:: Reviews

Yes Yes More More published 30/05/2021

“Fiction has a new star in its firmament” gushes Carol Ann Duffy on the cover of Yes Yes More More. And for once, such praise is substantial — and deserved. There is indeed something glistering, hard-edged and remote about these stories; but they hold, too, a woozy wonder, a sense of dream-like possibility. After all, we prod the night sky with telescopes and satellites. But our first response is perhaps the most honest: to lie back, to stare.

Alex Diggins reviews Anna Wood‘s Yes Yes More More.

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Kong’s Finest Hour published 25/05/2021

From the title onward, the book is haunted by the famous shot of King Kong poised over the New York skyline, woman in hand: homo sapiens suddenly confronted with the life form it thought it had moved past. It’s about evolution, but it doesn’t crow about the way things are now or write off the past as an antiquarian matter. Instead, Kluge is interested in vestiges, anachronisms, historical blind alleys, and futures that never were.

Jim Henderson reviews Alexander Kluge‘s Kong’s Finest Hour.

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That Deep Kind of Talk published 24/05/2021

Like Cusk’s Outline trilogy, there isn’t much in the way of plot but there is a lot of storytelling, the principal storytellers being M and, to a lesser degree, L, who periodically exchange personal histories. But the novel’s ‘real time’ events are, mostly, small-scale, repetitive and domestic, depending for their significance on M’s interpretation of them. From the very first page, which describes, matter-of-factly, her having seen ‘the devil’ on a train home from Paris, we are alerted to M’s metaphysical frame of mind, and left wondering whether, all along, she is reading too much into everything. To keep us on our toes, Cusk sprinkles in clues that it isn’t pure psychodrama, such as Kurt’s warning that L ‘says he intends to destroy you’.

Sam Burt reviews Rachel Cusk‘s Second Place.

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Real Estate published 11/05/2021

How do we build a meaningful life on our own terms, asks this invigorating, open-hearted memoir. Once women have avoided being reduced to real estate ourselves, how do we claim rooms of our own? How do we make a home that provides both freedom and security, that nurtures but doesn’t stifle? Does this entail sharing one’s life, as her best male friend insists? If so, are we prepared to compromise, or would we prefer absolute liberty, accepting the solitude that brings?

Madeleine Feeny reviews Deborah Levy‘s Real Estate.

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Successive Spurts of Sapient Seed published 07/05/2021

Meades, recalling an interview with Anthony Burgess, gives us a quote with which it is appropriate to end our random reconnaissance. He describes him as an ‘ambulatory encyclopaedia’, who suffered from the ‘all-too-English disease of being too clever by half’ and reminds us that this is ‘rather better than being moronic, but there is this English prejudice against cleverness’. It exemplifies why Meades, like another in his pantheon of heroes, the Sixties novelist Robin Cook (aka noir novelist Derek Raymond who would, like his admirer, eventually leave Britain and become domiciled in France), is not a popular pundit or household name in his native land — he doesn’t easily fit into any establishment. He’s not clubbable. He’s too perceptive. And, as this anthology shows, he’s still fired-up, on form, and as fertile as ever.

Nicky Charlish reviews Pedro and Ricky Come Again by Jonathan Meades.

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A Lonely Man published

Robert is outwardly sociable but profoundly solitary. His relationships are stifled. While he and Karijn have an active social life, share domestic chores, and communicate in constant, grating wisecracks, Robert keeps things from her. These secrets are unsettling not so much for being secrets as for the undeveloped way they exist alongside the supposed intimacy: there seems neither dissonance nor habit about them. Robert’s mode of operation is an unostentatious self-isolation, and most of the other men in the novel — including Patrick, Vanyashin, and Liam, the friend whose wake he attends, seem to share a version of it.

Louis Rogers reviews Chris Power‘s A Lonely Man.

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The Fragments of My Father published 05/05/2021

Written beautifully and gleaming with insights that bring to mind the joy of writing, it is a hard and painful but necessary read, which reminds us that we need to develop a culture of care. Although initially reluctant to identify with the term ‘carer,’ Mills ultimately celebrates it, surrounding it with a wave of empathy and new wisdom — a much needed recognition of the vital role carers play in society, and how it affects every aspect of our lives. This memoir will stay with its readers. It is a masterpiece of a memoir.

Susana Medina reviews Sam Mills‘s The Fragments of My Father, out now in paperback.

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Sally Rooney This Isn’t published 02/05/2021

Another word for “dregs” is “lees,” the gritty residue left over when the wine glass is all but drained, and I was reminded of a bleak Cioran epistle: “Having verified all the arguments against life, I have stripped it of its savours, and wallowing in its lees, I have experienced its nakedness. I have known post-sexual metaphysics, the void of the futilely procreated universe, and that dissipation of sweat that plunges you into an age-old chill, anterior to the rages of matter.” Dregs‘ objective may be to allow us to experience that nakedness of existence, Burroughs’s “frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork.”

Laurence Thompson reviews Chris Kelso‘s The Dregs.

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Hashtag Good Guy with a Gun published 20/04/2021

Chon is more interested in how the myth of the Donald is just the latest iteration of America’s preference for stories over reality, its inability to wake up, shake itself and get its shit together. Bonneville’s Pizza Galley fantasies, his father’s wack-job rantings, Mesman’s craving for acceptance: they are all of a piece. America, Chon argues, that country built — like countries everywhere — on violence, displacement and loss, consoles itself with narratives of its unique, God-given swagger, a shining city on a hill. But Chon also shows these myths need renewing, and so America’s alt-right darns them with new strands.

Alex Diggins reviews Jeff Chon‘s Hashtag Good Guy with a Gun.

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The Dangers of Smoking in Bed published 18/04/2021

Most of Enriquez’s short stories end with this sort of cliffhanger, or just barely an idea of an ending; enough of one that the reader can create their own darkly tinted future for the characters. This does not detract from the stories, rather it reinforces the influences at play on Enriquez’s work, and emphasizes the way in which she turns classic tales of horror on their heads, reconfiguring the endings we expect from these sorts of stories.

Teddy Burnette reviews The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Maria Enriquez.

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