All Features

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]

Our Reading Habits Are Changing: An Interview with Arifa Akbar

by Houman Barekat

Back in August, The Bookseller magazine reported that the publisher Unbound would be launching a new online literary journal under the stewardship of Arifa Akbar, the former literary editor of The Independent. The launch of the publication, which will be called Boundless, is now just a few weeks away. I talked to Arifa about her plans for the publication, and the burgeoning domain of online literary criticism in general. [read full interview]

Sacred and Profane: What We Talk About When We Talk About God

by Neil Griffiths

I have tended to describe my novel as theological, but I’m not sure that’s right. Works of theology presuppose God’s existence. As a God Might Be is more concerned with how we can speak about God without resorting to the language of religion. Indeed, it asks whether we can speak about God at all or does all language fail at the outset? Of course, if that’s true and language is useless, what then of religion for the religiously inclined? How might religion adapt itself to this – dare I say it – Wittgensteinian God? [read full essay]

Reader offer: The Digital Critic

by Review 31

Publisher O/R Books is offering Review 31 readers a discount on pre-orders of The Digital Critic: Literary Culture Online, edited by Houman Barekat, Robert Barry and David Winters. The book, which will be published in December 2017, is a collection of 17 essays exploring the impact of the digital revolution on many aspects of literary life, from criticism to fiction-writing, from translation to book distribution and PR. Contributors include Joanna Walsh, Scott Esposito, Jonathon Sturgeon and Lauren Elkin, as well as several editors from Review 31 and other online journals including Asymptote, 3:AM and Berfrois. [read full essay]

'No Amount of Screaming Would Have Helped Us'

by Jude Cook

As with Helle’s burning chair, Krasznahorkai’s message seems to be that human beings will persist in their nature, until transformed into something else. Total oblivion is not a quality of the cosmos. The true melancholy of resistance, as seen with Helle’s striving narrator, is mankind’s persistent refusal to give up hope, or the stubborn determination Beckett saw as key to the human condition: You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on. Both authors catch the authentic note of sadness; of endurance in the face of impossible odds [read full essay]

‘An Insistent Pulse-Driven Juggernaut’: On The Life and Work of John Adams

by Benjamin Poore

‘Composing an American Life’, the book’s subtitle, certainly rings true. Adams, born 1947, grew up in East Concord, New Hampshire in a musical family: his mother a professional jazz singer, and father a clarinettist, who gave Adams his first lessons on the instrument. East Concord is a town whose namesake in Massachusetts channels a special connection to the musical and intellectual traditions we hear in Adams’ output. The name evokes the music of Charles Ives, whose ‘Concord’ Sonata for piano attempts a musical homage to the thought and writing of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau amongst others. Such figures are emblematic of an openness and pragmatism that is characteristically American, and has huge bearing on Adams’ approach to composition. [read full essay]