Categories
Book review History Politics

Hitler Was My Friend: Memoirs of Hitler’s Photographer (1955). Heinrich Hoffman

Hoffman’s memoirs offer an entertaining glimpse at life in the Nazi inner circle, and at Hitler himself. A light, brisk, anecdotal narrative chronicles Hoffman’s own artistic career, and the course of his professional relationship and personal friendship with Hitler. This modest, self-avowedly apolitical work nevertheless offers some key insights into Hitler and his associates, and makes for entertaining light reading.

Categories
Book review History Politics

Look Who’s Back. Timur Vermes (2012)

What if Adolf Hitler came back to life in contemporary Germany? How would he go about getting a platform to work his way back to power? *Look Who’s Back* captures Hitler’s single-minded drive and prosy voice to present us with a personable if misguided leader. Vermes analyses the dynamics of profit-driven viewer-hungry media, and of a politically disenfranchised populace, in the (re)making of an extremist.

Categories
Flash story

Promises

A flash story about the promises we make ourselves.

Categories
Flash story

The Hours

A flash story about the deracinated, isolated contemporary worker struggling to keep track of the hours and the seasons.

Categories
Book review

A Creek Named Sorrow. Judith Kelly Quaempts (2016)

*A Creek Named Sorrow* is a competently narrated crime/mystery novel that juxtaposes the beauty of a rural New England landscape with human crime and misery. But a dizzying cast of mostly undeveloped characters, and a striking lack of sympathy for/insight into its criminal crharacters, make this novel a less-than-satisfying read.

Categories
Book review

Tiny Novels in A Flash: 30 Short-Short Stories. William LaFond (2020)

*Tiny Novels In A Flash: 30 Short-Short Stories* delivers maximum story in minimum word-count. This book is a rainbow collection of characters and moods. Its themes range from comedy through life-lesson through love and loss. Its settings span the American landscape; most of the stories are contemporary; a few are set at various key moments in U.S. history. Each of these 30 standalone stories is a delectable read for a few spare minutes. Together, they demonstrate an impressive range from this debut author.

Categories
Biography History Politics

I Was Hitler’s Buddy (1939). Reinhold Hanisch. Article in New Republic

This short memoir by a fellow vagrant from Hitler’s prewar homeless days in Vienna provides insights into how early experiences with destitution and hopelessness shaped a tyrant.

Categories
Personal Essay Politics

You’re Cancelled. Please Exit, Stage Left. Next!

Cancel Culture displaces individual responsibility, creates a hollow sense of satisfaction, and fails to resolve systemic injustice.

Categories
Biography History Politics

The Young Hitler I Knew (1953). August Kubizek

Kubizek’s memoir constitutes one of the few reliable sources of Hitler’s years in Linz, and in Vienna before penury made Hitler homeless. Kubizek’s account is sympathetic but balanced. Combining character analysis with narrative of shared ideas and adventures, it provdes not only insights into the gestation of a tyrant — but a delightful read.

Categories
Personal Essay Politics Psychology

Sticks, and Stones, and Words

Political Correctness solves nothing, and sidesteps the hard work of institutional reform. Language reflects material circumstances – and it is material, economic injustice that must remain our focus. Banning words is high-profile, low-impact virtue-signalling that polarises groups and forbids honest dialogue.

Categories
Book review

Our Mutual Friend (1864-1865). Charles Dickens

*Our Mutual Friend*, Dickens’s last finished novel, revives many familiar Dickens tropes, but unites them with lively social satire, a spare cast (by Dickens’s standard), and a mostly sound narrative. With characteristic ease, *Friend* traverses the socioeconomic spectrum from low to high. Its settings range from the grotesque and morbid, to scenes of fevered fancy and domestic bliss. *Friend*’s social satire is caustic as always. *Friend* is Dickens at his acme.

Categories
Advice on Writing Personal Essay

Take Your Time. Let the Wine Mature.

Image credit The best writing advice I’ve received, scattered over twelve years, was from three people, none of them a writer. # I was 20, and struggling to make my writing work. I thought I just had to produce more. More words. More stories. A friend and I were moon-gazing. She remarked that meditating helped […]

Categories
Biography Book review History Politics

Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography (1976). John Toland

“My book has no thesis, and any conclusions to be found in it were reached only during the writing, perhaps the most meaningful being that Hitler was far more complex and contradictory than I had imagined. ‘The greatest saints,’ observes one of Graham Greene’s characters, ‘Have been men with a more than normal capacity for evil, and the most vicious men have sometimes narrowly evaded sanctity.’ Deprived of heaven, Adolf Hitler chose hell – if, indeed, he knew the difference between the two.”

Categories
Flash story

Trio

Blue Pepper Literary Magazine published my flash play “Trio.” Image Credit *** ETHEL: You didn’t let me go last year. Now, I’m going. #3: Look what she’s packing. Two bits of string – to wit, a bikini. HANNAH: That’d look lovely on you, darling. It’s just your colour – #3: That bulge-eyed Mr. Geil is […]

Categories
Flash story

Holiday

Meet Cute Press republished my flash story “Holiday,” previously published in The Bookends Review. Image credit *** “Is it really possible to stay awake for four days?” said Jaya.  “Will we even enjoy it?” Four days.  That’s all we had.  Two of which we’d spend in the train, coming and going.  I decided: we mustn’t […]

Categories
Book review

De Profundis. Oscar Wilde (1905)

“Nothing in the world is meaningless,” Wilde declares, “And sorrow least of all.” Wilde is writing De Profundis in his second year in prison. His first year was full of physical illness, bitterness, and cynicism. Wilde’s embrace of suffering now is motivated not by pessimism but, on the contrary, by self-love.

Categories
Book review

Sketches by Boz. Charles Dickens (1836)

Joyce reputedly said that if Dublin were razed, it could be recreated from his descriptions of it in Ulysses. Dickens could’ve made the same claim regarding London and Sketches. Here, London emerges into the foreground as the main character. Dickens develops the city’s neighbourhoods, times-of-day, and inhabitants into the portrait of a vibrant city. It is a portrait monumentally detailed, full of humour and colour.

Categories
Book review

Trust Exercise. Susan Choi (2019)

*Trust Exercise* squanders the potential of Part One’s promising narrative about ambition, love, and sexual power politics with Part Two’s dreary postmodern writerly devices.

Categories
Book review Philosophy

Waiting for Godot (1953) & Endgame (1957). Samuel Beckett.

*Waiting for Godot* and *Endgame* are pure. Pure existential angst. Their plots are constructed, with extravagant meticulousness, out of nothing. Their characters discuss, painstakingly, nothing. Meaninglessness saturates these short plays’ atmosphere: leaving the reader airless, suffocating. These plays are twin peaks of artistic achievement – and are deeply disturbing.

Categories
Advice on Writing Book review Philosophy

Poetics (335 BCE). Aristotle.

*Poetics* is a bite-sized treatise combining commentary on the evolution of literary genres with still-relevant advice to writers on how to develop characters, construct a good plot, and evoke appropriate emotions in the reader.

Categories
Artists & Scientists Interview

Interview with Ana Vidosavljevic, author of Flower Thieves

Today I interview Ana Vidosavljevic about authoring and publishing her short story memoir collection, Flower Thieves.

Categories
Book review

Flower Thieves (2020). Ana Vidosavljevic.

Flower Thieves is a promising debut by a writer with an eye for character, a gentle humour, and a gift for simplicity.

Categories
Book review History Politics Psychology

Civilisation and Its Discontents. Sigmund Freud (1930)

In this long essay, Freud examines the puzzling phenomenon of individuals in civilised societies pointing to civilisation as the root of all evil. If you want to discover the meticulous, erudite, prescient scientist behind the caricature that Freud has become in contemporary culture – this succinct, clearly-reasoned analysis marrying history and psychology is a good starting-point.

Categories
Book Excerpts & Overview History Philosophy

Oxford University Press’s Very Short Introduction to: Poststructuralism

“Existing meanings are not ours to command. When we use a language, we inherit & reproduce, usually unintentionally, the language’s cultural legacy & moral attitudes… This is the way in which language as it exists necessarily imposes limits on thought.”

Categories
Book Excerpts & Overview Economics History Politics

The World Is Flat

Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat a key book, arguing that advances in communication technology, transportation, supply chain management, & geopolitics – have empowered people across geographical & class boundaries to educate themselves, find or create fulfilling work, run their own businesses, recruit teams & supplies across boundaries, & keep learning new skills.

Categories
Book Excerpts & Overview Mental Health Psychology

The Beauty Myth

I’ve featured Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth here before. I’ll keep featuring it. It changed my life. BM analyses how the pursuit of a standardised, impossible, high-maintenance physical beauty claims women’s time, money, health, sanity, & humanity. It’s a book every man & woman should read: it’s incisive about the ways in which advertising, industry, commerce, popular culture (inc. films & women’s magazines & porn), & even the healthcare industry collude to create a reality where health & happiness become almost impossible for millions of educated, sane citizens. (This is also why I repeatedly feature works on the Third Reich, inc. on & by Nazi leaders.)

Categories
Flash story

Weary

Inside a tranquil old stone temple, the journey to recovery from an eating disorder begins.

Categories
Book Excerpts & Overview

Shakespeare’s Sonnets

One of my favourite sonnets provides, near the end of the cycle, a respite from the intense emotions. Here, the poet ceases his pleading, & attempts a bargain. His Dark Lady, weary of her Will, is pursuing other romantic/sexual conquests. But her Will wants her back at any cost. If she’d only come back & soothe him – him, whom she’s already conquered – then he’d give her his blessing to stride forth & make other conquests:

Categories
Book Excerpts & Overview

Cratylus

Read Cratylus for an entertaining attack on postmodernism, for insightful analyses of the relationship b/w language and reality, b/w linguistics & natural history – & for Soc’s usual pragmatic axioms: “Everyone should expend his chief thought and attention on the consideration his *first principles* – are they rightly laid down? And when he has duly sifted them, the rest will follow.”

Categories
Book review Philosophy Psychology

The Stranger. Albert Camus (1942)

The Stranger manages to disorient us, and dislocate our own comfortable ideas about what it means to live a human life. It’s not a comfortable book – but, like the best existentialist literature, it’s a book that may enable us to search our own souls, and see in ourselves a brother or a sister to criminals and to saints. It’s a book that may empower us to face the essential meaninglessness of life: in order to create meaning for ourselves.

Categories
Artists & Scientists Interview

Interview with Poet J. L. Moultrie

[Image: J.L.’s library and keyboard] J. L. Moultrie writes poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction. We met through our writing. J.L. has previously guest-blogged on this site: offering a previously published poem, “Memento Mori,” and an original essay contextualising it. Today, I pick J.L.’s brain about how he discovered writing, how he approaches the creative […]

Categories
Book review History

The Life And Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Lawrence Sterne (1759)

Tristram Shandy dazzles with linguistic innovation, effervesces with humour ranging from situational to risque, paints portraits with a brush fine but kind, and offers illuminating glimpses into the history of science. But Tristram Shandy, reputedly the world’s first postmodern novel, does not work as a novel.

Categories
Advice on Writing Artists & Scientists Interview

Interview with Writer Ana Vidosavljevic

Some time ago, I read Ana’s articles at The Curious Reader, a magazine we both write for. I went on to discover her other writing, then her website. I was struck by her honest, fresh writing; by the novelty and freshness of her prose; and by her imaginative and accessible stories for children. I got to read […]

Categories
Book review Politics

The Handmaid’s Tale. Margaret Atwood (1985)

The best-written science fiction is fiction that tosses flesh-and-blood human beings into challenging environments – in order to confront us with uncomfortable truths to which we’ve become comfortably blind. This is how and why The Handmaid’s Tale works.

Categories
Artists & Scientists Guest Posts Personal Essay Poetry

Guest Post: Memento Mori

Image: Paul Cezanne’s *Pyramid of Skulls* by J. L. Moultrie Today I’m pleased to introduce my dear friend and colleague, poet and writer J. L. Moultrie. I’ve known J. L. just a few months, and we’ve never met in person. But through his writing, and through a long and rich series of emails, I’ve come […]

Categories
Book review History Philosophy Psychology

Very Short Introduction to The Meaning of Life. Terry Eagleton (2007)

Terry Eagleton’s Very Short Introduction to the Meaning of Life is a delectable, digestible introduction to landmark schools of thought whose debates on big questions have shaped European cultural history; and, via that route, global political history.

Categories
Short story

Sanctuary

Volume Three of Fearsome Critters is out, with my short story “Sanctuary.” Set on a solo weekend trip to Benaras, “Sanctuary” fictionalises a friend’s psychoglocial journey. A journey of healing from trauma, rediscovering oneself through reflection (with aid from psychedelics), and recovering one’s faith in people and purpose in life.

Categories
Short story

Holiday. A short story. Love, Fate, and Acceptance.

After uny exams in north India, a young couple takes their first trip together. Impeding separation looms over them, all but inevitable. Sarthak and Jaya have different attitudes to fate. When an eventuality is all but certain — is it wiser to yield, or to fight it anyway?

Categories
Flash story

How To Catch A Bee

In this magic realist flash story published at Dove Tales: Gardens in the Desert, wildflowers learn about cooperation. The hard way,

Categories
Film review Uncategorized

Black Mirror’s Scathing Social Commentary Is A Wake-Up Call for Contemporary Democracies

In this critique published at Countercurrents, I explore a genre-changing television series. Black Mirror does best when it shows how, in a world that’s almost this world, mass media and social media cause problematic behaviour at the mass level.

Categories
Book review

Orwell’s Essays Presage His Masterpiece *1984*

In this feature published at Countercurrents, I examine how Orwell’s nonfiction engages with the issues that make his fiction so powerful.

Categories
Book review

Book Review: Gerald Durrell’s Encounters with Animals

A review of one of British conservationist and hilarious writer Gerald Durrell’s less-known gems.

Categories
Book review

Charles Dickens’s Bleak House.

A critique of one of Dickens’s less-known but most masterful novels.

Categories
Book review

What I Read – A selection from Aesop’s Fables

Some life lessons from an ancient Greek fabulist.

Categories
Book review Science

The Ancestor’s Tale Offers a Fascinating Journey Back to our Roots

In this review published at Countercurrents, I examine Dawkins’s encylopaedia of the tree of life.

Categories
Book review History Politics

Mark Tully’s No Full Stops in India exposes the decades-long roots of contemporary India’s social chasms, systemic injustices, and communal tensions

In this article published at Qrius, I explore the continuing relevance of BBC journalist Mark Tully’s book of essays on India.

Categories
Environment Science

COVID-19: Past, Present, Future

In this article published at Countercurrents, I explore the history of zoonoses in shaping civilisation, and review the steps we must take to obviate future pandemics,