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

The Dropped Baby published 27/09/2015

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The tales in this arena are whatever outlasts the battle, survivor tales that hint at savagery, random desires and revenge, warnings that no matter how docile, how crushed, how downtrodden a character may seem to be, they are shimmering in a deranged version of eternity, watching the ripped sky defecating violence and immensity in hurled bolts of hatred and vengeance, modes of fantastical and diseased consolation that are versions of a cankered, deranged, moony, slithering, abnormal, hallucinatory, inhuman, begrudging, monstrous, spectral, erotic, horrific, engorged, skewed, insane, psychotic, raving, calamitous, delusion- a shimmering done in Flaubert’s register of the cracked kettle – ‘tapping crude rhythms for bears to dance to, whilst we long to make music that will melt the stars’.

Richard Marshall reviews Jackie Lewis’s The Dropped Baby.

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Juicing up a Storm! On Leon Neyfakh’s The Next Next Level: A Story of Rap, Friendship, and Almost Giving Up published 26/09/2015

The ‘white rapper’ has a somewhat undignified status within popular culture. Vanilla Ice fooled us for a while, whilst, bar Eminem, the rest have been shelved under the rather derogatory and self-consciously ironic ‘nerdcore’ subgenre, Juiceboxxx included. However, whilst Juiceboxxx’s lyrical rhymes can be embarrassingly awkward and often self-deprecating there is something entirely earnest, and contagious about his enthusiasm for rap and the lifestyle he has chosen.

Stephen Lee Naish reviews Leon Neyfakh’s The Next Next Level: A Story of Rap, Friendship, and Almost Giving Up.

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Showing & Telling: Penetrating Fantasy in Brandon Hobson’s Desolation of Avenues Untold published 22/09/2015

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Hobson infers we’re always talking about ourselves, about our failures to see thoroughly beyond ourselves, our inability to thoroughly excavate or explore a self away from geographical or social exigencies. Our drive is towards historical inevitability and, ultimately, we end with mimicry; that’s what culture is for in Desolate City. We try and coerce and collate our moments of self-reflection together into a coherent whole but, as one of Hobson’s characters suggests, recollection is always fractal.

Dominic Jaeckle reviews Desolation of Avenues Untold by Brandon Hobson.

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The Wellness Syndrome published

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The Wellness Syndrome reveals how our current age is marked by a pathological and dangerous fixation with “health” and “wellness,” an obsession that effectively targets individuals with its market-based rhetoric of personal and professional well-being, while strategically masking deeper contradictions of modern neo-liberal capitalism.

Peter Bloom reviews Carl Cederström and André Spicer‘s The Wellness Syndrome.

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The Textured Narratives of Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth published 17/09/2015

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Luiselli suggests that Highway Sánchez’s task is the task of the writer: to transform the mundane, the everyday, the unnoticed into valuable art. Or, as Sánchez’s describes his auctioneering: “I’m like the people who scavenge in your garbage. But with pedigree. I expurgate, I find. I aromatize, clean, and disinfect. I recycle.”

Alex McElroy reviews The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli.

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To the land of malady: a review of Now and at the hour of our death by Susana Moreira Marques published 08/09/2015

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“We obsess over lasts as we do over firsts. Last days, last images, last words. We want signs.” George Lakoff and Mark Johnson gave us the seminal study of the extent to which language shapes our thoughts in Metaphors we live by; Susana Moreira Marques has, in turn, illuminated some of the metaphors we die by.

Laura Garmeson reviews Now and at the hour of our death by Susana Moreira Marques.

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Immortality Isn’t Forever published 05/09/2015

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Something of the heart is truly broken here, which means the appetite feels intimidated and defensive. But everything feels broke as well as broken, as if it’s a story where the cheque bounced and that was all you had left. This, after all, is about the guy Nietzsche told us we could depend on, the one guy we should put our money on to stave off the emptiness and the horror. What we get instead of help is a little parenthesis of light with a hell of a lot of dark, and the feeling that there’s a whole lot more of the dark coming.

Richard Marshall reviews Eddie Campbell‘s Bacchus.

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Philosophical Toys published 26/08/2015

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Reading this takes us to the libidinal chaos of the founding stories, a female Christ, doubles, and in the novel Nina’s mother ‘… a star…[who] needed a lackey… she would sing, she would tell endless stories, but then they had a gagging effect on you these stories… now and again she would spark off a scandal, she had to get all the attention, even if it was negative attention.’ The mother is the scandal who shakes the world out of a torpor through presenting her beauty as both a necessity and consequence: ‘… my mother in the street, with no clothes on, hysterical naked, with a folded gown hanging on her arm, wearing just a pair of yellow stilettos, definitely drunk, she used to say wine was good for your blood, she was so pale.’

Richard Marshall reviews Susana Medina‘s Philosophical Toys.

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Trolls published 25/08/2015

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Philips argues that there is only the thinnest of lines between trolling and sensationalist corporate media. The main difference is that Trolls do it for leisure and for no pay whereas corporate media do it as a business strategy and get paychecks. She claims that they are comfortable fits within the hypernetworked digital media landscape. Trolls use the internet technologies creatively and expertly. They align with corporate and social media marketers. They mobilize the dominate cultural tropes of adversarial and (mainly white) male gendered notions of success, dominance, western entitlement, expansionism and colonialism, and embody the key values of the USA – life , liberty and freedom of expression.

Richard Marshall reviews Whitney Phillips’ ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. Mapping the Relationshp Between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture.

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Trade Encroaching a Sacrament… published 22/08/2015

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Armand’s writing is perceptual, vivid, senses drenched – and so the visceral and bodily responses are foregrounded throughout. Yet by so doing his writing connects us to the neural circuits that instantaneously appraise the perceptions felt along the dimensions of the hedonic, the prudential, dangerous, noxious, nourishing and so on, a buckled sensory array that each organismic character is relating to. These are the bed rock of Armand’s writing, whereby he reenacts as simulations the raw material of biographical narratives whilst showing that these are selves that depend – overdepend – on the bodily stimuli. Without that, they lose a sense of self-identity, as if they have lost in some very distinctive way, a necessarily personal perspective on the information.

Richard Marshall reviews Loius Armand’s Abacus.

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