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The Best of 2012

‘Tis the season of annual round-ups so, not to be outdone, the Oxonian Review presents its own 2012 retrospective. This year’s editors-in-chief, Ed Sugden, Alex Niven, and Tom Cutterham, offer their pick of OR content from the past 12 months.

Ed Sugden [1]

1. “A Difficult Poet [2]“, Issue 18.2

Certainly the funniest review I published—but that should not mask the fact that it engages deeply with the reasons for Geoffrey Hill’s difficulty and provocatively asks us to decide whether he is a genius or curmudgeon.

2. “Perpetuating the Myth [3]“, Issue 18.4

This one was linked on the New Yorker and rightly so—a vibrant and exhaustive account of one of contemporary literature’s outliers—it challenges us to examine how we think about canonicity, as well as covering a form of textuality that is too often passed over.

3. “Visible Vanishing [4]“, Issue 18.5

This one stands out for me—a lyrical and dense treatment of an important modern poet—the article’s engagement with loss resonates with our own bloodthirsty moment.

Alex Niven [5]

4. “An Interview with Terry Eagleton [6]“, Issue 19.4

This was translated into Greek and Turkish, and was apparently read by enough people to fill a football stadium. If nothing else this underlines the value of the leftist public intellectualism Eagleton advocates in the interview.

5. “Grand Narratives [7]“, Issue 19.6

I loved this piece because it was slightly out of step with the OR norm but all the better for it. Rosie Lavan eulogised post-war British social-realist television with considerable eloquence.

6. “The Surrealism of Everyday Life [8]“, Issue 19.4

Another idiosyncratic highlight, and a perfect example of how the reviewing format can synthesise wit, academic nous, and trenchant social commentary.

Tom Cutterham [9]

7. “Bigger, More Competitive, More Complex [10]“, Issue 20.1

Flannery and Marcus’s 635-page anthropological text is the kind of book I’m very unlikely to read myself, which is why it’s so great to read a review that so beautifully distils the fascinating questions it raises and answers it offers. Sirio Canos I Donnay’s review is a perfectly pitched introduction to the problems of justice, power, and equality in prehistoric societies.

8. “Willseden Redux [11]“, Issue 20.2

It takes a brave writer to review Zadie Smith in the kind of arch critical tone she so often adopts in her own reviews, and Sam Caleb really pulled it off here. He takes apart Smith’s new book, NW, as a pastiche of the modernist values she trumpets. His review made me want to read the book and see for myself.

9. “Poetry’s Government [12]“, Issue 20.3

According to the statistics, this was the most popular review in Michaelmas 2012, and it’s easy to see why: Joe Kennedy uses his analysis of Sampson’s book to completely take apart the British poetry scene. He brilliantly elucidates its landscape of cliques, categories, and power-struggles. We have another poetry piece coming this weekend which I think is going to cause a stir again!