:: Reviews

The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be published 18/01/2017

Modernity, in its glitz and horror, offers no redemption — just more of itself, clickbait and all. For reactionaries like Don Quijote, there is no way back. And few actually advocate turning back the clock, a fool’s errand not even Don Quijote, Knight of the Sorrowful Face, would undertake. They give themselves over to a nostalgic brand of hope the Portuguese call saudade, “a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist”. Pining for what we don’t have or can’t be, reactionaries are each of us, despairing of a future that ain’t what it used to be.

Chris Kark reviews Mark Lilla‘s The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction.

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The Art of Intellectual Curation: Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones published 17/01/2017

Solar Bones review

For those of us who got word of the book from farther afield, the quiet success of Solar Bones also helps us look closely at the resurgent interest in independent literary publishing. The novel has been widely praised as the sort of achieved work that only a boutique outlet like Dublin’s Tramp Press, in this case, would nurture and promote. But what is it that gives a book like Solar Bones its vanguard bona fides, aside from an obvious measure of formal risk-taking?

Jeanne-Marie Jackson reviews Solar Bones by Mike McCormack.

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Urban Fauna: A Review of My Life as an Animal published 09/01/2017

Stone’s narrator is smart, funny, well spoken, and complex. Prickly, too. She finds her way in life, and in these stories, by challenging ideas and arguing with those close to her. If you’re looking for a sweet cozy of a tale about a 60-year-old woman falling in love and moving to Arizona, you need a different book. There is a sweetness here. But like fleur-de-sel chocolates, it’s complicated with an edge of salt—a fierce and demanding intelligence. Animal is the perfect book for that corner café table that Patti Smith writes about in M Train, where you read and reread books until you get the hang of their logic.

Joan Hawkins reviews My Life as an Animal by Laurie Stone.

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Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned published 31/12/2016

In Willy’s ‘ Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned’ we find ‘there are no good fairies: the bad fairies killed them off long ago. ’ Bad magic also illustrates the crisis of masculinity of the time: in Arenes’ ‘The Ogresses’ we have a painter who falls in love with and is a victim of the Ogresses’ seven daughters. As mentioned above Bluebeard becomes a victim of scheming wives. A century before Margaret Atwood, AS Byatt, Angela Carter decadent fairy tales upended sexual stereotypes. Mendes’s Beauty refuses the prince’s kiss, preferring to dream on. Wily’s Daphnis and Chloe don’t marry, they just have sex: ‘ People have filled your head with ridiculously optimistic notions and persuaded you to believe in good fairies… All that, my children, is a farce, and you must believe the exact opposite of such nonsense.’

Richard Marshall reviews Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned.

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Commit to Looking: A Review of Caits Meissner’s Let It Die Hungry published 27/12/2016

Meissner is acutely aware of the unease and difficulty she presents. She does not offer any one thing as a solution, but acknowledges the constant push and pull inherent in living. There is a sense of coming into one’s own by both running from the self and returning to it.

M.K. Rainey reviews Caits Meissner‘s book of poems, Let It Die Hungry.

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Post Punk Then and Now: a review published 22/12/2016

Post-punk is a term that most immediately relates to a period of cultural production that ran from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s. A difficult term to pin down in the categorising stakes, ‘post-punk’ most specifically recalls a musical genre typified by agitated and spiky sounds. While this can be attributed to innumerable bands (Magazine, The Fall, Gang of Four) it is the hollow and haunting soundscapes of Joy Division that exemplify the resonance of Fisher’s term Capitalism Realism.

Guy Mankowski reviews Post-Punk Then and Now.

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Mila Jaroniec’s Plastic Vodka Bottle Sleepover: A Survival Guide for the Queer and Not Quite Suicidal published 21/12/2016

As the narrator puts it, “Everyone understands when your answer to the intrusive Now What? devolves from the younger, grander Everything into the simple survive.” No one wants to hear this, but whittling our ambitions down to a manageable size is a large part of growing up. Forget about being a movie star or an astronaut or a professional athlete: How do I get out of bed in the morning? How do I make it to work in one piece without crying on the subway?

Evan Allgood reviews Plastic Vodka Bottle Sleepover by Mila Jaroniec.

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Last Scene Underground: A Review published 19/12/2016

Varzi plays the role of what the anthropologist Renato Rosaldo has called a positioned observer, trying to make sense of life long after the ethnographer’s duty of detailed description has been completed. Clifford Geertz has described creative ethnographers such as Varzi as novelists manqué, and she captures what I elsewhere have theorized as ethnographic surfeit. This surfeit is what remains after an ethnographer has paid dues to the science of empirical social knowledge. What is left is not quite hard data, but nonetheless an invaluable remainder of insight, affect, conversation, and emotion; an entire sensorium, which even if the ethnographer wants to, will not let her go.

Ather Zia reviews Last Scene Underground by Roxanne Varzi.

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Disclosing Being – On Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality by Fredric Jameson published 06/12/2016

The small length of Jameson’s book adds a tightness to its arguments and the style is often Chandler-esque: words are not wasted, literary observations are pin-sharp and there are some wry aperçu. Winningly, Jameson occasionally employs the genre’s rhetoric, so his theorising becomes the pursuing of “lines of enquiry”, a “procedure”, etc. It’s touches like this that make Jameson such a joy to read, as well as the density of ideas to be found in what could appear to be a pretty skimpy text.

Cornelius Fitz reviews Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality by Fredric Jameson.

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Talking About Woman: A review of La Femme de Gilles by Madeleine Bourdouxhe published 01/12/2016

La Femme de Gilles review

Bourdouxhe’s story is one of a woman driven to remedy her husband’s betrayal. The wife/woman of the title (“femmes” holds this double meaning, hence the artful choice not to choose which by using the title in the original French for the translation), seems compelled to behave just so in order to covertly manipulate her husband into tiring of the affair and back into embracing their marriage. Simply put: it’s a painful read. We want her to leave the cad.

Cara Benson reviews La Femme de Gilles by Madeleine Bourdouxhe.

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