RaveFinancial Times (UK)Lively and enlightening ... Metaphysical Animals is a portrait in intellectual courage.
RaveFinancial Times (UK)... the relationship between her fiction and non-fiction is one of the most interesting things about Batuman’s writing ... Her essays display the same combination of acute intelligence and comedy that suffuses the novels ... hard not to read some gently self-undermining commentary on Batuman’s own novelistic practice into a passage in which Selin describes the experience of taking a creative-writing class for the first time ... a richly suggestive and amusing book.
PositiveFinancial Times (UK)... an exhaustive and deeply sympathetic account ... although the kindest thing one can say about him as a critic is that he has a flair for concise précis, Bailey does give the reader a vivid sense of the richly varying modes in which Roth operated ... Eschewing censoriousness, Bailey leaves it to the reader to decide if [\'feminist prison\' is] where Roth belongs.
RaveFinancial Times (UK)\"At first, Red Pill resembles the kind of intellectual comedy of manners that has become familiar in contemporary American fiction in recent years...For some writers, the gently comic potential of this set-up would be enough. But Kunzru is too ambitious to be satisfied by academic farce ... What [Hannah] Arendt actually said was: \'everything that lives . . . emerges from darkness and, however strong its natural tendency to thrust itself into the light, it nevertheless needs the security of darkness to grow at all.\' This deeply intelligent and artfully constructed novel reminds us that this is true of human relationships and societies alike.\
PositiveThe Financial TimesEilenberger is not the first writer to suggest an affinity between Heidegger’s and Wittgenstein’s attempts, as he puts it, to \'merge philosophy and everyday life\'. However, the case for including Benjamin, whose most enduring work was done in literary and cultural criticism, is much less persuasive. It seems to rest more on his personal antipathy towards the institution of academic philosophy than on any significant ideas he might have shared with the others ... That said, Eilenberger’s account of Benjamin’s increasingly desperate attempts to gain professional recognition (as well as his extravagant gift for self-sabotage) is highly entertaining. His treatment of what was a somewhat chequered decade for Wittgenstein is less original, and the biographical details will be familiar to anyone who has read Ray Monk’s definitive life of the Austrian philosopher ... Eilenberger makes no effort to gloss over the disastrous political commitment that Heidegger would make four years after Davos, when he accepted the rectorship of Freiburg University, an appointment in the gift of the new National Socialist regime in Berlin. But he is attentive to what the two men shared, as well as to what divided them
PanFinancial Times (UK)\"Must I Go can be read, at least in part, as an attempt to dramatise that insight about the way we sift and shape the detritus of the past, fashioning what we call \'memories\' out of those scraps of \'evidence\' ... Lilia’s annotations, often wrapped in morsels of homespun wisdom for her granddaughter’s benefit...is akin to the kind of edifying or improving slogans you’d find on a fridge magnet ... In having Lilia fill out some of the silences and omissions in Roland’s story, Li strays from what is surely the emotional core of the novel ... And if the tone of the novel is sometimes uncertain, the structure too is unwieldy, with the hectic swapping of points of view and serpentine chronology—though this is arguably faithful to the way a mind trawling the past for nuggets of the truth would work. Compared to its lean and costive predecessor, Must I Go is baggy and meandering.
RaveThe Financial Times (UK)...[Lerner] combines the autofictional (Lerner’s parents were psychologists at the Menninger clinic in Topeka, where he grew up) and the metafictional with exceptional dexterity ... unlike its predecessors, which were both narrated in the first person, The Topeka School occupies multiple points of view...This gives it an expansiveness that, for all their qualities, the earlier books lacked. is a Bildungsroman, therefore, a portrait of the poet as a young man — albeit one couched in an idiom that is distinctively Lerner’s ... Adam’s preoccupation with the linguistic dimension of the problem of other minds, the recognition that language is the \'fundamental medium of sociality\', is an enduring motif of the novel.
RaveThe New StatesmanHis \'memory chalet\' is a modest version of the \'memory palaces\' used by early modern thinkers and travellers to retain and recall detail and description. It is based on an unremarkable little pensione in an unremarkable little town in the Swiss Alps where Judt spent a winter holiday with his parents in the late 1950s. He describes how he would assign fragments of narrative to different parts of the building - to the bar, say, the dining room, or the bedrooms ... His unillusioned and unsentimental apprehension of his own imminent disappearance gives the book...a sort of pre-posthumous quality ... In examining his past, Judt has managed to write what amounts to a Bildungsroman of one of the most distinctive writerly personas of the age. At the same time, he has told us something important about ourselves: about what we were and what we have become.
PositiveFinancial Times (UK)Middle England completes a trilogy, reunites readers with the protagonist Benjamin Trotter and is saturated in the fraught and sometimes frightening politics of Englishness that found an outlet during the 2016 EU referendum campaign ... episodes are woven together with bits of contemporaneous historical material ... The effect is not entirely satisfactory. It sometimes feels as though Coe has simply tipped the contents of his notebook straight into the novel ... In any event, if you’ve been paying attention to Coe’s public pronouncements in recent years, you will know exactly where he stands. If Middle England were simply a fictionalised howl of aggrieved Remainer-dom, it would be considerably less arresting than it actually is. What is interesting about Coe — and what is interesting about this novel and the other two in the trilogy — is not so much his flight from Englishness as his ambivalent embrace of it.
PositiveThe Financial TimesAnyone who has given up graduate school for Grub Street will be comforted by Epstein’s conclusion, which is buttressed by copious scientific research, that knowing when to quit or being willing to switch path can often be strategic advantages in one’s career. \'Switchers,\' he says, \'are winners.\' Yet Range is not merely a vindication of his decision to leave academia’s cult of specialisation behind. As the book’s subtitle puts it, the author is attempting to explain why and how foxy generalists can \'triumph in a specialised world\' ... He examines a study in which the psychologist James Flynn compared the grade point average of seniors at an American university with their performance in a critical thinking test ... Neuroscience and business majors did worst, while economics majors performed best overall ... Epstein attributes this success to the ability of economists to apply their principles \'outside their area\' ... But it seems not to occur to him that this extension of the writ of economic reasoning where previously it hadn’t run could be anything other than benign. Maybe, as Berlin observed of Tolstoy, in every fox there’s a hedgehog struggling to get out.
RaveThe Financial TimesSplendid ... a beautifully written, and often intensely moving, account of a life devoted to the achievement of intellectual greatness and the exploration of the conditions for its flourishing ... masterful.
RaveThe Financial TimesAs Sophie Pedder notes in her excellent and lavishly sourced account of Macron’s \'quest to reinvent a nation,\' the French promise to reform at home—and conforming with EU fiscal rules is just part of a package of domestic measures designed to reassure Berlin—is a quid pro quo. In return for seeing through unpopular changes to the supply side of the French economy, as well as stabilizing the public finances, Macron expects Germany to support his ambitious plans for deeper integration of the eurozone ... Pedder is sensitive...to Macron’s capacity for looking ridiculous—his avowed aim to be a \'Jupiterian\' president will have elicited smiles in chancelleries across Europe. But she also recognizes that he has thought deeply about the symbolic weight that the presidency carries ... Pedder suggests that it is better to see him as the inheritor of a distinctively French social-democratic tradition known as the \'deuxième gauche\' (second left) associated with former Socialist prime minister Michel Rocard.
Martha C. Nussbaum
MixedThe Financial TimesNussbaum develops her analysis of fear, anger, disgust and envy with a rich array of examples from literature and the law (two longstanding areas of interest for her). And the results are illuminating. However, her second answer to the question of the role that philosophy can play in a time of crisis is rather less persuasive. If Nussbaum is to be believed, not only is the philosophical method of weighing arguments analytically powerful, it is also nothing less than a model for active or engaged citizenship ... It would certainly be nice if, as Nussbaum suggests, we were all able to figure out what we think on matters of fundamental political principle before entering \'contentious and difficult\' debates. But what do we do in the meantime?
PositiveThe Financial Times...an exercise in nostalgia, which is arguably the most natural mode in which to write about a city that can sometimes seem to be caught in the aspic of its own very potent legend ... Sartre, along with his life-long paramour Simone de Beauvoir, stands at the centre of Poirier’s book. Around this charismatic pair orbit the other stars in the Left Bank constellation (writers, artists, models and musicians), in a series of intellectual, political and erotic entanglements whose internecine complexity the author unpicks with great relish and flair.