What are you reading? – 28 September 2017

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 28, 2017
Books in a pile
Source: iStock

Maria Delgado, professor and director of research, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, is reading Performance, Feminism and Affect in Neoliberal Times, edited by Elin Diamond, Denise Varney and Candice Amich (Palgrave, 2017). “This is a genuinely global collection of essays on activism and performance. From Sue-Ellen Case’s treatment of same-sex marriages in the US to Denise Varney’s dissection of misogyny in Australian politics, the contributions identify practices and interventions that have shaped the political arena. The editors have also ensured that the focus goes beyond the English-speaking world, as in Diana Taylor’s celebration of radical Mexican cabarets; Bishnupryia Dutt’s analysis of work engaging with the brutal gang rape of Jyoti Singh in Delhi in 2012; and María José Contreras Lorenzini’s reflections on her performances in Chile 40 years after Pinochet’s coup. I travelled with Jung-Soon Shim through Korean musicals and with Rebecca Jennison in her exploration of site-specific Japanese artists – a thought-provoking and enlightening ride.”

John Shand, associate lecturer in philosophy, The Open University, is reading Hilary Mantel’s An Experiment in Love (Henry Holt, 1996). “This is a superb book. What a writer she is! One marvels at the unobtrusive skill; you know you’re in the hands of someone who knows, by talent and doubtless sheer hard work, exactly what she’s doing. A non-historical work, unless being set in the 1960s and 1970s makes it count as one, it recounts the life of Carmel, from her childhood in the North of England to her life as a student at the University of London. This gives hardly any idea of the analytic and emotional power of this moving book. It is acute about young women coming to terms with themselves. As with all the greatest writers, the particularities are universalised to refer us to things we can all identify with and understand, basic features of the human condition.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading A Constant Heart: The War Diaries of Maud Russell, 1938-1945 (edited by Emily Russell, Dovecote Press, 2017). “Skilfully edited and beautifully produced, this gossipy and insightful text makes fascinating reading. Rich and privileged, Maud Russell (1891-1982) counted Duff Cooper, Clementine Churchill and Margot Asquith among her intimate friends. Ian Fleming, Rex Whistler, Kenneth Clark, Cecil Beaton, Frederick Ashton and Edith Sitwell were part of her extensive literary and artistic coterie. John Singer Sargent and Henri Matisse both painted her. Infidelities notwithstanding, her deep and abiding love for her husband Gilbert, who died in 1942, and wartime routines, challenges and alarms, figure prominently in these pages. So do her care and generosity towards German-Jewish relatives (some of whom she helped escape the Nazis), her loyal and devoted servants, and villagers and evacuees at Mottisfont, Hampshire, where she had her country estate.”

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