:: Reviews

‘Now I will give you white things’: a review of Han Kang’s The White Book published 02/11/2017

For Han Kang, white is no ‘original’ surface, no canvas; it conceals. It is snow, cloud, white fur over pink skin, ‘a whiteout inside his head’, ‘feathers feathering down’. The beauty of the book as a physical object (like every Portobello edition) makes you constantly aware of its whiteness; the binding is white, the cover – and half of the pages are blank, untouched by the brief vignettes. Except that, in one of Kang’s own formulations, the text is ‘black writing bleeding through thin paper’. Her words, with effort and pain, reveal themselves from behind hundreds of white shells.

By Oscar Farley.

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The accidental ethnographer: Michel Leiris and Phantom Africa published 26/10/2017

Phantom Africa

What makes Phantom Africa such a fascinating document is Leiris’ observational acuity and emotional honesty. His presumed audience is ambiguous. He is keeping this peripheral record with the intent of publishing, yet it seems as if he is writing, first and foremost, for himself and for his wife.

Joseph Schreiber reviews Phantom Africa by Michel Leiris.

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Make my day… and night: a review of Punk is Dead published 25/10/2017

Andy Blade, singer, reminisces declaring, punk’s not dead, it’s in a coma. His is the most honest appraisal in the book. From the seminal NOW FORM A BAND chord instruction in Sideburns fanzine, he says the louder, messier, Oi! side of punk – which won out with bands like Cockney Rejects, Sham 69, Boomtown Rats, UK Subs – taking its throne because Punk Rock itself is intellectual, and its ‘art angle had been dispensed with for the simple reason that art intellectuals generally don’t sell shitloads of records, and arty intellectualism does not go down too well in places like Wrexham, Luton, Milton Keynes, or North Wales – because the general public live in these shitty little places, and they don’t get it.

By Kirsty Allison.

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Tiny Acts of Witchcraft: A review of Aase Berg’s Hackers published 24/10/2017

Berg begins her collection by recalling the story of the female warrior Penthesilea, who according to legend, was murdered by Achilles. The Penthesilea Painter’s vase painting from 470-460 BCE depicts Penthesilea and Achilles with their eyes locked at the moment of her death at the tip of his spear. The vase painting offers the salacious viewer voyeurism of two kinds, by combining the moment of death with a moment of lust. In this forensic split second, Achilles both kills and desires his prey.

Laura Joyce reviews Hackers by Aase Berg.

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Dressed for Commotion: A review of All Fours by Nia Davies published 17/10/2017

All Fours by Nia Davies review

Much of the collection invokes the fairy tale or myth as an organising principle, and through these Davies stages a double opening: on the one hand, to a sheer abandonment to desire, drawn by adventure and the temptations of misrule; on the other, to remain alive to and through a thinly-veiled fragility that these fantasies ostensibly seek to suppress.

Jonathan Catherall reviews All Fours by Nia Davies.

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Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence published 15/10/2017

Aoun explicitly diminishes the notion of knowledge and learning in ‘the service of a broader good’ as secondary to ‘today’s economic and societal imperatives’. Having openly acknowledged that technological progress is ‘extremely likely’ to intensify inequality, he does not then offer any suggestion for how this might be avoided (the phrases ‘not for profit’ and ‘social enterprise’ are conspicuous in their absence). Aoun should, perhaps, have stuck to his principles and avoided mentioning equality or sustainability at all. Their presence on the page emits an oppressed whimper that only highlights the dystopia.

Lindsay Jordan reviews Joseph Aoun‘s vision for Universities in the Age of AI.

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Present Tense: CAConrad’s While Standing in Line for Death published 12/10/2017

While Standing in Line for Death review

If CAConrad’s work explores the intertwinings of our bodies and the world through writing, this is always rooted in direct consequence and reality. He is concerned with what he calls in Ecodeviance, “an extreme present where the many facets of what is around me can come together through a sharper lens”. One of the most provocative challenges of his work is its simultaneous willingness to push the boundaries of consciousness but its resistance of detachment from contemporary social and political reality.

Colin Herd reviews While Standing in Line for Death by CAConrad.

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Everywhere the glow of something waiting to end: On Gary J Shipley’s Warewolff! published 05/10/2017

Even in the face of things that seem impossibly alien in both subject and sentiment, the narratorial voice surveys it all with total detachment. And nor should it be any other way. Shipley has bored a hole into the inner life of a multitude of subconscious minds, and whatever pours out is judged on its own terms, without dissemblance or apology. The weight of these many realities has stripped away the need for anything else, and the result reads like a dry confessional.

Lucy Brady reviews Warewolff! by Gary J Shipley.

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Trapped in their traumas: On Katalin Street by Magda Szabó published 03/10/2017

Katalin Street review

Reading the short, melancholy Katalin Street made me remember the time when machine-gun wielding Yugoslav soldiers removed me from a train in the middle of the night. It also made me recall being robbed by two men in the shadows of Tahrir Square in Cairo, how close they held a knife to my face as I lay trembling on the ground. I wouldn’t say these were defining moments in my life, but they certainly cast a long shadow.

Nick Holdstock reviews Katalin Street by Magda Szabó.

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Hefner: The Virginia Woolf of Pornotopia published 30/09/2017

Preciado sees Playboy as a ‘titanic allegoric operation.’ He died having succeeded in what he set out to do , ‘… namely, to construct a collective sexual imaginary capable of implementing, right in the middle of the Cold War, a new set of affects, bodily habits, and desires that prepared the shift from a disciplinary society, with its repressive norms and bodily regulations, toward a pharmacopornographic regime characterized by immaterial labour, postdomestic space, the psychotropic and chemical regulation of subjectivity, prosthetic extension of the sexual body, electronic sexual surveillance, and consumption of intimacy.’

Richard Marshall reviews Beatriz Preciado‘s book about Hugh Hefner‘s Playboy legacy.

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