All Reviews

Paranoid Chatter

Don DeLillo, The Silence

reviewed by Gabriel Flynn

According to the philosopher Theodor Adorno, the ‘maturity’ of the late works of important artists ‘is not like the ripeness of fruit’. Late works, he says, ‘are not well rounded, but wrinkled, even fissured. They are apt to lack sweetness, fending off with prickly tartness those interested merely in sampling them.’ Few would likely recommend The Silence, Don DeLillo’s 18th novel and his prickliest yet, to a reader interested in sampling his work. The Silence is awkward, full... [read more]

Imperfect Images

Aaron Tugendhaft, The Idols of ISIS: From Assyria to the Internet

reviewed by Farah Abdessamad

There’s an eery similarity between the desecration of churches in the height of the French Terror, the destruction of the ‘Four Olds’ during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the toppling of Lenin statues at the fall of the Soviet Union and more recently in 2020, the movement which coalesced to abjure Confederate and other slavery-associated symbols. All revolutions seek to destroy the old order to affirm the new, it is said. In Idols of ISIS, Aaron Tugendhaft, a descendent of Iraqi... [read more]

Weird Objects in Improbable Situations

Helen Marten, The Boiled in Between

reviewed by Huw Nesbitt

In early December, something strange happened on Twitter: someone wrote something funny. Or to be more precise, someone posted something funny — a screenshot from an article by The Spectator’s Panagiotis Theodoracopulos explaining why, having exhausted ‘the Russians’ and a dozen other authors, he’d stopped reading 50 years ago because new literature, he protested, contained ‘millions of words that didn’t exactly get to the point, instead describing weird objects in improbable... [read more]

But the Living Will Not be Reduced

Ali Smith, Summer

reviewed by Fintan Calpin

In his classic study of The English Novel: From Dickens to Lawrence (1970), Raymond Williams wonders what was emerging in England between 1847 and 1848 during the prodigious 20 months which saw the publication of Dombey and Son, Wuthering Heights, Vanity Fair, Jane Eyre, Mary Barton, Tancred, Town and Country and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Of course, the answer is in the list. What was emerging, at least in part, was the novel: ‘a new kind of consciousness’. The task left for us today is... [read more]

Larger than Life

Phoebe Stuckes, Platinum Blonde

reviewed by Nina Hanz

‘Their heavy footsteps, out of tune with the timbre / of my stilettos. I wasn’t wearing stilettos / but I think you will imagine that I was’. In ‘Bleach’, the opening poem of Phoebe Stuckes’ debut poetry collection Platinum Blonde, these lines strike upon two key themes which unravel throughout the book. First, they introduce the object of scale, mass and excess: the heavy steps of a wide gait, the light timbre of a quick shuffle, this also occurs earlier in the poem, ‘I liked the... [read more]

Isolating Bricolage

Rebecca Watson, little scratch

reviewed by Genevieve Sartor

Rebecca Watson’s relentless debut novel, little scratch, propels readers with its experimental approach to language that ricochets the thoughts and actions of a nameless female narrator across each page. The novel’s presentation, which is varyingly reminiscent of an excel spreadsheet, a Twitter feed, and the vanguard, unconventional prose of modernist literature, weaves difficult subject matter into a new narrative fabric. This jarringly presented and deceptively simple text reflects... [read more]

Attachment Theory

Rita Felski, Hooked: Art and Attachment

reviewed by Nell Osborne

In 2015, in The Limits of Critique, Rita Felski argued that critique, a term she uses to characterise the predominant institutionalised practices of interpretation, solicits the critic to adopt a stance and tone of ‘ferocious and blistering detachment’. The critic’s encounter with a text is driven by ‘desire to puncture illusions, topple idols and destroy divinities,’ that is both combative and paranoid. Towards the end of this book, Felski invokes Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as one... [read more]

Psychoanalysis Retold

Emma Lieber, The Writing Cure

reviewed by Mersiha Bruncevic

Talking about dreams is tricky. This difficulty is expressed in various ways, but essentially the challenge is this: can words ever give a truthful account of what is experienced in sleep? If you dream of a sheep and then write or talk about that sheep, are you really describing what you saw? After all, it is a widely held belief that an image perceived while asleep is a code packed with unfulfilled wishes, memories and neuroses. A dream-sheep is always a desire-wolf in disguise. Emma Lieber... [read more]

It Goes on Forever

John Cooper Clarke, I Wanna Be Yours

reviewed by Peter Mitchell

I went to a party dressed as John Cooper Clarke once. The theme was Dress As Yr Idols. I was in possession of a physique, a pair of trousers and a tie that were almost skinny enough, plus I had just about enough hair that, if doused in coca-cola and back-combed like Nicky Wire said to, it’d approximate his beetling updo. More importantly it was easy and I got to go around roaring the lines from Beasley Street — ‘people turn to poison / quick as lager turns to piss / sweethearts are... [read more]

Weapons Against the Hereafter

Matthew Sweeney, Shadow of the Owl

reviewed by Daniel Fraser

There is an immediate difficulty, or perhaps rather a temptation, that presents itself when forming a response to any 'last book', particularly one produced under circumstances such as those in the background of Matthew Sweeney's final volume of poetry Shadow of the Owl. The poems it contains were largely composed in the period leading up to the author's death in August 2018 from motor neurone disease. They are poems full of portents and dark symbols, meetings with apparitions and last meal... [read more]