:: Reviews

While the Earth Remains: Brandon Brown’s The Four Seasons published 09/07/2018

I’m thinking that in a European language Brown could perhaps have been a kind of subtle prose writer; in this English, he’s consummately a poet. Maybe one of the reasons I keep thinking about what else Brown might have been is that I’m still surprised he is at all. Even so, he shows a strong swerve in the genealogy of North American vanguard poetics. Language operates as an apparently reliable vehicle for sentiment and event. A discernible “I” (or “us”?). Traditional narrative techniques recur, albeit scattershot, bent through the days. Lineation breaks out.

Dylan Byron reviews The Four Seasons by Brandon Brown.

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from the perspective of the monsters: The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh published 26/06/2018

The book is breathtakingly bold in its rewriting of the myths women get told over and over again: your parents never meant to hurt you, the men are coming to save you, you’ll love the baby when it’s here. Just as the girls refashion personalities they can live with out of the temperaments created by their parents’ abuse, so The Water Cure refashions truths out of abusive truisms: even if your parents thought they were being kind, they still hurt you; the men’s version of saving you will kill you; the love that you can spare is sometimes not enough.

Leon Craig on The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh.

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Good Orientalism: Robert Irwin vs Ernest Gellner on Ibn Khaldun. Boom! published 23/06/2018

I was surprised when I read that Irwin specifically rejects Gellner’s approach to reading Khaldun. He accuses this sort of reading as intellectual tourism. He says that to claim Khaldun as a ‘a superb inductive sociologist, a practitioner, long before the term was invented, of ideal types, a brilliant account of one extremely important kind of society’, as Gellner summarized him, is an example of pernicious Orientalism whereby western scholars impose western ideas onto their eastern material. This is an ungenerous and loaded accusation that doesn’t fairly represent Gellner’s reading of Khaldun. It’s doubly strange because Irwin has brilliantly written about how Edward Said’s book ‘Orientalism’ was a calumny against a whole field of scholars working in the field of Orientalism.

Richard Marshall reviews Robert Irwin’s biography of Ibn Khaldun.

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The Enduring Machine-Men of David R. Bunch’s Moderan published 13/06/2018

Review of Moderan by David R. Bunch

One of the implications of the catechism of Moderan is a universal repulsion with human flesh. The Moderan child’s transitory period with flesh has become a fragile embryonic stage prior to the final transformation into machine. Human flesh has become an obsolete form. In Darwinian terms, the fully fleshed human has become the less evolved species, an ancestor to modern machine-man. In this collection, the unmodified, unreplaced human becomes a rare, mythic figure because he is disappearing into history.

Darren Huang reviews Moderan by David R. Bunch.

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The Millennial Writer on Drugs published 06/06/2018

In the shadow of De Quincey, Coleridge, and Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin and Aldous Huxley, William S. Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson, Henri Michaux and Carlos Castaneda, Lin joins a literary history whose resonance depends on the relative sympathy for aesthetic and intellectual solipsism on the part of its audience. Like dreams, the recounting of drug experiences is liable to put its reader to sleep: the language to accurately evoke the extremes of physical and mental sensation isn’t readily available––in most cases, “you had to be there.” For many writers on drugs, these stacked odds have led to breakthroughs in formal innovation: Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” Burroughs’s cut-up method, or Thompson’s perfection-by-caricature of New Journalistic methods.

Andrew Marzoni reviews Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change by Tao Lin and My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh.

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Gore Capitalism: The Politics of Tony Montana published 05/06/2018

Tijuana is where the violence is insane, everywhere and involves everyone. Readers of Bolano and Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez know all about this. Violence there is no longer a peripheral, accidental side-effect of narco cartels and corrupt politics but a lethal structural feature of a weak, broken state. A culture of depraved machismo feeds it, leading to elaborate and theatrical killings and perverted snuff-sex death. The black tears of the innocent are washed away in its white noise carnage. The porno psycho-murder entrepreneurialism seeps into the international markets of everything. A faux blankness silences the helpless keening of its victims. We, the happy consumers of the deranged products of these cults of hallucinatory death feign ignorance or are genuinely outraged. Whatever, enough of us, like addicts and nihilists, mercilessly continue to buy.

Richard Marshall reviews Sayak Valencia‘s Gore Capitalism.

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The Underground Republic of Tony White published 30/05/2018

White’s subtle pulp detective novel comes with all the benefits of the genre: a complex and twisting plot with a genuinely shocking and satisfying dénouement, a brooding, troubled and edgy anti-hero cop protagonist and a broad, psychogeographic and political landscape taking place in the designated sacred spacetime spanning the end of the Miners Strike in 1985 to the Battle of the Beanfield at Stonehenge. Writing it White adopts the playful puzzle materials of the Oulipo lit guys and gals and draws esoterical fodder from the Guardian crossword puzzle and the Sylvain Marechal’s French Revolutionary Calendar. There’s a luxuriance of natural feeling and grounded knowing in the well-healed prose. It has an assurance that drives the plot towards its severe but thrilling denunciations of our corrupt forces of law and ordure. White works against the bookish and cloistered, brings vernacular energies to his communal memories of this time.

Richard Marshall reviews Tony White‘s The Fountain in the Forest.

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The Two Cultures Revisited: on Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now published

Has the Second Culture simply made all this stuff up in order to impose itself on the rest of society? Pinker seems to think so, because he can only dismiss these claims as the cool malaise of too many people reading Derrida. More nuance and sensitivity is required here. For one thing, it vastly overstates the influence of French and German intellectuals on the cultural mainstream. And to say that the Waldens and Waste Lands of the world are merely poetic and intellectual flourishes of a class ignorant of science and resentful towards progress is a glib dismissal and woefully simple for someone as thoughtful and meticulous as Pinker.

Jared Marcel Pollen reviews Enlightenment Now.

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Useless Machines: On Alexander Calder, Jed Perl, and Standing Apart published 29/05/2018

The Conquest of Time: The Early Years, 1898-1940, the first of Perl’s two volumes on Calder (the second is due out in 2019), follows the artist from his childhood in Philadelphia through his time in Paris, New York, and Barcelona, where he cultivated his “classical style” and befriended some of the greatest avant-gardists of the era, including Duchamp, Joan Miró, and Piet Mondrian.

Jackson Arn reviews Calder by Jed Perl.

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Limitations of a War Waged with Humour published 28/05/2018

In case the hand-grenade on the front cover left you unsure, Hallgrimur Helgason delights in exploding taboos—continually, like a kid playing with firecrackers—and in his latest novel he has found just the narrator for it in Herra Björnsson, a near-death octogenarian living out her second childhood in a garage outside Reykjavik, “together with a laptop computer”, and the aforesaid hand-grenade—an old keepsake given by her father. She then deadpans a series of statements which trade off her own decrepitude for laughs, mentioning her rheumatism, a “catheter and bedpan”, the “Via Dolorosa” of getting to the toilet, and the lovely fact that “there’s constipation everywhere,” the evident goal being either to provoke disgust or, for a certain type of reader, a sense of morbid delight.

Abe Nemon reviews Woman at 1000 Degrees by Hallgrimur Helgason.

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