Sobriquet Magazine Vol. 12, No. 1

On John Banville's The Sea
By Paul Stewart

So, John Banville has finally won the Man Booker Prize. But why has this long-awaited recognition come with The Sea, rather than with Eclipse, Shroud, or The Untouchable? The question arises because Banville has long been mining a familiar stylistic and thematic seam. One can almost make a check-list of a Banville novel. Is it a confessional narrative? Yes. Is the narrator highly erudite and emotionally crippled? Yes. Are there memories to be re-configured through the prism of a startlingly beautiful prose? Yes.

In short, The Sea is the epitome of a Banville novel.
Click here for the full review.

Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men
By Scott Slucher

When No Country For Old Men hit the bookstores a couple of weeks ago, it set off the latest in a series of pitched battles between scholars, critics, and fans over the merit of Cormac McCarthy’s latest novel, especially in relation to his eight previous works, the most recent of which was Cities Of The Plain, the concluding chapter of the Border Trilogy.  McCarthy, arguably our country’s greatest living novelist, brings out great passion in both his champions, who liken him to Faulkner and Hemingway, and his detractors, who, among other things, find him pretentious despite his great gifts.  McCarthy himself stays out of the fray, letting the work speak for itself, and in No Country for Old Men, he’s thrown us all one hell of a curve ball. 
Read the entire review.

"All the Glittering Prizes"
By Steven G. Kellman

James F. English, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania whose Web site cites one award for teaching and one for his undergraduate senior thesis, estimates that 1,100 literary prizes are bestowed annually in the United States, 400 in the United Kingdom. Throughout the world, the number of film awards, 9,000, is about twice the annual output of feature-length films. Accomplishment in theater, music, dance, painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, and other arts is similarly defined through lavish laureling. Intent on grabbing all the bays, can artists pause to smell the roses? In The Economy of Prizes, English counts more than one hundred award shows broadcast in the United States each year, though he claims, incorrectly, that, amid all the Grammys, Emmys, Tonys, and Golden Globes, literary award ceremonies "have yet to find their way onto television"[p. 34] (The National Book Awards and the National Book Critics Circle presentations are regularly aired on C-SPAN). He even itemizes 240 separate honors conferred on Michael Jackson from 1970-2003, and he reports on the Lichfield Prize, 5,000 pounds sterling for the best unpublished novel set in Lichfield, Staffordshire.
Click here to read the whole essay.


Ending Life
By Steve Choe

Following the precedent set by her earlier work, Professor Battin’s new book demonstrates an unusually wide range of thought on the ethics of death and dying in the American context.  But the arrival of this very informative, well-balanced collection of essays is also quite timely in that it offers some much needed sobriety on several issues raised by recent current events.  In spring of 2005, the media inundated us with a deluge of information and opinions around the case of Terry Schiavo, a Florida woman who, after experiencing cardiac arrest, was subsequently diagnosed to be in a persistent vegetative state.  Public debate raged around whether her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, had legal right to remove the gastric feeding tube that was keeping Schiavo alive.  This case threw the most polarized ethical positions into political dead lock, each side vociferously arguing for their position right up to Schiavo’s unfortunate end.  Indeed, the circus of events that transpired foregrounded the highly-charged discourse that was generated within and around the finer points of the ultimately heavy-handed slogan, “culture of life”.  While Battin’s book does not directly comment on this particular case, this reader of January 2006 could not help but to reflect on this recent current event while working through the essays.  Instead of participating in the political inebriation that characterized the contentious discourse that circulated in the media, Ending Life remains committed to such events by clarifying much broader issues, the ethical and philosophical stakes implicitly raised by the question of assisted death, whether that be of the loved other or the self.
Find the full essay here.

A Review of Joanne Kilgour Dowdy’s Readers Of The Quilt:
By Malin Lidström Brock

What does it mean to be black, female and literate in the USA today? That is the question that the authors in Readers Of The Quilt are trying to answer. Literacy, according to the contributors to this essay collection, is more, or something else, than the technical mastering of reading and writing. It is a way of reading, being recognized and gaining a voice in the world. Each essay explores, in one form or another, what literacy means in the lives of black women in the USA today. As such, the collection offers both compelling examples and frustrating generalizations.

The book is divided into three sections. Historical perspectives on black women’s literacy provides the background for the first five essays. Of those, Lillie Gayle Smith’s “Lessons Learned In A Cotton Field” offers a successful application of a historical and theoretical perspective on personal experience. Smith describes how the literacy she gained from working on her aunt’s cotton field as a child could only be articulated after she has also mastered academic literacy and attended a course that encouraged a positive re-evaluation of her past. Bessie House-Soremekun’s personal account of growing up in Alabama during the time of the Civil Rights Movement is equally compelling. “Lessons From Down Under: Reflections On Meanings Of Literacy And Knowledge From An African-American Growing Up In Rural Alabama” is a convincing description of the kind of literacy that the black population in the South were forced to develop in order to navigate safely through both geographical and psychological racist territory.
Read the full review.

A Review of Skin, By Dorothy Allison
By Lisa A Kirby

Dorothy Allison’s Skin is a moving and emotional look at Allison’s personal life, history, sexuality, and writing. Her collection is a series of essays that addresses everything from her sexual experiences to her theories on literature and politics. Allison is bold in her admittance to lesbianism, feminism, and sexual liberation, yet she also delves into a series of societal taboos and her personal history to reveal her conceptualizations of femininity, class, and society at large.
Read Kirby's review here.

A Review of The Line of Beauty
By Ashley M. Cain

Alan Hollingurst’s The Line of Beauty, winner of the 2004 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, is a novel of winding, curvy delicacy, much like the “ogee” from which the title was derived.  Hollinghurst leads his readers through 1980s London, the decade in which young Nick Guest transforms from a young, inexperienced college graduate just coming to terms with his public homosexuality, to a young adult immersed in the culture of drugs, money, and politics that saturate life in Thatcher era London
Read the full review.