:: Reviews

Zahir: Desire and Eclipse published 19/02/2021

The suggestion here is that the ‘I’ (like the ‘it’ in expressions like ‘it is raining’) is simply a verbal construct — a placeholder for an agency which only exists in language and whose entire being consists in ‘a name’. For Borges’ narrator, the Zahir destroyed his identity; for this collection, it simply revealed the existing cracks.

Accordingly, much of Zahir treats language with a degree of distrust.

Oscar Mardell reviews the Zahir: Desire and Eclipse anthology edited by Christian Patracchini.

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Chauvo-Feminism published 10/02/2021

‘Everyone I know says they’ve met a chauvo-feminist at some point during the past few years,’ says Sam Mills in this excellent book. I am sure she is right, and I greeted the text with some relief because chauvo-feminism is exceedingly difficult to deal with; to someone on the end of it, it may feel intractable, hard to prove and you may think it is only you. You may be told, if you dare to challenge the man who practices it, that you have entirely misunderstood; it is all in your head and no-one else has a problem. So why are you making a fuss? Perhaps you will even wonder if you are going mad. All these things have happened to me, at several points in my life and more recently where their effects were appalling for my view of myself, self-esteem, and trust in others.

Anna Vaught reviews Sam Mills‘s Chauvo-Feminism.

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Burroughs and Scotland published 31/01/2021

Kelso documents a precursor of sorts to Burroughs’ transatlantic shit-stirring in the serial killer and rapist Peter Thomas Anthony Manuel. I think the inclusion here of these grim and apparently unrelated facts is not entirely normal in a biography, but feels like an important hangover from Kelso’s fiction. He’s always been good at making unusual connections, and his idea that Manuel was a demon seed from across the water whose planting on Scottish soil was the beginning of mutations in the country’s collective psyche preparing its population for further subversions is an interesting one.

Matt Neil Hill reviews Chris Kelso‘s Burroughs and Scotland.

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The Hearing Trumpet published 29/01/2021

“People under seventy and over seven are very unreliable if they are not cats,” somebody says a few pages into Leonora Carrington’s 1974 novel The Hearing Trumpet. Most people would agree; if anything, the bad run of septuagenarians of late shows this age range is too narrow. The statement is characteristic of this chatoyant novel. Cats are everywhere in The Hearing Trumpet: their sheddings are collected to form a sleeveless cardigan; psychic powers are attributed to them; the earth freezes over and an earthquake thins out the human population, but the cats survive. Beneath its cattiness, the remark also offhandedly conflates species (the way “people” transmutes into “cats” at the end of the sentence) and recognizes the virtue of people usually excluded from civic life for being too young or too old. This broadening out of our ordinary categories of human life is at the heart of the novel.

Jim Henderson reviews Leonora Carrington‘s The Hearing Trumpet.

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The Real Thing published 24/01/2021

Even in the face of the histrionic Royal Mail suspension of deliveries to Europe over Christmas, or Donald Trump’s claims about postal ballots leading to voting fraud in the U.S. election, a novel dedicated to the question of whether competition should be permitted for letters weighing less than 50 grams hardly seems evocative. And yet, Hjorth’s novel is a jolting tour de force impossible to put down, gleaming with philosophical insight and tenderness in the most unexpected places.

Denise Rose Hansen reviews Vigdis Hjorth‘s Long Live the Post Horn!

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On Care published 11/01/2021

Tom Allenʼs ʻPreliminary Notes After Care Homesʼ touches on the idea that once upon a time moving into a care home might have been seen as entering a community. Now, he reflects, Care Homes are a microcosm of capitalist society; in which those citizens who are no longer productive have to use the capital built up over their working lives, embodied in their own homes, to pay for care. Allen adds that because of the increasing vulnerability of the ageing body to accident or internal failure, ʻthe care home is a place in which the senselessness of a certain notion of fairness, itself a historical relative of the illusionary logic of the age, is omnipresent and, as such, a care home is a place in which the prattle about dignity, work and earning are at their most intense and their most obviously false.ʼ

Bridget Penney reviews On Care edited by Rebecca Jagoe and Sharon Kivland.

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Words, words, words published 28/12/2020

McMullan has crafted an impressively taut, thoughtful novel from these exuberant materials. He writes with a muscular lyricism; the book’s moral gaze is both pitiless and ambivalent. The idea for the village’s great wall came to McMullan, a journalist, when he was teaching in rural China. In one small village, he found a building scrawled with the misdeeds of the community: a palimpsest of slights and sins. It was a relic of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, a communal purging of bourgeois sentiment.

Alex Diggins reviews The Last Good Man by Thomas McMullan.

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Post Void Dribbling: On Rebecca Gransden’s Sea of Glass published 16/12/2020

When literature correctly strives to be gonorrhea of the throat, each book should burn till the chords melt. Sidewalk chalk in a storm as your magnum opus, an erasure more meaningful than birth. A little dribble in the void never killed anybody. The novella seeps from ileum to Iliad. Cavities keep congested with mythic creatures and quests.

David Kuhnlein reviews Sea of Glass by Rebecca Gransden.

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Architectural Possibilities of Renee Gladman’s Prose Architectures published 10/12/2020

Gladman’s work registers that “space as such,” whatever it is, is probably not the affectless cypher to structure but a structure already structured, “geometric or morphological.” Yet its implications are rangier than what might be summarized by a curator as those pertaining to “genre-bending.” Architectures makes to unravel the religious and industrial facing that is empty space. As such, the often pathetically ambivalent “post-ironic” spatially-charged genre of the installation is not just the spelling-out of a-s-s-e-m-b-l-a-g-e or c-u-l-t-u-r-a-l p-a-s-t-i-c-h-e across a gallery room.

Albe Harlow on Prose Architectures by Renee Gladman.

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“Murie Sing Cuccoo”: Folk Horror and The Lighthouse published 22/11/2020

The nearest thing to a real woman on this island is a bit of scrimshaw that YOUNG finds hidden (presumably by OLD’s previous second) in his mattress — a carving of a buxom mermaid, to which YOUNG spends no small amount of time jacking off. For YOUNG, then, the female body seems to be no more than this, a masturbatory prop. And in this respect, the mermaid is, for YOUNG and OLD alike, the female body par excellence: because she has a tail in place of a vagina, she cannot be involved in the reproductive process.

By Oscar Mardell.

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