ESSAY Something Spurious, Borrowed, Or Just Made Up

by Maddalena Vatti

Strangers I Know, a book about Durastanti’s family history and upbringing between Brooklyn and a small village in the south of Italy, starts off as an autobiography — or, rather, as a reflection on autobiography as a literary form itself — to transform into a shape-shifting text where the work on form and language is an ongoing, deliberate effort. Perhaps precisely because it is from a linguistic rupture that the author’s memories (and this book) originate: being born to deaf parents whilst also having to straddle two languages and places of origin. [read full essay]

ESSAY Permanent Victims

by Stuart Walton

Disaffected young men of the Westworld have begun to believe that everything is loaded against them. Their self-respect has been stolen from them, they believe, by women who won't look twice at them. Their innate physical strength and their yearning to take on leadership roles are redundant attributes, while the breakdown of all their relationships is invariably blamed on them. They have willingly become what they never imagined being — permanent victims. [read full essay]

‘It is, indeed, a terrible thing’

Sam Knight, The Premonitions Bureau: A True Story

reviewed by Lamorna Ash

A black-and-white photograph — landscape, extending over two pages. A woman takes up the right-hand page, her face and torso specifically. At first instance she reminds you of a young Cher, the same long features and dark eyes. The woman is also holding a landscape photograph. It shows a catastrophic incident: what was once a building now debris and ash and mephitic smoke, men in thick gloves standing by. The smoke hints at the sequential relationship between the disaster and the photograph.... [read more]

The Gap Between the Cymbals

László Krasznahorkai, trans. John Batki, Chasing Homer

reviewed by Gertrude Gibbons

‘Killers are on my trail, and not swans, of course not swans, I've no idea why I said swans.’ In the abstract to László Krasznahorkai's Chasing Homer, the speaker's voice is immediately put to question. They do not have control of what they are saying; they do not know why they are saying it. Their words run away with themselves, thoughts falling ahead or behind, as though mouth and mind are out of sync. In the background of these opening words are the falling beats of Szilveszter... [read more]

Murmurs of Change

Michael LaPointe, The Creep

reviewed by Jonathan Gharraie

Set in the year between 9/11 and the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, Michael LaPointe’s The Creep represents a quiet tiptoe back towards the most inescapable event of 21st-century history after several prominent rapid response novels about Donald Trump. There’s the slightest of narrative frames: retired cultural journalist Whitney Chase is visited in her office for a consultancy firm by a Vice writer covering the retrospective republication of The Bystander, a short-lived periodical that... [read more]

It's All Here

Fernanda Melchor, trans. Sophie Hughes, Paradais

reviewed by Trahearne Falvey

These days, it seems that few readers have much time for teenage boys. This is understandable: many teenagers’ minds are even more disgusting than their bedrooms, and it takes a writer as adept at controlling their gag reflex as Fernanda Melchor to venture in and see what might be causing the stink. In the International Booker-nominated Hurricane Season and, now, in Paradais (both translated by Sophie Hughes), she develops a convincing case that we should all be thinking a lot more about what... [read more]

Origins Again

Carlos Fonseca, trans. Megan McDowell, Natural History: A Novel

reviewed by Luke Warde

For all its experimental features, Carlos Fonseca’s Natural History, which follows his ambitious 2016 debut, Colonel Lágrimas, feels eminently familiar. The influence of a range of other innovators — Bolaño, Borges, Calvino, Perec, Piglia, Krasznahorkai, to name only a few — is page after page in evidence. Yet the presence of one writer in particular, W.G. Sebald, looms largest. Fonseca has stated in interviews his specific debt to the late German melancholic, and Natural History is... [read more]

Network Aesthetic

Douglas Coupland, Binge: 60 Short Stories to Make Your Brain Feel Different

reviewed by Diletta De Cristofaro

Ever since his debut novel published back in 1991, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, Douglas Coupland has built a reputation as one of the most perceptive and original commentators of the contemporary, one deeply in tune with popular culture. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that he should model his latest book Binge, his first work of fiction since 2013, after the quintessentially 21st-century activity of binge-watching. ‘I wanted to replicate with words that same sense of... [read more]

In Nothing But Their Shoes

Annebella Pollen, Nudism in a Cold Climate: The Visual Culture of Naturists in Mid-20th Century Britain

reviewed by Anna Neima

I started reading Annebella Pollen’s Nudism in a Cold Climate while standing in the queue to get my Covid booster. It was a long queue — snaking around the block and out to the park so that even those of us who had joined early had to wait several hours before we made it inside. But within minutes of cracking open the spine I noticed that my nearest neighbours were inching closer to me so that they could look over my shoulder. Perhaps they wanted to catch a glimpse of the two middle-age men... [read more]

Material Strangeness

Hanna Rose Shell, Shoddy: from Devil’s Dust to the Renaissance of Rags

reviewed by Nell Whittaker

Charles Dickens’s 1865 novel Our Mutual Friend opens with the poor but upstanding Lizzie Hexham in a skiff on the Thames with her father, who’s busy hauling waterlogged corpses from the water and removing the contents of their pockets. The river mud — the boat is ‘begrimed’ by the ‘slime and ooze’ of the river — is a form of primordial sludge, an undifferentiated mass from which may emerge wealth, with all its transformative promise. The novel — which is about money, class,... [read more]

I am scared I might stay like this forever

Thom Yorke & Stanley Donwood, Fear Stalks the Land! A Commonplace Book

reviewed by Emily Herring

In the year 2000 I was nine years old and I had already survived one apocalypse. It was foretold that as we made the switch to the new millennium, computers would no longer be able to tell what century we were in, and everywhere networks and software would crash. In our irredeemably computer-dependent society, this meant that planes would fall out of the sky, medical devices would fail, life savings would vanish from bank accounts, nuclear reactors would melt, and people would be stuck in... [read more]

Vampires in the Clubs

Leon Craig, Parallel Hells

reviewed by Lily Kuenzler

Within beauty, there is horror. Within horror there is beauty. This is the paradoxic at the heart of Leon Craig’s debut short story collection, Parallel Hells. Craig’s stories have an otherworldly sense of the supernatural: she writes of strange creatures, magical outsiders and uncanny happenings. Often, these folkloric elements are woven into a fabric of modern day debauchery — drugs, parties and sex. There are vampires in the clubs and the Devil is on acid. Though the stories nod to... [read more]