:: Reviews

Style Wars: The Conquest of Gall published 21/12/2019

The idea here is that Paris signifies literariness, is so infallible a marker of writerly authenticity that if writers can brandish Parisian postcodes then they don’t need to put pen to paper at all. But what is crucial about this sign, about “the bohemian Paris people think of most readily outside of France”, is that it, as Gallix explains, “is anglophone”: a symbol whose exchange rate is best outside of France, whose power to signify rests chiefly in a foreign language — a sign which has been “confiscated”, in other words, from its rightful owners. And it’s an idea which plays an important (if subtle) role in Nada. What’s crucial about Cash’s “cool and chic exterior” is that it, as Manchette describes, is “of British inspiration”: her bohemian allure — the Parisian cliché — is fundamentally anglophone.

Oscar Mardell reviews Jean-Patrick Manchette‘s Nada, Jean Genet‘s The Criminal Child and Other Essays, as well as We’ll Never Have Paris edited by Andrew Gallix.

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The Amundsen of Asda published 18/12/2019

That heady sense of “transgression” is also central to Rees’s project. Car parks are hotbeds of deviancy. They may be some of the most rigorously surveyed patches of real estate in the UK, yet something about their nature as non-spaces attracts the criminal. Once night falls and the last bins are put out, they become private fiefdoms and convenient marketplaces for doggers, drag racers, drug dealers and pimps. But Rees also has fun itemising the ways in which these blank canvases draw out, like poison from a wound, the murderous impulses and animal instincts of otherwise sane, law-abiding citizens.

Alex Diggins reviews Car Park Life by Gareth E. Rees.

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A Life Spent Looking at the Sea: On Me & Other Writing by Marguerite Duras published 17/12/2019

Enthrallment before the sea is characteristic of a desire for obliteration, for those who conflate destruction with freedom. It is the dissolution of manmade boundaries; it holds what we know of eternality. For her, it has been executioner, conductor, arbiter, and lover. Mad, shining, occasionally ripped with laughter. Her lines corrugate like the water’s surface, her rhythm resembling the cyclical tide. To pursue a subject for a lifetime and to remain steadfast in the faith that it will always provide, that has been her gift as a writer. This volume of work is summoned from a lifetime of believing in the wealth of the world as material—that love will never be satiated, that insanity will always rear from amongst the ordinary, that the sea will never empty.

Xiao Yue Shan reviews Me & Other Writing by Marguerite Duras.

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What’s wild? Reading with the lypard in Isabel Waidner’s We Are Made of Diamond Stuff published 11/12/2019

In Diamond Stuff, Waidner summons a contemporary mini-archive of resistance literature, calling on support from writers like Jay Bernard, Tommy Pico and Nisha Ramayya, each both paraphrased and cited. Their relationships with the traditional western canon is in Waidner’s own words “complicated.” The ambivalent figure of the lypard offers one way to understand this knotty liaison.

Fanny Wendt Höjer reviews We Are Made of Diamond Stuff by Isabel Waidner.

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Feminine Tension published 09/12/2019

The novel’s preoccupation with the physical and the bodily is bound tightly with its broader thematic concerns. Alice is hyper-aware of the bodily condition of being female. The menstrual cramps, the intrusions of contraceptive devices (the IUDs and their discomfort, the pills and their side effects), the simple fact that “I have a hole that a penis can fill,” all contribute to a yearning to transcend the normative definition of femininity. Here, the bodily and the conceptual become inextricably intertwined.In straining against a plethora of binaries — monogamous coupledom, masculine/feminine, internal/external — Alice finds herself stretched to breaking point. She yearns to be, like the elastic of the title, pliable and flexible; in her romantic life, in her sense of identity and relation to the world around her. But elastic can also be a constricting agent.

Brendan Boehning reviews Johanne Bille‘s Elastic.

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The Words Don’t Give a Fuck published 07/12/2019

Some manifestos are short, such as Samuel Beckett’s single word effort: ¡UPTHEREPUBLIC!, (thesis 12: Taking sides). Others are very long. These, Hanna writes, touching on Hitler’s Mein Kampf and the Unabomber’s Industrial Society and its future, ‘are usually the products of disturbed minds’ (thesis 18: Pure excess). Relentless documents, all density and ‘physical bulk’, they carry with them an excruciating force that seems to hunch belligerently in the words. Manifestos, in their crudity, allow us to see writing exposed in ways that other texts do not. Manifestos are writing, naked, perhaps.

Tom Tomaszewski reviews Julian Hanna‘s The Manifesto Handbook: 95 Theses on an Incendiary Form.

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What Bertie Did Next published 04/12/2019

So remembering a difficult encounter with Pete followed by a scene in a bar with former Warhol superstar Taylor Mead summons memories of how the young Marshall performed his daily teenage life as a pseudo-Warholian figure, engaging in rambling telephone conversations and pondering what he would wear that evening. Marshall is thrilled to discover that Pete grew up next to Patti Smith, another of his idols (a devotion shared by many of punk’s other movers and shakers). Seeing the film Performance, with its unsettling inbuilt questions about the fashioning and performing of identity, makes him wonder if his sense of worry stems from realising that he would never be Anita Pallenberg.

Nicky Charlish reviews Bertie Marshall‘s Pete’s Underpants.

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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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