:: Reviews

Keep Yer Big Apple: The New New York vs. Jennifer Jazz’s Spill Ink on It published 07/02/2020

Instead of attacking this ‘myth’ on, say, factual grounds, Spill Ink simply confines it to the wings. Centre stage is given to ‘the shadows who move in and out of the projects’ — to the anonymous eccentrics who didn’t go on to fame and fortune, and who would never be namedropped on hip hop records. Spill Ink records them all — in loving, lyrical, and non-linear detail. As such, it succeeds in ‘upending Uncle Sam’ without ever feeling like a ‘marketing campaign’ — in presenting a radical vision which remains wholly incompatible with the ‘dramatic arc’ of capitalist self-fashioning.

Oscar Mardell reviews Jennifer Jazz‘s Spill Ink on It.

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An Edible Flow: Ed Atkins’ Old Food published 28/01/2020

This constant flow / can turn the book / into an ambient kind of literature / where the reader enters a trance / is carried through the text / not quite reading / really just looking at the words / grasping onto different anchors / familiar words / um’s / the unexpected appearance of a name / Hannah or something similar / entering the dreamscape of the text / there is no true chronology / only the streaming rhythm of the sentence-structure //

Mike Corrao reviews Old Food by Ed Atkins.

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Glitch published 13/01/2020

Glitch is a perfectly realised novel — one which never wastes a word, nor loses sight of its central theme. In the Guardian, Jude Cook suggested that it was ‘occasionally overschematic with its central metaphor,’ but this is precisely the point. In constantly returning to its eponymous subject — in its obsessive replaying of flaws and errors, of recessions and disappearances — Glitch presents an exact imitation of the cyclical repetitions of trauma, and of an increasingly familiar mindset, therefore: one which doesn’t just see catastrophe and loss as divergences from the ordinary course of life, but as the defining features of its fabric.

Oscar Mardell reviews Lee Rourke‘s Glitch.

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Picture Cycle published 07/01/2020

Sometimes I thought about the way film boys kissed film girls and wondered if film girls and film boys did things differently — kissed differently — offscreen. Does one act a kiss the way one acts everything else in a movie? Kisses are always vérité. Kisses are how actors blur the line. How much of a person is in an actor and how much isn’t?

Nicholas Rombes reviews Masha Tupitsyn‘s Picture Cycle.

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What Is (and Isn’t) Literature? published 06/01/2020

As the editor of American Book Review, Di Leo knows better than most how easily worthy authors can be overlooked: that journal is devoted to covering interesting but nonmainstream literary works, most from small and university presses, that tend to be ignored by the review media. But the other problem with spreading the literature net too far is that it can skew one’s understanding of literary (not cultural) history. Taking his cue from Marcus and Sollers, Di Leo not only describes the sixteenth-century travel accounts of European explorers of America as “significant works in the present-day canon of American literature,” but argues that this “literature”—his word—“shared many of the concerns and texts traditionally reserved only for world literature”.

By Steven Moore.

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Style Wars: The Conquest of Gall published 21/12/2019

The idea here is that Paris signifies literariness, is so infallible a marker of writerly authenticity that if writers can brandish Parisian postcodes then they don’t need to put pen to paper at all. But what is crucial about this sign, about “the bohemian Paris people think of most readily outside of France”, is that it, as Gallix explains, “is anglophone”: a symbol whose exchange rate is best outside of France, whose power to signify rests chiefly in a foreign language — a sign which has been “confiscated”, in other words, from its rightful owners. And it’s an idea which plays an important (if subtle) role in Nada. What’s crucial about Cash’s “cool and chic exterior” is that it, as Manchette describes, is “of British inspiration”: her bohemian allure — the Parisian cliché — is fundamentally anglophone.

Oscar Mardell reviews Jean-Patrick Manchette‘s Nada, Jean Genet‘s The Criminal Child and Other Essays, as well as We’ll Never Have Paris edited by Andrew Gallix.

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The Amundsen of Asda published 18/12/2019

That heady sense of “transgression” is also central to Rees’s project. Car parks are hotbeds of deviancy. They may be some of the most rigorously surveyed patches of real estate in the UK, yet something about their nature as non-spaces attracts the criminal. Once night falls and the last bins are put out, they become private fiefdoms and convenient marketplaces for doggers, drag racers, drug dealers and pimps. But Rees also has fun itemising the ways in which these blank canvases draw out, like poison from a wound, the murderous impulses and animal instincts of otherwise sane, law-abiding citizens.

Alex Diggins reviews Car Park Life by Gareth E. Rees.

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A Life Spent Looking at the Sea: On Me & Other Writing by Marguerite Duras published 17/12/2019

Enthrallment before the sea is characteristic of a desire for obliteration, for those who conflate destruction with freedom. It is the dissolution of manmade boundaries; it holds what we know of eternality. For her, it has been executioner, conductor, arbiter, and lover. Mad, shining, occasionally ripped with laughter. Her lines corrugate like the water’s surface, her rhythm resembling the cyclical tide. To pursue a subject for a lifetime and to remain steadfast in the faith that it will always provide, that has been her gift as a writer. This volume of work is summoned from a lifetime of believing in the wealth of the world as material—that love will never be satiated, that insanity will always rear from amongst the ordinary, that the sea will never empty.

Xiao Yue Shan reviews Me & Other Writing by Marguerite Duras.

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What’s wild? Reading with the lypard in Isabel Waidner’s We Are Made of Diamond Stuff published 11/12/2019

In Diamond Stuff, Waidner summons a contemporary mini-archive of resistance literature, calling on support from writers like Jay Bernard, Tommy Pico and Nisha Ramayya, each both paraphrased and cited. Their relationships with the traditional western canon is in Waidner’s own words “complicated.” The ambivalent figure of the lypard offers one way to understand this knotty liaison.

Fanny Wendt Höjer reviews We Are Made of Diamond Stuff by Isabel Waidner.

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Feminine Tension published 09/12/2019

The novel’s preoccupation with the physical and the bodily is bound tightly with its broader thematic concerns. Alice is hyper-aware of the bodily condition of being female. The menstrual cramps, the intrusions of contraceptive devices (the IUDs and their discomfort, the pills and their side effects), the simple fact that “I have a hole that a penis can fill,” all contribute to a yearning to transcend the normative definition of femininity. Here, the bodily and the conceptual become inextricably intertwined.In straining against a plethora of binaries — monogamous coupledom, masculine/feminine, internal/external — Alice finds herself stretched to breaking point. She yearns to be, like the elastic of the title, pliable and flexible; in her romantic life, in her sense of identity and relation to the world around her. But elastic can also be a constricting agent.

Brendan Boehning reviews Johanne Bille‘s Elastic.

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