RECENT REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    Excellent study of the alarming rise of the 'alt-right' movement treating the subject with the scholarly care and attention that it (unfortunately) deserves in respect to its influence on the current political climate. Very readable and sobering, especially in respect to the complete failure of the left to respond to the challenges raised in any meaningful way. ~ Ben Hart, NetGalley

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    Excellent study of the alarming rise of the 'alt-right' movement treating the subject with the scholarly care and attention that it (unfortunately) deserves in respect to its influence on the current political climate. Very readable and sobering, especially in respect to the complete failure of the left to respond to the challenges raised in any meaningful way. ~ Ben Hart, NetGalley

  • Romeo and Juliet in Palestine
    Tom Sperlinger
    An honest, thoughtful and modest account of working with students in Palestine. It's a great book and the closest I've read to the Palestine I know. ~ Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    First of all: Holy s""t. This is a book that I have been waiting to read for quiet some time now, but the level of insight and highly comprehensive discussion of what is going on in the cultural wars on the Web by Nagle exceeded my expectations. It reminded me of early works by Naomi Klein which combined the journalistic approach to the material at hand with detailed, but still accessible discussion of the theoretical aspect of the subject.

    Nagle discusses the ongoing (or lost?) cultural war between Tumblr liberalism vs. 4-chan inspired alt-right while both of the terms comprises of highly heterogenous elements. Internet, once lauded as the free, “horizontal” space of a new kind of anarchical democracy (not long ago but around 2013 many of the liberal left still saw and hailed the new “democratic” terrain of the Internet) today has been dominated by the misogynistic, Nazi-sympathizing Man’s Rights activists.

    Her historical account of what happened over the last 10 years is remarkable. Once a place of “progressive boosters” of the first-generation users of 4-chan, the transgressive and cynical culture of the website becomes a fecund terrain for rape and death threats, organized bullying that leads to suicides and depressions, complete annihilation of lives of regular teenagers and famous scientists alike.

    The discussion of transgression for transgression’s sake is great. When one considers the inter-war and post-WWII origins of the proliferation of “transgressive” politics or what I call “Nietzschean left”, the turn of events become even more remarkable. A remnant of the transgressive left politics of 1960s, actually 1968, how transgression and cynicism is weaponized by the extreme-right vanguard (in the base, only a fierce anti-PC sentiment is prevalent) seems more contingent than it is a necessary trait of this line of thought. The turn of events looks like it resulted because of numerous failures of the Left.

    Nagle argues that the pain, suffering and victimhood-affirming culture of Tumblr-liberalism is one of these reasons for the failure and I think she is right. “Kony 2012” videos among others comes to mind in this rush to collect “virtue points” in this scarcity of virtue market on the Web. Also, the intra-left purge and exclusion of the critics of this self-pleasing activities is another example (Nagle gives the example of Mark Fisher who sadly committed suicide this year).

    One other aspect of the failures of the left in my opinion is how the Left overlooked the realm of Desire that is almost necessarily not satisfied in our contemporary societies. Nagle discusses the frustrated sexuality of the regular young male today and it is a legitimate discussion insofar that it makes up a portion of the frustrated young male who is not politicized until he is pushed towards the misogynistic underbelly of the Web which is again, not necessarily Nazi, but a couple of steps away from it at best. Desire, in this case, is also a desire for the commodity, of course, which also necessarily dissatisfies. When you have the means to buy a given commodity, it fails to restore a sense of satisfaction but rather perpetuates it even further. When you are not able to buy it, well, in an intuitive fashion, you are dissatisfied in a world of instant satisfaction, pornographic images and incessant advertisements. The left’s complete immersion and self-satisfaction with identity politics (LGBT and the alphabet goes on as Zizek was lambasted by critics from the Left when he criticized some of the aspects of the politics of gender in a recent article debate, you can Google it) leaves the room for this new brand of extreme right to tap into the frustration and insecurities of the young male.

    The weird question to be asked is then how to answer such an effective version of “Gramscian” right who successfully waged a cultural war against the cultural Marxism? (this is an incredibly effectively misnomer as the war is waged on politically correct liberalism) Nagle doesn’t shy way from the question in an equally strong conclusion chapter. She claims that “trolling the troll” is not effective. One should definitively leave the trenches of privilege-checking, victimhood-loving trenches of identitarian politics for a start. Staunchly anti-xenophobic and also positively built left populism might be one of the answers. “Chocolate eating-vibrator waving” (in Nina Power’s immortal words), consumer-friendly feminism of Lena Dunham did not help Hillary much as one can see. Another question to be asked could be if a newly reinvigorated left aesthetics is possible along the lines of Guy Debord, Beatniks and others or the 1960s wave of transgressive left-wing aesthetics is completely compromised by the alt-Right. While the economic (what Nagle calls “materialist”) left has never been in a complete alliance with the anti-authoritarian aesthetics of the 1960s, it is a question that should be re-asked again. ~ Baglan Deniz, Reviewer at Koç University, Istanbul (NetGalley)

  • Henry, Henry
    Brian Willems
    Inventive. I love anything that manages to be experimental without being pretentious. This book pulls it off. ~ Jennifer Williams (librarian), GoodReads

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    I was expecting to be interested in this, but I didn't expect to be so impressed by it. Angela Nagle writes so even-handedly and with such a fair critical eye about recent iterations of disruptive political groupings on both the right and left. On the right is the now-notorious alt-right, divided between the 'alt-light', typified by meme-making/gleefully antagonistic trolling/use of 4chan-derived argot, and the more genuinely fascistic tendencies often masked by the headline-grabbing behaviour of alt-light figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos. On the left is what Nagle sometimes refers to as 'Tumblr-liberalism', the extremely performative culture of calling-out, victimhood and competitive identity politics that seems driven by (and here I will quote Nagle quoting the late Mark Fisher, as it couldn't be paraphrased any more perfectly) 'a priest’s desire to excommunicate and condemn, an academic-pedant’s desire to be the first to be seen to spot a mistake, and a hipster’s desire to be one of the in-crowd'.

    Nagle draws a line through history from the 'culture wars' of the 1960s to those of today, arguing that the transgressive, countercultural spirit historically embodied by the anti-establishment left has been sublimated much more effectively by the modern right. She also undertakes an in-depth (though concise) review of the many, many factions of what is often sweepingly referred to as the alt-right, from 'chan culture' to the alternately pathetic and terrifying 'manosphere'. Not only is this pretty fascinating in itself, it also brings to light the serious theoretical and academic roots of certain strands of this movement – something often ignored by liberal pundits who concentrate instead on clutching their pearls at the outrageous antics of high-profile figures like Milo and Alex Jones. The idea of a handful of demagogues and professional trolls riling up people who essentially don't understand politics has been a common theme (deployed with varying levels of sensitivity) in analysis of the Trump and Brexit victories; Nagle's study shows this to be dangerously reductive.

    Kill All Normies is an accessible but unpatronising study, perfectly balancing academic critique, political commentary and assured, intelligent, non-embarrassing writing about the internet and its unique subcultures. It is so refreshing to read something like this, that comes at the topic from a left-leaning perspective but refuses to toe the line with regards to the frustrating, ever-shifting rules of engagement that now seem to define online discourse. The version I read had some typos and needed a bit of tightening up from an editorial perspective, but it was a review copy. And that is genuinely my only criticism. Somehow Nagle also manages to write a conclusion that tears everyone a new arsehole AND ends on a contemplative note.

    I thought I knew quite a bit about this topic already, but I learned so much from this book, particularly about the historical context of these movements. Thoroughly and enthusiastically recommended to anyone with an interest in the current political climate as it manifests in online culture. ~ Blair Rose Hartley, GoodReads

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    Just so there’s no mucking about, let me say up front that it is a rare and fleeting pleasure to read Angela Nagle. She is delightfully well read, distills the nonsense of the world calmly and directly, never loses her dispassionate center, and doesn’t descend into pop culture citations. She is effortlessly authoritative. Would there were more like her.

    In Kill All Normies, things online have gone unaccountably negative. The internet was supposed to be a giant uplifting community party. Instead, it is a morass of trolls, alt-right, and out and out hatred, from racists to neonazis to feminazis. Even the arts have turned negative, and to criticize them as such just makes you outmoded – and subject to vicious threats. “The whole online sensibility is more in the spirit of foul-mouthed comment-thread trolls than it is of bible study, more Fight Club than family values, more in line with the Marquis de Sade than Edmund Burke. “

    Her criticism of her own generation stings. They “come from an utterly intellectual shut-down world of Tumblr and trigger warnings, and the purging of dissent in which they have only learned to recite jargon.” They couldn’t even debate the hollow showman Milo Yiannopoulos; they could only prevent him speaking.

    We are approaching anarchy. The right is at least as fractured and disorganized as the left. There is no longer any typical or classical right; every individual colors it their own way. So despite Republicans’ control of all the levels of government, they continue to fight amongst themselves and make no headway in their agenda. Because they can’t even agree on the agenda. Nagle takes an entire chapter to deconstruct the character Milo Yiannopoulos, who embodies all the contradictions in one neat package. The feeling you’re left with is that barriers to entry need to at least exist. Today, the internet offers equal time and space to every flavor of hate and ignorance going.

    Nagle doesn’t go far enough. Unsaid is that all of her characters have one thing in common: a tiny bit of power. It is easier to wield negative power than positive power, so they armchair jockey hatred, and laugh at their own cruelty. It is ignorant and outrageous, and that is the whole point. It is a deadly combination of too much time and too little future. The other thing unsaid is that it is infinitesimal. Almost none of the characters has real fame, much less popularity or value. They are their own audience, insignificant in the scheme of things. The occasional Milo is a shooting star than soon fades to black.

    I look forward to Nagle leveraging her talents into a deeper examination of a heavier issue. This is a terrific intro. ~ David Wineberg, NetGalley

  • Revolutionary Keywords for a New Left
    Ian Parker
    Wow! What an epic! Not only is your book 'a pioneering convergence of activist writings and philosophical enquiry', it is also a mind-blowing analysis of the 57 varieties of Trotskyist politics. (Would readers under 60 understand that reference, I wonder?). As I have so little knowledge of international politics, (eg 2nd, 3rd or 4th Internationals, troika, entrism etc.) much of it left me puzzled but that is my inadequacy. It's also too late to complain about your tangled, Dickensian sentences - so I shan't. How interesting to discover that my son is still quoting the cultural Marxist Raymond Williams 50 years after I studied and admired him at college. I wrote, for my own edification, a 4-point summary of aspects of the changing contexts for resisting capitalism, only to find that, in your excellent concluding essay, you had written a much better one. Things That Worried Me: The section on Zionism; I found it totally confusing. The admission that there could be radically different interpretations of Marx; it reminded me too much of the Bible. You abhor demonising, but you yourself demonise many groups (in the case of ROOSH V, perfectly understandably). Do 'relationships' actually un-nerve traditional left organisations? Some of your 'new' words are not new at all nor - as far as I can see - have they changed at all. (How about: other, post-modern, post-colonial etc? There are too many traps threatening you in almost every chapter! Do you have to say 'for sure'? You Yankee. Things I particularly liked: Your useful division of the subject matter into the periods 1917-1967 and 1967-2017. Your description of Stalinism as 'a false alternative... simply state capitalism' (see also Putinism). Your contrasting of traditional intellectuals who describe the world but don't take a stand, with organic intellectuals who develop theory in alliance with the exploited and oppressed to end capitalism itself. Your uplifting description of not only small-scale agricultural initiatives but also transition towns. Left Unity - which sounds hopeful. I like your use of the appellation LGBTQ+ which I learned only recently. Thank you for sharing your splendid book with me.
    Jean Angus Ledigo ~ Jean Angus Ledigo, Email

  • Revolutionary Keywords for a New Left
    Ian Parker
    https://www.mixcloud.com/quanticaonline/let-the-dogz-out-73-by-jo%C3%A3o-manuel-de-oliveira-2352017/ ~ João Manuel de Oliveira, Radio Quantica

  • Romeo and Juliet in Palestine
    Tom Sperlinger
    Trust the Brits to find the humor in anything. Sperlinger deploys wry wit [and his] keen feel for the absurd provides much-needed relief in an often grim story. If, like me, you don’t know much about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, this memoir will open your eyes to Palestinians’ perspectives on the conflict. Sperlinger, whose grandparents fled Vienna in 1938 to escape the Holocaust, is quietly appalled by what people [in] the West Bank endure... At 144 pages, this novella-length memoir flies by. And just as Sperlinger arouses his students’ curiosity about literature, he whets ours for a greater understanding of a people whose oppression is too often overlooked or misunderstood. More, Sperlinger made me want to read or reread not just Shakespeare but Edward Said, Malcolm X, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper¸” Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist,” Irish and Palestinian poets, Israeli playwrights—and, indeed, whatever Sperlinger writes next. ~ Beth Johnston, Cleaver Magazine

  • 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

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