:: Reviews

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

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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The Precarious In-Betweens: Rosmarie Waldrop’s Gap Gardening published 30/05/2016

Waldrop’s language has the rare ability to accommodate the reader’s interpretations while maintaining its own strange character. I’ve come to understand Waldrop’s oeuvre as exercises in simultaneity, a desire to enact in-betweenness. In resisting a totalitarian language, she proposes that the presence of a gap does not negate the existence of a garden.

Miriam W. Karraker reviews Gap Gardening by Rosmarie Waldrop.

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No Holy Grail: A review of The Violet Hour by Katie Roiphe published 26/05/2016

The Violet Hour

Roiphe’s own pre-occupation with the subject of mortality stems from a life-threatening case of pneumonia when she was twelve. Her memory is vivid: "I forget how to breathe. I am being pulled underwater. The taxi driver carries me into the emergency room because I’ve passed out in the cab." Roiphe compares herself to a soldier unable to re-attune to civilian life, always mentally drawn back to a point of danger and trauma. This sense that early intimations of mortality can lead to a lifelong sense of trauma is largely borne out by Roiphe’s subjects. 

Thom Cuell reviews The Violet Hour by Katie Roiphe.

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David Foster Wallace and String Theory published 19/05/2016

David Foster Wallace’s true non-ostensible subject in these five essays would seem unsurprisingly to be, more often than not, writing—the game of tennis, that is, frequently serves as a metaphor for or simply evokes the art of writing in Wallace’s sports musings.

Ben Leubner on David Foster Wallace‘s String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis.

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Skank: The World’s Most Dangerous Comic Book published 15/05/2016

Back when Skank and Attack! Books were rolling there was a sense of writing as being hardly the point, words being an excuse to present a comedic matter that doesn’t always rescue silence but gets close, with sentences just a further excuse to find such words; and through the fog of anguish which is the obvious mystery of life, they worked to prove these claims of comedy over tragedy, to float that idea out and test it. Punk felt like that too. That sensibility is here in this book.

Richard Marshall reviews Bobby Joseph‘s Skank.

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The Liberal Politics of Adolf Hitler published 03/05/2016

His evocations of white working class London life in the back end of the twentieth century. The very texture of that life, of male friendship, which is so hard to define and yet he nailed effortlessly in book after book. Love and sex and death, peace and war, hard times and good. The willingness to go to places, like the football casual culture of orbital London boroughs, where other writers fear to tread. The warmth and humanity of it all.

Max Dunbar reviews John King‘s The Liberal Politics of Adolf Hitler.

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the irish book of the dead: a review of máirtín ó cadhain’s the dirty dust published 26/04/2016

Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s The Dirty Dust is not exactly well-known to Anglophone readers, though the novel is surely of a piece with the great literary works that emerged from Ireland in the 20th Century. It has Joyce’s linguistic ingenuity, O’Brien’s surrealism, and Beckett’s comic philosophy. But it is written in Irish Gaelic, and it had to wait until last year to be published in English, by Yale University Press.

Patrick O’Connor reviews The Dirty Dust by Máirtín Ó Cadhain.

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The Girl Who Ate New York published 21/04/2016

John Ashbery described the late Lee Harwood as Britain’s best-kept secret; H.P. Tinker is another, even better-kept secret. His work has appeared regularly in the magazine Ambit, where I have read some of the stories; I have also read his first collection, The Swank Bisexual Wine Bar of Modernity (Social Disease Books, 2007). Lee Rourke devoted a chapter to Tinker in his A Brief History of Fables (Hesperus Press, 2011). But beyond a relatively small band of cognoscenti, he is largely unknown. So now is a good time to let others in on the secret. Because this is one of the wittiest, most allusive and elusive collections I have read in years. It’s frustratingly difficult — possibly impossible — to adequately convey its appeal for the benefit of the uninitiated. But I’ll try.

David Rose reviews HP Tinker‘s new collection.

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Saviour / Predator published 18/04/2016

For the most part, the text of What Belongs to You is unburdened by authorial scruple: it moves to its own rhythm, posing politically awkward questions with little inclination to answer them. Garth Greenwell’s combination of slick, economical storytelling with emotional depth and subtle, allusive moral acuity makes this a powerful and compelling debut.

Houman Barekat reviews Garth Greenwell‘s What Belongs to You.

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