:: Reviews

Useless Machines: On Alexander Calder, Jed Perl, and Standing Apart published 29/05/2018

The Conquest of Time: The Early Years, 1898-1940, the first of Perl’s two volumes on Calder (the second is due out in 2019), follows the artist from his childhood in Philadelphia through his time in Paris, New York, and Barcelona, where he cultivated his “classical style” and befriended some of the greatest avant-gardists of the era, including Duchamp, Joan Miró, and Piet Mondrian.

Jackson Arn reviews Calder by Jed Perl.

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Limitations of a War Waged with Humour published 28/05/2018

In case the hand-grenade on the front cover left you unsure, Hallgrimur Helgason delights in exploding taboos—continually, like a kid playing with firecrackers—and in his latest novel he has found just the narrator for it in Herra Björnsson, a near-death octogenarian living out her second childhood in a garage outside Reykjavik, “together with a laptop computer”, and the aforesaid hand-grenade—an old keepsake given by her father. She then deadpans a series of statements which trade off her own decrepitude for laughs, mentioning her rheumatism, a “catheter and bedpan”, the “Via Dolorosa” of getting to the toilet, and the lovely fact that “there’s constipation everywhere,” the evident goal being either to provoke disgust or, for a certain type of reader, a sense of morbid delight.

Abe Nemon reviews Woman at 1000 Degrees by Hallgrimur Helgason.

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The Texture of an Edge published 22/05/2018

Kinsky is an heir to Thoreau (she has translated his work into German) and River is shaped by his thought in important ways. The book is an entrancing example of Thoreau’s “discipline of looking always at what is to be seen”. And the unnamed narrator’s “slow and haphazard” walks by the River Lea, her dedication to “walking and looking” as a way of being and belonging in the world recall Thoreau’s 1861 essay, ‘Walking’, in which he describes this “art”, best realised in sauntering, as the ability to be “equally at home everywhere”.

Anna MacDonald reviews River by Esther Kinsky, translated by Iain Galbraith.

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Apocalypse Maintenant: Artaud’s Anti-Everything published 19/05/2018

These letters from Ireland, sent to various recipients in France between 14 August and 21 September 1937, are incendiary epistles detailing Antonin Artaud’s mental, physical and economic breakdown while synchronously foreseeing and foretelling the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust. In The New Revelations of Being, Artaud’s manifesto published two months before his fateful journey, he wrote, “I have felt the Void for a long time now, but for all that time, I have refused to throw myself into the Void.” Ireland would be that void, would be the topography of his own flesh, his own mind.

Steve Finbow reviews Artaud 1937 Apocalypse, translated by Stephen Barber.

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Crooked Common Threads, Pockets of Life published 07/05/2018

Bob is looking for something, throughout the novella and Bob’s going through something, it’s complicated, or maybe not at all. Maybe he’s overcomplicating it. Something or someone might be looking for him, too. Bob looks out the peephole of his door to see what’s going on in the hallway, he looks out his window, he presses his ear against his neighbors’ wall, ever since his ex-wife Ava pointed out a black car on their street. The black car stays around but he’s got no idea about Ava anymore. Not only does Ava disappear from his life, but so do others soon after they enter his life, like a masseuse or the two roommates he meets individually one, because of the other, Lily and Sheila.

Nathan Dragon reviews Babak Lakghomi‘s Floating Notes.

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Meet the Spirit Molecule published 05/05/2018

This book has come into being at a time when multiple scientific disciplines are converging on the idea that matter must be subordinate to consciousness, and the sentience of plants is coming to be accepted. The authors make a convincing case for shifting the focus of our scientific explorations from the expensive, barren lands of outer space to our rich inner terrain. This is not a retrograde move but one that uses modern technology to cast a new light on humanity – past, present, and future.

Lindsay Jordan reviews DMT Dialogues: Encounters with the Spirit Molecule by David Luke and Rory Spowers.

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Through a child’s eyes: Mystery and longing in Masatsugu Ono’s Lion Cross Point published 26/04/2018

What occupies unoccupied space? Mediums claim to be able to detect the presence of spirits where most of us see nothing. Lion Cross Point is narrated from the close third person, filtered through the emotional state of a hurt child—raw and without logic—and told mostly through flashbacks. Takeru’s memories are mostly about his brother, whose existence everyone else has mysteriously forgotten. The villagers who grew up with his mother aren’t shy about sharing their memories of her and some, like Mitsuko, even claim to remember Takeru as a baby—but no one speaks of the brother and we never learn the boy’s name. His absence haunts Takeru, who constantly fights back tears even as he, too, begins the process of forgetting.

Tara Cheesman-Olmsted reviews Lion Cross Point by Masatsugu Ono.

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Vi Khi Nao’s molecular agriculture: (something)—Looms published 24/04/2018

Looking is a practice from which genres diverge—the way mitosis reveals chromosomes to be haploid. On their way / to expressing a sex that might not fit with how it is felt post-womb. Mitosis—from the Greek, mitos, / meaning thread, becoming tangled up in people’s comments on YouTube, wind-obliging. / Wound-obliging. / The more you read them, do they unravel? Do you—if you think about it hard enough. In the sense / of the end of a relationship, characterised by a sudden split screen / a film severed at the middle without a hospital. / I rewrote this review several times.

Megan Jeanne Gette responds to Umbilical Hospital by Vi Khi Nao.

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On the Rims of Fiction published 17/04/2018

Writing may be cathartic. Still, unravelling the twisted knots of memory necessarily leads to Hebert’s own unravelling, the suspense of his writing style resounding delayed traumas. In loose chronology, he goes on drug binges, wrestles hangovers, luxuriates in visions of past lovers, dips a toe into the pool of political activism (he quickly withdraws), but also travels to Europe for the first time to attend a writers’ conference in Berlin and enjoys his time with his pregnant wife Mónica (to whom the novel is dedicated). This is a story infused with dreams of black magic, political unrest, lone flaneuring and hard drinking, but also one of kindness, compassion, sharp humour and a loquaciousness that one usually reserves for close friends.

D.R. Hansen reviews Julián Herbert‘s Tomb Song.

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Medium Making – Something About Gerald Murnane’s Border Districts published

What Murnane is most concerned with is language’s mediating force rather than its meaning-making potentialities, or that mediation itself might be the locus of meaning. Of the latter this is, like the narrator of his latest and possibly last novel, Border Districts, peripherally glimpsed.

Ryan Chang reviews Border Districts by Gerald Murnane.

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