:: Reviews

A Twenty-First Century War and Peace published 28/07/2020

war’s proximity to fiction
the way it all felt like a script
like déjà vu to those at Stalingrad

the sense that they were
not just soldiers in the fight
but players in some old Tolstoyan epic
a myth to justify a state
that couldn’t be sustained

in this we find
another mirror image

Oscar Mardell reviews Vasily Grossman‘s Stalingrad.

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The Dregs published 27/07/2020

Unger House Radicals begins with the relationship between an avant-garde film maker and his serial killer muse — one that will ultimately birth the Ultra-Realist movement. Deeply rooted in both narcissism and nihilism — as of course many cults are — its creators see Ultra-Realism as an updated (and distinctly non-faked) version of Grand Guignol theatre. Events get increasingly surreal when Kelso throws strands of multiple personality disorder and/or possession into the mix, and from this point forward conventional chronology is frequently abandoned. Without revealing too much, the cast of characters expands from here on in, as does Kelso’s exploration of various philosophies and the role that dreams and nightmares play in everybody’s lives, along with individual and societal complicity in an endless parade of atrocities.

Matt Neil Hill reviews Chris Kelso‘s The Dregs Trilogy.

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A week in the life of Svitlana: what a Ukrainian woman can tell you about a Russian soul published

But here is the spoiler: Kamalakaran’s book is not a reflection on the seven-year old Russia-Ukrainian conflict that has left many people dead, thousands homeless, and many more left to question their own identities because there is a bit of Ukrainian blood in every second Russian and vice versa. Instead, the novel attempts to highlight the inner struggles and obsessions of Russians, women in particular. As it turns out, those obsessions are not just—or rather not at all —Mr Putin and the corrupt, inefficient bureaucracy, but trivial things like relationships, money matters and dreams of a better future.

Ksenia Kondratieva reviews A Week in the Life of Svitlana by Ajay Kamalakaran.

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The Witchcraft Acts published 16/07/2020

She’s My Witch, as the title would suggest, depicts Maria’s world inside her coven of sex witches (a particular focus of Home’s on social media recently), their rites and in particular burgeoning hold over Cooper, as depicted by a series of highly-organised tarot cards throughout the book. Home has clearly done his research here, as not only do the cards form the basis under which Maria extends her sexual hold over Martin, but also arrange the book’s chapters until its cruel yet satisfying denouement. Home works in a backstory for Cooper as a skinhead, particularly his involvement in the “hardcore leftist streetfighters” of Red Action and its offshoot Anti Fascist Action (AFA).

Andrew Stevens reviews Stewart Home‘s She’s My Witch.

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Re-Framing History published 11/07/2020


So here he is hands on (techne) with the subject (epistêmê) of his book but, as always with Barber, the history he is addressing — that of Eadweard Muybridge’s projectionist tour of Central European cities in 1891, his Chicago Exposition projections of 1893 and the influence of Muybridge on other artist/projectionists — is always excavated in a deep archaeological and genealogical analysis of the peripheral and the forgotten, the people on the reverse page of history, the shadowy, the splinter events that, in the end, underpin and underwrite the Event itself.

Steve Finbow reviews The Projectionists: Eadweard Muybridge and the Future Projections of the Moving Image by Stephen Barber.

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Heaven Metal published 10/07/2020

As it happens, Mitchell has an affinity for the strange. His works usually contain dreams, which he does fairly well, he fancies the numinous and the transcendent, and is often at his best as a prose stylist in his most meditative moments — the literary equivalent a hummingbird’s wings beating in slow-motion HD. One would expect then that a novel about music would channel the best of Mitchell’s gifts into a subject he is better poised to write about than most. He’s written about music before, most notably in the Robert Frobisher section of Cloud Atlas (the best of the book), and unlike Egan and Chabon, it’s clear that Mitchell himself either plays music, or has a theoretical knowledge of it. But readers will not find much of this in Utopia Avenue, a novel that commits to the story of a rock band with a kind of docu-literalism, and is often remarkably incurious about the deeper meanings of music and what it is like for people to create it together.

Jared Marcel Pollen reviews Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell.

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The Novel as Kaleidoscopic Puzzle: Carlos Fonseca’s Natural History published 06/07/2020

One could call Natural History a “philosophical book,” a novel that remains in dialogue, throughout its pages, with the tradition of twentieth century French philosophy, from Badiou to Derrida. The book overflows, as has become Fonseca’s trademark, with multiple stories that direct the reader in different directions, but which slowly begin to trace the contours of a recognizable conceptual phantasmagoria. From Badiou, it seems to adopt his “theory of the event” and the idea of trying to find a truth, even when the final piece of the puzzle permanently eludes us. And from Derrida, it seems to borrow the idea that every event bears the traces of a previous event, traces that work as displaced repetitions, distorted copies of an original that never gets fully actualized.

Enrique D. Zattara reviews Natural History by Carlos Fonseca, translated by Megan McDowell.

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Three Days in March, 1917 published 29/06/2020

What Solzhenitsyn describes, carefully and in detail, is the hodgepodge of leaders and potential leaders of parties (Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, socialists of different stripes, Kadets, Octobrists, and so on), the citizens (of all classes), the military, and the imperial family, and how they have competing interests. The struggle for control occurs largely in the absence of reliable information, and often is interrupted by bulletins filled with conflicting information from several quarters. There is no appetite for a united approach to restore civility. Anyone interested in how power politics is conducted will find Book 2 (and The Red Wheel in its entirety) fascinating, horrible, and depressing.

Jeff Bursey reviews March 1917: The Red Wheel, Node III, Book 2 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Translated by Marian Schwartz.

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Head for Heights published 22/06/2020

Then—a slip. Gravity has made the decision for you. You’re gone. In the air, heavy and falling. The rope snaps tight: a sharp parabola over the protection you placed below. The rock approaches again. There is no warning, and without thinking you raise your legs, brace the impact. Neatly done: no pain, no scratches or shattered ankles.

Alex Diggins reviews Slatehead: The Ascent of Britain’s Slate-Climbing Scene by Peter Goulding.

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Merely There published 08/06/2020

Devy’s argument is that this obvious physical control is linked to control of language. According to Devy, there are 1,500 languages in India not classified as languages. In the schooling system children learn English, Hindi and one “official” state language, but the other languages are completely left out of this dynamic. For Devy this is a more subtle form of clipping tongues. It is bad for humanity too, he argues, since languages are linked to cognitive concepts, and the traditional and ecological wisdom in these languages will therefore be lost.

Jessica Sequeira reviews The Question of Silence: A Para-biography by G.N. Devy.

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