:: Reviews

Dressed for Commotion: A review of All Fours by Nia Davies published 17/10/2017

All Fours by Nia Davies review

Much of the collection invokes the fairy tale or myth as an organising principle, and through these Davies stages a double opening: on the one hand, to a sheer abandonment to desire, drawn by adventure and the temptations of misrule; on the other, to remain alive to and through a thinly-veiled fragility that these fantasies ostensibly seek to suppress.

Jonathan Catherall reviews All Fours by Nia Davies.

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Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence published 15/10/2017

Aoun explicitly diminishes the notion of knowledge and learning in ‘the service of a broader good’ as secondary to ‘today’s economic and societal imperatives’. Having openly acknowledged that technological progress is ‘extremely likely’ to intensify inequality, he does not then offer any suggestion for how this might be avoided (the phrases ‘not for profit’ and ‘social enterprise’ are conspicuous in their absence). Aoun should, perhaps, have stuck to his principles and avoided mentioning equality or sustainability at all. Their presence on the page emits an oppressed whimper that only highlights the dystopia.

Lindsay Jordan reviews Joseph Aoun‘s vision for Universities in the Age of AI.

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Present Tense: CAConrad’s While Standing in Line for Death published 12/10/2017

While Standing in Line for Death review

If CAConrad’s work explores the intertwinings of our bodies and the world through writing, this is always rooted in direct consequence and reality. He is concerned with what he calls in Ecodeviance, “an extreme present where the many facets of what is around me can come together through a sharper lens”. One of the most provocative challenges of his work is its simultaneous willingness to push the boundaries of consciousness but its resistance of detachment from contemporary social and political reality.

Colin Herd reviews While Standing in Line for Death by CAConrad.

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Everywhere the glow of something waiting to end: On Gary J Shipley’s Warewolff! published 05/10/2017

Even in the face of things that seem impossibly alien in both subject and sentiment, the narratorial voice surveys it all with total detachment. And nor should it be any other way. Shipley has bored a hole into the inner life of a multitude of subconscious minds, and whatever pours out is judged on its own terms, without dissemblance or apology. The weight of these many realities has stripped away the need for anything else, and the result reads like a dry confessional.

Lucy Brady reviews Warewolff! by Gary J Shipley.

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Trapped in their traumas: On Katalin Street by Magda Szabó published 03/10/2017

Katalin Street review

Reading the short, melancholy Katalin Street made me remember the time when machine-gun wielding Yugoslav soldiers removed me from a train in the middle of the night. It also made me recall being robbed by two men in the shadows of Tahrir Square in Cairo, how close they held a knife to my face as I lay trembling on the ground. I wouldn’t say these were defining moments in my life, but they certainly cast a long shadow.

Nick Holdstock reviews Katalin Street by Magda Szabó.

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Hefner: The Virginia Woolf of Pornotopia published 30/09/2017

Preciado sees Playboy as a ‘titanic allegoric operation.’ He died having succeeded in what he set out to do , ‘… namely, to construct a collective sexual imaginary capable of implementing, right in the middle of the Cold War, a new set of affects, bodily habits, and desires that prepared the shift from a disciplinary society, with its repressive norms and bodily regulations, toward a pharmacopornographic regime characterized by immaterial labour, postdomestic space, the psychotropic and chemical regulation of subjectivity, prosthetic extension of the sexual body, electronic sexual surveillance, and consumption of intimacy.’

Richard Marshall reviews Beatriz Preciado‘s book about Hugh Hefner‘s Playboy legacy.

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Wanderer within the wastes: On Anselm Kiefer’s Walhalla published 28/09/2017


The literary is a continually recurring presence in Kiefer’s work. The motif of lead books, often suspended with their pages open and exposed, the textual fragments daubed across pictorial canvasses, and the words of white chalk smudged across the surfaces of his sculptures, result in an oeuvre whose four corners are contaminated with language. Central to this linguistic taint is the figure of Celan whose own ruined poetics haunts a similar space to the one occupied by Kiefer’s artworks. A focal point for the art of both is the Second World War and, more particularly, the Shoah. The problem which the genocidal acts perpetrated by the Nazis have for art, for philosophy, and for the understanding of what it means to be human, continue to reverberate through history to the present.

Daniel Fraser on Anselm Kiefer’s Walhalla.

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Treading Water and Light: A Tetralogy by Marc Vincenz published 26/09/2017

Becoming the Sound of Bees

Vincenz is every bit as pelagic as Conrad and Melville. He’s faced with a new kind of watery element that “spits and froths green bile along her worn edges”. He provides a searingly vivid picture of our current pathological ecosystem, where “something always has to be made, and something else has to be made to make it” and “torn billboards still intrude with their ambition”. Along the way we meet people who recur with all the idiosyncratic solidity of the most gripping fiction.

Tom Bradley reviews a tetralogy by Marc Vincenz.

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The Rite of Lusus Naturæ published 24/09/2017

On the canvas green book cover of the Portobello edition of Such Small Hands, we see a compact pink figurine, her head almost too big or too adult for her body, and her hands, too small. They are clutched fists at her waist, long-hanging fruit refusing to ripen.

Yelena Moskovich reviews Andrés Barba‘s Such Small Hands.

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Last Exit to Beckton published 23/09/2017

The style aims for T. S. Eliot, recounting lost souls going about their hollow lives in the unreal city, but reads more like J. R. Hartley, betraying his befuddlement at the modern world. And we don’t stop there. Shared desk spaces, that most benign of office space management innovations, are a repeated cause of anger beyond all reason. Yet even worse than the “shared desk digital zombies” are the “phone addicts” with their “smart electronic devices” who are most guilty for the snuffing out of London’s soul. How, why, is never quite made clear.

John P. Houghton reviews Iain Sinclair‘s The Last London.

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