:: Reviews

The Cross, the Crosshatch and the Swoopy Lines published 25/05/2019

The novel begins and ends with a hiccup. The first of a whole patchwork of intertextual winks and nods; Hodgson invites us to draw comparisons with Proust’s madeleine. Only, where Proust’s reverie is particularly French and particularly sweet, Hodgson’s traumatic spiel is kicked off by a bodily function that is universally embarrassing. In an interview, he has spoken about the hiccup as a legacy of mankind’s aquatic ancestry — a memory buried in the genes, perhaps — but it is also undoubtedly overcoded with a whole range of social presumptions. We think of nerves, of drunkenness, of our own bodies rising against us. Hiccups disrupt language. They are always inappropriate. There is never a good time for them.

Joseph Darlington reviews Andrew Hodgson‘s Mnemic Symbols.

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Uninvited: Emotional Distance in Gabriela Ybarra’s The Dinner Guest published 22/05/2019

The extent to which The Dinner Guest is a novel, however, can be debated. The narrator shares a name and history with the author. The major facts surrounding the two deaths don’t appear to be exaggerated either, at least beyond that which is verifiable by public record. Presumably, the most baldly fictionalized portions are the minute details of the hours after Ybarra’s grandfather’s kidnapping, which happened before Ybarra was born, but even those moments, such as the narrator’s father struggle to free himself of handcuffs, feel culled from conversations, hardly out of line with the type of imaginative re-creations often seen in nonfiction.

Kyle Callert reviews The Dinner Guest by Gabrela Ybarra.

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Above the Fat published 10/05/2019

‘Bill Mathers’, meanwhile, satirises the figure of the curmudgeonly ageing novelist, presented by an amanuensis, a young man who responded to a classified ad: ‘Old man, blinding writer. Seeks reader for short walks and zero conversation’. His pearls of wisdom are a mixture of boastfulness, pub bore wisdom, fishing chat, ignorance, gossip and name-dropping. Ted Hughes: ‘shit at fishing’. Walter Benjamin: ‘people go round quoting him like he’s a pal. They miss the point: you’re not meant to think he’s your pal’. Zadie Smith: ‘she farted once at the Booker ceremony. Cleared the room. Still didn’t win though’. The smug satisfaction and complacency displayed by Mathers is the same energy behind a thousand opinion pieces bemoaning the death of the novel, or the popularity of Sally Rooney.

Thom Cuell reviews Thomas Chadwick‘s Above the Fat — the Republic of Consciousness Book of the Month.

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A Kind of Entertainment published 08/05/2019

First-person fragmentary “novels” are very hard to pull off. At their worst they curate a list of readings and names for show, in a sort of ego-display to the reader which doesn’t entail much introspection, uncanniness or experimentation, let alone the courtesy of character and plot building. (I still like these; call me old-fashioned.) The latter may well be dispensed with, but if so, something must replace them to maintain interest. An urgent message, or a beautiful or interesting use of language, would cut it.

Jessica Sequeira reviews Human Matter by Rodrigo Rey Rosa.

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Christian Petzold’s Serious Music published 07/05/2019

What went wrong?—the question, wrenching and unanswerable, echoes through the work of the German director Christian Petzold. Even in his student films from the 1990s he seemed to be asking this of each one of his bitter, remorseful characters, and in his mature 21st-century films, he seems to pose the same question of his country: from Dachau to Baader-Meinhof, from the Iron Curtain to the disillusionment of reunification, what went wrong?

Jackson Arn reviews the feature filmTransit by Christian Petzold.

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Adèle published 22/04/2019

Desire is described viscerally, but without eroticism or titillation. The prevailing tone is of ambivalence or boredom, even as sexual interactions devolve into violence and abuse. There are frequent reminders of the aftermath of her trysts, the bruises, aches, and scratches, as well as of Adèle’s having asked for them. Her appetites seem rooted less in the thrill of duplicity and deceit than in a desire for brutality and domination in their pure form.

Rebecca Rosenberg reviews Leïla Slimani’s’s Adèle.

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Water Witching in Downtown Los Angeles published 17/04/2019

Lundquist’s poems are patient. They allow for the natural trajectory of events. In the way that spring waits for winter to pass or water waits for clouds to become rain drops. His poems leave organic chronology free to do its thing. He observes, he does not disturb or disrupt the secret logic of things.

Mersiha Bruncevic reviews After Mozart (Heroin on Fifth Street) by Robert Lindquist.

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In Blind Worship published 15/04/2019

‘[N]othing could be taken unless something somewhere else was also given in exchange’, thought ‘Not yet he’ while mourning over her husband’s corpse, in one allusion to the novel’s title. This particular give (or make) and take is a process of creation to which destruction is inherent. Perhaps it’s inherent to all creation; it often is to making art—tearing down, throwing out, breaking boundaries—and it certainly is to making Abe Kunstler. He himself becomes an unquestionably destructive force, undone not only by the artifice he creates but by the fallacy he believes. One effect of that fallacy is that he never sees himself as undone; where we see destruction, he sees creation. This is a different kind of Künstlerroman.

Lee Gillette reviews Trenton Makes by Tadzio Koelb.

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Unknown Waters: The Images of Allan Sekula’s Fish Story and our Wayward Conceptions of the Sea published 01/04/2019

When we look at photographs we see the way light plays on a scene, and bear witness to a moment distant from ourselves. Shadows and highlights force the eye to move. Situations are gleaned. But less often, when we see an image within the context of, say, the bizarre and brutalist structures of globalization, the eye strains to the edges, looking for more information. Which companies operate these vast fleets of cargo ships carrying our commodities across thousands of miles? What is it like to weld steel plate in a shipyard’s metal shop?

Gabriel Boudali reviews Fish Story by Allan Sekula.

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Few Things Are Necessary published 27/03/2019

As if following the family tradition, the heroine runs over ‘numerous versions of hatred towards that man who attracted me and who I did not know’. The next day, standing naked before this stranger, ‘she does not want tenderness’: all she wants is to experience everything she missed while shut away from the world; she has to get it over and done with, immunise herself for life. The physical and the emotional must remain apart. The man ‘bears down on her with violence. Every move with violence. Every caress.’ He hardly talks, doesn’t take off his uniform. ‘She feels pleasure in the disgust. I don’t like it, I don’t like it, she thinks. Yet she does it all the same. She no longer has much time.’ The voyage over, the stranger who taught her a lesson in adulthood ‘disappeared as if he had never existed… As if I had not existed.’ Abandoned by its passengers, the Proleterka looms behind like a mausoleum.

Anna Aslanyan reviews Fleur Jaeggy‘s Proleterka.

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