5 book reviews you need to read this week ‹ Literary Hub
This week’s quintet of quality reviews includes Julian Lucas on Bénédicte Savoy Africa’s struggle for its artJennifer Wilson on Elif Batuman Whether orJennifer Krasinski on Gary Indiana fire seasonTimothy Shenk on Matthew Continetti The rightand John Williams on Patrick McCabe Poguemahone.
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“For decades, the bronzes have served as emblems of the African struggle to reclaim art expropriated under colonial rule. More than half a million of these objects – by some accounts more than ninety percent of all cultural artifacts known to come from Africa – are held in Europe, where they have long seemed destined to remain. ..Now, in a very short space of time, a tectonic shift has occurred…The wave of comebacks has many causes, from geopolitical jockeys to calculations sparked by social movements like Rhodes Must Fall and Black Lives Matter…Only a handful of objects was effectively returned, despite thousands of outstanding requests. Few governments have adopted general return policies. And some of the biggest institutions, like the British Museum, actively avoided the conversation… “Almost all the conversations today about returning cultural property to Africa already took place forty years ago,” writes Bénédicte Savoy …His revealing new book charts the course of an almost forgotten movement, which began in the 1960s, the decade of African independence, and faded in the 1980s, when European museums succeeded in bury his demands… His investigation yields a fascinating scholarly thriller that doubles as a timely warning, in his words, that “museums lie too”… It’s hard to argue with this expansive ideal of human culture. Yet, seeing this as an argument against restitution poses a false choice between European universalism and African nationalism, when in reality, the claims of “universal” museums have long covered their own nationalisms… In the long run, defenders of the rendition may sound less like Killmonger and more like the Mu’tafikah, a group of multicultural art bandits, in Ishmael Reed’s novel Mumbo-Jumbo, which release artifacts from the world’s art detention centers. Their goal is not revenge or ethnic chauvinism, but something much more mundane – to create “renewed enthusiasms for the Ikons of aesthetically victimized civilizations”.
–Julian Lucas on Benedicte Savoy Africa’s Struggle for its Art: A Story of Postcolonial Defeat (the new yorker)
“Whether or in no way shares the chastity of its predecessor. Selin and Ivan’s hesitant and corny emails (in which they pretended to be characters from their Russian language textbook) and their innocent swims at Walden Pond gave way to an S&M party, KY jelly, handcuffs and to the conversation about a Swedish twin fetish. It’s as if Batuman sets out to answer his detractors and (in the manner of its protagonist, who always asks the Dean for a fifth course) can’t help but outdo himself in the process… The novel meanders as she experiments with sensualism. As Selin bounces from one experience…to another, Whether or is never tied to a single story line. Batuman isn’t about to concoct an equivalent to the marriage plot; an aesthetic life requires a narratological promiscuity… The rest is more explicit künstlerroman than its antecedent… Whether or could serve as a syllabus. Batuman’s new tale is propelled by Selin’s encounters with various works of art… With the raw sincerity and amusing insight into the rarefied world of academia that readers will remember from Batuman’s previous books, Selin recounts his first dip in hedonism… One of the criticisms taken from The idiot was that Selin seemed to lack political awareness. However, we come back to the debate on whether literary fiction should be held to such a standard, Whether or enriched by Batuman’s decision to up the ante on the novel’s central theme… As for what kind of life is worth reading about, some will no doubt wonder that after the closing Whether or … Many people might wonder why they should bother with an entire novel about an ancient undergrad obsessed with the dilemmas of creating art. I confess to having felt a tinge of the same vexation… Perhaps it would suffice to say of reading Whether or that I enjoyed the experience.
“The intellect of playwright, novelist, essayist and critic Gary Indiana is notoriously muscular and self-assured, traversing, to borrow his words, ‘the unhealthy context of the modern world’ with an assurance and elegance largely unknown in the torrential age. of our time. toadyism and its twin, cancellation… A triumphant collection… Appreciated solely on the level of its pains, Indiana is a lapidary wielding a straight razor… fire season is indeed full of admiration, even terrible tenderness, for many of his subjects, proving throughout what a demanding reader he is of character. No contradiction is left out… What becomes clear from reading this collection is that American culture is so accustomed to the silver lining, that readers may lose sight of the fact that venom, administered appropriately, is medicine… Laughing, shivering, even a little nauseous at times, I’ve only found myself at odds with Indiana once, not because of her adamant candour, but because I perceived her as uncharacteristically and unnecessarily humiliating himself… Hungry Indiana readers will devour these essays and lick their chops, feeling content expecting more from him.
“Although Continetti eschews insider gossip, his depiction of life in the conservative machine has the feel of eyewitness testimony…The significant silences regarding his former employer are not the only times Continetti nuances the narrative to place its subject matter in a softer light… In short, this is a book that gets a lot of things wrong. owe to yesterday’s establishment conservatives – their successes, their failures and all the compromises made along the way – Continetti demonstrates that there are no clean breaks in the history of the right, only partial victories in an ongoing struggle. Trump’s election was not divine retribution for the original sins of conservatism. It was just politics, the result of both long-term structural trends and choices crossed p ar contingency. Which means the fate of the right is still at stake. And so is American democracy.
–Timothy Shenk on Matthew Continetti The Right: The Hundred Years War for American Conservatism (The New Republic)
“The Irish novelist Patrick McCabe is, in modern parlance, a lot. Its narrators are often less unreliable than unreliable, their thinking expressed in deliberately random prose. His books are jam-packed with violence and jokes, mental illness and cultural references, folklore and history, often written with Joycian vigor and confusion… The irrepressible McCabe even experiments by his own standards in his new novel, Poguemahonewhich arrives in 600 pages of free, very free verse… The book is full of sinister occurrences and apparitions, but told in a tipsy, confident style… Poguemahone is like a high dive: the hardest part of reading might be convincing your feet to leave the board. Once you’ve done that, gravity does the rest… Poguemahone, living up to its author’s reputation, is daring, studded with brilliance, harsh and exhausting. He may overstay his welcome, but you will remember his visit.