What are you reading? – 11 October 2018

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 11, 2018
PIle of books
Source: iStock

Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor and chief executive, University of Sunderland, is reading Antony Beevor’s Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, 1944 (Viking, 2018). “My dad, who died last year, had the frightening experience of being on a glider that flew into Holland in 1944 as part of Operation Market Garden. In the chaotic aftermath, he was captured and spent the rest of the war in a prisoner-of-war camp. Like many of his generation, he was philosophical about his experiences. But as Beevor demonstrates in this magisterial study, Market Garden (actually two operations) was ‘quite simply a very bad plan right from the start and right from the top’. As always with Beevor, there is phenomenal detail, but never to the point of making you wonder why it was included. At the same time, his strategic overview puts everything in a wider context. An extraordinary achievement.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Geoffrey Fletcher’s The London Nobody Knows (History Press, 2011). “Originally published in 1962 and illustrated with Fletcher’s own drawings, this book is a vivid expression of the author/artist’s obsession with the curiosities of a fast-vanishing city. Much that was lovingly documented here has now gone for good: the jellied eel shops, Victorian funeral parlours, cast‑iron lavatories, bustling market halls, elaborate shopfronts, hotel interiors, the Yiddish Music Hall in Commercial Road, Whitechapel and the Biograph Cinema in Victoria. Concerned at the time it was written with precariously surviving, out-of-the-way period pieces, Fletcher’s selective and subjective survey of a London that was in many ways domestic in scale is now emphatically a period piece in its own right. Unsurprisingly, it ends with his forthright distaste for the ‘new London, the London of take-over bids and soul-destroying office blocks’.”

Maria Delgado, professor and director of research, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, is reading Miriam Haughton’s Staging Trauma: Bodies in Shadow (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). “What does it mean to articulate the unspeakable? The ways in which contemporary artists have chosen to stage traumatic narratives, histories, acts and encounters can help us think through the artistic and ethical issues around the responsibilities of representation. Haughton’s study draws on a range of critical thinkers in making nuanced arguments about how bodies marginalised from public discourse can be given a new visibility through performance. The case studies are pertinent and timely, from Marina Carr’s disturbing On Raftery’s Hill (given a blistering new production at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre earlier this year) to Laundry , a 2011 site-specific immersive performance that took place in the convent building on Dublin’s Seán MacDermott Street, which sat alongside the former Magdalene Laundry run by the Church to intern ‘fallen’ women.”

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