Steep Stairs Review, Volume 7

July 1, 2012

There’s no need to provide a long preamble for the wonderful mixture of shorter and longer reviews in this first Volume of Steep Stairs for 2012. Yes, it took longer than we had expected to bring the present offering to the web, but we hope that many of you might find that the reading offered here was worth the wait. And what a mixture it is! Reviews of cook books, memoirs by Joan Didion and Jeanette Winterson, a Vietnamese refugee story, Wilkie Collins, some Marxist history, and the poems of Liu Xiaobo.

As we know you are hungry for finely wrought words, first up, in Xenophilia in the Kitchen Katherine Firth deliciously reviews two cook books: The Great British Book of Baking, and Tartine, observing that it seems a “significant aspect of our current gastrononomic zeitgeist that the excitement about foreign food is actually about a love of foreignness, rather than as a way to improve our own cooking”. A touching journey into foreignness and a leaving behind of the familiar, is recounted in the lovely verse novel Inside Out & Back Again by Thannha Lai, reviewed by Rebecca Garcia Lucas, in “I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.”

Much of the work of Wilkie Collins has regrettably been allowed to drift out of print, but Peter Ackroyd has turned his astute attention to this wonderful writer in his most recent publication Wilkie Collins, 2012, reviewed here by Glen JenningsLaudanum, London and Love: Wilkie Collins. Not yet out of print, but recently out of sorts is British writer Jeanette Winterson, whose 2012 memoir Why be Happy When You Could Be Normal is reviewed here by Jennifer Mitchell, in Tracking the Lines of Literature across the Maps of Our Lives. Another memoir of a similarly harrowing nature by another very successful novelist, Joan Didion’s Blue Nights, is reviewed here by Vincent Ramos in Doubt and Privilege.

To end this issue two reviews of recent work by an important political historian, and an important political activist. In Understanding and Action Michael Todd reviews Eric Hobsbawm’s recent book How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism. Liu Xiaobo’s June Fourth Elegies mark a moment in China’s history which the poet can never forget, and which readers of these poems will also be unable to forget. Glen Jennings explores Liu Xiaobo and the Crystal Spirit.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy Volume Seven.

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