Category: Literature

Review: David Brooks’ The Road to Character

Review: David Brooks’ The Road to Character

‘I was born with a natural disposition toward shallowness’ writes New York Times columnist David Brooks in his introduction to The Road to Character. As Brooks would be the first to admit, this isn’t a bad quality for a columnist to have: the demands of regular opinion writing are such that the big-name commentator is bound to sail close to […]

Read more ›

Just add water: a review of Running Out? by Ruth Morgan

‘I take a bath every month,’ Elizabeth I is purported to have said, ‘whether I need one or not’. Clearly, hygiene standards change, and it is very honest of Ruth A. Morgan to confess, in her preface to Running Out?, to her ‘love affair with the washing machine’ and ‘penchant for long, hot showers’. But, like many Western Australians, she […]

Read more ›

‘I grow old … I grow old’: ‘Prufrock’ at 100

One hundred years ago this month, Harriet Monroe sent T. S. Eliot a check for the handsome sum of eight guineas. The payment was for a poem of about 1000 words, which Monroe had published in the June 1915 issue of her Chicago-based magazine Poetry. Pressed upon her by her overseas editor, and fellow American, Ezra Pound – then busily […]

Read more ›
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Disciplined hope: on Irving Howe

In the long and laudable history of left-wing schism and self-inspection, this year’s winter issue of the progressive US magazine Dissent constituted something of a ‘shirtfront’ moment. It carried a piece by the political philosopher, and co-editor of the magazine, Michael Walzer, accusing the left, or a significant portion of it, of turning a blind eye to Islamic extremism. The […]

Read more ›
Cirque du Žižek

Cirque du Žižek

It fell to US journalist Adam Kirsch, writing in The New Republic in 2008, to encapsulate in a single phrase the disconcerting experience of reading a book by Slavoj Žižek. Kirsch called Žižek ‘the deadly jester’, a description that managed to bring together the Slovenian philosopher’s showmanship with his extreme political stance (he is as far to the left politically […]

Read more ›

Mining the work of a national resource

It is a principle of Raimond Gaita’s thought that one cannot separate moral truths from the manner of their articulation, and that the manner of their articulation will depend on who is doing the articulating. In other words, what we say about morality is deeply connected to the way we say it, which is connected, in turn, to who we […]

Read more ›
How to have your coke and snort it too

How to have your coke and snort it too

In 2013 the comedian Russell Brand guest-edited an issue of the New Statesman magazine and declared in his editorial that he had never voted in a general election. An interviewer on the BBC’s Newsnight wanted to know why, and also, given the comedian’s apathy, why anyone should care what he had to say. As he put it, rather more pointedly, […]

Read more ›

Beyond the ‘blank slate thesis’

At some point in the 1990s, a poster began to appear on the London Underground. It depicted four brains, three of which were identical and one of which was much smaller than the others. From a distance, it appeared to be a crude taxonomy of the kind that one might associate with a nineteenth-century phrenologist. But closer inspection revealed a […]

Read more ›

Parochial reflux

As someone who is always in the market for irony, I’ll admit to having felt slightly giddy when I first read that the Abbott government had utilised Australia’s seat on the UN Security Council to formulate a recovery mission to Ukraine in the wake of the MH17 disaster. After all, it was Tony Abbott who, six months in to his […]

Read more ›

Review: Stephen Edgar’s Exhibits of the Sun

To say that the pace of modern life is unconducive to lyric poetry is not so much to flirt with cliché as to drop your keys down cliché’s blouse and insist upon retrieving them. It’s also undeniable. Assailed from all sides by all manner of trivia, we’ve lost the habit of sustained contemplation needed to engage with this most challenging […]

Read more ›