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Ghosting: Julian Assange's nonexistent autobiography, by Andrew O'Hagan

"In a lengthy, nuanced essay for the London Review of Books, a version of which he delivered in a lecture in London on Friday, O'Hagan describes working with a mercurial character who was, by turns, passionate, funny, lazy, courageous, vain, paranoid, moral and manipulative. The book deal ultimately collapsed, O'Hagan writes, because 'the man who put himself in charge of disclosing the world's secrets simply couldn't bear his own. The story of his life mortified him and sent him scurrying for excuses. He didn't want to do the book. He hadn't from the beginning.'" (via)
posted by FrauMaschine on Feb 22, 2014 - 107 comments

Book of Lamentations

A new dystopian novel in the classic mode takes the form of a dictionary of madness. Sam Kriss reviews a recent book. [more inside]
posted by RogerB on Oct 19, 2013 - 26 comments

"It's not clear we have that much time."

As Andrew Haldane, director of stability at the Bank of England, put it in a historical overview a few years ago, ‘there is one key difference between the situation today and that in the Middle Ages. Then, the biggest risk to the banks was from the sovereign. Today, perhaps the biggest risk to the sovereign comes from the banks. Causality has reversed.’ Yes, it has: and the sovereign at risk is us. The reason for that is that in the UK bank assets are 492 per cent of GDP. In plain English, our banks are five times bigger than our entire economy. (When the Icelandic and Cypriot banking systems collapsed the respective figures were 880 and 700 per cent.) We know from the events of 2008 and subsequently that the financial sector, indeed the whole world economy, is in an inherently unstable condition. Put the size together with the instability, and we are facing a danger that is no less real for not being on the front page this exact second. This has to be fixed, and it has to be fixed soon, and nothing about fixing it is easy.
- "Let's Consider Kate," John Lanchester, London Review of Books (via)
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Jul 10, 2013 - 29 comments

Germany in 2013, a political sketch

"[Peer Steinbrück, the chancellor-candidate] is a good man, with quite a bold programme for ‘social justice’. Tax increases for the better-off, a proper minimum wage, dual citizenship for immigrants, less elbowing individualism and more solidarity in a society where das Wir entscheidet – ‘it’s the we that counts.’ The German public, surprisingly, mostly agree that increasing taxes is a sound idea. What they resent is that the idea comes from the SPD. In the same way, the Augsburg programme is widely thought to make sense, but the voters don’t fancy Peer Steinbrück. They are pissed off with Angela Merkel’s governing coalition, but reluctant to let go of Mutti’s hand. In short, the public are in one of those sullen, unreasonable moods which make politicians despair." The LRB reports from Germany. [via]
posted by rollick on May 31, 2013 - 20 comments

"I wanted to say: it’s nothing personal, it’s monarchy I’m staring at."

Royal Bodies by Hilary Mantel
"I used to think that the interesting issue was whether we should have a monarchy or not. But now I think that question is rather like, should we have pandas or not? Our current royal family doesn’t have the difficulties in breeding that pandas do, but pandas and royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment. But aren’t they interesting?"

posted by Fizz on Feb 17, 2013 - 53 comments

The sale of the century

How We Happened to Sell Off Our Electricity is James Meek's dissection of the systematic re-privatisation of the UK power industry.
Are you an enemy of liberal principles if you question the fact that, when local electrical engineers dig up the roads in London, they’re working for East Asia’s richest man, the Hong Kong-based Li Ka-shing? In north-east England, they work for Warren Buffett; in Birmingham, Cardiff and Plymouth, the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company; in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool, Iberdrola; in Manchester, a consortium of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and a J.P. Morgan investment fund.

posted by scruss on Jan 10, 2013 - 20 comments

A leftist who experienced the West as the South.

Journalism and Revolution is a review from Dissent Magazine about the biography of Ryszard Kapuściński. This was Neal Ascherson in LRB.
Both of which are very different from Jack Shafer´s take down obituary piece in Slate.
posted by adamvasco on Jan 9, 2013 - 13 comments

Melkor just SOUNDS evil

More than most literary phenomena, names in fiction seem very straightforward until you start to think about them. The simple question, ‘why does a name sound right?’ leads to a whole range of questions. Are there rules about how names are given to characters? Do naming practices differ in different periods? Are they specific to particular genres? Do different authors use names in entirely different ways? There are also anxieties to address: is discussion of names in fiction snagged in a feedback loop, in which we think James Bond is such a good name for a spy because that’s what we know it to be?
posted by Chrysostom on Nov 16, 2012 - 118 comments

Short Cuts

When they take my shoelaces and belt, I realise that this is more serious than I had thought. [more inside]
posted by Elementary Penguin on Nov 14, 2012 - 57 comments

Among the Alawites: Nir Rosen reports from Syria

Among the Alawites: Nir Rosen reports from Syria
posted by Cloud King on Sep 24, 2012 - 5 comments

Perry Anderson's essays about modern states in The London Review of Books

Perry Anderson's book length three part series on the history of India from the beginnings of its independence movement, through independence and partition into its recent history as a nation-state is the latest in a series of erudite, opinionated and wordy articles in The London Review of Books by the UCLA professor of history and sociology on the modern history of various countries, so far taking in Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, the EU, Russia, Taiwan and France. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus on Aug 25, 2012 - 6 comments

Once a Catholic...: Marina Warner on Damien Hirst

Once a Catholic...: Marina Warner on Damien Hirst
posted by Cloud King on Jul 5, 2012 - 11 comments

Save us from the saviors

Slavoj Žižek on Europe and the Greeks
posted by Cloud King on Jun 10, 2012 - 98 comments

Jacqueline Rose on Marilyn Monroe

Jacqueline Rose on Marilyn Monroe
posted by Cloud King on Apr 24, 2012 - 5 comments

John Lanchester on Marx

John Lanchester on Marx in the LRB.
posted by pharm on Mar 30, 2012 - 22 comments

Baffled at a Bookcase

Alan Bennett returns to the library.
I have always been happy in libraries, though without ever being entirely at ease there. A scene that seems to crop up regularly in plays that I have written has a character, often a young man, standing in front of a bookcase feeling baffled.
posted by adamvasco on Jul 23, 2011 - 3 comments

Just Keep Screwing That Chicken

The ten strangest sentences in David Brooks' latest book "The Social Animal"
posted by The Whelk on May 4, 2011 - 64 comments

Documentaries short and long

Cinelan 3 Minute Stories are short documentaries on diverse subjects, such as The London Review of Books personals section, 60s martial arts legend and self-styled 'deadliest man alive' Count Dante and The R.O.M.E.O.s, a group of five old friends from New York in their 70s and 80s who go out to eat and talk about stuff. If you have more time New Video Digital has some full length documentaries (and a few other films) such as The Atomic Cafe, Oscar winner From Mao to Mozart, and season one of Michael Moore's The Awful Truth TV series.
posted by Kattullus on Dec 26, 2010 - 3 comments

Among the Flutterers

Among the Flutterers: In this long, thoughtful essay for the LRB, Irish novelist Colm Tóibín examines the relationship between the Catholic church and homosexuality.
posted by puny human on Aug 14, 2010 - 38 comments

Obama’s besetting political fault is his automatic adoption of the tone of command, accompanied by a persistent reluctance to be seen as the source of the policy he commandeers.

To push through even one more victory on the order of healthcare, Obama will have to give up the posture of mediator that comes naturally to him. He will have to admit in his political practice that there are parties; that he is the leader of a party; that there is a worse and a better cause; that it feels like a fight because it really is a fight. This does not mean just the adoption of a new set of tactics. It will require almost the emergence of a new character.
posted by gerryblog on May 14, 2010 - 61 comments

in a democracy, the ordinary citizen is effectively a king, but a king in a constitutional democracy, a king whose decisions are merely formal

Berlusconi in Tehran by Slavoj Žižek in the London Review of Books
posted by blasdelf on Jul 15, 2009 - 25 comments

Hitting bottom

On 200 mg a day of baclofen, in an important meeting with several associate deans of my college and three new department chairs (I was made chair of my philosophy department just a few weeks before I tried to commit suicide), I fell asleep with my head on the conference room table and, for 40 minutes, everyone was too embarrassed to wake me. Somnolence is the most obvious and inconvenient side effect of baclofen. I reduced my dosage to 100 mg a day, and started taking it only at bedtime. A few days later, a colleague asked if I had changed my medicine. ‘Yes,’ I told her. ‘Why do you ask?’ She is German, an analytic philosopher, and therefore very direct: ‘You are drooling less than you were.’
My Life as a Drunk is a searingly honest essay by novelist and philosophy professor Clancy Martin about his experiences with alcoholism, AA, valium and baclofen.
posted by Kattullus on Jul 1, 2009 - 46 comments

"There needs to be a general acceptance that the current model has failed."

It's Finished is a witty and erudite essay by MeFi lurker John Lanchester in The London Review of Books on how completely and utterly screwed the British economy is. In the process of laying out his case Lanchester touches on varied issues, such Scottish banknotes, why Alan Hollinghurst's phrase "tremendous, Basil Fawltyish lengths" is applicable to the reaction by the US and UK governments to the banking meltdown, the value destruction of corporate mergers, the invention of modern accounting, and why no one really knows how large a share of the failed banks is owned by governments.
posted by Kattullus on May 26, 2009 - 35 comments

LRB Blog

The London Review of Books, the most politically radical of the high-end literary review magazines, now has a blog. It is being updated two or three times a day with pretty substantial posts by the LRB's regular stable of swanky essayists: Diski on the parliamentary expenses scandal, O'Hagan on Michael Savage, and lots and lots from Thomas Jones, who seems to be in charge.
posted by stammer on May 19, 2009 - 31 comments

Saved and Depoliticised at One Stroke

"The most startling features of Kosovo, now that the cleansing of the Serbian minority is on hold, are the poverty of the province ... and the pitiful economy that keeps it locked in." [more inside]
posted by geoff. on Jul 15, 2008 - 7 comments

The Divisions of Cyprus

Labour, which had started the disasters of Cyprus by denying it any decolonisation after 1945, had now completed them, abandoning it to trucidation [by doing nothing when Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974]. London was quite prepared to yield Cyprus to Greece in 1915, in exchange for Greek entry into the war on its side. Had it done so, all subsequent suffering might have been avoided. It is enough to compare the fate of Rhodes, still closer to Turkey and with a comparable Turkish minority, which in 1945 peacefully reverted to Greece, because it was an Italian not a British colony. In the modern history of the Empire, the peculiar malignity of the British record in Cyprus stands apart.
The Divisions of Cyprus, an article in The London Review of Books by historian Perry Anderson, is an excellent history of Cyprus from 1878 to the modern day as well as a polemic against the way that outside powers have treated the island. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus on Apr 17, 2008 - 17 comments

The Great Middle East Peace Process Scam

"The Middle East peace process may well be the most spectacular deception in modern diplomatic history." Henry Siegman, the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress and more recently the director of the CFR's US/Middle East Project, argues in this essay from the London Review of Books that:
...all previous peace initiatives have got nowhere for a reason that neither Bush nor the EU has had the political courage to acknowledge. That reason is the consensus reached long ago by Israel’s decision-making elites that Israel will never allow the emergence of a Palestinian state which denies it effective military and economic control of the West Bank. To be sure, Israel would allow – indeed, it would insist on – the creation of a number of isolated enclaves that Palestinians could call a state, but only in order to prevent the creation of a binational state in which Palestinians would be the majority.

posted by bhouston on Mar 22, 2008 - 43 comments

The entire sequence takes 26 seconds. There’s too much to take in. Or, you don’t know what you’ve taken in, and how deep the impression has been.

The Flow, by Paul Myerscough
That image gives way, quickly and successively, to a series of others: a young black woman smoking, smiling at the camera through a reinforced glass window; three teenage girls in a car, laughing, filmed through the windscreen; a whip-pan to the American flag, pierced by sunlight, drifting in the breeze; a DIY programme on a pixellated TV screen; a ride-along shot of a family in an oversized golf buggy; two different angles of a man alone in a lecture theatre; two more of traffic at night; a woman, suspicious of the camera, wearing a polka-dot dress and partly obscured by glassy reflections; a blurry shot of a long windowless corridor; a man wearing shades in a crowded street; a woman pursued down the cosmetics aisle of a supermarket; and, as Curtis comes to the end of his three short sentences, a woman seen jogging in the wing-mirror of a moving car. The entire sequence takes 26 seconds. There’s too much to take in. Or, you don’t know what you’ve taken in, and how deep the impression has been.

posted by acro on Jun 20, 2007 - 18 comments

The Things We Throw Away

Excellent 8,000 word essay on waste disposal in the endlessly superlative LRB. Andrew O'Hagen goes bin-raiding with Freegans, talks up Zero Waste, rides with the (contraversial) Harrow binmen, meets the Community Recycling Network, tramps over the Calvert Landfill Site and pays a visit to the London Waste EcoPark Recycling and Energy Centre aka the Edmonton Incinerator. Doesn’t meet any mafia though. 8,000 words and none wasted.
posted by criticalbill on May 19, 2007 - 10 comments

The Push For War (by Anatol Lieven).

The Push For War (by Anatol Lieven). "The most surprising thing about the Bush Administration's plan to invade Iraq is not that it is destructive of international order; or wicked, when we consider the role the US (and Britain) have played, and continue to play, in the Middle East; or opposed by the great majority of the international community; or seemingly contrary to some of the basic needs of the war against terrorism. It is all of these things, but they are of no great concern to the hardline nationalists in the Administration....The most surprising thing about the push for war is that it is so profoundly reckless....What we see now is the tragedy of a great country, with noble impulses, successful institutions, magnificent historical achievements and immense energies, which has become a menace to itself and to mankind."

Excecutive summary: Lord Acton foretold all fruit of "military superiority".
posted by fold_and_mutilate on Oct 4, 2002 - 44 comments

Why Are So Many Americans Cancelling Their Subscriptions To "The London Review of Books"?

Why Are So Many Americans Cancelling Their Subscriptions To "The London Review of Books"? This letter from Paul Genova rings true - and touché - to this European at least. Ever since the very respectable LRB published its issue on the September 11 attacks, American readers(and some notable contributors) have been writing in droves to cancel their subscriptions and connections to the journal. Mary Beard's article(op.cit.) aroused most of the fury, though others are arguably just as outrageous. In the pages of this most lively of letter sections - graciously available online - this particular correspondence seems to demonstrate an ever-sharpening divide between American and European intellectuals. Are Paul Genova's and other readers' disgusted reactions justified? Are they specific to the WTC attacks or, more worryingly, representative of a wider separation?
posted by MiguelCardoso on Feb 15, 2002 - 46 comments

This guy I know is walking around the world. He's just done Iran. Here's what he's got to say about it.
posted by Mocata on Sep 4, 2001 - 11 comments

At the end of the Cold War, a lot of people professed to believe that the USSR's collapse "proved" that communism/socialism/egalitarianism (delete according to the size of claim you want to make) can never work.

Maybe. But this got me thinking you could say the same about neoliberalism.
posted by Mocata on Apr 24, 2001 - 17 comments

A British writer's view of the recent American election

A British writer's view of the recent American election We report. You decide. An issue that will not go gently into that good night.
posted by Postroad on Feb 5, 2001 - 6 comments

Inside the world of Alcoholics Anonymous:

Inside the world of Alcoholics Anonymous: John Sutherland has a long piece in the London Review of Books on how AA operates and why it works well for some. The article purports to be a review of a biography of Bill W., one of AA's co-founders, but there is very little review in it; it's mainly a discussion of what AA is all about for a British readership. I am not an AA member, but have attended open AA meetings, have AA friends and belong to a different 12-step group so I can say it's a fairly accurate piece, though colored with some quirky opinions and a few opinions I think are wrong. An occasional line is humorous: "If you accept the modest estimate that 10 per cent of the adult population of this country are problem drinkers then you will conclude that the LRB readership will contain some 10,000 of them. And that 1.5 contributors per issue might have to be so classified." Yes. I'd be willing to wager a few quid that 1.5 contributors to almost any periodical have an alcohol problem! Sutherland correctly observes that the anonymous nature of AA means no one will ever be able to track how many people the program has truly "reformed" (an old-school AAer would say no one is ever reformed, they're only recovering a day at a time). The main beef I have with his piece is his statement about other organizations: Weight Watchers is NOT based on AA, though Overeaters Anonymous is; also, I don't think it is fair to say Al-Anon, OA and Narcotics Anonymous are weak imitations of AA.
posted by jhiggy on Dec 5, 2000 - 22 comments

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