Concept and Form: An Interview With Sophie Collins

by Charles Whalley

Sophie Collins, along with Rachael Allen, is co-founder and editor of tender, ‘an online quarterly promoting work by female-identified writers and artists,’ which, since its appearance last year, has published work by Emily Berry, Carina Finn, Lavinia Greenlaw and Emily Toder, among others. She is currently carrying out research on poetry and translation at Queen’s University Belfast, and her poems, translations and other writings have been published in Poetry, Poetry Review, Poetry London, The White Review and elsewhere. [read full interview]

The Knack of Existing

Jennifer Dawson, The Ha-Ha

reviewed by Ka Bradley

Jennifer Dawson’s debut novel, The Ha-Ha, was published in 1961, two years before Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and seven years after Antonia White’s Beyond the Glass. It is a novel very much of its time: it follows the hospitalisation, breakdown and tenacious recovery of an educated young woman who finds herself a square peg to the round hole of identity. The opening of the novel finds the narrator, Josephine, in recovery. She has been hospitalised in a quietly, disturbingly... [read more]

Mise Eire, Miserere

Colum McCann, TransAtlantic

reviewed by Amanda Civitello

‘American poets keep going down to the shoreline to struggle with their daemons,’ writes critic Harold Bloom, and Colum McCann’s beautiful new novel TransAtlantic shows that the Irish do it, too. In McCann’s novel water, whether the Atlantic Ocean or the Irish Sea, is the site of mourning, with waves the backdrop for all manner of sorrows. Water is a fitting constant for a novel of such vast scope: TransAtlantic crosses generations and continents, following the intersecting lives of... [read more]

‘Staying up all night, wandering, plotting…’

Bradley L. Garrett, Explore Everything: Place Hacking the City

reviewed by Andrew Blackman

At first glance, ‘place hacking’ may seem like just another form of escapist thrill-seeking. Sneak into a construction site, poke around inside Battersea Power Station, run along train tracks to discover abandoned Underground stations. Dodge the security guards and the alarms and the speeding trains, and take trophy photographs of yourself in places you’re not supposed to be. In an age of heightened governmental security measures and increasing privatisation of public space, however,... [read more]

A Vista of Fog

Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland

reviewed by James Pulford

When the judges of the 2008 Frank O'Connor Award didn't bother reducing their longlist to a shortlist, deciding instead that Jhumpa Lahiri's collection Unaccustomed Earth should win outright, the decision was marked by a refreshing levity. Why even pretend to enter into the pointless discussions about readability when major book prizes are doled out arbitrarily anyway? Debate about whether or not the collection should have won is irrelevant, but what can be said of Unaccustomed Earth is that it... [read more]

Behind the Image of Mary

Colm Tóibín, The Testament of Mary

reviewed by Željka Marošević

The virtual absence of the Virgin Mary from the New Testament is so at odds with the proliferation of her myth and image in Christianity, and more specifically Catholicism, that it is almost to be disbelieved. The most famous woman in Western Culture, and the paragon of virginity, womanhood and motherhood, the perfect symbol of Christian love and obedience, and, to borrow a description of Artemis from Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary, ‘radiating abidance and bounty, fertility and... [read more]

This Is All Bullshit, Really

Eldritch Priest, Boring Formless Nonsense: Experimental Music and the Aesthetics of Failure

reviewed by Andrew Key

On page 221 of Eldritch Priest’s Boring Formless Nonsense, a study of post-avant-garde aesthetics in the context of experimental composition, there is a quotation attributed to the multi-use artistic pseudonym (those familiar with the radical Italian author-collectives Luther Blissett/Wu Ming will recognise this concept) Karen Eliot: I write fictions, what others might call little ‘reality machines,’ about music that I have not in fact written or listened to. Following the... [read more]

Maybe Books Prefer Disorder

Valeria Luiselli, trans. Christina McSweeney, Sidewalks

reviewed by Ben Millson

Not quite a book about walking, not quite a book about writing, Sidewalks is a collection of essays about living as a free-thinking individual in a world of cities bridged by technology. In a little over one hundred pages the peripatetic Luiselli covers Mexico City, Venice and New York - amongst others - with a quick eye and a scholar’s heart. She is a keen excavator and expositor; the history of places, people, words and ideas are deftly woven together in brief tapestries of a life lived... [read more]

The Nervous Age

Florian Illies, 1913: The Year Before the Storm

reviewed by Matt Ellison

Florian Illies' 1913 is a highly original cultural portrait of the West as it stood in the year before the Great War. Originally published last year in Illies’ native Germany, where it quickly achieved bestseller status, it is a month-by-month account of the year that critic Jean-Michel Rabaté terms ‘the cradle of modernism’. For the most part Illies, a journalist and art critic, focuses his attention on German-speaking central Europe and on Vienna in particular, that ‘capital of the... [read more]

Codes and Conventions

Adelle Waldman, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

reviewed by Rachel Sykes

Adelle Waldman’s debut novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., tells the story of Nate Piven, a determinedly 'literary type' living the yuppie lifestyle in modern day Brooklyn. Waldman guides the reader through the best part of a year in this writer’s consciousness, where we are helpless observers to the romantic detritus accumulated around the literary scene of New York. If you care little for literature and the literary, then the carousel of social engagements that Waldman narrates... [read more]

'Do you reckon he's a scout?'

Michael Calvin, The Nowhere Men: The Unknown Story of Football’s True Talent Spotters

reviewed by Joe Kennedy

When I was much younger, my brother and I would occasionally find ourselves kicking a ball around together on a beach, in a park, or down by the river. From time to time, we’d spot someone in the distance who had paused to watch our improvised game. Inevitably, the question was asked: ‘Do you reckon he’s a scout?’ Soon, the figure would turn and walk on, leaving us to our speculations. The scout had legendary status amongst young football players until relatively recently. He was a... [read more]