:: Reviews

A Book Review That is Not One: On Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts published 09/12/2015

The Argonauts made me think about the books that might be written if many scholars/writers were not bound by idiosyncratic and capricious so-called “standards” or genre conventions of scholarship and publication. I finished the last pages of the book wishing there were more books like this—which is admittedly an awkward thing to think in relation to a book that strikes one again and again as so excellently singular. Still, I found myself thinking about various writer/critic friends, thinking “so and so could write a great book like this!”—“like this” meaning the hybrid nature of autotheory that Nelson has mastered, but that we recognize in the works of Roland Barthes, Virginia Woolf, Susan Sontag, and somewhat rare others who occupy the bizarre canon of criticism.

By Christopher Schaberg.

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Eyes published 08/12/2015


As is custom for Gass, these fictions have exemplary sentences: long and short, full of metaphor, rich sound, syncopation, intelligence, gravity, and comedy — architectural wonders both intricate and unbridled as Gaudi’s buildings and grand and severe as Serra’s steel. They are treats both for the mind whose mouth speaks them aloud or the mind with an inner ear to the sound of thought philosophical, lyrical, and holy hewn. Sound before story? Guts before glory? Maybe, but in Gass the sound is the story. One leads the other like wind gusting up a kite, but the wind is also the story because it gives the tale good weight, though it can sometimes be invisible, just like Gass’s famed metaphor in a public debate with John Gardner about fiction as Gardner said, “…what I think is beautiful, he [Gass] would not yet think is sufficiently ornate. The difference is that my 707 will fly and his is too encrusted with gold to get off the ground,” to which Gass replied, “There is always that danger. But what I really want is to have it sit there solid as a rock and have everybody think it is flying.”

Greg Gerke reviews William H Gass‘s Eyes.

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A Hotel Citizen: On Joseph Roth’s The Hotel Years published 07/12/2015


In this melting pot of staff and travelers (“Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, and even atheists”), a sort of post-national commune was formed in which people were free to come together as what Roth romantically called the “children of the world.” The hotel emerges here as something of a makeshift home for the nomadic journalist, a stillness, however transient, to savor.

Dustin Illingworth reviews The Hotel Years by Joseph Roth.

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♥ Attack: A review of The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky published 03/12/2015

The Letter Killers Club - A review

Of all the ideal readers imaginable, the reader who reads from beginning to end without once being swept off or shocked out of her wits, the reader whose critical faculty never falters and whose energy drips evenly across art and life — that reader is the most temptingly robust. The reader who, as it were, leans back has the double advantage of knowing her own position and seeing the bigger picture.

Gabriel Crouse reviews The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky.

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Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism by Alfie Bown reviewed published 02/12/2015

Bown’s use of the Lacanian-Žižekian idea of ‘the big Other’, introduced in the text as an imaginary “god-like figure who appears to watch over us and has the power to ensure our conformation to the order of things,” is a brilliant distillation of the way in which our society functions on praise and affirmation of our opinions and tastes, as well as how our society is obsessed with putting ideas and experiences out into the world via social media.

Stephen Lee Naish reviews Alfie Bown’s Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism.

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The Secret Euphoria of Reading: On Cento lettere a uno sconosciuto by Roberto Calasso published 24/11/2015


The blurbs state their presence as echo chambers in which the absent books resound with murmurs, with questions such as: what builds a library? What connects disparate works and words? What do books transmit onto our selves? And further on, detours into what is commonly deemed irrelevant, marginal, minor — until I’m no longer sure who generates what, what is written before and what after, what is read into writing and written out of reading, and notions of origin are buried beneath layers of rewritings.

Daniela Cascella on Cento lettere a uno sconosciuto by Roberto Calasso.

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Also against shopping and for it: A review of Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer published 12/11/2015

Garments Against Women Review

Garments Against Women is a dispatch from a cage, but the possibility of an exit, of subverting the mock-eternity of literature’s historical conditions, is what gives Boyer’s book its urgency, its paradoxes and its shape.

William Harris reviews Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer.

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


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


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

The Trumpets of Jericho

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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