All Reviews

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]

For There She Was

Virginia Woolf, Merve Emre (ed.), The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway

reviewed by Ellie Mitchell

You see, I’m thinking furiously about Reading & Writing. I have no time to describe my plans. I should say a good deal about The Hours, & my discovery; how I dig out beautiful caves behind my characters; I think that gives exactly what I want; humanity, humour, depth. The idea is that the caves shall connect, & each comes to daylight at the present moment — Dinner! —The Diary of Virginia Woolf, 30 August 1923 Virginia Woolf’s famous caving method, or what she later termed her... [read more]

The Ephemeral and the Eternal

Harry Freedman, Leonard Cohen: The Mystical Roots of Genius

reviewed by Stuart Walton

Speaking at the outset of his recording career in 1967, Leonard Cohen told an interviewer from a Canadian student newspaper, that he regarded himself in the manner of a cantor, the hieratic official in synagogue and church who leads the faithful in singing and prayer. Etymologically, a cantor is not just a singer but a teacher, but Cohen saw himself not as participating in the established observances of one congregation or the other, but as 'the priest of a catacomb religion that is... [read more]

A Kind of Osmosis

Dinah Berland, Hotel at the End of the World

reviewed by Nina Hanz

‘Some said they moved,’ writes Dinah Berland in her poem ‘Sephirot’, ‘because Lake Michigan resembled the Black Sea.’ Reading the poems in Hotel at the End of the World feels like stepping into the clarity of a swimming pool. Various poetic forms such as the sestina, sonnet and the Arabic ghazal drift with lyrical beauty as they archive moments in Berland’s life and by extension, those of her ancestors. Bridging the living world with the dead, her poems write into existence family... [read more]

It Will Soon Pass

Albert Camus, trans. Laura Marris, The Plague

reviewed by Luke Warde

Albert Camus’ The Plague was initially interpreted as an allegory for the cataclysm that had just preceded its publication: the Nazi occupation of France, resistance to which the author had famously contributed. This reading, which Camus was loath to deny, struck many as dubious: Roland Barthes and Simone de Beauvoir, among others, highlighted the danger of suggesting that Nazism was akin to a ‘natural’ phenomenon such as an epidemic, rather than a product of human relations, however... [read more]

A New Form of Being Human

Andrew Hussey, Speaking East: The Strange and Enchanted Life of Isidore Isou

reviewed by Douglas Field

In 1945, the Romanian poet Isidore Isou wrote an open letter to Parisian publishers. Although he had recently arrived in the French capital, the 22-year-old writer was incensed that major publishing houses had yet to take note of his brilliance: ‘I’m warning you now that my friends and I will come and smash your faces in if you don’t publish my work which will great create upheavals.’ Isou’s threats to the ‘old bastards’ of the post-war Parisian literary establishment were not... [read more]

A Multi-faceted Thing

Hannah Dawson (ed.), The Penguin Book of Feminist Writing

reviewed by Jennifer Thomson

It seems the perfect time to be a feminist. We’re everywhere — in the boardroom with Sheryl Sandberg, leaning in to our corporate power; shaking our tail feather on stage with Beyonce; speaking with Emma Watson at the UN, immaculately coiffed and styled. Feminism is no longer the dreaded ‘f-word’; no longer the butt of bad jokes about unshaved armpits and never getting a man — it is positively to be celebrated. Enter any high street store that aims itself even vaguely at the... [read more]

Against Compromise

Rachel Greenwald Smith, On Compromise: Art, Politics, and the Fate of an American Ideal

reviewed by Ruby Hamilton

Compromise is an often-understated term in the late Lauren Berlant’s writing about ‘cruel optimism’, defined in their words as ‘a relation of attachment to compromised conditions of possibility whose realization is discovered either to be impossible, sheer fantasy, or too possible, and toxic’. Indeed, compromise is cruel optimism rendered as an agreement: it means accepting, even desiring, something that is, by definition, a diminished version of what you want. So why are we drawn... [read more]