1. On first glance, you (browsing the Poetry & Drama shelves in Waterstones) might mistake Death Magazine for one of those popular poetry books. You know: the ones that get Goodreads reviews, sell copies, and cause allergic reactions in those who have been reading poetry for more than ten years. The millennial-pink cover of Death Magazine is reminiscent of Amanda Lovelace’s the princess saves herself in this one, or something dairy-based by Rupi Kaur. However, look again, and you might... [read more]
Who was the third man on the moon? Google it. Where’s the nearest cashpoint? Google it. Our reliance on the internet has turned the search engine into a verb for artificial recall. Whenever memory fails us, we turn to our keyboards and smartphones for answers. One might go so far as to say, with less exaggeration than is comfortable, that we have forgotten what it means to forget.
In a new collection of essays, Gabriel Josipovici excels in navigating the murky, Lethe-like waters of... [read more]
In COVID-19 times when space is shrunken, place more grimly partitioned, and mobility throttled, a novel about ‘the highs and lows of global nomadism’ like The Wandering gets an unintended inflation in its surreality quotient. Casual border-crossing is now inherently aberrant, anachronistic even, a practice that will come attendant with curtailment and constraint even as lockdown lifts. Intan Paramaditha’s tongue-in-cheek, magical-realist handling of border-crossing – as a thing only... [read more]
Will Burns walks beside you through Country Music, his debut collection. He speaks quietly but with insistence and a language earthed firmly in the Anglo Saxon ‘Bucks country’ through which he roams. On the journey, Burns shares intimate stories of moments underlived, things left unfinished, unsaid. But his poems are not barbed responses to the past — though many, in considering choices made (and therefore those that weren’t) gesture to regret. Instead they carry with them an... [read more]
‘What we excrete comes back to consume us,’ Nick Shay remarks pithily in Don DeLillo’s Underworld, one of the pre-eminent texts of waste literature. Nuclear waste is the ‘underhistory’ of the American 20th century. Waste Tide, the recently translated first novel of Chen Qiufan, is the underhistory of ‘The Chinese Century’ and 21st-century capital: the disposal of electronic waste and consumer technologies.
Chen Qiufan belongs to a new generation of Chinese science fiction... [read more]
Elsa Court, The American Roadside in Émigré Literature, Film and Photography, 1955-1985
reviewed by Neil Archer
While ‘the road’ has long been recognised as an important motif in American culture, from the Beats to the Hollywood road movie, those places along or between the highways – the gas stations, roadside diners and motels – have not always had the critical attention they deserve. This is the argument at the heart of Elsa Court’s engaging and illuminating study. Taking us through case studies of key works across literature and the visual arts – Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, Robert... [read more]
Elisa Shua Dusapin, trans. Aneesa Abbas Higgins, Winter in Sokcho
reviewed by Beatrice Tridimas
The Sokcho in Elisa Shua Dusapin’s award-winning novel is not the bustling, bright tourist town on the border between South and North Korea that some know it as. Its neon lights still flash and the stench of fresh fish still hangs in the air but the beach runs bare. Sokcho is waiting:
‘Oozing winter and fish, Sokcho waited.
That was Sokcho, always waiting, for tourists, boats, men, spring.’
Winter in Sokcho is a masterfully crafted tale of identity, alienation and longing, set... [read more]
Matt Colquhoun, Egress: On Mourning, Melancholy and Mark Fisher
reviewed by Niall Gallen
Owen Jones recently wrote an article in The Guardian titled ‘The Tories have evolved as the left plays the same old tune.’ The piece aptly describes the political context to which Matt Colquhoun’s Egress: On Mourning, Melancholy and Mark Fisher responds: a context which has undoubtedly accelerated due to the present global pandemic, but which remains dubious – wait, are the Right really enacting left-of-centre policy now?
Colquhoun’s book also responds to another, no less important... [read more]
Eugene McCarraher, The Enchantments of Mammon: How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity
reviewed by Stuart Walton
If it were possible to pinpoint the originary moment of capitalism, the long-deferred process of dismantling it might begin. Was it inaugurated when the accumulated profits of trade began to be invested in greater technological means of productivity in western Europe's late Middle Ages? Is trade itself, the selling of products at greater return than the cost invested in recovering, obtaining or manufacturing them, inherently capitalist? Is the act of exchange itself, which can be traced back to... [read more]
Michael Glover, Thrust: A Spasmodic Pictorial History of the Codpiece in Art
reviewed by Anna Parker
Of all fashion trends, the codpiece is one of the most bizarre. From the 1540s to the end of the century, men in Renaissance Europe put their genitals in a prominent, heavily embellished pouch which stuck out proudly from their breeches. The world ‘cod’ means scrotum, which originated from the Anglo-Saxon for a small bag. Unsurprisingly, writers much enjoyed riffing off the meanings of the ‘cod’, which was repurposed as slang for a clergyman or for a large sum of money. As a visual... [read more]