:: Reviews

Adjacent to Love published 09/04/2021

With him, there was a standard of love she felt herself failing to live up to, but which she wanted and hoped to approximate; with Caleb, by contrast, her relationship seems destined to remain static for as long as it lasts. She will always be in loco parentis and he will always make what seem like modest demands, so they will always stop short of a breaking point. Presumably for this very reason, the narrative skips the long duree of their marriage and we cut straight from their wedding to them in old age. One can easily imagine Lydia avoiding the subject of climate change during those years, since, unlike the climate itself, it never seems to change. And all the while, ‘it happened slowly, and then it happened all at once.’

Sam Burt reviews Isobel Wohl‘s Cold New Climate.

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The Shit Poetics of Queer Men published 31/03/2021

The ribbon was and is a symbol of AIDS awareness. Gay Twitter was not happy. These symbols, once associated with dirty filthy queers—profane and untouchable—were now incorporated into a semiotic system concerned with cleanliness and sanitisation—sacred and hand-ringingly tactile. In both scenarios, historically important symbols for the queer community were sanitised, stripped of their queerness, and used in disorientingly different contexts. In reaction to this persistent sanitisation of queerness, one might welcome a radical sullying of queerness once again

Donna Marcus reviews Castle Faggot by Derek McCormack.

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Your Attention is Holy published 24/03/2021

Would we spend less of our lives online if the clock on our computers was in the middle of our screens, rather than being hidden down there in the corner like a guilty secret? Or would we just Tweet more about the passing of time?
The narrator of Patricia Lockwood’s new novel remembers lost time in a way functionally similar to a foregrounded clock: her niece is born with Proteus syndrome, a genetic disorder that will radically shorten her lifespan. But instead of a linear narrative in which a millennial realises that life is short and logs off to go and smell some roses, we’re given something more honest.

Sam Burt reviews Patricia Lockwood‘s No One is Talking About This.

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Seal Club Furies published 04/03/2021

Like Francis Bacon’s ‘Furies’ there are moments when these tales are bent out of shape, by history, or by the sheer cumulative weight of their own melancholy. But then someone will stand a round, or Frank Begbie will fleetingly renounce violence, or Fossenkemper issue an unexpected sexual directive, and a more fluid commons will once more find its feet.

Koushik Banerjea reviews The Seal Club by Alan Warner, Irvine Welsh and John King.

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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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