• Deconstructing Dirty Dancing
    Stephen Lee Naish
    In the blurb for Deconstructing Dirty Dancing, the author Stephen Naish describes it “as a film that has haunted him for decades” and it’s a feeling that I can more than identify with. Whole sections of dialogue can be recalled verbatim just from a chance phrase encountered in day-to-day life. I find myself humming the Kellerman Anthem while washing up. Hearing a song from the soundtrack instantly triggers an overwhelming wave of nostalgia for the late eighties when I first encountered the film, which I went on to watch, with my sister, over a hundred times. I’m probably quite a tough audience for a book on Dirty Dancing.

    Naish’s basic premise is of Dirty Dancing as a story about the loss of personal innocence that reflects the societal loss of innocence in 1960s America. It may not be a staggeringly original one, but it’s a valid argument which he reiterates through a scene-by-scene interpretation of the film. He highlights some interesting parallels with Lynch’s Blue Velvet, another film which exemplifies the innocence lost in the transition from childhood to adulthood, the corruption of the American Dream and which stylistically draws on the distinctive early 60s and late 80s periods... I was particularly struck by the suggestion that Penny’s interception of Dr Houseman during the merengue class he and Baby attend symbolises the role she will play in coming between the two characters. Similarly, the idea that Plight of the Peasants, the book Baby is reading at the start of the film foretells her own critical reevaluation of the role of class plays in her life I found fascinating. I’d never even noticed the title of the book before, perhaps I can blame the dodgy quality of VHS. The biggest revelation for me, however, was Naish’s suggestion that the final scene is interpreted as fantasy. It had never occurred to me how my own nostalgia for the film had blinkered my interpretation of it, which has always been as a straight narrative. Naish persuasively argues that Johnny driving away is the ‘real’ ending of the film, pointing out the signposts that indicate we are leaving reality and entering cinematic fantasy courtesy of Baby’s imagination. A suitably Lynchian interpretation and one which has for me ignited a desire to re-watch Dirty Dancing in a completely new way, which considering my history with the film is high praise indeed.

    ~ Hazel Smoczynska , GoodReads/ThePloughmans Lunch

  • Deconstructing Dirty Dancing
    Stephen Lee Naish
    I accidentally ended up with this book from NetGalley and I was in two minds about whether to read it or to just contact the publisher and explain my error. In the end I decided to read it. I think everyone my age will have watched and loved Dirty Dancing when they were around their early teens. I know so many people who still consider this one of their favourite films. It was my favourite feel-good film for many years.

    This is a wonderful book for anyone who considers themselves a fan of the film as it really does look at all the key moments, and allows you to re-live them. I liked the descriptions of some of the deleted scenes from the film and the discussion on how they may or may not have added to the storyline had they have been left in – it’s made me want to buy the special edition DVD so I can see those deleted scenes now! Occasionally there are really interesting references to other studies that have discussed Dirty Dancing and I would have loved more of that, but it has led me to look at the bibliography at the back of this book so that I can maybe read more on the subject another time...

    I found the author’s analysis of the end of Dirty Dancing utterly fascinating. I’ve watched the film numerous times and I’ve always thought that the ending was just super romantic and a perfect end to the film. Naish considers the idea that the whole ending was just a fantasy that Baby was having, it was what she imagined happened and that really the love story between her and Johnny was over when he left Kellermans earlier in the the film. I actually see that this is entirely plausible and it has made me really think about whether this is more likely than how I’ve always viewed it.

    All in all this is an interesting, nostalgic look back on a great film and if you’re a Dirty Dancing fan I think you’ll very much enjoy this book – I definitely recommend it.

    ~ Hayley C, Rather Too Fond Of Books

  • Deconstructing Dirty Dancing
    Stephen Lee Naish
    5/5 Stars - My library will purchase this book.

    Thankful for early access to this little gem through NetGalley. As someone who can't count how many times I've watched this movie, it's nice to have it legitimized with some well thought out explanations of the cultural and political representations portrayed in the film, as well as the enduring impact it has had on so many. Naish walks through the movie in sequence by film timing, and I found myself reciting the lines in my head before he could even get to them. While I didn't gain any mind-blowing insights from his meditation on Dirty Dancing, I delighted in reliving the movie (yet again) from a different perspective and felt a justifiable camaraderie with him and my other (probably secret) Dirty Dancing loving peeps. ~ Stephanie Rosso, Librarian, NetGalley

  • Deconstructing Dirty Dancing
    Stephen Lee Naish
    A must for an Dirty Dancing or film critic! I read the whole piece in one sitting and was fascinated by the nuances of the film that I had never noticed before. I loved how the author not only analysed each scene but also defended the plotline choices made to show why they were vital for the audience's reaction to the film. ~ Kate Klassa, NetGalley/GoodReads

  • Deconstructing Dirty Dancing
    Stephen Lee Naish
    Dirty Dancing is just a chick flick, right? Stephen Lee Naish argues that the movie is more than that. In his book, he explores the topics of gender, class and transitioning from child to adult that can be found in the movie. He even compares Dirty Dancing with a movie by David Lynch.

    That may sound a little crazy and I was wondering how he was going to do this. But his argumentation is comprehensible and a lot less far-fetched than I feared it might be. He takes the reader through the movie scene by scene, explaining quickly what happens in that scene before analysing it. That made it easy to follow even though I watched the movie only once some time ago.
    In the end, there's a short essay on his personal experience watching Dirty Dancing several times in his life.

    I really appreciated a male's perspective on what is considered to be a movie that only women like. And I also enjoyed learning about the underlying topics in the movie and seeing that it's more complex than it seems to be at first sight. Another thing that I thought was interesting was that he showed how the lyrics of the soundtrack correspond to the story because I hadn't paid attention to that. Now I'm looking forward to watching the movie again and finding some new details that I hadn't noticed before.

    I would recommend this book to anyone that likes or even loves the movie. It might also be helpful for students that want to write a paper on Dirty Dancing or movie analysis in general. ~ Ylva Schauster , NetGalley/GoodReads

  • Deconstructing Dirty Dancing
    Stephen Lee Naish
    Dirty Dancing is one of those movies that I have seen a hundred times, but maybe only watched from the beginning a handful of those times. It is one of those movies that you just start watching wherever it is in the film and you get sucked in all over again.

    I was really excited to read this book, because, like many others, I love the movie so much. I really enjoyed the scene by scene breakdown and I could envision the movie the entire time I was reading. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the movie. And I especially liked the alternative interpretation of the ending. It made me think and makes me want to watch the movie again to see. ~ Jennifer Giles, NetGalley

  • Uncertain Futures
    Edmund Berger
    4/5 Stars This book covers the world economic crisis in 2007. Edmund Berger puts forward some compelling theories and reasons why it happened. His assessment of Marxism is interesting too. His history of the beginning of Capitalism is fascinating, but it all comes down to greed by the bankers, other people and institutions. Iceland went another way by closing down the banks. Today the country is thriving after going through hard, difficult times. The world didn't end for them. I can't see why other countries didn't do the same.
    Unfortunately the financial sector has tentacles which spread to all areas of governments in many countries, especially US and UK.
    The US frighteningly has players from the big banks in charge now. Will they learn from the past? I hope so.
    Recommended. ~ Eileen Hall, NetGalley/GoodReads/Amazon

  • Lenin Lives!
    Philip Cunliffe
    'Lenin Lives!' is erudite and imaginative - grounded in a profound and humane understanding of all the different conflicts at play in the world of 1917, Cunliffe soars above us to show a 2017 that might have been, if the revolutionaries had won out a hundred years before. 'We are all in the gutter,' said Oscar Wilde, 'but some of us are looking at the stars' - and Philip Cunliffe gives us a great account of both. ~ James Heartfield, author of Unpatriotic History of the Second World War

  • Deconstructing Dirty Dancing
    Stephen Lee Naish
    I read this all in one sitting! A must for any Dirty Dancing fan! I particularly liked the snippets of information that I did not know existed such as alternate deleted scenes and the reasons for their exclusion. The romantic in me would like to believe that the ending is real to the film's narrative though and is not just Baby's fantasy! Interesting and enlightening read! Would recommend!
    ~ Jo Cameron-Symes, NetGalley

  • Uncertain Futures
    Edmund Berger
    Put two economists in the same room and you will understand why Congress never works. Put a book together with economists’ views on neoliberalism and socialism, and you get a bickering collection of angles and aspects, all of which can be disputed.

    Uncertain Futures is a title that captures this ethos well. It consists of three chapters, roughly past present and future. The future is of the one of most interest, and is therefore the most disappointing. Berger is very cautious, maybe because he himself has just demonstrated the potential of instant criticism, or maybe because he is uncertain himself. Or both. But his final recommendation is to create support networks around the world. Put the 99% in touch, with co-operatives, unions and movements. This will raise the profile of socialism as viable, and provide a concrete answer to the precarity that neoliberalism has entrenched. Sounds like a very long term plan.

    The race to the bottom should now be obvious to everyone. Fascism, an inherent if not necessary component of capitalism, has been dramatically rising in numerous democracies. It absolutely must, as the 99% looks for a savior from their absurd position and condition. Yet the fear it plays on helps cement the status quo, because fascists are dictators protecting their gains. Berger says “Fascism is nothing less than the intensification of every regressive sentiment to be found in the whole of society, mobilized and put on the march by elements in the ruling class.” And “To reform capitalism at this stage is a revolutionary act.” That’s how far we’ve fallen.
    ~ David Wineberg, Amazon/The Straight Dope (Medium)

  • Lenin Lives!
    Philip Cunliffe
    What if the hopes of the Russian Revolution had been realised? Setting out from this question Cunliffe shines a great deal of new critical light on our times. Hugely thought-provoking and entertaining. Full of contentious ideas and stimulating insights. A firecracker of a book. ~ Sean Sayers, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Kent

  • Rules Without Rulers
    Matthew Wilson
    Review of
    Matthew Wilson, Rules Without Rulers: The Possibilities and Limits of Anarchism (Winchester/Washington: Zero Books, 2014)
    Matthew Wilson’s Rules Without Rulers is a curious book. Just when I thought that I had read the most convincing pummeling of anarchism ever, Wilson, nonchalantly, states in the beginning of his final chapter: “Yet none of what I have had to say has been written with the intention of encouraging the reader to abandon anarchism (or to continue dismissing it). In fact, my rather grandiose hope is that, in challenging anarchism so thoroughly, I will not have killed it, but made it stronger.” (p. 172) Grandiose indeed.
    But let’s back up for a moment. Wilson opens his book with bravado. In the “Preface”, he states:
    “...the following work is ultimately an attempt to address just one reason why anarchism remains a distant dream. That reason? Anarchism. We can blame the corporate media, blame the police, the state, the schools and history books, none of which do anarchism any real favours; but if anarchism is ever to grow, to inspire, to challenge, it is anarchism itself which needs to be rethought and rearticulated. Although there is much to be said for plenty of anarchist theory and practice, on the whole it is a political movement, a political idea, which is struggling to present itself as a viable alternative. Of perhaps more concern still is how few anarchists appear bothered by this.” (p. xii-xiii).
    He continues:
    “It is time we took the blinkers off, stopped, or at least paused, from our critique of the world out there, and looked inwards. People will be convinced by our arguments only when our arguments are convincing.” (p. xiv)
    This is brilliant. So brilliant that it is easy to lose steam as you’re diving into detailed philosophical descriptions of anarchist dilemmas, grouped around the notions of freedom, ethics, and power, which, according to Wilson, “form the basis of the … enquiry” (p. 4).
    Now, steam doesn’t equal quality, and just because the philosophical reflections don’t always double down on the rhetorical punches delivered early on, they are no less important. In fact, the rare combination of philosophical sharpness and anarchist sympathy is one of the great virtues of the book.
    Wilson rightfully points out that there are surprisingly few earnest discussions about some of the key challenges that anarchism has to accept if it really wants to be a serious contender for ushering in a better world. Among the many questions addressed by Wilson are how to deal with anti-social behavior, the pitfalls of consensus decision-making, and informal power structures. The book is full of precious statements such as the following about the common rejection of offering concrete anarchist visions: “ can ‘resistance open the way to alternative’ if we cannot discuss, or debate, or share our thoughts on what these alternatives might be? … [Anarchists are often] denying not only the validity of a vanguard to prescribe how we ought to live, but, in the process, limiting the potential for anyone to engage in such thinking. What we are left with is a plurality of silences.” (p. 39)
    Sometimes, Wilson’s critique of the intellectual level of anarchist discussion (or lack thereof) verges on the sarcastic, but it never runs short of entertainment value, for example when he responds to an anonymous anarchist author’s proclamation that “some communities will be dedicated to crime and drug use” with the sober comment: “It is of course hard to imagine an entire community dedicated to crime; in fact, it is not clear how we would conceptualise crime within a community if all its members were committed to it.” (p. 164-165)
    Wilson is certainly right in taking anarchists to task for evading uncomfortable discussion with a “live and let live” attitude, often expressed through comments we’re all too familiar with, such as the rather meaningless “You may think what you want, but I think what I think”.
    Let us return to Wilson’s concluding chapter, which I referenced above. Wilson emphasizes that his main hope for anarchism relates to its “prefigurative” dimensions. He makes a distinction between “social prefiguration” as “the creation of spaces and processes which fulfil the needs and desires of members of any community, and which do so along anarchist principles of horizontal control and mutual aid” (p. 179), and “personal prefiguration”, which presents “the case for an increased support of lifestyle politics” (p. 189). This is useful, not least because it helps overcome the tiring juxtaposition of “organization” and “lifestyle”. However, I believe that Wilson, in his sudden optimism, shies away from some of the logical consequences of his own critique: Anarchism is in many ways important, but also severely limited. The important part is to act as a permanent critic, an engine for social change, a field of experimentation for different kinds of life. We will always defend this on Alpine Anarchist. But anarchism does not offer a viable path for revolutionary change in the complex societies we live in. (For those interested: we have written more about this in “Revolution Is More Than a Word: 23 Theses on Anarchism”.)
    It seems that in order to avoid drawing these conclusions, Wilson resorts to some of the phraseology he lambastes throughout his book. For example, he states in the “Preface” that “it matters little what horrors the system throws at us, as long as we are left without an alternative”, and that “at present, anarchism is not giving people the confidence to believe it can offer that” (p. xiv). But how can you ever give anyone that confidence when, in the context of sketching alternatives, “we simply need to accept that they do not provide anything like a full picture” (p. 178)? I understand that there is a gradual difference. But a substantial one?
    A more serious problem might be the following: Wilson says that anarchists need to have answers to the questions he is raising in his book. But how can anarchism, a political movement that eschews doctrines, ever provide anything more than diverse and ephemeral answers? In order to meet Wilson’s expectations, there’d need to be among anarchists a common agreement on the best possible answers and a common commitment to pursue relevant political action. I cannot see that happening. Wilson himself concedes that the questions he is raising have hardly received any attention since anarchism’s inception. With all respect for Wilson and his very fine book – this will not change now either. Agreeing on answers and pursuing a particular political line is what Marxist parties have done for the past hundred years, most of them without the tiniest bit of success, but some of them with tremendous success if measured by the scope of social transformation alone. Perhaps, instead of trying to reenact this, the anarchists’ historical task is to influence such politics in a way that keeps them from degenerating into tyranny.
    In this context, it is interesting to look at another recent release by Zero Books. While Wilson tries to renew the anarchist tradition, J. Moufawad-Paul’s Continuity and Rupture: Philosophy in the Maoist Terrain is looking for the latest and most timely interpretation of Marxism. Those who have read Moufawad-Paul’s The Communist Necessity (reviewed on this site) know that his critique of “movementism” echoes Wilson’s take on the vague and intellectually often poor foundations of contemporary anarchist-inspired activist culture. Now, the consequences that the authors draw are very different: protracted people’s wars vs. “practising forms of prefigurative politics” (p. 178). But somewhere along that spectrum there’s gotta be something that can get us out of the mess we’re in.
    Gabriel Kuhn
    (January 2017) ~ Gabriel Kuhn, Alpine Anarchist Productions

  • Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews
    Jeff Bursey
    4 star review

    Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews
    by Jeff Bursey (Goodreads Author)

    Michelle Hallett's review Feb 03, 2017

    These thoughtful and meaty essays introduced me to many writers and got me thinking, sometimes in new ways, about how fiction can work. Bursey is a careful and thorough reader, and his passion and intelligence shine in this collection. Like others, I wish he'd reviewed more obscure women writers, not because I feel we need to fill a quota, but because, as VIDA and CWILA numbers show, women writers still have trouble getting reviewed at all, and I would expect women who write exploratory fiction have an even harder time.

    Bursey's review of my first novel, Double-blind, is reproduced in Centring the Margins. While I don't agree with everything he writes about my fiction, particularly how I employed realism in that novel, I do want to acknowledge how his writing gets me thinking. Reading a Bursey essay is never a passive experience, never one of simple consumption.

    Whatever I think of a book discussed by Bursey, or of the discussion itself, Bursey's vigorous and intelligent prose is a delight to read. ~ Michelle Butler Hallett,

  • Psy-Complex in Question
    Ian Parker
    Parker’s text opens with a question concerning how one writes reviews. This seeming pedagogical question is in fact one that scholars should ask, and its importance weaves itself through this collection of book reviews which Parker has assembled for us in Psy-Complex in Question: Critical Review in Psychology, Psychoanalysis and Social Theory. This is, of course, a case of reading and writing. Indeed the latter permeates a number of reviews in terms of how the reviewed piece actually reads; is the book well written. Parker’s interest in the well written is both the object of sharing these reviews (as well as a conceptual project indexed in the title) and of how the author himself is drawn to a text, even in light of conceptual differences. The reader of this book should be quite pleased in Parker’s preoccupation because it shows in how fabulously readable these reviews are. Reading these reviews is a great pleasure so that one might pick this book up like one might a Sunday paper. Do not think this ease of entry means that Parker’s has simplified ideas or his commitments. There are strong questions about the discourse of the university, of politics, and of the psychoanalytic clinic. How does one write, think or read across these forms of discourse. Parker’s insight into their difference and the often facile fusion of these domains is one of the smartest of the questions he brings to the reviewed texts. There are others. He queries texts that often remain unquestioned, Lacanian ideas that are often scotomized, critical psychological ideas that are often complacently re-iterated, and the marriage of psychanlysis and politics, which appears to attract so many (this list is not exhaustive). Parker’s book is a careful tour of the territory of critical psychology- and students and scholars should read t for that alone. It is also a text that contains in itself the question of reading and writing. In this second task, Parker indicates his brilliant and responsible grasp of a wide spectrum of subjects and, ironically, his clinical acumen, in that he questions the obvious, the impasse, and the style, not with the self-studied style of a literary critic, but rather with the keen eyes of someone, in whatever discourse, is committed to reading its critical edge. Psy-Complex in Question: Critical Review in Psychology, Psychoanalysis and Social Theory presents a collection of book reviews where the author reflects on the seemingly pedagogical question of how one writes reviews. Parker’s interest in the well written is both one reason for assembling these reviews and reflects how the author himself is drawn to a text, despite conceptual differences. The reader of this book is the lucky recipient of Parker’s preoccupation because it shows in how fabulously readable these reviews are. One picks up this book like the Sunday paper, without a single review in the book being intellectually compromised. Nonetheless, there are strong questions about the discourse of the university, of politics, and of the psychoanalytic clinic. In this really careful and important tour of some of the terrain of or adjacent to critical psychology, Parker remains true to the title’s aim; he shines a light on what is often swept under the rug in a given book by its usual readership or by its author(s). As a result, he does a really significant service for student and scholar alike. The reader is much the better intellectually after reading Parker’s work, so skilfully done that one encounters difficult tangles and ideas with an ease and engagement that any reviewer of a book would cherish. ~ Kareen Ror Malone, Professor- Emerita Psychology, Founding Director of Doctoral Program University of West Georgia

  • Psy-Complex in Question
    Ian Parker
    Extraordinary. All the right (left) names are in place and the volume simultaneously teaches readers how to review books properly. Parker should get a gold (red) star. ~ Craig Newnes, editor, Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy

  • Psy-Complex in Question
    Ian Parker
    This is an unusual book, drawing together reviews that Parker has written of other books. In each chapter, he offers us a model of the kind of critical engagement that turns a review into a dialogical contribution to debate, enlivening the works of others and bringing them into conversation. Taken as a whole, the book presents Parker’s characteristic take on the psy-complex, developed across time through disciplinary crossings and collegial exchange across a wide international range of contexts, including Japan, South Africa, the US, Europe and the UK. It is a wonderful book to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Discourse Unit and Ian Parker’s unique voice and sustained contribution to rethinking the intellectual psy-terrain. ~ Professor Jill Bradbury, School of Human and Community Development, University of the Witwatersrand

  • Psy-Complex in Question
    Ian Parker
    Ian Parker takes us on a critical adventure through the dense undergrowth of the psy-complex exploring the perennial and important questions of psychology and psychoanalysis’s relations to knowledge, ideology, social theory and political practice. This is an unusual book which positively invites the reader not only to think for themselves but to actively question the psy-professions’ construction of the world. ~ Ron Roberts, author of Psychology and Capitalism

  • Sweetening the Pill
    Holly Grigg-Spall
    Thank you! Grigg-Spall hit the the mark with this book. The pill always struck me as wrong for a multitude of reasons. I am so glad so many younger women are coming around to see it as the toxin it is. Yes, this is one great book and well worth reading- and giving as a gift to our daughters, nieces, other female friends. Kudos on a very well written and insightful book! ~ Catherine Hankins, Cleveland Public Library Brooklyn Branch

  • Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews
    Jeff Bursey
    Published on November 12, 2016

    Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews

    By Jeff Bursey

    Zero Books

    190 pages; $22.95

    “Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews” is another non-fiction collection, and again a highly specialized selection. Jeff Bursey is a deft and engaged critic, and these reviews cross genres and span a decade or more.

    They include “John Domini, The Sea-Gods’ Herb: Essays and Criticism, 1975–2014” and “Ornela Vorspi, The Country Where No One Ever Dies.”

    The somewhat esoteric material is written by a reader with a sharply observant eye and wry voice: “In 1986 (British literary theorist) Terry Eagleton gave what was called the Pratt lecture at MUN. Dressed in a loose-fitting, or possibly sagging, cardigan seemingly made from oatmeal or at least that colour, Eagleton spoke at length, in dry tones, no affectation of style or vocal modulation permitted, on ‘the End of English.’”

    Bursey to Eagleton: not so fast.

    Joan Sullivan is editor of Newfoundland Quarterly magazine. She reviews both fiction and non-fiction for The Telegram. ~ Joan Sullivan,

  • Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews
    Jeff Bursey
    Broken Pencil Magazine; Issue 74, News, Norman Feliks, Saturday, January 14th, 2017

    Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews, Jeff Bursey, 189 Pages, Zero Books,

    As Jeff Bursey contends, we are endlessly taught that, “[l]iterature contains singular imagery, the perfect word lodged in its perfect spot, rounded characters, believable settings, a confident narrative (if not a confident narrator).” The stuffy English Lit cannon morphed into a similarly narrow mainstream publishing consensus. As a result, alternative styles of writing, which are for Bursey innovative, are tarred with the warning term, “experimental.”

    Bursey’s crusade can be a smidge too present, yet often it is framed in an eye-opening way, such as when he notes that for typical critical writing, “[t]he excitement will be intellectual, but won’t commit someone’s blood and soul to the works, which [William] Vollmann, with Steinbeck in mind, has written from the fibre of his being, as used to be said before the author supposedly disappeared.” Here Bursey reminds us that there isn’t only one way to write and that readers may be rewarded for delving into the unfamiliar. The strength of this collection is that it drives us to seek out neglected voices, even if it means having to read an occasional paragraph twice before we get it. Bursey inspires us to seek out important writing instead of settling for the typical and easy to digest.

    If there is a weakness, aside from some unclear sentences, it is that a wide variety of works are looked at through a personal lens informed by an ironically narrow spectrum of writers. For instance, Bursey compares all sorts of people to Henry Miller, Miller representing his literary awakening. Other favoured reference points are Pynchon, the Powys’, Dos Passos – and all sorts of stories are referred to as Oulipian. On the other hand, the wide variety of matter covered made a consistent measuring stick a welcome tool. (Norman Feliks) ~ Norman Feliks,

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