:: Reviews

Hysterical Realism: A review of Perfidious Albion by Sam Byers published 21/09/2018

Perfidious Albion review

Perfidious Albion, the second novel from Sam Byers, is hysterical fiction for this truly hysterical age—where the exhaustion and overworking of the conventions of realism now form a key part of realism’s very definition. The novel is set in the fictional town of Edmundsbury, notable only for the fact that it is not London, amidst a post-Brexit climate that looks a lot like the pre-Brexit one. Far-right populist parties are a key part of mainstream cultural discourse, further-right skinheads are a visible presence on the streets, and large corporations spread their insidious tentacles into the very fabric of society, willing to strangle any would-be resisters still naïve enough to think the hatchet of personal protest will be enough to ward off the suckers. Edmundsbury might be an imaginary setting within a speculative future, but you would be hard pressed to realise it.

Jon Doyle reviews by Perfidious Albion by Sam Byers.

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If Monet Wrote a Punk Memoir published 17/09/2018

What the reader expects is hardly the point, and Hopper knows it. She presents the book without apology; even in her “this is memory, not perfection, and names may be changed” disclaimer, she makes a joke about drugs. And good for her. Although the book is meant to be taken seriously (as all good writing ought to be, no matter its provenance or subject matter), nothing in it is solemn. It depicts fun without frippery: a number of years of a life spent in pursuit of good experiences.

Katharine Coldiron reviews Night Moves by Jessica Hopper.

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What Have I to Fear? published 04/09/2018

The first time I saw First Reformed in theaters, there were gasps, snickers, murmurs of approval, and a couple what the fucks as the credits rolled. I heard plenty more the second time I watched the film, and the third, and something tells me those are exactly the reactions Schrader had hoped for. I doubt I was the only one in the theater who’d come back, but the more I scrutinized the final scene, the more I tried to study it from different vantage points, the more it stayed the same.

Jackson Arn reviews First Reformed from director Paul Schrader.

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paper monument: an experimental review published 29/08/2018

There is no true storyline or arc he can find in the mess scattered around him, and Bracher structures the novel in similar fashion, without clear scenes, sections, or guideposts: “Fragments of life in no particular order, awaiting imagination, or a need, or whatever might sew them together.” The novel’s form is pragmatic, intriguing in its difficulty, because Bracher’s aim is to reveal a person, not a plot. By the end the pieces seemed to be arranged with great sophistication. Gustavo was realistically vague, broken, loyal, angry, disappointing, brilliant, and unknowable.

The system of anecdotes and interruptions, polyphony of voices and interjections from people who aren’t identified until several pages later, wind around the central core of Gustavo’s guilt about Armando’s death, all of which Morris handles superbly in English. “Bracher knows how to make you love and hate someone simultaneously,” the critic wrote for her review in the far-away newspaper, and wasn’t surprised when it was used as a pull-quote.

Matt Jakubowski experimentally reviews I Didn’t Talk by Beatriz Bracher.

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Daniil Kharms’ Blank Message published 27/08/2018

Kharms’ plays would be reminiscent of koans if his characters were at all laconic. For all the nonsense they speak, they have a real exuberance for throwing words at one another. Of a man in a coffin, “green with death”, it’s said that “to seem alive, he talks all the time.” Specifically, he talks about how to make soup: “When the water boils throw a carrot into the water…No you must put a carriage in the water. Although that’s not exactly true.”

Kris Bartkus reviews A Failed Performance by Daniil Kharms.

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never quite on published 18/08/2018

Sometimes there’s a cautious suggestion that one of the characters may have laughed, but any actual joke remains firmly off stage. Of Marianne’s best friend Peggy we are told, ‘there’s no limit to what can her brain can do, it can synthesise everything she puts into it, it’s like having a powerful machine.’ This is rather like a Rooney novel: deftly constructed, impressively immersive but slightly chilling in the serious monotone of its emotional register.

Imogen Woodberry on Sally Rooney

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The View from the Cosmos published 13/08/2018

L’s propensity to deal in subject matter that is difficult to parse is not limited to science and hard mathematics. The collection is repeatedly concerned with religion and theology. Smith’s approach to religion finds a way of skirting the all-to-easy pitfalls of naiveté and cynicism. Her stories thread these by approaching religion with extreme interest and no commitments. By rejecting any sort of orthodoxy or dogmatism, she is able to pull from Christian tradition, Biblical literature, and speculative theological thought in a way that employs religion as yet another narrative tool. The plethora of religious themes also lends her writing an intuitive moral center. The subverted Christian vocabulary and imagery adds a weightiness to her stories.

Stephen Mortland reviews L by Theresa Smith.

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Beckett – Videogame as Literary Artefact published 07/08/2018

As a multi-platform literary narrative, Beckett is a successful prototype for a hybrid literary/graphic form that has substantial artistic potential in its combination of text, image, film, found objects, movement and music. Its pared-down style leaves the user’s imagination as free as when reading a work of literature. It is fragmented in that it’s constructed from cut-ups and found objects. It’s a collage. It works as a piece of Dadaist art. Beckett, the game, doesn’t compromise by aiming for some kind of “digital realism” or filmic virtuality. It is literary and visual. It has more in common with George Braque and Cubism than with a narrative driven comic book.

Des Barry reviews the Beckett game.

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Is Time Travel Possible? Are We Close to Doomsday? And Other Big Deals… published 04/08/2018

The Doomsday Argument applies anthropic thinking to our place in history.  It says (roughly), we should favour the prospect of imminent human extinction on the grounds that our location, qua randomly selected humans, is more probable if a large fraction of all humans there will ever be have already lived.  In other words, the argument runs, if we apply anthropic reasoning to our location in history, we should increase our probability for history being close to its end.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Alasdair Richmond.

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Drift: A review of The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner published 31/07/2018

If DeLillo’s ambiguous American voice looks for its place through roving across the multitudinous American landscape in Underworld, then in The Mars Room, Kushner looks to place her voice in two confined spaces, the strip club and the prison, contrasting various forms of solitude, through circumstance, through choice or as a mode of self-protection. Though the novel itself is made of voices, they are solitary – the perspectives from which they write are uniquely alone.

Katie Da Cunha Lewin reviews The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner.

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