:: Reviews

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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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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