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

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


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


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


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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The Dropped Baby published 27/09/2015


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


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


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

The Story of My Teeth

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

Susana Moreira Marques - Now

“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


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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