:: Reviews

600 Years Of Defiant Pose published 27/08/2016

At the fag-end of the 1980’s … writing’s anti-authorial, anti-purist, anti-linear, anti-referential and deeply linguistic character was something in the air then. It was an update of Joyce’s ‘polyglottal’ ‘Wake’ project, a sexier, more chic version … that works with and through language, a clash of two codes, textual and bibliographic, but with a further density to the polysemy and plurivocity added, that of a fragmented elucidation. Acker and others – Bill Burroughs was another clear example – were writing monsters of subversion where theme, narrative, character and plot were their targets. Words were no longer subject to the equation that they meant just one thing, or even one cluster of things. Meaning was now just an effect of language not of anything lying within or behind it. Authorial intention and determination was eroded and instead labyrinths of possibility and acrostic sampling were being produced in a kind of hip, punk slippage to indeterminancy. The improvisory, intermedial experience of reading became a biological-emotional state of hyper-real decision making and play.

Richard Marshall reviews the 25th Anniversary Edition of Stewart Home‘s Defiant Pose.

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Portals of escape: A review of Counternarratives by John Keene published 25/08/2016

Taken as a whole, the book reads as an alternative literary history, moving from slave rebellions in the early Americas to the development of Black Atlantic modernism before ending in a nightmarish vision of contemporary globalised suffering.

Tim Groenland reviews Counternarratives by John Keene.

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Reacting against limitations, rejecting capitalist realism published


Reacting against limitations is part of the Repeater Books philosophy. Their vision calls for a rejection of ‘capitalist realism’ in favour of writing which combines ‘vigorous dissent and a pragmatic willingness to succeed where messianic abstraction and quiescent co-operation have stalled’. They dismiss the idea of the artist existing on a plane removed from the everyday: ‘abstention is not an option: we are alive and we don’t agree’. In terms of style, they oppose the ‘fashionable cynicism, egotistical self-reference and nostalgia for the recent past’ which plagues 21st Century arts and letters.

By Thom Cuell.

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Thinking Images: More Barthes, More Jouissance published

Barthes, however, does not view the image as either harmful or beneficial. On reflection, harm-or-benefit is a binary too simplistic to capture the process whereby things mean something. Instead, Barthes seeks to understand how and why the very idea of semantic proliferation is constitutive of the formation and growth of human understanding.

Leonid Bilmes on Roland Barthes‘s Signs and Images.

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Louis Armand’s The Combinations published 16/08/2016


Roland Barthes dreamed of Armand’s book when he writes: ‘only allude to writing before going off somewhere else’ where writing becomes a quasi-linguistic function existing already in excess of itself, ‘rehearsing the contemporary tropes of the semioticians’. For Barthes the photographic image can’t be made into an analogue for something else because it is the analogue of the impossible, ‘an image whose detonation is … finally reducible only to the reflexive movement of its own enframing, between two shots, two anachronistic moments. ‘ It represents ‘the perfection and plenitude of its analogy.’ And that analogy risks being mythological and artefactual. ‘an issueless predicament of nothing.’ Armand’s novel is a sequence plenum of this Barthean process.

Richard Marshall reviews Louis Armand‘s The Combinations.

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Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London published 15/08/2016

The flâneur has been a liberal-creative archetype almost as long as there have been cities – what Lauren Elkin describes as ‘a 19th-century phenomenon – the flâneur, a figure of privilege and leisure, with the time and money to amble around the city at will.’ Origins of the phenomenon were romantic and delirious: however, British contemporary literature can make anything dull and these days flâneuring consists of Iain Sinclair or Will Self, picking endlessly around a London orbital – or some young man of the Brutalist movement, blinking in rapture at tower blocks.

Max Dunbar reviews Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London by Lauren Elkin.

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Fallen to the Rank of Adjective: On Benjamin Fondane published 11/08/2016

Existential Monday review

“We are in a world in which each one of us comes along with his fixed idea, irreducible to that of his neighbour.” The problem, for Fondane, is universalism. “We don’t want a unanimity of agreement, but a defensive unanimity.” At the gut of Fondane’s argument – whether we want to pin him as a writer, thinker, philosopher or poet – is the claustrophobia innate to our verbal categories when it comes to the industrialisation of original thought.

Dominic Jaeckle reviews Existential Monday and “Cinepoems” & Others by Benjamin Fondane.

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Travel: A Joyous Disappointment published 08/08/2016

The places he visits are the kinds of places that most readers, having read about them and the disappointments and small epiphanies that they give, are unlikely to ever visit themselves. Dyer begins by going to Tahiti in the coloured footsteps of Gauguin; visits the Forbidden City in Beijing; experiences land art projects in American Nowhere; flies to Norway to see, and fail to see, the Northern Lights; fears for his life after realising that he and his wife have picked up an ex-convict on their way to El Paso; makes a pilgrimage to the house, that is no longer the house, of Adorno in LA; and concludes by serenading LA, where he now resides, eating a double-baked croissant with hazelnuts, but with an intimation of mortality.

Leonid Bilmes reviews Geoff Dyer‘s White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World.

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So smart and tight: a review of R.F. Langley’s Complete Poems published

The moment of connection is contained and assimilated as one perspective among many, one particular manifestation of a reading and writing practice which Prynne calls ‘almost a discipline’ and Peter Larkin something like ‘an ascesis’, and which has drawn me into a matching practice of my own. I hope it’s high praise to say that these extraordinary poems now feel as radically ordinary as I want my life to be.

By Jack Belloli.

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Means to an Ending: A Review of Iain Reid’s debut novel published 01/08/2016

The most poignant thought along the drive comes from our narrator, when she relates a story about her driving instructor. He had claimed he’d met the best kisser in the world, but she’d demurred at this, noting that one person alone could not possibly be the best kisser in the world: “It’s like not playing the guitar or something, where you’re alone and you know you’re good at it. It’s not a solitary act. There needs two to be the best.” Here we’re given the symbolic meaning, the interplay between loneliness and companionship, embedded in a concrete, quotidian phenomenon. It’s this kind of philosophical dialogue that drives the first act, and sets up the novel’s overarching symbolism.

Brian Birnbaum reviews I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid.

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