:: Reviews

An Unserious Man published 15/07/2019

Available for the first time in English, in an elegant translation by the Romania-based Irish writer Philip Ó Ceallaigh, Women has the Old-World sophistication of a film by Lubitsch or Olphüls. Like these directors, whose comedies of manners respond to the hardships they experienced as Jews forced to flee fascism, Sebastian would suffer also for his Jewishness—an identity almost entirely obscured in this, his second novel.

Dorian Stuber reviews Women by Mihail Sebastian.

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Word on the street: landscape and voice in David Wojnarowicz’s The Waterfront Journals published 11/07/2019

Born almost exactly a century apart, Rimbaud and Wojnarowicz shared many commonalities: absent fathers (Wojnarowicz’s, when around, was also brutally violent) and difficult, unaffectionate mothers; both were gay – “my queerness,” the latter once wrote, “was a wedge that was slowly separating me from a sick society”; both set themselves apart, physically and spiritually, from the prescribed, conventional worlds around them; and both sought to embrace and subvert their outsider status through language and alternative lifestyles – even through suffering. Strangest of all, perhaps, is that both would die aged thirty-seven. Like Rimbaud, whose first major physical expression of his alienation came with a penniless bolt to Paris aged fifteen, Wojnarowicz’s severance from the structures and environments of “normal” life began early.

Tim Cooke reviews David Wojnarowicz‘s The Waterfront Journals.

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Story-Strolling through Dubai published 08/07/2019

Saeed, a young Emirati man in his late thirties, is back to his hometown, Dubai, after long years of education and work in London. His city draws him back, like an old friend, and in it he finds himself seeking the next step in life: to get married and settle, dropping any ideals that might stand as hurdles in the way of his main objective. A little less idealistic and a lot more practical, Saeed is nevertheless the same friendly, humble, open-minded intellectual he was in London — only this time seeking adventure in his newly-discovered old life.

Roula-Maria Dib reviews Omar Sabbagh‘s Minutes From the Miracle City.

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Fabricated Terrains published

An Interface for a Fractal Landscape is both the title and the central machine in Ed Steck’s new book of poetry. “A fractal landscape is composed of an infinite arrangement of triangles forming a recursive spiraling loop” is the first line, reflecting the vivid yet vexing terrain of the litany which follows. The landscape itself is a result of a post-Anthropocene world where the physical has deteriorated, leaving behind an abundant repository of human memory. Memory then becomes the source of tactile information as the interface unfurls its virtual reconstruction of organic life. The resulting nature is squishy, lithe, yet detached. It is a squishiness that is somehow plangent and hollow, where one steps in the mud to find an echo closer to walking on linoleum.

Victoria Nebolsin reviews An Interface for a Fractal Landscape by Ed Steck.

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TextTextTextTextTextText…Reference…TextTextTextTextTextTextText published 02/07/2019

With so much text floating around – a rebus for air – how does one assign value to pieces of it?

Text, in the internet’s fractal of Typhon heads, is only assigned value when it’s in reference to text bigger than itself; when it snaps on a celebrity, claps back at the president, big-ups some TV show, and distracts from the fact that it doesn’t really matter.

Text is a void until reference makes it an entity.
Mike Corrao understands this.
Text is a void until reference makes it a body.

Bryce Jones reviews Gut Text by Mike Corrao.

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Being Through Time: Ron Padgett’s Big Cabin published 01/07/2019

Just as moods and opinions waver while the self maintains a fundamental cohesiveness, the essay and poems contained in Big Cabin shift rapidly, often from line-to-line, in perspective and tone, while thematically complimenting each other. Ever the Gemini, Padgett’s poems range from punch-line poems, which would not be out-of-place in a Playboy joke book, to Zen mindfulness in the vein of William Carlos Williams. While individual poems may certainly be read and appreciated isolated from the entirety of collection, they are best examined within the context of the greater whole. Although it is not explicitly stated, the poems seem to be ordered in accordance with when they were written, or at the very least, with a shift in theme from a general preoccupation with the coexistence of past and present, to a concern with relieving himself from his reflections so he may be present with his surroundings.

Katherine Beaman reviews Big Cabin by Ron Padgett.

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To Situate the Otherworldly Concretely in the World published 27/06/2019

What might we be expected to make of a book of manic passages and dangerous incantations—a book which eschews the oppressive conventions of traditional literary criticism in order to convey something new; something venomously dark and unsettling? Quite simply, Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh’s Onmicide: Mania, Fatality, and the Future-In-Delirium is not only a book about the killing of everything, but more importantly, it is “nothing less than a catalogue of insane reinventions of subjectivity in an always already insane world…”. Most disconcertingly, Mohaghegh’s Omnicide lures the reader into contemplating the terrifying idea that perhaps all of modern society’s cultural and socio-scientific modes of organization (taxonomies, typologies, symptomatologies) might themselves be emanations from the cauldron of mania.

Javier Padilla reviews Omnicide by Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh.

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Erik Martiny’s The Pleasures of Queueing published 14/06/2019

The author, like the narrator, was born in Cork, Ireland and grew up speaking French at home. This dual heritage inscribes itself on every page of this Bildungsroman. It may be that Martiny’s bilingualism in both language and culture allows him a more than ordinary awareness of the potential playfulness and variety of English as spoken in Ireland – the novel abounds in verbal play with choice renderings of the speech patterns and pronunciations of Corkonian school kids, interspersed with diction that ranges high and astonishingly low.

Peter Harris reviews Erik Martiny‘s The Pleasures of Queuing.

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The Runaway Combinatorics of Mac’s Problem published 12/06/2019

In your standard Vila-Matas outing, a relatively humble, aloofly outcast narrator takes the reader on a tour of a certain subset of literature, culling quotes and anecdotes from a wide variety of texts, while the framing narrative is tinged by some thematic cornerstone relevant to the chosen texts. Bartleby & Co., for instance, follows a mildly aggrieved clerk as he reviews the literature of so-called “artists of refusal,” including Robert Walser, J.D. Salinger, and Herman Melville. The latest addition to his idiosyncratic oeuvre, Mac’s Problem, largely fits this mold, but is one of his looser endeavors. It’s similar in some ways to 2014’s The Illogic of Kassel, but whereas that book was aerated by travel and movement—set in the titular German city during the documenta festival, the book traces its narrator’s wanderings between various abstruse exhibits and avant-garde performances—Mac’s Problem lacks a similar mechanism that might salvage its narrator’s self-involvement.

Bailey Trena reviews Mac’s Problem by Enrique Vila-Matas.

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In the Shadows, Some Light Shines Through published 07/06/2019

The final story, “One Night Stand” is a winner. When we meet Rafe, the protagonist, he comes off as arrogant and self-centred. He has, much to his chagrin, allowed a woman to spend the night and as she messes up his immaculate home, scrounging some breakfast for them, setting her (gasp) bare buttocks on his pristine white cushions, he quietly fumes. He is, of course, a business development executive, and she, it turns out works at the rape crisis centre. Oil and water, save for the wild sex, but it should have ended there. As he is driving her home, his mother calls to remind him of an upcoming family dinner, asking, with faint hope if he might be bringing someone. Understanding the subtext, his female companion suggest she could come along, just to get his mother off his back.

Joseph Schreiber reviews Breanne McIvor‘s Where There Are Monsters.

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