:: Reviews

Épater La Bourgeoisie: Hanif Kureishi’s The Nothing published 13/06/2017

Review of Hanif Kureishi's The Nothing

A few overly literal critics have taken Waldo’s deliberately outrageous, lubricious musings at face value, lambasting Kureishi for presenting that bête noir of creative writing courses, the unsympathetic character. The “nothing” of the book’s title is clearly an allusion to the sixteenth-century slang for vagina (“No-thing”), as in Much Ado About Nothing. And while the explicitness of Waldo’s pronouncements is mostly predictably phallocentric (“He had an eager penis all his life”), some are comically poignant; reminiscences of an active amorous life that will never return.

Jude Cook reviews The Nothing by Hanif Kureishi.

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What Algorithms Want published 12/06/2017

The success of Trump in the USA was a Cow Clicker political success: no matter how dumb, nasty, inept and poorly designed, Trump understands where the new magic sources of power lie. It’s no accident that he tweets, cutting out the ‘normal channels’ of shared concern to ‘speak’ directly to the private space of (anti) social media. His genius has been to seduce and reach beyond both comprehension and knowledge, to harness some vast algorithmic political unknowability and ignorance. This is the new cultural landscape that Ed Finn’s timely and fascinating book investigates.

Richard Marshall reviews Ed Finn‘sWhat Algorithms Want.

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The border is the war: Chris Marker remembered published 08/06/2017

As much as Marker shunned publicity of any kind during his lifetime (1921-2012, remarking pointedly “My films are enough”), for Studio an array of selected photographs of his Paris workspace by Adam Bartos does the rest. Much continues to be made of Marker’s Pynchonesque reclusivity and refusal to discuss or engage with his past, which perhaps serves to underscore the premise behind Studio, Marker being that “obsessive agent of memory” according to writer and academic Stephen Barber.

Andrew Stevens reviews Studio: Remembering Chris Marker by Adam Bartos and Colin MacCabe.

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Life and Death on the Border: A Review of Yuri Herrera’s Kingdom Cons published

Life and Death on the Border: a review of Yuri Herrera’s Kingdom Cons

All three of the short novels by Yuri Herrera, translated into English by Lisa Dillman, inhabit this shifting territory, that is far more psychological – or mythical, in the Greek sense – than geographical. After publishing Signs Preceding the End of the World and The Transmigration of Bodies, And Other Stories have now added Kingdom Cons, Yuri Herrera’s first novel. The territory of all three novels may be reminiscent of the real border between Mexico and the United States but, in Herrera’s works, that territory is more like the hypnagogic borderland between sleep and dream.

Des Barry reviews Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera.

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Practivist Criticism published 05/06/2017

Practical Criticism is about pedagogy, public education, politics, not the production of an elite hermeneutic cadre or an exquisite academic in-group. Contrary to commonly-held belief, the ‘close reading’ method I.A. Richards pioneered was not intended as a donnish amusement – it had a broader social purpose. It is this purpose which Joseph North’s book hopes to reclaim, or at least to remodel.

Brendan Gillott on Joseph North‘s Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History.

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Hour of the Wolf published 03/06/2017

The horror that slides across the book is a terminal dread, ‘a white sea, a white death’. The dread is clenched in clean icy prose that, as the blurb has it, results in an incantationary text which includes all the usual suspects from occult literature: ‘robed figures and furry men, ice caves and deserts, god and serpent, shapelessness and sacred geometry, mysterious artifacts and unfolding perceptions…in a pentangle of overlaid story bodies, each sinking deeper into its own true consciousness, while at the same time constructing an indexical sequence of translation from raw sense to mediated artiface, a primer of the dissolution of life into text.’ What else it raises is the spectre of Miltonic and Shakespearean whiteness, and the failed theodicies of Leibniz, Malebranche and Arnauld.

Richard Marshall reviews M Kitchell‘s Hour of the Wolf.

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Homo Sovieticus and Mind Control published 30/05/2017

Psikhon was the biomagnetic medium described by Velminski as, ‘… an agent of “infection” for influencing, controlling and steering the psyche along cybernetic lines… scientific insight and aesthetic practice belonged to a political-ideological program founded on the premise that mental events could directly produce real-world effects… The flexible “mechanism” at work corresponded to the fraught mode of civil engineering that shaped the Cold War… Fittingly, the political-medical aspect of Psikhon , which Khlebnikov envisioned and Gulyaev thought he could measure by means of his Aurathron, reached its apogee when the Soviet Union was in the course of collapsing and the masses had to be “recharged with healing forces.”

Richard Marshall reviews Wladimir Velminski‘s Homo Sovieticus.

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Urban fabric: Spoon’s Carpets published

Caless invokes Jonathan Meades’ dictum that “The banal is a thing of joy, everything is fantastical if you stare at it long enough.” That there is beauty in something as underappreciated as a pub floor-covering. Thus, we encounter designs influenced by the pub’s architecture, such as the radiant sun sitting directly beneath the domed ceiling in the Admiral Colingwood. Designs that reflect local history and culture, like the Windlesora’s absorption of regal insignia or the Celtic influence of the Eccles Cross in Manchester. And designs that are simply magnificent in and of themselves.

By John P. Houghton.

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Dog’s Odyssey: A Review of David Clerson’s Brothers published 25/05/2017

Brothers review

Is their father a dog, or a dog of a father? Are the brothers boys or flesh-sculpted changelings that drift between feral states of being? Are they metaphor or inexplicably metaphysical? The elder brother is one-armed, the younger one’s arms stumpy due to his bloody genesis, sculpted from his brother’s amputated limb by the hands of their knife-wielding deaf and half-blind mother. She has mutilated one of them in order to carve the other into being. The logic of David Clerson’s Brothers is that of nightmare.

Des Barry reviews Brothers by David Clerson.

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Poems from the Dirty Road: Jonathan Travelstead’s Conflict Tours published 23/05/2017

Conflict Tours

Travelstead’s writing occupies the interstitial spaces between poetry and narrative and prose. He avoids the war-as-gauzy-dream vernacular in favor of a literary realism that accurately depicts the mundane chores of war – his first collection, How We Bury Our Dead, was full of it. Conflict Tours is, in contrast, about the aftermath.

Mike Murphy reviews Conflict Tours by Jonathan Travelstead.

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