In the latest instalment of Bedside Table, the Wild Culture team run through what we're reading this month and why - from art as activism to poetry and popular science.
Jim Crace – Harvest
Set in an isolated rural hamlet on the cusp of enclosure, Harvest – the latest novel by Jim Crace – takes place over just a few days that see chance accidents interlink with broad-sweeping societal shifts to change a community forever. Crace is especially strong on group psychologies, and deftly mixes ire with lyricism and an understanding that the past life of Edenic simplicity was never more than a dream. Harvest is also shot through with writerly wisdom, embodied in such delights as “Dissent is never counted; it is weighed.”
Let’s Start a Pussy Riot
In the wake of the imprisonment of two members of Pussy Riot in 2012, London-based feminist art collective Storm in a Teacup teamed up with Girls Get Busy and Not So Popular to produce this collection of art and writings exploring new directions in feminist politics. Contributors include the likes of Antony Hegarty, Billy Childish, Judy Chicago, Sarah Lucas and Tamsyn Challenger, whose work, Ducking Stool – recently on show at Beaconsfield – was produced specifically for the project. All profits go to support Pussy Riot and their families.
Mary Midgley – Science as Salvation
Moral philosopher Mary Midgley, scourge of pretension, ego and inconsistency wherever she finds it, is on fine form in this take-down of the over-reaching claims made by modern science and its advocates. Always clear and concise, Midgley is, on occasion, devastatingly controlled – reserving her most withering put-downs within deftly placed parentheses. “All ages, including our own,” she observes with characteristic wisdom, “are naïve in their own way. Past errors only differ form present ones in being easier to see.”
After Butler's Wharf
Graduates from this year's Critical Writing in Art and Design MA at the Royal College of Art have worked together on this elegantly designed and produced response to Butler's Wharf – a collection of nineteenth century Thames-side warehouses that played host to various artists' studios in the 1970s before being redeveloped by Terence Conran in the late '80s. Contributions are diverse in tone and subject matter, with Trading Places – a fictional conversation between Conran and Mr Butler – standing out for its expertly imagined humour and subtle, character-skewering relish.
William Blake – The Complete Illuminated Books
The works of one of Britain's greatest ever poets and artists finally done justice in accessibly priced book form. Unlike most collections of Blake's work which simply focus on the poetry, The Complete Illuminated Books presents the original copper-plate etchings in order to convey the singularity of Blake's visions, across both tendrilled text and lithely writhing image. “Every human heart has gates of brass & bars of adamant, / Which few dare unbar because dread Og & Anak guard the gates / Terrific! and each mortal brain is walld and moated round / Within.”
Carol Kaesuk Yoon – Naming Nature
Subtitled “the clash between instinct and science”, Naming Nature sees New York Times science writer Carol Kaesuk Yoon exploring the apparently inherent human desire to organise, name and classify the environment that we encounter around us. Yoon establishes (and possibly overstates) an opposition between instinct and science, discusses how this came to be, and posits possible ways in which the two could be brought back together in order to facilitate a reconnection with the natural world. Lucid and consistently engaging throughout.
Image credit: Derry Public Library