:: Reviews archive ( click for articles pre-2006)

The Secret Euphoria of Reading: On Cento lettere a uno sconosciuto by Roberto Calasso published 24/11/2015


The blurbs state their presence as echo chambers in which the absent books resound with murmurs, with questions such as: what builds a library? What connects disparate works and words? What do books transmit onto our selves? And further on, detours into what is commonly deemed irrelevant, marginal, minor — until I’m no longer sure who generates what, what is written before and what after, what is read into writing and written out of reading, and notions of origin are buried beneath layers of rewritings.

Daniela Cascella on Cento lettere a uno sconosciuto by Roberto Calasso.

»

Also against shopping and for it: A review of Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer published 12/11/2015

Garments Against Women Review

Garments Against Women is a dispatch from a cage, but the possibility of an exit, of subverting the mock-eternity of literature’s historical conditions, is what gives Boyer’s book its urgency, its paradoxes and its shape.

William Harris reviews Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer.

»

Scratching at the wall: A review of Her 37th Year: An Index by Suzanne Scanlon published 27/10/2015


As the reader sifts through entry after entry, the index gradually reveals itself as an extended and complicated self-meditation. The narrator is approaching that dreaded age where “suddenly every book is about turning [40]”. She feels the contours of well-worn archetypes forming around her in an almost suffocating way.

Matt King reviews Her 37th Year: An Index by Suzanne Scanlon.

»

The Small, the Daily, and the Universal: Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies published 23/10/2015


All three of her novels, then, depict quite explicitly the search for a way of understanding and conceptualizing the passage of time. This made me wonder whether we are still searching for replacements for Jean-François Lyotard’s “metanarratives,” lost so long ago that the narrative of that loss has itself taken on grand proportions. Is this what Groff’s work – and maybe this collection of recent “group of friends” novels – is after?

Mark West on Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies.

»

The Feminist Surrealism of Unica Zurn’s Outsider Art published 21/10/2015

The Trumpets of Jericho

This is not the female form of the traditional Muse, providing a channel to the creative powers of the unconscious for the male artist. Instead, the female body, as Zurn writes it, prescribes its own logic and language upon the universe. In particular it is the pregnant woman, always overdetermined in her corporeality, who is able to exist metaphorically and symbolically.

Subashini Navaratnam on The Trumpets of Jericho by Unica Zurn.

»

When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow published 10/10/2015

Dan Rhodes Cover

Being famous and internationally respected, Professor Richard Dawkins, is on the way to a public speaking engagement. His journey however, shared by his assistant Smee, is hindered by heavy snow, forcing the pair to find refuge with a retired vicar and his wife, whose beliefs are somewhat counter to the Professor’s own. In his mind, they are “reckless imbeciles”, “deluded believers of fairy stories who devote their lives to peddling lies more dangerous than small pox.” This clash of views, and the Professor’s unrepentant, zealous fervor, represent the starting point for what is a brilliant comic construct: “I have devoted swathes of my life to kindly telling people how ignorant they are, and correcting them, and giving them the opportunity to think as I do.”

Paul Ewen reviews Dan Rhodes‘s When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow.

»

State of the Union: A review of New American Stories published 07/10/2015

New American Stories chop

Yet if the book isn’t quite a manifesto, its cover and weight do perhaps stake a claim at making it a statement publication, a landmark in the development of the American short story. And while the introduction certainly makes no grandiose claims about representing American life, it can be difficult not to extrapolate something State-of-the-Nation about such a portentous collection.

C.D. Rose reviews New American Stories, edited by Ben Marcus.

»

Cold Snaps: a review of No Moon by Julie Reverb published 06/10/2015

And English this is, English with all its crudeness, serrated coarseness, and sudden edges aroused and exposed, the English we forget we live in, English we get mushed up in, districted in, haunted, hunted, beat, and butchered by. It is an English, Reverb assures us, unfit for feeding whatever we think we ought to have been.

By Jesse Kohn.

»

A philosophical reframing published 05/10/2015


Parker presents his case with great lucidity and a tone reminiscent of the documentary maker Adam Curtis. Both in the use of pop-culture inflected epigrams – ‘The revolution will not be centralised’ and ‘Learning to love the postcode lottery’ are two early chapter headings – and the focus on power. “This book” he explains “is about power, and how politicians misunderstood its nature”.

John P. Houghton reviews Simon Parker‘s Taking Power Back.

»

Mysterious Portland: On Katrina Palmer’s ‘End Matter’ published 04/10/2015


The idea of fiction as a hallucination arising out of emptiness is intrinsic to the landscape. Portland stone supplies the building material for the bulk of London’s civic edifices; a million square feet of which was quarried for Saint Paul’s cathedral alone. The hollowing out of the bedrock renders it “a site acutely vulnerable to fabulists.” And, one might add, allegorists; at least going by Walter Benjamin’s aphorism :“Allegory is in the realm of thought as ruins are in the realm of things.”

Karen Whiteson reviews Katrina Palmer’s ‘End Matter’.

»