ART BOOK OF THE WEEK: War Cut – Gerhard Richter [Walter Koenig]
With the shadow of the Iraq war at our backs, ten years after the initial invasion and the threat of war omnipresent across the globe – and in far too many countries considerably more than just a threat – this reissue of Richter’s study in violence is more poignant now than ever. Comprising photographs of his abstract No. 648-2 with newspaper texts from around the 2003 invasion, the reader’s own associations and the artist’s eye for detail collude in making this a haunting a reminder of the horrors of war. Not quite on par with Guernica, but a somber affair.
PHOTOGRAPHY BOOK OF THE WEEK: Shot by Kern – Richard Kern [Taschen]
Richard Kern has always walked a fine line, a line that he has often blurred and that has often been blurred by overzealous censors, between artistic perfection and throbbing erection: While his previous monograph, Action, has been criticized as pure pornography (a Shakespeare-worthy juxtaposition if ever there was one) masquerading as art, Shot by Kern strikes a healthy balance between the two – 50% high class, 50% ass. It will still have its detractors, especially if they get their hands on the hour-long DVD, soundtracked by Thurston Moore, but Kern’s intercontinental jaunt is a return to form. (The female form, of course.)
POETRY BOOK OF THE WEEK: Dear Boy – Emily Berry [Faber & Faber]
I recently made a (very necessary) jab at contemporary poetry – at two of the drabbest cogs in its machine in particular – and listed a couple of its possible saviors. To my own shame I neglected Emily Berry, whose self-aware collection Dear Boy really is something else. Berry captures the poetry in life and the life in poetry in a way that is nowhere near as bourgeois and grandiose as it sounds, but rather earthy and uncontrived and makes a better fist of mirroring modern being than almost anyone I can think of. Take note, purveyors of total bollocks. (You know who you are.)
LITERARY JOURNAL OF THE WEEK: Guernica
What a treat it is to crowbar Guernica in twice in one article. This time, though, I’m not on about the painting (although, I am a bit): Guernica is a journal happy to push it – buttons, envelopes, you name it and they’ll give it a shove, along with some other things you didn’t ask for. It’s cerebral and funny and I get the same kick from reading it that I did from music magazines when I was a kid. Never come away empty handed.
CULTURALLY RELEVANT NOVEL OF THE WEEK: The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov [Vintage/Penguin]
This book was written 80-odd years ago, and finally published in the 60s after years of political suppression and censorship, yet still remains not only one of the greatest novels ever written but, sadly, one of the most culturally relevant. (Progress is a decadent Western luxury, after all.) Witch hunts, real witches, giant cats, foreign devils, the actual devil – they’re all in there, contributing to what is probably still the most vivid portrait of the state of Russia, its government and its effect on its peoples. Sure, it’s a work of fiction but you don’t have to reach too far to connect the abhorrent dots.
NEW NOVEL OF THE WEEK: Altai – Wu Ming [Verso]
Wu Ming is/are an almost unique beast; while literary and artistic collectives abound in London, it is a rare thing to see a collaborative effort channeled so effectively in to a single, coherent and even brilliant piece of work. The follow-up to Q – written under the pseudonym Luther Blissett – Altai takes us back to 16th century Europe and sees the Italian group challenging Umberto Eco for his continental historical fiction throne. The Name of the Rose? Never fucking heard of it, mate.