:: Reviews

Adèle published 22/04/2019

Desire is described viscerally, but without eroticism or titillation. The prevailing tone is of ambivalence or boredom, even as sexual interactions devolve into violence and abuse. There are frequent reminders of the aftermath of her trysts, the bruises, aches, and scratches, as well as of Adèle’s having asked for them. Her appetites seem rooted less in the thrill of duplicity and deceit than in a desire for brutality and domination in their pure form.

Rebecca Rosenberg reviews Leïla Slimani’s’s Adèle.

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Water Witching in Downtown Los Angeles published 17/04/2019

Lundquist’s poems are patient. They allow for the natural trajectory of events. In the way that spring waits for winter to pass or water waits for clouds to become rain drops. His poems leave organic chronology free to do its thing. He observes, he does not disturb or disrupt the secret logic of things.

Mersiha Bruncevic reviews After Mozart (Heroin on Fifth Street) by Robert Lindquist.

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In Blind Worship published 15/04/2019

‘[N]othing could be taken unless something somewhere else was also given in exchange’, thought ‘Not yet he’ while mourning over her husband’s corpse, in one allusion to the novel’s title. This particular give (or make) and take is a process of creation to which destruction is inherent. Perhaps it’s inherent to all creation; it often is to making art—tearing down, throwing out, breaking boundaries—and it certainly is to making Abe Kunstler. He himself becomes an unquestionably destructive force, undone not only by the artifice he creates but by the fallacy he believes. One effect of that fallacy is that he never sees himself as undone; where we see destruction, he sees creation. This is a different kind of Künstlerroman.

Lee Gillette reviews Trenton Makes by Tadzio Koelb.

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Unknown Waters: The Images of Allan Sekula’s Fish Story and our Wayward Conceptions of the Sea published 01/04/2019

When we look at photographs we see the way light plays on a scene, and bear witness to a moment distant from ourselves. Shadows and highlights force the eye to move. Situations are gleaned. But less often, when we see an image within the context of, say, the bizarre and brutalist structures of globalization, the eye strains to the edges, looking for more information. Which companies operate these vast fleets of cargo ships carrying our commodities across thousands of miles? What is it like to weld steel plate in a shipyard’s metal shop?

Gabriel Boudali reviews Fish Story by Allan Sekula.

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Few Things Are Necessary published 27/03/2019

As if following the family tradition, the heroine runs over ‘numerous versions of hatred towards that man who attracted me and who I did not know’. The next day, standing naked before this stranger, ‘she does not want tenderness’: all she wants is to experience everything she missed while shut away from the world; she has to get it over and done with, immunise herself for life. The physical and the emotional must remain apart. The man ‘bears down on her with violence. Every move with violence. Every caress.’ He hardly talks, doesn’t take off his uniform. ‘She feels pleasure in the disgust. I don’t like it, I don’t like it, she thinks. Yet she does it all the same. She no longer has much time.’ The voyage over, the stranger who taught her a lesson in adulthood ‘disappeared as if he had never existed… As if I had not existed.’ Abandoned by its passengers, the Proleterka looms behind like a mausoleum.

Anna Aslanyan reviews Fleur Jaeggy‘s Proleterka.

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On Yukio Mishima’s Star Being Made Available for The First Time in English published 24/03/2019

Not so in Star,
whose pace is exponential
beginning with quiet humdrum,
breaking [perhaps he will kill himself] toward
rapidity [perhaps he will kill his girlfriend],
and ending when this hero,
very suddenly, kills no one,
returning to the same humdrum
full-circle, through the ensō.

Oscar Mardell reviews Yukio Mishima‘s Star.

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Sissy published 15/02/2019

The poem is named for its hero, and follows him attempting to find a companion on a website where you can buy a marriage to a ‘Slavic Beauty’, and travelling across Europe by train. The first time we encounter the character Sissy he is tucked up in bed, under a duvet cover featuring a faded map of Europe pre-1989. He’s also inside his mother, ‘like a crewman/ [i]nside a sticky hull.’ Every day he is literally reborn, sliding out of his mother with ‘horrific/ [a]bandon’; it’s an image that never quite settles and every time it is invoked causes an uncomfortable squirm, and like a lot in the poem, it looks an awful lot like a symbol, but a symbol that is resistant to interpretation.

James Tookey reviews the first Republic of Consciouness Book of the Month title, Ben Borek‘s Sissy.

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A Small, Dark Miracle of a Book: Peter Stenson’s Thirty-Seven published 28/01/2019

In any event, a book that ties the reader up in such moral knots is a book worth reading, no matter how displeasing the reading experience may be. And it is. The characters’ illnesses are well-described, their depravities carefully delineated, their crimes docketed without fail. Enlightenment through suffering necessarily entails suffering, and this book bears a lot of it. Plus, the ideas in it are so heavy, and so imbricated, that reading the book is an intense, blinkered experience. Even if you’ve put the book down, your emotions haven’t really let go, and your mind keeps working at its contradictions.

Katharine Coldiron reviews Thirty-Seven by Peter Stenson.

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Condemned to Modernity? published

In one of his most recent works, Condemned to Modernity: What Sociology Seeks, Literature Found, he attacks the argument, often made in both mainstream media and academic circles, that our globalized, digitalized economy has created a postmodern and post-industrial society whose actuality is unique to human history. In the book, he uses literature as his main weapon of attack, repeatedly asking: If this argument is correct, then how is it that we can find in some of the great literary works of the 19th and early 20th centuries — the epitome of modernity and the industrial age — precise descriptions of social and economic phenomena that are supposedly unique to our time?

Svatava Antošová on Condemned to Modernity by Jan Keller.

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Retrospect & Representation: Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl by Diane Seuss published 24/01/2019

Diane Seuss goes high and low from the get go with a Rembrandt title (Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl) and an Amy Winehouse epigraph (What kind of fuckery is this?). The latter figure reappearing as surrogate self-daughter of the narrator’s societal fringe past involving a junkie boyfriend who haunts the poet’s previous work. This is not ego-immersed confessional poetry, it is more conversant with what Rothko called the not-self.

Steven Felicelli reviews Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl by Diane Seuss.

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