RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)The volume is introduced by the LRB’s editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers, who gave her the freedom to roam and suggested many of the subjects, and ends with an afterword by Diski’s daughter Chloe, who observes (as Wilmers does) that all her writing was essentially personal ... This is not to say that they are lazy, self-indulgent or attention-seeking. They are hard worked and scrupulous and illuminating ... In her autobiographical writings Diski displays a gift for ruthless self-examination as well as a need to confront the unacceptable and explore the unknowable ... The book reviews also tell us a good deal about Diski, and one of the things they tell us is that she was attracted to the \'dangerous edge of things\' ... the real substance of the volume lies in the well-researched essays on complex but minor figures such as Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth, George Orwell’s second wife Sonia, and Sigmund Freud’s wife Martha ... What it is to be Jewish is one of the undercurrents in much of Diski’s writing, and inspired two of her more eccentric LRB essays, both very entertaining, studded with bits of interesting and eclectic information ... This wide-ranging collection is a tribute to her, and to her friend and editor Mary-Kay Wilmers, who brought out the best in her. Many writers envied the space that Wilmers gave her, but few could have made such good use of it.
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)The essays in this volume predate Covid-19, some by several years, yet they offer an uncanny and haunting foreshadowing of our cities as they now appear to us ... This is a male-dominated book, but many of its most familiar subjects are given revelatory new interpretations.
PositiveThe Times Literary SupplementDorian Lynskey’s book amounts to a comprehensive survey of the history of utopia and dystopia, centring on Orwell’s immensely influential novel, and it is full of connections that make the reader’s mind spin off in all directions ... There are several biographies of Orwell, and innumerable commentaries on his work...but there is always something new to think or say about him. And in the age of Trump, some Orwellian concepts have taken on a new meaning ... we can’t help treating Orwell as some kind of prophet, and wondering what he would have had to say about Brexit or the rise of religious fundamentalism ... One of his last messages to his publisher, Fredric Warburg, was \'Don’t let it happen, it depends on you\'. This thought-provoking book explores the many possibilities of what he may have meant by \'it\'.