:: Reviews

Louis Armand’s The Combinations published 16/08/2016

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Roland Barthes dreamed of Armand’s book when he writes: ‘only allude to writing before going off somewhere else’ where writing becomes a quasi-linguistic function existing already in excess of itself, ‘rehearsing the contemporary tropes of the semioticians’. For Barthes the photographic image can’t be made into an analogue for something else because it is the analogue of the impossible, ‘an image whose detonation is … finally reducible only to the reflexive movement of its own enframing, between two shots, two anachronistic moments. ‘ It represents ‘the perfection and plenitude of its analogy.’ And that analogy risks being mythological and artefactual. ‘an issueless predicament of nothing.’ Armand’s novel is a sequence plenum of this Barthean process.

Richard Marshall reviews Louis Armand‘s The Combinations.

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Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London published 15/08/2016

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The flâneur has been a liberal-creative archetype almost as long as there have been cities – what Lauren Elkin describes as ‘a 19th-century phenomenon – the flâneur, a figure of privilege and leisure, with the time and money to amble around the city at will.’ Origins of the phenomenon were romantic and delirious: however, British contemporary literature can make anything dull and these days flâneuring consists of Iain Sinclair or Will Self, picking endlessly around a London orbital – or some young man of the Brutalist movement, blinking in rapture at tower blocks.

Max Dunbar reviews Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London by Lauren Elkin.

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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

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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

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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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