:: Criticism archive ( click for articles pre-2006) 2000-2005, click for articles pre-2006)

The Poetry of Destroyed Experience published 20/06/2013

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These poems do not protest inhumanity as much as think it through: they want to understand it, and can only do so by going through it. Because this thinking takes place as poetry, it challenges the alienated forms of rationality that destroy emphatic experience in the first place; yet it does not simply rail against destruction but explores its aesthetic – and by extension repressed political – potentials. Like Marx’s, Sutherland’s romanticism is anti-romantic: the nature he is after is not the one we have destroyed but the one that does not yet exist.

Mathew Abbott reviews Keston Sutherland‘s The Odes to TL61P

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Turtle Zen published 19/06/2013

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It would be understandable to expect Russell Hoban’s Turtle Diary to be a light-hearted romantic comedy, one where two lonely protagonists come together over a crazy caper, a plan to set free the sea turtles in the London Zoo, fall in love, and live happily ever after. Fortunately, Hoban’s 1975 novel bears little resemblance to this simplistic narrative. Instead, Turtle Diary is a quiet, thoughtful examination of the loneliness of middle age and the quest to break free of it.

Kristine Rabberman reviews Russell Hoban‘s newly reissued Turtle Diary.

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modernist ghosts published 18/06/2013

John Wisdom once said about something completely different; there are people who think there was no literature after TS Eliot and others who think there was none before Derrida and there was no reason to exclude the possibility that both were right. Perhaps we can see things like this: modernism is best thought of as an uncommited crime, to misquote Adorno. Maturing early, it is a constant anticipation.

Richard Marshall reflects on Apparitional Experience.

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Machineries of Oblivion published 12/06/2013

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Black God is a reminder that darkness is our ultimate home. Darkness is oblivion – the ultimate nothingness from which we were born. This impossible discourse, this malady of the spirit evokes a beautiful sadness. The most appealing and singular parts of this novella express Spivey’s particular blend of depressive realism with hypnogogic fantasia. Black God offers alternate states of perception – awareness moving through unknown currents of elemental derangement.

Chris Moran reviews Ben Spivey‘s Black God.

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Corn Syrup, Death and Shopping Malls: Three Poems By Linh Dinh published 11/06/2013

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Dinh is a serious poet, reflecting, like T.S. Eliot, a philosophical dissatisfaction and even disgust with the world, except where Eliot’s poetry looks at the world from the vantage of high culture and intellectualism, Dinh’s is looking up from the streets with its slang idioms and banalities, and what it reveals is, in his best work, a vivid acknowledgment of the harsh reality and tortured consciousness of the urban disenfranchised and poor.

Gary Sloboda‘s essay on Linh Dinh.

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subversive fairies published 05/06/2013

Stories don’t belong to the teller. They are on loan from shared sources. We use them to interpret ourselves and social reality. All the stories interweave with each other. Dialogic interpretation opens them to everyone. No voices are necessarily submerged or excluded. Stories can deceive and divide as well as tell the truth and harmonise. Stories are facts independent of any storytellers and should be studied as such so we learn about ourselves.

Richard Marshall reviews The Irresistible Fairy Tale by Jack Zipes..

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Stylized Despair: Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady published 30/05/2013

We are fallible people and one of the reasons we read fiction is to read about other flawed persons, to see how they deal with their lot. All the characters in The Portrait contain idiosyncrasies and imperfections, rounding them into quiet and sprawling spheres of highest order and complexity, so each is a fleshy character with a specific number of hairs growing out of her and a memory full of her years lived, times of both happiness and confrontation.

Greg Gerke.on stylized sentences of despair in Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady

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Melancholy and its Correctives: Flaubert, Chekhov, Tolstoy published 23/05/2013

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It is not strange that our response to Chekhov or to Vermeer should have the character of nostalgia. What we reflect on is the image of that world we dreamed up perhaps when we were very young, when the idea of a moral life had already been imparted to us, and we had begun to envisage what it might be, but before we had grown used to the thought that it was a fiction to be left behind (…) What strikes us about Vermeer or Chekhov is the unobtrusive manner in which life’s passage is observed. When the voices that normally obtrude upon the world are silent—chief among them our own—we feel as though these voices had hung about the world like a veil, and that for once, it has been rent; these voices, and their erstwhile concerns, were idle, and had only dissuaded us from truth.

Adrian West considers the fundamental role of guilty conscience in the melancholic pleasures of fiction.

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Streets Paved With Books published 20/05/2013

The term “Londonist” has become fashionable quite recently, so it is surprising to learn that it actually dates back to 1880. This is one of the numerous facts – some less well known than others – to be found in London Fictions, issued by Five Leaves this spring. Based in “the Royal Borough of Nottingham”, the radical publisher has long been interested in London. Casting its net wider than Adrift in Soho or London E1, this collection focuses on 26 titles which take the reader to many more places in London. Each piece is a critical essay which often serves as a reading companion to the chosen book, concluding with a short article about recent developments in the area in question.

Anna Aslanyan reviews the capital criticism anthology London Fictions.

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That Beautiful and Damned Thing published 19/05/2013

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Pleasure seems to have a shadow side. The long boom of the Jazz Age was followed by the Great Crash of 1929. The reliance on organised crime for access to alcohol meant that revelry was intimately entwined with murder and corruption. There is the obvious physical recompense of the hangover, a neurochemical punishment for the good times of the night before. The insight that Churchwell brings is that Fitzgerald, to some extent, shared the puritan instincts of the Temperance league. He told a friend that ‘Parties are a form of suicide. I love them but the old Catholic in me secretly disapproves.’ He knew of the foul trade behind the glittering nights and wove references to contemporary crimes into his novels. He was concerned with social status, and said that ‘I have never been able to stop wondering where my friends’ money came from.’

Max Dunbar reviews Sarah Churchwell‘s Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby.

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