A satire on the cultural sector, which uses humour to play with ideas about literary convention and value, Dead Souls is also a series of philosophical enquiries, with plagiarism the preeminent theme. Set in a slightly warped world where poetry has become immensely lucrative, the novel explores the case of a plagiarising poet, Solomon Wiese, publicly shamed… Continue reading Dead Souls
Paul Beatty is a hugely significant comic writer: one of only a few contemporary novelists whose work is consistently satirical. His most recent novel, The Sellout, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2016, shares DNA with other irreverent, iconoclastic masterpieces like Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse Five. The novel traces the tribulations of his protagonist,… Continue reading Paul Beatty: Unmitigated Blackness
Questioning liberal orthodoxy is a formidable prospect given the inevitability of outrage. But as we risk sliding into coercive ideological conformity, opening up space for debate is surely a matter of some urgency. Comedy is one place where such issues can be raised and explored in relative safety, and two recent instances, Leigh Stein’s satirical… Continue reading Comedy and cancel culture
Leigh Stein’s satirical novel, Self Care, is both consistently funny and compulsively readable. It’s also very important. An account of a startup, ‘Richual’, a community platform ‘for women to cultivate the practice of self-care and change the world by changing ourselves’, the novel traces the increasingly panicked travails of the two female co-founders, Maren and… Continue reading Self Care
All too often humour is seen as somehow secondary to satire - Harry Levin, for instance, describes satire as ‘purposeful comedy’, with the implication that humour alone is insufficient. Indeed, as the privileged critical category, satire often serves ‘to defend comic art against charges of frivolity’ (Green 106). This tendency is understandable given the distinctions… Continue reading Armando Iannucci’s David Copperfield
Jojo Rabbit has been nominated for 6 Oscars, and has just won a Bafta, so, despite the very mixed reviews, it’s clearly appealing to many. For me, it brought to mind other well received films that were similarly muddled – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri for example. The Oscars often favour films which take on… Continue reading Jojo Rabbit
Shona Macnaughton is one of four artists in the new exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, the sixth and final instalment in the NOW series. While the show as a whole has much to commend it, the room documenting her performance of 2017, Progressive, is particularly intriguing. Introduced as relating to ‘the politics… Continue reading Shona Macnaughton: Progressive?
The Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is often described – rather dismissively – as a prankster. His new exhibition at Blenheim Palace, however, has been much applauded for revealing a deeper, more thoughtful aspect to his practice. While the disdain demonstrated in responses to his previous work as ‘mere’ jokes or one-liners reiterates a conception of comedy… Continue reading Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace