:: Reviews

A Small, Dark Miracle of a Book: Peter Stenson’s Thirty-Seven published 28/01/2019

In any event, a book that ties the reader up in such moral knots is a book worth reading, no matter how displeasing the reading experience may be. And it is. The characters’ illnesses are well-described, their depravities carefully delineated, their crimes docketed without fail. Enlightenment through suffering necessarily entails suffering, and this book bears a lot of it. Plus, the ideas in it are so heavy, and so imbricated, that reading the book is an intense, blinkered experience. Even if you’ve put the book down, your emotions haven’t really let go, and your mind keeps working at its contradictions.

Katharine Coldiron reviews Thirty-Seven by Peter Stenson.

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Condemned to Modernity? published

In one of his most recent works, Condemned to Modernity: What Sociology Seeks, Literature Found, he attacks the argument, often made in both mainstream media and academic circles, that our globalized, digitalized economy has created a postmodern and post-industrial society whose actuality is unique to human history. In the book, he uses literature as his main weapon of attack, repeatedly asking: If this argument is correct, then how is it that we can find in some of the great literary works of the 19th and early 20th centuries — the epitome of modernity and the industrial age — precise descriptions of social and economic phenomena that are supposedly unique to our time?

Svatava Antošová on Condemned to Modernity by Jan Keller.

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Retrospect & Representation: Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl by Diane Seuss published 24/01/2019

Diane Seuss goes high and low from the get go with a Rembrandt title (Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl) and an Amy Winehouse epigraph (What kind of fuckery is this?). The latter figure reappearing as surrogate self-daughter of the narrator’s societal fringe past involving a junkie boyfriend who haunts the poet’s previous work. This is not ego-immersed confessional poetry, it is more conversant with what Rothko called the not-self.

Steven Felicelli reviews Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl by Diane Seuss.

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Coper, Doper, Kopman, Spy published 21/01/2019

Phillips’ debut is ambitious. But how does it fare? It teeters on the cusp of greatness. He has taken time to think about life and the path he is navigating through it, and found solace, perhaps affirmation, in documentation and appropriation. It’s a memoirsy collection of stories and essays, recollected speeches, fragments, rants, letters-to-be-opened-in-the-case-of-death, and yet the best moments may well be the ones where he provides intentional story structure.

A. E. Weisgerber reviews Essays and Fictons by Brad Phillips.

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The Dream in the Machine: On Germán Sierra’s The Artifact published 16/01/2019

In addition to Borges, other influences can be detected in Sierra’s “theory-fiction.” As Dan Mellamphy writes in the book’s frontispiece, J.G. Ballard and Phillip K. Dick are both ghostly presences in Sierra’s prose. One might also mention in passing names like Conrad and Nabokov, authors who often burrow into the English language like viruses from the outside, weaponizing the “Imperium of Anglophony.” And yet, the elements which make The Artifact a “theory fiction” are also what make it a wholly original and idiosyncratic work, a blend of musings on science—biology, physics, computer science—along with an impressionistic montage of fictive tales.

Javier Padilla reviews The Artifact by Germán Sierra.

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Naming the Dead: Wang Bing’s Dead Souls published 10/01/2019

The question of how this process of naming and recalling of names fits with the wider questions of testimony and silence in Dead Souls is vital for understanding how to approach these events, of what it means to create an archive of such atrocious human actions. Testimony, silendce: the two are in continual contestation throughout Dead Souls and its understanding of the film as archive.

Daniel Fraser reviews Dead Souls.

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Walter Kempowski’s All for Nothing: An Unlikely Comedy Set in the Collapse of The Third Reich published 08/01/2019

All for Nothing by Walter Kempowski

A new edition from New York Review Books makes Anthea Bell’s translation of All for Nothing – the final novel by the acclaimed German writer Walter Kempowski – available to US readers. Can the book redeem the art of monsters? Or does it fall short?

Oscar Mardell reviews All for Nothing by Walter Kempowski.

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Flesh Objects: On John Trefry’s Apparitions of the Living published 07/01/2019

This novel’s not easy to describe / narratives are spectral / there is a man and a boy and a Connie / a body is broken down and reassembled / voices converse / “The rays stitch’d him into the shamble of hot black dust grinding, of an accumulation echo’d in dust prints.” / there is a motel / there is bricabrac / there is sand / there is cataplasm / but it’s hard to say what they are doing / what they have done / what they will do / the reader enters this space / engages the text / is pulled through each page / until the book is over /

Mike Corrao reviews Apparitions of the Living by John Trefry.

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The Destruction Myth: Jenny Hval’s ‘Paradise Rot’ published 18/12/2018

Paradise Rot review

Paradise Rot has an abundance of abandoned apples, half-eaten and rotting. Yellow Honeygolds: Carral is the snake, the apple is the warehouse inside Carral. Pink Ladies: flesh. Bloody Ploughmans: forbidden. Each apple is a story of transformation and becoming, of desire and sex/uality. (A four-breasted creature, Moon Lips, Emma.) Hval weaves and re-forms stories, mutilating them with a deep commitment to the senses and subjectivity.

Mollie Elizabeth Pyne reviews Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval.

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Til the Pigs Come Round published 30/11/2018

This is the blind spot in others that so infuriates Mickey once he realizes, as a young boy, that the meat In his food comes from slaughtered animals. Why can’t his peers also see this? Why are they so blind to the truth? As he grows older, the puzzlement and anger remain. ‘For his part, he wanted to know how anyone could claim to be a socialist and eat meat. What sort of liberal let piglets die because they enjoyed the taste of their bodies? Why would a conservative condone the cutting of a child’s throat? Where was the outrage of the religious leaders? All of these people peddled morality but refused to challenge the meat and dairy industries. He hated their dishonesty.’

Koushik Banerjea reviews John King‘s Slaughterhouse Prayer.

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