the centers of capital accumulation, and therefore the frontline for struggles over who has the right to the city, and who dictates the quality and organization of daily life. Is it the developers and financiers, or the people? Rebel Cities places the city at the heart of both capital and class struggles, looking at locations ranging from Johannesburg to Mumbai, and from New York City to Sao Paulo. By exploring how cities might be reorganized in more socially just and ecologically sane ways, David Harvey argues that cities can become the focus for anti-capitalist resistance.

Monday, April 02, 2012

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    The Strange Non-Death of Neo-Liberalism by Colin Crouch
    The financial crisis seemed to present a fundamental challenge to neo–liberalism, the body of ideas that have constituted the political orthodoxy of most advanced economies in recent decades. Colin Crouch argues in this book that it will shrug off this challenge. The reason is that while neo–liberalism seems to be about free markets, in practice it is concerned with the dominance over public life of the giant corporation. This has been intensified, not checked, by the recent financial crisis and acceptance that certain financial corporations are ‘too big to fail?. Although much political debate remains preoccupied with conflicts between the market and the state, the impact of the corporation on both these is today far more important.

Monday, March 26, 2012

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    Business as Usual: The Economic Crisis and the Failure of Capitalism by Paul Mattick
    The general consensus is that the world's economic difficulties can be traced to a crisis in the financial system. Initially brought on by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market in the USA, it spread through a financial landscape defined by high levels of debt and speculative risk. Some point to the dangers of collapse inherent in the modern financial system, while others blame long-term imbalances in the world economy between low-investment, high-consumption areas like the USA and rapidly developing regions such as China and South Asia. In Business as Usual Paul Mattick explains the recession in jargon-free style, without shying away from serious analysis. He explores current events in relation to the development of the world economy since the Second World War and, more fundamentally, looks at the cycle of crisis and recovery that has characterized capitalism since the early nineteenth century. Mattick situates today's crisis in the context of a capitalism ruled by a voracious quest for profit. He places the downturn within the context of business cycles and uses this explanation as a springboard for exploring the nature of our capitalist society, and its prospects for the future. A clear and readable account of the successes and the inherent limits of government attempts to stabilize the economy, Mattick ultimately reveals how today's downturn is not simply the effect of a financial crisis, but that it manifests a truth about the nature of the social and economic system in which we live.

Monday, March 19, 2012

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    The Literary Kierkegaard by Eric J. Ziolkowski
    Eric Ziolkowski’s monumental study examines Kierkegaard’s “whole ‘prolix literature,’” including both the pseudonymous and the signed published writings as well as the private journals, papers, and letters, in relation to works by five literary giants from different times and places: Clouds by Aristophanes; Parzival by the medieval German poet Wolfram von Eschenbach; Don Quixote by Cervantes; certain plays, particularly Hamlet, by Shakespeare; and the fictional, poeticphilosophical work Sartor Resartus, together with some of the essays by Kierkegaard’s Scottish contemporary Thomas Carlyle. No full or complete understanding of the writings of an author as prolific and complex as Kierkegaard is possible. Yet Kierkegaard signals the essentially literary as opposed to strictly theological or philosophical nature of his writings. Ziolkowski first considers the notions of aesthetics and the aesthetic as Kierkegaard adapted them, and then his posture as a poet, as interrelated contexts of his selfconception as “a weed in literature.” After next taking account of the history of the critical recognition of Kierkegaard as a literary artist, he looks at an important characteristic of his literary craft that has received relatively little attention: the manner by which he and his pseudonyms read and quote other authors. Ziolkowski then explores the connections between the philosopher’s writings and those of other literary masters by whom he was directly influenced, such as Aristophanes, Cervantes, and Shakespeare; or of those who, while they did not directly influence him, gave paradigmatic expression to some of the same aspects of aesthetic, ethical, and religious existence that Kierkegaard and his pseudonyms portray. Ziolkowski’s seminal study will be of interest to Kierkegaard scholars, philosophers, and comparative literature scholars alike.

Monday, March 12, 2012

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    Trieste by Daša Drndic
    Haya Tedeschi sits alone in Gorizia, north-eastern Italy, surrounded by a basket of photographs and newspaper clippings. Now an old woman, she waits to be reunited after sixty-two years with her son, fathered by an S.S. officer and stolen from her by the German authorities during the War as part of Himmler's clandestine 'Lebensborn' project, which strove for a 'racially pure' Germany. Haya's reflection on her Catholicized Jewish family's experiences deals unsparingly with the massacre of Italian Jews in the concentration camps of Trieste. Her obsessive search for her son leads her to photographs, maps and fragments of verse, to testimonies from the Nuremberg trials and interviews with second-generation Jews, as well as witness accounts of atrocities that took place on her doorstep. A broad collage of material is assembled, and the lesser-known horror of Nazi occupation in northern Italy is gradually unveiled. Written in immensely powerful language, and employing a range of astonishing conceptual devices, Trieste is a novel like no other. Daša Drndic has produced a shattering contribution to the literature of our twentieth-century history.

Monday, March 05, 2012

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    Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
    Economic history states that money replaced a bartering system, yet there isn't any evidence to support this axiom. Anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of this conventional wisdom. For more than 5,000 years humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods. Since the beginning of the agrarian empires, humans have been divided into debtors and creditors. Through time, virtual credit money was replaced by gold and the system as a whole went into decline.

Monday, February 27, 2012

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    A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard
    In this utterly remarkable novel Karl Ove Knausgaard writes with painful honesty about his childhood and teenage years, his infatuation with rock music, his relationship with his loving yet almost invisible mother and his distant and unpredictable father, and his bewilderment and grief on his father's death. When Karl Ove becomes a father himself, he must balance the demands of caring for a young family with his determination to write great literature. A Death in the Family is a Proustian exploration of his past, in which Knausgaard creates a universal story of the struggles, great and small, that we all face in our lives. A Death in the Family is a profoundly serious, gripping and hugely readable work written as if the author's very life were at stake.

Monday, February 20, 2012

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    Dotter of Her Father's Eyes by Mary M. Talbot
    Part personal history, part biography, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes contrasts two coming-of-age narratives: that of Lucia, the daughter of James Joyce, and that of author Mary Talbot, daughter of the eminent Joycean scholar James S. Atherton. Social expectations and gender politics, thwarted ambitions and personal tragedy are played out against two contrasting historical backgrounds, poignantly evoked by the atmospheric visual storytelling of award-winning graphic-novel pioneer Bryan Talbot. Produced through an intense collaboration seldom seen between writers and artists, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes is smart, funny, and sad.

Monday, February 13, 2012

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    Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room by Geoff Dyer
    In this spellbinding new book, the man described by the Daily Telegraph as 'possibly the best living writer in Britain' takes on his biggest challenge yet: unlocking the film that has obsessed him all his adult life. Magnificently unpredictable and hilarious (and, surely, one of the most unusual books ever written about cinema), Zona takes the reader on an enthralling and thought-provoking journey. Like the film Stalker itself, it confronts the most mysterious and enduring questions of life and how to live.

Monday, February 06, 2012

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    Sister of the Artist by Dai Vaughan
    Prompted by the example of the composer Felix Mendelssohn and his sister Fanny, Sister of the artist addresses the injustice of a brother and sister, both artists, whose talents are respectively encouraged and thwarted by the conventions of their time and place. Their story is layered with fragments of more ancient narratives that explore the mysteries of sibling love and the wellsprings of creativity. Sister of the artist is prefaced by two stories of a writer and her sister, guests returning from Dai Vaughan’s first novel, The Cloud Chamber (1993).

Monday, January 30, 2012

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    The Faith of the Faithless by Simon Critchley
    The return to religion has perhaps become the dominant cliche of contemporary theory, which rarely offers anything more than an exaggerated eco of a political reality dominated by religious war. Somehow, the secular age seems to have been replaced by a new era, where political action flows directly from metaphysical conflict. The Faith of the Faithless asks how we might respond. Following Critchley's Infinitely Demanding, this new book builds on its philosophical and political framework, also venturing into the questions of faith, love, religion and violence. Should we defend a version of secularism and quietly accept the slide into a form of theism - or is there another way? From Rousseau's political and religion to the return of St. Paul in Taubes, Agamben and Badiou, via explorations of politics and original sin in the work of Schmitt and John Gray, Critchley examines whether there can be a faith of the faithless, a belief for unbelievers. Expanding on his debate with Slavoj Zizek, Critchley concludes with a meditation on the question of violence, and the limits of non-violence.

Monday, January 16, 2012

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    After the Future by Franco Bifo Berardi
    After the Future explores our century-long obsession with the concept of "the future." Beginning with F. T. Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto and the worldwide race toward a new and highly mechanized society that defined the Century of Progress, Franco Berardi traces the genesis of future-oriented thought through the punk movement of the early '70s and into the media revolution of the '90s. Cyberculture, the last truly utopian vision of the future, has ended in a clash, and left behind an ever-growing system of virtual life and actual death, of virtual knowledge and actual war.Our future, Berardi argues, has come and gone; the concept has lost its usefulness. Now it's our responsibility to decide what comes next. Drawing on his own involvement with the Autonomia movement in Italy and his collaboration and friendship with leading thinkers of the European political left, including Guattari and Negri, Berardi presents a highly nuanced analysis of the state of the contemporary working class, and charts a course out of the modern dystopian moment.

Monday, January 09, 2012

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    Communization and its Discontents by Benjamin Noys
    Can we find alternatives to the failed radical projects of the twentieth-century? What are the possible forms of struggle today? How do we fight back against the misery of our crisis-ridden present? "Communization" is the spectre of the immediate struggle to abolish capitalism and the state, which haunts Europe, Southern California, and wherever the real abstractions of value that shape our lives are contested. Evolving on the terrain of capitalism new practices of the "human strike," autonomous communes, occupation, and insurrection have attacked the alienations of our times. These signs of resistance are scattered and have yet to coalesce, and their future is deliberately precarious and insecure. Bringing together voices from inside and outside of these currents Communization and Its Discontents treats Communization as a problem to be explored rather than a solution. Taking in the new theorisations of Communization proposed by Tiqqun and The Invisible Committee, Theorie Communiste, post-autonomists, and others, it offers critical reflections on the possibilities and the limits of these contemporary forms, strategies, and tactics of struggle.

Monday, January 02, 2012

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    The Unseen by Nanni Balestrini
    For a brief but explosive period in the mid-seventies, the young, the unemployed and the homeless of Italy's cities came together in an unexpectedly militant movement known simply as Autonomy. Against the austerity programmes and social discipline of the ruling Christian Democrats and their would-be partners in the Communist Party, the movement developed a politics of refusal expressed in school occupations and factory sabotage, mass shoplifting and violent street protest, combined with carnivalesque creativity. But the movement was soon divided, especially over the issue of armed struggle, while its opponents united behind the most repressive measures ever seen in postwar Italy. Nanni Balestrini, himself a victim of that repression, follows in spare but vivid unpunctuated prose Autonomy's trajectory through the eyes of one working-class protagonist from high-school rebellion, squatting and attempts to set up a free radio station, to arrest and the brutalities of imprisonment. This is a powerful and gripping novel: a rare evocation of the intensity of commitment, the passion of politics.

Monday, December 19, 2011

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    A Public Intimacy by Paul Buck

    A Public Intimacy (A Life Through Scrapbooks) is a way of reviewing an archive. Cuttings, clippings and comments, the stuff of scrapbooks, started in 1964, make up part of the author’s archive, the information that threads through the library, events and life explored. The book does not fit easily into any genre or category, blurring notions of essay or biography, or ideas employed in fiction writing and other art forms. Traversing paths pursued in visual art is a key factor, even outside the more obvious image pages. Collage is part of the process, with cuttings scrolling vertically alongside the text, forming an adjacent narrative. In part an account of the times, the counter-currents and counter-culture of the last four decades, in part an exploration of the nature of scrapbooks and of collections, the book forms as much a counter-intellectual narrative of the times, as counter-biography, revealing as much as the writer wants, playing into the hands of fiction as much as any novel. Paul Buck works as a poet, writer, playwright, artist, performer, translator and teacher in the visual arts. As well as founding the seminal magazine Curtains, which blasted French contemporary writing into British culture, he is the author, editor and translator of numerous published and unpublished works, appended in this book as Selected Context.

Monday, December 12, 2011

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    Jew Boy by Simon Blumenfeld
    Jew Boy is a novel about poverty and politics in the tumultuous world of London’s Jewish East End in the 1930s, where boxers mixed with anarchist and communists, and Yiddish actors and poets rubbed shoulders with gamblers and gangsters. All were united in their hatred of fascism and prepared to use force when necessary to defeat it. Yet of equal interest for the contemporary reader is the novel’s exploration of the personal lives and thwarted aspirations of young people at this time, both Jewish and non-Jewish. The world portrayed here is truly unremitting. The factory scenes are brilliantly done, bringing to life the reality of sweatshops and sweated labour, and vividly portraying the exhaustion produced by long hours, unforgiving deadlines and cut-throat competition. It was the authenticity of these scenes which won the praise of reviewers when first published. ‘The reality of the thing is incontestable,’ Marie Crosbie wrote in John O’London’s Weekly. In the Daily Telegraph, James Hilton reviewed it ahead of the latest novel by Graham Greene, England Made Me, clearly preferring Blumenfeld’s keen intelligence, sense of humour and ‘flashing anger’. Time And Tide noted that, ‘Jew Boy does for Whitechapel what Love On The Dole has done for Manchester and Salford, and moreover does it as well, if not even better.’

Monday, December 05, 2011

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    The Book of Common Prayer by Brian Cummings
    'In the midst of life we are in death' The words of the Book of Common Prayer have permeated deep into the English language all over the world. For nearly 500 years, and for countless people, it has provided a background fanfare for a marriage or a funeral march at a burial. Yet this familiarity also hides a violent and controversial history. When it was first produced the Book of Common Prayer provoked riots and rebellion, and it was banned before being translated into a host of global languages and adopted as the basis for worship in the USA and elsewhere to the present day. This edition presents the work in three different states: the first edition of 1549, which brought the Reformation into people's homes; the Elizabethan prayer book of 1559, familiar to Shakespeare and Milton; and the edition of 1662, which embodies the religious temper of the nation down to modern times. Far from being a book for the religious only, the Book of Common Prayer is one of the seminal texts of human experience and a manual of everyday ritual: a book to live, love, and die to.

Monday, November 28, 2011

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    Glorious Nemesis by Ladislav Klima
    Klima's intense inner life and complex mental state is reflected in his peculiar writings. The eccentricity of style and occasional violence found in his prose were intended to convey the deep conflicts attending his thought processes, and this is perhaps best exemplified in the novella Glorious Nemesis. Set in the Tyrol (inspired by Klima's extended stay in Landeck), it is a balladic tale that explores the metaphysics of love and death, crime and reincarnation. Sider, a man of twenty-eight, is confronted by a giant mountain named Stag's Head and an ancient hovel standing under a high, black cliff. Out one day on a hike, he encounters two women who will mark his fate: the elder Errata and the younger Orea, dressed in blue. From this point on Sider is on a quest for the All, the Absolute, and to achieve eternity through divine retribution for the misdeeds of a past life. Willing to risk his entire fortune and sanity, he succumbs to his dreams and hallucinations as Orea, or her doppelganger, becomes for him a representation of the goddess Nemesis, the apotheosis of the Feminine who initiates him into the mysteries of life and death. Written around 1919 and last revised by Klima in 1926, Glorious Nemesis was published posthumously in 1932. This is the first English translation.

Monday, November 21, 2011

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    Sacrifice Imagined: Violence, Atonement and the Sacred by Douglas Hedley
    This book is an original exploration of the idea of sacrifice by one of the world's pre-eminent philosophers of religion. Sacrifice Imagined is an original exploration of the idea of sacrifice by one of the world's preeminent philosophers of religion. Despisers of religion have poured scorn upon the idea of sacrifice as an index of the irrational and wicked in religious practice. Nor does its secularised form seem much more appealing. One need only think of the appalling cult of sacrifice in numerous totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century. Yet sacrifice remains a part of our cultural and intellectual 'imaginary'. Hedley proposes good reasons to think that issues of global conflict and the ecological crisis highlight the continuing relevance of the topic of sacrifice for contemporary culture. The subject of sacrifice has been decisively influenced by two books: Girard's The Violence and the Sacred and Burkert's Homo Necans. Both of these are theories of sacrifice as violence. Hedley's book challenges both of these highly influential theories and presents a theory of sacrifice as renunciation of the will. His guiding influences in this are the much misunderstood Joseph de Maistre and the Cambridge Platonists.

Monday, November 14, 2011

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    Lives on the Left: Interviews with New Left Review by Francis Mulhern
    Four generations of intellectuals discuss their political histories and present perspectives, and the specialized work for which they are, often, best known. These recollections span the one hundred years from the eve of the Great War to the present, ranging across Europe East and West, the Americas, Africa and Asia. Psychoanalysis, philosophy, the gendering of private and public life, capital and class formation, the novel past and future, geography, and the theory and philosophy of language are among the associated areas of intellectual exchange. At the heart of the collection, in all its diversity of testimony and interpretation, reflection and affirmation, is a critical experience of communism and the tradition of Marx. The extended critical interview is perhaps uniquely flexible as a form, by turns tenacious and glancing, elliptical or sustained, combining argument and counter-argument, reflection, history and memoir with a freedom usually denied to its subjects in conventional articles and books. This volume brings together fifteen such interviews from New Left Review to illuminate the record of intellectual engagement on the Left in the twentieth century and since. Lives on the Left brings the voices of the intellectual left to a new generation of readers. Included here are Georg Lukacs, Hedda Korsch, Jean-Paul Sartre, Dorothy Thompson, Ernest Mandel, Luciana Castellina, Noam Chomsky, David Harvey, Joao Pedro Stedile, Wang Hui, Giovanni Arrighi and others.

Monday, November 07, 2011

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    Continental Divide by Peter E. Gordon
    In the spring of 1929, Martin Heidegger and Ernst Cassirer met for a public conversation in Davos, Switzerland. They were arguably the most important thinkers in Europe, and their exchange touched upon the most urgent questions in the history of philosophy: What is human finitude? What is objectivity? What is culture? What is truth? Over the last eighty years the Davos encounter has acquired an allegorical significance, as if it marked an ultimate and irreparable rupture in twentieth-century Continental thought. Here, in a reconstruction at once historical and philosophical, Peter Gordon re-examines the conversation, its origins and its aftermath, resuscitating an event that has become entombed in its own mythology. Through a close and painstaking analysis, Gordon dissects the exchange itself to reveal that it was at core a philosophical disagreement over what it means to be human. But Gordon also shows how the life and work of these two philosophers remained closely intertwined. Their disagreement can be understood only if we appreciate their common point of departure as thinkers of the German interwar crisis, an era of rebellion that touched all of the major philosophical movements of the day - life-philosophy, philosophical anthropology, neo-Kantianism, phenomenology, and existentialism. As Gordon explains, the Davos debate would continue to both inspire and provoke well after the two men had gone their separate ways. It remains, even today, a touchstone of philosophical memory. This clear, riveting book will be of great interest not only to philosophers and to historians of philosophy but also to anyone interested in the great intellectual ferment of Europe's interwar years.

Monday, October 31, 2011

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    Nine Lives of William Shakespeare by Graham Holderness
    Who was Shakespeare and how did he live? Combining fact, tradition and imagination, Shakespeare's many lives are told in 9 possible ways. We know relatively little about Shakespeare's life, and yet it continues to fascinate us. This new biography of Shakespeare identifies and expounds the many possible 'lives' that can reasonably be drawn around the basic facts, traditions and literary remains of his legacy. Graham Holderness takes a hard and fresh look at the facts, the traditions, and the possible relations between a life and the works that life created. He offers nine possible short 'lives' of Shakespeare, each based on specific facts and traditions, drawn from the documentary record and from biographical interpretation and each supported by a body of critical and biographical work. Each section includes a critical essay detailing the biographical facts and showing how they have been interpreted, paired with a fictional narrative based on those facts. The fictional narratives use various styles, short stories, bogus historical documents, magic-realist fables. Each engages with the key facts, traditions and interpretative consensus, and creates an imaginary space in which the dry bones of historical record can be made to live.

Monday, October 17, 2011

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    Christian Materiality: An Essay on Religion in Late Medieval Europe by Caroline Walker Bynum
    In the period between 1150 and 1550, an increasing number of Christians in western Europe made pilgrimage to places where material objects – among them paintings, statues, relics, pieces of wood, earth, stones, and Eucharistic wafers – allegedly erupted into life by such activities as bleeding, weeping, and walking about. Challenging Christians both to seek ever more frequent encounter with miraculous matter and to turn to an inward piety that rejected material objects of devotion, such phenomena were by the fifteenth century at the heart of religious practice and polemic. In Christian Materiality, Caroline Walker Bynum describes the miracles themselves, discusses the problems they presented for both church authorities and the ordinary faithful, and probes the basic scientific and religious assumptions about matter that lay behind them. She also analyzes the proliferation of religious art in the later Middle Ages and argues that it called attention to its materiality in sophisticated ways that explain both the animation of images and the hostility to them on the part of iconoclasts. Seeing the Christian culture of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as a paradoxical affirmation of the glory and the threat of the natural world, Bynum's study suggests a new understanding of the background to the sixteenth-century reformations, both Protestant and Catholic. Moving beyond cultural study of "the body" – a field she helped to establish – Bynum argues that Western attitudes toward body and person must be placed in the context of changing conceptions of matter itself. Her study has broad theoretical implications, suggesting a new approach to the study of material culture and religious practice.

Monday, October 10, 2011

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    An Atheism That is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought by Stefanos Geroulanos
    French philosophy changed dramatically in the second quarter of the twentieth century. In the wake of World War I and, later, the Nazi and Soviet disasters, major philosophers such as Kojève, Levinas, Heidegger, Koyré, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Hyppolite argued that man could no longer fill the void left by the "death of God" without also calling up the worst in human history and denigrating the dignity of the human subject. In response, they contributed to a new belief that man should no longer be viewed as the basis for existence, thought, and ethics; rather, human nature became dependent on other concepts and structures, including Being, language, thought, and culture. This argument, which was to be paramount for existentialism and structuralism, came to dominate postwar thought. This intellectual history of these developments argues that at their heart lay a new atheism that rejected humanism as insufficient and ultimately violent.

Monday, October 03, 2011

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    Alfred Jarry: A Pataphysical Life by Alastair Brotchie
    When Alfred Jarry died in 1907 at the age of thirty-four, he was a legendary figure in Paris, but this had more to do with his bohemian lifestyle and scandalous behavior than his literary achievements. A century later, Jarry is firmly established as one of the leading figures of the artistic avant-garde. Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Gilles Deleuze, Jean Baudrillard, Philip K. Dick, Paul McCartney, DJ Spooky, Peter Greenaway, and J.G. Ballard are among his many admirers. A community of scholars and artists maintain a posthumous dialogue with Jarry's ideas through the College de 'Pataphysique in Paris (named after the "science of imaginary solutions" he conceived), while a steady stream of books on twentieth-century drama pay tribute to his absurd and grotesque play, Ubu Roi. Even so, most people today tend to think of Jarry only as the author of that play, and of his life as a string of outlandish "ubuesque" anecdotes, often recounted with wild inaccuracy. In this first full-length critical biography of Jarry in English, Alastair Brotchie reconstructs the life of a man intent on inventing (and destroying) himself, not to mention his world, and the "philosophy" that defined their relation. In short, Brotchie gives us the narrative version of what Jarry himself produced – a pataphysical life. Drawing on a wealth of new material, Brotchie alternates chapters of biographical narrative with chapters that connect themes, obsessions, and undercurrents that relate to the life. The anecdotes remain, and are even augmented: Jarry's assumption of the "ubuesque," his inversions of everyday behavior (such as eating backwards, from cheese to soup), his exploits with gun and bicycle, and his herculean feats of drinking. But Brotchie distinguishes between Jarry's purposely playing the fool and deeper nonconformities that appear essential to his writing and his thought, both of which remain a vital subterranean influence to this day.

Monday, September 26, 2011

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    A Theology of Love by Werner G. Jeanrond
    This book explores the different dimensions of Christian love. It argues that all expressions of love are wrestling with the challenge of otherness and hence with the experience of transcendence. The development of Christian concepts of love is discussed with particular reference to the different horizons and the variety of approaches to love in the Bible, Augustine, medieval theology, Protestant agapetheology, Catholic approaches to desire, and contemporary philosophy and sociology. The discussion of the rich and often problematic heritage of expressions of personal, communal and religious love enables this study to develop a critical and constructive theology of Christian love for our time. This book demonstrates the diversity in the Christian tradition of love and thus offers a critical perspective on previous and present impositions of homogenous concepts of love. The book invites the reader to an in-depth examination of the potential of Christian love and its particular institutions for the development of personal and communal forms of Christian discipleship. The traditional separation between agape love and eroticism is overcome in favour of an integrated model of love that acknowledges both God's gift of love and the potential of every woman, man and child to contribute to the transformative praxis of love in church and society.

Monday, September 19, 2011

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    Reading and Responsibility: Deconstruction's Traces by Derek Attridge
    What is the importance of deconstruction, and the writing of Jacques Derrida in particular, for literary criticism today? Derek Attridge argues that the challenge of Derrida's work for our understanding of literature and its value has still not been fully met, and in this book, which traces a close engagement with Derrida's writing over two decades and reflects an interest in that work going back a further two decades, shows how that work can illuminate a variety of topics. Chapters include an overview of deconstruction as a critical practice today, discussions of the secret, postcolonialism, ethics, literary criticism, jargon, fiction, and photography, and responses to the theoretical writing of Emmanuel Levinas, Roland Barthes, and J. Hillis Miller. Also included is a discussion of the recent reading of Derrida's philosophy as 'radical atheism', and the book ends with a conversation on deconstruction and place with the theorist and critic Jean-Michel Rabate. Running throughout is a concern with the question of responsibility, as exemplified in Derrida's own readings of literary and philosophical texts: responsibility to the work being read, responsibility to the protocols of rational argument, and responsibility to the reader.

Monday, September 12, 2011

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    Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class by Owen Jones
    In modern Britain, the working class has become an object of fear and ridicule. From Little Britain's Vicky Pollard to the demonization of Jade Goody, media and politicians alike dismiss as feckless, criminalized and ignorant a vast, underprivileged swathe of society whose members have become stereotyped by one, hate-filled word: chavs. In this groundbreaking investigation, Owen Jones explores how the working class has gone "from salt of the earth to scum of the earth." Exposing the ignorance and prejudice at the heart of the chav caricature, one based on the media's inexhaustible obsession with an indigent white underclass, he portrays a far more complex reality. Moving through Westminster's lobbies and working-class communities from Dagenham to Dewsbury Moor, Jones reveals the increasing poverty and desperation of communities made precarious by wrenching social and industrial change, and all but abandoned by the aspirational, society-fragmenting policies of Thatcherism and New Labour. The chav stereotype, he argues, is used by governments as a convenient figleaf to avoid genuine engagement with social and economic problems, and to justify widening inequality. Based on a wealth of original research, and wide-ranging interviews with media figures, political opinion-formers and workers, Chavs is a damning indictment of the media and political establishment, and an illuminating, disturbing portrait of inequality and class hatred in modern Britain.

Monday, August 22, 2011

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    The Beach Beneath the Street by McKenzie Wark
    Over fifty years after the Situationist International appeared, they continue to influence activists, artists and theorists. From the Invisible Committee's bestselling The Coming Insurrection to Iain Sinclair's psychogeographic explorations, their work is still found to be rich with possibilities, yet its breadth and diversity is still unexplored. In the first account since Greil Marcus's Lipstick Traces (1989), McKenzie Wark traces the Situationist International's beginnings in 1950s bohemian Paris up to the explosive days of May 1968. This account puts the legendary figure of Guy Debord back into the context of the other fascinating figures who made up the movement, including Constant, Asger Jorn, Michele Bernstein and Jacqueline De Jong. It treats them as an international movement of conflicting passions rather than as a Paris coterie. Accessible to those who have only just discovered the Situationists and filled with new insights, Wark reconnects their work to new practices in communication, built form, and everyday life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

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    Works of Love by Soren Kierkegaard
    The various kinds and conditions of love are a common theme for Kierkegaard, beginning with his early Either/Or, through The Diary of the Seducer and Judge William's eulogy on married love, to his last work, on the changelessness of God's love. Works of Love, the midpoint in the series, is also the monumental high point, because of its penetrating, illuminating analysis of the forms and sources of love. Love as feeling and mood is distinguished from works of love, love of the lovable from love of the unlovely, preferential love from love as the royal law, love as mutual egotism from triangular love, and erotic love from self-giving love. This work is marked by Kierkegaard's Socratic awareness of the reader, both as the center of awakened understanding and as the initiator of action. Written to be read aloud, the book conveys a keenness of thought and an insightful, poetic imagination that make such an attentive approach richly rewarding. "Works of Love" not only serves as an excellent place to begin exploring the writings of Kierkegaard, but also rewards many rereadings.

Monday, August 08, 2011

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    Spinoza Now by Christopher Norris
    What does it mean to think about, and with, Spinoza today? This collection, the first broadly interdisciplinary volume dealing with Spinozan thought, asserts the importance of Spinoza’s philosophy of immanence for contemporary cultural and philosophical debates. Engaging with Spinoza’s insistence on the centrality of the passions as the site of the creative and productive forces shaping society, this collection critiques the impulse to transcendence and regimes of mastery, exposing universal values as illusory. Spinoza Now pursues Spinoza’s challenge to abandon the temptation to think through the prism of death in order to arrive at a truly liberatory notion of freedom. In this bold endeavor, the essays gathered here extend the Spinozan project beyond the disciplinary boundaries of philosophy to encompass all forms of life-affirming activity, including the arts and literature. The essays, taken together, suggest that Spinoza now is not so much a statement about a “truth” that Spinoza’s writings can reveal to us in our present situation. It is, rather, the injunction to adhere to the attitude that affirms both necessity and impossibility.

Monday, August 01, 2011

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    Playing Gods: Ovid's Metamorphoses and the Politics of Fiction by Andrew Feldherr
    This book offers a novel interpretation of politics and identity in Ovid's epic poem of transformations, The Metamorphoses. Reexamining the emphatically fictional character of the poem, Playing Gods argues that Ovid uses the problem of fiction in the text to redefine the power of poetry in Augustan Rome. The book also provides the fullest account yet of how the poem relates to the range of cultural phenomena that defined and projected Augustan authority, including spectacle, theater, and the visual arts. Andrew Feldherr argues that a key to the political as well as literary power of The Metamorphoses is the way it manipulates its readers' awareness that its stories cannot possibly be true. By continually juxtaposing the imaginary and the real, Ovid shows how a poem made up of fictions can and cannot acquire the authority and presence of other discursive forms. One important way that the poem does this is through narratives that create a 'double vision' by casting characters as both mythical figures and enduring presences in the physical landscapes of its readers. This narrative device creates the kind of tensions between identification and distance that Augustan Romans would have felt when experiencing imperial spectacle and other contemporary cultural forms.

Monday, July 25, 2011

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    Heidegger, Art, and Postmodernity by Iain D. Thomson
    Heidegger, Art, and Postmodernity offers a radical new interpretation of Heidegger's later philosophy, developing his argument that art can help lead humanity beyond the nihilistic ontotheology of the modern age. Providing pathbreaking readings of Heidegger's The Origin of the Work of Art and his notoriously difficult Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning), this book explains precisely what postmodernity meant for Heidegger, the greatest philosophical critic of modernity, and what it could still mean for us today. Exploring these issues, Iain D. Thomson examines several postmodern works of art, including music, literature, painting and even comic books, from a post-Heideggerian perspective. Clearly written and accessible, this book will help readers gain a deeper understanding of Heidegger and his relation to postmodern theory, popular culture and art.

Monday, July 18, 2011

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    Negative Theology and Modern French Philosophy by Arthur Bradley
    This book provides a significant and insightful exploration of the so-called 'theological turn' in contemporary French thought. The philosopher Jacques Derrida speaks of a deeply ambiguous desire to 'save the name' of God in his work on negative theology, and this desire resonates in different ways in the work of his contemporaries. This turn to religion within the work of a group of thinkers who have been stereotypically identified as relativists or nihilists prompts a series of questions which form the background to this study. Negative Theology and Modern French Philosophy advance a reading of negative theology as an ancient name for something that is essential, not simply to modern French thought, but to all responsible thought and action whatsoever. It will be of essential interest to theologians and philosophers and will also interest those concerned with the work of Derrida and his contemporaries.

Monday, July 11, 2011

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    Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution by Rebecca Comay
    This book explores Hegel's response to the French Revolutionary Terror and its impact on Germany. Like many of his contemporaries, Hegel was struck by the seeming parallel between the political upheaval in France and the upheaval in German philosophy inaugurated by the Protestant Reformation and brought to a climax by German Idealism. Many thinkers reasoned that a political revolution would be unnecessary in Germany, because this intellectual "revolution" had preempted it. Having already been through its own cataclysm, Germany would be able to extract the energy of the Revolution and channel its radicalism into thought. Hegel comes close to making such an argument too. But he also offers a powerful analysis of how this kind of secondhand history gets generated in the first place, and shows what is stake. This is what makes him uniquely interesting among his contemporaries: he demonstrates how a fantasy can be simultaneously deconstructed and enjoyed. Mourning Sickness provides a new reading of Hegel in the light of contemporary theories of historical trauma. It explores the ways in which major historical events are experienced vicariously, and the fantasies we use to make sense of them. Comay brings Hegel into relation with the most burning contemporary discussions around catastrophe, witness, memory, and the role of culture in shaping political experience.

Monday, July 04, 2011

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    The Messianic Now: Philosophy, Religion, Culture by Arthur Bradley
    This collection explores the phenomenon of the messianic in contemporary philosophy, religion and culture. From the later Derrida's work on Marx and Benjamin to Agamben and Badiou's recent texts on St Paul, it is becoming possible to detect a marked 'messianic turn' in contemporary continental thought. However, despite the plethora of work in the field there has not been any sustained attempt to think through the larger philosophical, theological and cultural implications of this phenomenon. What, then, characterises our contemporary messianic moment? Where does it come from? And why speak of the messianic now? In The Messianic Now: Philosophy, Religion, Culture, a group of internationally-known figures and rising stars within the fields of continental philosophy, religious studies and cultural studies come together to consider what the messianic might mean at the beginning of the 21st century. (This book was published as a special issue of the Journal of Cultural Research.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

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    The Straw Sandals by Pierre-Albert Jourdan
    Jourdan wrote down notes, thoughts, observations and diary entries so sensitively as to remove the distinctions between prose, poetry and aphorism. This is a book of quiet meditation, marvel at the beauties of nature and keen awareness of the fleeting moments of life.

Monday, June 20, 2011

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    Darwin's Pious Idea by Conor Cunningham
    According to British scholar Conor Cunningham, the debate today between religion and evolution has been hijacked by extremists: on one side stand fundamentalist believers who reject evolution outright, and opposing them are fundamentalist atheists who claim that Darwin's theory rules out the possibility of God. Both sides are dead wrong, argues Cunningham, who is at once a Christian and a firm believer in the theory of evolution. In Darwin's Pious Idea Cunningham puts forth a trenchant, compelling case for both creation and evolution, drawing skillfully on an array of philosophical, theological, historical, and scientific sources to buttress his arguments. Rowan Williams wrote: "Here is someone who is not afraid to immerse himself in the literature of scientific controversy, to raise some of the essential philosophical questions that both scientists and theologians often shirk, and to carry the battle behind the opponents' lines... This is certainly the most interesting and invigorating book on the science-religion frontier that I have encountered... there is no denying either the intellectual depth or the abundant, infectious energy that Conor Cunningham brings to his work."

Monday, June 13, 2011

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    The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism by Levi Bryant
    What will happen to the tradition formerly known as continental philosophy? This exciting new anthology sketches an answer by bringing together the most prominent established and emerging authors in the field, all of them taking a more speculative turn than was found in the textually oriented continental philosophies of the past. The diverse positions outlined in this book include such old and new approaches as transcendental materialism, speculative realism, actor-network theory, object-oriented philosophy, non-philosophy, cosmopolitics, eliminative materialism, and even new-wave deconstruction. The book also has a highly international flavour, with its 19 authors hailing from 12 different countries on 5 continents.

Monday, May 30, 2011

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    The Messianic Reduction: Walter Benjamin and the Shape of Time by Peter Fenves
    The Messianic Reduction is a groundbreaking study of Walter Benjamin's thought. Peter Fenves places Benjamin's early writings in the context of contemporaneous philosophy, with particular attention to the work of Bergson, Cohen, Husserl, Frege, and Heidegger. By concentrating on a neglected dimension of Benjamin's friendship with Gershom Scholem, who was a student of mathematics before he became a scholar of Jewish mysticism, Fenves shows how mathematical research informs Benjamin's reflections on the problem of historical time. In order to capture the character of Benjamin's "entrance" into the phenomenological school, the book includes a thorough analysis of two early texts he wrote under the title of The Rainbow, translated here for the first time. In its final chapters, the book works out Benjamin's deep and abiding engagement with Kantian critique, including Benjamin's discovery of the political counterpart to the categorical imperative in the idea of "pure violence."

Monday, May 16, 2011

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    The Problem with Grace by Vincent W. Lloyd
    This book develops a post-secular, post-sectarian political theology, taking that burgeoning field in a new direction. With his bold suggestion that political philosophy must begin with political theology, Vincent Lloyd investigates a series of religious concepts such as love, faith, liturgy, and revelation and explores their political relevance by extracting them from their Christian theological context while refusing to reduce them to secular terms. He assembles an unusual canon of thinkers "too Jewish to be Christian and too Christian to be Jewish" — Simone Weil, James Baldwin, Franz Kafka, and Gillian Rose — to aid him in his explorations. Unique in its serious attention to both theological writing about politics and the work of academic philosophers and theorists, The Problem with Grace deepens our understanding of political theological vocabulary as a way back to the everyday world. Politics is not about redemption, but about grappling with the ever-present difficulties, tragedies, and comedies of ordinary life.

Monday, May 09, 2011

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    Samuel Beckett's German Diaries 1936-1937 by Mark Nixon
    This book sheds new light on the development of crucial aspects of Beckett's post-war writing by drawing on exclusive access to his unpublished German diaries. Six diary notebooks kept by Samuel Beckett during his 1936-7 trip through Nazi Germany were discovered in 1989. Samuel Beckett's German Diaries 1936-1937 is the first study to explore the relevance of these diaries to Beckett's development as a writer. Using the diaries as the central point of focus, Nixon draws on unpublished manuscripts, notebooks, correspondence, reading notes from the 1930s to reflect on both Beckett's creative evolution prior to 1936 and the direction his writing took after his return to Dublin in April 1937. As well as gaining an insight into Beckett's reading of classical German literature, Nixon shows how the pared-down style of writing, the self-examination and the importance of the visual arts that govern Beckett's post-war works traces back to the pages of these notebooks. By illuminating how Beckett's writing and aesthetics underwent a far-reaching change during the 1930s, Nixon's study is crucial to our understanding of the emergence of Beckett as a radical writer in the post-war years.

Monday, May 02, 2011

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    Samuel Beckett and the Primacy of Love by John Keller
    This study presents a comprehensive and original argument about the fundamental literary value and the underlying psychological meaning of Beckett's work. John Keller explores Beckett's work, not only for its importance on a personal, human level for many readers, but its place in elaborating the origins of human emotional life, and of creative fiction. He explores the central place of the emotional world in Beckett's writing, which he argues is primarily about love. Keller believes that Beckettian texts embody a struggle to remain in contact with a primal sense of internal goodness founded on early experience with the mother. He suggests that Beckett's greatest achievement as an artist was to document a universal struggle that allows for the birth of mind, and to connect this struggle to the origin, and possibility of the creative act.

Monday, April 25, 2011

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    Hegel and the Infinite: Religion, Politics, and Dialectic by Slavoj Žižek
    Catherine Malabou, Antonio Negri, John D. Caputo, Bruno Bosteels, Mark C. Taylor, and Slavoj Žižek join seven others – including William Desmond, Katrin Pahl, Adrian Johnston, Edith Wyschogrod, and Thomas A. Lewis – to apply Hegel's thought to twenty-first-century philosophy, politics, and religion. Doing away with claims that the evolution of thought and history is at an end, these thinkers safeguard Hegel's innovations against irrelevance and, importantly, reset the distinction of secular and sacred.These original contributions focus on Hegelian analysis and the transformative value of the philosopher's thought in relation to our current "turn to religion." Malabou develops Hegel's motif of confession in relation to forgiveness; Negri writes of Hegel's philosophy of right; Caputo reaffirms the radical theology made possible by Hegel; and Bosteels critiques fashionable readings of the philosopher and argues against the reducibility of his dialectic. Taylor reclaims Hegel's absolute as a process of infinite restlessness, and eiuek revisits the religious implications of Hegel's concept of letting go. Mirroring the philosopher's own trajectory, these essays progress dialectically through politics, theology, art, literature, philosophy, and science, traversing cutting-edge theoretical discourse and illuminating the ways in which Hegel inhabits them.

Monday, April 18, 2011

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    Modernism as a Philosophical Problem by Robert B. Pippin
    Modernism as a Philosophical Problem: On the Dissatisfactions of European High Culture presents an interpretation of the negative and critical self-understanding characteristic of culture since romanticism and especially since Nietzsche, and answers the question of why the issue of modernity became a philosophical problem in European tradition.Pippin defends an original re-narration of the development of modern philosophy, substantially different from that common in orthodox, postmodernist and critical theory discussions, and one much more sensitive to the radicality of the most complete expression and defense of a modernist self-understanding - the classical German Idealist tradition, especially the position defended by Hegel. This interpretation is the basis for the claim that no paradigm shift, ideology critique, or new way of thinking can dispense with or overcome such modernist aspirations. In fact, the author argues, one can still detect the persistence of such aspirations and commitments in some of the harshest modernity critics, in Nietzsche and in Heidegger especially.

Monday, April 11, 2011

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    The Anatomy of Influence by Harold Bloom
    'Literary criticism, as I attempt to practice it', writes Harold Bloom in The Anatomy of Influence, 'is in the first place literary, that is to say, personal and passionate'. For more than half a century, Bloom has shared his profound knowledge of the written word with students and readers. In this, his most comprehensive and accessible study of influence, Bloom leads us through the labyrinthine paths which link the writers and critics who have informed and inspired him for so many years. The result is 'a critical self-portrait', a sustained meditation on a life lived with and through the great works of the Western canon: Why has influence been my lifelong obsessive concern? Why have certain writers found me and not others? What is the end of a literary life? Featuring extended analyses of Bloom's most cherished poets - Shakespeare, Whitman, and Crane - as well as inspired appreciations of Emerson, Tennyson, Browning, yeats, Ashbery, and others, The Anatomy of Influence adapts Bloom's classic work The Anxiety of Influence to show us what great literature is, how it comes to be, and why it matters.

Monday, April 04, 2011

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    Thinking on Thresholds: The Poetics of Transitive Spaces by Subha Mukherji
    Why does the position of the threshold exert such a compelling hold on our imaginative lives? Why is it a resonant space, and so urgently the place of writing – the place where one may remain, avoid speaking or naming, yet speak from? Through a combination of case studies and theoretical investigations, this book addresses these questions and speaks to the imaginative power of the threshold as a productive space in literature and art. The first volume to draw together a significant range of the applications of the ‘threshold’, the book is located naturally on the threshold between disciplines, and alive to the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of education and scholarship. But its particular intervention is mainly literary, whether through an address of literary narratives, or through the use of literary critical analysis, or indeed through acts of criticism that become creative acts. Of this line of enquiry, Thinking on Thresholds is a pioneering volume. Its broader remit is to examine the functions of transitive spaces in poetic language and mimesis. This includes ways in which narrative and mimetic art address the material and imaginative realities of such spaces; how they are drawn to threshold experience in life, society, and historical practice; and the affinity between the artistic process and the spatial idea of the threshold.

Monday, March 28, 2011

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    Democracy in What State? by Giorgio Agamben
    "Is it meaningful to call oneself a democrat? And if so, how do you interpret the word?" In responding to this question, eight iconoclastic thinkers prove the rich potential of democracy, along with its critical weaknesses, and reconceive the practice to accommodate new political and cultural realities. Giorgio Agamben traces the tense history of constitutions and their coexistence with various governments. Alain Badiou contrasts current democratic practice with democratic communism. Daniel Bensaïd ponders the institutionalization of democracy, while Wendy Brown discusses the democratization of society under neoliberalism. Jean-Luc Nancy measures the difference between democracy as a form of rule and as a human end, and Jacques Ranciere highlights its egalitarian nature. Kristin Ross identifies hierarchical relationships within democratic practice, and Slavoj Zizek complicates the distinction between those who desire to own the state and those who wish to do without it. Concentrating on the classical roots of democracy and its changing meaning over time and within different contexts, these essays uniquely defend what is left of the left-wing tradition after the fall of Soviet communism. They confront disincentives to active democratic participation that have caused voter turnout to decline in western countries, and they address electoral indifference by invoking and reviving the tradition of citizen involvement.

Monday, March 21, 2011

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    Spurious by Lars Iyer
    In a raucous debut that summons up Britain's fabled Goon Show comedies, writer and philosopher Lars Iyer tells the story of someone very like himself with a 'slightly more successful' friend and their journeys in search of more palatable literary conferences where they serve better gin. Another reason for their journeys: the narrator's home is slowly being taken over by a fungus that no-one seems to know what to do about. Before it completely swallows his house, the narrator feels compelled to solve some major philosophical questions (such as 'Why?') and the meaning of his urge to write, as well as the source of the fungus... before it is too late. Or, he has to move.

Monday, March 14, 2011

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    Augustine's "Confessions": A Biography by Garry Wills
    In this brief and incisive book, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills tells the story of the Confessions - what motivated Augustine to dictate it, how it asks to be read, and the many ways it has been misread in the one-and-a-half millennia since it was composed. Following Wills' biography of Augustine and his translation of the Confessions, this is an unparalleled introduction to one of the most important books in the Christian and Western traditions. Understandably fascinated by the story of Augustine's life, modern readers have largely succumbed to the temptation to read the Confessions as autobiography. But, Wills argues, this is a mistake. The book is not autobiography but rather a long prayer, suffused with the language of Scripture and addressed to God, not man. Augustine tells the story of his life not for its own significance but in order to discern how, as a drama of sin and salvation leading to God, it fits into sacred history. 'We have to read Augustine as we do Dante', Wills writes, 'alert to rich layer upon layer of Scriptural and theological symbolism'. Wills also addresses the long afterlife of the book, from controversy in its own time and relative neglect during the Middle Ages to a renewed prominence beginning in the fourteenth century and persisting to today, when the Confessions has become an object of interest not just for Christians but also historians, philosophers, psychiatrists, and literary critics. With unmatched clarity and skill, Wills strips away the centuries of misunderstanding that have accumulated around Augustine's spiritual classic.

Monday, March 07, 2011

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    Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Letters and Papers from Prison": A Biography by Martin E Marty
    For fascination, influence, inspiration, and controversy, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison is unmatched by any other book of Christian reflection written in the twentieth century. A Lutheran pastor and theologian, Bonhoeffer spent two years in Nazi prisons before being executed at age thirty-nine, just a month before the German surrender, for his role in the plot to kill Hitler. The posthumous Letters and Papers from Prison has had a tremendous impact on both Christian and secular thought since it was first published in 1951, and has helped establish Bonhoeffer's reputation as one of the most important Protestant thinkers of the twentieth century. In this, the first history of the book's remarkable global career, Martin Marty tells how and why Letters and Papers from Prison has been read and used in such dramatically different ways, from the cold war to today. In his late letters, Bonhoeffer raised tantalizing questions about the role of Christianity and the church in an increasingly secular world. Marty tells the story of how, in the 1960s and the following decades, these provocative ideas stirred a wide range of thinkers and activists, including civil rights and antiapartheid campaigners, 'death-of-God' theologians, and East German Marxists. In the process of tracing the eventful and contested history of Bonhoeffer's book, Marty provides a compelling new perspective on religious and secular life in the postwar era.

Monday, March 07, 2011

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    Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? by Jean Baudrillard
    'Behind every image, something has disappeared. And that is the source of its fascination,' writes French theorist Jean Baudrillard in Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? In this, one of the last texts written before his death in 2007, Baudrillard meditates poignantly on the question of disappearance. Throughout, he weaves an intricate set of variations on his theme, ranging from the potential disappearance of humanity as a result of the fulfillment of its goal of world mastery to the vanishing of reality due to the continual transmutation of the real into the virtual. Along the way, he takes in the more conventional question of the philosophical 'subject,' whose disappearance has, in his view, been caused by a 'pulverization of consciousness into all the interstices of reality'. Interspersed throughout the text are photographs by Alain Willaume that help illustrate Baudrillard's argument. Baudrillard insists that with disappearance, strange things happen - some things that were eliminated or repressed may return in destructive viral forms - yet at the same time, he reminds us that disappearance has a positive aspect, as a 'vital dimension' of the existence of things.

Monday, February 21, 2011

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    When Miss Emmie Was in Russia by Harvey Pitcher
    A Russian Upstairs, Downstairs, but one scented with the cordite and fear of revolution, and with a cast of devotedly loyal and capable British governesses. Miss Emmie is an intimate and revealing portrait of pre-Revolutionary Russian society which, contrary to received wisdoms, reveals a complex, liberal and humane society, full of enormous potential and past achievement. It is also the biography of five intrepid women who, by travelling abroad and working as governesses in Russia, achieved an intellectual dignity, a purpose and an authority which was denied them in their homeland. The extraordinary personal adventures of these women, as they negotiate the turmoil and terrifying anarchy of Revolution and Civil War, turns the book into a page-turning thriller.

Monday, February 21, 2011

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    The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir
    'One is not born, but rather becomes, woman'. First published in Paris in 1949, "The Second Sex" by Simone de Beavoir was a groundbreaking, risque book that became a runaway success. Selling 20,000 copies in its first week, the book earned its author both notoriety and admiration. Since then, The Second Sex has been translated into forty languages and has become a landmark in the history of feminism. Required reading for anyone who believes in the equality of the sexes, the central messages of The Second Sex are as important today as they were for the housewives of the forties.

Monday, January 24, 2011

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    My Teaching by Jacques Lacan
    Bringing together three previously unpublished lectures presented to the public by Lacan at the height of his career, My Teaching is a clear, concise introduction to the thought of the influential psychoanalyst. Drawing on examples from popular culture and common sense, this lively book explores a range of Lacan's most important ideas, including his debt to Freud, linguistic unconsciousness and sexuality in its relation to psychoanalytic truth.

Monday, January 24, 2011

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    The Futurism of the Instant: Stop-Eject by Paul Virilio
    With around 645 million people expected to be displaced – by wars and other catastrophes – by 2050, Virilio begins The Futurism of the Instant by looking at the future of human settlement and migration through the evolution of the city. What he finds is an accelerating exodus from the city as we have known it, an exodus that reverses the desertion of the countryside for the city in the past. This exodus creates a circulating city of transients on the move that will remove us further and further from our native lands en route to the ultimate exile, beyond planet Earth itself – something the world's mad scientists have already been planning for some time. Exploring the shifts in scale involved in such population flows and the fraught and complex relationship between sedentary settlement and globalization, Virilio considers what the resultant loss of identity might mean, not only in terms of the exhaustion of biodiversity, but also in terms of the catastrophic elimination of temporal diversity, with the compression and fragmentation of time enabled by the nanotechnologies in an ever increasing acceleration of reality. This previously unimaginable prospect is brought closer by the accident of an instant that wipes out all distinction between past, present and future within the black hole of globalized interconnectivity.

Monday, January 17, 2011

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    Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive by Jodi Dean
    Blog Theory offers a critical theory of contemporary media. Furthering her account of communicative capitalism, Jodi Dean explores the ways new media practices like blogging and texting capture their users in intensive networks of enjoyment, production, and surveillance. Her wide-ranging and theoretically rich analysis extends from her personal experiences as a blogger, through media histories, to newly emerging social network platforms and applications. Set against the background of the economic crisis wrought by neoliberalism, the book engages with recent work in contemporary media theory as well as with thinkers such as Giorgio Agamben, Jean Baudrillard, Guy Debord, Jacques Lacan, and Slavoj Žižek. Through these engagements, Dean defends the provocative thesis that reflexivity in complex networks is best understood via the psychoanalytic notion of the drives. She contends, moreover, that reading networks in terms of the drives enables us to grasp their real, human dimension, that is, the feelings and affects that embed us in the system. In remarkably clear and lucid prose, Dean links seemingly trivial and transitory updates from the new mass culture of the internet to more fundamental changes in subjectivity and politics. Everyday communicative exchanges – from blog posts to text messages – have widespread effects, effects that not only undermine capacities for democracy but also entrap us in circuits of domination.

Monday, January 10, 2011

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    The Unofficial Countryside by Richard Mabey
    During the early 1970s Richard Mabey explored crumbling city docks and overgrown bomb-sites, navigated inner city canals and car parks, and discovered there was scarcely a nook in our urban landscape incapable of supporting life. The Unofficial Countryside is a timely reminder of how nature flourishes against the odds, surviving in the most obscure and surprising places.

Monday, January 10, 2011

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    The Passages of Herman Melville by Jay Parini
    'Deep, deep, and still deep and deeper must we go, if we would find out the heart of a man...' Herman Melville. In his new novel, Jay Parini recreates the adventure-filled life and ignominious death of Herman Melville. Partly told from the perspective of his wife, Lizzie, the story opens with an aging, angry and drunken Melville wreaking domestic havoc in his unhappy New York home. From there it takes in the full span of a life that produced Moby-Dick and Billy Budd: shipping off to sea on a merchant vessel as an impoverished young aristocrat, a fateful voyage on a whaling ship, desertion in the Marquesas Islands and a sojourn with cannibals, instant fame as a novelist and the disappointments of his twilight years trudging the docks as a Customs Inspector. Along the way Parini navigates the torrid personal relationships and barely suppressed desires that defined Melville's life. He creates a Melville who is at once sympathetic and maddening, in a novel which pays tribute to the great works of the nineteenth century, and delivers a gripping historical drama.

Monday, January 03, 2011

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    Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language by David Crystal
    What do the following have in common? Let there be light - A fly in the ointment - A rod of iron - New wine in old bottles Lick the dust - How are the mighty fallen - Kick against the pricks - Wheels within wheels. They are all in the King James Bible. This astonishing book "has contributed far more to English in the way of idiomatic or quasi-proverbial expressions than any other literary source." So wrote David Crystal in 2004. In Begat he returns to the subject not only to consider how a work published in 1611 could have had such influence on the language, but how it can still do so when few regularly hear the Bible and fewer still hear it in the language of Stuart England. No other version of the Bible however popular (such as the Good News Bible) or imposed upon the church (like the New English Bible) has had anything like the same influence. David Crystal shows how its words and phrases have over the centuries found independent life in the work of poets, playwrights, novelists, politicians, and journalists, and how more recently they have been taken up with enthusiasm by advertisers, Hollywood, and hip-hop. Yet the King James Bible owes much to earlier English versions, notably those by John Wycliffe in in the fourteenth century and William Tyndale in the sixteenth. David Crystal reveals how much that is memorable in the King James Bible stems from its forebears. At the same time he shows how crucial were the revisions made by King James's team of translators and editors. "A person who professes to be a critic in the delicacies of the English language ought to have the Bible at his finger's ends," Lord Macaulay advised Lady Holland in 1831. Begat shows how true that remains. It will be a revelation to all who read it.

Monday, January 03, 2011

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    Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011 by Gordon Campbell
    This is a history of the King James Version of the Bible over the four hundred years from its remote beginnings to the present day. Gordon Campbell, expert in Renaissance literatures, tells the fascinating and complex story of how this translation came to be commissioned, of who the translators were, and of how the translation was accomplished. The story does not end with the printing of that first edition, but introduces the subsequent generations who edited and interacted with the text. The present text of the King James Version differs in thousands of small details from the original edition. Campbell traces the textual history from 1611 to the establishment of the modern text by Oxford University Press in 1769. Attitudes to the King James Version have shifted through time and territory, ranging from adulation to deprecation and attracting the attention of a wide variety of adherents. It is more widely read in America today than in any other country, and its particular history in there is given due attention. Generously illustrated with reproductions taken from early editions, this volume helps to explain the enduring popularity of the King James Version throughout the world today.

Monday, December 27, 2010

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    Introduction to Civil War by Tiqqun
    "Society no longer exists, at least in the sense of a differentiated whole. There is only a tangle of norms and mechanisms through which they hold together the scattered tatters of the global biopolitical fabric, through which they prevent its violent disintegration. Empire is the administrator of this desolation, the supreme manager of a process of listless implosion." The things we used to take for granted have all been vaporized. Politics was one of these things, a Greek invention that condenses around an equation: to hold a position means to take sides, and to take sides means to unleash civil war. Civil war, position, sides – these were all one word in the Greek: stasis. If the history of the modern state in all its forms – absolute, liberal, welfare – has been the continuous attempt to ward off this stasis, the great novelty of contemporary imperial power is its embrace of civil war as a technique of governance and disorder as a means of maintaining control. Where the modern state was founded on the institution of the law and its constellation of divisions, exclusions, and repressions, imperial power has replaced them with a network of norms and apparatuses that conspire in the production of the biopolitical citizens of Empire. In other words: the situation is excellent. Now is not the time to lose courage.

Monday, December 27, 2010

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    Jean Follain: 130 Poems by Jean Follain
    The poetry of Jean Follain (1903-1971) is increasingly seen, by poets and critics in France and by his foreign admirers, as central to French poetry's change of course after Surrealism. The writer Henri Thomas spoke of Follain as a poet qui parle d'autre 'chose', who speaks of things outside himself; he admired his freedom from rhetoric. Follain's short, down-to-earth, subtle poems, many of which set out to preserve the lost rural world of his pre-war Norman childhood, have influenced a new generation of French poets. To anyone who still believes that modern French poetry is abstruse and over-cerebral, Follain's memorable poems are the answer. Christopher Middleton, the distinguished poet and translator, has chosen poems spanning Follain's entire writing life, and has written an illuminating introduction to his elegant translations.

Monday, December 13, 2010

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    Wartime Notebooks and Other Texts by Marguerite Duras
    Marguerite Duras was one the leading intellectuals and novelists of post-war France. She kept four notebooks in a cupboard in her country home in France, but until recently the importance of the material she wrote between 1943 and 1949 was not recognized. These notebooks retrace the formative experiences in Duras' life - her difficult childhood in Indochina; her harrowing wait for her husband's return from concentration camp - and reveal the personal history behind her bestselling novels The Lover and La Douleur. These are intimate documents, chronicling each hope and disappointment with a spontaneity and authenticity that make for an unparalleled sense of closeness with the reader. As an insight into the life and work of a major European writer this is an utterly absorbing volume.

Monday, December 13, 2010

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    The Tables of the Law by Thomas Mann
    The Tables of the Law recounts the early life of Moses, his preparations for leading his people out of Egypt, the exodus itself and the incidents at the oasis Kadesh, and the engraving of the stone tables of the law at Sinai. In Thomas Mann's ironic and telling style, this most dramatic and significant story in the Hebrew Bible takes on a new (and at times, witty) life and meaning. Like Joseph and His Brothers, it represents Mann's art at its best. He who dares to retell the story of the exodus must be bold, but to succeed he must be inspired as well. Here one would say Mann was inspired.

Monday, November 22, 2010

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    Žižek and the Media by Paul A. Taylor
    Slavoj Žižek reaches the parts of the media that other theorists cannot. With sources ranging from Thomas Aquinas to Quentin Tarantino and Desperate Housewives to Dostoyevsky, Žižek mixes high theory with low culture more engagingly than any other thinker alive today. His prolific output includes such media friendly content as a TV series (The Pervert's Guide to Cinema) a documentary movie (Žižek!) and a wealth of YouTube clips. A celebrity academic, he walks the media talk. Žižek and the Media provides a systematic and approachable introduction to the main concepts and themes of Zizek's work, and their particular implications for the study of the media. The book describes the radical nature of Zizek's media politics; uses Žižekian insights to expose the profound intellectual limitations of conventional approaches to the media; explores the psychoanalytical and philosophical roots of Žižek's work; provides the reader with Žižekian tools to uncover the hidden ideologies of everyday media content; and explains the ultimate seriousness that underlies his numerous jokes. As likely to discuss Homer's Springfield as Ithaca, Žižek is shown to be the ideal guide for today's mediascape.

Monday, November 22, 2010

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    The Box by Gunter Grass
    'Once upon a time there was a father who, because he had grown old, called together his sons and daughters - four, five, six, eight in number - and finally convinced them, after long hesitation, to do as he wished. Now they are sitting around a table and begin to talk'. In this delightful sequel to Peeling the Onion, Gunter Grass writes in the voices of his eight children as they record memories of their childhoods, of growing up, of their father, who was always at work on a new book, always at the margins of their lives. Memories contradictory, critical, loving, accusatory - they piece together an intimate picture of this most public of men. To say nothing of Marie, Grass' assistant, a family friend of many years, perhaps even a lover, whose snapshots taken with an old-fashioned Agfa box camera provide the author with ideas for his work. But her images offer much more. They reveal a truth beyond the ordinary detail of life, depict the future, tell what might have been, grant the wishes in visual form of those photographed. The children speculate on the nature of this magic: was the enchanted camera a source of inspiration for their father? Did it represent the power of art itself? Was it the eye of God?

Monday, November 15, 2010

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    Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky
    Judith Schalansky was born in 1980 on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall. The Soviets wouldn't let anyone travel so everything she learnt about the world came from her parents' battered old atlas. An acclaimed novelist and award-winning graphic designer, she has spent years creating this, her own imaginative atlas of the world's loneliest places. These islands are so difficult to reach that until the late 1990s more people had set foot on the moon than on Peter I Island in the Antarctic. On one page are perfect maps, on the other unfold bizarre stories from the history of the islands themselves. Rare animals and strange people abound: from marooned slaves to lonely scientists, lost explorers to confused lighthouse keepers, mutinous sailors to forgotten castaways; a collection of Robinson Crusoes of all kinds. Recently awarded the prize of Germany's most beautiful book, the Atlas of Remote: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will Islands is a intricately designed masterpiece that will delight maplovers everywhere. Judith Schalansky lures us across all the oceans of the world to fifty remote islands - from St Kilda to Easter Island and from Tristan da Cunha to Disappointment Island - and proves that some of the most memorable journeys can be taken by armchair travellers.

Monday, November 15, 2010

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    Tolstoy: A Russian Life by Rosamund Bartlett
    A hundred years ago in November 1910 Count Leo Tolstoy died on a remote Russian railway station, attended by the world’s media, taken ill as he was finally attempting to escape his decadent (as he saw it), aristocratic family life. Tolstoy has been universally recognised as a colossus of world literature whether by his contemporaries or critics. In this exceptional biography Rosamund Bartlett draws extensively on the many fascinating new sources which have been published about Tolstoy since the collapse of Communism to write about one of the most compelling, maddening, brilliant and contrary people who has ever lived. She and we discover a remarkable and long life in one of the most fascinating and turbulent periods of Russian history, straddling the 19th and early 20th centuries. Tolstoy spent that life rebelling – not only against conventional ideas about literature and art but against traditional education and eventually against family life, organised religion and the state.

Monday, November 08, 2010

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    Collected Poems 1956-1987 by John Ashbery
    John Ashbery's Collected Poems 1956-1987 contains the complete text of the poet's first twelve books, from Some Trees" (1956), selected for publication by W.H. Auden, to April Galleons (1987), and including The Vermont Notebook (1975) with the original artwork by Joe Brainard, and Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1976), which won the Pulitzer Prize, together with a selection of more than sixty previously uncollected poems. To read Ashbery's work in sequence is to experience the magnitude of his presence in American poetry over these four decades, as innovator and influence. His poetry, 'an exuberant script for survival' (Marina Warner), 'light-footed and delectably irresponsible' (Alfred Brendel), fascinates with virtuosic complexity and delights with wry humour. A restless explorer of the modern world, alive to language and impression, Ashbery enlarges the possibilities of poetry. With a detailed chronology and notes on the poems, Collected Poems 1956-1987 is an indispensable compilation of the work of one of the essential poets of our time.

Monday, November 08, 2010

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    The Complete Fairy Tales by Charles Perrault
    'Oh grandmama, what great big teeth you have!' Charles Perrault's versions gave classic status to the humble fairy tale, and it is in his telling that the stories of Little Red Riding-Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and the rest have been passed down from the seventeenth century to the present day. Perrault's tales were enjoyed in the salons of Louis XIV as much as they were loved in the nursery, and it is their wit, humour, and lively detail that capture the imagination of adult and child alike. They transmute into vivid fantasies the hidden fears and conflicts by which children are affected: fears of abandonment, or worse, conflicts with siblings and parents, and the trials of growing up. In addition to the familiar stories, this edition also includes the three verse tales - the troubling account of patient Griselda, the comic Three Silly Wishes, and the notorious Donkey-Skin. This new translation by Christopher Betts captures the tone and flavour of Perrault's world, and the delightful spirit of the originals.

Monday, November 01, 2010

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    A Short History of the Jews by Michael Brenner
    A Short History of the Jews is the story of the Jewish people told in a sweeping and powerful historical narrative. Michael Brenner chronicles the Jewish experience from Biblical times to today, tracing what is at heart a drama of migration and change, yet one that is also deeply rooted in tradition. He surveys the latest scholarly perspectives in Jewish history, making this short history the most learned yet broadly accessible book available on the subject. Brenner takes readers from the mythic wanderings of Moses to the unspeakable atrocities of the Holocaust; from the Babylonian exile to the founding of the modern state of Israel; and from the Sephardic communities under medieval Islam to the shtetls of eastern Europe and the Hasidic enclaves of modern-day Brooklyn. This richly illustrated book is full of fascinating and often personal stories of exodus and return, from that told about Abraham, who brought his newfound faith into the land of Canaan, to that of Holocaust survivor Esther Barkai, who lived on a kibbutz established on a German estate seized from the Nazi Julius Streicher as she awaited resettlement in Israel. Brenner traces the major events, developments, and personalities that have shaped Jewish history down through the centuries, and highlights the important contributions Jews have made to the arts, politics, religion, and science.

Monday, November 01, 2010

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    Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi
    Dr. Peirera, an editor at a second-rate Lisbon newspaper, wants nothing to do with European politics. He's happy to translate 19th-century French stories. His closest confidante is a photograph of his late wife. All this changes when he meets Francesco Monteiro Rossi, an oddly charismatic young man. Pereira gives Rossi work, and continues to pay him, even after discovering that he is using the money to recruit for the anti-Franco International Brigade. Pereira Maintains chronicles Pereira's ascent to consciousness, culminating in a devastating and reckless act of rebellion.

Monday, October 25, 2010

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    The Case for Books by Robert Darnton
    Renowned historian Robert Darnton - a pioneering scholar in the history of the book, and a leading voice in the debate about the digital future of books and knowledge - distils his experience and insight. The era of the book as the unrivalled source and vehicle for knowledge is coming to an end. Digitisation makes the physical properties of books disposable; e-book readers and mobile phones render them portable and accessible almost everywhere. Google and Amazon could command near monopolistic positions as sellers and dispensers of digital information relatively unfiltered by the traditional caucus of book experts: editors, proof-readers, and expert retailers. This is the moment when books could both spring free of the limitations of production processes that have constrained them for 500 years and could also shatter into smithereens, shards of scattered knowledge no longer bound and made meaningful by context, cover and care. Robert Darnton is a unique authority, whose work on this subject for more than a decade has helped invent the discipline of the History of the Book. An essayist, expert witness and commentator, he is a leading voice on the significance of the changes that are taking place in the world of books and digitization. As the Librarian at Harvard (the world's most prestigious book collection), he is intellectually responsible for the status and functioning of the world's largest university library. He is the author of many books, monographs and contributions to public knowledge. This timely book assembles the writings Darnton has done on this subject for a range of publications including the New York Review of Books, where he is a regular contributor.

Monday, October 25, 2010

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    How to Stop Living and Start Worrying by Simon Critchley
    The question of how to lead a happy and meaningful life has been at the heart of philosophical debate since time immemorial. Today, however, these questions seem to be addressed not by philosophers but self-help gurus, who frantically champion the individual's quest for self-expression and self-realization; the desire to become authentic. Against these new age sophistries, How to Stop Living and Start Worrying tackles the question of 'how to live' by forcing us to explore our troubling relationship with death. For Critchley, philosophy begins with the question of finitude and with his understanding of a key classical theme - that to philosophize is to learn how to die. Learning how to accept both our own and others' mortality as a part of life also raises the question of how to love. Critchley argues that the act of love requires us to give up something of ourselves, to lose control so as to be open to the demands of love. We will never be equal to this demand and so we are brought face to face with our own limitations - one form of which is what Critchley calls our 'originary inauthenticity'. By scrutinizing the very nature of humour, Critchley explores what we need to laugh at ourselves and presents the need to confront the inescapable ridiculousness of life. Reflecting on the work of over 20 years, this book provides a unique, witty and erudite introduction to the thought of Simon Critchley. It includes a revealing biographical conversation with Critchley and a fascinating debate with the critically acclaimed novelist Tom McCarthy about the nature of authenticity. Taken together the conversations give an intimate portrait of one of the most lucid, provocative and engaging philosophers writing today.

Monday, October 18, 2010

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    An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris by Georges Perec
    One overcast weekend in October 1974, Georges Perec set out in quest of the “infraordinary”: the humdrum, the nonevent, the everyday — “what happens,” as he put it, “when nothing happens.” His choice of locale was Place Saint-Sulpice where, ensconced behind first one café window, then another, he spent three days recording everything to pass through his field of vision: the people walking by; the buses and driving-school cars caught in their routes; the pigeons moving suddenly en masse, as if in accordance to some mysterious command; the wedding (and then funeral) at the church in the center of the square; the signs, symbols, and slogans littering everything; and the darkness that eventually absorbs it all. In An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, Perec compiled a melancholic, slightly eerie, and oddly touching document in which existence boils down to rhythm, writing turns into time, and the line between the empirical and the surreal grows surprisingly thin.

Monday, October 18, 2010

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    A Sick Planet by Guy Debord
    "All my life I have seen only troubled times, extreme divisions in society, and immense destruction; I have taken part in these troubles." Guy Debord is one of the 20th Century's most prophetic critics. His bestselling work, Society of the Spectacle, decisively transformed debates on the shape of modernity, capitalism, and everyday life. Since his suicide in 1994, the accuracy and pertinence of his writings on those troubled times is ever more apparent. A Sick Planet brings together three of his key essays. The Rise and Fall of the "Spectacular" Commodity-Economy is an analysis of the Watts riots in Los Angeles in the summer of 1965, when much of the city's black population fought thousands of police and National Guard for several days. The Explosion Point of Ideology in China examines and celebrates the decomposition of bureaucratic power and its ideology in China. A Sick Planet presents an extremely prescient polemic on global environmental degradation.

Monday, October 11, 2010

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    Merchants of Culture by John B. Thompson
    The world of book publishing is going through turbulent times. For nearly five centuries the methods and practices of book publishing remained largely unchanged, but at the dawn of the 21st century the industry finds itself faced with perhaps the greatest challenges since Gutenberg. A combination of economic pressures and technological change is forcing publishers to alter their practices and think hard about the future of the book in the digital age. In this book -- the first major study of trade publishing for more than 30 years -- Thompson situates the current challenges facing the industry in an historical context, analyzing the transformation of trade publishing in the United States and Britain since the 1960s. He gives a detailed account of how the world of trade publishing really works, dissecting the roles of publishers, agents and booksellers and showing how their practices are shaped by a field that has a distinctive structure and dynamic. Against this backdrop Thompson analyzes the impact of the digital revolution on book publishing and examines the pressures that are reshaping the field of trade publishing today.

Monday, October 11, 2010

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    Prose by Thomas Bernhard
    The Austrian playwright, novelist, and poet Thomas Bernhard (1931-89) is acknowledged as one of the major writers of our time. The seven stories in this collection capture Bernhard's distinct darkly comic voice and vision - often compared to Kafka and Musil - commenting on a corrupted world. First published in German in 1967, these stories were written at the same time as Bernhard's early novels Frost, Gargoyles, and The Lime Works, and they display the same obsessions, restlessness, and disarming mastery of language. Martin Chalmers' outstanding translation, which renders the work in English for the first time, captures the essential personality of the writing. The narrators of these stories lack the strength to do anything but listen and then write, the reader in turn becoming a captive listener, deciphering the traps laid by memory - and the mere words, the never-ending words with which we try to pin it down. Words that are always close to driving the narrator crazy, yet, as Bernhard writes, 'not completely crazy'.

Monday, October 04, 2010

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    Words and Money by Andre Schiffrin
    Ten years after the publication of The Business of Books, his groundbreaking critique of conglomeration in the book industry, Andre Schiffrin turns his attention to the broader crisis in the media. Just as corporatization and the lowest-common-denominator pursuit of the bottom line have had a parlous effect on publishing, media consolidation has contributed to the ongoing demise of serious journalism in newspapers, magazines, serious broadcast news, and online journalism. Schiffrin compares the media crisis in the United States to the situation in Europe and across the globe, and he demonstrates how the American corporate model has extended its reach. But he also describes and considers a range of alternative policies culled from many countries that, if pursued, could help to save journalism and the media in the US. This is a superlative essay that will make everyone seriously interested in the media and publishing think again.

Monday, October 04, 2010

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    True Friendship: Geoffrey Hill, Anthony Hecht, and Robert Lowell Under the Sign of Eliot and Pound by Christopher Ricks
    True Friendship looks closely at three outstanding poets of the past half-century - Geoffrey Hill, Anthony Hecht, and Robert Lowell - through the lens of their relation to their two predecessors in genius, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. The critical attention then finds itself reciprocated, with Eliot and Pound being in their turn contemplated anew through the lenses of their successors. Hill, Hecht, and Lowell are among the most generously alert and discriminating readers, as is borne out not only by their critical prose but (best of all) by their acts of new creation, those poems of theirs that are thanks to Eliot and Pound. 'Opposition is true Friendship'. So William Blake believed, or at any rate hoped. Hill, Hecht, and Lowell demonstrate many kinds of friendship with Eliot and Pound: adversarial, artistic, personal. In their creative assent and dissent, the imaginative literary allusions - like other, wider forms of influence - are shown to constitute the most magnanimous of welcomes and of tributes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

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    Heaven and Hell by Jón Kalman Stefánsson
    In a remote part of Iceland, a boy and his friend Barethur join a boat to fish for cod. A winter storm surprises them out at sea and Barethur who has forgotten his waterproof as he was too absorbed in Paradise Lost, succumbs to the ferocious cold and dies. Appalled by the death and by the fishermen's callous ability to set about gutting the fatal catch, the boy leaves the village, intending to return the book to its owner. The extreme hardship and danger of the journey is of little consequence to him he has already resolved to join his friend in death. But once in the town he immerses himself in the stories and lives of its inhabitants, and decides that he cannot be with his friend just yet. Set at the turn of the twentieth century, Heaven and Hell is a perfectly formed, vivid and timeless story, lyrical in style, and as intense a reading experience as the forces of the Icelandic landscape themselves.

Monday, September 27, 2010

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    Encounter: Essays by Milan Kundera
    With the same dazzling mix of emotion and idea that characterizes his novels he illuminates the art and artists who remain important to him and whose work helps us better understand the world. An astute and brilliant reader of fiction, Kundera applies these same gifts to the reading of Francis Bacon's paintings, Leos Janacek's music, the films of Federico Fellini, as well as to the novels of Philip Roth, Dostoyevsky, and Garcia Marquez, among others. He also takes up the challenge of restoring to their rightful place the work of major writers like Anatole France and Curzio Malaparte who have fallen into obscurity. Milan Kundera's signature themes of memory and forgetting, the experience of exile, and his spirited championing of modernist art mark these essays. Art, he argues, is what we have to cleave to in the face of evil, against the expression of the darker side of human nature.

Monday, September 20, 2010

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    Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries by Emily Dickinson
    Helen Vendler, one of the most attentive readers of poetry, turns her illuminating skills as a critic to 150 selected poems of Emily Dickinson. As she did in The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets, she serves as an incomparable guide, considering both stylistic and imaginative features of the poems. In selecting these poems for commentary Vendler chooses to exhibit many aspects of Dickinson's work as a poet, 'from her first-person poems to the poems of grand abstraction, from her ecstatic verses to her unparalleled depictions of emotional numbness, from her comic anecdotes to her painful poems of aftermath.' Included here are many expected favorites as well as more complex and less often anthologized poems. Taken together, Vendler's selection reveals Emily Dickinson's development as a poet, her astonishing range, and her revelation of what Wordsworth called 'the history and science of feeling.' In accompanying commentaries Vendler offers a deeper acquaintance with Dickinson the writer, 'the inventive conceiver and linguistic shaper of her perennial themes.' All of Dickinson's preoccupations - death, religion, love, the natural world, the nature of thought - are explored here in detail, but Vendler always takes care to emphasize the poet's startling imagination and the ingenuity of her linguistic invention. Whether exploring less familiar poems or favorites we thought we knew, Vendler reveals Dickinson as 'a master' of a revolutionary verse-language of immediacy and power.

Monday, September 20, 2010

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    On Balance by Adam Phillips
    In this absorbing and provocative new book from one of Britain's most elegant and original prose stylists, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips addresses a variety of urgent concerns - many centred around the idea of balance. When might we know that enough is enough? Does the road of excess ever lead to the palace of wisdom? What is the role of the parent, the teacher and of psychoanalysis itself in the development of children's minds? Should we be happy, or is there something better we can be? And what can we learn from the tales of Jack and the Beanstalk or Cinderella? With his trademark combination of open-minded enquiry and exhilarating argument, drawing primarily on the twin worlds of literature and psychoanalysis, Adam Phillips will delight readers in this much anticipated new book.

Monday, May 17, 2010

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    The Politics of Postanarchism by Saul Newman
    What is the relevance of anarchism for politics and political theory today? While many have in the past dismissed anarchism, the author contends that anarchism's heretical critique of authority, and its insistence on full equality and liberty, places it at the forefront of the radical political imagination today. With the unprecedented expansion of state power in the name of security, the current 'crisis of capitalism', and the terminal decline of Marxist and social democratic projects, it is time to reconsider anarchism as a form of politics. This book seeks to renew anarchist thought through the concept of postanarchism. This innovative theoretical approach, drawing upon classical anarchist theory, poststructuralism, post-Marxism, critical theory and psychoanalytic approaches, allows for a new engagement with contemporary debates about future directions in radical politics relating to political subjectivity and identity, political organisation, the State, globalisation, liberty and equality today, and the political 'event'.

Monday, May 17, 2010

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    Death-drive: Freudian Hauntings in Literature and Art by Robert Rowland Smith
    Robert Rowland Smith takes Freud's work on the death-drive and compares it with other philosophies of death - Pascal, Heidegger and Derrida in particular. He also applies it in a new way to literature and art - to Shakespeare, Rothko and Katharina Fritsch, among others. He asks whether artworks are dead or alive, if artistic creativity isn't actually a form of destruction, and whether our ability to be seduced by fine words means we don't put our selves at risk of death. In doing so, he proposes a new theory of aesthetics in which artworks and literary texts have a death-drive of their own, not least by their defining ability to turn away from all that is real, and where the effects of the death-drive mean that we are constantly living in imaginary, rhetorical or 'artistic' worlds. The book also provides a valuable introduction to the rich tradition of work on the death-drive since Freud.

Monday, May 10, 2010

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    On Evil by Terry Eagleton
    For many enlightened, liberal-minded thinkers today, and for most on the political left, evil is an outmoded concept. It smacks too much of absolute judgements and metaphysical certainties to suit the modern age. In this witty, accessible study, the prominent Marxist thinker Terry Eagleton launches a surprising defence of the reality of evil, drawing on literary, theological, and psychoanalytic sources to suggest that evil, no mere medieval artefact, is a real phenomenon with palpable force in our contemporary world. In a book that ranges from St. Augustine to alcoholism, Thomas Aquinas to Thomas Mann, Shakespeare to the Holocaust, Eagleton investigates the frightful plight of those doomed souls who apparently destroy for no reason. In the process, he poses a set of intriguing questions. Is evil really a kind of nothingness? Why should it appear so glamorous and seductive? Why does goodness seem so boring? Is it really possible for human beings to delight in destruction for no reason at all?

Monday, May 10, 2010

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    Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman
    Why Translation Matters argues for the cultural importance of translation, and for a more encompassing and nuanced appreciation of the translator's role. As the acclaimed translator Edith Grossman writes in her introduction, 'My intention is to stimulate a new consideration of an area of literature that is too often ignored, misunderstood, or misrepresented'. For Grossman, translation has a transcendent importance: 'Translation not only plays its important traditional role as the means that allows us access to literature originally written in one of the countless languages we cannot read, but it also represents a concrete literary presence with the crucial capacity to ease and make more meaningful our relationships to those with whom we may not have had a connection before. Translation always helps us to know, to see from a different angle, to attribute new value to what once may have been unfamiliar. As nations and as individuals, we have a critical need for that kind of understanding and insight. The alternative is unthinkable'. Throughout the four chapters of this bracing volume, Grossman's belief in the crucial significance of the translator's work, as well as her rare ability to explain the intellectual sphere that she inhabits as interpreter of the original text, inspires and provokes the reader to engage with translation in an entirely new way.

Monday, May 03, 2010

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    The Peacock and the Buffalo: The Poetry of Nietzsche by Friedrich Nietzsche
    This is the first complete English translation of Nietzsche's poetry. The Peacock and the Buffalo presents the first complete English translation of the poetry of the celebrated and hugely influential German thinker, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). From his first poems, written at the age of fourteen, to his last extant writings, this definitive bi-lingual edition includes all his 275 poems and aphorisms. Nietzsche's interest in poetry is no secret, as evidenced in his literary and philosophical masterpiece, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, not to mention the poetry included in his published philosophical works. This important collection shows that Nietzsche's commitment to poetry was in fact longstanding and integral to his articulation of the truth and lies of human existence. The Peacock and the Buffalo is a must-read for anyone with an interest in German literature or European philosophy.

Monday, May 03, 2010

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    A Reader on Reading by Alberto Manguel
    In this major collection of his essays, Alberto Manguel, whom George Steiner has called 'the Casanova of reading', argues that the activity of reading, in its broadest sense, defines our species. 'We come into the world intent on finding narrative in everything', writes Manguel, 'landscape, the skies, the faces of others, the images and words that our species create'. Reading our own lives and those of others, reading the societies we live in and those that lie beyond our borders, reading the worlds that lie between the covers of a book are the essence of A Reader on Reading. The thirty-nine essays in this volume explore the crafts of reading and writing, the identity granted to us by literature, the far-reaching shadow of Jorge Luis Borges, to whom Manguel read as a young man, and the links between politics and books and between books and our bodies. The powers of censorship and intellectual curiosity, the art of translation, and those 'numinous memory palaces we call libraries', also figure in this remarkable collection. For Manguel and his readers, words, in spite of everything, lend coherence to the world and offer us 'a few safe places, as real as paper and as bracing as ink', to grant us roof and board in our passage.

Monday, April 12, 2010

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    Tombeau of Ibn Arabi and White Traverses by Abdelwahab Meddeb
    Abdelwahab Meddeb crosses boundaries in unusual and important ways. Born in Tunis, he is now a French national. In his academic and literary work, he is concerned with the roots and history of Islam and with crossings, like his own, between Islam and Europe. He is an author of extraordinarily beautiful French; this is the first book to represent this lyrical aspect of his work in English translation. White Traverses is a poetic memoir of growing up in Tunisia, and the contrasts between Islamic and European influences. The intense colors and blinding whites of the Maghreb interweave with the rich traditions of French poetic discourse. "Tombeau of Ibn Arabi" is a series of prose poems that draw their inspiration from the great Sufi poet of mediaeval Andalusia, Ibn Arabi, whose fervent love poetry both scandalized and transformed Islamic culture, and from Dante, who learned from Ibn Arabi a poetry of sensual love as initiation into spiritual experience.

Monday, April 12, 2010

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    Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion by David Lewis-Williams
    At once polemical, insightful and thought-provoking, Conceiving God is essential reading for all those interested in the origins of religious thought, and the respective roles of science and religion in contemporary society. Building on the insights and discoveries of his two earlier books, The Mind in the Cave and Inside the Neolithic Mind, cognitive archaeologist David Lewis-Williams explores how science developed within the cocoon of religion and then shows how the natural functioning of the human brain creates experiences that can lead to belief in the supernatural realm.

Monday, April 05, 2010

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    Who Was Jacques Derrida?: by David Mikics
    Who Was Jacques Derrida? is the first intellectual biography of Derrida, the first full-scale appraisal of his career, his influence, and his philosophical roots. It is also the first attempt to define his crucial importance as the ambassador of 'theory', the phenomenon that has had a profound influence on academic life in the humanities. Mikics lucidly and sensitively describes for the general reader Derrida's deep connection to his Jewish roots. He succinctly defines his vision of philosophy as a discipline that resists psychology. While pointing out the flaws of that vision and Derrida's betrayal of his most adamantly expounded beliefs, Mikics ultimately concludes that 'Derrida was neither so brilliantly right nor so badly wrong as his enthusiasts and critics, respectively, claimed'.

Monday, April 05, 2010

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    London Lore: The Legends and Traditions of the World's Most Vibrant City by Steve Roud
    In which part of North London were wild beasts once thought to roam the sewers? Why did 1920s working-class Londoners wear necklaces of blue beads? Who was the original inspiration for the 'pearly king' costume? And did Spring-heeled Jack, scourge of Victorian London, ever really exist? Exploring everything from local superstitions and ghost stories to annual customs, this is an enchanting guide to the ancient legends and deep-rooted beliefs that can be found the length and breadth of the city.

Monday, March 29, 2010

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    Everybody's Shakespeare by Maynard Mack
    Everybody's Shakespeare brings the insights and wisdom of one of the finest Shakespearean scholars of our century to the task of surveying why the Bard continues to flourish in modern times. Mack treats individually seven plays -- Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Cesar, and Antony and Cleopatra -- and demonstrates in each case how the play has retained its vitality, complexity, and appeal.

Monday, March 29, 2010

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    Against Atheism: Why Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris are Fundamentally Wrong by Ian S. Markham
    In this new book, Ian Markham analyzes the atheistic world view, opposing the arguments given by renowned authors of books on atheism, such as Richard Dawkins. Unlike other responses to the new atheism, Markham challenges these authors on their own ground by questioning their understanding of belief and of atheism itself. The result is a transforming introduction to Christianity that will appeal to anyone interested in this debate. This title offers a fascinating challenge to the recent spate of successful books written by high-profile atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. It tackles these authors on their own ground, arguing that they do not understand the nature of atheism, let alone theology and ethics. It draws on ideas from Nietzsche, cosmology, and art to construct a powerful response that allows for a faith that is grounded, yet one that recognizes the reality of uncertainty.

Monday, March 08, 2010

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    Small Lives by Pierre Michon
    Small Lives (Vies miniscules), Pierre Michon's first novel, won the Prix France Culture. Michon explains that he wrote it "to save my own skin. I felt in my body that my life was turning around. This book born in an aura of inexpressible joy and catharsis rescued me more effectively than my aborted analysis." Le Monde calls it "his chef d'ouevre. A bolt of lightning." In Small Lives, Michon paints portraits of eight individuals in his native region of La Creuse. In the process of exploring their lives, he explores the act of writing and his emotional connection to both. The quest to trace and recall these interconnected lives seared into his memory ultimately becomes a quest to grasp his own humanity and discover his own voice.

Monday, March 08, 2010

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    Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo
    An internationally acclaimed political thriller by one of Latin America's most important and exciting young writers, the winner of Spain's coveted Alfaguara Prize. Translated by one of our most celebrated literary translators, Edith Grossman, Red April is quite simply a must read for anyone who loved Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives and 2666. Red April evokes Holy Week during a cruel, bloody, and terrifying time in Peru's history, shocking for its corrosive mix of assassination, bribery, intrigue, torture, and enforced disappearance - a war between grim, ideologically driven terrorism and morally bankrupt government counterinsurgence. Mother-haunted, wife-abandoned, literature-loving, quietly eccentric Felix Chacaltana Saldivar is a hapless, by-the-book, unambitious prosecutor living in Lima. Until now he has lived a life in which nothing exceptionally good or bad has ever happened to him. But, inexplicably, he has been put in charge of a bizarre and horrible murder investigation. As it unfolds by propulsive twists and turns - full of paradoxes and surprises - Saldivar is compelled to confront what happens to a man and society when death becomes the only certainty. Remarkable for its self-assured and nimble clarity of style, Red April is at once riveting and profound.

Monday, February 22, 2010

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    Storytelling by Christian Salmon
    Ever since its emergence, humanity has cultivated the art of telling stories, an art that is everywhere at the heart of the social bond. But since the 1990s, first in the US and then in Europe, this art has been colonized by the domain of public relations and triumphant capitalism, and relabelled with the anodyne name of storytelling. This has become a weapon in the hands of marketing, management and political gurus, so as to better format the minds of consumers and citizens. Behind the advertising campaigns, but also in the shadows of victorious electoral campaigns from Bush to Sarkozy and Obama hide sophisticated storytelling management or digital storytelling technicians. It is this incredible hold-up of human imagination that Christian Salmon reveals here, after an enquiry into the ever greater number of applications for which storytelling has been mobilized. Marketing now depends more on the history of brands than on their images, managers have to tell stories to motivate their employees, soldiers in Iraq train themselves on computer games conceived in Hollywood, and spin doctors construct a political life as if it were a narrative. Salmon unveils here the mechanics of a storytelling machine, far more effective than Orwellian visions of totalitarian society. The subject that it wants to create is a bewitched individual, immersed in a fictive universe that filters perceptions, stimulates feelings and frames behavior and ideas.

Monday, February 22, 2010

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    Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
    Eating Animals is a riveting exposé which presents the gut-wrenching truth about the price paid by the environment, the government, the Third World and the animals themselves in order to put meat on our tables more quickly and conveniently than ever before. Interweaving a variety of monologues and balancing humour and suspense with informed rationalism, Eating Animals is as much a novelistic account of an intellectual journey as it is a fresh and open look at the ethical debate around meat-eating. Unlike most other books on the subject, Eating Animals also explores the possibilites for those who do eat meat to do so more responsibly, making this an important book not just for vegetarians, but for anyone who is concerned about the ramifications and significance of their chosen lifestyle.

Monday, February 15, 2010

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    Philosophy in the Present by Alain Badiou
    In this title, two controversial thinkers discuss a timeless but nonetheless urgent question: should philosophy interfere in the world? Nothing less than philosophy is at stake because, according to Badiou, philosophy is nothing but interference and commitment and will not be restrained by academic discipline. Philosophy is strange and new, and yet speaks in the name of all - as Badiou shows with his theory of universality. Similarly, Zizek believes that the philosopher must intervene, contrary to all expectations, in the key issues of the time. He can offer no direction, but this only shows that the question has been posed incorrectly: it is valid to change the terms of the debate and settle on philosophy as abnormality and excess. At once an invitation to philosophy and an introduction to the thinking of two of the most topical and controversial philosophers writing today, this concise volume will be of great interest to students and general readers alike.

Monday, February 15, 2010

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    The Crimes of Empire by Carl Boggs
    Imperial Nations advance their own interests by exploiting other societies. To those on the receiving end this is obvious, while inside the empire, a powerful ideological system of justification tends to hide all but the worst excess. Carl Boggs argues, that the USA began life two centuries ago as a nascent colonialist regime plundering and conquering the Native Tribes. The Indian wars were followed by perpetual militarism and warfare fuelled by a deep sense of national exceptionalism. The Crimes of Empire: The History and Politics of an Outlaw Nation examines several trends in this process, and illustrates the new depths plumbed since 9/11. Violation of international agreements, treaties and laws and the use of prohibited weapons, support for death squads and torture are just some of the practices that Boggs highlights as he shows how technical superiority and media control prolong the American nightmare.

Monday, February 01, 2010

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    Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer by Ernst Weiss
    First published in 1931 and now appearing for the first time in English, Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer is a disquieting anatomy of a deviant mind in the tradition of Crime and Punishment. Letham, the treacherously unreliable narrator, is a depraved bacteriologist whose murder of his wife is, characteristically, both instinctual and premeditated. Convicted and exiled, he attempts to atone for his crimes through science, conceiving of the book we are reading as an empirical report on himself – whose ultimate purpose may be to substitute for a conscience. Yet Letham can neither understand nor master himself. His crimes are crimes of passion, and his passions remain more or less untouched by his reason – in fact they are constantly intruding on his “report,” rigorous as it is intended to be. Both feverish and chilling, Georg Letham explores the limits of reason and the tensions between objectivity and subjectivity. Moving from an unnamed Central European city to arctic ice floes to a tropical-island prison, this layered novel – with its often grotesquely comic tone and arresting images – invites us into the darkest chambers of the human psyche.

Monday, February 01, 2010

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    Cold World: The Aesthetics of Dejection and the Politics of Militant Dysphoria by Dominic Fox
    To live well in the world one must be able to enjoy it: to love, Freud says, and work. Dejection is the state of being in which such enjoyment is no longer possible. There is an aesthetic dimension to dejection, in which the world appears in a new light. In this book, the dark serenity of dejection is examined through a study of the poetry of Hopkins and Coleridge, and the music of 'depressive' black metal artists such as Burzum and Xasthur. The author then develops a theory of 'militant dysphoria' via an analysis of the writings of the Red Army Fraction's activist-theoretician, Ulrike Meinhof. The book argues that the 'cold world' of dejection is one in which new creative and political possibilities, as well as dangers, can arise. It is not enough to live well in the world: one must also be able to affirm that another world is possible.

Monday, January 25, 2010

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    Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life by Timothy W. Ryback
    He was, of course, a man better known for burning books than collecting them and yet by the time he died, aged 56, Adolf Hitler owned an estimated 16,000 volumes - the works of historians, philosophers, poets, playwrights and novelists. A passionate reader, his worldview was largely formed by the books he read. For more than fifty years the remnants of Hitler's private library occupied shelf-space in climate-controlled obscurity in the rare book division of the Library of Congress in Washington. Timothy Ryback is the first to systematically explore this remarkable collection, as well as several other caches which he subsequently discovered in Europe and elsewhere. The volumes in Hitler's library are fascinating in themselves but it is the marginalia - the comments, the exclamation marks, the questions and underlinings - even the dirty thumbprints on the pages of a book he read in the trenches of the First World War - which are so revealing. Together they take us closer to the man and his thinking than ever seemed possible. Hitler's Private Library provides us with a remarkable view of Hitler's evolution - and unparalleled insights into his emotional and intellectual world.

Monday, January 25, 2010

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    Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada
    Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear. At the house on 55 Jablonski Strasse, its various occupants try to live under Nazi rule in their different ways: the bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangels receive the news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France. Shocked out of their quiet existence, they begin a silent campaign of defiance, and a deadly game of cat and mouse develops between the Quangels and the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich. When petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, deception, betrayal and murder ensue, tightening the noose around the Quangels' necks...

Monday, January 11, 2010

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    One Dimensional Woman by Nina Power
    Where have all the interesting women gone? If the contemporary portrayal of womankind were to be believed, contemporary female achievement would culminate in the ownership of expensive handbags, a vibrator, a job, a flat and a man. Of course, no one has to believe the TV shows, the magazines and adverts, and many don't. But how has it come to this? Did the desires of twentieth-century women's liberation achieve their fulfilment in the shopper's paradise of 'naughty' self-pampering, playboy bunny pendants and bikini waxes? That the height of supposed female emancipation coincides so perfectly with consumerism is a miserable index of a politically desolate time. Much contemporary feminism, particularly in its American formulation, doesn't seem too concerned about this coincidence. This short book is partly an attack on the apparent abdication of any systematic political thought on the part of today's positive, up-beat feminists. It suggests alternative ways of thinking about transformations in work, sexuality and culture that, while seemingly far-fetched in the current ideological climate, may provide more serious material for future feminism.

Monday, January 11, 2010

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    Taking Wittgenstein at His Word by Robert J. Fogelin
    Taking Wittgenstein at His Word is an experiment in reading organized around a central question: What kind of interpretation of Wittgenstein's later philosophy emerges if we adhere strictly to his claims that he is not in the business of presenting and defending philosophical theses and that his only aim is to expose persistent conceptual misunderstandings that lead to deep philosophical perplexities? Robert Fogelin draws out the therapeutic aspects of Wittgenstein's later work by closely examining his account of rule-following and how he applies the idea in the philosophy of mathematics. The first of the book's two parts focuses on rule-following, Wittgenstein's 'paradox of interpretation', and his naturalistic response to this paradox, all of which are persistent and crucial features of his later philosophy. Fogelin offers a corrective to the frequent misunderstanding that the paradox of interpretation is a paradox about meaning, and he emphasizes the importance of Wittgenstein's often undervalued appeals to natural responses. The second half of the book examines how Wittgenstein applies his reflections on rule-following to the status of mathematical propositions, proofs, and objects, leading to remarkable, demystifying results. Taking Wittgenstein at His Word shows that what Wittgenstein claims to be doing and what he actually does are much closer than is often recognized. In doing so, the book underscores fundamental - but frequently underappreciated - insights about Wittgenstein's later philosophy.

Monday, December 28, 2009

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    Hamlet: Poem Unlimited by Harold Bloom
    Harold Bloom's compelling attempt to uncover the mystery of both Prince Hamlet and the play, how both prince and drama are able to break through the conventions of theatrical mimesis and the representation of character, making us question the very nature of theatrical illusion.

Monday, December 28, 2009

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    How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell
    How to get on well with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love - such questions arise in most people's lives. They are all versions of a bigger question: how do you live? How do you do the good or honourable thing, while flourishing and feeling happy? This question obsessed Renaissance writers, none more than Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-92), perhaps the first truly modern individual. A nobleman, public official and wine-grower, he wrote free-roaming explorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before. He called them 'essays', meaning 'attempts' or 'tries'. Into them, he put whatever was in his head: his tastes in wine and food, his childhood memories, the way his dog's ears twitched when it was dreaming, as well as the appalling events of the religious civil wars raging around him. "The Essays" was an instant bestseller, and over four hundred years later, Montaigne's honesty and charm still draw people to him. Readers come to him in search of companionship, wisdom and entertainment - and in search of themselves. This book - the first full life of Montaigne in English for nearly fifty years - relates the story of his life by way of the questions he posed and the answers he explored. It traces his bizarre upbringing (made to speak only Latin), youthful career and sexual adventures, his travels, and his friendships with the scholar and poet Etienne de La Boetie and with his adopted 'daughter', Marie de Gournay.

Monday, November 09, 2009

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    The Eurasian Miracle by Jack Goody
    The idea of long-term European dominance is characteristic of most evolutionary theories of human culture and society in the nineteenth century. It was commonly believed that there was a natural progression from Antiquity through Feudalism to Capitalism which could not have taken place elsewhere. Today there are many who still believe that this progression was part of a European miracle that underlay the rise to global supremacy of the West. In this short book Jack Goody systematically dismantles this Eurocentric view of the world. He argues that we need to look, not for a European miracle, but rather for a Eurasian miracle that went back to the Urban Revolution of the Bronze Age, that affected the Near East, India and China well before Europe and that was much advanced by the adoption of writing. Under these conditions we find a long-term exchange of information between East and West, and the dominance of one followed by the dominance of the other - in other words, alternation rather than dominance. There were measures during the Renaissance in Europe that made for continuous growth, especially the secularization of learning, but it appears that the period of Western supremacy is now coming to an end and that we are about to experience a further alternation in favour of the East.

Monday, November 09, 2009

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    The Defence of the Enlightenment by Tzvetan Todorov
    This brilliant and concise book from internationally renowned historian Tzvetan Todorov establishes the Enlightenment as the philosophical cornerstone of the modern world and argues that the wisdom of those times is just as relevant today. Although our liberal democracies are the offspring of the Enlightenment, they also illustrate the ways in which its ideas can be distorted and perverted. People living in these democracies today are often baffled by a host of phenomena which they don't know how to judge: globalisation and media omnipotence, state-sponsored torture and lies, moralism and the right of intervention, the domination of economics and the triumph of technology. Is it possible to distinguish between the Enlightenment's legitimate and illegitimate heirs? We cannot learn lessons from the past unless we know how to relate them to the present. In this brilliant and concise book, internationally renowned historian TT shows that what remains relevant to us today of the 18th-century debates is their spirit, as expressed in a number of crucial principles and values. "It is by criticizing the Enlightenment that we remain faithful to it."

Monday, November 02, 2009

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    Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? by Jean Baudrillard
    "Behind every image, something has disappeared. And that is the source of its fascination," writes French theorist Jean Baudrillard in Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? In this, one of the last texts written before his death in 2007, Baudrillard meditates poignantly on the question of disappearance. Throughout, he weaves an intricate set of variations on his theme, ranging from the potential disappearance of humanity as a result of the fulfillment of its goal of world mastery to the vanishing of reality due to the continual transmutation of the real into the virtual. Along the way, he takes in the more conventional question of the philosophical 'subject,' whose disappearance has, in his view, been caused by a 'pulverization of consciousness into all the interstices of reality'. Interspersed throughout the text are photographs by Alain Willaume that help illustrate Baudrillard's argument. Baudrillard insists that with disappearance, strange things happen - some things that were eliminated or repressed may return in destructive viral forms - yet at the same time, he reminds us that disappearance has a positive aspect, as a 'vital dimension' of the existence of things.

Monday, November 02, 2009

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    University of Disaster by Paul Virilio
    "The world of the future will be a tighter and tighter struggle against the limits of our intelligence," announced Norbert Wiener... On top of such confinement, today we are faced not only with the greenhouse effect of global warming but also that of incarceration within the tighter and tighter limits of an accelerating sphere, a dromosphere, where depletion of the time distances involved in the geodiversity of the Globe rounds off the depletion of the substances produced by biodiversity. An unanticipated victim of this geophysical foreclosure is science - not only biology but also physics, the 'Big Science' now confronted by the space-time contraction of the known world and of knowledge once acquired here below. Whence the threat, still unnoticed, of an accident in knowledge which will double the accident of polluted substances and put paid to this crisis of reason denounced by Husserl, with the extravagant quest for a substitute exoplanet, a new 'Promised Land' to be colonised as swiftly as possible; the climate necessary to the life of our minds, as much as to the life of our bodies, from then on, on this old Earth of ours, being like the fatal consequences of a long illness requiring hospitalisation.

Monday, October 26, 2009

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    Diary of a Seducer by Soren Kierkegaard
    Diary of a Seducer is the disturbing narrative of a man who explores his sense of detachment by deliberately arousing the passion of a young society girl. At the core of the Diary lies the conflict between the narrator's philosophical and intellectual search for aesthetic pleasure and the depth of suffering this ultimately inflicts. Inspired by events in Kierkegaard's own life that are still shrouded in mystery, this story is a vivid exploration of the complex psychology of cruelty and love. Diary of a Seducer is an autonomous part of the philosophical work Either/Or, which was published in 1843 and brought the author immediate fame.

Monday, October 26, 2009

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    Marshall McLuhan: v. 1: Unbound - A Publishing Adventure by Marshall McLuhan
    The essay is for exploring; the book, for explaining. Such was McLuhan’s philosophy about these two forms. The essay is the freer form and one better suited to exploration than the longer meditation, the book. This startling new series puts the reader in the place of colleague and co-researcher. Instead of giving the reader just another collection of articles and interviews, McLuhan Unbound gives you offprints of the original essays. See how the two McLuhans, the literary academic and the public media expert are really one. Some of these articles were written before the subsequent book was envisioned: they are preliminary forays into new territory. Some were written after the book and encapsulate major themes; some set out additional discoveries or matters left out of the book; some present material discovered as a result of writing the book. The McLuhan Unbound offprints series is not the last word in presenting McLuhan’s ideas and discoveries, but the first.

Monday, October 19, 2009

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    Cool Capitalism by Jim McGuigan
    Thomas Frank coined the term 'the conquest of cool'. This book shows how this conquest is at the heart of the dynamics of contemporary capitalism. Jim McGuigan argues that 'cool capitalism' incorporates disaffection into capitalism itself, absorbing rebellion and thereby neutralising opposition to the present system of culture and society. McGuigan explores a huge variety of cultural examples, from the sleek images of mainstream advertising, to the fringes of artistic production, offering a vigorous critique of our understanding of subversion, resistance and counter-culturalism. Has capitalism really colonised our planet? McGuigan shows that there is still some space left for rebellion against the seductive power of the free market economy. Analysis in the book is dialectically complex yet it is written in a straightforward and accessible style that will give it a strong and lasting appeal for undergraduate students of cultural studies, sociology and economics.

Monday, October 19, 2009

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    Reborn: Early Diaries 1947-1963 by Susan Sontag
    "I intend to do everything... I shall anticipate pleasure everywhere and find it too, for it is everywhere! I shall involve myself wholly ...everything matters!" This first selection from Susan Sontag's diaries (from 1947-1963) takes us from early adolescence through to when Sontag was in her early thirties. It is an astonishingly affecting and honest self-portrait which is also a fascinating, revealing account of an artist and critic being born. We see Sontag honing her skills and fashioning herself, by a supreme act of will, into an intellectual force.

Monday, October 12, 2009

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    Beginners by Raymond Carver
    Tim O'Brien once said of Raymond Carver, 'He uses the English language like a whittler's knife, carving stark and unadorned prose-objects, paring away everything but the very core of human emotion'. Beginners is Carver's most famous collection of short stories - What We Talk About When We Talk About Love - before this whittling process had begun. It is the unedited version of the masterpiece which would be cut by almost fifty per cent by Carver's editor and mentor, Gordon Lish, before its original publication in 1981 and which would go on to become one of the most influential pieces of modern literature. Carver's preoccupation with the marrow of things is just as present in these longer stories. A young girl, dancing with her lover amidst the debris of an older man's life, has her first forewarning of the dangers of adulthood, and is filled with an 'unbearable happiness'. A man and woman lock themselves in a motel room and slowly, painfully, acknowledge the end of a relationship, while somewhere else in the lonely Midwest a man is photographed over and over again as he attempts to locate himself in a world that seems utterly without focus. But as we move through the manifold little tragedies at the heart of the ordinary - so much at the core of Carver's work - new layers, new nuances, new meanings reveal themselves. Where the Lish / Carver collaboration cut this collection to the 'linguistic bone', these fleshier stories say what was previously unsaid, filling in the narrative silences that have both inspired and mystified readers for so long.

Monday, October 12, 2009

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    The Case for God: What Religion Really Means by Karen Armstrong
    The enormous popularity of books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and others shows that despite the religious revival that is under way in many parts of the world, there is widespread confusion about the nature of religious truth. For the first time in history, a significantly large number of people want nothing to do with God. In the past people went to great lengths to experience a sacred reality that they called God, Brahman, Nirvana or Dao; indeed religion could be said to be the distinguishing characteristic of homo sapiens. But now militant atheists preach a gospel of godlessness with the zeal of Christian missionaries in the age of faith and find an eager audience. What has happened? Karen Armstrong argues that historically atheism has rarely been a denial of the sacred itself but has nearly always rejected a particular conception of God. During the modern period, the Christians of the West developed a theology that was radically different from that of the pre-modern age. Tracing the history of faith from the Palaeolithic Age to the present, Armstrong shows that until recently there was no warfare between science and religion. But science has changed the conversation. The meaning of words such as belief, faith, and mystery has been entirely altered, so that atheists and theists alike now think and speak about God - and, indeed, reason itself - in a way that our ancestors would have found astonishing. Why has the modern God become incredible? Has God a future in this age of aggressive scientific rationalism? Karen Armstrong suggests that if we draw creatively on the insights of the past, we can build a faith that speaks to the needs of our troubled and dangerously polarized world.

Monday, October 05, 2009

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    Samuel Johnson: A Life by David Nokes
    Johnson, born weak and half-blind, shambolic and poverty-stricken, became the most admired and quoted man in the eighteenth century. Thrown out of Oxford for a lack of funds, he rose to celebrity: author of the Dictionary, a friend to the king, companion of Reynolds, Goldsmith and Garrick. David Nokes looks beyond Johnson's remarkable public persona and beyond the Johnson that Boswell to some extent created. Nokes looks at his troubled relationship with his first wife, whom he married for money but felt guilty about for the rest of his life; at his family, who haunted his dreams for years; and at his difficult, intimate relationship with Mrs Thrale. He shows a man who gave a quarter of the government pension he received to the poor, filled his home with the blind and destitute, and bequeathed his wealth to Frank Barber, an emancipated black slave brought from Jamaica. Insightful and engaging, Samuel Johnson draws an illuminating portrait of Johnson, his life and world.

Monday, October 05, 2009

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    The Escape by Adam Thirlwell
    Haffner is charming, morally suspect, sexually omnivorous, vain. He is British and Jewish and a widower. But when was Haffner ever really married? Or Jewish? When was he ever attached? There are so many stories of Haffner: but this, the most secret, is the greatest of them all. In a spa town snug in the Alps, at the end of the twentieth century, the 78-year-old Haffner is seeking a cure, redress, more women; and ignoring the will of his wife. He is there to claim her inheritance: a villa on the outskirts of a forgotten spa town. But Haffner never does what he is told. On his arrival in the town, he has checked into the spa hotel - and tried to develop two affairs: a mildly successful affair with a younger woman whose breasts are lavish, and a much less successful affair with an even younger woman, whose breasts are the smallest he has ever known. And, intermittently, he has tried to secure the paperwork for the villa he never wanted. But gradually, in the tribulations of bureaucracy, he discovers that he wants this villa, very much. Now that he has to fight for it, he wants it. There are two character notes to Haffner: he is an egotist, and he adores women. A mediocre man, but a man of singular appetite. And so it is that, harried by his family, pursued by his women, menaced by bureaucrats, negotiating with the mafia, riven by his memory of the dead and of the missing, Haffner endures his many humiliations, as he tries to orchestrate his final escape, in the forgotten center of Europe. Through the story of his couplings and uncouplings, emerge the stories of Haffner's Twentieth Century. How can you ever desert from your past, your family, your history? That has been the problem of Haffner's life. How do you remain a libertine?

Monday, September 28, 2009

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    The Philosophy of Edmund Husserl by J. N. Mohanty

    Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), known as the founder of the phenomenological movement, was one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. A prolific scholar, he explored an enormous landscape of philosophical subjects, including philosophy of mathematics, logic, theory of meaning, theory of consciousness and intentionality, and ontology, in addition to phenomenology. This deeply insightful book traces the development of Husserl's thought from his earliest investigations in philosophy - informed by his work as a mathematician - to his publication of Ideas in 1913. Jitendra Mohanty, an internationally renowned Husserl scholar, presents a masterful study that illuminates Husserl's central concerns and provides a definitive assessment of the first phases of the philosopher's career.

Monday, September 28, 2009

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    On the Death and Life of Languages by Claude Hagege
    Twenty-five languages die each year; at this pace, half the world's five thousand languages will disappear within the next century. In this timely book, Claude Hagege seeks to make clear the magnitude of the cultural loss represented by the crisis of language death. By focusing on the relationship of language to culture and the world of ideas, Hagege shows how languages are themselves crucial repositories of culture; the traditions, proverbs, and knowledge of our ancestors reside in the language we use. His wide-ranging examination covers all continents and language families to uncover not only how languages die, but also how they can be revitalized - for example in the remarkable case of Hebrew. In a striking metaphor, Hagege likens languages to bonfires of social behaviour that leave behind sparks even after they die; from these sparks languages can be rekindled and made to live again.

Monday, September 21, 2009

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    Conspirator: Lenin in Exile by Helen Rappaport
    Conspirator is the compelling story of Lenin in exile. It tells how, for seventeen years, he lived a hand-to-mouth existence outside Russia, working towards the upheaval that in 1917 transformed the political landscape of Europe: the Russian Revolution. Constantly watched by the secret police, the arch conspirator and his cohorts were dependent on the protection of a shadowy network of like-minded friends and supporters. Obsessive, penniless and driven, they took huge risks to publish and smuggle back into Russia the samizdat literature that spread their message. Lenin was always on the move, between the great cities of Europe - Paris, London, Geneva, Brussels and Munich - and the rural backwaters of Finland and Poland. He led an uncertain life, often under assumed names, fleeing lodgings at a moment's notice and frequently short of food. Helen Rappaport's lively account describes Lenin's triumphs and the conflicts, personal and political, with those who shared his exile. She builds up a vivid picture of Russian emigre life and of how Lenin and the Bolsheviks worked to achieve his vision of a Soviet social democracy. She also explores the toll that their extraordinary existence took not just on Lenin but on the loyal group that surrounded him, and particularly on the women in his life: his long-suffering wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, his mother-in-law, and his mistress, Inessa Armand, as well as his mother and sisters back home. This is a book alive with fascinating detail, from Lenin's 1908 visit to the celebrated writer Maxim Gorky in Capri for a restorative holiday, to his trips to the working-men's music halls of Montmartre in Belle Epoque Paris, and the story of the London detective who kept Lenin under surveillance, hiding in a cupboard in a room above a pub in Islington as the fledgling party congress fomented revolution. With much new material from rare and previously overlooked sources, Conspirator puts Lenin's pre-revolutionary struggle for change in Russia into the wider context of the international socialist movement, revealing the human side of this revolutionary figure. It is an unrivalled portrait of Lenin in the making.

Monday, September 14, 2009

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    Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
    "The profoundest book there is, born from the innermost richness of truth, an inexhaustible well into which no bucket descends without coming up with gold and goodness." Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885) was Nietzsche's own favourite among all his books and has proved to be his most popular, having sold millions of copies in many different languages. In it he addresses the problem of how to live a fulfilling life in a world without meaning, in the aftermath of 'the death of God'. Nietzsche's solution lies in the idea of eternal recurrence which he calls 'the highest formula of affirmation that can ever be attained'. A successful engagement with this profoundly Dionysian idea enables us to choose clearly among the myriad possibilities that existence offers, and thereby to affirm every moment of our lives with others on this 'sacred' earth. This translation of Zarathustra (the first new English version for over forty years, by Graham Parkes who also provides an excellent introduction to the text) conveys the musicality of the original German, and for the first time annotates the abundance of allusions to the Bible and other classic texts with which Nietzsche's masterpiece is in conversation.

Monday, September 14, 2009

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    Lacan at the Scene by Henry Bond
    What if Jacques Lacan -- the brilliant and eccentric Parisian psychoanalyst -- had worked as a police detective, applying his theories to solve crimes? This may conjure up a mental film clip starring Peter Sellers in a trench coat, but in Lacan at the Scene, Henry Bond makes a serious and provocative claim: that apparently impenetrable events of violent death can be more effectively unraveled with Lacan's theory of psychoanalysis than with elaborate, technologically advanced forensic tools. Bond's exposition on murder expands and develops a resolutely Žižekian approach. Seeking out radical and unexpected readings, Bond unpacks his material utilizing Lacan's neurosis-psychosis-perversion grid. Bond places Lacan at the crime scene and builds his argument through a series of archival crime scene photographs from the 1950s -- the period when Lacan was developing his influential theories. Bond takes us inside the perimeter set by police tape, guiding us into a series of explicit, even terrifying, murder scenes. It is not the horror of the ravished and mutilated corpses that draws his attention; instead, he interrogates seemingly minor details from the everyday, isolating and rephotographing what at first seems insignificant: a single high-heeled shoe on a kitchen table; carefully folded clothes placed over a chair; a plate of chocolate biscuits on a dinner table; lewd graffiti inscribed on a train carriage door; an arrangement of workman's tools in a forest clearing. From these mundane details he carefully builds a robust and comprehensive manual for Lacanian crime investigation that can stand beside the FBI's standard-issue Crime Classification Manual.

Monday, September 07, 2009

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    The Infinities by John Banville
    One long, languid midsummer’s day, the Godleys gather at the family home of Arden to attend their father’s bedside. Adam, the elder child, and Petra, only nineteen, find that relations with their mother, Ursula, and their dying father, old Adam, are as strained as ever. Adam’s relationship with his wife, Helen, seems too on the brink of collapse and Petra, fragile and deeply troubled, finds deepest relief in her own pain. The gods, those mischievous spirits, watch silently, flitting through this dark ménage. Unable to resist intervening in the mortals’ lives, they spy, tease and seduce, all the while looking upon the antics of their playthings with a mixture of mild bafflement and occasional envy. Old Adam – husband, father and esteemed mathematician – has made his name grappling with the concept of the infinite. His own time on earth seems to be running out, and his mind runs to disquieting memories. Little does he realize, as he lies mute but alert in the Sky room, that the gods are capable of interposing themselves in the action, and even changing time itself when it pleases them.

Monday, September 07, 2009

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    The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker
    Nicholson Baker's new novel, The Anthologist, is narrated by Paul Chowder, a poet of some little reknown who is sitting in his barn most of the time trying to write the introduction to a new anthology of poetry called Only Rhyme. He's having a hard time getting started because his career is falling apart, his girlfriend Roz has recently left him, and he is thinking about the poets throughout history who have suffered far worse and actually deserve to feel sorry for themselves. He has also promised his readers that he will reveal many wonderful secrets and tips and tricks about poetry, and it looks like the introduction will be a little longer than he'd thought. What unfolds is a wholly entertaining and beguiling love story about poetry, among other things; Paul tells us about all of the great poets, from Tennyson, Swinburne, and Yeats to the moderns (Roethke, Bogan, Merwin) to the contemporary scene as well as the editorial staff of The New Yorker's editorial department. And what he reveals about the rhythm and music of poetry itself is astonishing and makes you realize how incredibly important poetry is to our lives. At the same time, Paul manages just barely to realize all of this himself and what results is a tender, wonderfully romantic, often hilarious, and inspired novel.

Monday, July 20, 2009

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    Giorgio Agamben: A Critical Introduction by Leland De la Durantaye
    Giorgio Agamben is a philosopher well known for his brilliance and erudition, as well as for the difficulty and diversity of his seventeen books. The interest which his Homo Sacer sparked in America is likely to continue to grow for a great many years to come. Giorgio Agamben: A Critical Introduction presents the complexity and continuity of Agamben's philosophy—and does so for two separate and distinct audiences. It attempts to provide readers possessing little or no familiarity with Agamben's writings with points of entry for exploring them. For those already well acquainted with Agamben's thought, it offers a critical analysis of the achievements that have marked it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

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    The Lemoine Affair by Marcel Proust
    The Lemoine Affair was inspired by the real-life French scandal involving Henri Lemoine, who claimed he could manufacture diamonds from coal and convinced numerous people — including officers of the De Beers diamond mine company and Proust himself — to invest in the scheme. In a series of pastiches — imitations written in the style of other writers — Proust tells the story of the embarrassment rippling across high society Paris in the wake of the scandal, poking fun at himself (in one story, a character declares that Marcel Proust is so embarrassed he’s suicidal) while lampooning some of France’s greatest writers, including Flaubert, Balzac, and Saint-Simon. Full of sophisticated wit and dazzling wordplay, and rife with allusions to his friend and fictional characters, many Proust scholars see the dead-on mimicry of The Lemoine Affair — written soon after Proust’s rejection of society life—as the work by which he honed his own unique, masterly voice.

Monday, June 29, 2009

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    Learning to Live Finally by Jacques Derrida
    With death looming, Jacques Derrida, the world's most famous philosopher sat down with journalist Jean Birnbaum of the French daily Le Monde. They revisited his life's work and his impending death in a long, surprisingly accessible, and moving final interview. The Derrida found in this book is open and engaging, reflecting on a long career challenging important tenets of European philosophy from Plato to Marx. The contemporary meaning of Derrida's work is also examined, including a discussion of his many political activities. But, as Derrida says, "To philosophize is to learn to die"; as such, this philosophical discussion turns to the realities of his imminent death — including life with a fatal cancer. In the end, this interview remains a touching final look at a long and distinguished career.

Monday, June 22, 2009

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    Coming Insurrection by The Invisible Committee
    The Coming Insurrection is an eloquent call to arms arising from the recent waves of social contestation in France and Europe. Written by the anonymous Invisible Committee in the vein of Guy Debord—and with comparable elegance—it has been proclaimed a manual for terrorism by the French government (who recently arrested its alleged authors). One of its members more adequately described the group as "the name given to a collective voice bent on denouncing contemporary cynicism and reality." The Coming Insurrection is a strategic prescription for an emergent war-machine to "spread anarchy and live communism." Written in the wake of the riots that erupted throughout the Paris suburbs in the fall of 2005 and presaging more recent riots and general strikes in France and Greece, The Coming Insurrection articulates a rejection of the official Left and its reformist agenda, aligning itself instead with the younger, wilder forms of resistance that have emerged in Europe around recent struggles against immigration control and the "war on terror." Hot-wired to the movement of '77 in Italy, its preferred historical reference point, The Coming Insurrection formulates an ethics that takes as its starting point theft, sabotage, the refusal to work, and the elaboration of collective, self-organized forms-of-life. It is a philosophical statement that addresses the growing number of those—in France, in the United States, and elsewhere—who refuse the idea that theory, politics, and life are separate realms.

Monday, June 22, 2009

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    Ulysses and Us: The Art of Everyday Living by Declan Kiberd
    This great modernist masterpiece, which for many readers seems so intimidating, is one of the great books that can teach us how to live better lives. Declan Kiberd shows that Ulysses, far from being the epitome of elitism, was always intended as a book for the common people, rooted in their experience and offering a democratic and humane vision of a tolerant, decent life under the dreadful pressures of the modern world. Leopold Bloom, the half-Jewish Irishman who is the book’s hero, shows the young Stephen Dedalus (modelled on Joyce himself) how he can grow and mature as an artist and an adult human being. Bloom has learned to live with contradictions, with anxiety and sexual jealousy, and with the rudeness and racism of the people he encounters in the streets of Dublin. In his apparently banal way he sees deeper than any of them. He embodies an intensely ordinary kind of wisdom, Kiberd argues, and in this way offers us a model for living well, in the tradition of Homer, Dante and the Bible - all sources that Joyce drew on in the writing of his book. Ulysses and Us can also be read as a guide to Joyce, his novel and its context in the history of Ireland, and of Dublin, where the action of Ulysses takes place over a single day. Ulysses continues to be one of the central books of the twentieth century and this is an audacious new take on it, designed to remove it from the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Joyce industry and restore it to its shocking, democratic origins. Kiberd has written a moving and controversial book, free of literary-critical jargon and specialist concerns. With it he confirms his position as one of Ireland’s leading public intellectuals.

Monday, June 15, 2009

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    Diaries, Letters and Recollections by Lynette Roberts
    In 1939, following her marriage, the poet Lynette Roberts went to live in a small village in Wales. This experience, both enriching and isolating, became the source of some of her extraordinary poetry. Her diary observes daily life in a Welsh village in wartime with a poetic intensity: communal harvest, the arrival of evacuees, a frozen water pump, the cadences of voices and the effects of light and rain. Seven haunting stories weave modernist myths of Wales, while her magazine articles explore Welsh life with an anthropologist's eye. Roberts's restless intelligence never limits itself to the local. She writes about Picasso and Le Corbusier, about a visit to Spain on the trail of Lorca, the solemn drama of afternoon tea with the Sitwells, the comic disaster of taking her young children to visit T.S. Eliot. Enquiring, unsentimental, wryly humorous, Roberts engages us with her speaking voice. The publication of Lynette Roberts's Collected Poems in 2005 restored her to her place in twentieth-century poetry. This collection of her prose writings, most published here for the first time, accompanied by evocative family photographs, discloses the world that she transformed into poetry.

Monday, June 15, 2009

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    Ugly Feelings by Sianne Ngai
    Envy, irritation, paranoia - in contrast to powerful and dynamic negative emotions like anger, these non-cathartic states of feeling are associated with situations in which action is blocked or suspended. In her examination of the cultural forms to which these affects give rise, Sianne Ngai suggests that these minor and more politically ambiguous feelings become all the more suited for diagnosing the character of late modernity. Along with her inquiry into the aesthetics of unprestigious negative affects such as irritation, envy, and disgust, Ngai examines a racialised affect called "animatedness", and a paradoxical synthesis of shock and boredom called "stuplimity". She explores the politically equivocal work of these affective concepts in the cultural contexts where they seem most at stake, from academic feminist debates to the Harlem Renaissance, from late-20th Century American poetry to Hollywood film and network television. Through readings of Herman Melville, Nella Larsen, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Hitchcock, Gertrude Stein, Ralph Ellison, John Yau, and Bruce Andrews, among others, Ngai shows how art turns to ugly feelings as a site for interrogating its own suspended agency in the affirmative culture of a market society, where art is tolerated as essentially unthreatening.

Monday, June 08, 2009

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    The Dark Sahara: America's War on Terror in Africa by Jeremy Keenan
    The world is a very big place, so it is easy to take your eye off all of the ball and focus on just one tiny part. Whilst the media decides that at any particular moment our attention should be focussed on Iraq or Iran or North Korea lots of other things are, inevitably, going on in lots of other places. Whilst few of us have the time or energy or intellectual capability to be experts on the entire gamut of global foreign policy, we should at least be aware then when one particular country is nominated for attention as Public Enemy Number One that means that issues in the rest of the world are, simultaneously, being quite deliberately pushed off the news agenda. Whilst the world's attention has recently been focussed on the problems of the Middle East, the administration of George Bush II was building a worryingly substantial military presence in Africa. Ostensibly, this was to "combat the growth of Al-Qaeda in Somalia, Algeria and other countries on the continent." Jeremy Keenan shows, however, in his shocking and excellent book Dark Sahara: America's War on Terror in Africa, that it is a myth to suggest that Africa is a dangerous hot-bed of Islamist terrorism. According to Keenan, the American government -- along with the anti-Islamic government of Algeria -- "were responsible for hostage takings blamed on Islamic militants... allowing the US to establish military bases in the region and pursue multiple imperial objectives in the name of security." This is a disquieting book, but an essential one, showing that it is America's interference in the 'dark continent' that is making it such a dangerous place creating chaos that supports and advances America's own neo-imperialist agenda. Sadly, America is not the world's blameless white knight, and Africa-expert Jeremy Keenan is to be congratulated for showing just how far its actions diverge from its profoundly inaccurate self-image.

Monday, June 08, 2009

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    Book of Clouds by Chloe Aridjis
    Adrift in Berlin and with no desire to return home to Mexico, Tatiana cultivates solitude while trying to distance herself from the city's past. Yet the phantoms of Berlin - seeping in through the floorboards of her apartment, lingering in the abandoned subterranea - are more alive to her than the people she passes on her daily walks. When she takes a job transcribing notes for the reclusive historian Doktor Weiss, her life in Berlin becomes more complex. Through Weiss, she meets Jonas, a meteorologist who, as a child in the GDR, took solace in the sky's constant shape-shifting, an antidote to his unyielding and grim reality. As their three paths intersect and merge, the contours of all their worlds begin to change. Unfolding with the strange, charged logic of a dream, Book of Clouds is a haunting, beautifully drawn portrait of a city forever in flux, and of the myths we cling to in order to give shape to our lives. From a crowded U-Bahn where Hitler appears dressed as an old woman, to an underground Gestapo bowling alley whose walls bear score marks of games long settled, Chloe Aridjis guides us through Berlin with wit and compassion, showing why cities, like people, cannot outrun their pasts.

Monday, June 01, 2009

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    Requiem for Communism by Charity Scribner
    In Requiem for Communism Charity Scribner examines the politics of memory in post-industrial literature and art. Writers and artists from Europe's second world have responded to the last socialist crisis with works that range from sober description to melancholic fixation. This book is the first survey of this cultural field. For many writers and artists on the left, the fallout of the last century's socialist crisis calls for an elegy. This regret has prompted a proliferation of literary texts and artworks, as well as a boom in museum exhibitions that race to curate the wreckage of socialism and its industrial remnants. The best of these works do not take us back to the factory. Rather they look for something to take out of it: the intractable moments of solidarity among men and women that did not square with the market or the plan. Requiem for Communism explores a selection of signal works. They include John Berger's narrative trilogy Into Their Labors; Documenta, the German platform for contemporary art and ideas; Krzysztof Kieslowski's cinema of mourning and Andrzej Wajda's filmed chronicles of the Solidarity movement; the art of Joseph Beuys and Rachel Whiteread; the novels of Christa Wolf; and Leslie Kaplan's antinostalgic memoir of women's material labour in France. Sorting among the ruins of the second world, the critical minds of contemporary Europe aim to salvage both the remains of socialist ideals and the latent feminist potential that attended them.

Monday, June 01, 2009

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    The Cambridge Book of Lesser Poets by Compiled by J. C. Squire
    When it was first published in 1927, The Cambridge Book of Lesser Poets was intended by its compiler, Sir John Collings Squire, to complement the well-known poetry anthologies of Francis Turner Palgrave and Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. Squire began the task of assembling his anthology by deliberately omitting over one hundred greater poets, giving precedence to Nicholas Breton and John Clare in the place of Shakespeare and Tennyson. Although some familiar names such as Thomas Dekker, John Bunyan, Washington Irving, and Herman Melville appear in the collection, the focus remains on those who lack prominence in the canon, including many medieval poets whose identities are unknown. Drawing together a considerable number of first-rate and undervalued poets, The Cambridge Book of Lesser Poets is an essential supplement to the traditional anthologies of English verse of the past.

Monday, May 25, 2009

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    The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke
    While his old furniture rots in storage, Malte Laurids Brigge lives in a cheap room in Paris, with little but a library reader's card to distinguish him from the city's untouchables. Every person he sees seems to carry their death with them, and he thinks of the deaths, and ghosts, of his aristocratic family, of which only he remains. The only novel by one of the greatest writers of poetry in German, the semi-autobiographical Notebooks is an uneasy, compelling and poetic book that anticipated Sartre and is full of passages of lyrical brilliance. Michael Hulse's new translation perfectly conveys the unsettling beauty of the original and is accompanied by an introduction on Rilke's life and the biographical and literary influences on the Notebooks. This edition also includes suggested further reading, a chronology and notes.

Monday, May 25, 2009

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    Genesis by Robert Alter
    A translation of the Book of Genesis, which attempts to recover the meanings of the ancient Hebrew and convey them in modern English prose. It is accompanied by a commentary and annotations, and aims to illuminate the original work without any touch of the fake antique by the noted Biblical scholar Robert Alter, the Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. James Wood declared it a "remarkable translation... a monument of scholarship... Alter brings a kind of sensitivity to bear on moment after moment of his translation..."

Monday, May 18, 2009

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    Reason, Faith, and Revolution by Terry Eagleton
    Terry Eagleton's witty and polemical Reason, Faith, and Revolution is bound to cause a stir among scientists, theologians, people of faith and people of no faith, as well as general readers eager to understand the God Debate. On the one hand, Eagleton demolishes what he calls the 'superstitious' view of God held by most atheists and agnostics, and offers in its place a revolutionary account of the Christian Gospel. On the other hand, he launches a stinging assault on the betrayal of this revolution by institutional Christianity.There is little joy here, then, either for the anti-God brigade -- Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens in particular -- nor for many conventional believers. Instead, Eagleton offers his own vibrant account of religion and politics in a book that ranges from the Holy Spirit to the recent history of the Middle East, from Thomas Aquinas to the Twin Towers.

Monday, May 18, 2009

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    Crisis? What Crisis?: Britain in the 1970s by Alwyn W. Turner
    One of the most important jobs that history can do is to make what we think is familiar strange again. When we become estranged from engrained patterns of thinking we can then begin to think more clearly about a subject. We think we know how Britain was in the Seventies; and we think we know it was rubbish! Rubbish fashion, rubbish politics, rubbish industrial relations and rubbish not being collected because the binmen were on strike because of the rubbish industrial relations again! But Alwyn W. Turner's Crisis? What Crisis?: Britain in the 1970s reminds us there was far more to the Seventies than flares and flock wallpaper. In many ways, the Seventies was a golden decade: it was when much that was started in the vaunted Sixties actually happened. For instance, wealth inequality was "at a record low" and, key for Turner's narrative, it was when popular culture really began to dominate the mainstream. The fascist National Front might have been on the march, inflation might have been on the rise, and power cuts might have been on everyone's mind, but Morecambe & Wise was on the telly, Get Carter was on at the pictures, and glam rock was giving way to the energy and DIY radicalism of punk. Turner never pretends that, for instance, the Troubles in Northern Ireland weren't tragic nor that that shameful racism of an Enoch Powell wasn't unforgiveably troubling, but he does remind us that, for many in Britain, the Seventies was a decade we could do well to remember properly and that means seeing past the cliche that it has become and understanding the past for what it really was.

Monday, May 11, 2009

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    Searching for Cioran by Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston
    Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston's critical biography of the Romanian-born French philosopher E.M. Cioran focuses on his crucial formative years as a mystical revolutionary attracted to right-wing nationalist politics in interwar Romania, his writings of this period, and his self-imposed exile to France in 1937. This move led to his transformation into one of the most famous French moralists of the 20th century. As an enthusiast of the anti-rationalist philosophies widely popular in Europe during the first decades of the 20th century, Cioran became an advocate of the fascistic Iron Guard.In her quest to understand how Cioran and other brilliant young intellectuals could have been attracted to such passionate national revival movements, Zarifopol-Johnston, herself a Romanian emigre, sought out the aging philosopher in Paris in the early 1990s and retraced his steps from his home village of Rasinari and youthful years in Sibiu, through his student years in Bucharest and Berlin, to his early residence in France. Her portrait of Cioran is complemented by an engaging autobiographical account of her rediscovery of her own Romanian past.

Monday, May 11, 2009

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    In Memory of Jacques Derrida by Nicholas Royle
    Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) was the most original and inspiring writer and philosopher of our time. In a series of distinctive essays that are at once self-contained and intricately linked, Royle explores the legacies of Derrida's thinking in the context of philosophy, language, globalisation, war, terrorism, justice, the democracy to come, poetry, literature, memory, mourning, the gift, friendship and dreams. Lucid, inventive and at times funny, Royle allows us to appreciate how much Derrida's work has altered the ways we read and think. Autobiography, children's literature, the Gothic and modernist fiction, for example, figure together with philosophy, queer studies, speech act theory and psychoanalysis. The writings of Horace Walpole, Herman Melville, E.M. Forster, Elizabeth Bowen, Joe Brainard and David McKee are illuminatingly put in play alongside Shakespeare. Royle's book suggests that one of Derrida's most profound legacies has to do with the combination of responsibility and freedom his work inspires for both reading and writing. In Memory of Jacques Derrida offers an exceptionally clear overview of Derrida's work, while also tracing directions in which it might productively be read in the future.

Monday, May 04, 2009

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    Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko But Don't Get Stockhausen by David Stubbs
    Modern art is a mass phenomenon. Conceptual artists like Damien Hirst enjoy celebrity status. Works by 20th century abstract artists like Mark Rothko are selling for record breaking sums, while the millions commanded by works by Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon make headline news. However, while the general public has no trouble embracing avant garde and experimental art, there is, by contrast, mass resistance to avant garde and experimental music, although both were born at the same time under similar circumstances - and despite the fact that from Schoenberg and Kandinsky onwards, musicians and artists have made repeated efforts to establish a "synaesthesia" between their two media. This book examines the parallel histories of modern art and modern music and examines why one is embraced and understood and the other ignored, derided or regarded with bewilderment, as noisy, random nonsense perpetrated by, and listened to by the inexplicably crazed. It draws on interviews and often highly amusing anecdotal evidence in order to find answers to the question: Why do people get Rothko and not Stockhausen?

Monday, May 04, 2009

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    Moose by Kevin Jackson
    The moose, or 'elk' in Europe, is generally found in the temperate to subarctic forests of the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, that includes almost all of Canada, most of central and western Alaska, much of New England, the upper Rocky Mountains, Northeastern Minnesota, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Isle Royale in Lake Superior. Small but present moose populations have been verified as far south as the mountains of Colorado. Moose have been hunted for food since the Stone Age, are considered the national animal of Sweden and Norway, and the moose occurs frequently in the popular culture of the Northern Hemisphere, from the logo of Abercrombie and Fitch to Bullwinkle, of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Kevin Jackson's Moose describes and discusses moose evolution, diet, behaviour and environment, as well as every major aspect of the interactions between man and moose, from Julius Caesar's first mention of 'alces' in his history of the Gallic Wars to the planned construction of a 45-metre-high wooden moose in Sweden. Among the leading human figures in this story are Thomas Jefferson and Buffon, the great English painter George Stubbs, Henry David Thoreau, Theodore Roosevelt and his Bull moose party and the poets Ted Hughes and Anne Sexton.The book also includes much colourful moose lore, such as the belief that moose hoof could cure epilepsy; an explanation of why Roosevelt called his breakaway political movement the Bull Moose Party; a fascinating digression on the Enlightenment controversy over moose and the Irish Elk; and why the moose is really an elk, and the elk is really a wapiti. Containing many illustrations of moose from nature and culture, and full of little-known fact and anecdote about this familiar and much-loved animal, Moose will appeal to cultural historians, literati, moose lovers, naturalists, zoologists and eccentrics everywhere.

Monday, April 27, 2009

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    Militant Modernism by Owen Hatherley
    This book is a defence of Modernism against its defenders. In readings of modern design, film and especially architecture, it attempts to reclaim a revolutionary modernism against its absorption into the heritage industry and the aesthetics of the luxury flat. Militant Modernism argues for a Modernism of everyday life, immersed in questions of socialism, sexual politics and technology. It features new readings of some familiar names - Bertolt Brecht, Le Corbusier, Vladimir Mayakovsky - and much more on the lesser known, quotidian modernists of the 20th century. The chapters range from a study of industrial and brutalist aesthetics in Britain, Russian Constructivism in architecture, the Sexpol of Wilhelm Reich in film and design, and the alienation effects of Brecht and Hanns Eisler on record and on screen. Against the world of 'there is no alternative', this book tries to excavate Modernism’s other futures.

Monday, April 27, 2009

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    The Frock-coated Communist by Tristram Hunt
    Friedrich Engels is one of the most attractive and contradictory figures of the nineteenth century. Born to a prosperous mercantile family in west Germany, he spent his career working in the Manchester cotton industry, riding to the Cheshire hounds, and enjoying the comfortable, middle-class life of a Victorian gentleman. Yet Engels was also the co-founder of international communism - the philosophy which in the 20th century came to control one third of the human race. He was the co-author of The Communist Manifesto, a ruthless party tactician, and the man who sacrificed his best years so Karl Marx could write Das Kapital. Tristram Hunt relishes the diversity and exuberance of Engels' era: how one of the great bon viveurs of Victorian Britain reconciled his raucous personal life with this uncompromising political philosophy.Set against the backdrop of revolutionary Europe and industrializing England - of Manchester mills, Paris barricades, and East End strikes - it is a story of devoted friendship, class compromise, ideological struggle, and family betrayal.

Monday, April 13, 2009

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    The Resistance by Matthew Cobb
    The French resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II was a struggle in which ordinary people fought for their liberty, despite terrible odds and horrifying repression. Hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen and women carried out an armed struggle against the Nazis, producing underground anti-fascist publications and supplying the Allies with vital intelligence. Based on hundreds of French eye-witness accounts and including recently-released archival material, The Resistance uses dramatic personal stories to take the reader on one of the great adventures of the 20th century. The tale begins with the catastrophic Fall of France in 1940, and shatters the myth of a unified Resistance created by General de Gaulle. In fact, De Gaulle never understood the Resistance, and sought to use, dominate and channel it to his own ends. Brave men and women set up organisations, only to be betrayed or hunted down by the Nazis, and to die in front of the firing squad or in the concentration camps. Over time, the true story of the Resistance got blurred and distorted, its heroes and conflicts were forgotten as the movement became a myth. By turns exciting, tragic and insightful, The Resistance reveals how one of the most powerful modern myths came to be forged and provides a gripping account of one of the most striking events in the 20th century.

Monday, April 13, 2009

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    Making the Known World New by Kenneth Steven
    In the summer of 2008, Kenneth Steven moved house, leaving behind the small square of ground that had been his garden for many years: a place of solitude, contemplation, observance and simple relaxation - a place for the mind to wander as the seasons pass. In Making the Known World New, this small oasis inspires reflections full of wonder at the variety, beauty, determination and sheer audacity of nature in a confined space. Acting as a microcosm, the garden also kindles thoughts of the wider world and the threat it faces. Each chapter is accompanied by poetry, complimenting and contextualizing the prose, making the know world new...

Monday, April 06, 2009

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    Beckett, Technology and the Body by Ulrika Maude
    Critics have often focused on interiority in Beckett's works, privileging the mind over the body. In this new approach, the first sustained analysis of embodiment in Beckett's prose, drama and media works, Ulrika Maude argues that physical and sensory experience is in fact central to the understanding of Beckett's writing. In innovative readings of sight, hearing, touch and movement in the full range of Beckett's works, Ulrika Maude uncovers the author's effort to shed light on embodied experience, paying attention to Beckett’s interests in medicine and body-altering technologies such as prostheses. Through these material, bodily, concerns Beckett explores wider themes of subjectivity and experience, interiority and exteriority, foregrounding the inextricable relationship between the body, the senses and the self. This important new study offers a novel approach to Beckett, one in which the body takes its rightful place alongside the mind.

Monday, April 06, 2009

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    Jane Austen's Textual Lives by Kathryn Sutherland
    Through three intertwined histories Jane Austen's Textual Lives offers a new way of approaching and reading a very familiar author. One is a history of the transmission and transformation of Jane Austen through manuscripts, critical editions, biographies, and adaptations; a second provides a conspectus of the development of English Studies as a discipline in which the original and primary place of textual criticism is recovered; and a third reviews the role of Oxford University Press in shaping a canon of English texts in the twentieth century. Jane Austen can be discovered in all three. Since her rise to celebrity status at the end of the nineteenth century, Jane Austen has occupied a position within English-speaking culture that is both popular and canonical, accessible and complexly inaccessible, fixed and certain yet wonderfully amenable to shifts of sensibility and cultural assumptions. The implied contradiction was represented in the early twentieth century by, on the one hand, the Austen family's continued management, censorship, and sentimental marketing of the sweet lady novelist of the Hampshire countryside; and on the other, by R. W. Chapman's 1923 Clarendon Press edition of the Novels of Jane Austen, which subjected her texts to the kind of scholarly probing reserved till then for classical Greek and Roman authors obscured by centuries of attrition. It was to be almost fifty years before the Clarendon Press considered it necessary to recalibrate the reputation of another popular English novelist in this way. Beginning with specific encounters with three kinds of textual work and the problems, clues, or challenges to interpretation they continue to present, Kathryn Sutherland goes on to consider the absence of a satisfactory critical theory of biography that can help us address the partial life, and ends with a discussion of the screen adaptations through which the texts continue to live on. Throughout, Jane Austen's textual identities provide a means to explore the wider issue of what text is and to argue the importance of understanding textual space as itself a powerful agent established only by recourse to further interpretations and fictions.

Monday, March 30, 2009

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    Shaping the Day: A History of Timekeeping in England and Wales 1300-1800 by Paul Glennie
    Timekeeping is an essential activity in the modern world, and we take it for granted that our lives are shaped by the hours of the day. Yet what seems so ordinary today is actually the extraordinary outcome of centuries of technical innovation and circulation of ideas about time. Shaping the Day is a pathbreaking study of the practice of timekeeping in England and Wales between 1300 and 1800. Drawing on many unique historical sources, ranging from personal diaries to housekeeping manuals, Paul Glennie and Nigel Thrift illustrate how a particular kind of common sense about time came into being, and how it developed during this period. Many remarkable figures make their appearance, ranging from the well-known, such as Edmund Halley, Samuel Pepys, and John Harrison, who solved the problem of longitude, to less familiar characters, including sailors, gamblers, and burglars. Overturning many common perceptions of the past-for example, that clock time and the industrial revolution were intimately related-this unique historical study will engage all readers interested in how 'telling the time' has come to dominate our way of life.

Monday, March 30, 2009

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    For the Love of God by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
    Quoting King Solomon's famous prayer to God at the Temple in Jerusalem, "Behold, the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded," Alicia Suskin Ostriker posits a God who cannot be contained by dogma and doctrine. Troubled by the way the Bible has become identified in our culture with a monolithic authoritarianism, Ostriker focuses instead on the extraordinary variability of Biblical writing. For the Love of God: The Bible as an Open Book is a provocative and inspiring re-interpretation of six essential Biblical texts: The Song of Songs, the Book of Ruth, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Jonah, and Job. In prose that is personal and probing, analytically acute and compellingly readable, Ostriker sees these writings as "counter-texts," deviating from convention yet deepening and enriching the Bible, our images of God, and our own potential spiritual lives. Attempting to understand "some of the wildest, strangest, most splendid writing in Western tradition," she shows how the Bible embraces sexuality and skepticism, boundary crossing and challenges to authority, how it illuminates the human psyche and mirrors our own violent times, and how it asks us to make difficult choices in the quest for justice. For better or worse, our society is wedded to the Bible. But according to Talmud, "There is always another interpretation." Ostriker demonstrates that the Bible, unlike its reputation, offers a plenitude of surprises.

Monday, March 23, 2009

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    Strangers by Anita Brookner
    Paul Sturgis is a retired banker manager who lives alone in a dark little flat. He walks alone and dines alone, seeking out and taking pleasure in small exchanges with strangers: the cheerful Australian girl who cuts his hair, the lady at the drycleaners. His only relative, and only acquaintance, is a widowed cousin by marriage - herself a virtual stranger - to whom he pays ritualistic visits on a Sunday afternoon. Trying to make sense of his current solitary state, and fearing that his destiny may be to die among strangers, Sturgis trawls through memories of his failed relationships and finds himself longing for companionship, or at the very least a conversation. But then a chance encounter with a stranger - a recently divorced and demanding younger woman - shakes up his routine and when an old girlfriend appears on the scene, Sturgis is forced to make a decision about how (and with whom) he wants to spend the rest of his days...

Monday, March 23, 2009

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    A Childhood Memory by Piero Della Francesca by Hubert Damisch
    Piero della Francesca’s Madonna del Parto, a celebrated fifteenth-century Tuscan fresco in which the Virgin gestures to her partially open dress and her pregnant womb, is highly unusual in its iconography. Hubert Damisch undertakes an anthropological and historical analysis of an artwork he constructs as a childhood dream of one of humanity’s oldest preoccupations, the mysteries of our origins, of our conception and birth. At once parodying and paying homage to Freud’s seminal essay on Leonardo da Vinci, Damisch uses Piero’s enigmatic painting to narrate our archaic memories. He shows that we must return to Freud because work in psychoanalysis and art has not solved the problem of what is being analyzed: in the triangle of author, work, and audience, where is the psychoanalytic component located?

Monday, March 16, 2009

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    Romanticism After Auschwitz by Sara Guyer
    Romanticism After Auschwitz reveals how post-Holocaust testimony remains romantic, and shows why romanticism must therefore be rethought. The book argues that what literary historians have traditionally called “romanticism,” and characterized as a literary movement stretching roughly between 1785 and 1832, should be redescribed in light of two circumstances. The first is the specific inadequacy of literary-historical models before “romantic” works. The second is the particular function that these unsettling aspects of “romantic” works have after Auschwitz. The book demonstrates that certain figures (of speech, writing, and argument) central to normative accounts of “romanticism,” serve in their most radical—most genuinely “romantic”—form as vehicles for posing a conception of life (and death) revealed in the camps. In these pages, Agamben meets Wordsworth, Shakespeare meets Celan, film meets lyric poetry, survivors’ accounts meet fiction, de Man encounters Nancy. The book offers new readings of highly canonical works—Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog—and introduces unfamiliar texts. It elaborates a fascinating account of the rhetoric of ethical dispositions and gives its readers an attentive, moving way of understanding the condition of human survival after the Holocaust.

Monday, March 16, 2009

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    French Laughter by Walter Redfern
    The culmination of a lifetime's fascination with humour in all its forms, this book is the first in any language to embrace such an impressive span of authors and such a broad range of topics in French literary humour. In nine wide-ranging chapters Walter Redfern considers diverse writers and topics, including: Diderot, viewed as a laughing philosopher, mainly through his fiction (Les Bijoux indiscrets, Le Neeu de Rameau, and Jacques le fataliste); humourlessness, corraling Rousseau, Sade, the Christian God, and Jean-Pierre Brisset; the aesthete Huysmans, in both his avatars, Symbolist and Naturalist (A Rebours, Sac au dos, and other texts); the dramatic use of parrots by Flaubert, Queneau, and Beckett; Vallès and la blague; exaggeration in Vallès and Céline (Mort à credit and L'Enfant); the fiction, plays, and autobiography of Sartre; bad jokes in Beckett; wordplay in Tournier's fiction (especially Roi des aulnes and Les Météores). Five interleaved 'riffs' on laughter, dreams, black humour, politics, and taste, carry the enquiry into questions of humour outside of the purely French context, enhancing a book that impresses as much with its vivacity of style as with the breadth and depth of its scholarship.

Monday, March 09, 2009

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    Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction by Álvaro Uribe
    Sixteen of Mexico’s finest fiction writers born after 1945 are collected in this compelling bilingual anthology, offering a glimpse of the rich tapestry of Mexican fiction, from small-town dramas to tales of urban savagery. Many of these writers, and most of these stories, have never before appeared in English. Readers will meet an embalmed man positioned in front of the TV, a mariachi singer suffering from mediocrity, a man’s lifelong imaginary friend, and the town prostitute whose funeral draws a crowd from the highest rungs of the social ladder. The writers that Mexican editor Álvaro Uribe selected for this volume are deeply engaged in the literary life of Mexico and include prominent editors, translators, columnists, professors, and even the young founder of a new publishing collective. Between them they have received dozens of prizes, from the Xavier Villaurrutia prize to Guggenheim fellowships and other international awards.

Monday, March 09, 2009

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    AntiMatter by Frank Close
    Antimatter explores a strange mirror world, where particles have identical yet opposite properties to those that make up the familiar matter we encounter everyday; where left becomes right, positive becomes negative; and where, should matter and antimatter meet, the two annihilate in a blinding flash of energy that makes even thermonuclear explosions look feeble by comparison. It is an idea long beloved of science-fiction stories - but here, renowned science writer Frank Close shows that the reality of antimatter is even more fascinating than the fiction itself. We know that once, antimatter and matter existed in perfect counterbalance, and that antimatter then perpetrated a vanishing act on a cosmic scale that remains one of the greatest mysteries of the universe. Today, antimatter does not exist normally, at least on Earth, but we know that it is real for scientists are now able to make small pieces of it in particle accelerators, such as that at CERN in Geneva. Looking at the remarkable prediction of antimatter and how it grew from the meeting point of relativity and quantum theory in the early 20th century, at the discovery of the first antiparticles, at cosmic rays, annihilation, antimatter bombs, and antiworlds, Close separates the facts from the fiction about antimatter, and explains how its existence can give us profound clues about the origins and structure of the universe.

Monday, March 02, 2009

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    Why Victorian Literature Still Matters by Philip Davis
    Why Victorian Literature Still Matters is a passionate defense of Victorian literature's enduring impact and importance for readers interested in the relationship between literature and life, reading and thinking. This title explores the prominence of Victorian literature for contemporary readers and academics, through the author's unique insight into why it is still important today. It provides new frames of interpretation for key Victorian works of literature and close reading of important texts. It argues for a new engagement with Victorian literature, from general readers and scholars alike. It seeks to remove Victorian literature from an entrenched set of values, traditions and perspectives - demonstrating how vital and resonant it is for modern literary and cultural analysis.

Monday, March 02, 2009

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    How The Soldier Repairs The Gramophone by Sasa Stanisic
    Aleksandar is Comrade-in-Chief of fishing, the best magician in the non-aligned States and painter of unfinished things. He knows the first chapter of Marx's Das Kapital by heart but spends most of his time playing football in the Bosnian town of Visegrad on the banks of the river Drina. When his grandfather, a master storyteller, dies of the fastest heart attack in the world while watching Carl Lewis's record, Aleksandar promises to carry on the tradition. However when the shadow of war spreads to Visegrad, the world as he knows it stops. Suddenly it is not important how heavy a spider's life weighs, or why Marko's horse is related to Superman. Suddenly it is important to have the right name and to pretend that the little Muslim girl Asija is his sister. Then Aleksandar's parents decide to flee to Germany and he must leave his new friend behind.

Monday, February 23, 2009

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    A Blessed Child by Linn Ullmann
    Isak Lovenstad is a pioneering obstetrician - and a powerful, charismatic womanizer. Every summer he gathers his three daughters by different wives to the windswept Baltic island of Hammarso. Here Erika, Molly and Laura know, if only for the season, what it is to be a family, and here, in the society of other children, each undergoes the rites of growing up. Though many alliances form and dissolve, none is comparable to Erika's bond with Ragnar, a rebellious misfit whose intensity makes them inseparable. But when they turn fourteen, and their relationship threatens to relegate Erika to Ragnar's outcast state, she turns away suddenly - a common enough teenage betrayal that nonetheless precipitates an incident of such senseless cruelty as to alter forever each sister's life. Twenty-five years later, returning to Hammarso to see their father - now eighty-four and in year-round exile there - the three women confront, finally, the spectre of that awful summer whose mark each has since carried.

Monday, February 23, 2009

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    The Director by Alexander Ahndoril
    A portrait of an artist capturing the late, great Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman at a crucial moment in his life, in 1961 when he was making the second film in his celebrated faith trilogy, Winter Light. Fighting to finish his film about a priest who loses his religion (which nobody wanted him to make), and struggling with his stern Lutheran minister father (who wanted his son to enter the church), Bergman is presented in a complex if not flattering light; he initially praised the book and subsequently damned it shortly before he died. If Alexander Ahndoril’s psychological portrait isn’t black and white, his evocation of time and place is. Careful employment of his spare prose style — "[he] walks through a shadow the size of himself" — recreates the bleak, eerie world of Bergman’s monochromatic films.

Monday, February 16, 2009

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    Conversion and Reform in the British Novel in the 1790s by Markley
    The binary opposition of Jacobin and Anti-Jacobin by scholars has led to mischaracterization of 1790s novels and this book advances new scholarship to correct this. Conversion and Reform analyzes the work of those British reformists writing in the 1790s who reshaped the conventions of fiction to reposition the novel as a progressive political tool. It includes new readings of key figures such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Thomas Holcroft.

Monday, February 09, 2009

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    The Cambridge Companion to Daniel Defoe by John Richetti
    Daniel Defoe had an eventful and adventurous life as a merchant, politician, spy and literary hack. He is one of the eighteenth century’s most lively, innovative and important authors, famous not only for his novels, including Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders, and Roxana, but for his extensive work in journalism, political polemic and conduct guides, and for his pioneering 'Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain'. This volume surveys the wide range of Defoe's fiction and non-fiction, and assesses his importance as writer and thinker. Leading scholars discuss key issues in Defoe's novels, and show how the man who was once pilloried for his writings emerges now as a key figure in the literature and culture of the early eighteenth century.

Monday, February 09, 2009

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    The Grounds of English Literature by Christopher Cannon
    The centuries just after the Norman Conquest are the forgotten period of English literary history. In fact, the years 1066-1300 witnessed an unparalleled ingenuity in the creation of written forms, for this was a time when almost every writer was unaware of the existence of other English writing. In a series of detailed readings of the more important early Middle English works, Cannon shows how the many and varied texts of the period laid the foundations for the project of English literature. This richness is for the first time given credit in these readings by means of an innovative theory of literary form that accepts every written shape as itself a unique contribution to the history of ideas. This theory also suggests that the impoverished understanding of literature we now commonly employ is itself a legacy of this early period, an attribute of the single form we have learned to call 'romance'. A number of reading methods have lately taught us to be more generous in our understandings of what literature might be, but this book shows us that the very variety we now strive to embrace anew actually formed the grounds of English literature - a richness we only lost when we forgot how to recognize it.

Monday, February 02, 2009

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    History and the Early English Novel: Matters of Fact from Bacon to Defoe by Robert Mayer
    This new study of the origins of the English novel argues that the novel emerged from historical writing. Examining historical writers and forms frequently neglected by earlier scholars, Robert Mayer shows that in the seventeenth century historical discourse embraced not only ‘history’ in its modern sense, but also fiction, polemic, gossip, and marvels. Mayer thus explains why Defoe’s narratives were initially read as history. It is the acceptance of the claims to historicity, the study argues, that differentiates Defoe’s fictions from those of writers like Thomas Deloney and Aphra Behn, important writers who nevertheless have figured less prominently than Defoe in discussions of the novel. Mayer ends by exploring the theoretical implications of the history-fiction connection. His study makes an important contribution to the continuing debate about the emergence of what we now call the novel in Britain in the eighteenth century.

Monday, February 02, 2009

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    The Cult of Statistical Significance by Stephen Thomas Ziliak
    The Cult of Statistical Significance shows, field by field, how "statistical significance," a technique that dominates many sciences, has been a huge mistake. The authors find that researchers in a broad spectrum of fields, from agronomy to zoology, employ "testing" that doesn't test and "estimating" that doesn't estimate. The facts will startle the outside reader: how could a group of brilliant scientists wander so far from scientific magnitudes? This study will encourage scientists who want to know how to get the statistical sciences back on track and fulfill their quantitative promise. The book shows for the first time how wide the disaster is, and how bad for science, and it traces the problem to its historical, sociological, and philosophical roots.

Monday, January 26, 2009

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    Loneliness as a Way of Life by Thomas Dumm
    “What does it mean to be lonely?” Thomas Dumm asks. His inquiry, documented in this book, takes us beyond social circumstances and into the deeper forces that shape our very existence as modern individuals. The modern individual, Dumm suggests, is fundamentally a lonely self. Through reflections on philosophy, political theory, literature, and tragic drama, he proceeds to illuminate a hidden dimension of the human condition. His book shows how loneliness shapes the contemporary division between public and private, our inability to live with each other honestly and in comity, the estranged forms that our intimate relationships assume, and the weakness of our common bonds. A reading of the relationship between Cordelia and her father in Shakespeare’s King Lear points to the most basic dynamic of modern loneliness—how it is a response to the problem of the “missing mother.” Dumm goes on to explore the most important dimensions of lonely experience—Being, Having, Loving, and Grieving. As the book unfolds, he juxtaposes new interpretations of iconic cultural texts—Moby-Dick, Death of a Salesman, the film Paris, Texas, Emerson’s Experience, to name a few—with his own experiences of loneliness, as a son, as a father, and as a grieving husband and widower. Written with deceptive simplicity, Loneliness as a Way of Life is something rare—an intellectual study that is passionately personal. It challenges us, not to overcome our loneliness, but to learn how to re-inhabit it in a better way. To fail to do so, this book reveals, will only intensify the power that it holds over us.

Monday, January 26, 2009

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    The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: Volume 2, 1100 - 1400 by Nigel Morgan
    This is the first history of the book in Britain from the Norman Conquest until the early fifteenth century. The twenty-six expert contributors to this volume discuss the manuscript book from a variety of angles: as physical object (manufacture, format, writing and decoration); its purpose and readership (books for monasteries, for the Church's liturgy, for elementary and advanced instruction, for courtly entertainment); and as the vehicle for particular types of text (history, sermons, medical treatises, law and administration, music). In all of this, the broader, changing social and cultural context is kept in mind, and so are the various connections with continental Europe. The volume includes a full bibliography and 80 black and white plates.

Monday, January 19, 2009

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    In Praise of the Common by Cesare Casarino
    Antonio Negri has inspired anti-empire movements around the world through his writings and personal example. Born in 1933, he was imprisoned in Italy in 1979 and convicted, nearly five years later, on questionable charges of “association and insurrection against the state,” whereupon he left the country to teach in France. In 1997, he voluntarily returned to Italy to serve out his seventeen-year prison sentence. He was freed in 2003. In Praise of the Common, which began as a conversation between Negri and literary critic Cesare Casarino, is the most complete review of the philosopher’s work ever published. It includes five exchanges in which the two intellectuals discuss Negri’s evolution as a thinker from 1950 to the present, detailing for the first time the genealogy of his concepts. In Praise of the Common contains two essays by Casarino that expand Negri’s most recent work by relating it to the work of other prominent thinkers. This is at once a book by Negri and on Negri. It presents, for the first time in English, a major essay by Negri on the “monster” as a political figure in the history of Western thought, engaging with discourses of biopolitics, eugenics, and genetic engineering. More candid and self-critical than ever before, Negri provides his wide audience with a rich and revelatory assessment of his controversial, highly influential thought.

Monday, January 19, 2009

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    Isaac Rosenberg by Jean Moorcroft Wilson
    Siegfried Sassoon praised Isaac Rosenberg's 'genius' and T.S. Eliot called him the 'most extraordinary' of the Great War poets. Yet it is over thirty years since there has been a full-length biography of Isaac Rosenberg. This major reappraisal of his life and work by one of the First World War literature's leading authorities, Jean Moorcroft Wilson, is long overdue. Rosenberg dies on the Western Front in 1918 aged only twenty-seven, his tragic early death resembling that of many other well-known poets of that conflict. But he differed from the majority of Great War poets in almost every other respect - race, class, education, upbringing, experience and technique. He was a skilled painter as well as a brilliant poet. The son of impoverished immigrant Russian Jews, he served as a private in the army and his perspective on the trenches is quite different from the other mainly officer-poets, allowing the voice of the "poor bloody Tommy" to be eloquently heard. Jean Moorcroft Wilson focuses on the relationship between Rosenberg's life and work - his childhood in Bristol and the Jewish East End of London; his time at the Slade School of Art and friendship with David Bomberg, Mark Gertler and Stanley Spencer; his visit to Cape Town, where he was staying when war broke out in August 1914 and where he fell in love with the divorced wife of South Africa's future Prime Minister; and his harrowing life as a private in the British Army. This monumental new life is published to mark the 90th anniversary of his death. Based on all known Rosenberg material and a mass of important new discoveries, Dr Wilson's biography has been authorised by Rosenberg's family and written with their blessing and help. It is also beautifully illustrated, including some hitherto unseen self-portraits, bringing together for the first time all that is known of this outstanding poet-painter.

Monday, January 12, 2009

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    Isaac Rosenberg by Vivien Noakes
    This volume presents all of the surviving writings of Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918): poetry, plays, prose works, and letters. The book also provides a commentary giving details of the composition and publication of the poems and plays and throws light on the people, places, and incidents described in both these and the letters. An introduction places the collection in context and a chronological table describes the main events of his life. There are also examples of his paintings and drawings. Although best known as a war poet, most of Rosenberg's work pre-dates the war. The son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, he grew up in London's East End. Financially impoverished, he nevertheless lived in a society that valued artistic creativity - among his friends were Mark Gertler and David Bomberg. He was a painter as well as a poet, and studied at the Slade School of Art. He knew many of the leading poets of the day, and his letters, in particular those to Edward Marsh and Gordon Bottomley, throw fascinating light on his own poetic creativitiy and the response to his work of those around him. In both his letters and prose works we find an insightful commentator on both poetry and painting. Though never a member of any movement, he was aware of the issues that preoccupied the artistic circles of his day. His artistic independence gives both power and insight to his work.

Monday, January 12, 2009

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    Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard by Richard Brody
    Jean-Luc Godard is one the most influential film-makers of the last fifty years. Scorsese, Tarantino, Wong Kar-Wai and Lars von Trier are but a few of the directors who have fallen under the spell of his free-wheeling style. In his 1960s heyday Godard - always in dark shades, cigarette in hand - epitomised European cool. But he subsequently grew into one of the most formidable artists the cinema has produced. Writer and film-maker Richard Brody, one of the few to have interviewed Godard in his Swiss retreat, here offers an accessible account of this extraordinary and fascinating artist.

Monday, January 05, 2009

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    Tranquility by Attila Bartis
    Tranquility is a living seismograph of the internal quakes and ruptures of a mother and son trapped within an Oedipal nightmare amidst the suffocating totalitarian embrace of Communist Hungary. Andor Weér, a thirty-six-year-old writer, lives in a small apartment with his shut-in mother, Rebeka, who was once among the most celebrated stage actresses in Budapest. Unable to withstand her maniacal tyranny but afraid to leave her alone, their bitter interdependence spirals into a Sartrian hell of hatred, lies, and appeasement. Then Andor meets the beautiful and nurturing Eszter, a woman who seems to have no past, and they fall wildly in love at first sight. With a fulfilling life seemingly within reach for the first time, Andor decides that he is ready to bring Eszter home to meet Mother. Though Bartis’s characters are unrepentantly neurotic and dressed in the blackest humor, his empathy for them is profound. A political farce of the highest ironic order, concluding that “freedom is a condition unsuited to humans,” Tranquility is ultimately, at its splanchnic core, a complex psychodrama turned inside out, revealing with visceral splendor the grotesque ideal that there’s nothing funnier than unhappiness.

Monday, January 05, 2009

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    The Pets by Bragi Olafsson
    Back in Reykjavik after a vacation in London, Emil Halldorsson is waiting for a call from a beautiful girl, Greta, that he met on the plane ride home, and he’s just put on a pot of coffee when an unexpected visitor knocks on the door. Peeking through a window, Emil spies an erstwhile friend—Havard Knutsson, his one-time roommate and current resident of a Swedish mental institution—on his doorstep, and he panics, taking refuge under his bed and hoping the frightful nuisance will simply go away. Havard won’t be so easily put off, however, and he breaks into Emil’s apartment and decides to wait for his return—Emil couldn’t have gone far; the pot of coffee is still warming on the stove. While Emil hides under his bed, increasingly unable to show himself with each passing moment, Havard discovers the booze, and he ends up hosting a bizarre party for Emil's friends, and Greta. An alternately dark and hilarious story of cowardice, comeuppance, an assumed identity, the breezy and straightforward style of The Pets belies its narrative depth, and disguises a complexity that grows with every page.

Monday, December 29, 2008

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    So I Have Thought of You: The Letters of Penelope Fitzgerald by Penelope Fitzgerald

    Acclaimed for her exquisitely elegant novels – including the Booker Prize-winning Offshore – and superb biographies, Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most admired authors in Britain during the last century. The prizewinning author of nine novels, three biographies, and one collection of short stories, she died in 2000. So I Have Thought Of You, a generous selection of essays, reviews, introductions and other occasional writings, is an invaluable addition her distinguished oeuvre.

Monday, December 29, 2008

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    The Essential Chomsky by Noam Chomsky
    For the past forty years Noam Chomsky’s writings on politics and language have established him as a preeminent public intellectual and as one of the most original and wide-ranging political and social critics of our time. Among the seminal figures in linguistic theory over the past century, since the 1960s Chomsky has also secured a place as perhaps the leading dissident voice in the United States. Chomsky’s many bestselling works — including Manufacturing Consent, Hegemony or Survival, Understanding Power, and Failed States — have served as essential touchstones for dissidents, activists, scholars, and concerned citizens on subjects ranging from the media to human rights to intellectual freedom. In particular, Chomsky’s scathing critiques of the U.S. wars in Vietnam, Central America, and the Middle East have furnished a widely accepted intellectual inspiration for antiwar movements over nearly four decades. The Essential Chomsky assembles the core of his most important writings, including excerpts from his most influential texts over the past forty years. Here is an unprecedented, comprehensive overview of Chomsky’s thought.

Monday, December 22, 2008

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    Working Knowledge by Petr Kràl
    In Working Knowledge, over the course of one hundred brief and evanescent texts, Kràl brings together, as his compatriot Milan Kundera writes in his introduction, “this strange and beautiful existential encyclopaedia of the everyday”. Whether describing twilight, a toothpick, the ritual of shaving or the act of going upstairs, his gaze is ingenuous, humble, amazed. Mute objects, fleeting gestures, changeless passions: Kràl forces us to look at them anew. Each limpid, graceful essay is a brief voyage of discovery in which lowly objects and everyday actions, so often unobserved, are transfigured. Petr Kràl has the unerring ability to perceive, to catch the commonplace by surprise and with the unsettling clarity see beyond the everyday to the fabric of life beneath. Translated from the French by prize winning translator Frank Wynne.

Monday, December 22, 2008

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    Tarkovsky by Nathan Dunne
    Tarkovsky provides a collection of accessible academic essays by leading film studies professionals. A challenging, broadly illustrated book that fully captures the essence of this cinematic pioneer. The book pays tribute to the substantial legacy of Andrei Tarkovsky, the most important Soviet filmmaker of the post-war era, and one of the world’s most renowned cinematic geniuses. His reputation has grown significantly since his death twenty years ago in Paris. Tarkovsky created spiritual, existential films of incredible beauty, repeatedly returning to themes of memory, dreams, childhood and Christianity. Hugely influential on directors such as David Lynch, Steven Soderburgh and Lars Von Trier, he is particularly known for his re-imagining of the science fiction genre in films such as Solaris and Stalker. All aspects of Tarkovsky's films are explored including their sociological and psychological dimensions, their cinematic language and their rich symbolism. Contributions include the first ever English translation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous essay on the film Ivan’s Childhood, along with pieces by Harvard professor Stephanie Sandler, film critic and curator James Quandt and Evgeny Tsymbal, assistant director to Tarkovsky on Stalker. Illustrated with original stills along with studio shots, lobby cards, posters and other rare ephemera and containing a wealth of previously unseen material from Soviet archives, Tarkovsky is the definitive text on Tarkovsky’s singularly complex body of work.

Monday, December 15, 2008

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    The Men in My Life by Vivian Gornick
    Vivian Gornick tackled the theme of love and marriage in her last collection of essays, The End of the Novel of Love. In this new collection, she turns her attention to another large theme in literature: the struggle for the semblance of inner freedom. Great literature, she believes, is not the record of the achievement, but of the effort. Gornick, who emerged as a major writer during the second-wave feminist movement, came to realize that "ideology alone could not purge one of the pathological self-doubt that seemed every woman's bitter birthright." Or, as Anton Chekhov put it so memorably: "Others made me a slave, but I must squeeze the slave out of myself, drop by drop." Perhaps surprisingly, Gornick found particular inspiration for this challenge in the work of male writers — talented, but locked in perpetual rage, self-doubt, or social exile. From these men—who had infinitely more permission to do and be than women had ever known — she learned what it really meant to wrestle with demons. In the essays collected here, she explores the work of V. S. Naipaul, James Baldwin, George Gissing, Randall Jarrell, H.G. Wells, Loren Eiseley, Allen Ginsberg, Hayden Carruth, Saul Bellow, and Philip Roth. Throughout the book, Gornick is at her best: interpreting the intimate interrelationship of emotional damage, social history, and great literature.

Monday, December 15, 2008

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    What Should We Do with Our Brain? by Catherine Malabou
    Recent neuroscience, in replacing the old model of the brain as a single centralized source of control, has emphasized “plasticity,” the quality by which our brains develop and change throughout the course of our lives. Our brains exist as historical products, developing in interaction with themselves and with their surroundings. Hence there is a thin line between the organization of the nervous system and the political and social organization that both conditions and is conditioned by human experience. Looking carefully at contemporary neuroscience, it is hard not to notice that the new way of talking about the brain mirrors the management discourse of the neo-liberal capitalist world in which we now live, with its talk of decentralization, networks, and flexibility. Consciously or unconsciously, science cannot but echo the world in which it takes place. In the neo-liberal world, “plasticity” can be equated with “flexibility”—a term that has become a buzzword in economics and management theory. The plastic brain would thus represent just another style of power, which, although less centralized, is still a means of control. In this book, Catherine Malabou develops a second, more radical meaning for plasticity. Not only does plasticity allow our brains to adapt to existing circumstances, it opens a margin of freedom to intervene, to change those very circumstances. Such an understanding opens up a newly transformative aspect of the neurosciences. In insisting on this proximity between the neurosciences and the social sciences, Malabou applies to the brain Marx’s well-known phrase about history: people make their own brains, but they do not know it. This book is a summons to such knowledge.

Monday, December 08, 2008

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    Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell by Thomas J. Travisano
    When first introduced to Robert Lowell in 1947, Elizabeth Bishop wrote that "he was living in a basement room on Third Avenue ... and was rather untidy. He was wearing a rumpled dark blue suit; I remember the sad state of his shoes; he needed a haircut ... I took to him at once." Lowell was equally taken by Bishop, and thought she had "more to offer, I think, than anyone writing poems in English." The candid, affectionate, constrained and loving friendship of two American poets is recorded in letters written over three decades, collected here for the first time in their entirety. It begins after the publication of their first books and ends only with Lowell’s death. Their discussions of books, articles and the literary scene; their agreements and disagreements about T. S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams, Mary McCarthy, William Empson and other writers; their arguments about each other’s work; and their observations of Brazilian and American political life are set alongside Bishop’s descriptions of her years with her lover on a mountainside near Rio, her wit and keen attention turning equally to soldiers and politicians, architectural projects and toucans in rainstorms; and Lowell’s sketches of his family life in New York, London, Maine and Boston, with an eye for physical and emotional detail that seems directly wired into his prose. The letters also record the complications of each other’s lives - Lowell’s mental illness, Bishop’s struggles with alcohol, their mutually crossed love affairs. In their now celebrated correspondences, they performed best for one another, as the drama of their public and private lives unfolded.

Monday, December 08, 2008

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    Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney by Dennis O'Driscoll
    Widely regarded as the finest poet of his generation, Seamus Heaney is the subject of numerous critical studies; but no book-length portrait has appeared until now. Through his own lively and eloquent reminiscences, Stepping Stones retraces the poet’s steps from his first exploratory testing of the ground as an infant to what he called his ‘moon-walk’ to the podium at which he received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. It also fascinatingly charts his post-Nobel life and is supplemented with a large number of photographs, many from the Heaney family album and published here for the first time. In response to firm but subtle questioning from Dennis O’Driscoll, Seamus Heaney sheds a personal light on his work (poems, essays, translations, plays) and on the artistic and ethical challenges he faced during the dark years of the Ulster "Troubles". Combining the spontaneity of animated conversation with the considered qualities of the best autobiographical writing, Stepping Stones provides an original, diverting and absorbing store of reflections, opinions and recollections.

Monday, December 01, 2008

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    Novel 11, Book 18 by Dag Solstad
    Bjørn Hansen, a respectable town treasurer, has just turned fifty and is horrified by the thought that chance has ruled his life. Eighteen years ago he left his wife and their two-year-old son for his mistress, who persuaded him to start afresh in a small, provincial town and to dabble in amateur dramatics. In time that relationship also faded, and after four years of living alone Bjørn contemplates an extraordinary course of action that will change his life for ever. He finds a fellow conspirator in Dr Schiøtz, who has a secret of his own and offers to help Bjørn carry his preposterous and dangerous plan through to its logical conclusion. However, the sudden reappearance of his son both fills Bjørn with new hope and complicates matters. The desire to gamble with his comfortable existence proves irresistible, however, taking him to Vilnius in Lithuania, where very soon he cannot tell whether he's tangled up in a game or reality. Novel 11, Book 18 is an uncompromising and concentrated existential novel that accommodates all of Dag Solstad’s fundamental themes, and for which he received the Norwegian Critics’ Prize for Literature for the second time.

Monday, December 01, 2008

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    A Time to Speak Out by Anne Karpf (editor)
    In A Time to Speak Out, a collection of strong Jewish voices, drawing on an established tradition of Jewish dissidence, come together to explore some of the most challenging issues facing diaspora Jews, notably in relation to the ongoing conflict in Israel-Palestine. Nearly all contributors were associated with the Independent Jewish Voices declaration which, when launched in Britain in 2007, opened a floodgate of responses. This book bears witness to the urgency of that continuing debate. With articles on such topics as international law, the Holocaust, varieties of Zionism, self-hatred, the multiplicity of Jewish identities, and human rights, these essays provide powerful evidence of the vitality of independent Jewish opinion as well as demonstrating that criticism of Israel has a crucial role to play in the continuing history of a Jewish concern for social justice. At once sober and radical, A Time To Speak Out reclaims an often intemperate debate for those both inside and outside Israel who prefer to confront uncomfortable "truths."

Monday, November 24, 2008

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    Pilcrow by Adam Mars-Jones
    "I’m not sure that I can claim to have taken my place in the human alphabet, even as its honorary twenty-seventh letter. I’m more like a specialised piece of punctuation, a cedilla, umlaut or pilcrow, hard to track down on the keyboard of a computer or typewriter. Pilcrow is the prettiest of the bunch, assessed purely as a word. And at least it stands on its own. It doesn’t perch or dangle. Pilcrow it is." That’s the reader’s introduction to John Cromer, one of the most unusual heroes in all literature. If the minority is always right, John must be practically infallible. He experiences his 1950s childhood as a sort of ramshackle isolation tank, screening out sensation and adventure. Of course, as he points out, time passed slowly for everyone in the fifties, it wasn’t just him, but it’s hard to deny him the status of a special case. From that point on, John’s epic task becomes clear. He must climb out of the tank and make his way somehow on land. Pilcrow is an exploration of a rich but marginal life, an engrossing story with a vibrant supporting cast of ghouls, matrons and sexual adventurers.

Monday, November 24, 2008

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    The Bruise by Magdalena Zurawski
    The Bruise is a novel of imperative voice and raw sensation. In the sterile dormitories and on the quiet winter greens of an American university, a young woman named M-deals with the repercussions of a strange encounter with an angel, one which has left a large bruise on her forehead. Was the event real or imagined? The bruise does not go away, forcing M-- to confront her own existential fears. M--’s wavering desire to tell the story of her imagination is that of the writer, breathless, desperate, and obsessive, questioning the mutations and directions of her words while writing with fevered immediacy. With rhythmic language and allusions to literature and art, Magdalena Zurawski reclaims the university bildugsroman as an intelligent and moving form.

Monday, November 17, 2008

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    Let Me Tell You by Paul Griffiths
    RSB-contributor Paul Griffiths's novel is haunting and funny. In it the Ophelia of Hamlet tells her story and speaks her thoughts, using only the words allotted her in the play. She is confined to this small vocabulary — and her confinement makes itself felt. Yet, despite her meagre resources, she can talk about the people with whom she finds herself and can also express her increasing sense of awaiting danger. Her language proves broad enough to encompass a fairytale and a play, nursery rhymes and songs, letters from Polonius and a pornographic monologue from her mother. At the same time, the use of such a restricted vocabulary provides a highly unusual reading experience. Ophelia’s voice, while passionate, direct and versatile, gains musical qualities as words keep recurring in perpetually changing contexts. "I found let me tell you a beautiful and enthralling work, as well as a great success in Oulipian terms" -- Harry Mathews. (Read an extract in Golden Handcuffs Review.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

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    The Crisis of the Twelfth Century by Thomas N. Bisson
    Medieval civilization came of age in thunderous events like the Norman Conquest and the First Crusade. Power fell into the hands of men around castles who imposed coercive new lordships in quest of nobility, heedless of the old public order. In The Crisis of the Twelfth Century, acclaimed historian Thomas Bisson asks what it was like to live in a Europe without government, and he asks how people experienced power, and suffered. Rethinking a familiar history as a problem of origins, he explores the circumstances that impelled knights, emperors, nobles, and churchmen to infuse lordship with social purpose. Bisson traces the origins of European government to a crisis of lordship and its resolution. King John of England was only the latest and most conspicuous in a gallery of bad lords who dominated the populace instead of ruling it. Men like him had been all too commonplace in the twelfth century. More and more knights pretended to powers and status, encroached on clerical domains and exploited peasants, and came to seem threatening to social order and peace. Yet as Bisson shows, it was not so much the oppressed people as their tormentors who were in crisis. Covering all of Western Christendom, this book suggests what these violent people -- and the outcries they provoked -- contributed to the making of governments in kingdoms, principalities, and towns.

Monday, November 10, 2008

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    Better Never to Have Been by David Benatar
    Most people believe that they were either benefited or at least not harmed by being brought into existence. Thus, if they ever do reflect on whether they should bring others into existence -- rather than having children without even thinking about whether they should -- they presume that they do them no harm. Better Never to Have Been challenges these assumptions. Benatar argues that coming into existence is always a serious harm. Although the good things in one's life make one's life go better than it otherwise would have gone, one could not have been deprived by their absence if one had not existed. Those who never exist cannot be deprived. However, by coming into existence one does suffer quite serious harms that could not have befallen one had one not come into existence. Drawing on the relevant psychological literature, the author shows that there are a number of well-documented features of human psychology that explain why people systematically overestimate the quality of their lives and why they are thus resistant to the suggestion that they were seriously harmed by being brought into existence. The author then argues for the 'anti-natal' view -- that it is always wrong to have children -- and he shows that combining the anti-natal view with common pro-choice views about foetal moral status yield a 'pro-death' view about abortion (at the earlier stages of gestation). Anti-natalism also implies that it would be better if humanity became extinct. Although counter-intuitive for many, that implication is defended, not least by showing that it solves many conundrums of moral theory about population.

Monday, November 10, 2008

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    Voice Over by Celine Curiol
    A young woman works in Paris at the Gare du Nord. She spends every day talking into a microphone, announcing platform numbers and timetables, essentially invisible to the world. She falls in love with a man who, in turn, is in love with another. Our heroine considers her rival to be physically stunning, as beautiful ‘as an angel’. She decides not to pursue the man. Rather, she is prepared to wait, alone - that is, until one night a male friend of the ‘angel’ asks her what she does for a living and she answers, ‘Prostitute’. Céline Curiol’s debut novel is a remarkable vision of love and relationships in all their ambiguities, shot through with the poignancy of urban existence.

Monday, November 03, 2008

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    War Without End by Michael Schwartz
    In this razor-sharp analysis, TomDispatch.com commentator Michael Schwartz demolishes the myths used to sell the U.S. public the idea of an endless "war on terror" centered in Iraq. In a popular style, reminiscent of the best writing against the Vietnam war, he shows how the real U.S. interests in Iraq have been rooted in the geopolitics of oil and the expansion of a neoliberal economic model in the Middle East.

Monday, November 03, 2008

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    Magnus by Sylvie Germain
    Magnus is a deeply moving and enigmatic novel about the Holocaust, which has been Sylvie Germain most commercially successful novel in France. Magnus is a man searching for his own identity, who pieces together the complex puzzle of his life, which turns out to be closer to a painting by Edward Munch than the romantic tale of family heroism and self-sacrifice on which he was nurtured by the woman he believed was his mother. Sylvie Germain in Magnus uses imagination and intuition to unlock the enigma of human life and confer on history the power of myth and fable.

Monday, October 27, 2008

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    Of Kids & Parents by Emil Hakl
    In Europe, taking a walk is a cultural phenomenon having an almost mystical import. It connects physical activity with meditation, inner silence with the outer tumult of the world. Taking its cue both from Joyce's Ulysses and Hrabal's freely associating stream of anecdote, Of Kids & Parents is about a father and son taking a walk through Prague, over the course of which, and in the pubs and bars they stop into, their personal lives are revealed as entwined with the past sixty years of upheaval in their corner of Europe. One's "small history" is shown to be inseparable from the large history played out on the world's stage: families are uprooted, relationships fail, jobs are gained or lost, and still life goes on. Hakl's genius is his ability to mesh the two into a seamless flow of dialogue. The father tells his son: "Nothing's been new in this world for more than two billion years, it's all just variations on the same theme of carbon, hydrogen, helium, and nitrogen." Which raises the question: though Prague has witnessed various forms of government, wars, putsches, and revolutions come and go over the course of a century, what really has changed? On the personal level, the same mistakes are repeated over and over, a never-ending freak show.

Monday, October 27, 2008

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    Guantanamo: A Novel by Dorothea Dieckmann
    Guantanamo is the meticulously researched story of a young German man of mixed Muslim Indian and German heritage, whose journey to his father's country to claim his inheritance leads to a tragic twist of fate, when he is captured and deported to Guantanamo, the notorious US base in Cuba. Travelling to India shortly after the Afghan war in order to claim an inheritance, 20-year-old Rashid befriends a young Afghan and continues his voyage to Peshawar. There he finds himself in the middle of an anti-American demonstration and is arrested, handed over to the Americans and deported to Guantanamo. In a remarkable literary experiment, Rashid's story is told in six scenes, with an introspective voice that is both sensitive yet utterly without sentimentality. Guantanamo explores the existential consequences for an isolated prisoner coping with suppression and uncertainty, including paralysing fear, psychotic delusions, the manic identification with fellow Muslim prisoners, and eventually, resignation.

Monday, October 20, 2008

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    Death and the Author by David Ellis
    At the heart of Death and the Author is a dramatic account of D.H. Lawrence's desperate struggle against tuberculosis during his last days, and of certain, often bizarre events which followed his death. Around this narrative David Ellis offers a series of reflections about what it is like to have a disease for which there is no cure, the appeal of alternative medicine, the temptation of suicide for the terminally ill, the diminishing role of religion in modern life, the institution of famous last words, the consequences of dying intestate, and so on. These are clearly not the most immediately appealing of topics but they have an obvious significance for everyone and the treatment of them here is by no means lugubrious (even if, in the nature of the case, most of the jokes fall into the category of gallows humour). Lawrence is the main focus throughout but there are extended references to a number of other famous literary consumptives such as Keats, Katherine Mansfield, Kafka, Chekhov or George Orwell. Death and the author is divided into three parts called Dying, Death and Remembrance and is made up of twenty-two short sections. Although it incorporates a good deal of original material, the annotation has been kept deliberately light. The aim has been to combine the drama of events - a good story - with a consideration of matters which must eventually concern us all, and to present the material in a lively and accessible form.

Monday, October 20, 2008

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    Five Fictions in Search of Truth by Myra Jehlen
    Fiction, far from being the opposite of truth, is wholly bent on finding it out, and writing novels is a way to know the real world as objectively as possible. In Five Fictions in Search of Truth, Myra Jehlen develops this idea through readings of works by Flaubert, James, and Nabokov. She invokes Proust's famous search for lost memory as the exemplary literary process, which strives, whatever its materials, for a true knowledge. In Salammbô, Flaubert digs up Carthage; in The Ambassadors, James plumbs the examined life and touches at its limits; while in Lolita, Nabokov traces a search for truth that becomes a trespass.In these readings, form and style emerge as fiction's means for taking hold of reality, which is to say that they are as epistemological as they are aesthetic, each one emerging by way of the other. The aesthetic aspects of a literary work are just so many instruments for exploring a subject, and the beauty and pleasure of a work confirm the validity of its account of the world. For Flaubert, famously, a beautiful sentence was proven true by its beauty. James and Nabokov wrote on the same assumption -- that form and style were at once the origin and the confirmation of a work's truth. Jehlen shows, moreover, that fiction's findings are not only about the world but immanent within it. Literature works concretely, through this form, that style, this image, that word, seeking a truth that is equally concrete. Writers write -- and readers read -- to discover an incarnate, secular knowledge, and in doing so they enact a basic concurrence between literature and science.

Monday, October 13, 2008

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    Reading Boyishly by Carol Mavor
    An intricate text filled to the brim with connotations of desire, home, and childhood—nests, food, beds, birds, fairies, bits of string, ribbon, goodnight kisses, appetites sated and denied — Reading Boyishly is a story of mothers and sons, loss and longing, writing and photography. In this homage to four boyish men and one boy — J. M. Barrie, Roland Barthes, Marcel Proust, D. W. Winnicott, and the young photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue — Carol Mavor embraces what some have anxiously labeled an over-attachment to the mother. Here, the maternal is a cord (unsevered) to the night-light of boyish reading. To “read boyishly” is to covet the mother’s body as a home both lost and never lost, to desire her as only a son can, as only a body that longs for, but will never become Mother, can. Nostalgia (from the Greek nosos = return to native land, and algos = suffering or grief) is at the heart of the labor of boyish reading, which suffers in its love affair with the mother. The writers and the photographer that Mavor lovingly considers are boyish readers par excellence: Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up; Barthes, the “professor of desire” who lived with or near his mother until her death; Proust, the modernist master of nostalgia; Winnicott, therapist to “good enough” mothers; and Lartigue, the child photographer whose images invoke ghostlike memories of a past that is at once comforting and painful.

Monday, October 13, 2008

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    Journal of Jules Renard by Jules Renard
    Spanning from 1887 to a month before his death in 1910, The Journal of Jules Renard is a unique autobiographical masterpiece that, though celebrated abroad and cited as a principle influence by writers as varying as Somerset Maugham and Donald Barthelme, remains largely undiscovered in the United States. Throughout his journal, Renard develops not only his artistic convictions but also his humanity, as he reflects on the nineteenth-century French literary and art scene and the emergence of his position as an important novelist and playwright in that world, provides aphorisms and quips, and portrays the details of his personal life — his love interests, his position as a socialist mayor of Chitry, the suicide of his father — that often appear in his work.

Monday, October 06, 2008

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    On Poetry and Politics by Jean Paulhan
    Jean Paulhan was a legendary editorial figure of twentieth-century French literature, assisting and publishing many of the most important writers of his lifetime. He was also the author of several volumes of fiction and numerous essays dealing with literature, art, rhetoric, and language. Yet he published his own work in a manner that deliberately kept it inconspicuous, or as Maurice Blanchot put it, "in the margins." A critics' critic, he gave his texts the same scrupulous attention he gave to others, and was recognized as a discreet master. But when he was sufficiently upset or angry, as he was when French politics endangered the intellectual freedom of French writers and writing, he published ferociously. This volume is the first English translation of these major essays, presenting in one book the development of his thinking on his most studied subject: how language works, or, to echo Blanchot again, how literature is possible. Much of contemporary literary theory finds its modern antecedents in Paulhan's essays. He reflected on large questions such as the philosophy and psychology of literature, while at the same time showing a concern for detail and aesthetic accomplishment. He constantly emphasized the act of reading as an activity and literature as the engagement and provocation of such activity. Beloved by writers because he took the problems of writing with the utmost seriousness, his own personal style was marked by self-effacement and irony.

Monday, October 06, 2008

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    After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency by Quentin Meillassoux
    The remarkable debut of a former student of Alain Badiou, this work makes a strikingly original contribution to contemporary French philosophy and is set to have a significant impact on the future of Continental philosophy. Quentin Meillassoux is considered to be one of the most talented and exciting new voices in contemporary French philosophy. Meillassoux’s remarkable debut makes a strikingly original contribution to contemporary French philosophy and is set to have a significant impact on the future of Continental philosophy. Written in a style that marries great clarity of expression with argumentative rigour, After Finitude provides bold readings of the history of philosophy and sets out a devastating critique of the unavowed fideism at the heart of post-Kantian philosophy. The author introduces a startlingly novel philosophical alternative to the forced choice between dogmatism and critique. After Finitude proposes a new alliance between philosophy and science and calls for an unequivocal halt to the creeping return of religiosity in contemporary philosophical discourse.

Monday, September 29, 2008

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    Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf
    "We were never born to read," says Maryanne Wolf. "No specific genes ever dictated reading's development. Human beings invented reading only a few thousand years ago. And with this invention, we changed the very organisation of our brain, which in turn expanded the ways we were able to think, which altered the intellectual evolution of our species." In Proust and the Squid, Maryanne Wolf explores our brains' near-miraculous ability to arrange and re-arrange themselves in response to external circumstances. She examines how this "open architecture", the elasticity of our brains, helps and hinders humans in their attempts to learn to read, and to process the written language. She also investigates what happens to people whose brains make it difficult to acquire these skills, such as those with dyslexia. Wolf, a world expert on the reading brain, brings both a personal passion and deft style to this, the story of the reading brain.

Monday, September 29, 2008

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    Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
    Do lobsters feel pain? Did Franz Kafka have a sick sense of humour? What is John Updike’s deal anyway? And who won the Adult Video News’ Female Performer of the Year Award the same year Gwyneth Paltrow won her Oscar? For this collection, David Foster Wallace immersed himself in the three-ring circus that is the presidential race in order to document one of the most vicious campaigns in recent history. Later he strolled from booth to booth at a lobster festival in Maine and risked life and limb to get to the bottom of the lobster question. Then he wheedled his way into an L.A. radio studio, armed with tubs of chicken, to get the behind-the-scenes view of a conservative talkshow featuring a host with an unnatural penchant for clothing that only looks good on the radio.

Monday, September 22, 2008

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    Pets by Erica Fudge
    Why do we live with pets? Is there something more to our relationship with them than simply companionship? What is it we look for in our pets and what does this say about us as human beings? In this fascinating book, Erica Fudge explores the nature of this most complex of relationships and the difficulties of knowing what it is that one is living with when one chooses to share a home with an animal. Fudge argues that our capacity for compassion and ability to live alongside others is evident in our relationships with our pets, those paradoxical creatures who give us a sense of comfort and security while simultaneously troubling the categories human and animal. For what is a pet if it isn’t a fully-fledged member of the human family? This book proposes that by crossing over these boundaries pets help construct who it is we think we are. Drawing on the works of modern writers, such as J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas and Jacques Derrida, Fudge shows how pets have been used to think with and to undermine our easy conceptions of human, animal and home. Indeed, Pets shows our obsession with domestic animals reveals many of the paradoxes, contradictions and ambiguities of life. Living with pets provides thought-provoking perspectives on our notions of possession and mastery, mutuality and cohabitation, love and dominance. We might think of pets as simply happy, loved additions to human homes but as this Fudge reveals perhaps it is the pets that make the home and without pets perhaps we might not be the humans we think we are.

Monday, September 22, 2008

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    Stonehenge by Rosemary Hill
    This is the first book to approach Stonehenge without any theoretical position. It describes what is known and believed about the monument’s construction from c. 3000 BCE onwards. The Middle Ages were content with the story of it having been brought by Merlin from Ireland. The post Reformation antiquaries gave us the conception of Stonehenge as a historical monument. It played a significant role in the imagination of writers and artists. Then the Victorians invented prehistory and Darwin himself came to measure it. In 1918 it passed into public ownership and 1926 saw the first forced entry by Druids. The Earth Mysteries Movement now sees the stones as part of a greater web of ley lines and other phenomena. Archaeologists, united in their disdain for that, remain divided on many other points. And perhaps the most fraught issue now is conservation as the henge stands between two thundering main roads. This rich and provocative book explores all this in presenting a monument whose history is as fascinating as its secret.

Monday, September 08, 2008

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    Fables of Aggression: Wyndham Lewis, the Modernist as Fascist by Fredric Jameson
    The novels of Wyndham Lewis have generally been associated with the work of the great modernists – Joyce, Pound, Eliot, Yeats – who were his sometime friends and collaborators. Lewis’s originality, however, is born of the fact that, unlike these writers, he was in essence a political novelist. Fredric Jameson proposes a framework in which Lewis’s explosive language practice can be grasped as a symbolic and political act. Fredric Jameson is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Duke University. The author of numerous books, he has over the last three decades developed a richly nuanced vision of Western culture’s relation to political economy.

Monday, September 01, 2008

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    Man in the Dark by Paul Auster
    Seventy-two-year-old August Brill is recovering from a car accident. Plagued by insomnia, he tries to push back thoughts of things he would prefer to forget - his wife’s recent death and the horrific murder of his granddaughter’s boyfriend, Titus - by telling himself stories. He imagines a parallel world in which America is not at war with Iraq but with itself. In this other America the twin towers did not fall, and the 2000 election results led to secession, as state after state pulled away from the union, and a bloody civil war ensued. Brill gradually opens up to his granddaughter, recounting the story of his marriage and confronting the grim reality of Titus’s death.

Monday, September 01, 2008

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    Citizens to Lords by Ellen Meiksins Wood
    In this groundbreaking work, Ellen Meiksins Wood lays out her innovative approach to the history of political theory and traces the development of the Western tradition from classical antiquity through the late Middle Ages. Her “social history” is a significant departure from other contextual interpretations. Treating canonical thinkers as passionately engaged human beings, Wood examines their ideas not simply in the context of political languages but as creative responses to the social relations and conflicts of their time and place. From the Ancient Greek polis of Plato and Aristotle, through the Roman Republic of Cicero and the Empire of St Paul and St Augustine, to the medieval world of Averroes, Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham, Citizens to Lord offers a rich, dynamic exploration of thinkers and ideas that have indelibly stamped our modern world.

Monday, August 25, 2008

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    Lenz by Georg Büchner
    Lenz, Georg Büchner’s visionary exploration of an 18th-century playwright’s descent into madness, has been called the inception of European modernist prose. Elias Canetti considered this short novella to be one of the seminal reading experiences of his entire life, and writers as various as Paul Celan, Christa Wolff and Peter Schneider have paid homage to it in their works. Published posthumously in 1839, Lenz is a taut case study of three weeks in the life of a schizophrenic, perhaps the first third-person text ever to be written from the “inside” of insanity. Partially based on the memoir of an Alsatian pastor describing Lenz’s stay with him in 1778 (translated here in its entirety for the first time), Büchner’s text moves well beyond its source by the rapt and virtually autistic attention it brings to the details of the natural world, whose landscapes prefigure those of Cézanne or Van Gogh. Printed here in the original German and flanked by a fresh English translation based on best recent philological readings of the text, this edition will allow readers to discover why Heiner Müller has pronounced Lenz the finest example of “21st-century prose.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

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    Our Horses in Egypt by Rosalind Belben
    Winner of the 2008 James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Our Horses in Egypt tells the story of Philomena, fat and lazy when she is requisitioned from an English field at the start of the First World War, who sails for Egypt with the territorial regiment, the Dorset Yeomanry. She serves faithfully, charging the dervishes in the Western Desert and enduring the privations of Allenby’s great campaign in Palestine. She recovers from wounds to swelter through a summer in the Jordan Valley. She takes part in the triumphant advance on Damascus – only to be sold off in Cairo among the 22,000 horses left behind by the War Office after the Armistice. By 1921, the forceful Griselda Romney, a war widow – in the author's Hound Music she was a child – has discovered that her old hunter, Philomena, could be still alive. With her six-year-old daughter, and of course Nanny, Mrs Romney sets out to Egypt, to find Philomena and to rescue her.

Monday, August 18, 2008

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    The Landscapist by Pierre Martory
    John Ashbery’s translations of Pierre Martory’s poems offer a unique insight into the work of the French poet, and into the creative dialogue between two poets. Ashbery describes Martory’s writing as ‘touched by the gaiety of René Clair’s films and the melancholy of Piaf, echoing the witty surrealism of Pierre Reverdy and Raymond Queneau’; in Ashbery’s translations, the distinctive flavour of Martory’s poetry, ‘located somewhere between Paris and New York’, finds its English voice. The Landscapist gathers Ashbery’s published translations, some with emendations, together with uncollected pieces and facing-page French text. With a definitive introductory biographical essay by Ashbery and bibliographies of both the translations and Martory’s publications, The Landscapist is an indispensable introduction to Martory’s poetry and an illuminating addition to Ashbery’s work.

Monday, August 18, 2008

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    Dostoevsky's Democracy by Nancy Ruttenburg
    Dostoevsky's Democracy offers a major reinterpretation of the life and work of the great Russian writer by closely reexamining the crucial transitional period between the early works of the 1840s and the important novels of the 1860s. Sentenced to death in 1849 for utopian socialist political activity, the 28-year-old Dostoevsky was subjected to a mock execution and then exiled to Siberia for a decade, including four years in a forced labor camp, where he experienced a crisis of belief. It has been influentially argued that the result of this crisis was a conversion to Russian Orthodoxy and reactionary politics. But Dostoevsky's Democracy challenges this view through a close investigation of Dostoevsky's Siberian decade and its most important work, the autobiographical novel Notes from the House of the Dead (1861). Nancy Ruttenburg argues that Dostoevsky's crisis was set off by his encounter with common Russians in the labor camp, an experience that led to an intense artistic meditation on what he would call Russian "democratism." By tracing the effects of this crisis, Dostoevsky's Democracy presents a new understanding of Dostoevsky's aesthetic and political development and his role in shaping Russian modernity itself, especially in relation to the preeminent political event of his time, peasant emancipation.

Monday, August 11, 2008

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    The Political Thought of Jacques Ranciere: Creating Equality by Todd May
    This is the first single-authored book in any language devoted entirely to the thought of Jacques Rancière. It focuses on his central political idea that a democratic politics emerges from the presupposition of equality. Todd May examines and extends this presupposition, offering a framework for understanding it, placing it in the current political context, and showing how it challenges traditional political philosophy and opens up neglected political paths. May aims to show that Rancière's view offers both hope and perspective for those who seek to think about and engage in progressive political action.

Monday, August 11, 2008

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    The Collected Poems of Alberto Caeiro by Fernando Pessoa
    The only integral collection of the Caeiro heteronym in English, this is accompanied by the introductions of Ricardo Reis and a memoir by Álvaro de Campos, two of Pessoa's other major poetic heteronyms, as well as a poem dedicated to Caeiro by C. Pacheco, thought by many commentators to be another one-off heteronym. Illustrating the complexity of Pessoa's heteronymic project still further, the volume also includes an anonymous introductory note, a further introduction to the 'author's' work by Thomas Crosse (one of Pessoa's English heteronyms), and an 'interview with Caeiro', recorded by Campos. In short, much of Pessoa's heteronymic world is on view in this volume.

Monday, August 04, 2008

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    Gilles Deleuze's Logic of Sense by James Williams
    This book offers the first critical study of The Logic of Sense, Gilles Deleuze’s most important work on language and ethics, as well as the main source for his vital philosophy of the event. Deleuze’s philosophy has always promised a revolution in ethical theories and in our understanding of the relation between language, thought and action. This book develops a critical reading of Deleuze’s work in order to convey the potential and risks of his new approaches to questions of how to live an intense life in response to the excitement and danger of events. This interpretation covers all aspects of Deleuze’s book, including engagements with phenomenology, with analytic philosophy of language, with stoicism, with literary theory and with psychoanalysis. Its aim is to open new debates and develop current ones around Deleuze’s work in philosophy, politics, literature, linguistics and sociology.

Monday, August 04, 2008

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    Beautiful Image by Marcel Ayme
    Translated by our good friend, and RSB contributor, Sophie Lewis, Beautiful Image is the story of Raoul Cerusier, an entirely ordinary man, who seems to have changed his identity somewhere between home and the government office he is visiting to obtain a document. Between blackmailing the secretary of his former self and seducing his own wife, Raoul is confronted with the dark realisation of his true nature... Marcel Aymé was born in Joigny, France in 1902. Following his studies at the Collège de Dole he moved to Paris and worked, most notably, as a journalist. Aymé was able to dedicate himself entirely to literature following the success of The Green Mare, a dark satire on sexuality published in 1933. Following the German occupation and the French resistance, Aymé’s ironic, and often disillusioned perception of the state of affairs in France during this period, produced a body of work that is still placed at the forefront of twentieth century French literature. Marcel Aymé died in Paris in 1967.

Monday, July 28, 2008

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    Legacies of Paul De Man by Ian Balfour
    More than twenty years after his death, Paul de Man remains a haunting presence in the American academy. His name is linked not just with "deconstruction," but with a "deconstruction in America" that continues to disturb the scholarly and pedagogical institution it inhabits. The academy seems driven to characterize "de Manian deconstruction," again and again, as dead. Such reiterated acts of exorcism testify that de Man's ghost has in fact never been laid to rest, and for good reason: a dispassionate survey of recent trends in critical theory and practice reveals that de Man's influence is considerable and ongoing. His name still commands an aura of excitement, even danger: it stands for the pressure of a text and a "theory" that resists easy assimilation or containment. The essays in this volume analyze and evaluate aspects of de Man's strange, powerful legacy. The opening contributions focus on his great theme of "reading"; subsequent chapters explore his complex notions of "history," "materiality," and "aesthetic ideology," and examine his institutional role as a teacher and, more generally, as a charismatic figure associated with the fortunes of "theory."

Monday, July 28, 2008

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    Radical Alterity by Jean Baudrillard
    Where is the Other today? Can Otherness challenge our arrogant, insular cultural narcissism? From artificial intelligence to the streets of Venice, from early explorers to contemporary photographers, Jean Baudrillard and Marc Guillaume discuss the traces of radical alterity in our world. These provocative seminars, held in 1990 and 1991, follow the multiple, intertwined trajectories first projected in Baudrillard's work and his reading of the "radical exoticism" posited by Victor Segalen--ideas Baudrillard extends into the realms of mass media, pseudonyms, technology, and that illusorily close yet radically foreign "primitive society of the future," America. In a world where no corner is unexplored, the Other remains a challenge to thought, a crack in the shell of universal understanding, impossible to communicate but potentially the linchpin of communication itself. Together, Baudrillard and Guillaume explore the threatened and fatal figures of radical alterity. This collection is no longer available in French, and this English edition includes an additional essay by Baudrillard, "Because Illusion and Reality Are Not Opposed." Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) was a philosopher, sociologist, cultural critic, and theorist of postmodernity who challenged all existing theories of contemporary society with humor and precision. An outsider in the French intellectual establishment, he was internationally renowned as a twenty-first century visionary, reporter, and provocateur. His Simulations (1983) instantly became a cult classic and made him a controversial voice in the world of politics and art. Economist and professor at the Université de Paris-Dauphine, Marc Guillaume has published several works in French rethinking contemporary socioeconomics and has collaborated with such thinkers as Jacques Derrida and Jacques Attali.

Monday, July 21, 2008

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    The Porcelain Workshop by Antonio Negri
    In 2004 and 2005, Antonio Negri held ten workshops at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris to formulate a new political grammar of the postmodern. Biopolitics, biopowers, control, the multitude, people, war, borders, dependency and interdependency, state, nation, the common, difference, resistance, subjective rights, revolution, freedom, democracy: these are just a few of the themes Negri addressed in these experimental laboratories. Postmodernity, Negri suggests, can be described as a "porcelain factory": a delicate and fragile construction that could be destroyed through one clumsy act. Looking across twentieth century history, Negri warns that our inability to anticipate future developments has already placed coming generations in serious jeopardy. Describing the years 1917-1968 as the "short century," Negri suggests that by the end of it, all of the familiar markers of modernity (including that of socialism) had lost their relevance. Confronted with an intolerable reality, indignation and the revolutionary will to transform the world have both taken new forms and must be understood anew, free of modernist assumptions. In the impassioned debates recounted in this book, Antonio Negri attempts to describe the formation of an alternative political horizon and looks for a way to define the practices and modes of expression that democracy could take.

Monday, July 21, 2008

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    Lisbon -- What the Tourist Should See by Fernando Pessoa
    In 1925, Fernando Pessoa wrote a guidebook to Lisbon for English-speaking visitors, and wrote it in English. The typescript was only discovered amongst his papers in the 1980s. The book is fascinating in that it shows us Pessoa's view of his native city – and Pessoa, as an adult, rarely left Lisbon, and it figures large in his poetry. The book can still be useful to visitors today, given that the majority of the sights described are still to be found. A fascinating scrap from the master's table...

Monday, July 14, 2008

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    Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras
    Moderato Cantabile is a carefully woven tapestry of emotion that begins with a jealous lover murdering the woman he loves. Fascinated by the crime, Anne returns several times to the bistro where it took place, drinking through the afternoon with the worker who patiently answers her eager questions, inventing what he does not know. A haunting, oblique love story, which perfectly demonstrates Duras's technique of associating human emotion with locales and landscapes. Marguerite Duras won the Prix Goncourt in 1985 and has won many other prizes. In addition to novels, she has written plays and film scenarios, the most famous of which is Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Born in French Indo-China in 1914, she died in Paris in early 1996.

Monday, July 14, 2008

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    Aquamarine: Final Tales of the Revolution by Peter Pessl
    Aquamarine is the result of two years' musings following the author's long and twisted journey (both in terms of pathways and encounters) to Mexico in 1993. After having been variously reworked, the volume was eventually published in German in 1998. Considered groundbreaking in form and style, the novel is composed of seven intertwining tales whose unsettling, exceptionally ambivalent female protagonists, "Aquamarine" and "Marine," crisscross diverse Mexican landscapes and cities of both external and internal geographies much like a madcap road movie plowing straight through historical episodes into present-day reality. Along the way we encounter the horrific tragedies of private and political worlds as the tales channel into a common stream of storytelling that is so immediate in its presentation it violently impacts the very language itself (and the immanent possibilities or impossibilities in the author's use of language). The reader is thus swept into a swirling dreamscape of words and images, a ramshackle narrative construct where every kind of reality that is, always was, and will continue to be exist simultaneously. Aquamarine explores the unfolding of ideas using a palette of blues, yellows, beiges, or "leg-color," ideas coiled like a garden hose with all its kinks, awkward convolutions, and ungainly twists, each loop having its own radius but belonging to the same — is the same — loop. Revolution in every sense.

Monday, July 07, 2008

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    Picture Imperfect by Russell Jacoby
    Utopianism suffers from an image problem: A recent exhibition on utopias in Paris and New York included photographs of Hitler's Mein Kampf and a Nazi concentration camp. Many observers judge utopians and their sympathizers as foolhardy dreamers at best and murderous totalitarians at worst. However, as noted social critic and historian Russell Jacoby argues in this salient, polemical, and innovative work, not only has utopianism been unfairly characterized, a return to an iconoclastic utopian spirit is vital for today's society. Shaped by the works of Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Gustav Landauer, and other predominantly Jewish thinkers, iconoclastic utopianism revives society's dormant political imagination and offers hope for a better future. Writing against the grain of history, Jacoby reexamines the anti-utopian mindset and identifies how utopian thought came to be regarded with such suspicion. He challenges standard readings of such anti-utopian classics as 1984 and Brave New World and offers stinging critiques of the influential liberal and anti-utopian theorists Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, and Karl Popper.

Monday, July 07, 2008

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    Jealousy by Alain Robbe-Grillet
    In his most famous and perhaps most typical work, Robbe-Grillet explores his principle preoccupation, the meaning of reality. The novel is set on a tropical banana plantation and the action is seen through the eyes of a narrator who never appears in person, never speaks and never acts. He is a point of observation, his personality only to be guessed at, watching every movement of the other two characters' actions and events as they flash like moving pictures across the distorting screen of a jealous mind. The result is one of the most important and influential books of our time, a completely integrated masterpiece that has already become a classic. Alain Robbe-Grillet is one of the best-known post-war French novelists, the principal theoretician and spokesman of the 'noveau roman', the most important school of French contemporary fiction that looks at reality in a new subjective way and has changed our conception of the novel. Contains a foreword by Tom McCarthy.

Monday, June 30, 2008

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    Yann Andrea Steiner by Marguerite Duras
    Yann Andrea Steiner (in a new translation from the French by Mark Polizzotti) is a haunting dance between two parallel stories of love and solitude: the love between the reminiscing Duras and the young, sensitive Yann Andrea, and a seaside romance witnessed—or imagined—by the narrator between a camp counselor and an orphaned camper: a Holocaust survivor who witnessed his sister's murder at the hands of a German soldier. Through this mix of memory and desire, the summer of 1980 flows into 1944 in an enigmatic journey through history, creation, and raw emotion.

Monday, June 30, 2008

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    Fanon by John Edgar Wideman
    A philosopher, psychiatrist, and political activist, Frantz Fanon was a fierce, acute critic of racism and oppression. Born of African descent in Martinique in 1925, Fanon fought in defense of France during World War II but later against France in Algeria’s war for independence. His last book, The Wretched of the Earth, published in 1961, inspired leaders of diverse liberation movements: Steve Biko in South Africa, Che Guevara in Latin America, the Black Panthers in the States. Wideman’s novel is disguised as the project of a contemporary African American novelist, Thomas, who undertakes writing a life of Fanon. The result is an electrifying mix of perspectives, traveling from Manhattan to Paris to Algeria to Pittsburgh. Part whodunit, part screenplay, part love story, Fanon introduces the French film director Jean-Luc Godard to the ailing Mrs. Wideman in Homewood and chases the meaning of Fanon’s legacy through our violent, post-9/11 world, which seems determined to perpetuate the evils Fanon sought to rectify.

Monday, June 23, 2008

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    The Three Trillion Dollar War by Joseph Stiglitz
    The $3 Trillion War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict is a devastating reckoning of the true cost of the Iraq war - quite apart from its tragic human toll - which the Bush administration has estimated at $50 billion, but which Stiglitz and Bilmes show underestimates the real figure by approximately sixty times. The authors expose the gigantic expenses which have so far not been officially accounted for, including not only big ticket items like replacing military equipment (being used up at six times the peacetime rate) but also the cost of caring for thousands of wounded veterans - for the rest of their lives. Shifting to a global perspective, the authors investigate the cost in lives and damage within Iraq and the Middle East generally. They calculate what the money spent on the war would have produced had it been further invested in the growth of the economy, in the US and around the world, and in infrastructure building. Stiglitz and Bilmes write in simple language, which makes the details they present, and the sums they add up, all the more disturbing. This book will change forever the way we think about the Iraq war - and about the cost of war generally.

Monday, June 23, 2008

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    Journey to Nowhere: One Woman Looks for the Promised Land by Eva Figes
    In the spring of 1939, six-year-old Eva Unger (later Figes) came to settle in London. Born in Berlin, her middle-class Jewish family managed to get out of Nazi Germany, leaving behind friends, relatives and their penniless, orphan housemaid, Edith. Ten years later, with Eva assimilated into post-war British society, word arrived from Edith in Palestine, asking for her old job back in the bosom of the only family she ever knew. At the kitchen table, Edith told the curious schoolgirl Eva of her miraculous survival in wartime Berlin, and her post-war life in the city's ruins, until she was persuaded to go to Palestine. Here she found herself treated with bitter contempt as a despised German Jew, and at the centre of another war, between Arab and Jew.Through Edith's story, Figes argues that continuing anti-Semitism at the end of the century's worst catastrophe led to the creation of Israel. Part memoir, part polemic Journey to Nowhere is a highly charged and profoundly moving account of post-war displacement and a fierce attack on America's role in the Middle East.

Monday, June 16, 2008

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    Lost Paradise by Cees Nooteboom
    Alma and Almut share a fascination for Australia and its ancient peoples; their ceremonies, sand drawings and body paintings. After Alma suffers a traumatic attack, they board a cheap flight from Sao Paulo to Sydney, and together begin their journey across their secret continent. Alma slowly recovers through a brief love affair with an Aboriginal artist, and both women become involved with the Angel Project in Perth, where actors dressed as angels are concealed around the city for the public to discover. In a seemingly unconnected story, a man staying at a remote Alpine spa unexpectedly meets a woman he encountered years before and with whom he shared a single night. It was in a faraway city and she was dressed as an angel.

Monday, June 16, 2008

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    The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy by John J. Mearsheimer
    Does America's pro-Israel lobby wield inappropriate control over US foreign policy? This book has created a storm of controversy by bringing out into the open America's relationship with the Israel lobby: a loose coalition of individuals and organizations that actively work to shape foreign policy in a way that is profoundly damaging both to the United States and Israel itself. Israel is an important, valued American ally, yet Mearsheimer and Walt show that, by encouraging unconditional US financial and diplomatic support for Israel and promoting the use of its power to remake the Middle East, the lobby has jeopardized America's and Israel's long-term security and put other countries - including Britain - at risk.

Monday, June 09, 2008

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    Trust: Self-interest and the Common Good by Marek Kohn
    Trust -- whether between parents and children, merchants and shoppers, or citizens and their government -- lies at the very heart of our relationships, our society, and our everyday lives. This vividly written compact book reveals how modern thinkers -- scientists, social scientists, and philosophers -- have shed much light on the nature of trust. Beginning with some fascinating evolutionary puzzles about the origins of trust; for instance, how cooperation can evolve among individuals pursuing their own selfish interests, Marek Kohn incorporates many different perspectives from the fields of science, sociology, economics, and politics, to draw out the wider implications for trust in human society today. The book discusses trust in gods and how people have sought to reinvest this trust as religious faith has diminished; the effect of low social trust on economic development; and the loss of trust between mutually antagonistic communities, each warming itself by the flames of its hostility to the other. He shows how Communism relied on distrust, and devoted much of its energy to seeding it among its subjects, and Liberal democracy is also based on distrust, but in the opposite direction: it is founded upon the suspicion that the powerful will be tempted to abuse their power, and so must be subject to checks and balances. Perhaps most important, he shows that if we understand what makes trust possible, and why it matters, then we will live better lives in a fast-moving, fast-changing, global society.

Monday, June 09, 2008

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    The Hands of Day by Pablo Neruda
    Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet and diplomat who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971. Recognized during his life as "a people's poet", he is considered one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. The Hands of Day - at long last translated (by William O'Daly) into English in its entirety - pronounces Neruda's desire to take part in the great human making of the day. Moved by the guilt of never having worked with his hands, Neruda opens with the despairing confession, "Why did I not make a broom? / Why was I given hands at all?" The themes of hands and work grow in significance as Neruda celebrates the carpenters, longshoremen, blacksmiths, and bakers-those laborers he admires most - and shares his exuberant adoration for the earth and the people upon it in this handsome bilingual edition.

Monday, June 02, 2008

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    Hitler's Priests: Catholic Clergy and National Socialism by Kevin P. Spicer
    Shaken by military defeat and economic depression after War World I, Germans sought to restore their nation’s dignity and power. In this context the National Socialist Party, with its promise of a revivified Germany, drew supporters. Among the most zealous were a number of Catholic clergymen known as “brown priests” who volunteered as Nazi propagandists. Some brown priests, particularly war veterans, advocated National Socialism because it appealed to their patriotic ardor. Others had less laudatory motives: disaffection with clerical life, conflicts with Church superiors, or ambition for personal power and fame. Whatever their individual motives, they employed their skills as orators, writers, and teachers to proclaim the message of Nazism. Especially during the early 1930s, when the Church forbade membership in the party, these clergymen strove to prove that Catholicism was compatible with National Socialism, thereby justifying their support of Nazi ideology. While a handful of brown priests enjoyed the forbearance of their bishops, others endured reprimand or even dismissal; a few found new vocations with the Third Reich. After the fall of the Reich, the most visible brown priests faced trial for their part in the crimes of National Socialism, a movement they had once so earnestly supported.

Monday, June 02, 2008

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    Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy
    A linguist flying to a conference in Helsinki has landed in a strange city where he can't understand a word anyone says. As one claustrophobic day follows another, he wonders why no one has found him yet, whether his wife has given him up for dead, and how he'll get by in this society that looks so familiar, yet is so strange. In a vision of hell unlike any previously imagined, Budai must learn to survive in a world where words and meaning are unconnected. A suspenseful and haunting Hungarian classic.

Monday, May 26, 2008

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    Hijacking America by Susan George
    George Bush leaves the White House in January 2009 and the United States goes back to "normal", right? Wrong, argues Susan George in this fascinating, thorough and often chilling account of the decades-long transformation of American society and political culture. Using the four "Ms" - money, media, marketing, management - but above all with a keen sense of mission, the American secular and religious right has made its "long march through the institutions" and changed the way Americans think. As the left went about its business in blissful ignorance, convinced that its policies, programmes and projects spoke for themselves and would always prevail; the right's well-oiled machine of foundations, lobbies, think-tanks, publications, political cadres, lawyers and activist organisations slowly and strategically took over. A broad alliance of neo-liberals, neo-conservatives and the religious right successfully manufactured a new common sense, assaulted Enlightenment values and targeted the top of society where culture is created and legitimised, because they knew that ideas have consequences - and not just in the United States. For all those who hope for a different America in the future, the first step is to hold the present one up to the light and understand how it got that way.

Monday, May 26, 2008

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    The World According to Tomdispatch: America and the Age of Empire by Tom Engelhardt
    TomDispatch.com has established itself as the go-to blog for contemporary US politics, and the favored web platform for radical commentators from Noam Chomsky to Howard Zinn. Its powerful, no-holds-barred features draw a huge response from the public and resonate throughout the global media, acting as a touchpaper for debates which subsequently become headline news. This comprehensive volume offers readers a chance to catch up on some of the finest political analysis of our age, including trenchant accounts of the two Bush administrations: catastrophic imperial adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq; Guantánamo, extraordinary rendition and its apologists; and Hurricane Katrina, global warming, black gold and the rise of Hugo Chávez. Introduced, arranged and with additional commentary throughout by the blog’s founder Tom Engelhardt, The World According to Tomdispatch is the essential primer for anyone seeking illumination and guidance along the highways and byways of our post-9/11 world.

Monday, May 19, 2008

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    A Corkscrew Is Most Useful: The Travellers of Empire by Nicholas Murray
    At the height of the British Empire, countless travellers set off to explore the globe, at the very same moment that the phenomenon of mass tourism was being launched by a certain Mr Thomas Cook. Their reasons for leaving Britain were many and various. They were searching for knowledge, for adventure, for fame, for exotic animals to kill. Some hoped to be the first to stamp their mark upon a lake, a river source or an unknown inland sea, while others dreamed of finding untold natural riches or ancient works of art. Some were soldiers, sailors, spies, scholars or scientists, and some wished to convert the heathen and spread their religion. And some travelled, as people have always done, for no reason at all except the sheer marvellous enjoyment of it. Drawing on the travellers’ own unique and colourful accounts, from Livingstone and Stanley in Africa, Darwin aboard the Beagle and Richard Francis Burton on the road to Mecca to less well-known but equally intrepid explorers, A Corkscrew is Most Useful is a fascinating odyssey.

Monday, May 19, 2008

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    Caspar David Friedrich by Werner Hofmann
    Caspar David Friedrich, now viewed as the leading German Romantic artist of the nineteenth century, was described by one contemporary as the pioneer of a new genre: ‘the tragedy of landscape.’ Here, Werner Hofmann considers Friedrich’s principal achievement, the invention of ‘landscape as icon’, and vividly demonstrates the artist’s extraordinary ability to reproduce the natural world in faithful detail, while at the same time imbuing it with spiritual and religious significance. Carefully placing the artist in a wider context, Hofmann examines contemporary judgments and influences on Friedrich’s work and his difficult relationship with critics such as Goethe, as well as the way that his religious and political beliefs informed his art, and his unique place within the framework of European Romanticism as a whole. The beautiful illustrations include many of Friedrich’s drawings and watercolours as well as over ninety of his works in oils. Friedrich extended an invitation for others to read multiple meanings into his pictures. Hofmann’s ideas cast a remarkable new light on Friedrich’s work, yet at the same time leave it open to individual interpretation.

Monday, May 12, 2008

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    The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig
    The logic of capitalism, boom and bust, is unremitting and unforgiving. But what happens to human feeling in a completely commodified world? In The Post-Office Girl (translated from the German by Joel Rotenberg), Stefan Zweig, a deep analyst of the human passions, lays bare the private life of capitalism. Christine toils in a provincial post office in post–World War I Austria, a country gripped by unemployment. Out of the blue, a telegram arrives from Christine's rich American aunt inviting her to a resort in the Swiss Alps. Christine is immediately swept up into a world of inconceivable wealth and unleashed desire. She feels herself utterly transformed: nothing is impossible. But then, abruptly, her aunt cuts her loose. Christine returns to the post office, where yes, nothing will ever be the same. Christine meets Ferdinand, a bitter war veteran and disappointed architect, who works construction jobs when he can get them. They are drawn to each other, even as they are crushed by a sense of deprivation, of anger and shame. Work, politics, love, sex: everything is impossible for them. Life is meaningless, unless, through one desperate and decisive act, they can secretly remake their world from within. Left unpublished at the time of his death. The Post-Office Girl transforms our image of a modern master's achievement.

Monday, May 12, 2008

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    Omega Minor by Paul Verhaeghen
    Moving back and forth between the main stages of the past century, Omega Minor (translated from the Dutch by the author himself) is a tale of the survival of the soul. A novel of big ideas, the book's whirlwind plot is set between Berlin, Boston, Los Alamos and Auschwitz, and takes in neo-Nazis, a physics professor who returns to Potsdam to atone for his sins, an Italian postdoctorate who designs an experiment that will determine the fate of the universe and a Holocaust survivor, who tells his tale to the willing ear of a young psychologist. Omega Minor is Paul Verhaeghen's second novel and his first to be translated from Dutch into English. Aside from his writing career, Verhaeghen also works as a cognitive psychologist; his work focuses on memory and the basic aspects of cognitive ageing. He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, where he is associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Monday, May 05, 2008

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    Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker
    At a time when the West seems ever more eager to call on military aggression as a means of securing international peace, Nicholson Baker's provocative narrative exploring the political misjudgements and personal biases that gave birth to the terrifying consequences of the Second World War could not be more pertinent. With original and controversial insights brought about by meticulous research, Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, The End of Civilization re-evaluates the political turning points that led up to war and in so doing challenges some of the treasured myths we hold about how war came about and how atrocities like the Holocaust were able to happen. Baker reminds us, for instance, not to forget that it was thanks in great part to Churchill and England that Mussolini ascended to power so quickly, and that, before leading the United States against Nazi Germany, a young FDR spent much of his time lobbying for a restriction in the number of Jews admitted to Harvard.Conversely, Human Smoke also reminds us of those who had the foresight to anticipate the coming bloodshed and the courage to oppose the tide of history, as Gandhi demonstrated when he made his symbolic walk to the ocean -- for which he was immediately imprisoned by the British.

Monday, May 05, 2008

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    If I Am Not For Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew by Mike Marqusee
    If I Am Not For Myself is a passionate, thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be Jewish in the twenty-first century. It traces the author’s upbringing in 1960s Jewish-American surburbia, his anti-war and pro-Palestinian activism on the British left, and life as a Jew among Muslims in Pakistan, Morocco, and Britain. Interwoven with this are the experiences of his grandfather’s life in Jewish New York of the 1930s and 40s, his struggles with anti-Semitism and the twists and turns that led him from anti-fascism to militant Zionism. In the course of this deeply personal story, Marqusee refutes the claims of Israel and Zionism on Jewish loyalty and laments their impact on the Jewish diaspora. Rather, he argues for a richer, more multi-dimensional understanding of Jewish history and identity, and reclaims vital political and personal space for those castigated as “self-haters” by the Jewish establishment.

Monday, April 28, 2008

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    Memoirs of an Anti-Semite by Gregor von Rezzori
    The elusive narrator of this beautifully written, complex, and powerfully disconcerting novel is the scion of a decayed aristocratic family from the farther reaches of the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire. In five psychologically fraught episodes, he revisits his past, from adolescence to middle age, a period that coincides with the twentieth century's ugliest years. Central to each episode is what might be called the narrator's Jewish Question. He is no Nazi. To the contrary, he is apolitical, accommodating, cosmopolitan. He has Jewish friends and Jewish lovers, and their Jewishness is a matter of abiding fascination to him. His deepest and most defining relationship may even be the strange dance of attraction and repulsion that throughout his life he has conducted with this forbidden, desired, inescapable, imaginary Jewish other. And yet it is just this relationship that has blinded him to — and makes him complicit in — the terrible realities of his era. Lyrical, witty, satirical, and unblinking, Gregor von Rezzori's most controversial work is an intimate foray into the emotional underworld of modern European history.

Monday, April 28, 2008

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    Adorno and Heidegger by Iain MacDonald
    Adorno and Heidegger explores the conflictual history of two important traditions of twentieth-century European thought: the critical theory of Theodor W. Adorno and the ontology of Martin Heidegger. As is well known, there has been little productive engagement between these two schools of thought, in large measure due to Adorno’s sustained and unanswered critique of Heidegger. Stemming from this critique, numerous political and philosophical barriers have kept these traditions separate, such that they have rarely been submitted to scrutiny, let alone questioned. The essays making up this collection are fresh and original attempts at coming to terms with the nuances and difficulties that these two towering figures have bequeathed to the history of European thought. The volume’s authors deal with a variety of issues ranging from epistemology to esthetics, to ethics, to intellectual history and modernity, providing the reader with detailed insight into a thorny debate in the history of recent European thought.

Monday, April 21, 2008

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    A Textual History of the King James Bible by David Norton
    David Norton has re-edited the King James Bible for Cambridge University Press, and this book arises from his intensive work on that project. Here he shows how the text of the most important Bible in the English language was made, and how, for better and for worse, it changed in the hands of printers and editors until, in 1769, it became the text we know today. Using evidence as diverse as the manuscript work of the original translators, and the results of extensive computer collation of electronically held texts, Norton has produced a scholarly edition of the King James Bible for the new century that will restore the authority of the 1611 translation. This book describes this fascinating background, explains Norton's editorial principles and provides substantial lists and tables of variant readings. It will be indispensable to scholars of the English Bible, literature, and publishing history.

Monday, April 21, 2008

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    Other Planets: The Music of Karlheinz Stockhausen by Robin J. Maconie
    The German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen was arguably the most influential figure of the European postwar avant-garde, and unquestionably the most elusive and enigmatic musical thinker of a generation that includes Pierre Boulez, John Cage, and Luciano Berio. His radically new electronic and instrumental music converted Igor Stravinsky to serialism in the 1950s, and has continued to inspire young composers for over fifty years. Other Planets draws on over forty years of the author's close study of Stockhausen and functions as a catalogue raisonee of Stockhausen's complete output. With plentiful citations from the history of radio, film, and sound recording, as well as from contemporary science and technology, the book is laid out in strictly chronological order and contains unusually ample commentary on the composer's sources of inspiration. Each composition is also fully documented within the text, giving full information of each work's publisher, catalogue number, instrumentation, duration, and authorized compact disc.

Monday, April 14, 2008

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    Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema by Robert Bird
    The films of Andrei Tarkovsky have been revered as ranking on a par with the masterpieces of Russia’s novelists and composers. His work, from films such as Ivan’s Childhood, Andrei Rublev, Solaris, Mirror, Nostalgia and Sacrifice, has had an enormous influence on the style of contemporary European film, with its open narrative structures and slow, pensive mood; yet Tarkovsky has remained an elusive subject for reflection and analysis. This book is a comprehensive, well-illustrated and much-needed account of Tarkovsky’s entire film output. Robert Bird’s analysis is centred around a detailed account of Tarkovsky’s technique, which provides the best interpretive guide to both the director’s films and his theoretical speculations. Integrating his idiosyncratic ideas with his films’ irresistible sensuality, Bird highlights Tarkovsky’s fascination with the elusive correlation between cinematic representation and the more primeval perception of the world. The book examines Tarkovsky’s films elementally, grouping them into four sections: Water, Fire, Earth, and Air. It also discusses Tarkovsky’s works for the radio, theatre and opera, and how he was in addition an accomplished actor, screenwriter, film theorist and diarist. The author’s claim, however, is that Tarkovsky was a filmmaker before all else, and this book examines what Tarkovsky’s cinema reveals about the medium in which he worked.

Monday, April 14, 2008

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    The City of Words by Alberto Manguel
    What is the role of the storyteller in 21st Century society? Do stories possess the power to change the world we live in? In this most original and stimulating study Alberto Manguel, award winning author of A History of Reading, sets out to investigate the ways in which stories can lend an identity to a whole society. From Gilgamesh to the Bible, from Don Quixote to The Fast Runner, Manguel explores how books can hold the secret to what binds us together. His thesis is argued here in an engrossing and highly personal book that encompasses narratives of autobiography, mythology, history and theology. He also raises concerns that technological developments – the internet, for one – may well fatally undermine the publishing industry and threaten the survival of the individual around whom the entire literary industry was originally constructed: the beleaguered author. Do innovations like CD-Rom replace creative readers with passive viewers? This book is also about the art of reading, at a time when Manguel argues that it is still possible for stories to change us and the world we live in.

Monday, April 07, 2008

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    Beckett Before Beckett by Brigitte Le Juez
    Samuel Beckett lectured on modern French literature at his old university, Trinity College, in 1930-31 but those lectures are not widely known and have rarely been studied. This is one of the least known periods of his life. He had just returned from Paris where he had met James Joyce and had started his literary career but had not yet written his first novel. In 1930, Rachel Burrows studied French at Trinity College and her notes of Beckett's lectures have recently been found in the archives of Trinity College. Brigitte Le Juez is the first writer to fully study these lectures, the most complete record of Beckett the young intellectual, and a valuable guide to the inspirations behind his work and concept of literature. They answer many of the questions about Beckett's work. How did he define the modern novel of his day? What should literature strive to achieve, or more properly, what should it not be? They reveal the writers he studied and was influenced by and the notebooks demonstrate that Racine is the writer most frequently praised by Beckett while Balzac is the target of his fiercest criticism. Other writers studied by Beckett include Proust, Flaubert and Stendhal, Dostoyevsky and Andre Gide. Beckett before Beckett: Samuel Beckett's Lectures on French Literature reveals Beckett's own history of French literature and his understanding of the origins of the modern literature of his time.

Monday, April 07, 2008

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    A Natural History of Time by Pascal Richet
    The quest to pinpoint the age of the Earth is nearly as old as humanity itself. For most of history, people trusted mythology or religion to provide the answer, even though nature abounds with clues to the past of the Earth and the stars. In A Natural History of Time, geophysicist Pascal Richet tells the fascinating story of how scientists and philosophers examined those clues and from them built a chronological scale that has made it possible to reconstruct the history of nature itself. Richet begins his story with mythological traditions, which were heavily influenced by the seasons and almost uniformly viewed time cyclically. The linear history promulgated by Judaism, with its story of creation, was an exception, and it was that tradition that drove early Christian attempts to date the Earth. Until the mid-eighteenth century, such natural timescales derived from biblical chronologies prevailed, but, Richet demonstrates, with the Scientific Revolution geological and astronomical evidence for much longer timescales began to accumulate. Fossils and the developing science of geology provided compelling evidence for periods of millions and millions of years — a scale that even scientists had difficulty grasping. By the end of the twentieth century, new tools such as radiometric dating had demonstrated that the solar system is four and a half billion years old, and the universe itself about twice that, though controversial questions remain.

Monday, March 31, 2008

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    Shakespeare by Johann Gottfried Herder
    Without Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), we simply would not understand Shakespeare in the way we do. In fact, much literature and art besides Shakespeare would neither look the same nor be the same without the influence of Herder's Shakespeare (1773). One of the most important and original works in the history of literary criticism, this passionate essay pioneered a new, historicist approach to cultural artifacts by arguing that they should be judged not by their conformity to a set of conventions imported from another time and place, but by the effectiveness of their response to their own historical and cultural context. Rejecting the authority of a dominant and stifling French neoclassicism that judged eighteenth-century plays by the criteria of Aristotle, Herder's Shakespeare signaled a break with the Enlightenment, the approach of Romanticism, and the arrival of a distinctly modern form of aesthetic appreciation.

Monday, March 31, 2008

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    Selected Poems by Michael Hofmann
    This new Selected Poems is a retrospective on a poetic career which includes four Faber collections: Nights in the Iron Hotel (1983), which won the Cholmondeley Award; Acrimony (1986), which won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize; Corona, Corona (1993) and Approximately Nowhere (1999). Michael Hofmann's poems have been widely admired, notably for their gift of compressed and vividly pointed reportage, and the collision course of words and dictions that his poetry characteristically provokes. His subject matter has been equally individual, including his remarkable and complex series of 'father-poems', his subtle portraiture of the lives of others, East and West, together with his acerbic impressionism of contemporary England, and his exploration of Adorno's injunction that 'it is part of morality not to be at home in one's home'. Michael Hofmann has written to date some of the boldest, frankest and most searching poetry of our time.

Monday, March 24, 2008

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    The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism: Volume 9 by Christa Knellwolf
    This ninth volume in The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism presents a wide-ranging survey of developments in literary criticism and theory during the last century. Drawing on the combined expertise of a large team of specialist scholars, it offers an authoritative account of the various movements of thought that have made the late twentieth century such a richly productive period in the history of criticism. The aim has been to cover developments which have had greatest impact on the academic study of literature, along with background chapters that place those movements in a broader, intellectual, national and socio-cultural perspective. In comparison with Volumes Seven and Eight, also devoted to twentieth-century developments, there is marked emphasis on the rethinking of historical and philosophical approaches, which have emerged, especially during the past two decades, as among the most challenging areas of debate.

Monday, March 24, 2008

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    Field-Russia by Gennady Aygi
    Lifelong Aygi translator and friend Peter France wrote in The Guardian: "Aygi wrote from a deep awareness of the losses and destructions of the 20th century." Field-Russia is a book of poems arranged shortly before Aygi's death, which in his view occupied a central place in his work. The collection opens with an informal conversation about poetry, and is followed by a series of little lyric "books"—Field-Russia, Time of the Ravines, and Final Departure—that form a part of Aygi's "life-book." Like Ahkmatova and Celan before him, Aygi has left us with these most necessary words to dwell in—a quiet, spiritual poetry in a time of uprootedness and despair.

Monday, March 17, 2008

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    Samuel Beckett and the Philosophical Image by Anthony Uhlmann
    Beckett often made use of images from the visual arts and readapted them, staging them in his plays, or using them in his fiction. Anthony Uhlmann sets out to explain how an image differs from other terms, like 'metaphor' or 'representation', and, in the process, to analyse Beckett's use of images borrowed from philosophy and aesthetics. This is the first study to carefully examine Beckett's thoughts on the image in his literary works and his extensive notes to the philosopher Arnold Geulincx. Uhlmann considers how images might allow one kind of interaction between philosophy and literature, and how Beckett makes use of images which are borrowed from, or drawn into dialogue with, philosophical images from Geulincx, Berkeley, Bergson, and the ancient Stoics. Uhlmann's reading of Beckett's aesthetic and philosophical interests provides a revolutionary new reading of the importance of the image in his work.

Monday, March 17, 2008

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    Listen: A History of Our Ears by Peter Szendy
    In this intimate meditation on listening, beautifully translated by Charlotte Mandell, Peter Szendy examines what the role of the listener is, and has been, through the centuries. The role of the composer is clear, as is the role of the musician, but where exactly does the listener stand in relation to the music s/he listens to? What is the responsibility of the listener? Does a listener have any rights, as the author and composer have copyright? Szendy explains his love of musical arrangement (since arrangements allow him to listen to someone listening to music), and wonders whether it is possible in other ways to convey to others how we ourselves listen to music. How can we share our actual hearing with others? Along the way, he examines the evolution of copyright laws as applied to musical works and takes us into the courtroom to examine different debates on what we are and aren’t allowed to listen to, and to witness the fine line between musical borrowing and outright plagiarism. Finally, he examines the recent phenomenon of DJs and digital compilations, and wonders how technology has affected our habits of listening and has changed listening from a passive exercise to an active one, whereby one can jump from track to track or play only selected pieces.

Monday, March 10, 2008

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    Burning to Read by James Simpson
    James Simpson focuses on a critical moment in early modern England, specifically the cultural transformation that allowed common folk to read the Bible for the first time. Widely understood and accepted as the grounding moment of liberalism, this was actually, Simpson tells us, the source of fundamentalism, and of different kinds of persecutory violence. His argument overturns a widely held interpretation of sixteenth-century Protestant reading -- and a crucial tenet of the liberal tradition. After exploring the heroism and achievements of sixteenth-century English Lutherans, particularly William Tyndale, Burning to Read turns to the bad news of the Lutheran Bible. Simpson outlines the dark, dynamic, yet demeaning paradoxes of Lutheran reading: its demands that readers hate the biblical text before they can love it; that they be constantly on the lookout for unreadable signs of their own salvation; that evangelical readers be prepared to repudiate friends and all tradition on the basis of their personal reading of Scripture. Such reading practice provoked violence not only against Lutheranism's stated enemies, as Simpson demonstrates; it also prompted psychological violence and permanent schism within its own adherents.

Monday, March 10, 2008

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    Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago
    On the first day of the New Year, no one dies. This understandably causes great consternation amongst religious leaders – if there’s no death, there can be no resurrection and therefore no reason for religion – and what will be the effect on pensions, the social services, hospitals? Funeral directors are reduced to arranging funerals for dogs, cats, hamsters and parrots. Life insurance policies become meaningless. Amid the general public, on the other hand, there is initially celebration: flags are hung out on balconies and people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity – eternal life. But will death’s disappearance benefit the human race, or will this sudden abeyance backfire? How long can families cope with malingering elderly relatives who scratch at death’s door while the portal remains firmly shut? Then, seven months later, death returns, heralded by purple envelopes informing the recipients that their time is up. Death herself is now writing personal notes giving one week's notice. However, when an envelope is unexpectedly returned to her, death begins to experience strange, almost human emotions.

Monday, March 03, 2008

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    The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert by Joseph Joubert
    The elusive French luminary Joseph Joubert is a great explorer of the mind's open spaces. Edited and translated by Paul Auster, this selection from Joubert's notebooks introduces a master of the enigmatic who seeks "to call everything by its true name" while asking us to "remember everything is double." "Joubert speaks in whispers," Auster writes. "One must draw very close to hear what he is saying."

Monday, March 03, 2008

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    The New Black: Mourning, Melancholia and Depression by Darian Leader
    What happens when we lose someone we love? A death, a separation or the break-up of a relationship are some of the hardest times we have to live through. We may fall into a nightmare of depression, lose the will to live and see no hope for the future. What matters at this crucial point is whether or not we are able to mourn. In this important and groundbreaking book, acclaimed psychoanalyst and writer Darian Leader urges us to look beyond the catch-all concept of depression to explore the deeper, unconscious ways in which we respond to the experience of loss. In so doing, we can loosen the grip it may have upon our lives.

Monday, February 25, 2008

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    Auschwitz by Angela Morgan Cutler
    Auschwitz: a place where millions were killed and which thousands now visit each year. A mass grave – and a tourist destination. The focus of this work of autobiographical fiction is on the sightseers – the curious that are drawn to visit. It is a book that questions our need to look: what is there to uncover, other than the difficulty of peering into such a place and into a subject that has been obsessively documented, yet can never really be understood? How to write about Auschwitz in the twenty-first century, in a time when the last generation of survivors is soon to be lost? This is also a book that searches for a personal story. It opens on a local bus that takes Angela, her husband En (whose mother survived the holocaust where most of her family did not) and their two sons to Auschwitz sixty years after the holocaust, and ends in a pine forest outside Minsk where En’s grandparents were shot in May 1942. The backbone of Auschwitz is a series of e-mails between the author and acclaimed American writer Raymond Federman. At the age of 14, Federman (now approaching 80) was hastily thrust into the small upstairs closet of their Paris apartment by his mother just before she, his father and two sisters were taken to Auschwitz, where they were killed. Federman also has spent a lifetime trying to find a language appropriate for the enormity of the holocaust and his part in its legacy, ultimately espousing laughterature – laughter as a means of survival.

Monday, February 25, 2008

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    The Book Is Dead (Long Live the Book) by Sherman Young
    Sometime in the late twentieth century the book died. Sherman Young, passionate book lover and a consumer and producer of digital technology, is on a mission to make book culture matter again. Shirking nostalgia and without apology, The Book is Dead (Long Live the Book) investigates the economics and technological demands of publishing, making a case for books and reading all the while. His bold and exciting book will inspire readers, non-readers and publishers to put books centre-stage again, even if they’re not books as we now know them.

Monday, February 18, 2008

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    A Kind of Testament by Witold Gombrowicz
    A Kind of Testament is part autobiography and part justification of the life’s work of one of Poland’s most important novelists and playwrights. Written in France in 1968, this personal testimony is more than just a life history or a critique of his work. A Kind of Testament stands as a testament to how Gombrowicz came to be the person and writer that he was and overlap between the two.

Monday, February 18, 2008

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    Kafka and Photography by Carolin Duttlinger
    Throughout his life, Franz Kafka was fascinated by photography, a medium which for him came to encapsulate both the attractions and the pitfalls of modern life. Kafka's personal engagement with the medium - as a keen viewer and collector of photographs as well as an amateur photographer - is reflected in his writings, which explore photography from a variety of different perspectives. This study not only explores photography's recurrence as a theme within his texts but it is also the first to take systematic account of Kafka's use of photographs as literary source material. Kafka and Photography presents one of the most important modern writers from an entirely new perspective; it sheds new light on familiar works and uncovers unexplored aspects of Kafka's engagement with his time and context. Its detailed textual analyses are set against a richly documented historical context which illustrates Kafka's interest in contemporary culture through a range of visual material taken from public as well as private sources - some of which has only recently become available. As this book demonstrates, photography had a profound impact on Kafka's literary imagination and as such helps to explain the mesmerizing intensity of enigmatic visual detail which is a hallmark of his narratives.

Monday, February 11, 2008

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    Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin
    Your Inner Fish tells the extraordinary history of the human body. Why do we look the way we do? When did we first evolve the features that we have? Why are we still able to do all the different things we do? And, finally, why do we fall ill in the way that we do? Neil Shubin draws on the latest genetic research and his huge experience as an expeditionary palaeontologist to show the incredible impact the 3.5 billion year history of life has had on our bodies. It turns out that many of our most distinctive features evolved when we were still swimming in the oceans. Shubin takes readers on a fascinating, unexpected journey and allows us to discover the deep connection to nature in our own bodies.

Monday, February 11, 2008

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    Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy by Eric G. Wilson
    More than any other generation, we seem to believe in the transformative power of positive thinking. But who says we’re supposed to be happy? Where does it say that in the Bible, or in the Constitution? In Against Happiness, Eric G. Wilson argues that melancholia is necessary to any thriving culture, that it is the muse of great literature, painting, music, and innovation—and that it is the force underlying original insights. Francisco Goya, Emily Dickinson, Marcel Proust, and Abraham Lincoln were all confirmed melancholics. So enough Prozac-ing of our brains. Let’s embrace our depressive sides as the wellspring of creativity. What most people take for contentment, Wilson argues, is living death, and what the majority takes for depression is a vital force. It’s time to throw off the shackles of positivity and relish the blues that make us human.

Monday, February 04, 2008

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    The Seventh Well by Fred Wander
    He grew up on the street, a high school dropout. In 1938 he left his mother and sister behind in Vienna and fled on foot to France, where later he was put on a train to Auschwitz. Transported from camp to camp, Fred Wander was haunted for twenty-five years by the crystalline, episodic stories that chronicle the plight of his fellow inmates. Only after the tragic death of his little daughter did these voices pour forth. The result was this novel, published in East Germany in 1970. Finally it appears in English in this masterful translation, its haunting cadences evoking Levi and Celan, its backstory as heartrending as Suite Française. Wander demonstrates that the survival of a single man is a collaborative enterprise. The Seventh Well, named after the well of truth, recalls Dante’s Inferno with its mesmerizing descent into evil. Its existence is a miracle.

Monday, February 04, 2008

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    The Secret History of the World by Mark Booth
    In this groundbreaking new work, Mark Booth embarks on an enthralling intellectual tour of our world’s secret histories. Starting from a dangerous premise — that everything we’ve been taught about our world’s past is corrupted, and that the stories put forward by the various cults and mystery schools throughout history are true — Booth produces nothing short of an alternate history of the past 3,000 years. History is more than a list of things that have happened; it’s a measure of consciousness and experience. And in The Secret History of the World, Booth’s take on history is relentless, charging through time and space and thought in interdisciplinary fashion; embracing cognitive science, religion, psychology, historiography, and philosophy, a new timeline is drawn, and a huge swath of our cultural heritage that has for long been hidden is restored. From Greek and Egyptian mythology to Jewish folklore, from Christian cults to Freemasons, from Charlemagne to Don Quixote, from George Washington to Hitler-Booth shows without a doubt that history as we know it needs a revolutionary rethink, and he has 3,000 years of hidden wisdom to back it up.

Monday, January 28, 2008

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    Walter Benjamin by Esther Leslie
    The work of Walter Benjamin, critic, essayist, translator, philosopher – one of the twentieth century’s most influential intellectuals – continues to stimulate a profusion of responses in the form of new novels, operas, films and artworks, as well as a never-abating production of academic texts. In this new biography, the first to be written in over a decade, author Esther Leslie uses the recently published entirety of Benjamin’s correspondence, drawing on his numerous diaries and autobiographical works, in order to provide a careful account of his circumstances and thoughts. Benjamin had many interests: he cherished childhood and its trappings; had a passion for the displacement and novelty of travel; toys; cities; trick-books; and ships; all are given due attention as the author weaves Benjamin’s wayward apperceptions into the narrative of a life lived. She follows Benjamin as he travels from Berlin to Capri, Ibiza, Riga, Moscow, Paris, and finally the Spanish border where he died in 1940. The author acknowledges Benjamin’s thesis that personal histories can be traced only in the context of social milieus, economic forces, technological shifts, and historical events, and seamlessly interweaves biographical details with an accessible yet concentrated account of Benjamin’s intellectual development, drawing a colourful portrait of a capacious intellect trapped in increasingly hostile circumstances.

Monday, January 28, 2008

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    Wartime Notebooks: And Other Texts by Marguerite Duras

    The really special thing about this edition or Marguerite Duras's Wartime Notebooks is that understated subtitle and other texts. This truly is a compendious collection of Duras's unpublished writing and publisher Quercus are to be congratulated for producing such a lovely -- and important -- book. Duras -- most famous for her exquisite novel The Lover -- was one of the leading intellectuals and writers of post-war France. Her novels are all very autobiographical, but don't let that make you think that that takes anything away from her skill as a writer. How she uses her life, how she wrote and rewrote and explored all the facts and facets of it, are what make her so exceptional. Wartime Notebooks contains the contents of four notebooks kept "in a blue closet in her country home in France ... until now no one recognised just how important was the material she had written between 1943 and 1949." The Pink Marbled Notebook, devoted to her childhood, includes, amongst much other material, rough drafts of The Sea Wall; the 20th Century Press and Hundred-Page Notebooks contain a rough draft of The War; and the Beige Notebook contains -- again, amongst much other great diary material -- a rough draft of The Sailor from Gibraltar. In addition, the book has fifty pages of additional texts. Essential.

Monday, January 21, 2008

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    Violence by Slavoj Zizek

    The premise of Zizek’s theory is that the subjective violence we see – violence with a clear identifiable agent – is only the tip of an iceberg made up of ‘systemic’ violence, which is essentially the catastrophic consequence of the smooth functioning of our economic and political systems. With the help of Marx, Engels, Sartre, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Lacan, Brecht and many more, Zizek examines the hidden causes of violence, delving into the supposed ‘divine violence’ which propels suicide bombers and the unseen ‘systemic’ violence which lies behind outbursts, from Parisian suburbia to New Orleans. For Zizek, the controversial truth is that sometimes doing nothing is the most violent thing you can do. He calls for a forceful confrontation with the vacuity of today’s democracies – using an unconventional plethora of references: Hitchcock, Orwell, Fukuyama, Freud and more.

Monday, January 21, 2008

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    The Horse, The Wheel, and Language by David W. Anthony
    Roughly half the world's population speaks languages derived from a shared linguistic source known as Proto-Indo-European. But who were the early speakers of this ancient mother tongue, and how did they manage to spread it around the globe? Until now their identity has remained a tantalizing mystery to linguists, archaeologists, and even Nazis seeking the roots of the Aryan race. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language lifts the veil that has long shrouded these original Indo-European speakers, and reveals how their domestication of horses and use of the wheel spread language and transformed civilization. Linking prehistoric archaeological remains with the development of language, Anthony identifies the prehistoric peoples of central Eurasia's steppe grasslands as the original speakers of Proto-Indo-European, and shows how their innovative use of the ox wagon, horseback riding, and the warrior's chariot turned the Eurasian steppes into a thriving transcontinental corridor of communication, commerce, and cultural exchange.

Monday, January 14, 2008

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    The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani
    Jamie McKendrick new translation of this haunting, elegiac novel which captures the mood and atmosphere of Italy (and in particular Ferrara) in the last summers of the thirties, focusing on an aristocratic Jewish family moving imperceptibly towards its doom. Vittorio De Sica turned the book into a film in 1970, winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1974.

Monday, January 14, 2008

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    The Paris Review Interviews: vol. 2 by Philip Gourevitch
    A second volume of fascinating interviews from one of the world's best loved literary magazines. The encounters between The Paris Review and the world's leading writers have elicited some of the most revelatory and revealing thoughts from the literary masters of our age. Entertaining and thought-provoking, it is essential reading for anyone who cares about writers and writing. Includes interviews with Graham Greene, William Faulkner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Philip Larkin, Raymond Carver, Philip Roth and Toni Morrison.

Monday, January 07, 2008

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    Detective Story by Irmre Kertesz
    As readers, we are accustomed to reading stories of war and injustice from the victims' point of view, sympathising with their plight. In Detective Story, the tables have been turned, leaving us in the mind of a monster, as Kertész plunges us into a story of the worst kind, told by a man living outside morality. Now in prison, Antonio Martens is a torturer for the secret police of a recently defunct dictatorship. He requests and is given writing materials in his cell, and what he has to recount is his involvement in the surveillance, torture, and assassination of Federigo and Enrique Salinas, a prominent father and son whose principled but passive opposition to the regime left them vulnerable to the secret police. Preying upon young Enrique’s aimless life, the secret police began to position him as a subversive and then targeted his father. Once this plan was set into motion, any means were justified to reach the regime’s chosen end—the destruction of an entire liberal class. Inside Martens’s mind, we inhabit the rationalising world of evil and see first-hand the inherent danger of inertia during times of crisis.

Monday, January 07, 2008

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    The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati
    Giovanni Drogo is a young army officer who is posted to Fort Bastiani, a remote and almost forgotten outpost that looks out over the desert and mountains of the steppe and onto the barren reaches of the Northern Kingdom. There is a vague possibility that acrimonious relations with the Northern Kingdom could, at any time, descend into war. There is an even vaguer chance that if war were to come it would arrive over the inhospitable steppe. Whilst younger officers, like Drogo, keep their spirits up with constant chatter about the possibility of such an attack, the older officers know better. They have spent a lifetime waiting, they've succumbed to many a false hope but, in their hearts, they know that no-one will attack, certainly not over the steppe, and that their chance to prove themselves as valiant soldiers has slowly died over the course of many years pointlessly waiting for something to happen. Drogo is astute enough to see this. As soon as he arrives at the Fort he asks to be posted somewhere else, but is persuaded to stay for a few months. Those months turn into years. The years quickly turn into a lifetime.

Monday, December 31, 2007

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    Montano's Malady by Enrique Vila-Matas
    The narrator of Montano's Malady is a writer named Jose who is so obsessed with literature that he finds it impossible to distinguish between real life and fictional reality. Part picaresque novel, part intimate diary, part memoir and philosophical musings, Enrique Vila-Matas has created a labyrinth in which writers as various as Cervantes, Sterne, Kafka, Musil, Bolano, Coetzee, and Sebald cross endlessly surprising paths. Trying to piece together his life of loss and pain, Jose leads the reader on an unsettling journey from European cities such as Nantes, Barcelona, Lisbon, Prague and Budapest to the Azores and the Chilean port of Valparaiso. Exquisitely witty and erudite, it confirms the opinion of Bernardo Axtaga that Vila-Matas is "the most important living Spanish writer.

Monday, December 31, 2007

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    Castorp by Pawel Huelle
    Picking up on a throwaway line in The Magic Mountain, Castorp tells the story of Hans Castorp’s student years in Gdansk, long before the adventures in Davos described in Thomas Mann’s novel. Pawel Huelle skilfully creates a credible scenario for this influential period in Hans Castorp’s development, imagining what happened when the rational German student was exposed to the Slavonic eastern edge of the Prussian empire. He comes across people, events and ideas that anticipate some of the encounters he will experience in years to come, including an enigmatic Polish woman who becomes his obsession. Set at the dawn of the twentieth century, Castorp faithfully recreates the atmosphere of central Europe as the storm began that would lead to two world wars. Beautifully written, full of humour, mystery and eccentricity, this is a moving tribute to a masterpiece of European literature.

Monday, December 17, 2007

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    How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard
    In this mischievous and provocative book, already a runaway bestseller in France, Pierre Bayard contends that in this age of infinite publication, the truly cultivated person is not the one who has read a book, but the one who understands the book's place in our culture. Drawing on examples from works by Graham Greene, Umberto Eco, Oscar Wilde, Montaigne (who couldn't remember books he himself had written), and many others, he examines the many kinds of 'non-reading' (forgotten books, unknown books, books discussed by others, books we've skimmed briefly) and the many potentially nightmarish situations in which we are called upon to discuss our reading with others (with our loved ones, with the book's author, etc.) At heart, this is a book that will challenge everyone who's ever felt guilty about missing some of the Great Books to consider what reading means, how we absorb books as part of ourselves, and how and why we spend so much time talking about what we have, or haven't, read.

Monday, December 17, 2007

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    The Fighter: Literary Essays by Tim Parks
    The title piece of Tim Parks' The Fighter addresses D.H. Lawrence’s fundamental belligerence and how all the significant relationships in his life, including those with his readers and critics, were characterized by intense intimacy and ferocious conflict. Elsewhere there are literary essays on tension and conflict in the work of Beckett and Hardy, Bernhard and Dostoevsky, amongst others. Parks is known for his acerbic chronicles of Italian life and here are essays on Mussolini, Macchiavelli and the Medici. Besides discussing questions of history, politics and literature, The Fighter also takes on the serious issue of World Cup football. These are essays whose ideas and themes call to each other in the most unexpected and ironic ways. From the wide variety of subjects emerges a consistent and convincing picture of a world that forever resists the writer’s embattled attempts to wrap it up in language.

Monday, December 10, 2007

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    A Secular Age by Charles Taylor
    What does it mean to say that we live in a secular age? Almost everyone would agree that we -- in the West, at least -- largely do. And clearly the place of religion in our societies has changed profoundly in the last few centuries. In what will be a defining book for our time, Charles Taylor takes up the question of what these changes mean -- of what, precisely, happens when a society in which it is virtually impossible not to believe in God becomes one in which faith, even for the staunchest believer, is only one human possibility among others. Taylor offers a historical perspective. He examines the development in "Western Christendom" of those aspects of modernity which we call secular. What he describes is in fact not a single, continuous transformation, but a series of new departures, in which earlier forms of religious life have been dissolved or destabilized and new ones have been created. As we see here, today's secular world is characterized not by an absence of religion -- although in some societies religious belief and practice have markedly declined -- but rather by the continuing multiplication of new options, religious, spiritual, and anti-religious, which individuals and groups seize on in order to make sense of their lives and give shape to their spiritual aspirations. What this means for the world -- including the new forms of collective religious life it encourages, with their tendency to a mass mobilization that breeds violence -- is what Charles Taylor grapples with here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

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    The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola
    Unjustly deported to Devil's Island following Louis-Napoleon's coup-d'état in December 1851, Florent Quenu escapes and returns to Paris. He finds the city changed beyond recognition. The old Marché des Innocents has been knocked down as part of Haussmann's grand programme of urban reconstruction to make way for Les Halles, the spectacular new food markets. Disgusted by a bourgeois society whose devotion to food is inseparable from its devotion to the Government, Florent attempts an insurrection. Les Halles, apocalyptic and destructive, play an active role in Zola's picture of a world in which food and the injustice of society are inextricably linked. The Belly of Paris (Le Ventre de Paris) is the third volume in Zola's famous cycle of twenty novels, Les Rougon-Macquart. It introduces the painter Claude Lantier and in its satirical representation of the bourgeoisie and capitalism complements Zola's other great novels of social conflict and urban poverty.

Monday, December 03, 2007

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    Bedside, Bathtub and Armchair Companion to Virginia Woolf by Sarah M. Hall
    Virginia Woolf's involvement in the lively and controversial Bloomsbury Group, which included the writer Lytton Strachey, the painters Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry and the economist Maynard Keynes, was a significant part of both her personal and creative lives. As a group they were witty, bold and original and their intellectual and artistic accomplishments have had a lasting impact. The Bedside, Bathtub and Armchair Companion to Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury presents Woolf as a dynamic individual with a wide and fascinating circle of friends. The book explores Woolf's early life and family, the origins and activities of the Bloomsbury Group and Woolf's later career and those of her friends. It also includes sections on the Hogarth Press, Virginia Woolf and the Suffrage movement, the myths and reality of Virginia's death and the continuing presence of the Bloomsbury Group in popular culture. Packed with insight and information, and illustrated throughout, the companion is the ideal guide to Virginia Woolf and her contemporaries.

Monday, December 03, 2007

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    The Death of the Critic by Ronan McDonald
    The critic has long been a reviled figure, at best the mere handmaiden of the ‘creative’ arts, at worst a parasite upon them. For Brendan Behan, critics are like eunuchs in a harem. They know how it is done. They have seen it done every day. But they are unable to do it themselves. In an age of book clubs, celebrity endorsements and internet bloggers, what role is there now for the professional critic as an arbiter of artistic value? Are literature and the arts only a question of personal taste? Is one opinion ‘as good as another’? Rónán McDonald’s The Death of the Critic seeks to defend the role of the public critic. McDonald argues against recent claims that all artistic value is simply relative and subjective. This forceful, accessible and eloquent book considers why high-profile, public critics, such as William Empson, F.R.Leavis or Lionel Trilling, become much rarer in the later twentieth century. A key reason for the ‘death of the critic’, he believes, is the turn away from value judgements and the very notion of artistic quality amongst academics and scholars.

Monday, November 26, 2007

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    The Roman Triumph by Mary Beard
    It followed every major military victory in ancient Rome: the successful general drove through the streets to the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill; behind him streamed his raucous soldiers; in front were his most glamorous prisoners, as well as the booty he'd captured, from enemy ships and precious statues to plants and animals from the conquered territory. Occasionally there was so much on display that the show lasted two or three days. A radical re-examination of this most extraordinary of ancient ceremonies, this book explores the magnificence of the Roman triumph -- but also its darker side. What did it mean when the axle broke under Julius Caesar's chariot? Or when Pompey's elephants got stuck trying to squeeze through an arch? Or when exotic or pathetic prisoners stole the general's show? And what are the implications of the Roman triumph, as a celebration of imperialism and military might, for questions about military power and "victory" in our own day? The triumph prompted the Romans to question as well as celebrate military glory. Beard's richly illustrated work is a testament to the profound importance of the triumph in Roman culture -- and for monarchs, dynasts and generals ever since.

Monday, November 26, 2007

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    This Is Not a Book by Michael Picard
    This is Not a Book will "stretch your mind, put your neurons through their paces and challenge the foundations of your opinions and of knowledge itself". Filled with philosophical puzzles that have intrigued great minds of many nations for centuries, insoluble logical paradoxes and moral dilemmas, This is Not a Book is divided into four sections, reflecting the major fields of philosophy: Logic, Epistemology, Ethics and Metaphysics. Each section includes a subject overview and philosopher profiles, as well as quizzes, games and thought experiments which apply the tools of philosophy to ultimate questions and everyday life. Thought-provoking and logic-defying and great fun.

Monday, November 19, 2007

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    The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street by Charles Nicholl
    In 1612, Shakespeare gave evidence at the Court of Requests in Westminster – it is the only occasion his spoken words are recorded. The case seems routine – a dispute over an unpaid marriage-dowry – but it opens up an unexpected window into the dramatist’s famously obscure life-story. Some eight years earlier, Shakespeare was lodging in the house of a French immigrant family, the Mountjoys, in the Cripplegate area of London. And while there he was called on to ‘persuade’ the family’s former apprentice to marry their daughter. Marshalling evidence from a wide variety of sources, including previously unknown documentary material on the Mountjoys, Charles Nicholl conjures up a detailed and compelling description of the circumstances in which Shakespeare lived and worked, and in which he wrote such plays as Othello, Measure for Measure and King Lear. Nicholl also throws new light on the puzzling story of Shakespeare’s collaboration with the hack-author and brothel-keeper George Wilkins. In this exploration of Shakespeare at forty, we see him not from the viewpoint of literary greatness, but in the humdrum and very human context of Silver Street, where to the maid of the house he was merely ‘one Mr Shakespeare’, renting the room upstairs.

Monday, November 19, 2007

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    Administration of Torture by Jameel Jaffer, Amrit Singh
    When the media published photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the Bush administration assured the world that the abuse was isolated and that the perpetrators would be held accountable. Over the next three years, it refined its stance: some soldiers abused prisoners, but these soldiers were anomalous sadists who ignored clear orders. Abuse, the administration said, was aberrational not systemic, not widespread, and certainly not a matter of policy. The government's own documents, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, tell a starkly different story. They show that the abuse of prisoners was not limited to Abu Ghraib but was pervasive in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay. The documents also reveal that senior officials endorsed the abuse of prisoners as a matter of policy. Administration of Torture is the most detailed account thus far of what took place in America's overseas detention centers, including an essay in which Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh draw the connection between the policies adopted by senior civilian and military officials and the torture and abuse that took place on the ground. The book also reproduces hundreds of government documents — including interrogation directives, FBI e-mails, autopsy reports, and investigative files — that constitute both an important historical record and a profound indictment of the Bush administration's policies with respect to the detention and treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad.

Monday, November 12, 2007

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    Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice by Janet Malcolm
    Janet Malcolm's elliptical essay makes for a wonderfully fluent introduction to the Modernist writer Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) and her life partner Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967). And, as ever with Malcolm's work, her book is also an investigation into itself: whilst this is a (brief) biography of Stein, it is also a (brief) meditation on the art – the duplicities, the impossibilities – of writing biography itself. Malcolm is an incisive journalist, and her book reads like a long New Yorker piece, a magazine for which she is a celebrated staffer. It makes the notoriously difficult Stein seem worth the effort of reading, whilst at the same time being clear that Stein's often silly ramblings won't be to everyone's taste. As they say the best literary journalism should do, this leads one back to the work under discussion newly invigorated for the difficult task of reading ahead.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday, November 05, 2007

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    Weimar Germany by Eric D. Weitz
    Weimar Germany tells how Germans rose from the defeat of World War I and the turbulence of revolution to forge democratic institutions and make Berlin a world capital of avant-garde art. Setting the stage for this story, Weitz takes the reader on a walking tour of Berlin to see and feel what life was like there in the 1920s, when modernity and the modern city -- with its bright lights, cinemas, "new women," cabarets, and sleek department stores -- were new. We learn how Germans enjoyed better working conditions and new social benefits and listened to the utopian prophets of everything from radical socialism to communal housing to nudism. Weimar Germany also explores the period's revolutionary cultural creativity, from the new architecture of Erich Mendelsohn, Bruno Taut, and Walter Gropius to Hannah Höch's photomontages and Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's theater. Other chapters assess the period's turbulent politics and economy, and the recipes for fulfilling sex lives propounded by new "sexologists." Yet Weimar Germany also shows how entrenched elites continually challenged Weimar's achievements and ultimately joined with a new radical Right led by the Nazis to form a coalition that destroyed the republic.

Monday, November 05, 2007

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    Adam Smith in Beijing by Giovanni Arrighi
    In the late eighteenth century, the political economist Adam Smith predicted an eventual equalization of power between the conquering West and the conquered non-West. In this magisterial new work, Giovanni Arrighi shows how China's extraordinary rise invites us to read The Wealth of Nations in a radically different way than is usually done. He examines how the recent US attempt to bring into existence the first truly global empire in world history was conceived in order to counter China's spectacular economic success of the 1990s, and how the US's disastrous failure in Iraq has made the People’s Republic of China the true winner of the US War on Terror. In the 21st century, China may well become again the kind of noncapitalist market economy that Smith described, under totally different domestic and world-historical conditions.

Monday, October 29, 2007

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    Profanations by Giorgio Agamben
    In Profanations, Agamben has assembled for the first time some of his most pivotal essays on photography, the novel, and film. A meditation on memory and oblivion, on what is lost and what remains, Profanations proves yet again that Agamben is one of the most provocative writers of our time. In ten essays, Agamben ponders a series of literary and philosophical problems: the relation among genius, ego, and theories of subjectivity; the problem of messianic time as explicated in both images and lived experience; parody as a literary paradigm; and the potential of magic to provide an ethical canon. The range of topics and themes addressed here attest to the creativity of Agamben's singular mode of thought and his persistent concern with the act of witnessing, sometimes futile, sometimes earth-shattering: the talking cricket in Pinocchio; "helpers" in Kafka's novels; pictorial representations of the Last Judgment, of anonymous female faces, and of "Rosebud," the infamous object of obsession in Citizen Kane. The central essay, In Praise of Profanity, confronts the question of profanity as the crucial political task of the moment. An act of resistance to every form of separation, the concept of profanation reorients perceptions of how power, consumption, and use interweave to produce an urgent political modality and desire: to profane the unprofanable.

Monday, October 29, 2007

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    Due Considerations by John Updike
    This new collection of John Updike’s non-fiction writings includes a preface, Everything Considered, in which he tells of his lifelong love affair with words; essays on travel, and on faith; introductions to some of the classics; reviews of lesser known foreign writers and new books by English and American contemporaries; as well as non-fiction topics from the sinking of the Lusitania to Coco Chanel's ‘unsinkable career’; tributes to legendary New Yorker figures, and much more.

Monday, October 22, 2007

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    The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace by Brian Cummings
    According to Gabriel Josipovici: "[Cummings] writes with a clarity and wit all too rare in scholarly works. But this is not just a masterly survey of a fascinating subject; it demonstrates that literary, linguistic and philosophical issues will always be intertwined, and that we improverish ourselves by hiving them off into different disciplines." Cummings examines the place of literature in the Reformation, considering both how arguments about biblical meaning and literary interpretation influenced the new theology, and how developments in theology in turn influenced literary practices. Bringing together genres and styles of writing which are normally kept apart (poems, sermons, treatises, commentaries), Cummings offers a major re-evaluation of the literary production of this intensely verbal and controversial period.

Monday, October 22, 2007

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    Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
    John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is a startling, riveting and absolutely essential read. Perkins, who was himself, for many years, an economic hit man (EHM), explains how highly paid professionals cheat poor countries out of trillions of dollars by convincing them to take out huge loans that they cannot afford to repay. Once they are hugely indebted these countries are forced to become loyal friends to their U.S. paymaster: debt pulls them into a "vast network that promotes U.S. commercial interests ... we can draw on them whenever we desire -- to satisfy our political, economic, or military needs." This system is running amok and it is creating an unstable and dangerous world. We know this is a form of criminal insanity when we note that "the United States spends over $87 billion conducting a war in Iraq while the United Nations estimates that for less than half that amount we could provide clean water, adequate diets, sanitation services, and basic education to every person on the planet." Perkins' frightening book explains how this "corporatocracy" whilst not a conspiracy is unscrupulous in the extreme and is creating a future that "is guaranteed to end tragically" if we do not heed his warnings about the unsustainable economics and dodgy deals that lie at the heart of globalisation.

Monday, October 15, 2007

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    Crow Country by Mark Cocker
    Rooks and jackdaws are both members of the same bird family . To ornithologists the group is known as the corvids, to the layperson they are crows. But to the Mark Cocker these two species have become a fixation and a way of life. When he moved with his family to a rundown cottage in the Norfolk Broads he acquired first a naturalist’s perfect home in the countryside, then the keys to a secret landscape. Twice a day flight-lines of rooks and jackdaws pass over the house on their way to a roost in the Yare Valley. Following them down to the river one winter’s night, the author discovered a roiling, deafening flock of birds which rises at its peak to 40,000. From the moment he watched the multitudes blossom as a mysterious dark flower above the night woods, these gloriously commonplace birds were unsheathed entirely from their ordinariness. Cocker goes in search of them, journeying from the cavernous, deadened heartland of South England to the hills of Dumfriesshire. Step by step he pieces together the complexities of the birds’ inner lives, the historical depth of the British relationship with the rook and the unforeseen richness hidden in that sombre voice, a raucous crow song that he calls ‘our landscape made audible’.

Monday, October 15, 2007

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    The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane

    The Wild Places is both an intellectual and a physical journey, and Macfarlane travels in time as well as space. Guided by monks, questers, scientists, philosophers, poets and artists, both living and dead, he explores our changing ideas of the wild. From the cliffs of Cape Wrath, to the holloways of Dorset, the storm-beaches of Norfolk, the saltmarshes and estuaries of Essex, and the moors of Rannoch and the Pennines, his journeys become the conductors of people and cultures, past and present, who have had intense relationships with these places. Certain birds, animals, trees and objects – snow-hares, falcons, beeches, crows, suns, white stones – recur, and as it progresses this densely patterned book begins to bind tighter and tighter. At once a wonder voyage, an adventure story, an exercise in visionary cartography, and a work of natural history, it is written in a style and a form as unusual as the places with which it is concerned. It also tells the story of a friendship, and of a loss. It mixes history, memory and landscape in a strange and beautiful evocation of wildness and its vital importance.

Monday, October 08, 2007

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    War With No End by John Berger

    John Berger, Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, Joe Sacco and others examine the consequences of the "War on Terror". On October 7th 2001, US-led forces invaded Afghanistan, marking the start of George Bush and Tony Blair’s "War on Terror". Six years on, where have the policies of Bush and Blair left us? Bringing together some of the finest contemporary writers, this wide-ranging anthology, from reportage and “faction” to fiction, explores the impact of this "long war” throughout the world, from Palestine to Iraq, Abu Ghraib, the curtailment of civil liberties and manipulation of public opinion. Published in conjunction with Stop the War Coalition and United for Peace and Justice, it provides an urgent, necessary reflection on the causes and consequences of the ideological "War on Terror".

Monday, October 08, 2007

Monday, October 01, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

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    A Sentimental Journey by Viktor Shklovsky
    Viktor Shklovsky's A Sentimental Journey, which borrows its title from Laurence Sterne, describes the travels of a bewildered intellectual through Russia, Persia, the Ukraine, and the Caucasus during the period of the Russian Revolution. Valuable as a historical document for its first-hand account of the events during the period of 1917-1922, A Sentimental Journey is also an important experimental literary work—a memoir in the form of a novel. At times lyrical, disturbing, ironic, and erudite, A Sentimental Journey is a singular book from one of the most recognizable and influential voices of twentieth-century Russian literature.

Monday, September 24, 2007

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    The Philosophy of Marx by Etienne Balibar
    An excellent introduction to Marx’s thought from a major French philosopher. Providing a lucid, succinct, and accessible introduction to Marx and his key followers, complete with pedagogical information for the student, Balibar makes the most difficult areas of theory easy to understand. Balibar examines all the key areas of Marx’s writings in their wider historical and theoretical context including the concepts of class struggle, ideology, humanism, progress, determinism, commodity fetishism, and the state. Suitable for the student and scholar in the humanities and social sciences, this will become the standard guide to Marx.

Monday, September 17, 2007

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    Meta Maths: The Quest for Omega by Gregory J. Chaitin
    Meta Maths is truly idiosyncratic. Informal, chatty and cerebral, it's almost a personal statement: it mixes mathematics with Chaitin's outlook on life and philosophy. For example, computer programming language shares a chapter with Kurt Gödel, friend of Einstein and developer of an immensely important theory of the limitations of mathematical methods. DNA and biological systems turn up intermittently. Where Chaitin wants to emphasize a word, a sentence or a paragraph, he prints it in bold. It's a bit like shouting in the reading room of the British Library. This tendency to jump between subjects is perhaps not surprising. Chaitin's reputation is based on his work on randomness in mathematics. Meta Maths explains how he arrived at an infinitely long and completely incalculable number he calls "omega" -- which has to do with the probability that a computer program will eventually halt (another question that mathematicians love). Chaitin's book is great fun even if his style can be irritating. (Review from the FT.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

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    The Diary of Virginia Woolf: Volume One, 1915-1919 by Virginia Woolf
    Woolf's diaries are a delight: "Nothing yet published about her so totally contradicts the legend of Virginia Woolf.... [This] is a first chance to meet the writer in her own unguarded words and to observe the root impulses of her art without the distractions of a commentary" (New York Times). This edition is edited and with a preface by Anne Olivier Bell and with an fascinating introduction by Quentin Bell.

Monday, September 10, 2007

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    Reading W.G. Sebald by Deane Blackler
    W.G. Sebald was born in 1944 in Germany. He found his way as a young academic to England and a career as professor of German. Only between the late 1980s and his untimely death in 2001 did he concentrate on nonacademic writing, crafting a new kind of prose work that shares features with but remains distinct from the novel, essay, travel writing, and memoir forms and gaining elevation to the first rank of writers internationally. No less a critic than Susan Sontag was moved to ask "Is literary greatness still possible?" implying that it was and that she had found it embodied in his writing. Deane Blackler explores Sebald's biography before analyzing the reading practice his texts call forth: that of a "disobedient reader," a proactive reader challenged to question the text by Sebald's peculiar use of poetic language, the pseudoautobiographical voice of his narrators, the seemingly documentary photographs he inserted into his books, and by his exquisite representations of place. Blackler reads Sebald's fiction as adventurous and disobedient in its formulation, an imaginative revitalization of literary fiction for the third millennium.

Monday, September 10, 2007

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    Austerity Britain, 1945-1951 by David Kynaston
    Coursing through Austerity Britain is an astonishing variety of contemporary voices: from Judy Haines, a plucky Chingford housewife, to Henry St John, a pernickety civil servant in Bristol, to more familiar figures such as John Arlott (here making his first radio broadcast, still in police uniform), Glenda Jackson (taking the 11+) and Doris Lessing (newly arrived from Africa, struck by the levelling poverty of postwar Britain) — all vivid, unselfconscious, and unaware of what the future holds. Into this story David Kynaston deftly weaves a critical, sophisticated narrative of how the victorious 1945 Labour government shaped the political, economic and even social landscape for the next three decades. Deeply researched, often amusing and always intensely readable, the first volume of David Kynaston’s ambitious history offers an entirely fresh perspective on Britain during six momentous years.

Monday, September 03, 2007

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    Not Even Wrong by Peter Woit

    Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics tells a fascinating and complex story -- neatly summed up in its sub-title --  about human beings and their attempts to come to grips with perhaps the most intellectually demanding puzzle there is: how does the world work at the most fundamental level and what is the role of mathematics in its description? The book begins with an historical survey of the experimental and theoretical developments that led to the creation of the phenomenally successful so-called ‘Standard Model’ of particle physics around 1975. Despite its successes, the Standard Model does not answer all questions that one would expect it to address, and for the last thirty years physicists have been trying to come up with a better theory. ‘String Theory’ has come to dominate the field of theoretical physics, but in recent years string theorists have found that the theory seems to lead to an unimaginably large number of possibilities and may be inherently unable to make predictions. The author explains what physicist's hopes have been, why they haven't worked out, and what may be more promising directions for investigation.

Monday, September 03, 2007

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    The Death of Sigmund Freud by Mark Edmundson
    When Hitler invaded Vienna in the winter of 1938, Sigmund Freud, old and desperately ill, was among the city’s 175,000 Jews dreading Nazi occupation. Mark Edmundson traces Hitler and Freud’s oddly converging lives, then zeroes in on the last two years of Freud’s life. Staring down certain death, Freud, in typical fashion, does not enjoy his fame but instead writes his most provocative book yet, Moses and Monotheism, in which he debunks all monotheistic religions and questions the legacy of the great Jewish leader, Moses. Edmundson probes Freud’s ideas about secular death, and also about the rise of fascism and fundamentalism, and finally grapples with the demise of psychoanalysis after Freud’s death, when religious fundamentalism is once again shaping world events.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday, August 20, 2007

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    Violence and the Sacred by Rene Girard

    René Girard (1923-) was Professor of French Language, Literature and Civilization at Stanford Unviersity from 1981 until his retirement in 1995. Violence and the Sacred is Girard's brilliant study of human evil. Girard explores violence as it is represented and occurs throughout history, literature and myth. Girard's forceful and thought-provoking analyses of Biblical narrative, Greek tragedy and the lynchings and pogroms propagated by contemporary states illustrate his central argument that violence belongs to everyone and is at the heart of the sacred. (Translated by Patrick Gregory.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

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    Ingmar Bergman by Jerry Vermilye
    "He always is very, very close to the camera, and he is terribly inspiring. I don't know what his magic is, but it is something that makes you want to give everything you have. He has respect for actors and for everybody. A bad director very often doesn't have that respect." Liv Ullman's words about Ingmar Bergman hint at the consummate director he was, one who knew the business, the strengths and weaknesses of actors and crews, the arrangement of the set, the framing of the camera, and all other particulars of the fine art of directing. This work presents Bergman's life and work, beginning with his youth in Uppsala, Sweden, and covering his formative years, his development as an artist, and his career as a world-renowned director. A brief synopsis for each of Bergman's films is provided, with such information as producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, art director, music sound credits, running time, casts, Bergman's own comments, and the reactions of critics.

Monday, August 13, 2007

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    The Marvellous Adventure of Cabeza De Vaca by Haniel Long

    Haniel Long's curious short book, "The Marvellous Adventure of Cabeza de Vaca" is a novelisation of the memoir of 38-year-old Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, written in the form of a long letter to his King. (A long letter, but a very short book of just 90 pages, with de Vaca's story accompanied by the tale of Cortes' slavegirl Malinche).

    In November 1528 a handful of Spaniards were shipwrecked in the Gulf of Mexico. 400 men became 40 and were soon reduced by the harsh conditions to just four. These four then spent 8 years, naked and barefoot, on a journey across the Americas. As they travelled, they developed a miraculous power to heal the poverty-stricken Indians they met along the way. This power came about after "all that we had learned across the water we have had to throw away." A warm fable.

Monday, August 13, 2007

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    The Tiger That Isn't by Michael Blastland

    The Tiger that Isn't is that rarest of things: a compelling book about statistics. Easily readable in just a couple of sittings, the book does a superb job at reminding us that numbers can only go so far in describing our very messy, very complicated, very human world: "One number, because it implies one definition, is almost never enough. What single measure, for example, would you choose to express your life's worth". This is not to breed cynicism about what numbers can do, but just to remind us about what they cannot achieve, what remains exceedingly difficult to count. "Numbers have amazing power to put life's anxieties into proportion," but they can be violently reductive.

Monday, August 06, 2007

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    The Flowering of Flint by Peter Abbs
    The poems range widely. Some are deeply personal issuing from the immediate pressure of experience: the haunting memories of childhood, the harrowing death of parents, the experience of love; some are disturbing eco-poems responding to the current violation of the planet; while others are more impersonal, exploring through the strategies of persona and impersonation, other poets’ experience – apprehensions of the ephemeral, the erotic and the transcendent. The voices of Sappho, Nietzsche and Rilke reverberate, suggesting that only in the resonating echo-chamber of a long tradition can the contemporary poet hope to fulfill the task of imaginative representation and consilience.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

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    Beckett, Derrida, and the Event of Literature by Asja Szafraniec
    The late Jacques Derrida’s notion of literature is explored in this new study. Starting with Derrida’s self-professed inability to comment on the work of Samuel Beckett, whom Derrida nevertheless considered one of the most interesting and exemplary writers of our time, Asja Szafraniec argues that the shared feature of literary works as Derrida understands them is a double, juridical-economical gesture, and that one aspect of this notion (the juridical) is more hospitable to Beckett’s oeuvre than the other. She then discusses other contemporary philosophical approaches to Beckett, including those of Gilles Deleuze, Stanley Cavell, and Alain Badiou. The book offers an innovative analysis of Derrida’s approach to literature, as well as an overview of current philosophical approaches to contemporary literature, and a number of innovative readings of Beckett’s work.

Monday, July 30, 2007

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    Dante: Poet of the Secular World by Erich Auerbach
    Erich Auerbach's Dante: Poet of the Secular World is an inspiring introduction to one of world's greatest poets as well as a brilliantly argued and still provocative essay in the history of ideas. Here Auerbach, thought by many to be the greatest of twentieth-century scholar-critics, makes the seemingly paradoxical claim that it is in the poetry of Dante, supreme among religious poets, and above all in the stanzas of his Divine Comedy, that the secular world of the modern novel first took imaginative form. Auerbach's study of Dante, a precursor and necessary complement to Mimesis, his magisterial overview of realism in Western literature, illuminates both the overall structure and the individual detail of Dante's work, showing it to be an extraordinary synthesis of the sensuous and the conceptual, the particular and the universal, that redefined notions of human character and fate and opened the way into modernity.

Monday, July 23, 2007

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    Anselm Kiefer / Paul Celan: Myth, Mourning and Memory by Andrea Lauterwein
    The art of Anselm Kiefer is rich with references to writers, philosophers and poets, and his relationship with Paul Celan has been the most complex and intense of these dialogues with the past. Celan’s poetry, inextricably linked with the memory of the Holocaust, has haunted Kiefer’s work for more than twenty-five years and has influenced him on every level, from the naming of works and exhibitions to the incorporation of symbolic materials from Celan’s imagery into the physical reality of his paintings. Magnificently illustrated throughout with reproductions of Kiefer’s best-known works, this book explores the intricate web of associations between the poet and the painter, a network that is extended to embrace other artistic and literary figures such as Ingeborg Bachmann and Joseph Beuys. Through Celan’s linguistic innovations and Kiefer’s intense explorations of past and present, artistic creation becomes both an expression of horror and an act of commemoration.

Monday, July 23, 2007

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    Wages of Destruction by Adam Tooze
    This chilling, fascinating new economic history is the first fully to get to grips with how Hitler's Nazi empire really functioned. There was no aspect of Nazi power untouched by economics - it was Hitler's obsession and the reason the Nazis came to power in the first place. The Second World War was fought, in Hitler's view, to create a European Empire strong enough to take on the United States - a last chance for Europe to dig itself in before being swept away by the USA's ever greater power. But, as The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy makes clear, Hitler was never remotely strong enough to beat either Britain or the Soviet Union - and never even had a serious plan as to how he might defeat the USA. It took years of fighting and the deaths of millions of people to destroy the Third Reich, but effectively World War II in Europe was fought in pursuit of a fantasy: the years in which Western Europe could settle the world's fate were, by 1939, long past.

Monday, July 16, 2007

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    Courbet by Linda Nochlin
    For more than four decades, Linda Nochlin has been at the forefront of the feminist critique of art history, playing a pivotal role in shaping the course of the discipline. Since completing a doctorate on Gustave Courbet in the early 1960s, she has devoted herself to a lifelong study of the artist, arguably the most radical of all nineteenth-century painters and one of the fathers of modern art. Here, Nochlin presents her complete writings on Courbet’s work. Every aspect of his œuvre – from his vast realist depictions of provincial French life, allegorical works and paint-encrusted landscapes to his dark, brooding portraits, sensual nudes and earthy still lifes – comes under her scrutiny. In a specially written introduction, Nochlin considers Courbet’s lasting impact not only on later painting but also on the practice of art history itself. With essays spanning forty years, Courbet is much more than a monograph on a single artist. It is also the story of the intellectual development of one of our leading writers on the visual arts.

Monday, July 16, 2007

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    Sarrasine by Honore de Balzac
    Sarrasine is one volume in arguably the greatest body of work in world literature, Balzac’s Comédie Humaine. Ostensibly a tale of sexual androgyny, the power of love and its bitter aftermath, it is in fact a study of the force of Art on society and the deadly immortality of beauty. The nameless narrator attends a ball held by a wealthy Parisian family, whose fortune comes from a work of art, and there meets an extraordinary old woman, who bears a strange resemblance to the statue depicted in the painting. He returns to his lodgings to tell the tragic, yet ultimately rewarding tale of the creation of the painting’s inspiration: a tale of passion, lust and transexuality in which Music and Art, their powers combined, are fatally attracted. This is a new translation of the classic that inspired Roland Barthes' seminal S/Z.

Monday, July 09, 2007

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    Black Mass by John Gray
    John Gray is a controversial and divisive thinker -- and he certainly seems to like it that way! But is he any more than a curmudgeonly doom-monger? Whilst very readable, Black Mass is infuriating and uneven. Gray maintains that messianic thought lays behind Nazism, Communism and liberalism. Utopianism -- drawing on Norman Cohn's exceptional The Pursuit of the Millennium -- is always transgressive: it is anti-realist and always leads to the promise of more tomorrow (our omelette) with the absolute certainty of misery today (very, very many broken eggs). Certainly, his argument is nuanced in places, but overall Gray tends to some crass and very broad brushstrokes. As a thesis, Black Mass doesn't hold together at all. It is banal to suggest that Nazism, Communism and liberalism are essentially the same (particularities are vital to understanding political history) and self-evident that Western thought owes much to Christianity. Despite this, Black Mass is an invigorating read and Gray's provocations are often dead-on. His description of the dangerous growth of neo-conservative thought, and his analysis (which has debts to Peter Oborne's The Rise of Political Lying) of Bush and Blair's outrageous mendacity, is exceptionally well done. After outlining his argument early on that "-isms" are utopian and therefore bad, Gray then cracks on with the more interesting and compelling case against the war in Iraq and against its messianic and historically naive delusions. Bush and Blair's messianism is not key to the Iraq debacle, and liberalism is a far more confused and chaotic creed than Communism or Nazism, but Gray's book, despite these faults, is both angry and entertaining.

Monday, July 09, 2007

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    Europe After Rome by Julia Smith
    This is the first single-author study in over fifty years to offer an integrated appraisal of the early Middle Ages as a dynamic and formative period in European history. It makes extensive use of original sources to introduce early medieval men and women at all levels of society from slave to emperor, and allows them to speak to the reader in their own words. It overturns traditional narratives and instead offers an entirely fresh approach to the centuries from c.500 to c.1000. Rejecting any notion of a dominant, uniform early medieval culture, it argues that the fundamental characteristic of the early middle ages is diversity of experience. To explain how the men and women who lived in this period ordered their world in cultural, social, and political terms, it employs an innovative methodology combining cultural history, regional studies, and gender history. Ranging comparatively from Ireland to Hungary and from Scotland and Scandinavia to Spain and Italy, the analysis highlights three themes: regional variation, power, and the legacy of Rome.

Monday, July 02, 2007

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    The Century by Alain Badiou
    Everywhere, the twentieth century has been judged and condemned as the century of totalitarian terror, of utopian and criminal ideologies, of empty illusions, of genocides, of false avant-gardes, of democratic realism everywhere replaced by abstraction. It is not this book’s wish to plead for an accused that is perfectly capable of defending itself without the author’s help. Nor does it seek to proclaim, like Frantz, the hero of Sartre’s Prisoners of Altona: ‘I have taken the century on my shoulders and I have said: I will answer for it!’ The Century simply aims to examine what this accursed century, from within its own unfolding, said that it was. Alain Badiou’s proposal is to reopen the dossier on the century – not from the angle of those wise and sated judges that too often we claim to be, but from the standpoint of the century itself. In order to do this, The Century makes use of poems (Mandelstam, Pessoa), philosophical fragments (Sartre, Foucault), political visions (Mao), theatre pieces (Brecht, Pirandello)… This is the material through which the century declares, in thought, its life, its drama, its creations, its passion. Against the grain of all the judgments hitherto pronounced on the century, Badiou argues that this passion was not at all the passion for the imaginary or the passion for ideologies. Even less was it a messianic passion. The terrible passion of the twentieth century was – in contradistinction to the prophetic character of the nineteenth century – the passion for the real. It was a question of activating the True, here and now.

Monday, July 02, 2007

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    The Great Transformation by Karen Armstrong

    It seems fashionable to think of religion as an aberration: a style of thinking only credible to fools and fanatics. But fashionable thinking is itself often wrong-headed. Religious thought has helped mankind as often as it has hampered it; has been the cause of great good as well as unspeakable evil. When thinking about religion it is worth remembering both its continuing ubiquity as well as its antiquity. Religion has been with us for a very long time and looks able to renew itself in very many different contexts (and, as John Gray points out in Black Mass, to insert itself squarely inside secular thought too). Whilst the new atheists (Richard Dawkins, AC Grayling, Sam Harris, Michel Onfray et al) are right to be robust in their attacks on religion, they could do with both a little more humility and a lot more history. Karen Armstrong's The Great Transformation could help them out here. Explaining the beginnings of religious faith as we still know it, Armstrong's sensitive book shows us when, how and why certain ideas about human beings -- what we need to prosper, why we are here, how to improve ourselves -- first developed. It was between 800 and 300 BC, "in the time of Buddha, Socrates, Confucius and Jeremiah" that new ways of thinking -- ways of thinking that transformed humanity for ever -- first came about. Those ideas are still with us. The new atheists are right to challenge these notions, but understanding them better should be their first motivation, rather than simply deriding them. Armstrong should be congratulated on on excellent, and very readable, journey back to the beginning of thinking.

Monday, June 25, 2007

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    Hold Everything Dear by John Berger
    Hold Everything Dear is John Berger’s vital response to today’s global economic and military tyranny. From Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 and 7/7, to resistance in Ramallah and traumatic dislocation in the Middle East, Berger explores the countless personal choices, encounters, illuminations, sacrifices, new desires, griefs and memories that occur in the course of political resistance to empire and colonialism. These sensuous reflections reveal the political at the core of human existence, from the relentlessness of daily life in the West Bank, to the potential force of desire, to the unflinching gaze of Pasolini’s political film. Visceral and passionate, Hold Everything Dear is a profound meditation on what political resistance means today, by one of the most compelling radical voices of our age.

Monday, June 25, 2007

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    Jorge Luis Borges by Beatriz Sarlo
    Jorge Luis Borges is generally acknowledged to be one of the twentieth century’s most significant writers. Yet in all the critical debates on his work, the fact that he is Argentinian is rarely discussed, as if his international reputation had somehow cleansed him of nationality. In this brilliant introduction to his work, Sarlo challenges these “universalist” readings, arguing that they leave aside vital aspects of Borges’ writing, including his powerful vision of Argentina’s past and its traditions, which placed both the writer and his country at the intersection of European and Latin American culture.

Monday, June 18, 2007

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    Listening by Jean-Luc Nancy
    In this lyrical meditation on listening, Jean-Luc Nancy examines sound in relation to the human body. How is listening different from hearing? What does listening entail? How does what is heard differ from what is seen? Can philosophy even address listening, écouter, as opposed to entendre, which means both hearing and understanding? Unlike the visual arts, sound produces effects that persist long after it has stopped. The body, Nancy says, is itself like an echo chamber, responding to music by inner vibrations as well as outer attentiveness. Since “the ear has no eyelid” (Quignard), sound cannot be blocked out or ignored: our whole being is involved in listening, just as it is involved in interpreting what it hears.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

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    Species of Spaces and Other Pieces by Georges Perec
    This volume features ingenious contemplations on the ways in which we occupy urban and domestic space; engrossing accounts of George Perec's experience with psychoanalysis; depictions of the Paris of his childhood; and thought-provoking examinations of the "infra ordinary" and of how the commonplace items of our lives elude our attention.

Monday, June 04, 2007

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    Amok and Other Stories by Stefan Zweig
    A Doctor in the Dutch East Indies torn between his medical duty to help and his own mixed emotions; a middle-aged maidservant whose devotion to her master leads her to commit a terrible act; a hotel waiter whose love for an unapproachable aristocratic beauty culminates in an almost lyrical death and a prisoner-of-war longing to be home again in Russia. In these four stories, translated by Anthea Bell, Stefan Zweig shows his gift for the acute analysis of emotional dilemmas. His four tragic and moving cameos of the human condition are played out against cosmopolitan and colonial backgrounds in the first half of the twentieth century.

Monday, June 04, 2007

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    Paris Spleen by Charles Baudelaire
    51 stunning short prose poems, heavily inspired by Aloysius Bertrand's Gaspard de la nuit, Paris Spleen was first posthumously published in 1869 by Baudelaire's sister. The works existentially capture "the beauty of life in the modern city."

Monday, May 28, 2007

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    Its Getting Later All the Time by Antonio Tabucchi
    In It's Getting Later All the Time, an epistolary novel with a twist, Antonio Tabucchi — "internationally acclaimed as the most original voice in the new generation of Italian writers" (The Harvard Book Review) — revitalizes an illustrious tradition, only to break all its rules. Seventeen men write seventeen strangely beautiful letters — tender or rancorous — lonely monologues which move in circles, each describing an affair, and each desperate for a reply which may never come. The letters plunge the reader into an electric, timeless no-man's-land of "this past that is always somewhere, hanging in shreds." And at last, collecting all their one-sided, remorseful adventures into a single polyphonic novel, an 18th letter startlingly answers the men's pleas: a woman's voice, distant, implacable, yet full of sympathy. It's Getting Later All the Time captures destinies which, though so varied in appearance, are at rock bottom all the same: broken. This is an anti-Proustian novel — time lost is lost forever: it is impossible to get back to the past no matter how it haunts the present. As Tabucchi remarked, "Broken time is a dimension you find lots of men living in . . . an ambiguous, impossible situation, because they are faced with a kind of remorse, a choice they never made."

Monday, May 28, 2007

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    Victoriana: Histories, Fictions, Criticisms by Cora Kaplan
    Cora Kaplan looks at the politics of "Victoriana" from the 1970s to the present, a politics that emerges from the alternation between nostalgia and critique in fiction, film, biography and literary studies. She asks how Jane Eyre can still evoke tears and rage, as well as inspiring imitation and high art, and why Henry James has become fiction’s favourite late Victorian character in the new millennium? "Victoriana", the book argues, has developed a modern history of its own in which we can trace the shifting social and cultural concerns of the last few decades. Through the constant interrogation of history in such innovative works as John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman, A.S. Byatt's Possession, David Lodge's Nice Work, Peter Ackroyd's Dickens, Jane Campion's The Piano, Colm Tóibín's The Master, Sarah Waters's Fingersmith, Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty and Julian Barnes's Arthur and George, Victoriana maps out a very particular postmodern temporality.

Monday, May 21, 2007

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    Amulet by Roberto Bolano
    Amulet is a monologue, like Bolaño's acclaimed debut in English, By Night in Chile. The speaker is Auxilio Lacouture, a Uruguayan woman who moved to Mexico in the 1960s, becoming the "Mother of Mexican Poetry," hanging out with the young poets in the cafés and bars of the University. She's tall, thin, and blonde, and her favorite young poet in the 1970s is none other than Arturo Belano (Bolaño's fictional stand-in throughout his books). As well as her young poets, Auxilio recalls three remarkable women: the melancholic young philosopher Elena, the exiled Catalan painter Remedios Varo, and Lilian Serpas, a poet who once slept with Che Guevara. And in the course of her imaginary visit to the house of Remedios Varo, Auxilio sees an uncanny landscape, a kind of chasm. This chasm reappears in a vision at the end of the book: an army of children is marching toward it, singing as they go. The children are the idealistic young Latin Americans who came to maturity in the '70s, and the last words of the novel are: "And that song is our amulet."

Monday, May 21, 2007

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    Grace and Christology in the Early Church by Donald Fairbairn
    Was there a genuine theological consensus about Christ in the early Church? Donald Fairbairn's persuasive study uses the concept of grace to clarify this question. There were two sharply divergent understandings of grace and christology. One understanding, characteristic of Theodore and Nestorius, saw grace as God's gift of co-operation to Christians and Christ as the uniquely graced man. The other understanding, characteristic of Cyril of Alexandria and John Cassian, saw grace as God the Word's personal descent to the human sphere so as to give himself to humanity. Dealing with, among others, John Chrysostom, John of Antioch, and Leo the Great, Fairbairn suggests that these two understandings were by no means equally represented in the fifth century: Cyril's view was in fact the consensus of the early Church.

Monday, May 14, 2007

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    The Platform of Time by Virginia Woolf
    Edited and introduced by leading Woolf scholar S.P. Rosenbaum, The Platform of Time is a new collection of largely unknown biographical sketches from one of Britain’s foremost Modernist writers, including a previously unpublished piece. Taking family, friends and servants as her subjects, Virginia Woolf here presents a series of impressions of the people around her. And as she describes their lives – including an in-depth piece on her nephew Julian Bell, and sketches on Bloomsbury figures Lady Ottoline Morrell and Lady Strachey – she also reveals much about her own attitudes – to the War, to her writing, and to education. The result is a fascinating and revealing work that will crucially augment what is currently available of her biographical writings.

Monday, May 14, 2007

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    The Bloodless Revolution by Tristram Stuart
    When early travellers returned from India with news of the country's vegetarians, they triggered a crisis in the European conscience. This panoramic tale recounts the explosive results of an enduring cultural exchange between East and West and tells of puritanical insurgents, Hinduphiles, scientists and philosophers who embraced a radical agenda of reform. These visionaries dissented from the entrenched custom of meat-eating, and sought to overthrow a rapacious consumer society. Their legacy is apparent even today. The Bloodless Revolution is a grand history made up by interlocking biographies of extraordinary figures, from the English Civil War to the era of Romanticism and beyond. It is filled with stories of spectacular adventure in India and subversive scientific controversies carved out in a Europe at the dawn of the modern age. Accounts of Thomas Tryon's Hindu vegetarian society in 17th-century London are echoed by later 'British Brahmins' such as John Zephaniah Holwell, once Governor of Calcutta, who concocted his own half-Hindu, half-Christian religion. Whilst Revolution raged in France, East India Company men John Stewart and John Oswald returned home armed to the teeth with the animal-friendly tenets of Hinduism. Dr George Cheyne, situated at the heart of Enlightenment medicine, brought scientific clout to the movement, converting some of London's leading lights to his 'milk and seed' diet. From divergent perspectives, Descartes, Rousseau, Voltaire and Shelley all questioned whether it was right to eat meat. Society's foremost thinkers engaged in the debate and their challenge to mainstream assumptions sowed the seeds of the modern ecological consciousness.

Monday, May 07, 2007

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    Counter-Experiences: Reading Jean-Luc Marion by Kevin Hart
    Jean-Luc Marion is the leading figure in French phenomenology as well as one of the proponents of the so-called “theological turn” in European philosophy. In this volume, philosophers and theologians from the United States, Britain, France, and Australia examine Marion’s work from a variety of perspectives. The resulting volume is an indispensable resource for scholars working at the intersection of philosophy and theology. Hart characterizes Marion’s work as a profound response to two major philosophical events: the end of metaphysics and the beginning of phenomenology. From the vantage point reached by Marion over the years, Hart argues, that end and that beginning are one and the same. Yet their unity is elusive: in order to discern it, the student of Marion must follow his vigorous and subtle rethinking of the history of modern philosophy and the nature of phenomenology. Only then can the reader begin to perceive many things that metaphysics has occluded, especially the nature of selfhood and our relations with God. The newfound unity of these two events is productive; it allows Marion to revise and extend the philosophy of disclosure that Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger were the first to practice.

Monday, May 07, 2007

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    American Torture by Michael Otterman
    George W. Bush calls them an 'alternative set of procedures', vital tools needed 'to protect the American people and our allies'. These 'tools' include forced standing for up to forty hours, sleep deprivation for weeks on end, dousing naked prisoners with ice water in rooms chilled to ten degrees, and strapping prisoners to inclined boards then flooding their mouths with water. These techniques are torture, and they are used by the USA. American Torture reveals how torture became standard practice in today's War on Terror. Long before Abu Ghraib became a household name, the US military and CIA used torture with impunity at home and abroad. Billions of dollars were spent during the Cold War studying, refining, then teaching these techniques to American interrogators and to foreign officers charged with keeping Communism at bay. As the Cold War ended, these tortures were legalised using the very laws designed to eradicate their use. After 9/11, they were revived again for use on 'enemy combatants' detained in America's vast gulag of prisons across the globe, from secret CIA black sites in Thailand to the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. American Torture shows that the road to Abu Ghraib leads back through US military survival schools, Latin American military assistance programs, Vietnamese counter-terror operations and, finally, to America's Cold War enemies: the USSR and communist China.

Monday, April 30, 2007

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    Heidegger and the Politics of Poetry by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe
    This volume collects and translates Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe's studies of Heidegger, written and revised between 1990 and 2002. All deal with Heidegger's relation to politics, specifically through Heidegger's interpretations of the poetry of Hölderlin. Lacoue-Labarthe argues that it is through Hölderlin that Heidegger expresses most explicitly his ideas on politics, his nationalism, and the importance of myth in his thinking, all of which point to substantial affinities with National Socialism. Lacoue-Labarthe not only examines the intellectual back ground -- including Romanticism and "German ideology" -- of Heidegger's uses and abuses of poetry, but he also attempts to re-establish the vexed relationship between poetry and philosophy outside the bounds of the Heideggerian reading. He turns to Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, as well as Paul Celan, arguing for the necessity of poetry as an engagement with history. While Heidegger's readings of Hölderlin attempt to appropriate poetry for mythic and political ends, Lacoue-Labarthe insists that poetry and thought can, and must, converge in another way. Jeff Fort provides a precise translation capturing the spirit and clarity of Lacoue-Labarthe's writing, as well as an introduction clearly situating the debates addressed in these essays.

Monday, April 30, 2007

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    Kierkegaard's Journals and Notebooks: Journals AA-DD by Soren Kierkegaard
    The first of an eleven-volume series produced by Copenhagen's Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, this volume is the first English translation and commentary of Kierkegaard's journals. It offers new insight into Kierkegaard's inner life. In addition to early drafts of his published works, the journals contain his thoughts on current events and philosophical and theological matters, notes on books he was reading, miscellaneous jottings, and ideas for future literary projects. Kierkegaard wrote his journals in a two-column format, one for his initial entries and the second for the marginal comments he added later. The new edition of the journals reproduces this format and contains photographs of original manuscript pages, as well as extensive scholarly commentary. Translated by leading experts on Kierkegaard, Journals and Notebooks will become the benchmark for all future Kierkegaard scholarship.

Monday, April 23, 2007

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    Jamilia by Tchingiz Aitmatov
    Jamilia's husband is off fighting at the front. She spends her days hauling sacks of grain from the threshing floor to the train station in their small village in the Caucasus. She is accompanied by Seit, her young brother-in-law, and Daniyar, a sullen newcomer to the village who has been wounded on the battlefield. Seit observes the beautiful, spirited Jamilia spurn men's advances, and wince at the dispassionate letters she receives from her husband. Meanwhile, undeterred by Jamilia's teasing, Daniyar sings as they return each evening from the fields. Soon Jamilia is in love, and she and Daniyar elope just as her husband returns.

Monday, April 23, 2007

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    A Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens by Eleanor Cook
    Wallace Stevens is one of the major poets of the twentieth century, and also among the most challenging. His poems can be dazzling in their verbal brilliance. They are often shot through with lavish imagery and wit, informed by a lawyer's logic, and disarmingly unexpected: a singing jackrabbit, the seductive Nanzia Nunzio. They also spoke -- and still speak -- to contemporary concerns. Eleanor Cook, a leading critic of poetry and expert on Stevens, goes through each of Stevens's poems in his six major collections as well as his later lyrics, in chronological order. For each poem she provides an introductory head note and a series of annotations on difficult phrases and references, illuminating for us just why and how Stevens was a master at his art. Her annotations, which include both previously unpublished scholarship and interpretive remarks, will benefit beginners and specialists alike. Cook also provides a brief biography of Stevens, and offers a detailed appendix on how to read modern poetry.

Monday, April 16, 2007

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    Bakunin: The Creative Passion by Mark Leier
    In this new biography of Mikhail Bakunin, Mark Leier traces the life and ideas of anarchism’s first major thinker. There was little in Bakunin’s background to suggest that he would grow up to be anything other than a loyal subject of the Russian Empire. Instead, he became one the most notorious radicals of the nineteenth century, devoting his life to the destruction of the tsar and feudalism, capitalism, the state, even God. Using archival sources and the most recent scholarship, Leier corrects many of the popular misconceptions about Bakunin and his ideas, offering a fresh interpretation of Bakunin’s life and thoughts of use to those interested in understanding anarchism and social change. Arguing for the relevance and importance of anarchism to our present world, Leier sheds light on the nineteenth century, as well as on today’s headlines, as he examines a political philosophy that has inspired mass movements and contemporary social critics. Leier shows that the “passion for destruction” is a call to build a new world free of oppression, not a cult of violence. He argues that anarchism is a philosophy of morality and solidarity, based not on wishful thinking or naïve beliefs about the goodness of humanity but on a practical, radical critique of wealth and power. By studying Bakunin, we can learn a great deal about our own time and begin to recover a world of possibility and promise.

Monday, April 16, 2007

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    A Tranquil Star by Primo Levi
    Primo Levi was one of the most astonishing voices to emerge from the twentieth century. Here, for the first time in English, on the twentieth anniversary of his death, is a landmark selection of his fiction - all in brand new translations. These exquisitely wrought stories open up a rich, vibrant world of wonder, adventure, resistance, love, cruelty and visceral energy, where nothing is as it seems. In The Fugitive an office worker composes the most beautiful poem ever, only to find events taking on a strange life of their own; in Magic Paint a group of researchers develop a paint that mysteriously protects them from misfortune, but dangerously miscalculate the outcome, and in Gladiators and The Knall, Levi chillingly explores modern-day mass violence. Sometimes dark and haunting, sometimes wrily amusing, always rich with arresting images and curious twists of fate, these extraordinary tales are testament to one of the literary masters of our age.

Monday, April 09, 2007

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    The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano
    The explosive first long work by “the most exciting writer to come from south of the Rio Grande in a long time” (Ilan Stavans, Los Angeles Times), The Savage Detectives follows Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, founders of the visceral realist movement in poetry, through the eyes of the people whose paths they cross in Central America, Europe, Israel, and West Africa. This chorus includes the muses of visceral realism, the beautiful Font sisters; their father, an architect interned in a Mexico City asylum; a sensitive young follower of Octavio Paz; a foul-mouthed American graduate student; a French girl with a taste for the Marquis de Sade; the great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky; a Chilean stowaway with a mystical gift for numbers; the anorexic heiress to a Mexican underwear empire; an Argentinian photojournalist in Angola; and assorted hangers-on, detractors, critics, lovers, employers, vagabonds, real-life literary figures, and random acquaintances.

Monday, April 09, 2007

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    The Weight of Smoke by George Robert Minkoff
    Four hundred years after the founding of Jamestown, the lives of Captain John Smith, Powhatan, and Pocahantas assume their true dimensions in a far-ranging saga of the beginnings of the British Empire, and in particular how the English came to the New World to create a Utopia, and instead founded a slave state... The Weight of Smoke is the first novel of a trilogy titled In the Land of Whispers. It is presented as the final work of the famous explorer and author, Captain John Smith. The novel concerns the first two disastrous years at Jamestown, 1607-1609; but entwined with the colony's fractious beginnings are the adventures of Sir Francis Drake, retold around the Jamestown campfires by a visionary alchemist. Drake is the abiding spirit as Smith is initiated into greatness. In Jamestown, Smith is at the center of a desperate struggle of survival, a struggle that involves him in the mysteries of this unknown land.

Monday, April 02, 2007

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    Subversive Spinoza by Antonio Negri
    In Subversive Spinoza, Antonio Negri spells out the philosophical credo that inspired his radical renewal of Marxism and his compelling analysis of the modern state and the global economy by means of an inspiring reading of the challenging metaphysics of the seventeenth-century Dutch-Jewish philosopher Spinoza. For Negri, Spinoza's philosophy has never been more relevant than it is today to debates over individuality and community, democracy and resistance, and modernity and postmodernity. This collection of essays extends, clarifies and revises the argument of Negri's influential 1981 book The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics and links it directly to his recent work on constituent power, time and empire.

Monday, April 02, 2007

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    Responsibility and Judgment by Hannah Arendt
    Responsibility and Judgment gathers together unpublished writings from the last decade of Arendt’s life, where she addresses fundamental questions and concerns about the nature of evil and the making of moral choices. At the heart of the book is a profound ethical investigation, “Some Questions of Moral Philosophy,” in which Arendt confronts the inadequacy of traditional moral “truths” as standards to judge what we are capable of doing and examines anew our ability to distinguish good from evil and right from wrong. We also see how Arendt comes to understand that alongside the radical evil she had addressed in earlier analyses of totalitarianism, there exists a more pernicious evil, independent of political ideology, whose execution is limitless when the perpetrator feels no remorse and can forget his acts as soon as they are committed.

Monday, March 26, 2007

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    Death and the Labyrinth by Michel Foucault
    Death and the Labyrinth is unique, being Foucault's only work on literature. For Foucault this was "by far the book I wrote most easily and with the greatest pleasure". Here, Foucault explores theory, criticism and psychology through the texts of Raymond Roussel, one of the fathers of experimental writing, whose work has been celebrated by the likes of Cocteau, Duchamp, Breton, Robbe Grillet, Gide and Giacometti. This revised edition includes an Introduction, Chronology and Bibliography to Foucault's work by James Faubion, an interview with Foucault, conducted only nine months before his death, and concludes with an essay on Roussel by the poet John Ashbery.

Monday, March 26, 2007

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    Dispatches for the "New York Tribune" by Karl Marx
    Karl Marx (1818-1883) is arguably the most famous political philosopher of all time, but he was also one of the great foreign correspondents of the nineteenth century. During his eleven years writing for the New York Tribune (their collaboration began in 1852), Marx tackled an abundance of topics, from issues of class and the state to world affairs. Particularly moving pieces highlight social inequality and starvation in Britain, while others explore his groundbreaking views on the slave and opium trades - Marx believed Western powers relied on these and would stop at nothing to protect their interests. Above all, Marx’s fresh perspective on nineteenth-century events encouraged his readers to think, and his writing is surprisingly relevant today.

Monday, March 19, 2007

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    Nada by Carmen Laforet
    Andrea, an impoverished eighteen-year-old girl travels to Barcelona to pursue her ambition of studying literature at the university. She arrives at night, by train, in a city that immediately imposes its bleak, post-Civil War atmosphere on her impressionable mind. She makes her way to the home of relatives, a house she has not visited since her childhood, and before long we realise that she has entered a very strange household indeed. Tension between her grandmother, her two eccentric uncles, an aunt, and the housekeeper is present from the moment of her arrival and it grows in claustrophobic intensity as this unforgettable story develops. Nada describes a young woman’s emergence from a life of cloying despair into the fresh new dawn of post-war enlightenment and promise. The spirit of war-torn, brutalised Barcelona – very different from the confident, prosperous Catalan capital we know today – hovers over this beautifully written and minutely observed novel.

Monday, March 19, 2007

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    Guernica and Total War by Ian Patterson
    The book begins with a graphic account of what happened in Guernica on 26 April 1937 and its place in the course of the Spanish Civil War. But Guernica also almost at once became a media focus, and Picasso’s great painting, which made Guernica the most famous image of total war, was only one of a huge number of cultural artefacts – paintings, films, novels, poems, plays – to explore the great themes of the last hundred years. Ian Patterson brilliantly traces this hidden story of terror right down to 9/11 and Iraq – the image of Guernica is just as relevant today.

Monday, March 12, 2007

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    Henry James Goes to Paris by Peter Brooks
    Henry James's reputation as The Master is so familiar that it's hard to imagine he was ever someone on whom some things really were lost. This is the story of the year -- 1875 to 1876 -- when the young novelist moved to Paris, drawn by his literary idols living at the center of the early modern movement in art. James largely failed to appreciate or even understand the new artistic developments teeming around him during his Paris sojourn. But living in England twenty years later, he would recall the aesthetic lessons of Paris, and his memories of the radical perspectives opened up by French novelists and painters would help transform James. A narrative that combines biography and criticism and uses James's writings to tell the story from his point of view, Henry James Goes to Paris vividly brings to life the young American artist's Paris year -- and its momentous artistic and personal consequences. James initially loved Paris, he succeeded in meeting all the writers he admired (Turgenev, Flaubert, Zola, Maupassant, Goncourt, and Daudet), and he witnessed the latest development in French painting, Impressionism. But James largely found the writers disappointing, and he completely misunderstood the paintings he saw. He also seems to have fallen in and out of love in a more ordinary sense -- with a young Russian aesthete, Paul Zhukovsky. Disillusioned, James soon retreated to England but he would eventually be changed forever by his memories of Paris.

Monday, March 12, 2007

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    Melancholia's Dog by Alice A. Kuzniar
    Bred to provide human companionship, dogs eclipse all other species when it comes to reading the body language of people. Dog owners hunger for a complete rapport with their pets; in the dog the fantasy of empathetic resonance finds its ideal. But cross-species communication is never easy. Dog love can be a precious but melancholy thing. An attempt to understand human attachment to the canis familiaris in terms of reciprocity and empathy, Melancholia’s Dog tackles such difficult concepts as intimacy and kinship with dogs, the shame associated with identification with their suffering, and the reasons for the profound mourning over their deaths. In addition to philosophy and psychoanalysis, Alice A. Kuzniar turns to the insights and images offered by the literary and visual arts — the short stories of Ivan Turgenev and Franz Kafka, the novels of J.M. Coetzee and Rebecca Brown, the photography of Sally Mann and William Wegman, and the artwork of David Hockney and Sue Coe. Without falling into sentimentality or anthropomorphization, Kuzniar honors and learns from our canine companions, above all attending the silences and sadness brought on by the effort to represent the dog as perfectly and faithfully as it is said to love.

Monday, March 05, 2007

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    The Notebooks of Robert Frost by Robert Frost
    In his day, Robert Frost was an inveterate note-taker, penning thousands of intense aphoristic thoughts, observations, and meditations in small pocket pads and school theme books throughout his life. These notebooks, transcribed and presented here in their entirety for the first time, offer unprecedented insight into Frost's complex and often highly contradictory thinking about poetics, politics, education, psychology, science, and religion -- his attitude toward Marxism, the New Deal, World War -- as well as Yeats, Pound, Santayana, and William James. Covering a period from the late 1890s to early 1960s, the notebooks reveal the full range of the mind of one of America's greatest poets. Their depth and complexity convey the restless and probing quality of his thought, and show how the unruliness of chaotic modernity was always just beneath his appearance of supreme poetic control. Edited by preeminent Frost scholar Robert Faggen and annotated to help with the poet's more elusive references, the notebooks are thoroughly cross-referenced, marking thematic connections within these and Frost's other writings, including his poetry, letters, and other prose. This is a major new addition to the canon of Robert Frost's writings.

Monday, March 05, 2007

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    Goldberg: Variations by Gabriel Josipovici
    The American market finally gets a paperback release of one of our finest writer's best books. At the turn of the eighteenth century, a Jewish writer enters an English country manor, where he has been invited to read through the night to his host until the gentleman falls asleep. What unfolds then are seemingly unconnected stories covering a vast array of topics — from incest to madness to a poetic competition in the court of George III. And what emerges by the end is a breathtaking tapestry in which past and present, imagination and truth, are intricately woven together into one remarkable whole.

Monday, February 26, 2007

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    Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann
    Loosely based on the lives of 19th-century explorer Alexander von Humboldt and a contemporary, mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, Kehlmann's novel, a German bestseller widely heralded as an exemplar of "new" German fiction, injects history with shots of whimsy and irony. Humboldt voyages to South America to map the Orinoco River, climb the Chimborazo peak in Ecuador and measure "every river, every mountain and every lake in his path." Gauss is the hedgehog to Humboldt's fox, leaping out of bed on his wedding night to jot down a formula and rarely leaving his hometown of Göttingen. The two meet at a scientific congress in 1828, when Germany is in turmoil after the fall of Napoleon. Other luminaries appear throughout the novel, including a senile Immanuel Kant, Louis Daguerre and Thomas Jefferson. The narrative is notable for its brisk pacing, lively prose and wry humor (curmudgeonly Gauss laments, for instance, how "every idiot would be able to... invent the most complete nonsense" about him 200 years hence), which keenly complements Kehlmann's intelligent, if not especially deep, treatment of science, mathematics and reason at the end of the Enlightenment.

Monday, February 26, 2007

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    A Social History of Dying by Allan Kellehear
    Our experiences of dying have been shaped by ancient ideas about death and social responsibility at the end of life. From Stone Age ideas about dying as otherworld journey to the contemporary Cosmopolitan Age of dying in nursing homes, Allan Kellehear takes the reader on a 2 million year journey of discovery that covers the major challenges we will all eventually face: anticipating, preparing, taming and timing for our eventual deaths. This is a major review of the human and clinical sciences literature about human dying conduct. The historical approach of this book places our recent images of cancer dying and medical care in broader historical, epidemiological and global context. Professor Kellehear argues that we are witnessing a rise in shameful forms of dying. It is not cancer, heart disease or medical science that presents modern dying conduct with its greatest moral tests, but rather poverty, ageing and social exclusion.

Monday, February 19, 2007

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    Charisma by Philip Rieff
    In Charisma (read the foreword here), Philip Rieff explores the emergence and evolution of this mysterious and compelling concept within Judeo-Christian culture. Its first expression was in the idea of the covenant between God and the Israelites: Charisma – religious grace and authority – was transferred through divine inspiration to the Old Testament prophets; it was embodied by Jesus of Nazareth, the first true charismatic hero. Rieff shows how St. Paul transformed charisma into a form of social organization, how it was reworked by Martin Luther and by nineteenth-century Protestant theologians, and, finally, how Max Weber redefined charisma as a secular political concept. By emptying charisma of its religious meaning, Weber opened the door to the modern perception of it as little more than a form of celebrity, stripped of moral considerations. Rieff rejects Weber’s definition, insisting that Weber misunderstood the relation between charisma and faith. He argues that without morality, the gift of grace becomes indistinguishable from the gift of evil, and it devolves into a license to destroy and kill in the name of faith or ideology. Offering brilliant interpretations of Kierkegaard, Weber, Kafka, Nietzsche, and Freud, Rieff shows how certain thinkers attacked the very possibility of faith and genuine charisma and helped prepare the way for the emergence of a therapeutic culture in which it is impossible to recognize that which is sacred. Rieff’s analysis of charisma is an analysis of the deepest level of crisis in our culture.

Monday, February 19, 2007

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    The Meaning of Life by Terry Eagleton
    So what is the meaning of life? In this witty and stimulating inquiry, Eagleton shows how centuries of thinkers -- from Shakespeare and Schopenhauer to Marx, Sartre and Beckett -- have tackled the question. Refusing to settle for the bland and boring, Eagleton reveals how the question has become particularly problematic in modern times. Instead of addressing it head-on, we take refuge from the feelings of 'meaninglessness' in our lives by filling them with a multitude of different things: from football and sex, to New Age religions and fundamentalism. "Many of the readers of this book are likely to be as sceptical of the phrase 'the meaning of life' as they are of Santa Claus", he writes. But Eagleton contends that in a world where we need to find common meanings, it is important that we set about answering the question of all questions; and, in conclusion, he suggests his own answer.

Monday, February 12, 2007

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    Selected Letters by Guy Davenport, James Laughlin
    An epistolary exchange that highlights two singular intellects, their disparate approaches to literature and their mutual admiration. This volume features selections from the New Directions founder's correspondence with Guy Davenport, the polymath artist and author of The Geography of the Imagination. More than simply detailing an author/publisher relationship, these letters depict two fine minds educating and supporting each other in the service of literature.

Monday, February 12, 2007

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    The Literary in Theory by Jonathan Culler
    Has theory neglected literature? Often literary and cultural theory, which goes by the nickname “Theory,” has seemed to be the theory of everything except literature: theory of language, of sexuality, of history, of the body, of the psyche, of meaning (or meaninglessness), of politics, but not theory of literature. Here Jonathan Culler, whose lucid analyses of structuralism, semiotics, and deconstruction have been widely prized, explores the place of the literary in theory. If theory has sometimes neglected literature, the literary has, Culler argues, retained a crucial if misunderstood role. Culler’s account of the fortunes of the literary in theory, of the resistance to theory, and of key theoretical concepts—text, sign, interpretation, performative, and omniscience—provides valuable insight into today’s theoretical debates; and his analysis of various disciplinary practices explores the possibilities of theory for the present and the future.

Monday, February 05, 2007

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    The Mind of the Novel by Bruce F. Kawin
    From Moby-Dick to The Unnamable, from A Tale of a Tub to The Book of Questions, Bruce Kawin explores the nature of self-conscious fiction and compares its structure to that of human consciousness. Focusing on texts that confront their own limits by trying to name the unnamable, the ineffable self, Kawin draws on methods from literary criticism to systems theory to explain a variety of first-person works that "dance around the ungraspable subject." Many first-person texts—including those of Melville, Stein, Proust, Faulkner, Lessing, and Beckett—involve a hierarchy of narrators or a system of displaced viewpoints, underneath which may lie one ideal voice: a "mind of the novel." Contemporary fiction, he shows, is not a "literature of exhaustion" but a confrontation by the author, text, and reader of the limits of awareness.

Monday, February 05, 2007

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    Shylock Is Shakespeare by Kenneth Gross
    Shylock, the Jewish moneylender in The Merchant of Venice who famously demands a pound of flesh as security for a loan to his antisemitic tormentors, is one of Shakespeare’s most complex and idiosyncratic characters. With his unsettling eloquence and his varying voices of protest, play, rage, and refusal, Shylock remains a source of perennial fascination. What explains the strange and enduring force of this character, so unlike that of any other in Shakespeare's plays? Kenneth Gross posits that the figure of Shylock is so powerful because he is the voice of Shakespeare himself. Speculative and articulate, Gross’s book argues that Shylock is a breakthrough for Shakespeare the playwright, an early realization of the Bard's power to create dramatic voices that speak for hidden, unconscious, even inhuman impulses — characters larger than the plays that contain them and ready to escape the author’s control. Shylock is also a mask for Shakespeare's own need, rage, vulnerability, and generosity, giving form to Shakespeare's ambition as an author and his uncertain bond with the audience. Gross's vision of Shylock as Shakespeare's covert double leads to a probing analysis of the character's peculiar isolation, ambivalence, opacity, and dark humor.

Monday, January 29, 2007

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    The Golden Age by Edith Grossman
    Celebrating the Spanish Renaissance's greatest poems and offering a new appreciation of Spain's Golden Age, Edith Grossman here translates the works of Jorge Manrique; Garcilaso de la Vega, a soldier and courtier who wrote love poetry; Fray Luis de León, a converso Jew; San Juan de la Cruz, whose poems are the finest exemplars of Christian mysticism; Luis de Góngora, a great sensualist; Lope de Vega, Cervantes' rival; Francisco de Quevedo, the ultimate Baroque poet; and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the nun whose haunting poetry embodied the voice of Mexico. Through these glorious voices, presented in facing-page Spanish and English, The Golden Age: Poems of the Spanish Renaissance offers a new way to connect with the literary heritage of the Spanish-speaking world.

Monday, January 29, 2007

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    The Abu Ghraib Effect by Stephen F. Eisenman
    The photographs of torture at Abu Ghraib prison aroused world-wide condemnation – or did they? Opinion polls showed that most citizens of the US were unmoved by the images. And in the two countries that promoted the war in Iraq and instigated torture against detainees, George Bush and Tony Blair were returned to office only months after the pictures’ release. One reason for this relative lack of public opprobrium may be the nature of the Abu Ghraib pictures themselves, and what Stephen F. Eisenman terms ‘the Abu Ghraib effect’. By showing prisoners engaging in sexual acts, the author asserts, the photos make the men look like enthusiastic participants in their own interrogation and torture. Further, these scenes repeat an ancient stereotype: the ‘pathos formula’, in which victims of war are shown welcoming their own punishment. In this subtle, highly original analysis, Eisenman shows the pathos formula at work in the Abu Ghraib photos, and describes its long history, exploring the motif's appearance in imperial Greek and Roman Art, in the sculpture and painting of Michelangelo, and in Baroque paintings of saints and martyrs. The author also describes the equally long history of artistic protest against the formula: William Hogarth, Francisco Goya and others in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Pablo Picasso, Ben Shahn and Leon Golub in the 20th have all attacked its use.

Monday, January 22, 2007

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    Hatred of Democracy by Jacques Ranciere
    Jacques Rancière was a student of Althusser before he famously turned against his mentor; now, he’s regarded as one of the major thinkers of our age. In his new book, he examines how the West can no longer simply extol the virtues of democracy by contrasting it with the horrors of totalitarianism. As certain governments are exporting democracy by brute force, and a reactionary strand in mainstream political opinion is willing to abandon civil liberties and destroy collective values of equality, Rancière explains how democracy—government by all—is the principle that de-legitimates any form of power based on the superiority of those who govern. Hence the fear, and consequently the hatred, of democracy amongst the new ruling class. Hatred of Democracy rediscovers the ever-new and subversive power of the democratic idea.

Monday, January 22, 2007

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    Pictures of Nothing by Kirk Varnedoe
    "What is abstract art good for? What's the use -- for us as individuals, or for any society -- of pictures of nothing, of paintings and sculptures or prints or drawings that do not seem to show anything except themselves?" In this invigorating account of abstract art since Jackson Pollock, eminent art historian Kirk Varnedoe, asks these and other questions as he frankly confronts the uncertainties we may have about the nonrepresentational art produced in the last five decades. Realizing that these lectures might be his final work, Varnedoe conceived of them as a statement of his faith in modern art and as the culminating example of his lucidly pragmatic and philosophical approach to art history. He delivered the lectures, edited and reproduced here with their illustrations, to overflowing crowds at the National Gallery of Art in Washington in the spring of 2003, just months before his death. Varnedoe addresses the sceptical attitudes and misunderstandings that we often bring to our experience of abstract art. Resisting grand generalizations, he makes a deliberate and scholarly case for abstraction -- showing us that more than just pure looking is necessary to understand the self-made symbolic language of abstract art. Proceeding decade by decade, he brings alive the history and biography that inform the art while also challenging the received wisdom about distinctions between abstraction and representation, modernism and postmodernism, and minimalism and pop.

Monday, January 15, 2007

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    T.S. Eliot: Image, Text and Context by Craig Raine
    Craig Raine argues that Eliot's poetry (and drama and criticism) can be seen as a unified and coherent body of work. Indeed, despite its manifest originality, its radical experimentation, and its dazzling formal variety, his verse yields meaning just as surely as other more conventional poetry. Raine argues that an implicit controlling theme -- the buried life, or the failure of feeling -- unfolds in surprisingly varied ways throughout Eliot's work. But alongside Eliot's desire "to live with all intensity" was also a distrust of "violent emotion for its own sake." Raine illuminates this paradoxical Eliot -- an exacting anti-romantic realist, skeptical of the emotions, yet incessantly troubled by the fear of emotional failure -- through close readings of such poems as The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, Gerontion, The Hollow Men, Ash Wednesday, and many others. The heart of the book contains extended analyses of Eliot's two master works -- The Waste Land and Four Quartets. Raine also examines Eliot's criticism -- including his coinage of such key literary terms as the objective correlative, dissociation of sensibility, the auditory imagination -- and he concludes with a convincing refutation of charges that Eliot was an anti-Semite.

Monday, January 15, 2007

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    Emmanuel Levinas: His Life and Legacy by Salomon Malka
    Emmanuel Levinas, one of the twentieth century’s most eminent ethical philosophers and religious thinkers, introduced to French philosophy the idea of the other as the rupture of the same, the idea that was to become the foundation of late twentieth century continental thought. Originally published in French, Emmanuel Levinas: His Life and Legacy provides the only in-depth biography to appear in English of this interesting thinker, whose influence has continued to grow since his death in 1995. Salomon Malka, a journalist and student of Levinas's for three decades, devoted five years to the researching and writing of this biography, which details Levinas’s childhood in Lithuania, his prewar years in Paris, his studies with Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, his years as a German prisoner of war during the Holocaust, his paneling at the Vatican and in the streets of Tel Aviv, and his teaching career at the École Normale Israélite Orientale and the Sorbonne in Paris.

Monday, January 08, 2007

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    The Poem and the Journey by Ruth Padel
    Ruth Padel's The Poem and the Journey suggests that the secret of reading a poem is seeing it as a journey, and argues for the value of reading poetry on the journey of your own life. Padel expertly reads sixty contemporary poems to argue her case -- from the title poem of Seamus Heaney's latest collection to others by Elizabeth Bishop, James Fenton, Tony Harrison, Rosemary Tonks and Kathleen Jamie; with poets as different as J. H.Prynne, John Ashbery and Jorie Graham and Jean "Binta" Breeze.

Monday, January 08, 2007

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    Joyce's Voices by Hugh Kenner
    When a “correspondent from Missouri,” wrote to Hugh Kenner and asked that he elaborate on his assertion that “Joyce began Ulysses in naturalism and ended it in parody,” Kenner answered with this book. Joyce’s Voices is both a helpful guide through Joyce’s complexities, and a brief treatise on the concept of objectivity: the idea that the world can be perceived as a series of reports to our senses. Objectivity, Kenner claims, was a modern invention, and one that the modernists—Joyce foremost among them—found problematic. Accessible and enjoyable, Joyce’s Voices is what so much criticism is not: an aid to better understanding—and enjoying more fully—the work of one of the world’s greatest writers.

Monday, January 01, 2007

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    Heidegger's Hut by Adam Sharr
    Beginning in the summer of 1922, philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) occupied a small, three-room cabin in the Black Forest Mountains of southern Germany. He called it "die Hütte" ("the hut"). Over the years, Heidegger worked on many of his most famous writings in this cabin, from his early lectures to his last enigmatic texts. He claimed an intellectual and emotional intimacy with the building and its surroundings, and even suggested that the landscape expressed itself through him, almost without agency. Heidegger's mountain hut has been an object of fascination for many, including architects interested in his writings about "dwelling" and "place." Sharr's account -- the first substantive investigation of the building and Heidegger's life there -- reminds us that, in approaching Heidegger's writings, it is important to consider the circumstances in which the philosopher, as he himself said, felt "transported" into the work's "own rhythm." Indeed, Heidegger's apparent abdication of agency and tendency toward romanticism seem especially significant in light of his troubling involvement with the Nazi regime in the early 1930s. Sharr draws on original research, including interviews with Heidegger's relatives, as well as on written accounts of the hut by Heidegger and his visitors. The book's evocative photographs include scenic and architectural views taken by the author and many remarkable images of a septuagenarian Heidegger in the hut taken by the photojournalist Digne Meller-Markovicz.

Monday, January 01, 2007

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    Target Iran: The Truth About the US Plans for Regime Change by Scott Ritter
    In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Scott Ritter was one of the few public figures courageous enough to challenge the lies spread by the Bush administration and the mainstream media concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In the wake of the debacle in Iraq, Ritter has been vindicated. Now the United States and its neo-conservative allies are raising the alarm about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme and its firebrand president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Again, Ritter sets the record straight. In Target Iran, Scott Ritter uncovers the patterns of influence in international security networks to provide a cool-headed analysis of Iran's nuclear programme and US policy in the Middle East. He reveals the motivation behind the Bush administration's attempts to cultivate popular democracy and regime change in Iran. He explains why the United States persists in pursuing high-risk foreign policy in the Middle East, Israel's involvement, and how this time it could actually lead to nuclear conflict.

Monday, December 25, 2006

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    Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce by Cormac O. Grada
    James Joyce's Leopold Bloom -- the atheistic Everyman of Ulysses, son of a Hungarian Jewish father and an Irish Protestant mother -- may have turned the world's literary eyes on Dublin, but those who look to him for history should think again. He could hardly have been a product of the city's bona fide Jewish community, where intermarriage with outsiders was rare and piety was pronounced. In Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce, a leading economic historian tells the real story of how Jewish Ireland -- and Dublin's Little Jerusalem in particular -- made ends meet from the 1870s, when the first Lithuanian Jewish immigrants landed in Dublin, to the late 1940s, just before the community began its dramatic decline. In a richly detailed blend of historical, economic, and demographic analysis, Cormac Ó Gráda examines the challenges this community faced. He asks how its patterns of child rearing, schooling, and cultural and religious behavior influenced its marital, fertility, and infant-mortality rates. He argues that the community's small size shaped its occupational profile and influenced its acculturation; it also compromised its viability in the long run.

Monday, December 25, 2006

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    The Uncomfortable Dead by Subcomandante Marcos, Paco Ignacio Taibo II
    In alternating chapters, enigmatic Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos and crime writer Paco Ignacio Taibo II create an uproarious murder mystery with intersecting storylines. Those chapters written by the famously masked Marcos originate in the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico, where, amid a hallucinatory blend of different voices, we meet Elías, a Zapatista detective tasked with locating missing people. Taibo’s chapters star his Coca-Cola-and-cigarette-consuming series detective Héctor Belascoarán Shayne: a PI specialising in cases stranger than reality. The two stories collide absurdly and dramatically in the sprawl of Mexico City. The ugly history of the city’s political violence rears its head, and both detectives find themselves in an unlikely dance of death with forces at once criminal, historical, and political.

Monday, December 18, 2006

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    Under Three Flags by Benedict Anderson
    In Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination, Benedict Anderson provides a radical recasting of themes from Imagined Communities, his classic book on nationalism, through an exploration of fin-de-siècle politics and culture that spans the Caribbean, Imperial Europe and the South China Sea. Anderson explores the impact of avant-garde European literature and politics on the great political novelist José Rizal and his contemporary, the pioneering folklorist Isabelo de los Reyes, who was imprisoned in Manila after the violent uprisings of 1896 and later incarcerated, together with Catalan anarchists, in the prison fortress of Montjuich in Barcelona. On his return to the Philippines, by now under American occupation, Isabelo formed the first militant trade unions under the influence of Malatesta and Bakunin. Anderson considers the complex intellectual interactions of these young Filipinos with the new “science” of anthropology in Germany and Austro-Hungary, and with post-Communard experimentalists in Paris, against a background of militant anarchism in Spain, France, Italy and the Americas, José Marti’s armed uprising in Cuba and anti-imperialist protests in China and Japan. In doing so, he depicts the dense intertwining of anarchist internationalism and radical anti-colonialism.

Monday, December 18, 2006

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    Twentieth-Century German Poetry by Michael Hofmann
    This groundbreaking anthology, which vitally includes the German-language originals, will serve as the standard for years to come. Michael Hofmann has assembled brilliant translations of the major German poets, from Rilke and Brecht to Durs Grunbein and Jan Wagner, in an approachable, readable, and endlessly interesting collection. Here we find poetry as a living counter-force to socio-political reality; poetry of dissent and fear and protest; poetry of private griefs and musics. From the subtlety and elegance of Brecht, to the extraordinary jargon-glooms of Gottfried Benn, to the oblique and straightforward responses to the country's villainous history, to the bitter, cleansed, and haunted poetry of the postwar years, the anthology ends with a reunified country looking at itself and its neighbors in new ways. This is an essential and timely collection of verse from a tumultuous, violent, tragic, and hopeful century, written in the language of those who were at the heart of the matter.

Monday, December 11, 2006

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    Zurau Aphorisms by Franz Kafka (trans. Michael Hofmann)
    Franz Kafka spent eight months at his sister's house in Zürau between September 1917 and April 1918, enduring the onset of tuberculosis. Illness paradoxically set him free to write, in a series of philosophical fragments, his settling of accounts with life, marriage, his family, guilt and man’s condition. These aphorisms have appeared with minor revisions in various posthumous works since his death in 1924. By chance, Roberto Calasso rediscovered Kafka's two original notebooks in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. The notebooks, freshly translated and laid out as Kafka intended, are a distillation of Kafka at his most powerful and enigmatic.

Monday, December 11, 2006

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    1001 Great Stories: volume 1 by Douglas Messerli
    This is the first of an ongoing collection of anthologies which, ultimately, will represent 1001 of the world's greatest tales. In a grand conception that defies his own death, Douglas Messerli, the editor, envisions a series of 101 volumes, published over the next 26 years-which would mean he would complete this series at the age of 83. As Messerli notes, "The volume...should be seen, accordingly, not as a statement that I will publish 1001 stories, but as a desire. As with Scheherazade, there's always a chance I may not survive, but perhaps the sultan will also spare my life." This first volume — which will also include special issues devoted to the tales of different countries and languages and to special issues and topics - includes fiction by 10 authors: the great Russian early 19th century author Nikolai Gogol, the late 19th and early 20th century Portuguese writer José Maria Eça de Queiroz, the French author Valery Larbaud, Russian Soviet satirists Yuri Olesha and Mikhail Zoshcenko, the Uruguayan modernist Mario Benedetti, the Cuban writer Virgilio Piñera, the Italian story-teller Tommaso Landolfi, the German experimentalist Arno Schmidt, and the contemporary Chinese author Can Xue.

Monday, December 04, 2006

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    How Novels Work by John Mullan
    Recent years have seen a huge growth in the number of reading groups and in the interest of a non-academic readership in the discussion of how novels work. Drawing on his weekly Guardian column, Elements of Fiction, John Mullan examines novels mostly of the last ten years, many of which have become firm favourites with reading groups. He reveals the rich resources of novelistic technique, setting recent fiction alongside classics of the past. Nick Hornby's adoption of a female narrator is compared to Daniel Defoe's; Ian McEwan's use of weather is set against Austen's and Hardy's; Carole Shield's chapter divisions are likened to Fanny Burney's. Each section shows how some basic element of fiction is used. Some topics (like plot, dialogue, or location) will appear familiar to most novel readers; others (metanarrative, prolepsis, amplification) will open readers' eyes to new ways of understanding and appreciating the writer's craft. How Novels Work explains how the pleasures of novel reading often come from the formal ingenuity of the novelist. Addressed to anyone who is interested in the close reading of fiction, it makes visible techniques and effects we are often only half-aware of as we read.

Monday, December 04, 2006

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    Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism by Toril Moi
    Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) is the founder of modern theater, and his plays are performed all over the world. Yet in spite of his unquestioned status as a classic of the stage, Ibsen is often dismissed as a boring old realist, whose plays are of interest only because they remain the gateway to modern theater. In Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism, Toril Moi makes a powerful case not just for Ibsen's modernity, but also for his modernism. The book situates Ibsen in his cultural context, emphasizes his position as a Norwegian in European culture, and shows how important painting and other visual arts were for his aesthetic education. Moi rewrites literary history, reminding modern readers that idealism was the dominant aesthetic paradigm of the nineteenth century. Modernism was born in the ruins of idealism, Moi argues, thus challenging traditional theories of the opposition between realism and modernism. This radical new account places Ibsen in his rightful place alongside Baudelaire, Flaubert, and Manet as a founder of European modernism.

Monday, November 27, 2006

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    Orpheus by Don Paterson
    Published in 1923, near the end of Rilke’s life, the fifty-nine Sonnets to Orpheus were completed in less than a month, and famously described by the poet as ‘perhaps the most mysterious - in the way they arrived and entrusted themselves to me - the most enigmatic dictation I have ever received’. The result was both a masterpiece of German literature and a landmark of modern poetry, pondering the dismembered fate of Orpheus in a belated world. Don Paterson’s version (these are not direct translations which makes the lack of facing-page originals even more disappointing) is an act of intense and sustained attention, which has in turn yielded new poems of striking authority, independence and lyric grace.

Monday, November 27, 2006

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    The Lost World of British Communism by Raphael Samuel
    The Lost World of British Communism is a vivid account of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Raphael Samuel, one of post-war Britain’s most notable historians, draws on novels of the period and childhood recollections of London’s East End, as well as memoirs and Party archives. He evokes the world of British Communism in the 1940s, when the movement was at the height of its political and theoretical power, and raises prophetic questions about socialist motivation, collective identity, and historicizing the Communist past.

Monday, November 20, 2006

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    The Lady and the Little Fox Fur by Violette Leduc
    When the extraordinary memoir La Bâtarde was published in 1964, the literary world was impressed and scandalized by the book’s explicit account of lesbian love. And its author, Violette Leduc, became an instant celebrity, with 150,000 copies of the book sold in its first year. Her short novel The Lady and the Little Fox Fur deals with a different side of life, focusing on a lonely old woman whose fortune and dignity are gone. Driven to despair she discovers peace of mind by forming a strange and touching relationship with the everyday objects of the city. Written with the same passion and stunningly observed attention to detail as La Bâtarde, it is a perfectly formed minor masterpiece.

Monday, November 20, 2006

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    Socrates and the Irrational by James S. Hans
    Traditionally, Socrates has been linked to the view of reason as the most important element in human behavior, the means through which our irrational capacities are tamed. Yet, one might ask, if his legacy were solely derived from his having been a master reasoner, why would he have been able to maintain his place in our imaginations for so long? In Socrates and the Irrational, James Hans argues that when Socrates speaks for himself, he reveals a far more complex portrait of the nature of human existence than the Platonic conception of him has conveyed. Exploring Socratic thought through four key dialogues -- the Ion, the Apology, the Phaedrus, and the Republic -- Hans offers a larger vision of both Socrates and human potential that goes beyond the reductive placement of reason on the side of the good and unreason on the side of the bad. Embracing Socrates' reverence for poets, his reliance on feeling and intuition, his attitude toward death, and his defense of prophecy and love, Hans shows how thoroughly the Socratic idea of reason is based on the affective aspects of bodily existence that traditional approaches to his thought ignore.

Monday, November 13, 2006

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    The Deleted World by Tomas Transtromer
    In this, his 75th year, Tomas Tranströmer can be clearly recognised not just as Sweden’s most important poet, but as a writer of international stature whose work speaks to us now with undiminished clarity and resonance. Long celebrated as a master of the arresting, suggestive image, Tranströmer is a poet of the liminal: drawn again and again to thresholds of light and of water, the boundaries between man and nature, wakefulness and dream. A deeply spiritual but secular writer, his scepticism about humanity is continually challenged by the implacable renewing power of the natural world. His poems are epiphanies rooted in experience: spare, luminous meditations that his extraordinary images split open - exposing something sudden, mysterious and unforgettable.

Monday, November 13, 2006

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    The Good European by Iain Bamforth
    Nietzsche, warning his countrymen in the Bismarck era against the nationalism that sought to promote all that was anti-rational in the German tradition, exhorted them to be "good Europeans", avatars of the enlightened economic man of the eighteenth-century. Yet Nietzsche was himself a victim of the disease he diagnosed. In The Good European Iain Bamforth's reports on fifteen years of "experimental living" during which his attachment to the old continent brought him from Berlin, in the week in which he saw the fall of the Wall in 1989, to Strasburg, heart of aboriginal Europe and the city of noses in Tristram Shandy. With his ear attuned to the complexities of culture and politics, Bamforth offers essays on writers and thinkers who have done much to define the small archipelago on the edge of Asia, including classics such as Kleist, Kafka, Roth and Benjamin, WG Sebald and Mavis Gallant. He provides a portrait of the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, a send-off for Bernard Pivot's classic literary chat-show Bouillon de Culture, a scrutiny of philosophising media pundit Peter Sloterdijk, landscapes from Provence and Bavaria, reports from Prague and Geneva, Franco-German shibboleths, a sarcastic letter from 'Kakania', and an anatomy of the Alsatian humorist Tomi Ungerer.

Monday, November 06, 2006

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    The Veil of Isis by Pierre Hadot
    Nearly twenty-five hundred years ago the Greek thinker Heraclitus supposedly uttered the cryptic words "Phusis kruptesthai philei." How the aphorism, usually translated as "Nature loves to hide," has haunted Western culture ever since is the subject of this engaging study by Pierre Hadot. Taking the allegorical figure of the veiled goddess Isis as a guide, and drawing on the work of both the ancients and later thinkers such as Goethe, Rilke, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger, Hadot traces successive interpretations of Heraclitus' words. Over time, Hadot finds, "Nature loves to hide" has meant that all that lives tends to die; that Nature wraps herself in myths; and (for Heidegger) that Being unveils as it veils itself. Meanwhile the pronouncement has been used to explain everything from the opacity of the natural world to our modern angst. From these kaleidoscopic exegeses and usages emerge two contradictory approaches to nature: the Promethean, or experimental-questing, approach, which embraces technology as a means of tearing the veil from Nature and revealing her secrets; and the Orphic, or contemplative-poetic, approach, according to which such a denuding of Nature is a grave trespass. In place of these two attitudes Hadot proposes one suggested by the Romantic vision of Rousseau, Goethe, and Schelling, who saw in the veiled Isis an allegorical expression of the sublime.

Monday, November 06, 2006

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    Geneses, Genealogies, Genres and Genius by Jacques Derrida
    In this book Derrida responds to the work, Dream I Tell You, by Helene Cixous using it to explore the nature of the literary archive, the production of literature and Cixous' genius. These texts allow the reader to puzzle the genealogy of deconstruction and to consider the importance of the poetic and sexual difference to the entirety of Derrida's work. They also demonstrate that, as Derrida admits, he has always been a devotee of Cixous.

Monday, October 30, 2006

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    Thomas Hardy: The Time-torn Man by Claire Tomalin
    Thomas Hardy is one of the sacred figures in English writing, a great poet and a novelist with a world reputation. His life was also extraordinary: from the poverty of rural Dorset, he went on to become the Grand Old Man of English life and letters, his last resting place in Westminster Abbey. Tomalin's biography (vying with Ralph Pite's Thomas Hardy: the Guarded Life as the standard life) covers Hardy's illegitimate birth, his rural upbringing, his escape to London in the 1860s, his marriages, his status as a bestselling novelist, and in later life, his supreme achievements as a poet. Indeed, it is as a poet that Hardy saw himself and as a poet that Tomalin views his life and work.

Monday, October 30, 2006

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    On Physics and Philosophy by Bernard D'Espagnat
    Among the great ironies of quantum mechanics is not only that its conceptual foundations seem strange even to the physicists who use it, but that philosophers have largely ignored it. Bernard d'Espagnat argues that quantum physics -- by casting doubts on once hallowed concepts such as space, material objects, and causality -- demands serious reconsideration of most of traditional philosophy. On Physics and Philosophy is an accessible, mathematics-free reflection on the philosophical meaning of the quantum revolution, by one of the world's leading authorities on the subject. D'Espagnat presents an objective account of the main guiding principles of contemporary physics-in particular, quantum mechanics-followed by a look at just what consequences these should imply for philosophical thinking. The author begins by describing recent discoveries in quantum physics such as nonseparability, and explicating the significance of contemporary developments such as decoherence. Then he proceeds to set various philosophical theories of knowledge -- such as materialism, realism, Kantism, and neo-Kantism -- against the conceptual problems quantum theory raises.

Monday, October 23, 2006

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    Absence of Myth by Georges Bataille
    Georges Bataille (1897–1962) was one of the most provocative and controversial writers of his time. These essays, the result of profound reflection in the wake of World War II, comprise his most incisive study of surrealism, insisting on its importance as a cultural and social phenomenon with far-reaching consequences. They clarify Bataille’s links with the surrealist movement, and shed light on his complex and greatly misunderstood relationship with André Breton.

Monday, October 23, 2006

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    Dante's "Inferno" by Sean O'Brien
    Another Dante translation! Sean O'Brien's new translation of the Inferno comes highly praised. His publisher Picador claim that the version: "is destined to become the standard English text for many years to come. It is the most fluent, grippingly readable version of Dante’s poem yet, and – with all the consummate technical skill that is the hallmark of O'Brien's own poetry – manages the near-impossible task of preserving the subtle power and lyric nuance of the Italian original, while seeking out an entirely natural English music. No other version has so vividly expressed the horror, cruelty, beauty and outrageous imaginative flight of Dante’s original vision."

Monday, October 16, 2006

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    Edward Carpenter by Chushichi Tsuzuki
    This is the first full-scale biography of Edward Carpenter, an 'eminent Victorian' who played an intriguing role in the revival of Socialism in Britain in the late nineteenth century. 'A worthy heir of Carlyle and Ruskin', as Tolstoy called him, Carpenter tackled boldly the problems of alienation under the pressures of commercial civilisation, and developed a strongly personalised brand of Socialism which inspired both the Labour Party and its enemies, Syndicalism and Anarchism. A homosexual, he grappled with the problems of sexual alienation above all, and emerged as the foremost advocate of the homosexual cause at a time when it was a social 'taboo'. This study, based upon letters and many other personal documents, reveals much of Carpenter's personal life which has hitherto remained obscure, including his 'comradeship' with some of his working-men friends and his influence upon such notable literary figures as Siegfried Sassoon, E. M. Forster and D. H. Lawrence.

Monday, October 16, 2006

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    Vigilant Memory by R. Clifton Spargo
    Vigilant Memory: Emmanuel Levinas, the Holocaust, and the Unjust Death focuses on the particular role of Emmanuel Levinas's thought in reasserting the ethical parameters for poststructuralist criticism in the aftermath of the Holocaust. More than simply situating Levinas's ethics within the larger context of his philosophy, R. Clifton Spargo offers a new explanation of its significance in relation to history. In critical readings of the limits and also the heretofore untapped possibilities of Levinasian ethics, Spargo explores the impact of the Holocaust on Levinas's various figures of injustice while examining the place of mourning, the bad conscience, the victim, and the stranger/neighbor as they appear in Levinas's work. Ultimately, Spargo ranges beyond Levinas's explicit philosophical or implicit political positions to calculate the necessary function of the "memory of injustice" in our cultural and political discourses on the characteristics of a just society.

Monday, October 09, 2006

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    Liquidation by Imre Kertesz
    Ten years have passed since the fall of Communism. B., a writer of great repute – whose birth and survival in Auschwitz defied all probability – has taken his own life. His friend Kingbitter discovers among his papers a play entitled Liquidation, in which he reads an eerie foretelling of the personal and political crises that he and B.’s other friends now face. Having survived the Holocaust and the years of Communist rule, having experienced the surge of hope that rose up from the rubble of the Wall, they are left with little other than a sense of chaos and an utter loss of identity. Kingbitter's find precipitates a frantic search for the novel that B. may or may not have left behind. That B. was having an affair with Sarah, one of Kingbitter’s companions, while Kingbitter himself was having an affair with B.’s ex-wife Judit, serves only to complicate matters further.

Monday, October 09, 2006

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    Walter Benjamin's Grave by Michael Taussig
    In September 1940, Walter Benjamin committed suicide in Port Bou on the Spanish-French border when it appeared that he and his travelling partners would be denied passage into Spain in their attempt to escape the Nazis. In 2002, anthropologist Michael Taussig visited Benjamin’s grave. The result is a moving essay about the cemetery, eyewitness accounts of Benjamin’s border travails, and the circumstances of his demise. It is the most recent of eight revelatory essays collected in this volume of the same name. “Looking over these essays written over the past decade,” writes Taussig, “I think what they share is a love of muted and defective storytelling as a form of analysis. Strange love indeed; love of the wound, love of the last gasp.” Although thematically these essays run the gamut — covering the monument and graveyard at Port Bou, discussions of peasant poetry in Colombia, a pact with the devil, the peculiarities of a shaman’s body, transgression, the disappearance of the sea, New York City cops, and the relationship between flowers and violence — each shares Taussig’s highly individual brand of storytelling, one that depends on a deep appreciation of objects and things as a way to retrieve even deeper philosophical and anthropological meanings.

Monday, October 02, 2006

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    The Subversion of Politics by George Katsiaficas
    Since the modern anti-globalization movement kicked off with the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, a new generation has been engaging in anti-capitalist direct action. Its aims, politics, lifestyles, and tactics grow directly out of the autonomous social movements that emerged in Europe from the 1970s through the mid-1990s. In fact, today's infamous "Black Blocs" are the direct descendants of the European "Autonomen." But these important historical connections are rarely noted. The Subversion of Politics fills in the gaps between the momentous events of 1968 and 1999. Katsiaficas presents the protagonists of social revolt — Italian feminists, squatters, disarmament and anti-nuclear activists, punk rockers, and anti-fascist street fighters — in a compelling and sympathetic light. At the same time, he offers a work of great critical depth, drawing from these political practices a new theory of freedom and autonomy that redefines the parameters of the political itself.

Monday, October 02, 2006

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    Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
    An old man sits in a room, with a single door and window, a bed, a desk and a chair. Each day he awakes with no memory, unsure of whether or not he is locked into the room. Attached to the few objects around him are one-word, hand-written labels and on the desk is a series of vaguely familiar black-and-white photographs and four piles of paper. Then a middle-aged woman called Anna enters and talks of pills and treatment, but also of love and promises. Who is this Mr Blank, and what is his fate? What does Anna represent from his past - and will he have enough time to ever make sense of the clues that arise?

Monday, September 25, 2006

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    Swan's Way by Henri Raczymow
    Rarely has anyone taken Swann's Way down a stranger path, and never with such intriguing results. What begins as a meditation on the fictional identity of the elegant "swan" of Proust's In Search of Lost Time becomes, through a series of turns and twists, an ingenious investigation of the character's real-life counterpart, Charles Haas. Henri Raczymow unravels the multiple contradictions of Charles Swann's personality, brought into focus by the fault lines in Proust's narrative method. The author traces Swann's evolution and the multiple ways in which his Jewish identity keeps peeping through the veneer of respectability of this sophisticated dandy. Through a parallel inquiry into the history of the Jockey Club -- to which Haas, a Jew, was, like Swann, exceptionally admitted -- and the transformation of the German-Jewish Haas into the fashionable British Swann, Swann's Way evolves into an examination of the question of personal identity and posthumous survival. Charles Haas's Jewish identity is the invisible thread that guides Raczymow through the maze of Proust's work, which serves as a backdrop against which fin-de-siecle French society enacts the ugly drama of anti-Semitism.

Monday, September 25, 2006

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    Weimar in Exile by Jean- Michel Palmier
    In 1933, thousands of intellectuals, artists, writers, militants and other opponents of the Nazi regime fled Germany. They were, in the words of Heinrich Mann, “the best of Germany,” refusing to remain citizens in this new state that legalized terror and brutality. They emigrated to Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Oslo, Vienna, New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Mexico, Jerusalem, Moscow. Throughout their exile they strove to give expression to the fight against Nazism through their work, in prose, poetry and painting, architecture, film and theater. Weimar in Exile follows these lives, from the rise of national socialism to the return to their ruined homeland, retracing their stories, struggles, setbacks and rare victories. This absorbing history covers the lives of Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Bertolt Brecht, Alfred Döblin, Hans Eisler, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, Anna Seghers, Ernst Toller, Stefan Zweig and many others, whose dignity in exile is a moving counterpoint to the story of Germany under the Nazis.

Monday, September 18, 2006

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    The Mystery Guest by Gregoire Bouillier
    When the phone rang on a gloomy fall afternoon in 1990, Grégoire Bouillier had no way of knowing that it was the woman who’d left him, without warning, ten years before. And he couldn’t have guessed why she was calling — not to apologize for, or explain, the way she’d vanished from his life, but to invite him to a party. A birthday party. For a woman he’d never met. The Mystery Guest is, in the words of L’Humanité, a work of “fiendish wit and refinement.” This translation marks the English-language debut of an iconoclast who has attracted one of the most passionate cult followings in French literature today.

Monday, September 18, 2006

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    Sight of Death by T.J. Clark
    Why do we find ourselves returning to certain pictures time and again? What is it we are looking for? How does our understanding of an image change over time? In his latest book T.J. Clark addresses these questions—and many more—in ways that steer art writing into new territory. In early 2000, two extraordinary paintings by Poussin hung in the Getty Museum in a single room, Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake (National Gallery, London) and the Getty's own Landscape with a Calm. Clark found himself returning to the gallery to look at these paintings morning after morning, and almost involuntarily he began to record his shifting responses in a notebook. The result is a riveting analysis of the two landscapes and their different views of life and death, but more, a chronicle of an investigation into the very nature of visual complexity. Clark’s meditations—sometimes directly personal, sometimes speaking to the wider politics of our present image-world—track the experience of viewing art through all its real-life twists and turns.

Monday, September 11, 2006

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    Socrates Against Athens by James A. Colaiaco
    Thomas C. Brickhouse said, "Socrates Against Athens is a welcome addition to the literature on Socrates' trial and imprisonment. Written in a clear, engaging style, this study can be read profitably by anyone who is interested in the conflict between some of Athens' citizens and her most famous philosopher." A companion to Plato's Apology and Crito, James A Colaiaco's book provides valuable historical and cultural context essential to a clear understanding of the trial and the issues it raises, especially about the tension between politics and philosophy.

Monday, September 11, 2006

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    Oberiu: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism by Susan Sontag
    It was a movement so artfully anarchic, and so quickly suppressed, that readers only began to discover its strange and singular brilliance three decades after it was extinguished - and then only in samizdat and emigre publications. Some called it the last of the Russian avant-garde, and others called it the first (and last) instance of Absurdism in Russia; however difficult to classify, it was OBERIU (from an acronym standing for The Union of Real Art), and the pleasures of its poetry and prose are, with this volume, at long last fully open to English-speaking readers. This anthology includes the work of three writers, Alexander Vvedensky, Daniil Kharms, and Nikolai Zabolotsky, who, between 1927 and 1930, made up the core of OBERIU, and of three others, Nikolai Oleinikov, Leonid Lipavsky, and Yakov Druskin, who, although not members of OBERIU, worked in the same vein. These poems and prose pieces display all the hilarity and tragedy, the illogical action and puppetlike violence and eroticism, and the hallucinatory intensity that brought down the wrath of the Soviet censors. Today they offer an uncanny reflection of the distorted reality they reject.

Monday, September 04, 2006

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    After Brecht by Wolf Biermann
    Bertolt Brecht's life as a dramatist, poet and polemicist has inspired writers from all over the world. This anthology, published to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death in August 1956, brings together English translations of poems by German poets who have responded to his remarkable legacy. The volume includes poems by Wolf Biermann, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Paul Celan, Peter Huchel and Heinrich Böll and includes translations by David Constantine, Ian Fairley, Michael Hamburger, Michael Hofmann and Karen Leeder. Celebrating the continuing creative dialogue between Brecht and 'those who will live after', it includes poems written during Brecht's own lifetime by friends, lovers and colleagues; responses to his death, and works by later writers for whom Brecht remains a challenge and an inspiration. After Brecht: A Celebration demonstrates the way in which Brecht's concerns and his unique diction have become a part of the very stuff of modern poetry.

Monday, September 04, 2006

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    Planet of Slums by Mike Davis
    According to the united nations, more than one billion people now live in the slums of the cities of the South. In this ambitious book, Mike Davis explores the future of a radically unequal and explosively unstable urban world. From the sprawling barricadas of Lima to the garbage hills of Manila, urbanization has been disconnected from industrialization, even economic growth. Davis portrays a vast humanity warehoused in shantytowns and exiled from the formal world economy. He argues that the rise of this informal urban proletariat is a wholly original development unforeseen by either classical Marxism or neo-liberal theory. Are the great slums, as a terrified Victorian middle class once imagined, volcanoes waiting to erupt? Davis provides the first global overview of the diverse religious, ethnic, and political movements competing for the souls of the new urban poor. He surveys Hindu fundamentalism in Bombay, the Islamist resistance in Casablanca and Cairo, street gangs in Cape Town and San Salvador, Pentecostalism in Kinshasa and Rio de Janeiro, and revolutionary populism in Caracas and La Paz.

Monday, August 28, 2006

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    Shyness and Dignity by Dag Solstad
    A senior-school teacher in his fifties begins his day as usual, picking up his briefcase and some headache pills and after a cordial goodbye to his wife, leaving for work as he has done every morning for the past twenty-five years. However, this autumn morning is to be the start of no ordinary day. Though familiar with his students’ hostile attitude towards both his lectures and himself, today he feels their enmity touch deeper than ever before and, after a passionate lecture on Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, it precipitates a crisis. He reaches a decision that forces an assessment of his choice of life, of his marriage and ultimately of his values and worth in modern society. He is, to his own mind, ‘plagued by the fact I am a socially aware individual who no longer has anything to say’.

Monday, August 28, 2006

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    Proust in Love by William C. Carter
    The acclaimed Proust biographer William C. Carter (Distinguished Professor of French at the University of Alabama at Birmingham) portrays Proust’s amorous adventures and misadventures from adolescence through his adult years, supplying where appropriate Proust’s own sensitive, intelligent, and often disillusioned observations about love and sexuality. Proust is revealed as a man agonizingly caught between the constant fear of public exposure as a homosexual and the need to find and express love. In telling the story of Proust in love, Carter also shows how the author’s experiences became major themes in his novel In Search of Lost Time. Carter discusses Proust’s adolescent sexual experiences, his disastrous brothel visit to cure homosexual inclinations, and his first great loves. He also addresses the duel Proust fought after the journalist Jean Lorrain alluded to his homosexuality in print, his flirtations with respectable women and high-class prostitutes, and his affairs with young men of the servant class. With new revelations about Proust’s love life and a gallery of photographs, the book provides an unprecedented glimpse of Proust’s gay Paris.

Monday, August 21, 2006

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    A Loeb Classical Library Reader by Loeb Classical Library
    This selection of nuggets drawn from thirty-three of antiquity's major authors includes poetry, dialogue, philosophical writing, history, descriptive reporting, satire, and fiction -- giving a glimpse at the wide range of arts and sciences, thought and styles, of Greco-Roman culture. The selections span twelve centuries, from Homer to Saint Jerome. The texts and translations are reproduced as they appear in Loeb volumes. (The Loeb Classical Library is the only existing series of books which, through original text and facing English translation, gives access to all that is important in Greek and Latin literature.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

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    The Discourse of Nature in the Poetry of Paul Celan by Rochelle Tobias
    Paul Celan has long been regarded as the most important European poet after 1945 but also the most difficult owing to the numerous references in his work to his personal history and to a cultural heritage spanning many disciplines, centuries, and languages. In this insightful study, Rochelle Tobias goes a long way to dispelling the obscurity that has surrounded the poet and his work. She shows that the enigmatic images in his poetry have a common source. They are drawn from the disciplines of geology, astrology, and physiology or what could be called the sciences of the earth, the heavens, and the human being. Celan’s poetry borrows from each of these disciplines to create a poetic universe — a universe that attests to what is no longer and projects what is not yet.

Monday, August 14, 2006

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    My Life Among the Deathworks by Philip Rieff
    With My Life among the Deathworks: Illustrations of the Aesthetics of Authority, the recently deceased renowned cultural theorist and Freud scholar Philip Rieff began the summation of his scholarly lifework. Rieff both continues and supersedes the lines of thought that characterize the earlier, influential works upon which his reputation was forged. Readers familiar with Rieff's distinctive oeuvre will recognize central themes and find final recitations on the cultural impact of Freud and his creation "psychological man" or “the therapeutic,” which Rieff here renames the "new man.” In this volume, Rieff articulates a comprehensive, typological theory of Western culture. He contrasts the changing modes of spiritual and social thought that have struggled for dominance throughout Western history. Our modern culture—to Rieff's mind only the "third" type in western history—is the object of his deepest scrutiny, described here as morally ruinous, death-affirming rather than life-affirming, and representing an unprecedented attempt to create a culture completely devoid of any concept of the sacred.

Monday, August 14, 2006

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    Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott
    Flatland is an extraordinary Victorian fantasy and satire on Victorian society in which the narrator, A Square describes life in two dimensions before encountering the third dimension and imagining the existence of a fourth - and more. This new edition taps into the fable's imaginative paralleling of today's string theory, as well as its discussion of Victorian theology, class, and gender issues. Rosemary Jann's introduction distils recent research on the Victorian intellectual contexts that produced Flatland and explains its relationship to the theological issues central to Abbott's career. It provides the most extensive discussion to date of the class and gender issues raised by the text and of the debates over the limits of scientific and mathematical knowledge in which it participated.

Monday, August 07, 2006

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    Side Effects by Adam Phillips
    Psychoanalysis as a form of therapy works by attending to the patient's side effects, that is, 'what falls out of his pockets once he starts speaking'. Undergoing psychoanalytic treatment is in many ways like reading a powerful work of literature - a leap into the dark, an opportunity to think the strangeness of your own thoughts. It is impossible to know beforehand the effect it will have. All we can do, as the essays in this book suggest, is see where the side effects will lead us. And that is part of the excitement of being alive. As erudite, observant and eloquent as ever, Adam Phillips is the perfect guide for this fascinating journey into the links between psychoanalysis, literature and the living of our everyday lives.

Monday, August 07, 2006

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    Pontius Pilate by Roger Caillois
    Written by one of France's great men of letters of the twentieth century, Pontius Pilate is a highly provocative and psychologically gripping novel that reconstructs Pilate's state of mind in deciding to convict Jesus. Taking his place alongside the authors of other such "sacred fantasies" such as Nikos Kazantzakis (The Last Temptation), the surrealist Roger Caillois conjures countless plausible dramas of the "what ifs" that might have played out inside Pilate's mind during the final twenty-four hours before he decided Jesus's fate. Transgressive, disconcerting, and original, Pontius Pilate provides a fascinating opportunity to contemplate the mind of a man who, with one decision, arguably changed the course of human history. It explores the interplay of politics and conscience, fundamentalism and cosmopolitanism, and fanaticism and pragmatism--themes even more compelling today than they were forty-some years ago when the book was originally published.

Monday, July 31, 2006

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    Beyond Sleep by W.F. Hermans
    Deemed a "classic of post-war European literature", WF Hermans's Beyond Sleep tells the story of Dutch geologist, Alfred Issendorf, who is determined to win fame by making a great discovery. He joins a small geological expedition to the far north of Norway where he hopes to be the first to identify craters made by meteorites. Haunted by the ghost of his scientist father, unable to escape the looming influence of his mother, and anxious to complete the thesis that will make his name, Alfred’s preoccupations multiply in this wilderness. Inexorably, he moves towards the final act of vanity which will trigger a catastrophe. Hermans (1921-1995) was born in Amsterdam and studied physical geography before becoming a lecturer at Groningen University. Disaffected with academia and his native country, he took up residence in Paris in 1973. A champion of unadorned style, he is held to be one of the finest Dutch writers of the latter half of the twentieth century.

Monday, July 31, 2006

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    Deleuze: A Guide for the Perplexed by Claire Colebrook
    Aimed at students, as these introductory guides inevitably are, this is still very useful for those readers interested in Deleuze and outside the Academy. Undoubtedly one of the seminal figures in modern Continental thought, Deleuze's philosophy makes for challenging reading. Deleuze: A Guide for the Perplexed offers an approachable account of the central themes in his work. The text is organised around major themes in Deleuze's oeuvre: sense; univocity; intuition; singularity; difference. His ideas related to language, politics, ethics and consciousness are explored in detail and clarified. Throughout, close attention is paid to Deleuze's most influential publications, including the landmark texts, The Logic of Sense and Difference and Repetition.

Monday, July 24, 2006

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    Bruno Schulz: Regions of the Great Heresy by Jerzy Ficowski
    Sixty years after his murder by the Nazis, Bruno Schulz, one of the twentieth century's greatest and most enigmatic writers, is experiencing a renaissance in part occasioned by this biography by the renowned Polish poet Jerzy Ficowski. Widely regarded as the world's foremost authority on Schulz, Ficowski reconstructs the author's life story and evokes the fictional vision of his best-known works, The Street of Crocodiles and Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass. Including many of Schulz's paintings and letters as well as new information on the Mossad's removal of Schulz's murals from Poland in 2001, this book is the definitive account of the author's tragic life.

Monday, July 24, 2006

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    A Concise History of Western Music by Paul Griffiths
    Engaging, clear and informative, this is the story of western music - of its great composers, its performers and listeners, and of the ever changing ideas of what music is and what it is for. RSB contributor Paul Griffiths shows how music has evolved through the centuries, and suggests how musical evolution has reflected developments in history and culture. Suggestions for further reading and recommended recordings are given at the end of each of the 24 short chapters.

Monday, July 17, 2006

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    An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter by Cesar Aira
    An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter is the story of a moment in the life of the German artist Johan Moritz Rugendas (1802-1858). Greatly admired as a master landscape painter, he was advised by Alexander von Humboldt to travel West from Europe to record the spectacular landscapes of Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. This work of fiction weaves an almost surreal history around the secret objective behind Rugendas' trips to America: to visit Argentina in order to achieve in art the "physiognomic totality" of von Humboldt's scientific vision of the whole. Rugendas is convinced that only in the mysterious vastness of the immense plains will he find true inspiration. A brief and dramatic visit to Mendosa gives him the chance to fulfill his dream. From there he travels straight out onto the pampas, praying for that impossible moment, which would come only at an immense price—an almost monstrously exorbitant price—that would ultimately challenge his drawing and force him to create a new way of making art. A strange episode that he could not avoid absorbing savagely into his own body interrupts the trip and irreversibly and explosively marks him for life.

Monday, July 17, 2006

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    The Pendragon Legend by Antal Szerb
    At the end of the London season soirée, the young Hungarian scholar-dilettante Janos Bátky is introduced to the Earl of Gwynedd, a reclusive eccentric who is the subject of strange rumours. Invited to the family seat, Pendragon Castle in North Wales, Bátky receives a mysterious phone-call warning him not to go. But he does, and finds himself in a bizarre world of mysticism and romance, animal experimentation, and planned murder. His quest to solve the central mystery takes him down strange byways—old libraries and warehouse cellars, Welsh mountains and underground tombs.

Monday, July 10, 2006

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    German Literature of the Twentieth Century by Ingo Stoehr
    Subtitled From Aestheticism to Postmodernism, Stoehr employs an extensive knowledge of twentieth-century German literature and judicious critical judgment to trace the complexity of literary developments in the German-speaking countries from 1900 to 2000, emphasizing German contributions and responses to the shifting themes and forms of Western literature.

Monday, July 10, 2006

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    Memoirs from a Madhouse by Christine Lavant
    Christine Lavant (1915-1973), one of Austria's most famous yet obscure 20th-century poets, grew up in a small village, in a provincial Catholic milieu, in southern Austria as the ninth child of a very poor family. She suffered from eye and ear problems, was pathologically introverted, and supported herself with knitting. Her poetry is unconventional, filled with neologisms, mysterious and magical. She was honored with numerous literary awards, among them the Austrian State Prize for Literature in 1970, three years before her death. This narration, in which the narrator checks herself into an asylum for six weeks, was not published until after her death, because she considered it too personal. We find autobiographical elements in it which describes her exhaustion, her sleeplessness, her failed suicide attempt, and her daily struggles to survive by writing.

Monday, July 03, 2006

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    Waiting for the Dog to Sleep by Jerzy Ficowski
    Waiting for the Dog to Sleep is poet, translator, and scholar Jerzy Ficowski's only collection of prose. In these short stories and sketches Ficowski reinterprets a question posed by the writer central to him, Bruno Schulz, about the mythologization of reality. For Schulz, fiction was a way of turning the quotidian into the fantastical and eternal. Ficowski's prose seems to reinterpret this approach to address the sense of loss and bleak landscape of postwar Poland. Effortlessly weaving memory, religious ritual, daily life, and the magical, he hints at a sinister presence lurking behind these dreamlike tales—a trace of ruin or disintegration always present as the narrator repeatedly struggles to link some aspect of a past that has been annihilated with a present that is foreign and hostile. Ficowski occupies a peculiar and unique place in Polish literature, not having belonged to any definable literary school or circle, steadily writing his poems and stories for over half a century. His only identifiable precursors might be Boleslaw Lesmian (whose Russian verse he has translated to Polish), and of course Bruno Schulz.

Monday, July 03, 2006

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    Betraying Spinoza by Rebecca Goldstein
    In 1656, Amsterdam’s Jewish community excommunicated Baruch Spinoza, and, at the age of twenty–three, he became the most famous heretic in Judaism. He was already germinating a secularist challenge to religion that would be as radical as it was original. He went on to produce one of the most ambitious systems in the history of Western philosophy, so ahead of its time that scientists today, from string theorists to neurobiologists, count themselves among Spinoza’s progeny. In Betraying Spinoza, Rebecca Goldstein sets out to rediscover the flesh-and-blood man often hidden beneath the veneer of rigorous rationality, and to crack the mystery of the breach between the philosopher and his Jewish past. Goldstein argues that the trauma of the Inquisition’s persecution of its forced Jewish converts plays itself out in Spinoza’s philosophy. The excommunicated Spinoza, no less than his excommunicators, was responding to Europe’s first experiment with racial anti-Semitism.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Monday, June 26, 2006

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    Conversation with Spinoza by Goce Smilevski
    Prizing ideas above all else, radical thinker Baruch Spinoza left little behind in the way of personal facts and furnishings. But what of the tug of necessity, the urgings of the flesh, to which this genius philosopher (and grinder of lenses) might have been no more immune than the next man-or the next character, as Baruch Spinoza becomes in this intriguing novel by the Macedonian author Goce Smilevski. Smilevski's novel brings the thinker Spinoza, all inner life, into conversation with the outer, all-too-real facts of his life and his day -- from his connection to the Jewish community of Amsterdam, his excommunication in 1656, and the emergence of his philosophical system to his troubling feelings for his fourteen-year-old Latin teacher Clara Maria van den Enden and later his disciple Johannes Casearius. From this conversation there emerges a compelling and complex portrait of the life of an idea -- and of a man who tries to live that idea.

Monday, June 19, 2006

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    Berger on Drawing by John Berger
    A new anthology of essays in which John Berger explores that most primary and most primal of all art activities: drawing. The 16 texts are gathered from nearly half a century of the author’s engagement with the activity of drawing, both as a writer and as a practitioner. They are published together in one volume for the first time, accompanied by newly commissioned pieces: including a major collaborative essay by John Berger and his son, the painter Yves Berger; and an exchange of letters on drawing between John Berger and the American art historian James Elkins.

Monday, June 19, 2006

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    Stoicism by John Sellars
    One of the most popular of the Hellenistic schools of philosophy in antiquity, Stoicism flourished for some five hundred years and has remained a constant presence throughout the history of Western philosophy. Its doctrines appealed to people from all strata of ancient society-from the slave Epictetus to the emperor Marcus Aurelius. This book provides a lucid, comprehensive introduction to this great philosophical school. It gives an overview of the history of the school, covers its philosophy as a system, and explores the three main branches of Stoic theory. John Sellars includes historical information on the life and works of the ancient Stoic philosophers and summaries, analyses, and appraisals of their principal doctrines in logic, physics, and ethics. He also includes a fascinating account of the Stoic legacy from later antiquity to the present.

Monday, June 12, 2006

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    Blood from the Sky by Piotr Rawicz
    Widely regarded as a masterpiece of European and Holocaust literature, Piotr Rawicz’s ‘wantonly brilliant novel’ (Irving Howe) was first published in 1961. Rawicz, born in L’viv in western Ukraine at the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1919, survived the war on the run and then in Auschwitz, before moving to France, where he wrote his two books in French. He committed suicide in 1981. Peter Wiles’s original translation was published in the USA and the UK in 1964. This new and definitive edition has been prepared by the literary critic and translator, Anthony Rudolf, author of the first and only book on Rawicz in any language. He has restored passages missing from the first English-language editions and made certain other revisions. Rawicz’s instinctive balancing of literary virtuosity and extreme subject matter helps explain the impact of the deeply shocking and troubling work. Blood from the Sky is existentially complex, indirect and surrealistic, as well as being ‘often horrifyingly funny’ (Angus Wilson). It re-presents terrifying and cruel historical events without complicity and without frisson. Few serious novels, even in the literature of the camps and ghettoes of occupied Europe, contemplate such violence and cruelty so openly. In the words of the book’s original American publisher, the legendary Helen Woolf, it is ‘the only work which totally transmutes the actual events into a kind of dark poetry’.

Monday, June 12, 2006

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    Engraved in Flesh: Piotr Rawicz and His Novel "Blood from the Sky" by Anthony Rudolf
    Engraved in Flesh is the first book in any language on the work and life of Piotr Rawicz, the author of one 'wantonly brilliant novel'. The novel, written in French, tells the story of Boris, who survives life on the run in occupied Poland by pretending not to be Jewish: the sign of the convenant, engraved in his flesh, is the sign of life ... or of death. Rawicz, born in L'wow in 1919, committed suicide in Paris in 1982. Anthony Rudolf demonstrates that on the strength of one novel Rawicz will remain, along with Leiv, Antelme and a handful of others, an enduring witness and interpretere of the Holocaust.

Monday, June 05, 2006

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    Five Looks at Elizabeth Bishop by Anne Stevenson
    Five Looks at Elizabeth Bishop is a reader’s guide which makes full use of the letters Elizabeth Bishop wrote to Anne Stevenson from Brazil in the 1960s. Anne Stevenson is herself a major American and British poet who has published many books of poetry, including her Poems 1955-2005. Each of her five chapters looks at a different aspect of Bishop’s art. In the Waiting Room links her life-long search for self-placement to her unsettled childhood. Time’s Andromeda shows how a youthful fascination with 17th-century baroque art ripened, in the 1930s, into a unique brand of metaphysical surrealism. Living with the Animals considers ways in which Bishop, like Walt Whitman, deserted the literary mode of the fable to give autonomy and authority to natural creatures. Two final chapters focus on the poet’s Darwinian acceptance of evolutionary change and her steady look at the ‘geographical mirror’ that in her later work replaced the figure of the looking-glass as an emblem of imagination.

Monday, June 05, 2006

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    Poet's Choice by Edward Hirsch
    In Poet's Choice, the gifted poet and critic Edward Hirsch offers a new way to look at the world through the art of poetry. The author of the bestselling How to Read a Poem collects and reflects on the work of more than 130 poets—from Asia and the Middle East to Europe and America, from ancient times to the present—and demonstrates how poetry answers the challenge of finding meaning in the midst of suffering. Rich, relevant, always inviting, and suffused with Hirsch’s deep sensitivity to the nuances of language, Poet's Choice deftly illustrates how poems need readers to experience them and how individuals can appreciate the full beauty of life through poetry.

Monday, May 29, 2006

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    Donald Justice: Collected Poems by Donald Justice
    Anthony Hecht described Donald Justice as "among other things, the supreme heir of Wallace Stevens." Richard Wilbur declared "Donald Jutice's poems are made of beautifully plain language and a quiet virtuosity ... There's no one like him -- a wonderful poet." This memorial volume of his complete poetry testifies to his subtle and enduring brilliance. With painterly vividness and plainspoken elegance he endeavoured to make the local views which his titles often evoke -- "Bus Stop", "Men at Forty", "Dance Lessons of the Thirties" -- part of the literary heritage from which he so often took solace and inspiration.

Monday, May 29, 2006

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    Foreign Words by Vassilis Alexakis
    Foreign Words is an invitation au voyage, a book that takes us on a journey through time and space with the story teller as he travels from Paris where he lives as the book opens, to Greece where he grew up, and where his father has just died, to the Central African Republic as he undertakes the study of Sango. Why learn Sango is a question the book's narrator himself has trouble answering. His ruminations on the surprising decision to study it are both humorous and penetrating. He traces events from his past (his early infatuation with Tarzan, a picture of his grandfather taken in Bangi before WWI, the death of his mother) and confronts his own mortality, suspecting that, at the age of fifty-two, he might be incapable of learning anything new, or summoning the courage to venture outside what he knows, or having amorous adventures.... He hopes to disprove such suspicions, of course. He also ruminates on his inability to write the phrase "my father is dead" in either of the two languages he knows, his native Greek, his adopted French.

Monday, May 22, 2006

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    Arrondissements by Douglas Oliver
    Douglas Oliver’s writing is humorous, beautiful, often naked. It is served by both light-of-day reasonableness and a willful subconscious which knows the dark but can’t stop playing with language. A British poet known for his international conscience, as well as for his mastery of language and technique, Douglas assembled the present volume containing three works from Arrondissements – corresponding to three districts of Paris – shortly before his fatal illness. The editing of the volume has been finalized by his wife, the American poet Alice Notley.

Monday, May 22, 2006

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    Elizabeth Bishop: Poet of the Periphery by Jo Shapcott & Linda Anderson
    This first collection of essays on Bishop to be published in Britain draws on work presented at the first UK Elizabeth Bishop conference, held at Newcastle University. It brings together papers by both academic critics and leading poets, including Michael Donaghy, Vicki Feaver, Barbara Page, Deryn Rees-Jones, Jo Shapcott and Anne Stevenson.

Monday, May 15, 2006

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    Being and Event by Alain Badiou
    Long-awaited in translation, Being and Event makes available to an English-speaking readership Badiou's groundbreaking work on set theory - the cornerstone of his whole philosophy. The book makes the scope and aim of Badiou's whole philosophical project clear, enabling full comprehension of Badiou's significance for contemporary philosophy. Badiou draws upon and is fully engaged with the European philosophical tradition from Plato onwards. Unlike many contemporary Continental philosophers, Badiou - who is also a novelist and dramatist - writes lucidly and cogently, making his work far more accessible and engaging than much philosophy, and actually a pleasure to read. This English language edition includes a new preface, written by Badiou himself, especially for this translation.

Monday, May 15, 2006

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    Freud's Requiem by Matthew Von Unwerth

    Written in 1915 during winter and wartime, Freud’s little-known essay On Transience (included in this volume) records an afternoon conversation with 'a young but already famous poet' and his 'taciturn friend' about mortality, eternity, and the 'sense' of life. In Freud’s Requiem, the philosophical disagreement between Freud and his companions - who may have been the poet Rainer Maria Rilke and his muse and former lover Lou Andreas-Salomé - becomes a prism through which to consider Freud’s creativity as a response to his own experiences, from his passionately curious, lovestruck teenage years to his death after a long struggle with cancer in 1939. Drawing on a variety of literary and historical sources - Homer, Goethe, as well as Freud’s own writings, including his letters - Freud’s Requiem is both an intimate personal drama and a spirited intellectual inquiry.

Monday, May 08, 2006

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    Wallace Stevens: Poetry and Criticism by Tim Morris
    This polemical work by Tim Morris re-examines Stevens’ major longer poems and attempts to provide fresh ground for a poet notoriously well-attended in the world of criticism. With close readings of key works, detailed investigation of Stevens’ manuscripts and new analysis in light of recent critical thinking, Morris attempts to negotiate Stevens’ intentions and the trajectory of his atypical writing life. Above all, this work aims to introduce Stevens to a new generation of readers and take account of his important contributions to poetics and criticism.

Monday, May 08, 2006

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    Human Dignity by Werner Bonefeld & Kosmas Psychopedis
    Against the background of growing uncertainty about the future development of capitalism, and in the face of war, terror and poverty, this book asks: What do we have to know to prevent misery? What can we do to achieve conditions of human dignity? And what must we hope for? The volume argues that all social life is essentially practical and explores the central most important value of human dignity. It discusses practical consequences in relation to the theory of revolution and contemporary anti-globalization struggles. By the authors of the excellent Open Marxism series.

Monday, May 01, 2006

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    Love, Life, Goethe by John Armstrong
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is often remembered only as a figure of literary genius, with little relevance to the way we live today. Yet Goethe was driven by much more than the desire for literary success: he wanted (much the same as us) to live life well.

    In Love, Life, Goethe, John Armstrong subtly and imaginatively explores the ways that we can learn from Goethe, whether in love, suffering, friendship or family. At the centre of this project is happiness: in an imperfect world, how can we live well with what we have, and accept what we haven't?

Monday, May 01, 2006

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    Entre Nous by Emmanuel Levinas
    Exerting a profound influence upon such thinkers as Derrida, Lyotard, Blanchot, and Irigaray, Levinas's work bridges several major gaps in the evolution of continental philosophy—between modern and postmodern, phenomenology and poststructuralism, ethics and ontology. He is credited with having spurred a revitalized interest in ethics-based philosophy throughout Europe and America.

    Entre Nous is the culmination of Levinas's philosophy. Published in France a few years before his death, it gathers his most important work and reveals the development of his thought over nearly forty years of committed inquiry. Along with several trenchant interviews published here, these essays engage with issues of suffering, love, religion, culture, justice, human rights, and legal theory. Taken together, they constitute a key to Levinas's ideas on the ethical dimensions of otherness.

Monday, April 24, 2006

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    Samuel Beckett: 100 Years by Christopher Murray
    Christopher Murray is Associate Professor of Drama and Theatre History in University College, Dublin and he has, here, edited a fine collection of critical essays (published by Irish publisher New Island in conjunction with RTE Radio 1's 2006 Thomas Davies Lectures). The thirteen lectures are by some of the foremost writers and academics studying Beckett today, including Declan Kiberd, James Mays, Anthony Cronin, John Banville and Murray himself.

Monday, April 24, 2006

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    War & War by Laszlo Krasznahorkai
    War and War begins at a point of danger: on a dark train platform Korim is on the verge of being attacked by thuggish teenagers and robbed; and from here, we are carried along by the insistent voice of this nervous clerk. Korim has discovered in a small Hungarian town's archives an antique manuscript of startling beauty: it narrates the epic tale of brothers-in-arms struggling to return home from a disastrous war. He is determined to do away with himself, but before he can commit suicide, he feels he must escape to New York with the precious manuscript and commit it to eternity by typing it all on the world-wide web. Following Korim with obsessive realism through the streets of New York (from his landing in a Bowery flophouse to his moving far uptown with a mad interpreter), War and War relates his encounters with a fascinating range of humanity, a world torn between viciousness and mysterious beauty.

Monday, April 17, 2006

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    The Methuen Book of Poems for Every Day by Jane Gaunt
    A better-than-usual selection of some of the best-loved poems in the English language, one for each calendar day of the year (happily, we get John Milton, Geoffrey Hill, Robert Frost and Auden all in the first week or so). "From the classics to recent favourites, the anthology includes works by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Robert Burns, Kipling, Rupert Brooke, Yeats, Betjeman, Emily Dickinson, Ted Hughes, Wole Soyinka, Wendy Cope, Andrew Motion and many more, imaginatively arranged to be appropriate to the day and to match the mood of the season. Each entry is laid out to include the poem in its diurnal context, as well as to include notable historical details and mark important anniversaries in anecdotal notes that are both informative and fun."

Monday, April 17, 2006

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    Selected Poems by William Carlos Williams
    "No poetry is more fresh, more immediate, more deftly challenging," writes editor Robert Pinsky. "William Carlos Williams is at the center of one of poetry's greatest historical flowerings." A poet of astonishing range and inventiveness, Williams was at once a daring formal innovator, one of the band of modernists who transformed American poetry, and an intimate, sometimes savagely frank chronicler of the life and landscape of his native New Jersey. From the beginning he pursued an independent course, creating a diverse and unfailingly vital body of work, from the hard-edged experiments of Spring and All to the fluent lyricism of Asphodel, That Greeny Flower. His influence on generations of poets has been indelible, and as this masterful new selection demonstrates, his poems retain their capacity to astonish and delight.

Monday, April 10, 2006

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    The Faber Companion to Samuel Beckett by CJ Ackerley & SE Gontarski
    The Faber Companion is the most comprehensive reference to the ideas, characters and life of Samuel Beckett. Alphabetically ordered and cross-referenced, it provides a wealth of information for all serious readers of Beckett: "Ackerley and Gontarski have amassed an amazing amount of information about Samuel Beckett and his works. The Faber Companion will prove useful to everyone - from the neophyte who seeks other work by Beckett to the seasoned Beckett scholar who is not necessarily an expert on the writer's use of astrology or zoology. In short, from A to Z, all readers of Beckett will be enriched."

Monday, April 10, 2006

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    Poems by Georg Heym
    Georg Heym (1887–1912) was the son of a Prussian military lawyer and became the outstanding poet of the first Expressionist generation in Germany. He drowned while skating on the Havel River in Berlin. The bad boy and Wunderkind of modern German poetry, Heym is most famous, even beyond Germany, for his premonitory poem The War (Boris Pasternak translated it into Russian). Written nearly five years before the First World War, it contains images from the Second (‘A mighty city sank in yellow smoke’). At his death, aged twenty-four, Heym left over 600 poems from which this selection has been made. Never sure of himself, Heym’s poetic voice was always decisive and mature in absorbing its many influences – Keats, Shelley, Baudelaire, Hölderlin, among others. His later elegiac poems (Gottfried Benn considered one of them among the three greatest love poems ever written) hint at a maturity which was violently cut short.

Monday, April 03, 2006

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    Jean-Luc Nancy and the Future of Philosophy by B.C. Hutchens
    The work of the contemporary French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy has impacted across a range of disciplines. His writings on psychoanalysis, theology, art, culture and, of course, philosophy are now widely translated and much discussed. Jean-Luc Nancy and the Future of Philosophy is the first genuine introduction to Nancy's ideas and a clear and succinct appraisal of a burgeoning reputation. The book summarises topically the primary conceptual areas of Nancy's thought and demonstrates its relevance where it engages with contemporary issues like nationalism, racism and media rights. Nancy's indebtedness to Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Bataille is explored as well as how his ideas compare to those of his contemporary continental thinkers. The book concludes with an interview with Nancy, which discusses the future of philosophy.

Monday, April 03, 2006

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    The Garden of Theophrastus by Peter Huchel
    Peter Huchel (1903-1981) was born in a suburb of Berlin in 1903, but spent his formative years at his grandfather's farm in rural Brandenburg. He became a magazine editor of the influential Sinn und Form until the East German regime eventually drove him into complete retirement in 1962. In 1971 he was allowed to resettle in West Germany, from which time he travelled widely. His particular style of realistic, lyrical verse, often deeply concerned with the people and landscape of the rural north German region in which he grew up, evaded easy categorization, whether in political or artistic terms. Translated by Michael Hamburger - a close friend of Huchel's - Anvil's bilingual edition of selected poems should help to bring this distinguished poet to a larger English-speaking readership.

Monday, March 27, 2006

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    Amorgos by Nikos Gatsos
    This is a translation of Nikos Gatsos' profoundly mysterious and magnetic poem, Amorgos. Gatsos wrote the poem, named after a Greek island he never visited, during the Nazi occupation. It is the single work on which his reputation rests.

Monday, March 27, 2006

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    On Late Style by Edward Said
    This is Edward Said's first book of literary criticism since 1993 with, it must be stressed, many pages devoted to musicology. Based on a hugely popular graduate seminar that Said taught in the fall of 1995 at Columbia, On Late Style examines the work produced by Richard Strauss, Beethoven, Schoenberg, Thomas Mann, Jean Genet, Giuseppe Tomesi di Lampedusa, C.D. Cavafy, Samuel Beckett, Luchino Visconti, and Glenn Gould at the end of their creative lives, and illuminates the ways in which these works differed from the artist’s previous works and what they tell us about the artist’s evolution. Said makes clear that rather than the resolution of a lifetime’s artistic endeavor, most of the late works discussed are rife with unresolved contradiction and almost impenetrable complexity. But he helps us see how, though these works often stood in direct contrast to the tastes of society, they were, just as often, announcements of what was to come in the artist’s discipline - works of true artistic genius.

Monday, March 20, 2006

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    Clash of Barbarisms by Gilbert Achcar
    Tracing the rise of militant Islamic fundamentalism to its roots in US policies aimed at controlling Middle Eastern oil reserves, Achcar argues that the post-9/11 America of George W. Bush asserts its power and pursues its interests without regard for law or rights. Noam Chomsky reckons: "This inquiry into the probable shape of things to come is sober, uncompromising, deeply-informed, and full of provocative insights and judicious analyses."

Monday, March 20, 2006

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    Poasis: Selected Poems, 1986-1999 by Pierre Joris
    Pierre Joris's poems are characterized by an arresting mix of passion and intellect, by what Pound called "language charged with meaning." For Joris, a language is always a second language, and his poetry takes as its main concern the question of marginality and exile. He is unique in being an American poet comfortable in three languages, and his work is filled with a dynamic language play, cross-linguistic puns, and themes of speculation on language, translation, and nomadism. Poasis, Joris's first major publication in the United States, highlights his work since the mid-1980s.

Monday, March 13, 2006

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    Reading Walter Benjamin by Richard J. Lane
    Reading Walter Benjamin explores the persistence of absolute in Benjamin's work by sketching-out the relationship between philosphy and theology apparent in his diverse writings, from the early youth-movement essays to the later books, essays and fragments. The book examines Benjamin from two main perspectives: a history-of-ideas approach situating Benjamin in relation to the new German-Jewish thinking at the turn of the twentieth-century, as well as the German youth movements, Surrealism and the Georgekreis; and a conceptual approach examining more critical issues in relation to Benjamin and Kant, modern aesthetics and narrative order.

Monday, March 13, 2006

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    How Novels Think by Nancy Armstrong
    Nancy Armstrong argues that the history of the novel and the history of the modern individual are, quite literally, one and the same. She suggests that certain works of fiction created a subject, one displaying wit, will, or energy capable of shifting the social order to grant the exceptional person a place commensurate with his or her individual worth. Once the novel had created this figure, readers understood themselves in terms of a narrative that produced a self-governing subject. In the decades following the revolutions in British North America and France, the major novelists distinguished themselves as authors by questioning the fantasy of a self-made individual. To show how novels by Defoe, Austen, Scott, Brontë, Dickens, Eliot, Hardy, Haggard, and Stoker participated in the process of making, updating, and perpetuating the figure of the individual, Armstrong puts them in dialogue with the writings of Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Malthus, Darwin, Kant, and Freud. Such theorists as Althusser, Balibar, Foucault, and Deleuze help her make the point that the individual was not one but several different figures. The delineation and potential of the modern subject depended as much upon what it had to incorporate as what alternatives it had to keep at bay to address the conflicts raging in and around the British novel.

Monday, March 06, 2006

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    The Destruction of Memory by Robert Bevan
    In times of conflict, buildings are inevitably damaged or destroyed. But there has always been another war against architecture: the destruction of the built artefacts of a people or nation as a means of cultural cleansing or division. In this war, architecture takes on a totemic quality: a mosque is not simply a mosque but represents the presence of a community. A library or an art gallery is a cache of cultural memory – evidence of the reality of that community’s history that extends and legitimizes it in the present. In The Destruction of Memory, Robert Bevan examines both the effects of conflict on architecture over the last century and also examples throughout history: from the conflict between Islam and Hinduism in India and the razing of Aztec cities by Cortez to the Holocaust and the Chinese destruction of Tibetan Lhasa.

Monday, March 06, 2006

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    New and Selected Poems by Yves Bonnefoy
    This book provides a comprehensive selection, covering a period of forty years, of the poetic writings of one of France's greatest living poets. The primary texts on which Yves Bonnefoy's reputation rests are given in full, and readers can for the first time grasp - in a single volume - the lines of development towards his present formal economy. John Naughton and Anthony Rudolf, both long associated with Bonnefoy, select a substantial body of work from his six principal collections, including previously untranslated material from his most recent work, Début et fin de la neige, and the prose poem Là où retombe la flèche. Bonnefoy acknowledges a kind of debate in his present writing between verse and prose poetry. The introduction is the work of one of the most sensitive Bonnefoy critics. Professor Naughton provides essential information of a biographical, thematic and critical nature. Bonnefoy, well-known in Britain where he has lectured and given poetry readings, strikes a particular chord here because he is a major translator of Shakespeare and Yeats, and also draws on English poetics in his criticism.

Monday, February 27, 2006

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    Coming Out of War by Janis P. Stout
    World War I is widely considered "the Great War" and World War II, "the Good War." Janis Stout thinks of them as two parts of a whole that continues to engage scholars searching for an understanding of both the actual war experiences and the modern culture of grief they embody. Poetry, of all the arts, Stout argues, most fully captures and conveys those cultural responses. While probing the work of such well known war poets as Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, and Randall Jarrell, Stout also highlights the impact of the wars on lesser studied sources such as the music of Charles Ives and Cole Porter, Aaron Copland and Irving Berlin. She challenges the belief that war poetry came only from the battlefield and was written only by men by examining the wartime writings of poets such as Rose Macaulay, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, and Gwendolyn Brooks. She also challenges the assumption that World War II did not produce poetry of distinction by studying the work of John Ciardi, Karl Shapiro, Louis Simpson, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens. While emphasizing aesthetic continuity between the wars, Stout stresses that the poetry that emerged from each displays a greater variety than is usually recognized.

Monday, February 27, 2006

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    Wittgenstein by Severin Schroeder
    A lucid and highly readable account of Wittgenstein's philosophy, framed against the background of his extraordinary life and character. Woven together with a biographical narrative, the chapters explain the key ideas of Wittgenstein's work, from his first book, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, to his mature masterpiece, the Philosophical Investigations. Schroeder shows that at the core of Wittgenstein's later work lies a startlingly original and subversive conception of the nature of philosophy. In accordance with this conception, Wittgenstein offers no new philosophical doctrines to replace his earlier ones, but seeks to demonstrate how all philosophical theorizing is the result of conceptual misunderstanding. He first diagnoses such misunderstanding at the core of his own earlier philosophy of language and then subjects philosophical views and problems about various mental phenomena – understanding, sensations, the will – to a similar therapeutic analysis. He concludes by considering some critical responses to Wittgenstein's work, assessing its legacy for contemporary philosophy.

Monday, February 20, 2006

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    Robert Lowell by Michael Hofmann
    The response of one writer to the work of another can be doubly illuminating. In the Poet to Poet series, a contemporary poet selects and introduces a poet of the past whom they have particularly admired. Robert Lowell (1917-77) was born in Boston. Life Studies, published in 1959, was a watershed in American poetry, initiating an autobiographical project that became the dominating feature of his work. Michael Hofmann was born in Freiburg, Germany, in 1957. He has published four collections of poetry, most recently Approximately Nowhere (1999).

Monday, February 20, 2006

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    Acceptable Words by Jeffrey Wainwright
    Geoffrey Hill has said that some great poetry 'recognises that words fail us'. These essays explore Hill's struggle over fifty years with the recalcitrance of language. This book seeks to show how all his work is marked by the quest for the right pitch of utterance whether it is sorrowing, angry, satiric or erotic. It shows how Hill's words are never lightly 'acceptable' but an ethical act, how he seeks out words he can stand by – words that are 'getting it right'. This book is the most comprehensive and up-to-date critical work on Geoffrey Hill, covering all his work up to Scenes from Comus (2005), as well as some poems yet to appear in book form. It aims to contribute something to the understanding of his poetry among those who have followed it for many years as well as students and other readers encountering this major poet for the first time. Jeffrey Wainwright is Professor of English at Manchester Metropolitan University and the author of five volumes of poetry.

Monday, February 13, 2006

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    Life, End of by Christine Brooke-Rose
    She is eighty. Facing death, she considers her experiments with narrative, and with the narrative of her life. What is the purpose of the narrative she is creating here, and what the purpose of the life that lives it in the writing? At the centre of Life, End of, in a mock-technical lecture from the Character to the Author, she comes to accept that her experiments in narrative are like life: the narrative creates itself. Christine Brooke-Rose’s last novel is a darkly comic exploration of the meanings and non-meanings to which, in the end, life and art lead us.

Monday, February 13, 2006

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    Understanding Poststructuralism by James Williams
    Understanding Poststructuralism presents a lucid guide to some of the most exciting and controversial ideas in contemporary thought. This is the first introduction to poststructuralism through its major theorists - Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault, Lyotard, Kristeva - and their central texts. Each chapter takes the reader through a key text, providing detailed summaries of the main points of each and a critical and detailed analysis of their central arguments. Ideas are clearly explained in terms of their value to both critical thinking and to contemporary issues. Criticisms of poststructuralism are also assessed. The aim throughout is to illuminate the main methods of poststructuralism - deconstruction, libidinal economics, genealogy and transcendental empiricism - in context.

Monday, February 06, 2006

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    Guardians of Power by David Edwards

    Can a corporate media system be expected to tell the truth about a world dominated by corporations? Can newspapers, including the 'liberal' Guardian and the Independent, tell the truth about catastrophic climate change - about its roots in mass consumerism and corporate obstructionism - when they are themselves profit-oriented businesses dependent on advertisers for 75% of their revenues? Can the BBC tell the truth about UK government crimes in Iraq when its senior managers are appointed by the government? Has anything fundamentally changed since BBC founder Lord Reith wrote of the establishment: "They know they can trust us not to be really impartial"? Why did the British and American mass media fail to challenge even the most obvious government lies on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the invasion in March 2003? Why did the media ignore the claims of UN weapons inspectors that Iraq had been 90-95% "fundamentally disarmed" as early as 1998?


    See also The Mass Media – Neutral, Honest, Psychopathic, the first part of David Edwards' and David Cromwell's introduction to Guardians of Power, reproduced here on RSB.

Monday, February 06, 2006

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    Capitalism and Religion: The Price of Piety by Philip Goodchild
    Our global ecological crisis demands that we question the rationality of the culture that has caused it: western modernity's free market capitalism. Philip Goodchild develops arguments from Nietzsche, Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marx, to suggest that our love of Western modernity is an expression of a piety in which capitalism becomes a global religion, in practice, if not always in belief. This book presents a philosophical alternative that demands attention from philosophers, critical theorists, philosophers of religion, theologians, and those in ecological politics.

Monday, January 30, 2006

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    Without Title by Geoffrey Hill
    Geoffrey Hill was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, in 1932, and taught for many years at the universities of Leeds and Cambridge. He has lived in the USA since 1988, and is Professor of Literature and Religion at Boston University. Christopher Ricks called him, "a poet at once urgent and timeless" and George Steiner, "among our finest poets ... the most European."

Monday, January 30, 2006

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    Utopian Generations by Nicholas Brown
    Utopian Generations: The Political Horizon of Twentieth-Century Literature develops an interpretive matrix for understanding world literature - one that renders modernism and postcolonial African literature comprehensible in a single framework. African literature has commonly been seen as representationally naïve vis-à-vis modernism, and canonical modernism as reactionary vis-à-vis postcolonial literature. What brings these two bodies of work together, argues Nicholas Brown, is their disposition toward Utopia or "the horizon of a radical reconfiguration of social relations." Grounded in a rethinking of the Hegelian Marxist tradition, Brown's book takes as its point of departure the partial displacement during the twentieth century of capitalism's "internal limit" (classically conceived as the conflict between labor and capital) onto a geographic division of labor and wealth. The theory of world literature developed in the introduction grounds the subtle and powerful readings at the heart of the book - focusing on works by James Joyce, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Ford Madox Ford, Chinua Achebe, Wyndham Lewis, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and Pepetela. A final chapter, arguing that this literary dialectic has reached a point of exhaustion, suggests that a radically reconceived notion of musical practice may be required to discern the Utopian desire immanent in the products of contemporary culture.

Monday, January 23, 2006

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    Islands: Lyrical Essays by Jean Grenier
    Jean Grenier (1898-1971) was a French philosopher and writer who combined a rigorous philosophical intelligence with an artistic and literary sensibility. Among his many works are essays, art criticism, autobiographical novels, travel essays, and the volumes of aphorisms, Lexiques and Les á-peu-prés. Grenier was also the teacher of another major French author, Albert Camus. Islands , a collection of some of his most lovingly written and personal of philosophical speculations, was first published in an edition of five essays in 1933. The revised edition, with six essays, was published with a preface by Albert Camus in 1948; the third edition, upon which this translation is based, was published in 1959.

Monday, January 23, 2006

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    The State of the Prisons by Sinead Morrissey
    The book that should have won this year's TS Eliot Prize. Sinéad Morrissey's third collection builds on the achievement of the award-winning Between Here and There, by expanding the lyric into new territories and admitting new voices. The theme of imprisonment is variously addressed: in the actual prisons of eighteenth-century Europe; in the prison of our own limited perceptions of experience, particularly of other cultures when abroad; in the prison of the mortal human body itself. Alongside the intimate interiors of human relationships, the poems are also interested in broader discourses, particularly history, and range in scope from the Royalist convictions of a woman wearing a Scold’s Bridle during England’s interregnum, to the story of the number zero. Form and content, as well as the personal and the political, are blended throughout this collection with imagination and consummate skill. The collection ends with a compelling act of ventriloquism, as Morrissey recounts, in the first person, the life and works of the great prison reformer John Howard, and details his vision for the moral regeneration of the corrupted human soul.

Monday, January 16, 2006

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    Collected Poems by Wallace Stevens

    Wallace Stevens (1897-1955) was born in Reading, Pennsylvania. He studied at Harvard and afterwards worked briefly as a journalist, before going on to study law. In 1908 he began working for the legal department of an insurance company, and was ultimately appointed vice-president of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company in 1934.

    This collection was first published in America in 1954.The Collected Poems was prepared by Stevens himself, shortly before his death, and contains all of his published books of poetry, covering more than four decades - from the brilliant rococo lyrics of Harmonium, through the large-scale orchestrations of his middle years, to the magnificent austere lyrics of The Rock, a poem which first appeared in this volume.

Monday, January 16, 2006

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    Understanding Dante by John A. Scott

    "Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third." Understanding Dante attempts to explain and justify TS Eliot's bold claim. John Scott offers readers a critical overview of Dante's writings: five chapters deal with his New Life of love and poetry (Vita Nova), the Banquet of knowledge (Convivio), his Latin treatise on language and poetics (De Vulgari Eloquentia), Italian lyrics (Rime), and his blueprint for world government (Monarchia). The next five chapters concentrate on Dante's masterpiece, the Comedy: its structure, Dante's worldview (still relevant today), and the Comedy examined as a poem. Much has been written on Dante's moral, political, and religious ideas; important as these are, however, such discussions are perforce limited. It is above all as a work of poetry that the Divine Comedy maintains its appeal and fascination to readers of all backgrounds and beliefs.

    Firmly grounded in the latest advances of Dante scholarship, Understanding Dante offers an original and uniquely detailed, global analysis of Dante as poet of the Comedy that will be welcomed by those who read the poem in translation as well as by those who study the original Italian text. Scott's book will be welcome for its rich and insightful analysis of the whole corpus of Dante's writings, as well as his mastery of the critical literature in various languages. Scott bridges the gap that often exists between Dante studies in English-speaking countries and the great tradition of Dante scholarship in the poet's homeland.

Monday, January 09, 2006

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    Beckett's Dying Words by Christopher Ricks
    Most people most of the time want to live for ever. But there is another truth; the longing for oblivion. With pain, wit, and humour, the art of Samuel Beckett variously embodies this truth, this ancient enduring belief that it is better to be dead than alive, best of all never to have been born. Beckett is the supreme writer of an age which has created new possiblities and impossibilities even in the matter of death and its definition, an age of transplants and life-support. But how does a writer give life to dismay at life itself, to the not-simply-unwelcome encroachments of death? After all, it is for the life, the vitality, of their language that we value writers. As a young man, Beckett himself praised Joyce's words. 'They are alive.' Beckett became himself as a writer when he realized in his very words a principle of death. In cliches, which are dead but won't lie down. In a dead language and its memento mori. In words which mean their own opposites, cleaving and cleaving. In the self-stultifying or suicidal turn, dubbed the Irish bull. In what Beckett called a syntax of weakness. This book explores the relation between deep convictions about life or death and the incarnations which these take in the exact turns of a great writer - the realizations of an Irishman who wrote in English and in French, two languages with different apprehensions of life and of death.

Monday, January 09, 2006

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    On Beckett by Alain Badiou
    This book is a double first - the first collection of all of Badiou's work on Beckett, and the first translation of this important material. Badiou presents a Beckett whose work is the work of philosophy itself - a philosophy in the full sense of the word, which works to reduce experience to its essential determinations. Rejecting the stereotype view of Beckett as the dark existentialist of abandoned existence, Badiou rather focuseson what he calls the 'hidden poem' in the prosody and themes of Beckett's work. For Badiou, philosophy expresss itself immanently in culture through the 'procedures of truth' manifested in science, art, politics and love. These essays together furnish a meditation on the developments of Beckett's ideas, always philosophically allusive, from first works through The Unnameable (a solipsist impasse, claims Badiou, from which it would take Beckett ten years to escape), to a final engagement with questions of the Other and Love.

Monday, January 02, 2006

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    Blue Octavo Notebooks by Franz Kafka

    From late 1917 until June 1919, Franz Kafka stopped writing entries in his diary, which he kept in quarto-sized notebooks, but continued to write in a series of smaller, octavo-sized notebooks. When Kafka’s literary executor, Max Brod, published the diaries in 1948, he omitted these notebooks — which include short stories, fragments of stories, and other literary writings — because "Notations of a diary nature, dates, are found in them only as a rare exception."

Monday, January 02, 2006

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    Proust's English by Daniel Karlin
    English is the "second language" of A la recherche du temps perdu. Although much has been written about Proust's debt to English literature, especially Ruskin, Daniel Karlin is the first critic to focus on his knowledge of the language itself - on vocabulary, idiom, and etymology. He uncovers an "English world" in Proust's work, a world whose social comedy and artistic values reveal surprising connections to some of the novel's central preoccupations with sexuality and art. Anglomanie - the fashion for all things English - has been as powerful a presence in French culture as hostility to perfide Albion; Proust was both subject to its influence, and a brilliant critic of its excesses. French resistance to imported English words remains fierce to this day; but Proust's attitude to this most contentious aspect of Anglo-French relations was marked by his rejection of concepts of national and racial "purity," and his profound understanding of the necessary "impurity" of artistic creation.

Monday, December 19, 2005

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    Interrogation Machine: Laibach and NSK by Alexei Monroe
    In Interrogation Machine, Alexei Monroe offers the first critical appraisal of the entire NSK phenomenon, from its elaborate organizational structure and its internal logics to its controversial public actions. The result is a fascinating portrait not only of NSK but of the complex political and cultural context within which it operates. Monroe analyzes the paradoxes, perplexities, and traumas of NSK's work at its deepest levels. His investigation of the relationships between conceptual content, stylistic method, and ideological subtext demonstrates the relevance of NSK in general and Laibach in particular to current debates about culture, power, war, politics, globalization, the marketplace, and life itself. As Slavoj Zizek writes in his foreword, "Today, the lesson of Laibach is more pertinent than ever."

Monday, December 19, 2005

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    Philosophy the Day After Tomorrow by Stanley Cavell
    Nietzsche characterized the philosopher as the man of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow - a description befitting Stanley Cavell, with his longtime interest in freedom in the face of an uncertain future. This interest, particularly in the role of language in freedom of the will, is fully engaged in this volume, a collection of retrospective and forward-thinking essays on performative language and on performances in which the question of freedom is the underlying concern.