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Bronte Adams

A Children's Book of True Crime by Chloe Hooper & Regret by Ian Kennedy Smith

April 2002, no. 240

These two novels can be read as intelligent manipulations of the crime genre, exploring the inarticulacies as well as the betrayals, real or imagined that can precipitate acts of violence. Chloe Hooper’s impressive début, A Child’s Book of True Crime, explores, in her words, ‘the twilight space between childhood and adulthood’. The means for interrogating this porous and ambiguous zone include a primary school teacher complicit in her own infantilisation, school children with steadier insights and clarity than their teacher, a faux children’s story narrating the details of a gruesome murder, and adults participating in games of emotional brinkmanship that their children would probably play as variants of ‘chicken’. Regret, by contrast, is more concerned with the isolation that occurs once the growing up ostensibly has occurred. While Chloe Hooper is at the beginning of a career with the potential to produce exceptional work, the experienced Ian Kennedy Smith is the more accomplished storyteller with Regret.

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Volatile Bodies is an important book: its challenge is nothing less than the development of a non-essentialist, feminist philosophy of the body.

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When Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth appeared in Britain, British feminists asked, ‘where has Naomi Wolf been for the last 20 years?’ The same question might well be asked of John Carroll. His assessment of humanism seems imperiously oblivious to structuralist and poststructuralist critiques of the humanist edifice.

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