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Criticism » Nonfiction » beautiful losers (published 11/12/2014)

To wring success from failure, and printed beauty from online ephemera, and then to strike the balance between weightless comedy and surprising scholarly depth: let’s just say The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure does more than a book of humour is required to do. Taken as a whole, it brings to mind the spontaneous pleasure of a barstool conversation with an overeducated but unpredictable, boozy and boisterous, wholly unpretentious friend.

Julian Hanna on C. D. Rose‘s The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure.

Criticism » Nonfiction » Grave Desire (published 06/12/2014)

Simone de Beauvoir in Force of Circumstance of 1963 writes of a night with Sartre, Bost, and Giacometti at the Golfe Restaurant where the sculpturer of Godot’s tree told the story of Sergeant Bertrand the nineteenth-century necrophiliac. The rest of the evening was spent addressing the issue of how one judges obscene unprecedented crimes. Finbow’s great book is an open invitation to join that essential conversation. Why essential? The world has become an inventory of such obscene unprecedented crimes. What Finbow makes us wonder is why we’ve stopped the conversation. This astonishing silence is our putrid wound.

Richard Marshall reviews Steve Finbow‘s Grave Desire: A Cultural History of Necophilia.

Interviews » Writing Outside Philosophy: An Interview with Simon Critchley (published 03/12/2014)

What I learned from Derrida very early on — my master’s thesis was on the question of whether we could overcome metaphysics — is that the step outside philosophy always falls back within the orbit of that which it tries to exceed. Not to philosophize is still to philosophize. Similarly, any text or philosophy that simply asserts the value of metaphysics is internally dislocated against itself, undermining its own founding gesture. This leave us writing on the margin between the inside and the ouside of philosophy, which is where I’d like to place Memory Theatre.

Andrew Gallix interviews Simon Critchley.

Interviews » Art is Love is God (published 01/12/2014)

While I was in Japan writing The Plum, Lun*na’s father purchased a boombox for me. Unlike the U.S., Japan is full of rental shops that not only rent[ed] VHS – remember this was 1989 – but also CDs. So, for ¥200, you could rent a CD and go home to make a copy of it on cassette. Japan sold blank cassettes that fit the time of an entire album. I spent a lot of time at the rental CD shop in Moji-Ko. I remember coming across Yellow Magic Orchestra. YMO didn’t impress me as much as Omni Sight Seeing, a solo album by one of its members, Haruomi Hosono. I taped this CD from my boombox. The album, even when I hear it now, brings back the memory of life in Moji-Ko as well as writing The Plum In Mr. Blum’s Pudding.

Penny-Ante editorial director Rebekah Weikel interviews TamTam Books publisher Tosh Berman.

Criticism » 9 lives of class war (published 29/11/2014)

There are moments in hell when Dante’s wrath is provoked but kept under control. Similarly with Ray, his anger is controlled and just. In Hell God is Wrath and Vengeance and Dante learns to understand that in this context they are attributes of Divine Justice. Home is clear that the context of Ray’s life is a Hellish place and so his secularized version of anger and revenge amongst the cruel and exploitative toffs are to be understood as similarly just.

Richard Marshall reviews Stewart Home‘s The 9 Lives of Ray The Cat Jones.

Criticism » Tony White’s Sinuous Traces (published 22/11/2014)

Missorts II is a parable about the underground republic of letters launched at a time when huge subterranean rivers of discontent and unrest roll. Anonymous marches, the international phenomenon of the Occupy movements, these are our brief eruptions but there is always the fear of state crackdown that means messages are coded, discrete and secret. Betrayals and misreadings hurt in this advanced state of suspicion. They happen at all levels.

Richard Marshall on Tony White‘s Missorts Volume II.

Criticism » Tara Morgana (published 26/10/2014)

As ever, Holman is asking that we recognize those deeper, magical roots of writing that modern poetic literature has always recognized – think of Yeats, mystical Eliot, Ted Hughes. He’s working to unfreeze a secular cultural cringe that blushes embarrassment at the supernatural, mystical, occult elements and can’t engage with that vast content… Holman is working to receive occult forces where ‘… each dreamed text is a terma in the mind, treasure best left to be forgotten and then discovered anew.’

Richard Marshall reviews Paul Holman’s Tara Morgana.

Criticism » About five o’clock on the sun (published 12/10/2014)

All truths are identical: Yablo says: ‘ mathematicians know a lot of truths; metaphysicians know a lot of others. These truths are identical if we go by truth-conditions , since they are true in the same cases: all of them.’ Truth conditions flatten out difference. They are insensitive. Hempels ‘All crows are black’ has the equivalent truth conditions of ‘All non-black things are non-crows.’ But it strikes us as wrong to say they have identical meanings. Aboutness nails the difference, suggests Yablo. ‘One is about crows, the other not.’ We should care about this aboutness feature because it is simply interesting, even if there was nothing else. But there is.

Richard Marshall reviews Stephen Yablo’s Aboutness.

Criticism » Cortázar’s glass trap (published 21/09/2014)

Cortázar writes to create traps that lead us in but lie about having an exit. There is no exit. Because of this we’re always wondering about the nature of the relationship being developed. In ‘One Step Forward, One Step Backward’ he tells the story of the fly who finds she can pass through glass but then finds out glass is a trap. A Hungarian scientist has invented a one-way process whereby the fly can’t get back out via the glass through which it entered. It’s a picture of how he works his fictions. His stories are made out of one way glass.

Richard Marshall on Cortázar’s Fantomas versus the Multinational Vampires. An Attainable Utopia.

Criticism » Knausgaard: norse dwarf, norse god (published 25/05/2014)

He conjures up an immense solipsistic myth of fears and furies, monsters and agonies, a perpetual fury against a realisation that death is his fate and that his life, each viciously wounded and maimed moment of it, from childhood to the present, is precariously hovering at the brink of a terrifying emptiness, a meaningless hole into which everything is falling. In a state of panic he rages against this and chases a world through improvised language written down at speed that runs out towards the primitive vivacity of his own subjectivity. It is against erasure that he casts his spells and as he does so he becomes both terrifically powerful and knowledgeable and at the same time small and ugly and strange. Who wouldn’t want to read this?

Richard Marshall on Knausgaard’s My Struggle.