All Features

Universities Back From the Dead?

by Tom Cutterham

One of the most remarkable things about the last few months of strike action by UCU members has been the support shown by most of our current students. They have spoken out, joined picket-lines, and gone into occupation across the country – generating imagery reminiscent of the ‘Millbank generation’ to which many of their younger lecturers (including me) belong. These students aren’t just out there to defend our pensions. They’re there for a bigger cause: the ideal of the university as a community of learning, not another neoliberal marketplace. [read full essay]

Winter’s Immutable Poetics

by Ed Simon

A certain slant of light remains at the centre for any poetics of winter. Whatever else literature of those dark months takes as its concern – the crunch of snow underfoot, the strange material effervescence of one’s breath, even the liturgy of Advent – all aesthetics of solstice ultimately is about the half-luminescence of the low winter sun. To sing a song of winter is to sing a dirge. Representations of the season must deal with the expiring embers of daylight, effervescence’s spindly dying glow as the year progresses, the subtle yet sublime awareness of the hazy light of the shortening day. Approaching whatever collapse awaits us, feeling the rising temperatures of a 21st-century December, or perhaps knowing the grey ashen chill of future nuclear winter, what is reassuringly uncontrollable is the predictable tilt of our planet’s axis. Our seasons remain a pagan liturgy, enthralled to the motion of the sun and moon, and our poetry is similarly moved. [read full essay]

That Lunatic Risk

by Peter Mitchell

Daniel Ellsberg’s book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, is a curious book to bring out at such a time. Ellsberg is better known as the first great leaker of the secret state, a defence establishment defector who released the Pentagon Papers and found a long second life as a remarkably courageous and persistent activist against the military-industrial complex and the blind, futile violence of American foreign policy since the fifties. As he explains in The Doomsday Machine, though, he didn’t initially intend the Pentagon Papers to be his big gesture: he wanted to publish all the secrets he’d been accumulating about the US nuclear war apparatus and the grave danger he believed it posed to the world. [read full essay]

‘I can’t imagine writing without translation’: An Interview with Livia Franchini

by Thea Hawlin

Livia Franchini is a writer and translator from Tuscany, Italy. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in The Quietus, Visual Verse, Hotel, Funhouse, the White Review, Minima&Moralia and Nuovi Argomenti among others. In 2016 she co-founded CORDA, a journal about friendship in the time of new borders. In 2017 she joined the organising board for the first edition of FILL, Festival of Italian Literature in London – where she lives and is working on her first novel as part of a PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths. I spoke to her after the inaugural festival about teamwork, translation, and tearing down borders. [read full interview]

People Want to Be Heard: An Interview with Nathan Connolly, Lee Rourke and Gena-mour Barrett

by Dale Lately

'I think there’s a sort of deep trauma in society from precisely this lack of representation that we’re discussing. If you look at books being published it’s a very white middle class kind of affair, there’s no kind of even spread. This is very much what I felt when I entered publishing. In my experience there’s also an expectation from a working class writer to write a gritty realist drama and bring a certain set of psychological tropes to it. And for me that’s anathema. It doesn’t interest me. I’ve never really been interested in serving up what’s expected of me.' [read full interview]

Take Me To The River: A Journey Into Digital Fiction

by James Attlee

There is one aspect of smartphone technology we all now take for granted – your phone knows where you are. By extension, so does the creator of a piece of located fiction for that instrument, enabled therefore to release elements of narrative in particular locations or at chosen times, choosing backdrops for their storyline in the real world. However, this puts a new onus on the writer. Rather than conjuring up such settings from the imagination, they must be tested thoroughly for suitability. Are they easily accessible by public transport? Do they offer a safe space in which a participant can listen to audio or read text on a screen without getting knocked down by traffic or robbed when they take their phone from their pocket? How onerous is it, travelling from one location to the next? To drill down further into the technology, will GPS trigger effectively in the location you have ring-fenced remotely as the spot where a particular event will unfold, or will a tall building or other blind-spot get in the way? [read full essay]

A Media Of One’s Own: The Future of Criticism, in Retrospect

by Robert Barry

To speak of having a press, of having a media of one’s own, suggests infrastructure. But the question of infrastructure is curiously absent from panegyrics to the liberating force of the net. Jeff Jarvis doesn’t mention million dollar undersea cables, as thick as a Coke can and a hundred thousand miles long, coated with galvanised shielding wire. When Time nominated you person of the year, they neglected to touch upon space frame warehouses of a million square feet, stuffed to the gills with servers that eat daily the same energy as a small town. [read full essay]

Diversity, Risk-Taking and Community: A Celebration of 2017’s Small Press Anthologies

by Anna Vaught

This month, I posed a question on Twitter for the small presses of the British Isles: what prompted them to commission and curate their anthologies of various authors? This, from Salt Publishing, was a beautiful summary: ‘So many things: outreach, delighting readers, finding new readers, celebrating writers at all stages of their creative lives, curating, presenting, sharing cultural excellence, building a community, sharing a space, collisions and surprises.’ [read full essay]

Fiction Highlights: Review 31's Best Novels of 2017

by Review 31

Given the turbulent state of world politics, it is unsurprising that political themes loom large in some of 2017’s most eye-catching works of fiction: these include Tom Rachman’s ‘rapid-response’ snapshot of American decline in Basket of Deplorables, Daniel Magariel’s searing portrait of toxic masculinity in One of the Boys, and Mohsin Hamid’s timely meditation on migration, Exit West. This year’s recommendations are formally diverse, ranging from Emmanuel Carrère’s essayistic opus The Kingdom – described by Andre van Loon as 'emphatically not a novel' – and Sam Riviere’s digitally inspired fragmented narratives to more conventional, plot-driven novels and short stories. [read full essay]

An Eye is Always Watching Us

by James Draney

Unlike Riviere’s poetry collections 81 Austerities (2010), Standard Twin Fantasy (2014) and Kim Kardashian’s Marriage (2015), which tended to take a literal tone with regard to their subject matter, Safe Mode reads far more like an allegory than an assemblage. Yet Safe Mode also proves that the novel’s inability to adequately represent our atmosphere of ubiquitous media does not spell the end for the genre. Riviere’s book is a prototype for the novel of the future. If the future will have novels at all. [read full essay]