:: Reviews

Fallen to the Rank of Adjective: On Benjamin Fondane published 11/08/2016

Existential Monday review

“We are in a world in which each one of us comes along with his fixed idea, irreducible to that of his neighbour.” The problem, for Fondane, is universalism. “We don’t want a unanimity of agreement, but a defensive unanimity.” At the gut of Fondane’s argument – whether we want to pin him as a writer, thinker, philosopher or poet – is the claustrophobia innate to our verbal categories when it comes to the industrialisation of original thought.

Dominic Jaeckle reviews Existential Monday and “Cinepoems” & Others by Benjamin Fondane.

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Travel: A Joyous Disappointment published 08/08/2016

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The places he visits are the kinds of places that most readers, having read about them and the disappointments and small epiphanies that they give, are unlikely to ever visit themselves. Dyer begins by going to Tahiti in the coloured footsteps of Gauguin; visits the Forbidden City in Beijing; experiences land art projects in American Nowhere; flies to Norway to see, and fail to see, the Northern Lights; fears for his life after realising that he and his wife have picked up an ex-convict on their way to El Paso; makes a pilgrimage to the house, that is no longer the house, of Adorno in LA; and concludes by serenading LA, where he now resides, eating a double-baked croissant with hazelnuts, but with an intimation of mortality.

Leonid Bilmes reviews Geoff Dyer‘s White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World.

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So smart and tight: a review of R.F. Langley’s Complete Poems published

The moment of connection is contained and assimilated as one perspective among many, one particular manifestation of a reading and writing practice which Prynne calls ‘almost a discipline’ and Peter Larkin something like ‘an ascesis’, and which has drawn me into a matching practice of my own. I hope it’s high praise to say that these extraordinary poems now feel as radically ordinary as I want my life to be.

By Jack Belloli.

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Means to an Ending: A Review of Iain Reid’s debut novel published 01/08/2016

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The most poignant thought along the drive comes from our narrator, when she relates a story about her driving instructor. He had claimed he’d met the best kisser in the world, but she’d demurred at this, noting that one person alone could not possibly be the best kisser in the world: “It’s like not playing the guitar or something, where you’re alone and you know you’re good at it. It’s not a solitary act. There needs two to be the best.” Here we’re given the symbolic meaning, the interplay between loneliness and companionship, embedded in a concrete, quotidian phenomenon. It’s this kind of philosophical dialogue that drives the first act, and sets up the novel’s overarching symbolism.

Brian Birnbaum reviews I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid.

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When does the person become the body? A Review of Don DeLillo’s Zero K published 22/07/2016

In the end, Zero K left me with a sense of vague dissatisfaction, but I think this has much more to do with the hysteria around the novel-as-event, and less to do with the book per se. The novel is a journey, and if it is frustrating, that’s actually okay because the story is about contemporary frustrations with the (mis)adventure of human progress.

By Christopher Schaberg.

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A Raven’s Eye View published 11/07/2016

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It is links such as this that give the book such a cumulative power. The small setting allows Bullough to overlay images upon one another. Oliver is seen often a raven, named Maureen, sitting on his shoulder, or circling the sky above his head. Of course, ravens do not live for over 60 years, but Maureen is ever-present, different birds gathered under a single name. So much in the book is contained with this image: when I now think of the novel, in its totality, I see the farm from a raven’s eye view. I see the many characters superimposed upon the landscape, and tractors and horses and land rovers furrowing tracks on the same land. The overall impression I was left with was of Funnon Farm as a ghostly intersection, with new technologies marshalling old ideas.

James Tookey reviews Tom Bullough‘s Addlands.

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Far from home: A review of After Tomorrow the Days Disappear by Hasan Sijzi published 04/07/2016

After the Days Disappear

Not only is After Tomorrow the Days Disappear a valuable addition to the corpus of world literature in translation, making available to a much larger audience poetry of one of the pioneers of a form that has captivated the Oriental and Occidental imagination alike, but it is also a timely book, appearing in English at a time when the world and its many ideologies needs it.

Saudamini Deo reviews After Tomorrow the Days Disappear by Hasan Sijzi of Delhi.

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Quiet Creature on the Corner and the Limits of Criticism published 23/06/2016

QuietCreature

But what of a work that resists the critical apparatus to such a degree that even failure itself seems out of reach? What of a text that begins to dissipate at the merest suggestion of a thesis, an angle? Enter João Gilberto Noll’s 1991 mid-career effort, Quiet Creature on the Corner, a work of sustained resistance to interpretation, a literary Rorschach blot that swells until the ink itself subsumes the sky.

Dustin Illingworth reviews Quiet Creature on the Corner by João Gilberto Noll.

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Between Absence and Forgetting: A review of Human Acts by Han Kang published 14/06/2016

Human Acts by Han Kang

Human Acts is animated by the death of fifteen-year-old Dong-ho, who finds himself at the centre of the student-led resistance. Rendered in six episodes that begins with Dong-ho in 1980 and ends with the author in 2013, the reader witnesses six characters in the aftermath of the Gwangju Uprising and the effects of their experience and participation as the silence of the event grows in the public sphere. Han positions each of the characters on the line between absence and forgetting, compelled to remember through their precarious proximities to an event that violated hundreds of people’s right to death.

Ryan Chang reviews Human Acts by Han Kang, trans. by Deborah Smith.

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The Pathos of Ephemera: A Review of A Bestiary by Lily Hoang published 31/05/2016

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Hoang’s claim that A Bestiary is an incongruous combination is instructive. Elements of fable, memoir, flash fiction, lyric essay and commonplace book are placed in dialogue as Hoang leads the reader from a story about the speaker’s deceased sister’s battle with heroin addiction to a quote from David Foster Wallace, to a note on Mao Zedong’s Four Pests campaign.

Bridget Bergin reviews A Bestiary by Lily Hoang.

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