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]

Fail Again, Fail Better

Clare Hayes-Brady, The Unspeakable Failures of David Foster Wallace: Language, Identity, and Resistance

reviewed by Stuart Walton

Scarcely any contemporary writer has passed into the literary canon more swiftly and seamlessly than David Foster Wallace. Undergraduate dissertations on him were already being written while he was still working on his posthumously published unfinished novel, The Pale King (2011). The writer himself was endlessly courted by academic journals to pronounce on anything from American literary culture to the status of political engagement in a disengaged world, while Harper's and Esquire magazines... [read more]

‘A boy’s adventure in the void’

Don DeLillo, Zero K

reviewed by Katie Da Cunha Lewin

‘The death of the novel’ is still a popular phrase bandied about by writers and critics both – particularly popular, it seems, for those authors who pride themselves on a cultivated cantankerousness, such as Will Self or Philip Roth. Roth in particular seemed rather churlish in his dismissal of the novel, as it coincided with the announcement of his retirement from fiction writing, seemingly suggesting that his retreat from the world of literature somehow accelerated the inevitable... [read more]

Anything and Nothing

Stephen Mitchelmore, This Space of Writing

reviewed by Alex Wealands

What is literature? This question continues to elude a satisfactory answer accounting for the all the intricate nuances and inconsistencies of writing, interpretation, imagination and reality. It is with this conviction that Lars Iyer is able to write, in his introduction to Stephen Mitchelmore’s This Space of Writing, that this collection of essays is for ‘the writer for whom literature is in some way a problem.’ It is not so much that Mitchelmore attempts to definitively answer this... [read more]

Childbirth: Fiction’s Overlooked Drama

Pamela Erens, Eleven Hours

reviewed by Melanie White

Historically, war has supplied the ultimate proving ground for men: it’s arguably the most challenging test of strength and character, not to mention survival. In cultures the world over, this rite of passage has proclaimed that boys would engage in battle and emerge as men. For women, the equivalent is surely childbirth, especially in the days before modern medicine. Childbirth was once so dangerous that women in Renaissance Italy, for example, would promptly prepare a will upon discovering... [read more]

God Only Knows

David Park, Gods and Angels

reviewed by Jude Cook

A collection of great short stories, if carefully curated, can have the coherence of a novel, or at the very least a classic album. If Dubliners is the Sgt Pepper of the form, then later collections such as Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love or Annie Proulx’s Close Range are Blood on the Tracks and Hounds of Love respectively. Gods and Angels, the latest brace of stories from veteran Belfast novelist David Park, might well one day qualify as a minor classic – a... [read more]

A Nothing Match

Jean-Philippe Toussaint, trans. Shaun Whiteside, Football

reviewed by Joe Kennedy

Right at the beginning of the Belgian novelist and filmmaker Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s gnomically titled Football, in a stark epigraphical boot-print on an otherwise immaculate page, we’re told that: This is a book no-one will like, not intellectuals, who aren’t interested in football, or football-lovers, who will find it too intellectual. But I had to write it, I didn’t want to break the fine thread which connects me to the world. For any reviewer, this is almost certainly the... [read more]

‘My love for my mother is like an axe. It cuts very deep.’

Deborah Levy, Hot Milk

reviewed by Sharlene Teo

Hot Milk, the title of Deborah Levy’s sixth book, evokes smothering maternity and the fraught, oftentimes messy dependencies between mothers and children that extend into adulthood. It is an uncomfortable and intriguing title, tantalisingly vague and a little ominous – much befitting of this hypnotic novel. In her previous works, including Beautiful Mutants (1989) and the Man Booker-shortlisted Swimming Home (2011), Levy interrogates the concepts of exile, identity, and the slipperiness and... [read more]

Such Terror Out of Europe

Geert Buelens, Everything to Nothing: The Poetry of the Great War, Revolution and the Transformation of Europe

reviewed by Eleanor Careless

Geert Buelens’ extraordinary, novelistic study of the poetry of the Great War concludes ‘so that was the First World War . . . a Twin Tower every afternoon.' Buelens’ concern to make the events of over a century ago measurable by contemporary standards introduces a radically new perspective to the field of war poetry studies. Rather than replicate the Western European-centric innocence-to-experience narrative popularised in works from LP Hartley’s The Go-Between (1953) to Ian McEwan’s... [read more]

Utility or Ideology?

Stephen Willats, Vision and Reality

reviewed by Owen Hatherley

'If I look at any object', says one of the residents of his flat in Saffron Court, Bath, in an interview with the artist Stephen Willats about life in the building, 'it tells a story.’ This book collects some of the interviews and photographs collected by Willats over several decades of work in planned housing, from the 1970s through to the 2000s – mostly, if not exclusively, in post-war, high-rise estates. Willats' extensive work on housing (never just 'houses') and the people who live in... [read more]

Growing Up Strange

Rebecca Mackenzie, In A Land of Paper Gods

reviewed by Ross Benar

Set in a missionary school in China in the 1940s, In a Land of Paper Gods is a religious novel, not only in content but in form. Rebecca Mackenzie's prose rings with religious sentiment: 'Even at that young age, I knew to bury these bones in the soft earth, to decorate the mounds with feather, shell and twig, to weave over a litany of prayers, calling to Jesus, the River God, the wind.' Hushed reverence, a sort of delicate holiness, almost surrounds the words. The religion within the story... [read more]