John Warner: The Funny Man

Reviewed by Declan Tan John Warner’s debut novel, about the rise and fall of an unnamed American comedian known only as “the funny man”, is a mulchy broth of satire, cultural commentary and La-Z-Boy philosophy that simmers away on lukewarm, only ever threatening to come to the boil, though not without ambition, before bubbling back … Continue reading John Warner: The Funny Man

PK: BibliOdyssey: Amazing Archival Images from the Internet

Reviewed by Sourav Roy How does one review a book like BibliOdyssey? This is not just a rhetorical question to open a book review, but also a genuine query. Because though BibliOdyssey feels like a book and looks like a (very handsome) book, is anything but. It started its journey as bibliodyssey.blogspot.com/ a cabinet of … Continue reading PK: BibliOdyssey: Amazing Archival Images from the Internet

Judy Collins: Sweet Judy Blue Eyes

Reviewed by Robert O’Connor Life Magazine called Judy Collins the “gentle voice amid the strife” when it put her on its cover in 1969. The next year, her sublime voice brought the 18th-century hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ to the top of the pop charts. I first remember hearing Judy’s voice in 2004, when Bill Moyers did … Continue reading Judy Collins: Sweet Judy Blue Eyes

Roger Ebert: Life Itself: A Memoir

Reviewed by Robert O’Connor “I was born inside the movie of my life.” That sentence starts off Roger Ebert’s new memoir, Life Itself. The first chapter, ‘Memory’ – which is numbered zero in the table of contents – shows the great arc of his life from the beginning to now. It touches on the essential … Continue reading Roger Ebert: Life Itself: A Memoir

Future Media: edited by Rick Wilber

Reviewed by Jacob Knowles-Smith Norman Mailer hated television. He distrusted email. He even hated plastic. Marshall McLuhan was probably right, to some extent, to suggest that Mailer had a Victorian attitude towards technology. Other critics, past and present, will probably find sympathy with Mailer’s assertion that man’s relationship with technology is some kind of Faustian … Continue reading Future Media: edited by Rick Wilber

Jonathan Walker and Dan Hallett: Five Wounds: An Illuminated Novel

Reviewed by Declan Tan Not every book looks and feels like an artefact when you pick it up. Oftentimes it is just words printed across cheap paper, the literal form of it separated from its content, cased in a merely functional cover with some gluey binding. But with Five Wounds, an “illuminated novel”, the very … Continue reading Jonathan Walker and Dan Hallett: Five Wounds: An Illuminated Novel

Kevin Avery: Everything Is An Afterthought: The Life And Writings Of Paul Nelson

Reviewed by Robert O’Connor Frank Zappa once said “most rock journalism is people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, for people who can’t read.” However true that might be, Paul Nelson was one who most definitely could write. And he interviewed people who could talk, and plenty of people read what he wrote. … Continue reading Kevin Avery: Everything Is An Afterthought: The Life And Writings Of Paul Nelson

Candice Millard: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

Reviewed by Greg Houle Long relegated to history’s vast nether regions of obscurity, the twentieth president of the United States, James A. Garfield is best known for two things: he was the last of the American presidents to be born in a log cabin (in Ohio in 1831), and he was the second American president … Continue reading Candice Millard: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

Dan Fante: Fante: A Family’s Legacy of Writing, Drinking and Surviving

Reviewed by Declan Tan Opening with the familiar visions of snow from the likes of Wait Until Spring, Bandini and Dago Red (‘Bricklayer in the Snow’), Dan Fante kicks off, like Svevo and Arturo of his father’s novels, buried in an image of purest white. But this is a damned and dark tale, swirling in … Continue reading Dan Fante: Fante: A Family’s Legacy of Writing, Drinking and Surviving

Suraya Sadeed with Damien Lewis: Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse

Reviewed by Amanda Simms Suraya Sadeed’s memoirs begin with a dramatic recollection of smuggling $35,000 across the Afghanistan border beneath a burkha in 1998. What follows is a blend of autobiography, the history of the post-Soviet Afghanistan, as well as the development of her charity, Help the Afghan Children. Fleeing to the US after the … Continue reading Suraya Sadeed with Damien Lewis: Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse

Tequila Tales: An Anthology of Short Fiction

Reviewed by Declan Tan The Tequila Tales anthology (edited by Millie Johanna Heur and Roy Anthony Shabla) is an eclectic mixture of genre, style and content that unites a well-published group of writers on the single and divisive subject of, yes, tequila. All of the work has in some way been licked by the liquid … Continue reading Tequila Tales: An Anthology of Short Fiction

Mark Kermode: The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: What’s Wrong with Modern Movies? (Random House)

Reviewed by Jim McConalogue  Mark Kermode is his same old self in this book. Like your straight-talking granddad balling on about the price of a cinema ticket, it is littered with anti-Hollywood sentiments (which for Kermode, and for film buffs generally, is understandable because of the blockbusterisation of the industry), his judgements on the role … Continue reading Mark Kermode: The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: What’s Wrong with Modern Movies? (Random House)

100 Artists’ Manifestos – From the Futurists to the Stuckists: Selected by Alex Danchev

Reviewed by Ben Granger 1. The purpose of politics is to inspire art. The only useful thing it has ever achieved When Marshall Brennan argued “The Manifesto is remarkable for its imaginative power… It is the first great modernist work of art”, he referred specifically to The Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels. While the … Continue reading 100 Artists’ Manifestos – From the Futurists to the Stuckists: Selected by Alex Danchev

Christopher Hitchens: Arguably (Atlantic Books)

Reviewed by Jacob Knowles-Smith The critic, wrote H.L. Mencken in his Prejudices, “makes the work of art live for the spectator; he makes the spectator live for the work of art”. If we take this as a fair and desirable definition of a critic; which, Mencken continues, results in “understanding, appreciation, [and] intelligent enjoyment”; then … Continue reading Christopher Hitchens: Arguably (Atlantic Books)

Heidegger: Hederated or With Hakenkreuz?

Martin Heidegger: Routledge Critical Thinkers (2nd ed.), Timothy Clark. 197 pages. Routledge, London and New York. Reviewed by Jonathan Reynolds As postmodernism has faded for professional intellectuals in the West and also, still, because of his engagement with Nazism (unsettled whether flirtation or serious or profound), Heidegger is the one major modern philosopher who remains … Continue reading Heidegger: Hederated or With Hakenkreuz?

Dog Man’s A Star: Howard Hardiman’s The Lengths

A comic book that tells the story of dog-headed gay male escorts living in a London world of sex, drug dealers and porn stars isn’t going to be the easiest sell to a casual reader. Certainly The Lengths won’t be for everyone, but Hardiman has taken this dark and potentially bleak backdrop and created a … Continue reading Dog Man’s A Star: Howard Hardiman’s The Lengths

Ipswich Zero 6: A Meeting with Ray Hollingsworth

There’s nothing new about writers using real crimes for research, but Ray Hollingsworth’s involvement in the high-profile murders of Ipswich working girls became a lot more personal. Jeanette Hewitt met the author to find out more In 2006, my hometown of Ipswich was catapulted into the global media by a serial killer preying on the … Continue reading Ipswich Zero 6: A Meeting with Ray Hollingsworth

Jill McGivering: Far from my Father’s House

Jill McGivering is a BBC foreign correspondent and has reported from all over the world, including some of its poorest and most conflict scarred countries. In Far from my Father’s House, her second novel, she employs her wealth of experience in the field to tell tale of Layla, a young Muslim woman, and the destruction … Continue reading Jill McGivering: Far from my Father’s House

Caitlin Moran: How To Be a Woman

Bible, manifesto, rant, autobiography, and instruction manual rolled into one. Reviewed by Vikki Littlemore Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman, putting water on the fire of my own year-long hope, is far from a how-to guide to being anything. What it is, essentially, is a reminiscence of a woman’s life, told with an ingeniously … Continue reading Caitlin Moran: How To Be a Woman

Red Heat: Alex Von Tunzelmann

Alex Von Tunzelmann serves up a thrilling take on the Cold War. Reviewed by Vikki Littlemore Notwithstanding the racy title, it’s possible for Alex Von Tunzelmann’s Red Heat, a substantially detailed account of politics in the Caribbean, to appear intimidatingly opaque, or Everest-like, to the non-expert reader. Halfway down the first page, however, the fear … Continue reading Red Heat: Alex Von Tunzelmann

On Curling Up In A Ball: Ronald Dworkin: Justice For Hedgehogs

Ronald Dworkin’s latest book attempts to engage with moral truths and the pursuit of a meaningful life. Jacob Knowles-Smith reviews No mention of Professor Dworkin’s latest work, Justice for Hedgehogs, can pass by without the following: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”. So goes the old fable. The hedgehog, … Continue reading On Curling Up In A Ball: Ronald Dworkin: Justice For Hedgehogs

Charlie Hill: The Space Between Things

Reviewed by Declan Tan Charlie Hill’s debut novel seems already to have been pigeonholed as a love-story, a certainly tragic one, between its narrator, Arch (a character who has already made appearances on the independent literary scene) and Vee, the counterpoint to Arch’s solipsistic, inward-looking existence. Set in the early 1990s, the novel begins at … Continue reading Charlie Hill: The Space Between Things

Repackaged Misogyny: Natasha Walter: Living Dolls

Jacob Knowles-Smith considers whether gender politics have lost their direction and clout through the prism of two recent books Anyone who has even the briefest acquaintance with nightclubs in recent years will have seen girls dressed as Playboy bunnies in almost just their underwear, replete with stockings and suspenders, quite as frequently as one will … Continue reading Repackaged Misogyny: Natasha Walter: Living Dolls

Monster’s Ball: Trouble in the Congo

Greg Houle reviews Jason Stearns’ troubled history of the Congo Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa. In one of the final chapters of Jason K. Stearns’ significant new book Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War … Continue reading Monster’s Ball: Trouble in the Congo