RECENT REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS

  • 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: “...how 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, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1886680100

  • 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, http://www.thetelegram.com/living/2016/11/11/almanac-records-womens-voices-stories-4684452.html

  • 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, zero-books.net

    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, http://www.brokenpencil.com/news/book-review-centring-the-margins

  • Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews
    Jeff Bursey
    John's Reviews > Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews

    5 stars

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

    reviewed by John Domini

    Jan 07, 2017

    Read from November 01 to December 01, 2016

    By any fair standard, Bursey's selection of reviews & criticism must be counted insightful, wide-ranging, & humane -- a winner, really. Still, I suppose I must own up to being the recipient of his enlightened reading myself. My own SEA-GOD'S HERB is one of the books he considers here. So, there's full disclosure, and it doesn't in any way lessen Bursey's accomplishment. The first word in the book's title alone, CENTRING, conveys something of the book's special qualities: idiosyncratic & yet entirely correct. For example, the long & brainy essay on William Vollman, nothing less than an essential overview, has a scope few critics would risk, looking over a wide of work in prose, perhaps twenty titles all told, & yet it never loses sight of Vollman's bedrock values: his commitment to "important human problems" & to writing that does more than merely make him famous. The same sense of how literature can matter infuses Bursey's series pf briefer reviews of fiction out of his own homeland, Canada. I've never read Chris Eaton, for instance, but Bursey's treatment of his BIOGRAPHY has prompted me to seek out the man's "much-needed light on the lighthearted North." As for writers out of cultures far different, see, especially, his perspicacious review of César Aria. In claiming "our complacency is rebutted" in Aria, actually Bursey might be speaking of his own sharp yet sensitive interpretations -- booting us out of comfy mindsets, waking us to more challenging pleasures of the text. ~ John Domini, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1870644807

  • Uncertain Futures
    Edmund Berger
    As I finished Edmund’s new book Uncertain Futures: An Assessment of the Conditions of the Present (Get it: here) I realized why I’ve followed his blog Deterritorial Investigations Unit for the past few years: keen intelligence, an encyclopedic breadth of vision encompassing an ethical commitment to the real movement of change, and a loquacious and gracious scholarly acumen and sense of excellence stylistically and in regards of other thinkers place within our cultural history. Critical, observant, detailed – a thinker whose historical sense is not overburdened by a false historicism, but peers into that dark mirror of our near future as if his diagnosis and cure of our ailing civilization were neither a swan song to its demise, nor a belabored undermining of its forward movement into ruin and decay, but rather as a physician of time – a creature from the far flung future seeking to retroactively elide the toxic effects of our dark modernism....

    ....Whether you side with the Ogres or the socialists is your choice. Either way we will know you as you are in the near future. Read Edmund Berger’s book, get to know this political economic history in a series of doses that will help you understand what choices are available. You may or may not agree with his socialist agenda, but you can still understand what brought him to his conclusions and why. That in itself is genius.


    Extract from https://socialecologies.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/edmund-berger-uncertain-futures-a-review/ ~ S.C. Hickam, Social Ecologies blog

  • Advancing Conversations: Srećko Horvat - Subversion!
    Alfie Bown
    Srećko Horvat
    Based on rich personal experience and participation in constructive subversion, along with wide reading from classics to the latest dreams of artificial intelligence, Horvat leads us on a whirlwind tour of the maladies and discontents of modern civilization and the many ways to right what is wrong and achieve a better future. ~ Noam Chomsky, MIT

  • Dark Matters
    Nick Dunn
    Dunn trained as an architect and this is a crucial part of what is at play here: Out in the dark, walking himself to sleep – he hopes – the architect coincidentally has the buildings removed for him by the lack of light, and then delivered again anew, in flashes. Here, sleepless, the city becomes something else. Another nocturnal Manchester urbanaut, Mark E. Smith, wrote of ‘entrances uncovered’ and ‘street signs you never saw’, all ‘courtesy of winter.’ There is nothing gothic about this book, despite its dark title and cover. In some ways, night time does exactly what snow does to the urban landscape. It makes it strange, it makes you see anew.

    Whiteout or blackout, the space is transformed, momentarily, and this impermanence of states is important to its power to ‘other’ your view of it. If it were always daytime there would be no other side to cast this transformed view against. The title implies the night as another dimension, ‘dark matter’ as the invisible glue of the social. But that is not all this book does. It ‘makes manifest’ the urban night by shuttling between theory and description.

    So much leftist writing hides what it really thinks in abstraction, or older, tried and tested rhetorics. This book does not make any wincingly worthy cultural capital out of hauntology, the problem seems to be, actually – and chillingly – that in the night city there are no ghosts left and the few that remain are becoming even more fugitive: ‘Far better to embrace the world and its contradictions, difficulties, untidiness and dirtiness, physical and psychic, than to summon long-vanished ghosts.’

    The equally chilling thesis is that the only way to escape from the ‘intoxicating pathologies’ of the city, is to vanish into ‘night practices beyond consumption’, to an edge zone almost completely drained of light, in order to ‘be’. But this is the manifesto, that in nightwalking the city we might find the black mirror of the everyday, which might teach us more about that everyday than we could have imagined before going out there. ‘Urban areas are pathological’, the ‘nocturnal dowser can summon these neuroses…’

    This book is useful, it is both open and closed. Closed in that its form as a manifesto really puts its cards on tables. Open in that it advises particular spatial practices in the interests of seeing anew. Open in that it encourages others to develop that way of working further.

    Now it’s over to you, on the night shift. ~ Steve Hanson, Manchester Review of Books

  • Advancing Conversations: Srećko Horvat - Subversion!
    Alfie Bown
    Srećko Horvat
    History has only produced decency when good people infiltrated despotic institutions and succeeded in subverting them, often at a terrible cost to themselves. Horvat explains brilliantly subversion’s creative potential, in juxtaposition to isolationism and escapism which are the establishment’s best friends. ~ Yanis Varoufakis, Economist, former Finance Minister of Greece

  • Dark Matters
    Nick Dunn
    A brilliant book. Dark Matters is an adventure into the heart of the city at night – the time when the true nature of the beast reveals itself. ~ John Robb, Louder Than War

  • Romeo and Juliet in Palestine
    Tom Sperlinger
    As a polyphonic text, Romeo and Juliet in Palestine is more than just the voices of its author and his students included amongst its pages […] Perhaps the voice that resonates most strongly in the text is that of Lisl Sperlinger, Sperlinger’s grandmother who fled Vienna in 1938 and lived out her adult life as a committed Zionist [… This] is a difficult book to categorise: Is it a pedagogical text? A political one? Is it autobiography? How many stories of how many people’s lives does it tell? The book is not organised chronologically but, as Sperlinger professes himself, anecdotally, composed out of the interspersed fragments of his own story and experiences, alongside the experiences of others. The book makes no grand claims, but herein lies its strength: it cannot speak for Palestine, nor be the authoritative voice on Palestine, but it can, and does, give us a small, but incredibly personal, insight into Palestine, grafted from the relationship that Sperlinger garnered with his students while teaching there. ~ Rachel Fox, Hong Kong Review of Books

  • Officious
    Josie Appleton
    An intellectually gripping analysis of what its author Josie Appleton characterises as a new kind of state power, one that is arbitrary and encroaching on what is left of our unregulated lives. Overall this is a subtle and intelligently argued essay. Its reconstruction of the essential trajectory of the officious state will be a valuable weapon for those keen to argue for greater freedom in everyday life. (http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/the-rise-of-the-officious-state/19081#.WHOgfnipvFI) ~ James Heartfield, spiked

  • Dark Matters
    Nick Dunn
    A must read for anyone who's starting with hauntology, dérive or urbanism in general. It's short, urgent and written with poetic sensibility. ~ Nicolas Diaz, NetGalley

  • Fire Hides Everywhere
    Julian Feeld
    Fire Hides Everywhere is gripping fiction by way of fascinating literary experimentation. Instead of simply dramatizing existing ideas on the subject, it defies subjectivity itself. ~ Alfie Bown, writer and editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong Review of Books

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