RECENT REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS

  • Babbling Corpse
    Grafton Tanner
    "[Babbling Corpse] stands sturdy as a deconstruction of an enigmatic and confounding artistic movement." ~ Under the Radar, http://www.undertheradarmag.com/reviews/babbling_corpse/

  • Deconstructing Dirty Dancing
    Stephen Lee Naish
    Released in 1987, Dirty Dancing is one of those films that is almost impossible to not know about, but it’s also one that’s probably not taken very seriously. The story of privileged Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) and hunky heartthrob Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) has been watched over and over again, gaining a larger audience as the years have passed by. Certain songs have become synonymous with the film, dialogue will be quoted, and how could any of us ever forget some of the most iconic scenes of the film. It’s a fantastic film, but one that most people will dismiss as a “chick flick”. At least you will until diving into author Stephen Lee Naish’s book, “Deconstructing Dirty Dancing“, available from Zero Books.
    Naish looks at the film through a new lens. By exploring the political subtext, the way the film celebrated women at a time where this was a rarity in Hollywood, gender, class, race, and how Dirty Dancing was a perfect blend of the ’60s and the ’80s, Naish will make you think a lot more deeply about the movie. He breaks the film down scene by scene, picking some of the larger moments as well as the tiniest bit of dialogue to make his points. It’s not only a wonderful look back on the movie, but a fantastic way to see the themes many of us have probably missed.
    Coming in at under 100 pages, “Deconstructing Dirty Dancing” is also a very brisk read. Naish doesn’t slow things down with overly intellectual text. There’s no need to have completed your thesis to enjoy the book. However, Naish doesn’t just offer a surface level reading of the film either. He’s even bold enough to compare the film to David Lynch’s Blue Velvet in a mostly convincing way. While I’m still not completely on board with that comparison, Naish does manage to point out the similarities with certain characters effectively.
    In a year dominated by aggressively macho films like Predator, Running Man, RoboCop, and Lethal Weapon, Dirty Dancing seemed to come out of nowhere. At the time, few people probably even bothered to wonder why. That’s what makes Naish’s book so interesting. He looks at how the film was able to capture the hearts and minds of people by exploring the way it fit so perfectly into the culture of the ’80s, even though the film is set in the ’60s. The problems presented in the film were things that may not have been as large in the ’80s, but they were still problems we continued to face. Class, gender, and race are still incredibly relevant social problems, so Dirty Dancing continues to be a film we can look at now, 30 years later. Thanks to Naish, it’s even easier to see how those themes are explored in the film.
    Since “Deconstructing Dirty Dancing” is a rather short book, it’s quite easy to get swept up in reliving the film and read from beginning to end. In the same amount of time you would spend watching the movie, you are able to relive every important moment while also gaining a better understanding of the film. Naish’s words bring the film to life, and although I haven’t watched this movie in years, I felt as if I had just watched it yesterday. That speaks not only to Naish’s talent, but also the power of the film. I can remember all the little moments of the movie, despite having only watched it a handful of times. For diehard fans of Dirty Dancing, this book will certainly be appreciated even more.
    Naish finally makes Dirty Dancing more than just a “chick flick” that is overlooked. Whether you’re a huge fan of the film or not, I can’t recommend “Deconstructing Dirty Dancing” more highly. ~ Will Brownridge, Toronto Film Scene

  • That Existential Leap: a crime story
    Dolan Cummings
    That Existential Leap: a crime story by Dolan Cummings is the kind of book you just want to be immersed in, hoping it doesn’t end.

    The two male protagonists, one primarily in New York, one in Scotland, both flawed and engaging, allow the reader a thought-provoking exposure to two minds that stimulate your own existential thoughts as these characters navigate their worlds. Most interesting, That Existential Leap:…does not hit you over the head with heady academic philosophy. Rather these young men of working class roots take you into their insights and struggles with just the right amount of intrigue of character and quirky uniqueness without being annoying—a feat not easily attained.

    We are introduced to Siegfried, who seems to be a cross between his idol, Raskolnikov, from Crime and Punishment and Ignatius J. Reilly, from Confederacy of Dunces, through the insightful eyes of his young girlfriend as she attempts to manage her own existential questions of how to enter adulthood. She notes that according to Siegfried:
    "The narrow and predictable biography of the average human being is really quite disturbing. What is more disturbing perhaps is that this is no secret. Everybody who has ever bothered to think about it can see that there are infinite possibilities in life, and yet still they plow that same furrow, or at least choose their furrows from the same field, so to speak. Siegfried wouldn’t have objected if they were talking about a good field, but really it isn’t a good field at all. The deliberate choice of a dull and miserable life seemed to Siegfried to be inexcusable, and yet it was the norm, the reality."

    And Alexander, our brilliantly dysphoric detective from Scotland presents his own existential musings that are less heady yet equally intriguing and seductive.
    "Alexander realized that his love was dead. But he began to see something new in Laura. Something that suggested the relationship might be worth pursuing after all. Not the promise of happiness that he had never really wanted anyway, but something far more in keeping with his personality, and indeed his ambition. As the love that had become lust turned finally to resentment, it hit him. Laura would make an excellent wife."

    I found that I was highlighting and re-reading many lines or full paragraphs, looking up to ponder the narrative, smiling to myself about the places it led me, or reading to whomever was near—this is a sign of a novel that challenges without overwhelming. I highly recommend The Existential Leap: a crime story, and look forward to the next novel by Dolan Cummings.

    I received this novel as an Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. As you can see from my review, I very much appreciated the opportunity. Publication date is May 26,2017. ~ Nancy Burkey, www.nancyburkey.com

  • Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews
    Jeff Bursey
    https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1943696742

    5-star review

    Addressing widespread resistance to William Gaddis’s books, to his so-called difficult fiction, Jeff Bursey writes: “[A]ll that’s required is patience and an active participation of a reader.” Bursey is just such a patient and actively participating reader, repeatedly demonstrating these qualities to marvelous effect in his criticism. Centring the Margins is the perfect title for this smart, generous, empathetic book, Bursey privileging writers writing against convention, against the mainstream, writers like César Aira, Alexandra Chasin, Joseph McElroy, Sam Savage, Davis Schneiderman, Gilbert Sorrentino, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Mati Unt, William T. Vollmann, and many more besides. Bursey also engages a number of fellow critics, like Marcelo Ballvé, John Domini, and Scott Esposito, whose thoughts largely align with his own, as well as critics with whom he disagrees, that is, disparate voices, not to mention the voice of the author of whichever text or texts are under scrutiny, all of which makes for an expansive, almost democratic conversation. That said, Bursey’s analyses and conclusions set him apart, distinguish him as a singular critic, one who balances aesthetics and politics, one as equally enamored of artful sentences as of playful disruptions of narrative form. Over and over again, Bursey succeeds in bringing deserving but largely unknown writers to greater visibility, effectively demonstrating that, as he writes, “we need these authors who explore new terrain with equipment of their own devising.” Concomitantly, we need critics like Jeff Bursey, who seek out and engagingly write about writers outside of the margins: writers from small presses, writers-in-translation, the many un- and under-recognized “Outliers, Innovators, and Explorers” (the title of one of the book’s sections). ~ John Madera, Goodreads

  • Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews
    Jeff Bursey
    2 May 2017

    https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1930796343

    I love the way Bursey reviews these books. There are many writers he expresses a certain reverence for, even as he points out the occasional flaw. William T. Vollmann stands out in my mind, what with Bursey's in-depth review of a Vollmann reader.

    But what is even more resonant with me than Bursey's passion, is that much of his analysis hones in, intentionally or not, on theme, on the ideas a work raises or deals with, the very things that make the stories matter. To me, it's less the obscurity or even originality of a work that gets me, it's what it says. And to say something, anything, a book has to have a good way with words. Its structure may be unusual, daring and innovative. But it succeeds most when it has some insight on the world, perhaps an ability to instill in me sympathy for those I hadn't considered before.

    Bursey's criticism covers that thematic ground very well, to the point I feel I've read some of the books I actually haven't. The downside: my already cumbersome to-read list has gotten considerably longer. But whether I ever get to them all or not (surely I won't, because it always grows), this kind of review and analysis of books is in itself a pleasurable read, itself saturated with ideas and perspectives about the world we live in, the people who inhabit it, and the way we have been, are and may be in the future. It is an homage to reading itself, and why it is such a privilege and delight to have this power.

    And I should note that there are other kinds of literary criticism that don't accomplish this. They either move too quickly to conclusions, remain mired in plot summary, or obsess over details of technique without moving to the bigger picture. I found CtM nicely balanced discussions of technique without forgetting why technique (and a willingness to break formula) matters. ~ Chris Benjamin, Goodreads

  • Deconstructing Dirty Dancing
    Stephen Lee Naish
    Many, many philosophical interpretations in addition to the plain-Jane synopsis/behind-the-scenes info that other movie-related books usually offer. Lee Nash does a full, scene-by-scene watch-thru of the movie and intersperses his writing with input from the screenwriter, Eleanor Bergstein, and other cinema writers; particularly Michele Schreiber and her book, American Post-Feminist Cinema (which I should really try and track down to read, too). I really enjoyed the reference to Dirty Dancing as being 'Star Wars for girls,' commonalities between it and that of the movie 'Blue Velvet,' Schreiber's interpretation of the plot as being First Meeting/Courtship/Consummation/Problem/Resolution/End (with the Transformation being love as a transformative agent for someone to become a better version of themselves), the character Robbie being a Randian Egoist and a literal Fountain of water being poured on his Head, Patrick Swayze's belief in Johnny & Penny's relationship being the one that lasts after the events of the movie occur, and deleted scenes that would've changed an audience opinion against Johnny or the owner's nephew, Neil.
    ~ Kristine Fisher, GoodReadins

  • Romeo and Juliet in Palestine
    Tom Sperlinger
    This is more than just a rendering of ‘Shakespeare on the Estate’. It is Shakespeare rendered alive in a situation of settler-colonialism, ethnic confrontation, occupation, cleansing and resistance. What we have here is a case of critical appropriation of the established canon from a subaltern perspective. 'Romeo & Juliet' and 'Julius Caesar' are given the kind of critical appropriation which would have made Gramsci and Said proud. Both plays are interpreted in ways that capture a particular 'structure of feeling' in this territory ... Sperlinger does not present any idealised world of students. The world on which his book sheds light is steeped in struggle in which most students are deeply engaged; the struggle concerns their very existence ... In short, this is a wonderful memoir by an educator whose pedagogical approach, in the best of Freirean traditions, is rooted in popular consciousness. It constitutes a compelling narrative or set of narratives in the Zer0 Books tradition. ~ Peter Mayo, Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies

  • 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

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    With a liberal left dangerously lost in the stormy waters of middle class self-flagellation, Angela Nagle is the lighthouse keeper showing us the way out. Her writing is unsparing in its diagnosis but never cruel. Unlike much of the Left who've grown far too accustomed to marginalization and defeat, Nagle still believes in politics as the only way of changing an increasingly brutal world. She is the writer and social critic I've been waiting for. ~ Connor Kilpatrick, Jacobin magazine

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    Angela Nagle is one of the few writers anywhere who has consistently refused to hold a double standard for virulent racism and misogyny even when it came in edgy countercultural packaging. Kill All Normies is a brilliant exposé of the new faces of online nihilism and fascism, which can no longer be explained away as doing it “for the lulz”. ~ David Golumbia, author of The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    Amidst the chaos of our times, it is a relief to have a brilliant and fearless critic like Angela Nagle to turn to. Unwilling to stomach the liberal shibboleths that fail to adequately explain the emergence and significance of right-wing subculture, she's the only one willing to descend into the grimiest of Internet grottos and give us the benefit of her incisive and cool-headed analysis. ~ Amber A'Lee Frost, Chapo Trap House

  • 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)

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