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

exiled from daylight published 27/07/2015


Nightwalking is a meticulously researched yet eminently readable and entertaining guide to London at night and on foot – with a radical heart. It is also a sweeping history of London, from the Middle Ages to the late-Victorian period.

Julian Hanna reviews Matthew Beaumont‘s Nightwalking.

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a frightful disease of the mind: Sylvère Lotringer’s Mad Like Artaud reviewed published


According to Artaud, madness spreads; it’s contagious to the very people who surround it. And between the publication of these early texts, and the later texts, in 1937, Artaud became, in Sylvère Lotringer’s words, ‘ a manic lunatic, who spouted mystical writings by Saint Jerome and invoked the magical powers of the universe to protect himself’. Lotringer’s book speaks to the way that Artaud’s madness spreads. It discusses the way in which Artaud, during his own lifetime and his complex cultural legacy, has infected those around him, with the very same madness that Artaud himself claimed he was not touched by.

By Tristan Burke.

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The Utopia of Rules published 20/07/2015


The Utopia of Rules calls for a revolution, but revolutions are often impractical. Graeber asks us to question the ideologies that underpin bureaucracies of every kind, and such questioning is essential. We must ask not just whether our bureaucracies are functioning as we want them to function in areas like higher education, healthcare, or finance, but also whether the beliefs underpinning them – beliefs in transparency, regularity, meritocracy, technocracy, administration, rationality, efficiency – are the kind of beliefs that would best benefit society.

Timothy Kennett reviews David Graber’s The Utopia of Rules.

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Hunts in Dreams published 17/07/2015


I can’t recommend Tom Drury’s Hunts In Dreams strongly enough. If I carved “READ TOM DRURY” into granite slabs, a ton for each letter, and dropped the lot on your front lawn, I wouldn’t be recommending it strongly enough. If I threatened to have your insides chewed out by rats if you didn’t run out, buy a copy and read it today, I wouldn’t be recommending it strongly enough. If I gave you my kidney for reading it, I wouldn’t be recommending it strongly enough. Honestly. Just go and read it. Don’t even bother with this review. Go on. What are you waiting for? In case you are still here — although you shouldn’t be, and I’m very disappointed in you — I’ll attempt a few more words of persuasion.

Sam Jordison reviews Tom Drury‘s Hunts in Dreams.

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Fur and all: A review of The Mesmerist’s Daughter by Heidi James published 14/07/2015


James opens with a simple yet surprising statement: “My mother was a wolf.” Sentences that revel in such succinct shock are part of James’ trade, as becomes clear when the second follows suit: “That was the first secret I kept for her.” The sinister undercurrents of the novella are evident from this start – yet rather than leaving such forebodings to lie in the dark James brings them into the harsh light of day.

Thea Hawlin reviews The Mesmerist’s Daughter by Heidi James.

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Quin Again and Other Stories published 13/07/2015


The shorter stories are, however, genuinely overshadowed by “Quin Again”, which further distinguishes itself from them by being punctuated, W. G. Sebald-like, with mostly desolating photographs of what appears to be an East Anglian coastal town in winter. (The real Ann Quin drowned herself in the sea off Brighton in 1973.) This long mosaic-like narrative appears to be written (at times at least) by someone claiming to be an old lover of Quin, shocked into renewed consideration of her by news of her death. But the story, which it would be nearly impossible to summarise, is in no sense really about Quin, nor is it homage. It is at once profoundly serious and somewhat haunting, yet also howlingly funny and screamingly parodic. It contains, for example, a brilliant spoof of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, as well as a paragraph in which the reader must guess the words that have been deliberately omitted.

Macdonald Daly reviews Ellis Sharp‘s Quin Again and Other Stories.

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Shklovsky’s Zoo published 12/07/2015


The impression by the end is of conceivable dark and silence or an indefinite approximating towards them. At the last the voice speaks over herself with a possibly apocryphal story about Franz Kafka. Kafka looms large in this. His parables free up narrowing limits. Something expires before our very eyes before the last syllable and what we end up with is that odd kind of actuality Beckett in a letter writes down, i.e.:

‘… the pigeon helping with its wing the too frail branch on which it lights.’

Richard Marshall reviews Joanna Walsh’s Shklovsky’s Zoo, with images by Maja Nilsen.

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Image Recognition published 08/07/2015


Looping, watching, being real — these things bring to mind Tom McCarthy’s Remainder, its main idea being replayed here in a reversed form: for Jon, authenticity is an afterthought rather than a prompt. Here, too, there are traumas, physical and mental, and a large sum of money involved. Boredom, the main motif of Rourke’s first novel, The Canal, is also present, both as the protagonist’s condition and as something he observes in others: “It all makes sense: boredom. But it’s a mess, like the world has short-circuited and there’s not much time left, so everything is accelerated: everything is happening too quickly for me to assimilate what is actually taking place.” Things are often “happening too quickly” for Jon, who gets periodically kicked out of seedy places and beaten up by dodgy characters. He takes it all with a degree of disbelief, as if it was happening to someone else, thinking, “I just want to be real again”.

Anna Aslanyan reviews Lee Rourke‘s Vulgar Things.

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Back in Orbit published


Over a decade after London Orbital, Iain Sinclair went on another circular journey. This walk, shorter but no less demanding, was prompted by his encounter with a group of youngsters in fancy dress about to board an Overground train at New Cross Gate to travel to a party in Shoreditch. They told him how they chose locations for parties somewhere along the newly completed Ginger Line and kept the details secret till the last moment. Reminded of the famous M25 raves that started soon after the opening of the London orbital motorway in 1986, Sinclair felt compelled to write about the revived rail network: to see how it had changed London’s topography and spirit.

Anna Aslanyan reviews Iain Sinclair‘s London Overground: A Day’s Walk Around the Ginger Line.

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The Ugly-Pretty Lad: A review of Jolly Lad by John Doran published 06/07/2015

Jolly Lad

Jolly Lad is an addiction memoir, but one which deconstructs the macho bullshit, the self-pity and the outright lying that surrounds the literature of addiction. There are no platitudes here, no lost years, and although there is a struggle to be clean, Doran makes it clear that he enjoyed much of what he did. From kitchen-jousting tournaments as a student to remembering his first E at a DJ Shadow gig, a surprising number of his adventures are, though often borderline terrifying, highly amusing.

C.D. Rose reviews Jolly Lad by John Doran.

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