Twitter and the Novel

by Andrew Marzoni

Twitter’s character limit has proven attractive to recent crafters of narrative, among them Teju Cole, whose novel Open City won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award in 2012. In an interview with Wired, Cole credited Twitter for engaging ‘the part of me that makes sentences. I try to shape a sentence that works. … When you’re writing fiction and longform prose, you think about the best sentences, of course, and you work on them. But when you’re tweeting, the sentences are isolated, they’re naked, and so there is that much more scrutiny on how they work.’ On the one hand, Twitter is like poetry, in that ‘every single line has a certain punch and precision to it’; on the other hand, it is like a drug: ‘I’m addicted to it the way I’m addicted to coffee or to my headphones: guiltlessly.’ [read full essay]

Forever Love

Sam Riviere, Kim Kardashian's Marriage

reviewed by Frith Taylor

'When did poems start having to fuck with people constantly?' Sam Riviere, 2014. With Kim Kardashian's Marriage, Sam Riviere continues many of the themes of his earlier collections, 81 Austerities (2012) and Standard Twin Fantasy (2014). An uncompromising examination of contemporary life, this collection explores ideas of celebrity, artifice, performance and voyeurism, with the humour and irreverence that has become characteristic of Riviere's poetry. Charting Kim Kardashian's 72-day... [read more]

99% of 1.2 Billion

Arundhati Roy, Capitalism: A Ghost Story

reviewed by Maya Osborne

Capitalism is a greedy, vampiric fiend in Arundhati Roy’s Capitalism: A Ghost Story. It gnaws at the lifelines of well over 99% of India’s population and mainlines its acquired riches into a select few bejewelled, oily capitalists. In a nod to the Occupy! movement, she proclaims: ‘[the 1%] say that we don’t have demands … they don’t know, perhaps, that our anger alone would be enough to destroy them.’ The first page of the first essay sets the tone: ‘in a nation of 1.2 billion,... [read more]
 

'Events Are Dust'

Frances Stracey, Constructed Situations: A New History of the Situationist International

reviewed by Julian Cosma

Winston Churchill’s approach to communism, especially in the interwar period, was distinctly, almost obsessively epidemiological. His speeches and essays were peppered with quotes such as ‘Bolshevism is not a policy, it is a disease’ or alternatively, a ‘pestilence’. Individual figures were not exempt from medical designation. Lenin was a German-bred bacillus sent to inflect Russia, and Trotsky was ‘like the cancer bacillus.’ This anti-bolshevism was buttressed by respect for... [read more]

The Stuff Behind It

Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests

reviewed by Eli Davies

In an interview a few years ago, Sarah Waters outlined a kind of mission statement. 'What I'm after,' she said, 'is a gripping read, with stuff going on behind it.' The romp-factor of Waters’s fiction is well-known, and is probably at its most potent in 2002’s Fingersmith, which was, in part, an homage to Victorian crime fiction. On the surface her style, though studded with the language of her historical period, is plain and unfussy, and this may sometimes give the reader a feeling that... [read more]
 

‘He used to say it was frenzied, but beautiful’

Paul Fung, Dostoevsky and the Epileptic Mode of Being

reviewed by Andre van Loon

The trouble with Dostoevsky can be knowing where to start. It doesn't seem to matter if you're a novice reader, a seasoned aesthete or a professional literary critic. He's too verbose, too serious; too intent on piercing the heart of the matter in hand (‘and till my ghastly tale is told/this heart within me burns’, as Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner declared). There are those who find all this extremity a little unbearable. But Dostoevsky held ideals, and his work overflows with designs for... [read more]

A Flickering Presence

Ben Lerner, 10:04

reviewed by James Pulford

Ben Lerner’s debut novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, was an intense trip through the mind of an anxious American college student in Spain and the finest work of fiction to explore feelings of fraudulence and fakery since David Foster Wallace’s story ‘Good Old Neon.’ The narrator is alienated by the disconnect between his experience and his self-presentation – an issue deftly dramatised through the mesh of a foreign language and culture. In 10:04, Lerner’s latest novel, the 33-year... [read more]
 

Gaspard Winckler

Georges Perec, trans. David Bellos, Portrait of a Man

reviewed by David Anderson

No matter how fulsomely Scarlett Johansson gave fleshy form to Griet, the serving-girl at Johannes Vermeer's house in Delft, the Girl with a Pearl Earring was never a real girl. As the little text-box hanging next to Vermeer's canvas, in the Mauritshuis, explains: It is not a real portrait, but a ‘tronie’: a fantasy-head. Tronies picture a certain type of character – in this case, a girl in exotic clothing, with an oriental turban and an improbably large pearl in the ear. ‘A... [read more]

Stand Up and Be Counted

Harry Leslie Smith, Harry's Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do To Save It

reviewed by Stephen Lee Naish

Over the next few months, publication of books, essays, and articles related to British politics will skyrocket as writers, politicians, and pundits from the left, right and centre battle it out in the run up to the general election in May of this year. The party conferences have already been in full swing, the whips will be working overtime to pull their party dissenters back into line, backstabbing and tit for tat will be rife across the nation, political leaders once again will debate... [read more]
 

Coetzee and Cinema

Hermann Wittenberg ed., JM Coetzee: Two Screenplays

reviewed by Marc Farrant

JM Coetzee’s sole publication of 2014, JM Coetzee: Two Screenplays, comprises two self-authored screenplay adaptations of the early novels In the Heart of the Country (1977) and Waiting for the Barbarians (1980). The screenplays might be considered audacious formal experiments; new textual ground from one of the key figures of World Literature. However, written respectively in 1981 and 1995, they equally testify to a verbal range and aesthetic dexterity that has been a largely overlooked... [read more]

The Return of the Longue Durée

Jo Guldi and David Armitage, The History Manifesto

reviewed by James Everest

It may not have been what they intended, but in The History Manifesto Jo Guldi and David Armitage have, in fact, produced two manifestos. The first of these is a call for historians to play a more active role in contemporary society. The second argues that the proper way of doing this is through narratives of long-term historical change: what they, using a term first popularised by French historian Fernand Braudel in the 1950s, refer to as the ‘return of the longue durée’. The second point... [read more]