Andrew Blake, Edward Hughes, R. C. Richardson, James I. Rogers and Peter J. Smith...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

January 1, 2015

Andrew Blake, visiting professor in cultural studies, University of Winchester, is reading Black British Jazz: Routes, Ownership and Performance (Ashgate, 2014), edited by Jason Toynbee, Catherine Tackley and Mark Doffmann. “The contributors to Black British Jazz don’t agree whether/when there is/was any such thing, but meanwhile they celebrate excellent musicians from Winifred Atwell to Soweto Kinch, via the Brotherhood of Breath and the Jazz Warriors. A fascinating journey through a century of music, much of it made against the odds in this admired but under-rewarded genre.”

Book review: Selected Essays of Malcolm Bowie, edited by Alison Finch

Edward Hughes, professor of French, Queen Mary University of London, is reading Selected Essays of Malcolm Bowie (Legenda, 2013), edited by Alison Finch. “How Verdi moves Shakespeare’s Othello around the globe, finding the mental ‘fingerprint’ in Winnicott, introducing Judith Butler, deciphering Stéphane Mallarmé, exploring brevity in Proust (yes), Liszt’s relationship with Wagner, ‘that most exhausting of sons-in-law’: these are just a few of the subjects considered with such zest by Malcolm Bowie, who was a critic of immense talent. The selected essays form a thought-provoking companion.”

Book review: On Living in an Old Country, by Patrick Wright

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Patrick Wright’s On Living in an Old Country (Verso, 1985). “Very much a product of its Thatcherite – and, in the author’s case, anti-Thatcherite – times, this highly miscellaneous collection of essays offers a kaleidoscopic, and at times long-winded and axe-grinding, treatment of subjective histories, nostalgia, myth-making, preservation and social and political attitudes to the English past. Andrzej Krauze’s pointedly irreverent political cartoons are a welcome and forceful accompaniment.”

Book review: I am the Beggar of the World, by Eliza Griswold and Seamus Murphy

James I. Rogers, doctoral candidate and tutor in international politics, University of Hull, is reading Eliza Griswold and Seamus Murphy’s I am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014). “The women of Afghanistan are often portrayed as silent victims; this far-from-silent collection of translated landay verse highlights their impassioned feelings of love, lust, fear and frustration. The term landay is roughly translated as ‘short, poisonous snake’, and from the cutting poems within this collection it is easy to see why.”

Book review: The Driver's Seat, by Muriel Spark

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, is reading Muriel Spark’s The Driver’s Seat (Macmillan, 1970). “This intense, disturbing novella describes the foreign journey of Lise, a bored office worker, whose search for a bizarre kind of fulfilment takes her into the darkest of places. A study of mental breakdown, self-destruction and erotic violence, this cruel story challenges complacent ideas of sexual autonomy – a livid antithesis to the apparent liberation of the 1960s. Its stark prose and moments of startling reinforce the density of its amorality.”

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