ART BOOK JULIAN ROTHENSTEIN (ED) The Redstone Book of the Eye (Square Peg) ●●●●●

Having started Redstone Press in 1986, Julian Rothenstein has produced endlessly inventive diaries, large-format postcards and psychological guides. With The Redstone Book of the Eye, he peers deep into the subject’s iconography and meanings, bringing together classic film stills (Un Chien Andalou), landmark posters (Man with a Movie Camera) and fascinating street scenes from across the world. David Shrigley provides the introduction to this

‘Compendium of Visual Surprise’, musing upon the social subtexts to the likes of, ‘I’ve got my eye on you,’ and, ‘Open your eyes!’

The meat of the book is divided into segments such as ‘The Unseeing Eye’ (pictures taken by blind photographers), ‘Tricks of the Eye’ (optical illusions) and ‘The Satirical Eye’ (from an anti-Semitic French broadsheet of the 1890s, to Steve Bell’s lampooning of Blair). Amusing, entertaining and scatty, this lavish tome is a frequent eye-opener. (Brian Donaldson)


ESSAY COLLECTION CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS Arguably (Atlantic) ●●●●● As Christopher Hitchens movingly concedes in the intro to Arguably, he writes each new slice of social, political and cultural commentary as though it may be his last. While others would have disappeared within their shell at having received a cancer-shaped death

sentence from their doctor, Hitchens uses it as an incentive to make his next bit of writing fly higher than the last. And as this collection proves, for Hitchens, the ground upon which poignancy and exhilaration meets is a fertile one indeed. As he noted in his memoir Hitch-22, and does so again here, the Janus-like qualities that allow his opinions to shift across varying contexts are not a sign that he wants to have his cake and eat it; he is just open-minded enough to realise that dogma and entrenchment are less than valuable tools to wield when the world continues to offer up new tests on such a regular basis. For some, his pro-Iraq War stance will always be a bridge too far, but he is not a politician and does not hold that view for economic gain: he is simply and resolutely against brutal tyrants wherever they show their nasty faces. Hitchens is not content to sit in his bunker and pontificate

from afar, instead getting down and dirty with the best of them. This results in subjecting himself to a spot of waterboarding in the North Carolina hills, or taking a Christmas holiday with his son to Kurdistan. Away from the harsh realities of politics and war, his writing bristles with opinions and insight, all couched in breathtakingly vibrant prose. When he’s gone, and that may well be quite soon, Christopher Hitchens will leave us with an unparalleled breadth of journalistic excellence. (Brian Donaldson)

CONTEMPORARY THRILLER ROBERT HARRIS The Fear Index (Hutchinson) ●●●●● With its ominous title and opening ‘Frankenstein’ quote, it’s no great surprise to find that The Fear Index is a freaky read. For fans of being spooked, Robert Harris’ eighth novel is a must, as he guides us through a frenzied 24 hours in Geneva for genius scientist Dr Alex Hoffmann. ‘Fear is driving this world’, we’re told, as this meticulously constructed offering taps into a closely guarded digital network of algorithms and the sinister business of secret billionaires; the resulting greed and paranoia of crazed money-making leaves a

trail of destruction as events spiral out of control. Harris keeps the reader gripped from beginning to end with smart, pacey storytelling and cleverly plotted twists. And as we race, in freefall, towards a devastating climax you feel completely at the mercy of this monster of a tale. Complex science, computers and global economics don’t traditionally make for riveting fiction, but here they work intoxicatingly well. (Camilla Pia)

GHOST STORY SUSAN HILL The Woman in Black (Profile) ●●●●●

As the longest running stage production in Britain after Aggie’s Mousetrap, Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black clearly has an icy grip on the theatre-going public. And with news that this classic ghost story will make it onto the big screen in 2012 with Daniel Radcliffe in the role of the thoroughly haunted young lawyer Arthur Kipps, a new generation will be exposed to Hill’s spooky vision. Sent to a small English market town in order to deal with the affairs of a recently deceased elderly widow, Kipps ignores the subtle warnings from

HISTORICAL DRAMA ALICE HOFFMAN The Dovekeepers (Simon & Schuster) ●●●●●

Alice Hoffman is one of the big guns of American fiction and an Oprah favourite, but this overworked and overwrought novel rather contradicts that reputation. Set in 70AD in the aftermath of the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans, four Jewish women come by different routes to Masada, an ancient desert fortress, where they await a last stand against their oppressors. The book is split into four first-person narratives,

and one of the many flaws here is that the voices of these women are virtually indistinguishable: they’re

everyone he encounters and takes shelter for a few days in the dead woman’s house. There, Kipps is on the wrong end of a right old haunting led by the eponymous female. A beautifully structured and atmospherically-driven tale evoking the Henry

James and MR James school of subtle psychological freak-outs in starchy period garb, it retains a visceral power, aided by a truly nasty finale. (Brian Donaldson)

all strong, damaged, unfeasibly beautiful Jewish women carrying dark secrets. Their backstories and situations are told with unflinching brutality, but elsewhere Hoffman overeggs her prose horribly, seeking portent, resonance and omens in a relentlessly ham-fisted fashion. The world Hoffman creates is vivid enough, but she doesn’t wear her copious research lightly, making for a novel full of bluster but strangely empty. (Doug Johnstone)

22 Sep–20 Oct 2011 THE LIST 43