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The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism

Joyce Appleby

(W. W. Norton & Company)

Review [19.Apr.2010]
The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism
Joyce Appleby


Joyce Appleby chronicles the development of capitalism (something she sees as far from inevitable) while acknowledging both its lamentable vices and undeniable virtues. Indeed, this is the history ofcCapitalism without an axe to grind. One of the great virtues of Appleby’s book is that it shows how intimately economic issues have been at the center of almost all of the key political and cultural issues of the past 250 years. The book almost doubles as a history of the modern world, touching upon the most important political and cultural developments of each century; indeed, economic issues often drive the political and cultural events. Thus, the book is an important key to understanding both the world that we live in as well as a helpful corrective to those who want to mystify capitalism and make it more than what it is: a historically contingent, often effective, and frustratingly fallible way of organizing our economic life. Robert Moore


 

 



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Route 19 Revisited: The Clash and London Calling

Marcus Gray

(Soft Skull)

Route 19 Revisited: The Clash and London Calling
Marcus Gray


It was perhaps inevitable that Marcus Gray’s book about London Calling would turn out to be as much about London itself as about the Clash’s most lauded album. The Transport for London roundel on the front cover is a clue: the ‘19’ in the title refers not only to the number of tracks on the record, but also to the Route 19 bus, which links Finsbury Park, in north London, and Battersea, in the south-west, and which Gray presents as the backbone of London Calling’s geographical reference points. This is an extraordinarily thorough account of the context and production of London Calling. The fact that Gray dedicates 200 pages to close readings of the album’s songs is testament to the detail that is involved. While the songs are impressively documented and the characters involved brilliantly realised, it is the attention to place that makes Route 19 Revisited stand out. Few other books about music provide a narrative cartography that you can use to trace the geographic influences of a band and their work. Alan Ashton-Smith


 

 



Shirin Neshat
Arthur C. Danto, Marina Abramovic


Shirin Neshat is an Iranian-born photographer and filmmaker who moved to the US as an art student in the ‘70s. She takes as the subject of her work the country she emigrated from, to which she did not return until 1993. Her photographs, videos and films comment indirectly but powerfully on a society profoundly changed by its 1979 revolution. This handsome volume, weighing over four pounds and printed on thick, heavy paper, provides an important retrospective of her work and a window into both an artist and a culture. If it’s difficult to separate the artist from the image, then it’s doubly difficult to separate the emigrant artist from the images of society under scrutiny. It’s legitimate to question the motivation of someone commenting on a culture when the artist has lived apart from that culture for decades. Happily, Neshat is neither an apologist for the Revolution who glosses over its missteps, nor a panderer to the West, out to make a name for herself by selling cheap and easily consumable images of feminine oppression and Iranophobia. She is an artist, which means that her vision is legitimately earned and uniquely expressed, even if her concerns are shared with many others throughout the world. David Maine


 

 



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Star Guitars: 101 Guitars That Rocked the World

Dave Hunter

(Voyageur)

Star Guitars: 101 Guitars That Rocked the World
Dave Hunter


This thing is a monster: 11” x 10” and packed with photos, mostly color but some archival black-and-whites too. You need the full size (and weight) to feel the impact of all this stuff: guitar masters from the ‘30s to the present, both famous (Clapton, Jerry Garcia, Buddy Guy, BB King) and less so (Lonnie Mack, T-Bone Walker, Roy Buchanan, Steve Cropper). Each musician gets a minimum two-page spread, and many get more. The guitars are pictured, of course, along with an array of memorabilia: concert pictures, posters, record covers, even guitar picks and ticket stubs. The beauty of this book is that it appeals to both the impulse to gawk at the cool rawk stars and to understand the mechanics that went into their sound. Or if you will, it appeals to both sides of the brain. This is a big, fat, beautiful book full of big, fat, beautiful guitars, as well as enough trivia and gossip to satisfy any rocker. David Maine


 

 



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Stitches

David Small

(W.W. Norton)

Review [30.Mar.2010]
Stitches
David Small


This is an illustrated memoir of incredible power. Stitches (I mean here the physical sutures themselves, not the book) are a prelude to healing. They are also a prelude to scarring. To have stitches is not to undo hurt, but to build upon and past it, to incorporate it into you in a way that cannot be removed. The injury is hidden, perhaps, but not undone. The ending of Small’s beautifully illustrated memoir, while magnificent, does not vanquish the pain of what came before any more than reading it vanquishes the uneasy connection we make to the extreme suffering he endured. The connection we make to him, the place we find for ourselves on the scale of suffering, captivates us in our reading. Sean Ferrell


 
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