:: Reviews

The Kulaks of Chelsea published 22/11/2019

That previous Sunday night we’d had a chicken for dinner, a real treat, roasted with spuds, with some flatbread I’d made while drinking BB9, just about the best beer in the world. That evening I boiled the white bones of the chicken, with just a sprig of thyme, an onion, and two cloves of crushed garlic. I could imagine the chook, the carcass was so thin and spindly, its bones were more like those of a reasonably large and super weird mutant fish… it must have been a bird beyond a battery hen, a kind of high-rise roosting matchbox hen squeezed in with countless others, I guess featherless, tortured, bored out of their brains, staring out between thin wire bars, staring out at a thousand other chickens in the same predicament, the ruckus of all those birds clucking at once. Imagine. We were at least showing the bird some respect, boiling the spindly bones down to nothing, chucking the grey remains to the dog. I had read some diatribe in a trade magazine that bone broths and marrow were all the rage. The very rich will go to no end to replicate the dietary condition of the poor.

An extract from Tadhg Muller‘s In Lieu of a Memoir.

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Nowhere Near Hollywood published

Meanwhile, in the shadows cast by the glare of Tinseltown, something has stirred, as Mark SaFranko drops the latest in the misadventures of struggling New Jersey novelist Max Zajack. Nowhere Near Hollywood sees Zajack attempting to break into the movie business as a way of drawing attention to his mounting pile of unpublished novels. With the blessing of his saintly wife Gayle, Zajack enters the industry at the very bottom. Sure, the odds are against him, but he nonetheless sets out with a degree of enthusiasm for landing a role in something of artistic value: ‘I’d always admired Bergman…Just when you thought all movies were cow manure, you caught Fanny and Alexander or Summer With Monika or Winter Light … He was the only filmmaker who made me feel I wasn’t wasting my time in a dark theater.’ Instead of working alongside a director such as Bergman, he winds up in a series of bad tatste TV commercials and no-budget trash that even the mighty John Waters would steer clear of.

Chris Brownsword reviews Mark SaFranko‘s Nowhere Near Hollywood.

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AfroGoths published 11/11/2019

As Darkly makes clear, the legacy of racial oppression in America is something which Taylor has encountered — and continues to encounter — on a daily basis. But the inclusion of Taylor’s “I” here lends more than, say, credibility to her case (that case is already so tight, it would stand irrespective of who made it); it also ensures that Darkly, like the 43rd Capricho, is a self-portrait. By discussing how it feels for her to watch, say, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead — with its appropriations of Haitian folklore, and with the indiscriminate slaughter of the Black protagonist in its final scenes — Taylor forces us to participate in her experience. Darkly, then, to paraphrase something that Beckett once said of Joyce, is not just about the uncanny, it is uncanny.

Oscar Mardell reviews Leila Taylor‘s Darkly and Steve Bergsman‘s I Put a Spell on You.

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Puncture published 08/11/2019

The Sex Pistols played their last ever show in San Francisco — at the Winterland in January 1978 — and for some that event symbolized the implosion of punk, much as Altamont had signaled the end of the flower-powered Sixties almost a decade earlier. But the SF punk subculture grew like a healthy fungus in a petri dish. Local bands such as Flipper, Toiling Midgets, the Avengers, the Mutants, the Sleepers, Frightwig, VKTMS, and countless others were playing hole-in-the-wall clubs like the Mabuhay Gardens, Valencia Tool & Die, On Broadway, 181 Club, Club Foot, the Deaf Club, Sound of Music, the Farm, and sharing bills with out-of-town bigger names such as the Clash, Blondie, Devo, X, John Cale, Patti Smith, and others at more glamorous venues such as the Warfield Theater and Wolfgang’s.

Mark Terrill reviews Puncture: The First 6 Issues.

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The Body Remembers published 05/11/2019

Set, for the most part, in Berlin in 2005, Mycelium follows Noora’s diagnosis with breast cancer. “Within seconds, slacker Noora turns into tragic Noora, kissed by death,” Weisser writes. No longer defined as an artist or a woman, Noora’s identity is determined by her diagnosis. “While creative work and reproductive labor might override each other at different times in a woman’s life,” Weisser writes, “cancer’s hyper-productivity, once released, trumps both.”

Megan Evershed reviews Mycelium by Annette Weisser.

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Fifty Catacomb States (Extract) published 03/11/2019

The first flecks of snow are falling faintly, like the descent of their last end, on a suspiciously edible tombstone. The downdraft from a low-flying military helicopter, making tight circuits over the church property, is polemic. And resented by sentimental remainers in German cars. Free-range swine, across the road, on churned gault clay, are unaffected, tolerant of acoustic intrusion. Mud tastes as good. Inside the church, the lady is housed in a generous two-decker bunk, cadaver tomb or transi. A realistic off-print reclines in state on the lid, while her post-mortem double — enshrouded, bald, mouth agape, a shriek in stone — vegetates in the chamber below. Gold stars have been painted over the ceiling-sky, a leasehold Annunciation up for renewal.

By Iain Sinclair.

An exclusive extract from Chris Kelso‘s I Transgress: An Anthology of Transgressive Fiction.

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Love Bites published 27/10/2019

Like the band that inspired them, the pieces collected here share an obsessive focus on the ordinary, lovingly cataloguing its mundane, glamourless, and frustrating weirdness. They document the awkwardness and the hilarity of human relationships, and of love in particular — the way it violates and completes our everyday lives, and the way it transcends the gender divisions by which those lives are often structured. The singularity of the source, in other words, has begotten wonderful issue. Love Bites is about as far away from the linear or sentimental retrospective as you can get. This is no starry-eyed tourist guide to some bygone era; think of it as a ghost-hunting manual for The End of History. It will be a hard — perhaps impossible — act to follow. And whatever comes next is destined to look like a parody of an old routine.

Oscar Mardell reviews Love Bites: Fiction Inspired by Pete Shelley and Buzzcocks, an anthology edited by Andrew Gallix, Tomoé Hill and C.D. Rose.

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Loop published 26/10/2019

Some novels flow; others overflow. Loop is a veritable deluge. That’s the way it should be. In some ways it has less in common with a novel, a thing of incident and design, than with an amiable, free-associative, slightly stoned conversation. It keeps you company. As a friend, it is stimulating, precocious, sometimes exhausting: a browser with too many tabs open; the hypertext when you hover the cursor. It is not, in a narrative sense, satisfying. But nor is waiting. In form it resembles the notebooks the narrator so adores, a compilation of found thoughts: never whole, always playful, the liberal effusion of an unoccupied mind.

Daniel Marc Janes reviews Brenda Lozano‘s Loop.

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In the Psychologist’s Chair published 24/10/2019

Sally Rooney noted in a recent conversation with Lerner, which launched The Topeka School at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, that the texture of his new novel departs from that of his previous two. This difference in form and feeling is, in Rooney’s view, due to The Topeka School being told in the third person. But even though Lerner in this book is splicing together the perspectives of several characters belonging to a ‘90s psychologists’ community in Topeka, Kansas, he is not moving away from his usual autobiographical thread. Rather, like his friend and colleague Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy, Lerner’s polyphonic new novel is perhaps more persuasively auto in its firm hold of the complexity of strands that makes out a family, a body politic, and the maladies that threaten to ‘dissect’ them.

Denise Rose Hansen reviews Ben Lerner‘s The Topeka School.

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The Truth of Others: Javier Mariás’s Berta Isla published 21/10/2019

It’s typical of Marías to begin with an enigma—how is her husband not her husband?—and it’s also typical of Marías to worry away at the confused scene, parsing and re-parsing a scenario, attempting to narrow-in precisely on the scene’s most salient characteristics.  The turns and additional clauses here ultimately perform the sort of intellectual uncertainty that the sentence describes: from uncertainty, we get a subtle taxonomy and phenomenology of sleepy thoughts.  The sentence clarifies with real accuracy Berta’s state of mind while also preserving the enigma at the outset. We, as Berta frequently says of herself, remain “in the dark,” a condition of gradually expanding blankness as the novel proceeds.

Andrew Griffin reviews Berta Isla by Javier Mariás.

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