:: Reviews

LOTE published 20/05/2020

There is so much to think and feel, as we follow Mathilda from an unpaid role in a national archive (where she steals ignored photographs of ignored black artists and writers from the 1920s), to an acerbically described pseudo-communist cult somewhere in central Europe, as she investigates the black modernist Hermia Druitt, who had moved in the same circles as the Bright Young People (whom she adores). She both pursues a life of pleasure and escape, on one level (via secret societies and substances), and the methodical reinstatement of this obscured black artist.

Christiana Spens reviews Shola von Reinhold‘s LOTE.

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Me, Myself & I: On Annie Ernaux’s A Girl’s Story published

The consequence is a layered reading experience, in which Ernaux seems at times to be addressing herself rather than the reader, if only to draw us deeper, its effect like that of a secret shared or overheard. In this diligent attempt to convey her own truth is evidence also of the author’s acute sensitivity to her own role, for the responsibility that comes with having the power to shape her own narrative, and its implications for women more broadly.

Daniel Baksi reviews A Girl’s Story by Annie Ernaux.

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Rediscovering the outdoors published 18/05/2020

Barkham takes a phenomenological approach to his research; he does not observe the children, but unselfconsciously enters in to their imaginative play, hiding from unknown villains in their forts and allowing himself to be piled on when he unwittingly becomes the villain. He pays great attention to the language with which the children make sense of the natural world around them, marvelling when a severely autistic child who struggles to play with the other children declares that leaves under a microscope look like blood vessels or when a young boy tells him that a twig he found on the floor will become a ‘memory stick’ to ‘remember the baby who died in mummy’s tummy.’

Lamorna Ash reviews Wild Child by Patrrick Barkham.

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Thieves in the Night published 17/05/2020

Among its other uses, I will show you is an effort to do exactly that: a record of one mind’s attempt to imagine its own materiality, and to discover, thereby, something of the world which exists beyond itself. And while this attempt ought to be doomed from the outset, I will show you, like Vantablack, achieves the impossible. By documenting the illnesses of the mind, the errors in cognition, Fowler’s book succeeds in tracing a world which exists beyond consciousness and subjectivity, a world which makes itself known by means of the traumatic ruptures in their fabric. It too is an encounter with total otherness, and it too succeeds in being properly weird — far more so than another alien arrival.

Oscar Mardell reviews Lee Rourke‘s Vantablack and SJ Fowler‘s I will show you the life of the mind (on prescription drugs).

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Between Friends: On the Writing of Hervé Guibert published 13/05/2020

Hervé Guibert has known of his AIDS diagnosis for three months when To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life begins. He is alone in Rome, the T4 count in his bloodstream continues to decline, yet he has convinced himself that he will be one of the first to escape the disease. It is discomfiting, given the decade. One wonders whether he is privy to something obscured from the reader or just cruelly optimistic. Resisting his own spiritual and bodily collapse, Guibert wants nothing to do with the procession of strangers walking the street beside him. His friends, whose prudence he ignores, pester him with their phone calls of concern. His patience lasts only for his new book, “the only friend whose company I can bear at present.” At a time when his days have become desperately numbered, why must he insist on ill will?

Luis Polanco reviews To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life by Hervé Guibert translated by Linda Coverdale and Written in Invisible Ink: Selected Stories by Hervé Guibert translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman.

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On Katy Mongeau’s Apostasy published 11/05/2020

Inside that that psyche of hers, I see her childhood galloping like a horse. Each time I arrive defiantly to the barren wheat field of her words, I come to a small understanding that although the past can rarely be liberated, one can still accept it for what it is as in “I loved you in your terror and your tyranny.” There are so many flashes across her pages marching amongst us—like dominant hoof steps treading on a poet’s tongue. Despite harvesting the psyche’s will for unwanted violence, Mongeau’s beauty also exists on the page as something that could easily be pulled out of a chapter on tenderness, torn from the sleeve of rape. Here, halfway through, she surrenders, “Sea, listen. Cliff, I’m coming.” I am thinking of Emily Bronte and her moors. I am thinking of Katy Mongeau near the cliff walk in Rhode Island (Newport). I am thinking of Providence’s sea.

Vi Khi Nao reviews Apostasy by Katy Mongeau.

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Vahni Capildeo’s Skin Can Hold: Assuming the Monster Posture published 06/05/2020

With greater wishfulness comes greater resistance to its fulfilment, and the reason why freedom seems such a torturous and tantalising concept in Capildeo’s poetry is that in this quest to reconcile opposing forms the ‘posture’ assumed means that there is an identification with the opposing force. In  ‘from the End of the Poem’  the opening stanza begins with an iterative exploration of what, presumably, the end of the poem constitutes to the poet (‘The end of the poem / the end of the poem happened before / the end of the poem happened before it […]’).

Liam Bishop reviews Skin Can Hold by Vahni Capildeo.

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Dreams of Being: Write or Die Trying published 30/04/2020

When our narrator meets Jiro, success has consistently eluded him. He shamefully works at Benihana, has a mysterious past that includes homelessness and suicidal depression, and has earned little more than a reputation in the NYC sushi world as a nutcase to take pity on. Perhaps seeing in him someone whose struggles reflect his own, our down and out narrator convinces Jiro to allow him to make a documentary on his complicated life and his pursuit of sushi perfection. However, he doesn’t have anything resembling a director credit to his name, let alone know how to use a camera. He also readily confesses to the reader that he never really expected to produce a documentary. Perplexed by his own unlikely proposal, he admits that perhaps it can act as a dynamite stick to his stubborn writer’s block.

Saxon Baird reviews Dreams of Being by Michael J. Seidlinger.

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Textualizing the Quiddities published 23/04/2020

Davis is a through-and-through Californian and his inner weird is downright regional. Altman’s Nashville is center-cut in ’75, San Francisco endured its Zodiac Killer period, bourgeois New Englanders hosted orgiastic key parties, and the death throes of pre-AIDS hedonism roiled across a New York City synonymous with Studio 54, Warhol’s experimental movies, Reggie Jackson’s Yankees, and the Berkowitz “Summer of Sam” rampage. The long, strange trip didn’t begin in 1970 or end in 1979, but this decade was one of aesthetics, of free-range childhoods. The seventies were the sixties’ dirty uncle (Warren Zevon and Tom Waits come to mind) as well as precursor to eighties’ excess and capitalism’s shift toward psychopathic corporatism.

Sean Hooks reviews High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies by Erik Davis.

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Little Eyes published 22/04/2020

Schweblin compels us, chastisingly, to recognise our own happy co-option of transparently exploitative technologies. Like the characters, our scepticism becomes diluted by what we tell might ourselves is passing interest, but could well be more like indoctrination or a managed addiction.

Louis Rogers reviews Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin.

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