:: Reviews archive ( click for articles pre-2006)

Scratching at the wall: A review of Her 37th Year: An Index by Suzanne Scanlon published 27/10/2015

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As the reader sifts through entry after entry, the index gradually reveals itself as an extended and complicated self-meditation. The narrator is approaching that dreaded age where “suddenly every book is about turning [40]”. She feels the contours of well-worn archetypes forming around her in an almost suffocating way.

Matt King reviews Her 37th Year: An Index by Suzanne Scanlon.

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The Small, the Daily, and the Universal: Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies published 23/10/2015

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All three of her novels, then, depict quite explicitly the search for a way of understanding and conceptualizing the passage of time. This made me wonder whether we are still searching for replacements for Jean-François Lyotard’s “metanarratives,” lost so long ago that the narrative of that loss has itself taken on grand proportions. Is this what Groff’s work – and maybe this collection of recent “group of friends” novels – is after?

Mark West on Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies.

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The Feminist Surrealism of Unica Zurn’s Outsider Art published 21/10/2015

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This is not the female form of the traditional Muse, providing a channel to the creative powers of the unconscious for the male artist. Instead, the female body, as Zurn writes it, prescribes its own logic and language upon the universe. In particular it is the pregnant woman, always overdetermined in her corporeality, who is able to exist metaphorically and symbolically.

Subashini Navaratnam on The Trumpets of Jericho by Unica Zurn.

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When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow published 10/10/2015

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Being famous and internationally respected, Professor Richard Dawkins, is on the way to a public speaking engagement. His journey however, shared by his assistant Smee, is hindered by heavy snow, forcing the pair to find refuge with a retired vicar and his wife, whose beliefs are somewhat counter to the Professor’s own. In his mind, they are “reckless imbeciles”, “deluded believers of fairy stories who devote their lives to peddling lies more dangerous than small pox.” This clash of views, and the Professor’s unrepentant, zealous fervor, represent the starting point for what is a brilliant comic construct: “I have devoted swathes of my life to kindly telling people how ignorant they are, and correcting them, and giving them the opportunity to think as I do.”

Paul Ewen reviews Dan Rhodes‘s When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow.

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State of the Union: A review of New American Stories published 07/10/2015

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Yet if the book isn’t quite a manifesto, its cover and weight do perhaps stake a claim at making it a statement publication, a landmark in the development of the American short story. And while the introduction certainly makes no grandiose claims about representing American life, it can be difficult not to extrapolate something State-of-the-Nation about such a portentous collection.

C.D. Rose reviews New American Stories, edited by Ben Marcus.

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Cold Snaps: a review of No Moon by Julie Reverb published 06/10/2015

And English this is, English with all its crudeness, serrated coarseness, and sudden edges aroused and exposed, the English we forget we live in, English we get mushed up in, districted in, haunted, hunted, beat, and butchered by. It is an English, Reverb assures us, unfit for feeding whatever we think we ought to have been.

By Jesse Kohn.

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A philosophical reframing published 05/10/2015

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Parker presents his case with great lucidity and a tone reminiscent of the documentary maker Adam Curtis. Both in the use of pop-culture inflected epigrams – ‘The revolution will not be centralised’ and ‘Learning to love the postcode lottery’ are two early chapter headings – and the focus on power. “This book” he explains “is about power, and how politicians misunderstood its nature”.

John P. Houghton reviews Simon Parker‘s Taking Power Back.

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Mysterious Portland: On Katrina Palmer’s ‘End Matter’ published 04/10/2015

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The idea of fiction as a hallucination arising out of emptiness is intrinsic to the landscape. Portland stone supplies the building material for the bulk of London’s civic edifices; a million square feet of which was quarried for Saint Paul’s cathedral alone. The hollowing out of the bedrock renders it “a site acutely vulnerable to fabulists.” And, one might add, allegorists; at least going by Walter Benjamin’s aphorism :“Allegory is in the realm of thought as ruins are in the realm of things.”

Karen Whiteson reviews Katrina Palmer’s ‘End Matter’.

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Facing the Ocean: A review of Notes on Suicide by Simon Critchley published 30/09/2015

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Notes on Suicide is restlessly motivated by this tension between the one and the many, and how suicide’s place in the world (here, mostly Western) has been shaped by its claims upon neither and both. The book opens by weaving an account of what “we” think into Critchley’s attempt to find a place for his “I”-reflections. Often, as he admits, he’s been no more clued-up than anyone else touched by this topic – which is all of us, without exception or excuse.

Cal Revely-Calder on Notes on Suicide by Simon Critchley.

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Labyrinths of Astonishment: Sergio Pitol’s Literary Journeys published 28/09/2015

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Pitol examines how writers attempt to respond to and understand the world through literature, and describes a process so continuous that his writing has a sense of the eternal.

West Camel on the first two volumes of Sergio Pitol‘s “Trilogy of Memory,” The Art of Flight and The Journey.

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