:: Reviews

Reality and Its Dreams published 22/10/2016


Internal criticism, for Geuss as for Adorno, is not typically ‘productive’ in offering a solution for the problems criticized. But here he also offers a second implicit response to the charge of bleakness in developing a philosophical account of ‘utopian thinking’, an imaginative activity that addresses discontents and persistent, unsatisfied desires in the present.

John Rapko reviews Raymond Geuss’s Reality and Its Dreams.

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‘The failure of so many urban utopias’ published 21/10/2016


The language of city living and the urban experience is everywhere around us, but beyond new development industry marketing speak, what do such terms actually mean? At the heart of the book is a story about the socio-economic and architectural transformation of one city over the past 40 years. That city is London, the author’s place of birth and current employment, and that story about the capital is detailed, engaging, witty, and occasionally angry.

John P. Houghton reviews Dejan Sudjic‘s The Language of Cities.

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Notes from the Enemy’s Camp: On John D’Agata’s New History of the Essay published 17/10/2016


Just what is an essay, then? D’Agata never really tells us. Or, rather, he does tell us, in 118 different riffs on his opening proposition that essays are “about human wondering.” The effect of following after D’Agata as he combs from scrap to definitional scrap is stunning. The essay is a vehicle for freethinking. It’s an experiment. It lacks confidence and brims with emotional doubt. It’s a transcript of its creator’s mind. It’s deeply deceptive, and might only reflect whomever the author wishes he were. It’s often written in the first person, or the third, but also the second, and sometimes smatterings of each. Essays are perception, indirection, failure, and experience; they’re human in their flirtation with the way things are and the way they might be.

Daegan Miller reviews A New History of the Essay by John D’Agata.

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No Way to Say Goodbye published 14/10/2016


Dead People is how I would want my own obituary to be handled, should I ever come to merit one: not solemn or dutiful, a dull rehearsal of milestones and setbacks, but something lively and curious, an all-night drunken wake, a celebration of whatever it was I managed to contribute to intellectual life during my brief stint among the living. When the needle drops on Beck’s Casio drone cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” (thank me later), and the guests are swaying from side to side, and they’re lowering my casket into the earth or scattering my ashes to the four winds, I want some plucky young scribe in a garret to be writing about my life for a crushing deadline in just these terms.

Julian Hanna reviews Stefany Anne Golberg and Morgan Meis‘s Dead People.

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Queer as in Queering: a review of Communal Nude: Collected Essays by Robert Glück published 06/10/2016

Communal Nude

Brought to life as an appreciative yet critical reaction to the 60s and 70s avant-garde of the Language poets, Robert Glück’s and Bruce Boone’s New Narrative (a movement which also included Francesca Rosa, Kevin Killian, Sam D’Allesandro, Camille Roy, Dodie Bellamy, Mike Amnasan among others) assembled but also critiqued various experimental forms and techniques to a rather clear cut end – to ruin the locus, the ivory tower inhabited by a sole meaning-maker (the author) and replace it with a community of meaning-makers (the readers) who go beyond recognising themselves in a narrative and generate political and social change.

MH reviews Communal Nude by Robert Glück.

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The Empty Hourglass: Mike Kleine’s Cosmology in Kanley Stubrick published 22/09/2016


Kleine’s novella-in-verse achieves ephemeral constancy through the use of the fragment as a signal for filmic cuts. Part of the anchoring effect of Kanley is due to its treatment of both the continuous and the discontinuous: “This new and mysterious dream. / where / everything feels like it is burning” confronts the startlingly-contemporary observation “it’s like real lyfe”. Scenario, rather than plot, guides the movement of Stubrick.

E.G. Cunningham reviews Kanley Stubrick by Mike Kleine.

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Let’s hit the road, Terror: A review of Dodge and Burn by Seraphina Madsen published 20/09/2016

Dodge and Burn review

Mesmerising, episodic, full of wonder and very cool dialogue (“Let’s hit the road, Terror”), Dodge and Burn is deeply committed to exploring the possibilities of language and describing unconventional experiences.

Jude Cook reviews Dodge and Burn by Seraphina Madsen.

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Lady Maisery published 18/09/2016


Although they are firmly located in the contemporary folk scene, they are not contained by it: when I first came across them, at a time when they were still testing their convergences and limits, they put me in mind of the Swingles performing Berio, or the Raincoats on Odyshape.

Paul Holman reviews Lady Maisery‘s Cycle.

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The Bastards of Pizzofalcone published 02/09/2016


In the Bastard books, we have contemporary Naples in all its noisy complexity, and a group of cops whose insights into crime arise as much from their own imperfections as from their training and experience.

Rohan Maitzen on Maurizio de Giovanni‘s Bastards of Pizzofalcone series.

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600 Years Of Defiant Pose published 27/08/2016


At the fag-end of the 1980’s … writing’s anti-authorial, anti-purist, anti-linear, anti-referential and deeply linguistic character was something in the air then. It was an update of Joyce’s ‘polyglottal’ ‘Wake’ project, a sexier, more chic version … that works with and through language, a clash of two codes, textual and bibliographic, but with a further density to the polysemy and plurivocity added, that of a fragmented elucidation. Acker and others – Bill Burroughs was another clear example – were writing monsters of subversion where theme, narrative, character and plot were their targets. Words were no longer subject to the equation that they meant just one thing, or even one cluster of things. Meaning was now just an effect of language not of anything lying within or behind it. Authorial intention and determination was eroded and instead labyrinths of possibility and acrostic sampling were being produced in a kind of hip, punk slippage to indeterminancy. The improvisory, intermedial experience of reading became a biological-emotional state of hyper-real decision making and play.

Richard Marshall reviews the 25th Anniversary Edition of Stewart Home‘s Defiant Pose.

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