Book Review

An online-only review of books and arguments about books.

Not the Backward-Glancing Comrade

Not the Backward-Glancing Comrade

On Ece Temelkuran

Temelkuran, a generation removed from Gürbılek, represents something else: not the backward-glancing comrade but the daughter of one, born in 1973, raised in Izmir by a social-democrat father and Maoist mother. It’d be hard to think of a more consummate figure of what a true Turkish “new left” would look like: democratic socialist, feminist, with books on the legacies of the Armenian genocide, on the Arab Spring, on the Latin American pink tide (untranslated), chapters and articles on Kurdish politics, nearly three million Twitter followers and a vast, sui generis facility with the media. A New Left Review essay one day—a TED talk the next.

Zombie Liberalism

Zombie Liberalism

A plea for liberal nationalism ignores what it has looked like in practice.

Despite the appeal to pragmatism, Mounk’s political vision is utopian, his ideal polity a kind of liberal sublime. In a distant place far outside of history, virtuous trustees of public reason skillfully mobilize the best of nationalism while fending off its “dangerous excesses.” Entranced, Mounk sees in nationalism a muscular tool for legitimizing the political-economic order: “Nationalism is like a half-wild beast. As long as it remains under our control, it can be of tremendous use.” Who is the “beast,” and who is the “us” into which Mounk places the reader?

Now the Task Is to Remove the Others

Now the Task Is to Remove the Others

On Israel's crackdown on migrants and refugees

Since 2012, the Israeli government has taken a range of draconian measures to force asylum seekers out of the country. Israel has granted refugee status to just one Sudanese man and 11 Eritrean nationals, rejecting thousands of asylum seekers’ claims. In Europe, by comparison, 91.4 percent of Eritrean asylum requests are accepted. The asylum seekers must renew their visas every two months. They can be detained for extended periods at the Holot facility. The government confiscates 20 percent of their monthly paychecks, claiming the money will be returned to them upon their departure, and fines their employers. In 2012, the government deported over a thousand South Sudanese asylum seekers, including children, back to Juba, the capital of the newly independent state. Tens of thousands of asylum seekers have already left Israel 2013. Some have received asylum in Canada, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Others have attempted to make the dangerous journey to Libya and from there, across the Mediterranean Sea, to Europe.

Simple, Open Pleasure in a New Landscape

Simple, Open Pleasure in a New Landscape

The philosophy of David Hockney

In the central gallery housing Hockney’s drawings is a crayon portrait from 1974 of Andy Warhol, looking frail and a little lonely on a stuffed green chair in Paris. A comparison between the two artists, who were friends, is instructive. The parallels are clear: both gay, blond icons of Pop art, both protégés of Henry Geldzahler, both sons of working class parents, both prolific and witty writers. But here the similarities end, and the two artists begin to seem like inversions of each other. After the initial erotic frenzy of his work from the 1960s, the sexuality in Hockney’s art largely retreated behind discreet visual conventions; sex in Warhol was comparatively hardcore, particularly in his films. Likewise, the theme of death is explicit in Warhol and circumspect in Hockney. Warhol’s narrative voice is arch and elusive, willfully blank; Hockney’s direct and incisive, and at times, almost doggedly earnest. But the most striking zone of commonality and difference has to do with the way the two artists treated the issue of mechanical reproduction.

Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis

Should we be angry about Trump’s Twitter account, or the consolidation of nuclear power to a single elected position?

The diagnoses laid out here—narcissistic personality disorder, sociopathy, Alzheimer’s, Trump-as-Hitler—will not result in treatment or removal from office. They assume a rational population that needs only to have the cause laid out for them. The problem confronting America is not a dearth of facts; the problem, rather, is that most people want the benefits of a system whose logical extreme—Trump—they can’t tolerate.

Black Hole Sun God

Black Hole Sun God

Michael Wolff takes stock

The President is presented as someone who constantly watches TV—three in bed at once, we’re told—and whose antipathy for the written word is so intense his staff has concluded he is “semiliterate” or even “dyslexic.” Fundamentally incurious and easily bored, Trump time and again reveals neither knowledge of or the barest interest in any of his supposedly most cherished policy issues, from the budget to Obamacare.

Not Every Kid-Bond Matures

Not Every Kid-Bond Matures

Millennial habits so often mocked and belittled in the press are the survival strategies of a demographic “born into captivity.”

The summation Kids These Days gives us is harrowing: here is a generation hurrying to give in to the unremitting, unforgiving commodification of the self. Malcolm Harris predicts a future of debt servitude, confinement for the “malfunctioning,” worsening misogyny (though his gender analysis is less coherent than the rest of his argument), and total surveillance. Millennials, that is, are the first generation to live in the dystopia to come.

Sub-Sub-Underground-Anti-Connoisseurship

Sub-Sub-Underground-Anti-Connoisseurship

Adrift with Allan Sekula

When Sekula died of cancer in August 2013 at age sixty-two, he left behind a remarkable legacy as a photographer, filmmaker, art historian, activist, and educator, though only a fairly small—albeit distinguished—tribe of artists and academics has taken stock of it. Much of his work is united by a consistent interest: wherever capitalism sought to hawk the fantasy of an immaterial economy, or to hide its stink in refrigerated shipping freight, Sekula made it his artistic practice to visualize and to describe its mechanisms of concealment.

Converts to Abortion Rights

Converts to Abortion Rights

Dr. Willie Parker’s new book attempts the unusual and difficult task of reconciling support for abortion rights and abiding religious belief.

The word “conversion” fits the abortion-rights cause awkwardly. There is no progressive equivalent to Priests for Life, a website cataloging the stories of sidewalk protesters-turned-Planned Parenthood donors. Abortion rights were, in the beginning, a public health issue. Opponents started framing the cause in moral terms—something that defenders were at pains to avoid. The president of the Association for the Study of Abortion, Jimmye Kimmey, is credited for coming up with the phrase “pro-choice” in 1972. She preferred, she wrote in a memo, because “what we are concerned with is, to repeat, the woman’s right to choose—not with her right (or anyone else’s right) to make a judgment about whether that choice is morally licit.”

Not a Techno-Thriller

Not a Techno-Thriller

The Volkswagen scandal was more diffuse, technical and tedious than most journalists allow.

Scandal always captivates, and the VW news captivated Americans for months—even those Americans who usually skip past the automobile section. Reporters like Ewing published updates nearly every day. John Oliver even jumped aboard with a comedy bit mocking the German language and ended with the line, “Hitler trusted us, why won’t you?” With the market prepared, Faster, Higher, Farther has been published simultaneously in English and German, and the author has been appearing on the morning shows to talk corporate scandal. Leonardo DiCaprio bought the movie rights.

Sad and Boujee

Sad and Boujee

The radical and perpetually unpredictable voice of Percival Everett

Neglect is a fate all experimental writers risk, but if they happen to be black it can seem almost impossible to avoid. Everett always intended to chart his own course. He picked the novel up where Ishmael Reed had taken it, but pivoted away from Reed’s zaniness toward a prismatic allegorical realism, a constant reinvention of form designed to grapple with the vertiginous ends of America’s violent and often contradictory racial, economic, geographic, and sexual epistemologies—a project consonant in many ways with Wallace’s—but evidently not one that could generate the same kind of popular appeal.