JA Smith, Other People’s Politics: Populism to Corbynism
reviewed by Ed Rooksby
There is no doubt that the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, closely followed by the election of Donald Trump, delivered a heavy double blow to the liberal order. Leave’s victory, like Trump’s, defied all predictions and thus brought with it a sudden sense of profound disorientation. Literally overnight, as the referendum vote was counted, the liberal centre’s taken-for-granted assumptions about the fundamental solidity of the prevailing order fell apart, producing a... [read more]
To be honest, I didn’t think I’d manage to read Ducks, Newburyport. My mental health was not good and even much shorter books defeated me. I wasn’t reading much at all really, if you discount research, which I only managed as a distraction on the tube. Depression not only takes the general joy out of life, it likes to focus on specifically joyous things as well, and a 1000-page one-sentence novel published by Galley Beggar was likely to be a joyous thing.
It was around 11am on... [read more]
Writing about music has been the tall order and the short straw in appreciation of the arts since the advent of aesthetic theory. For elusive reasons, music signifies at deeper levels than such as can be captured linguistically, making the act of articulating its effects as fraught an enterprise as hanging ectoplasm on a washing-line. Where it speaks in its own overt languages in compositions for voices – 'Spem in alium numquam habui', 'O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!', 'E lucevan le stelle'... [read more]
Józef Czapski, trans. Eric Karpeles, Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp
reviewed by Mersiha Bruncevic
The painter, writer and diarist Józef Czapski (1896-1993) passed away in a small town outside Paris at the age of 96. Czapski had lived there since the end of World War II. Ailing and blind, he spent his final days listening to Chopin on an old cassette tape. The last thing he ever wrote, despite his blindness, were a few words in shaky script: ‘Bonnard, Matisse, Goya, Proust’, then, in block letters, ‘KATYN, KATYN, KATYN’. To most readers, this last word carries little meaning. To... [read more]
When Virginia Woolf visited the home of the celebrated author, Thomas Carlyle, she mused on how writers appear to imprint themselves onto their surroundings. ‘It would seem,’ she considered, ‘that writers stamp themselves upon their possessions more indelibly than other people,’ having ‘a faculty for housing themselves appropriately, for making the table, the chair, the curtain, the carpet into their own image.’ Carlyle had been dead for several years when Woolf first visited his... [read more]
These truths we hold to be self-evident:
- Motherhood is work.
- Motherhood is unpaid work.
- Motherhood is unpaid work which comes at the expense of paid work.
- Motherhood is unpaid work which, because it comes at the expense of paid work, is often subcontracted to other women, who are paid. Often, in the words of Megan Stack, ‘They [are] poor women, brown women, migrant women.’ And, she writes, ‘They were important to me, primarily, because they made me free.’ Stack is writing... [read more]
To me, there are two Norways. There is the peaceful, idyllic Norway that was voted the world’s Happiest Country in 2017. And then there is the darker Norway: the Norway of Scandi noir, the Norway that has known mass-scale violence like the July 2011 terror attacks. Henrik Nor-Hansen’s Termin, translated by Matt Bagguley, is definitely set in this second Norway. Nor-Hansen is concerned thematically with violence, disillusionment, and suburban socioeconomic changes. In particular, he’s... [read more]
‘Watch the forest burn/ with granular heat’, comes the opening instruction of Kingdomland. This is appropriate to a collection that abounds with stark, singular imagery and sets the tone for a poetry that is as graphic as it is immersive: ‘Watch,’ says Rachael Allen, commanding our attention. Allen’s practice is of world-making, a Kingdomland whose underlying cohesion is disguised to the inattentive reader, appearing at first disorienting and chaotic, disjunctured, often appalling;... [read more]
Toronto-based writer Karen Solie, described by Michael Hofmann as ‘the one by whom the language lives’, has done it again. The Caiplie Caves is both an extraordinary and unsettling accomplishment. Solie begins by setting out a brief history of the caves and a description of the book’s protagonist of indecision, St Ethernan. Whilst the caves are still visited today, she tells us, records of St Ethernan are ‘often sketched only briefly, in passing’ so that his story ‘resists a final... [read more]
Even if the details of their adventures vary throughout the eight short stories comprising Nicole Flattery's debut collection, Show Them a Good Time, her protagonists bear a striking resemblance to one another. Not only are they (with one exception) relatively young women from small-town backgrounds – Flattery is 29 and from Kinnegad, Co Westmeath in Ireland – they also share a propensity to float through life like sticks thrown into a stream, barely resisting the things that happen to... [read more]