:: Reviews

Loudhe Sing Cuccoo: Folk Horror and Water Shall Refuse Them published 13/09/2019

Why, in recent years, have so many been tempted to try their hand at this hitherto obscure aesthetic? Because the awkwardness of our relationship to nature has never been so acutely felt as during climate crisis. Today, it is more obvious than ever that we are: on the one hand, a part of nature, organic organisms dependent on the Earth for the continued existence of our species; on the other, apart from nature, divided from it by our societies’ reckless and destructive uses of the Earth’s resources.

Oscar Mardell on folk horror and Lucie McKnight Hardy‘s Water Shall Refuse Them.

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Missives from a Parallel Dimension published

Despite her reliance on medical institutions to save her from suicide or out-of-control addiction at the most desperate times of her life, her view of these environments was understandably jaundiced. Her chosen isolation as a writer meant that the physical world in which she lived bore some resemblance to the one that the rest of the human race inhabits; but it became hallucinatory and nightmarish as the doors of perception distorted. These extremes of experience she captures in her chilling and precise prose, often tempered with a wry black humour.

Des Barry reviews Machines in the Head by Anna Kavan.

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Essays One published 11/09/2019

A very short story cannot help but associate with other short forms — poems, dictums, parables, and dreams — that are typically ripe with meaning. Encountering such a story on its own, then, means determining its importance, especially when it is a lone sentence engraved in a setting of outsized significance. Does the task change if you are told that the story originated as an email or a dictionary definition? What happens when you have read a dozen very short stories, and then you come across a longer one, full of characters and grief? This may be the lesson of reading Lydia Davis: the origin of writing is infinitesimally mundane, until the moment it is not.

Andrew Hungate reviews Lydia Davis‘s Essays One.

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The Offing published

The title of the novel refers to the place where sea and sky merge, the novel itself representing a fold in time and space, fixed in the past yet speaking to us of the present, a kind of invocation that Eros, the creative spirit, might awaken and prevail in a volatile age that once more appears poised upon the brink of desolation. As Dolcie instructs Robert, ‘Let poetry and music and wine and romance guide the way’. Well, sure, at this point in the barbarous tragedy and absurd comedy of human affairs, why the hell not?

Chris Brownsword reviews Benjamin MyersThe Offing.

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I Do Indeed Feel Damnation Now published 09/09/2019

Professor Andersen’s Night first appeared in Norway in 1996, and if there’s a more striking depiction of the Baby Boomers in their prime, I’d like to see it.

Nathan Knapp reviews Professor Andersen’s Night by Dag Solstad.

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Berfrois: The Book published 05/09/2019

Anthologies are a strange and somewhat unreliable form. They can lack the direction that comes from a thematic collection, or the unity of voice that a single author (or translator) can provide. If not carefully edited and selected they can feel like a set of remnants that have enough merit to be published and read, but not enough to fit elsewhere. Berfrois: The Book, edited by Russell Bennetts, avoids this.

Sylvia Warren reviews Russell Bennetts’ Berfrois: The Book.

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Patience published 31/08/2019

As I expect you’ll all know by now Patience is the story of two boys in an austere Catholic orphanage in 1979. Elliott spends his days in a wheelchair gazing out of a window or staring at a white wall. Jim is blind and cannot speak. Together the two boys plan their escape from the confines of the institution. From the very first pages — Elliott’s Melvillean meditation on the whiteness of the wall — I was hooked by Litt’s clear and eloquent articulation of a unique intelligence. To say more would require a spoiler alert, so I shall stop here.

David Collard reviews Toby Litt‘s Patience.

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City in Retrograde: Louis Armand’s GlassHouse published 19/08/2019

GlassHouse moves quickly. The perspective changes frequently, every one to seven pages. The style and format of the writing often shifts as well. Characters act independently, slipping away from the greater narrative. They go about their business, they ignore strange noises, they consider future plans. The various threads of Armand’s novel do not function to further the plot. Instead, they act as images to be incorporated into a greater collage, playing roles that may be minor but important in further understanding the events and figures surrounding the murder, or if not the murder, the afternoon that it happened.

Mike Corrao reviews GlassHouse by Louis Armand.

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dora maar published 08/08/2019

Though sidestepping the laddish puns of her male peers, her photomontages are suitably placed in the veiled-erotic, Freudian hinterland of the surrealist imagination. She provokes the thought of a finger pressing into the libidinous wetness of a mollusc curled inside its shell in Untitled (hand and shell) (1934), while in Forbidden Games (1935) a curious child peers from under a desk as a melancholy figure grips a man between her thighs and rides him around the parlour.

Hailey Maxwell reviews Dora Maar.

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The Albion Plan: Boris, Farage and the pure ethno-state published 04/08/2019

Set just after the Tory victory in 2015, the novel’s main protagonist is Tom, a Blairite policy wonk who gets sucked into a much more radical queer world view via chemsex orgies and his infatuation with Otto, a German anarchist: “The more sex he had, the more distant he felt from the Party – from his side of the Party, from the centrist daddies… the closer he felt to the boys, to the binmen, to the shifting lights at night.” The resulting novel is a curious mix of love story, political satire and deranged sexual rampage. In places it’s also a very, very funny, particularly when sending up Tom’s complacent “centrist” position via his idealisation of mediocre politicians Liz Kendall: “a magnificent spectacle of patriotic British womanhood, legs wide apart as she stood in front of a Chieftain tank.”

James Miller reviews Red Tory: My Corbyn Chemsex Hell.

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