All Reviews

It's All Here

Fernanda Melchor, trans. Sophie Hughes, Paradais

reviewed by Trahearne Falvey

These days, it seems that few readers have much time for teenage boys. This is understandable: many teenagers’ minds are even more disgusting than their bedrooms, and it takes a writer as adept at controlling their gag reflex as Fernanda Melchor to venture in and see what might be causing the stink. In the International Booker-nominated Hurricane Season and, now, in Paradais (both translated by Sophie Hughes), she develops a convincing case that we should all be thinking a lot more about what... [read more]

Origins Again

Carlos Fonseca, trans. Megan McDowell, Natural History: A Novel

reviewed by Luke Warde

For all its experimental features, Carlos Fonseca’s Natural History, which follows his ambitious 2016 debut, Colonel Lágrimas, feels eminently familiar. The influence of a range of other innovators — Bolaño, Borges, Calvino, Perec, Piglia, Krasznahorkai, to name only a few — is page after page in evidence. Yet the presence of one writer in particular, W.G. Sebald, looms largest. Fonseca has stated in interviews his specific debt to the late German melancholic, and Natural History is... [read more]

Network Aesthetic

Douglas Coupland, Binge: 60 Short Stories to Make Your Brain Feel Different

reviewed by Diletta De Cristofaro

Ever since his debut novel published back in 1991, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, Douglas Coupland has built a reputation as one of the most perceptive and original commentators of the contemporary, one deeply in tune with popular culture. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that he should model his latest book Binge, his first work of fiction since 2013, after the quintessentially 21st-century activity of binge-watching. ‘I wanted to replicate with words that same sense of... [read more]

In Nothing But Their Shoes

Annebella Pollen, Nudism in a Cold Climate: The Visual Culture of Naturists in Mid-20th Century Britain

reviewed by Anna Neima

I started reading Annebella Pollen’s Nudism in a Cold Climate while standing in the queue to get my Covid booster. It was a long queue — snaking around the block and out to the park so that even those of us who had joined early had to wait several hours before we made it inside. But within minutes of cracking open the spine I noticed that my nearest neighbours were inching closer to me so that they could look over my shoulder. Perhaps they wanted to catch a glimpse of the two middle-age men... [read more]

Material Strangeness

Hanna Rose Shell, Shoddy: from Devil’s Dust to the Renaissance of Rags

reviewed by Nell Whittaker

Charles Dickens’s 1865 novel Our Mutual Friend opens with the poor but upstanding Lizzie Hexham in a skiff on the Thames with her father, who’s busy hauling waterlogged corpses from the water and removing the contents of their pockets. The river mud — the boat is ‘begrimed’ by the ‘slime and ooze’ of the river — is a form of primordial sludge, an undifferentiated mass from which may emerge wealth, with all its transformative promise. The novel — which is about money, class,... [read more]

I am scared I might stay like this forever

Thom Yorke & Stanley Donwood, Fear Stalks the Land! A Commonplace Book

reviewed by Emily Herring

In the year 2000 I was nine years old and I had already survived one apocalypse. It was foretold that as we made the switch to the new millennium, computers would no longer be able to tell what century we were in, and everywhere networks and software would crash. In our irredeemably computer-dependent society, this meant that planes would fall out of the sky, medical devices would fail, life savings would vanish from bank accounts, nuclear reactors would melt, and people would be stuck in... [read more]

Vampires in the Clubs

Leon Craig, Parallel Hells

reviewed by Lily Kuenzler

Within beauty, there is horror. Within horror there is beauty. This is the paradoxic at the heart of Leon Craig’s debut short story collection, Parallel Hells. Craig’s stories have an otherworldly sense of the supernatural: she writes of strange creatures, magical outsiders and uncanny happenings. Often, these folkloric elements are woven into a fabric of modern day debauchery — drugs, parties and sex. There are vampires in the clubs and the Devil is on acid. Though the stories nod to... [read more]

Pleasant Sutherings of the Shade

Sam Buchan-Watts, Path Through Wood

reviewed by Erik Kennedy

It’s refreshing when a book of poems does what it says on the tin. If you’re reading a book called Path Through Wood, it’s fantastic if there’s a path through a wood. Near the beginning and end of Sam Buchan-Watts’s debut collection are two poems about the emergence from, and re-entry into, a physical wood. With their semantically slant-rhyming titles, ‘“The Days Go Just Like That”’ and ‘The Days Just Go Like That’ set up a concept where the return to the wood at the end... [read more]

The Nobs Are Still Winning

Duncan Stone, Different Class: The Untold Story of English Cricket

reviewed by David Renton

The conventional narrative of how English cricket works goes something like the following: at the pinnacle of national achievement is the (men’s) Test side, then beneath that are the 18 counties (and their men’s teams). These are the only cricketers worth knowing about, the ones who results are reported in the national press. Beneath them, there are a vast, undifferentiated, blancmange of informal matches, one-off ties, nets, street cricket, etc. There are two obvious problems with... [read more]

Literary Psilocybin in Blank Verse

Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. Vita Sackville-West & Edward Sackville-West, Duino Elegies

reviewed by Tim Murphy

The composition of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies began and ended with inspirational moments that became famous in the history of literature. The Prague-born Austrian poet noted down the first line of the poem, Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel / Ordnungen? (‘Who would give ear, among the angelic host / Were I to cry aloud?’), after hearing a voice in the wind speak these words while he was walking near Duino Castle in Italy in 1912. Rilke, who was then in his... [read more]