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

Beyond the visible plane published 24/02/2015

Max Blecher - Adventures

Blecher’s book is being compared to those of Kafka and Bruno Schulz, authors whose work is similarly attended by a kind of extratextual loss and impossibility — which would be an unfair comparison if Blecher did not so clearly share their preoccupation with the limits of substance, and even more, their skillfulness in rendering the uncanny into prose.

Colin Torre on Adventures in Immediate Irreality by Max Blecher.

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Life-like published 22/02/2015


This is tough knotted, hard-hearted artifice. Its audacious operation is a newly articulated subordination of erotic laceration. Here ecstatic torments are managed as metrosexual assimilation and sublimation. The novel is a jigsaw that requires a reader to wonder whether multiplication of perspectives fragments and dismantles or accumulates and deepens. The surface narrative is smooth and quick, hardly stirring the air. That’s not where the intensity lies. The wild apollonian tautness is in the architecture, is caught in the style and the structure which butchers the joints of the book’s universe. The surface remains perfectly self-controlled and attentive, a state of pale distraction that Benjamin defined as perfected modernism.

Richard Marshall reviews Toby Litt’s Life-Like.

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history turned upside down published 19/02/2015

We are given very little idea at first of what is really going on in these stories, and where, when, and why. But then you remember Rachel Kushner’s novels, and begin to suspect that most of these histories have been made up. In the first story, ‘The Great Exception’, there is an Admiral, a Queen, and a Greek Cartographer: I feel like I know them; do I know them? Or should we take Nabokov as our guide, when he tells us: ‘Fiction is fiction. To call a story a true story is an insult to both art and truth’? I think that approach is wiser.

Julian Hanna on Rachel Kushner‘s The Strange Case of Rachel K.

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Fables of the Reconstruction published 17/02/2015


The Rebellious Life of Mrs Rosa Parks is not an easy read. Like Parks herself, Theoharis asks hard questions, and tells it like it is. Only a fool would argue nothing gets better, but two months before Bush laid a wreath at Parks’s casket, his government sat on its hands as the overwhelmingly black neighbourhoods of New Orleans were blasted by seawall. Theoharis’s book is a series of challenges: to people who believe racism a thing of the past, to Northern Americans who cast the civil rights struggles as good Northern liberals versus bad redneck wingnuts. It is also a challenge aimed at British people who look down on Americans for their sordid little race problem, while downplaying or ignoring the vast history, and active presence, of bigotry and small mindedness in this country. Above all, this story of Rosa Parks is a testament to the power of history. As the great Southern novelist William Faulkner said: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’

Max Dunbar reviews Jeanne Theoharis’ The Rebellious Life of Mrs Rosa Parks.

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things to charm a storyteller published 16/02/2015


Listener and broadcaster in Radio Benjamin have a furtive, strained relationship. Inhabiting the same room – for ‘the radio listener, as opposed to every other kind of audience, receives the programming in his home’ – the two are invisible to one another. Benjamin’s broadcast is a space of compromise, where the valence of sound is afforded only by the conspicuous loss or suspension of sight and touch.

Polly Dickson on Walter Benjamin‘s Radio Benjamin, edited by Lecia Rosenthal.

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Sunday Rationalism published 30/01/2015

Many so-called postmoderns found their way back to Kant one way or another, and Châtelet fits with a certain ‘90s moment in that regard too. But the result is simply too extravagant to be commensurate with the Grandma Simpleton Kantianisms of yesteryear. Châtelet’s commitment to autonomy is much more Turbo. Deleuze thought much of Foucault’s ‘diabolical sense of humor’, which he linked to an ontological seriousness in Foucault’s work. This same union is at work in their generational confrere. The ‘Sunday rationalism’ that Châtelet skewers is a rationalism born of boredom. The real scandal is that thought would be a matter of leisure time, and not work, not life as such. Aghast at this scene, Châtelet seeks a rationalism of the everyday, of the plainly quotidian rather than the consumerist daily.

Knox Peden reviews Gilles Châtelet’s To Live and Think Like Pigs.

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Bullet Points: A review of The Missing Pieces by Henri Lefebvre published 28/01/2015

The Missing Pieces

The complexity of Lefebvre’s poem is belied by the simplicity of his project. Lefebvre provides no index, no table of “missing” contents; the organisational principles of the poem must be inferred (or not). Lefebvre’s poem characterises its author as one who knows loss, who attends to loss—and perhaps to everything—better than we do, one who has been remade by his attendance upon perdition and un-making.

Daniel Bosch on The Missing Pieces by Henri Lefebvre.

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Infinite Fictions published 23/01/2015


These are the only serious questions for readers and writers now. Winters’ sense of yearning running through all his essays here is an immense inquietude. He’s nailed the portable solitude of reading, its source in the noise of the universe’s silence.

Richard Marshall reviews David WintersInfinite Fictions.

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The Age Of The Crisis Of Man published 18/01/2015


There are TV sets in every room and the grim politics of this techno-human relationship is quickly established. Greif makes clear that Yoyodyne aerospace and Republicanism grow up side by side. What Pynchon starts to articulate is a creepy, X-Filey sense that technology is draining us away.

Richard Marshall reviews Mark Greif‘s The Age of the Crisis of Man.

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Marie NDiaye’s Lost Souls published 16/01/2015

It’s a truism that terrible or unpleasant things, when they take their place in a work of art, can afford readers and viewers great pleasure or enjoyment. That which is most feared in life may be most welcome in literature. As Aristotle says, “we enjoy looking at the most accurate representations of things which in themselves we find painful to see, such as the forms of the lowest animals and of corpses.” The meaning of Marie NDiaye’s writings seems to stand in close relation to this principle.

Jacob Siefring on Marie NDiaye‘s All My Friends and Self-Portrait in Green.

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