Read This & Catch Fire

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In 1965, the performance artist Yvonne Rainer wrote her No Manifesto. It demanded ‘No to virtuosity’, ‘No to spectacle’ and ‘No’ to many other things. In 2008, Rainer revisited it as part of the Serpentine Gallery’s ‘Manifesto Marathon’, balancing her former demands with provisos of a more realistic nature, such as ‘if at all possible’. This […]

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The Iranian regime’s treatment of the Anglo-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who last month completed a five-year sentence after being convicted on trumped-up charges of conspiracy but now faces new charges, has once again shone the spotlight on the country, its judicial system and the appalling conditions endured by female prisoners in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. […]

Guessing Game

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In The Coming Bad Days, Sarah Bernstein’s debut novel, the world is closing in. The unnamed narrator, a young academic, reads about people found dead. Helicopters rattle low over buildings; two girls go missing; a curfew is imposed. She ditches her long-term partner and travels to an unnamed town to take up a new teaching […]

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Of Mice & Man

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Early on in Transcendent Kingdom, the narrator’s brother, Nana, is racially abused from the sidelines during a football match. Furiously, he sets out to decimate his opponents: ‘For the rest of that half he was little more than a blur, moving not with the elegance my father associated with soccer, but with pure fury.’ For […]

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The Ghost Who Came in from the Cold

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Chris Power’s first novel performs a wonderful kind of magic trick. It’s a study of alienation that manages to be never less than engaging, a depiction of emotional emptiness that is packed with emotion, and an account of one man’s bleached-out perspective on life that is rendered in sharp and colourful detail. This is a […]

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Build It Up, Tear It Down

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Kevin Power’s outstanding second novel, White City, opens with the narrator, Ben, in a drug rehabilitation facility, reliving the experiences that have brought him there. At the start of these reminiscences, Ben is living with his parents, drifting through a PhD on Joyce and toying with writing a novel, when his father – a successful […]

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Mother of Mine

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

One of life’s cruelties is how your identity adds up to the sum of your choices – where you live, where you run to, whom you marry, whom you run away from – and owes little to the self-image you hoard inside yourself. ‘It’s just not me!’ you may say about living in the suburbs, […]

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The Big Freeze

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Drama and excitement are welcome in the novels of Jon McGregor, but they are expected to know their place. His Booker-longlisted debut novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (2002), featured a catastrophic event befalling the residents of a street in the north of England, but only at the end of the book; for the […]

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1492 and All That

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Like many pre-teenage boys who locked themselves away in their bedrooms in the early 1990s, I spent too many hours playing Civilization, a strategy video game. The aim of the game is to raise an all-conquering tribe from small, local beginnings to world domination. As you progress, the game makes its own potpourri of world […]

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Welcome to the Big Aubergine

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

America universalised itself through the movies, prompting people everywhere to fantasise about a richer life in the country that had exported such alluring images. In Visconti’s Bellissima, Anna Magnani exults in the sight of a cattle drive as Howard Hawks’s western Red River is projected onto the wall of a Roman tenement, and in Godard’s […]

After Hours in the Museum

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Edmund de Waal is an internationally known potter, but through investigative energy and a sense of obligation he has also become the chronicler of his Jewish ancestors. In his acclaimed The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010), he makes a collection of small Japanese carved figures, acquired in Paris in the 1870s and passed down in […]

Supermodels for Social Justice

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘There has always been the lingering speculation … that Vogue was on the verge of collapse,’ writes Nina-Sophia Miralles. ‘That cry went up when the founder died in 1906, during the Depression of the 1930s, in the youth-led revolution of the 1960s and at the dawn of the blogger generation of the 2010s. But no […]

No Need to Bring a Shovel

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!!! WOW FUCK!! SHIT!!’ The language sounds spontaneous, even by the standards of email; or was it contrived pour épater les bourgeois? Tom Higham’s ejaculations seem disproportionate as well as ineloquent. He had just heard that a pile of ancient detritus from Denisova Cave in Siberia contained one bone, less than an inch […]

Fighting Talk

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

There has been no small amount of schadenfreude over Jordan Peterson’s slide from public view. Famous for flagellating ‘social justice types’ and telling the Left to ‘grow the hell up’, he admitted last year that he had been struggling with benzodiazepine addiction. This was met with cruel amusement by some, who found it ironic that […]

Altered States

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘We would rather be ruined than changed,’ W H Auden sombrely wrote. Although I suspect Adam Phillips might agree with this in the sense Auden intended it, the title of his latest intellectually bracing book appears to suggest otherwise. The ability to change is at the core of the theory of evolution. It is not, […]

Our Man at the Kitchen Table

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat, an investigative journalism website, and We are Bellingcat tells its story. Bellingcat’s approach is often called ‘open-source intelligence’ (OSINT). But, as Higgins explains, the term OSINT derives from the work of government intelligence agencies, whose secretive practices differ from those of Bellingcat. A more accurate description of Higgins’s […]

One Giant Leap for Mankind

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

On the morning of 12 April 1961, an orange dot appeared in the sky over the Russian village of Smelovka, growing as it fell. A government official reported what he witnessed: ‘A spaceship-sputnik landed with cosmonaut Gagarin Yuri Alekseyevich.’ The official was lying – in fact Gagarin was never there. Villagers arriving at the scene found no one inside

Bloody Waters

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Rising northwest of Moscow and flowing 2,200 miles southeast to the Caspian Sea, the Volga is Europe’s longest river. Passing through pine forests, black-earth steppe and semi-desert, it is simultaneously part of Russia’s heartland and a marker of the border between Europe and Asia. For Russians, the river is ‘Mother Volga’, subject of song and […]

Trespassers Will Be Contaminated

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The Battle of Verdun raged for three hundred days – the longest battle the world has ever seen. Forty million shells were dropped, more than six for every square metre of the battlefield. The conflict left behind a desert in which the soil had undergone the equivalent of ten thousand years of natural erosion. After the war, an arc of land around Verdun was deemed too broken and dangerous to

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