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It’s difficult to describe the experience of reading Max Porter’s new novel “Lanny”, but it feels somewhere between “Reservoir 13” by Jon McGregor and an Ali Smith novel. In some ways it’s a simple story of family life in a small English village where a child goes missing. But it’s also about ancient elemental forces which periodically cause widespread chaos and test all the moral fibres which we believe hold our society together. Parents Robert and Jolie want their young son Lanny to develop his inherent artistic sensibility so bring him under the friendly tutelage of an aging famous local artist named Pete. The two develop a touching creative bond. But Lanny harbours many eccentricities and beliefs which centre around a figure of local legend named Dead Papa Toothwort. It’s a mystery whether this character from village lore actually exists in the story or is a figment of the eccentric boy’s imagination, but his presence is felt throughout the book as Toothwort takes in the sounds and voices of the village which physically twist throughout the pages of this novel. It’s a rapturous journey which slides from the emotional details of ordinary life to the deliciously surreal. 

That any new book by Porter is unclassifiable comes as no surprise given the highly innovative form of his debut “Grief is the Thing with Feathers”. Both his novels show the way guilt and inner pain distort reality and this is reflected in the way sentences and paragraphs are structured on the page. So reading Porter's books feels more like an experience as if staring at a sculpture where the form conveys as much meaning as the content. He has a talent for illuminating the inner workings and relationships of a family – especially the repercussions when there is an unexpected tragedy. But “Lanny” captures more the feeling of a whole community and how such an event can trigger the release of fear and prejudice to turn a village against itself. While it brings some people together, it also causes others to question who belongs: “Authenticity competitions, striving to be the one that most belongs here, guarding their own special spot in the picture. All this has shown what a bunch of wankers most people are.” In this way, this new novel engages more with the political mood of the country which has been especially preoccupied with questions about who is “authentically” English. At the same time it is a playful, funny and wickedly irreverent story making it such a joy to read. And, at its heart, there is a hopeful portrait of a sensitive boy who has the capacity to reshape the future.

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesMax Porter
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One of last year’s biggest literary breakouts was Leila Slimani’s Prix Goncourt winning novel “Lullaby” (known in the US as “The Perfect Nanny”). Her novel “Adele” was published in France before “Lullaby”, but it’s only now been translated and published in English. The heroine of this novel’s title is a journalist and mother with a steady husband. She appears normal and content, but running parallel to this stable life she has a secret existence filled with unruly passion and illicit affairs. She lazily does her job and barely musters the energy to get to the office every day. She resents her child and is turned off by her husband. All her passion is poured into furtive moments where men unleash their desire upon her because “Her only ambition is to be wanted.” This seemingly chaotic double life is untenable and there must be a breaking point.

Even though Adele’s case is extreme, her story is extremely relatable for the way we all harbour secret passions that we keep carefully concealed from those closest to us. She frequently resolves to turn her life around and devote more time to her husband and son, but finds herself drawn back into seedy behaviour because “Her obsessions devour her. She is helpless to stop them.” I admire how the psychological motivations for her behaviour are never neatly explained and there’s no clear-cut course of action or treatment to “solve” her habits. Instead, the novel shifts at one point to include the husband’s perspective more and shows how he has psychological hang ups as well which are preventing full intimacy and disclosure between them.

While it may not have the depth and poeticism of a novel like Garth Greenwell’s “What Belongs to You” which similarly explores the dynamics of someone driven by desire, I appreciated Slimani’s frankness in showing how eroticism can come to rule someone’s life. Adele isn’t driven by pleasure so much as a confrontation with mortality and a submission to the mechanisms of the body. This novel is a vivid study of how sometimes the relationships which are meant to support us are the ones which can lead to the annihilation of our innermost selves.

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesLeila Slimani
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Even though she ostensibly played a writer on TV, I first became aware of Sarah Jessica Parker’s real life passion for books a few years ago when she posted on Instagram about reading Lisa McInerney’s “The Glorious Heresies”. At the time I had great fun joking with Lisa how this novel could be developed into a “Sex in the City”-style TV show set in Cork because its gritty world of gangs, prostitution and drugs was so ridiculously far removed from the upscale life of sipping Cosmos and designer shoes depicted in that series. But Parker has taken her perceptive eye for great literature to the next level by starting her own imprint SJP under the publisher Hogarth.

I was particularly keen on reading “Golden Child” by Claire Adam, the second novel published by this imprint (in the UK it’s published by Faber & Faber) because it came adorned with blurbs by authors I really admire like Daniel Magariel and Sara Taylor. It’s a moving story of a family in Trinidad who have twin sons, one who develops into the most academically gifted boy in the Caribbean and the other who experiences severe learning difficulties. When one boy goes missing the novel turns into a tense mystery and kept me gripped wondering what was going to happen. But the heart of this novel revolves around questions about favouritism in families and the meaning of sacrifice for a child’s future.

It really pulls on my heartstrings when I read about children who are cast in a certain role within a family and forever carry the burden of those expectations. This works both ways for children who are generalised to be either smart/stupid, responsible/reckless, entertaining/dull or a whole host of opposing roles. The fact that the boys in this story are twins makes the contrast between them all the more vivid as well as the fact that they aren’t treated equally. What this novel shows so powerfully is that children don’t fit into one mould or another, but have unique personalities and quirks which ought to be considered in helping them to achieve their full potential. Only a kindly Irish priest named Father Kavanagh takes the time to see the value in the “problem” child Paul. I do wish more time had been spent fleshing out the character of his twin brother Peter and mother Joy, but the novel mostly focuses on Paul and his father Clyde.

Even though my sympathy naturally went with the children in this story it’s admirable how their father is still so complexly and engagingly depicted. He’s somewhat trapped in a family that’s torn apart by squabbling over inheritance and ardently wants to do the best for his children – despite categorizing them. As a working class man he knows the real value of money and doesn’t want to miss elevating at least one of his children out of the circumstances he was raised in. But he’s put in an impossible and dramatic position where he feels like he has to choose between them. The environment of his rural neighbourhood in Trinidad is depicted as crime-ridden where each house requires security devices and guard dogs to protect the families within.  At the same time, the author portrays the warmth, humour and (oftentimes gossipy) nature of the community.

This is a cleverly structured novel that powerfully portrays the complexities of family life and the difficult choices made in a strained environment.

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesClaire Adam
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In 2011, news broke worldwide about eight men belonging to a Mennonite Colony in Bolivia being convicted of a series of sexual assaults committed over several years. Over 130 girls and women had been knocked unconscious using an animal tranquilizer and raped by these men. The horror of these facts were amplified by the knowledge that these women were part of a tight knit isolated community and they were made to believe the attacks were the result of ghosts or demons punishing them for their sins. It’s difficult to imagine the challenges these women faced in such a perilous position, especially because this strictly religious and remote community was all they’d ever known. But Miriam Toews has written an “imagined response” to these incidents in a novel that records several women of three different generations secretly meeting in a hayloft to decide how they will proceed. The options are to do nothing, stay and fight or leave. They only have a couple nights to come to a consensus before the men return with the perpetrators who’ve been let out of jail on bail. It’s an urgent, impassioned conversation that considers issues of faith and the meaning of community/family. I found it so bracing how this novel asks what you’d do when the only world you’ve known has betrayed you so egregiously and robbed you of your humanity.

It’s clear from reading this Guardian interview how personal this novel is for Miriam Towes. Having lived in a Mennonite community herself, she feels “I’m related to them. I could easily have been one of them.” It’s impossible to know how anyone would react to an extreme situation like this and the many women portrayed all have very different reactions. At one point a particularly strong-willed character named Salome comments “our responses are varied and one is not more or less appropriate than the other.” They range from violent anger to pious acceptance to self-destructive despair. It becomes clear over the course of their discussions that these conversations are as much with themselves as with each other for the way they desperately seek to understand and respond to the position they’re in. To create such a multi-layered sense of inner dialogue within such a large cast of characters in such a short novel is truly impressive.

I felt I could understand all the women’s arguments at different points as they plotted out the positive and negatives to their potential course of action. Of course, instinctively I felt the women should leave or physically overcome this male-dominated community. But reading the women’s accounts I was forced to be confronted by the fact of what an extremely isolated existence they’ve lived. They’ve been raised to only know a way of life where they are completely dependent on the men in the village. They aren’t allowed money or an education. They can’t read or write. They’ve never seen a map of the outside world or seen the ocean. They can only even speak a derivative form of Germanic which isn’t spoken by anyone any longer except for Mennonites. So this village is literally their entire world and to leave it would take unimaginable depths of bravery. I was completely captivated by their dilemma and on edge throughout the novel wondering what they’d decide. I also warmed to them as a diverse group of individuals who argue, joke and care for each other in the course of their discussions.

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It’s interesting the way Toews handles the dilemma of how to record these women’s conversations when they can’t read or write. She solves this by narrating the novel from the point of view of a man named August, a Mennonite who lived for many years in England after his parents were excommunicated from the community but he re-joined it as a teacher. He conspires with the women recording their dialogue and assisting them in their plans. His presence adds another dimension to their conversations and another plotline as he has an especially close relationship with one of the women named Ona. It also reinforces the fact that the world has no access to these women’s voices and stories without being filtered through the perspective of a man. To hear these women conversing and have their stories recorded feels like the first step towards achieving a true form of independence and asserting their right to exist apart from the men who have always dominated and controlled their lives. Ona states at one point that “We are aware of many things, instinctively… but to have them articulated in a certain narrative way is pleasing and fun.”

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesMiriam Toews
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There’s been a notably high number of dystopian novels being published in recent years and it feels like this reflects a widespread anxiety. Novels such as “Station Eleven”, “The Country of Ice Cream Star”, “The Power” and “Hazards of Time Travel” have all taken very different approaches to creating scarily convincing counter-realities to our present landscape, especially in regards to misogynistic attitudes towards women. It’s always interesting to see how new dystopian fiction tries to create an urgent, radical dialogue with society today. The presumption being: if we don’t pay attention to what’s happening around us this nightmarish landscape might come sooner than we think. In the case of “The Handmaid’s Tale”, Atwood has famously said the novel contains nothing which hasn’t already happened in the world.

Prayaag Akbar’s debut novel “Leila” deals directly with issues of the caste system in India which has such a far-reaching, complex history and continues to incite horrific instances of violence. The novel takes the divisions between castes to the extreme where physical walls are erected to separate communities from each other, shore in resources for members of “elite” castes and strive towards a “purity” of race and social status. This is filtered through the perspective of Shalini who mourns the disappearance of her daughter Leila when she was suddenly lost after Shalini was seized and taken to a government-sanctioned reform camp. For years she’s secretly schemed how to find her daughter again amidst an aggressively conservative and strict system. Finally her plans might be carried out. We follow her journey as she puts her plot into action and recalls the horrific events which led to this dire situation.

I feel like some of the references in the novel were definitely lost on me because I have such a slim understanding of how the caste system works in India. There’s such a profusion of subcastes and subtleties to the way religion and social status play into how classifications of caste dictate the position of individuals in society that I sometimes felt disorientated and confused. I don’t think that mattered though because what carried me through the story was Shalini’s plight, the urgent concerns of motherhood and the egregious violence inflicted upon her mind and body. I felt the impact of her struggle and Akbar renders scenes of trauma with skilled clarity. Shalini was living quite a comfortable existence in a liberal lifestyle though she was aware that regressive attitudes and mob-like violence inflicted by a puritanical group called the Repeaters were increasing. But all this felt quite removed from her life until it reaches her doorstep and when it does it’s really effective.

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What’s particularly interesting about Akbar’s narrative is that, though Shalini is a very sympathetic character, it gradually becomes apparent that she has her own prejudices and ignorance about the suffering of members of different castes. At the same time, she’s just an ordinary woman whose primary concern is for the welfare of her daughter. But, when the political landscape changes and a woman named Sapna who used to be Shalini’s nanny has acquired a very different social position, Shalini is forced to consider what mental walls she maintained against others. While this shift might feel overstated at points, it’s nonetheless effective in creating a multifaceted story which is as riveting in its mystery as it is in prompting readers to consider how we might all possess forms of  blindness to the suffering of people who are different from us. Akbar’s writing also has a beautiful fluidity which is a pleasure to read. He formerly worked as a journalist and it’s striking how his concern for investigating social issues has now translated into fiction.

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesPrayaag Akbar
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The bold premise of Akwaeke Emezi’s debut novel is that it’s primarily narrated – not by Ada, the girl whose coming-of-age tale is at this novel’s centre - but from the perspective of multiple deities and cosmic forces that inhabit her. Ada’s parents are Saul, a Nigerian Catholic doctor, and Saachi, a Malaysian nurse, but Ada is also an ogbanje (child spirit destined to be born and die multiple times) and a child of Ala, an Igbo deity. As such, she doesn’t exist as a singular individual but a plurality of selves encased within one being. Ada’s life is plotted out to us from birth to young adulthood, but rather than following the nuanced emotion of her development we’re given details from the many spirits who inhabit her. The narrative alternates between a collective “we” and others who appear over the course of her life, especially a spirit named Asughara who crucially appears around the time of Ada’s puberty. These entities plot and scheme from within her, influence her actions, strategize to protect her and act as bemused witnesses to Ada’s human concerns. This radical choice in perspective demands that the reader accept their presence as a reality rather than imaginary manifestations of a troubled girl. In doing so, this courageous and inventive novel challenges Western assumptions about identity.

Being so ensconced in the perspectives of these spirits does create a curious distance from the central character. This is exacerbated by frequent references to her as “The Ada” rather than just Ada because they see her as a physical vessel who will only temporarily house them before they move on. Curiously, Ada is both central and secondary within the story as she herself describes: “In many ways, I am not even real. I am not even here.” Ada experiences many issues which other novels would expand upon in great detail such as self-harm, sexual abuse, an eating disorder, suicidal tendencies, bisexuality and being transgendered. However, rather than view these as conditions which need counselling or treatment, the narrative lists them as effects that arise out of Ada’s being inhabited by multiple spirits. This may frustrate readers who aren’t accustomed to considering issues in this way or having them treated so glancingly. Ada’s development is centred more on her being able to accept and coexist with these entities rather than seeking to suppress, ignore or dismiss them. The novel traces how she names these spirits which inhabit her and adopts different identity labels which best suit her because “When you name something, it comes into existence-did you know that? There is strength there, bone-white power injected in a rush, like a trembling drug.”

It’s refreshing how the novel approaches a story of fractured national and racial identity quite differently from novels that deal with similar themes. Where great novels such as “We Need New Names” or “Americanah” focus on the struggle of girls caught between two cultures, Emezi’s novel charts the way in which Ada comes to trust her inner reality rather than adjusting to what the external world wants to impose upon her. The supernatural state of being portrayed in “Freshwater” might be classified as an offspring of magical realism if this were not a term that has become so politically complicated and fraught. In his novel “Augustown”, Kei Miller wrote powerfully about the way this genre has become linked to Western views about supernatural stories that come from cultures deemed by some to be “primitive”. Emezi is forthright and unambiguous about the way she posits Ada’s story. It’s not a question of believing in the supernatural parts of her story, but in respecting the integrity of someone who comes from another culture.

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Less convincing is that fact that the novel doesn’t deal with morally complicated aspects of the Nigerian culture that Ada eventually identifies and reconnects with. Given the fact that Nigeria actively legislates against LGBT rights and by the end Ada identifies as transgendered, it feels troublesome that discussions of potential clashes don’t ever arise. Nor is it addressed how female circumcision was sometimes practiced to correct individuals who were thought to be ogbanje. Certainly these laws and practices don’t encompass the beliefs of the entire country and Igbo culture has a distinct tradition of same-sex couples. But nevertheless, it feels like the belief systems that Ada adopts after returning to Nigeria are somewhat idealized without allowing any room to question how they are sometimes practiced. I also took issue with the way Ada’s brief forays with same sex desire are only expressed through the creation of another entity that inhabits her who she names Saint Vincent. When Ada tries to kiss a girl it’s not with her own lips, but this man within her who uses her lips. That same-sex desire can only be realized through the mediation of gendered identities feels oddly regressive for a novel that in many other ways respects the integrity of the individual.  

Despite these reservations, the impassioned point of view and inventive writing in “Freshwater” is something very worth celebrating.

This post also appeared on Open Letters Review: https://openlettersreview.com/open-letters-review/freshwater-by-akwaeke-emezi

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesAkwaeke Emezi
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When Barbara Kingsolver’s excellent previous novel “Flight Behaviour” was published I remember her describing in an interview how she couldn’t imagine not addressing environmental concerns in her writing given the state of global warming. It’s been six years since then and her new novel “Unsheltered” also has environmental issues at its heart, but takes a different angle. The novel has two storylines woven together in alternating chapters that switch back and forth between the years 1871 and 2016. However, both stories are set within the same house in the community of Vineland. We follow the people who inhabit this plot of land in different centuries as they struggle with financial worries, reactionary politics and fractious family life. Through this Kingsolver creates a poignant dialogue with the past to show how some things change and others remain the same on both a personal and political level as society advances and evolves. What’s always so brilliant about Kingsolver’s writing is the depth of humanity she instils in her characters so that they feel very real and heartfelt.

I always find stories that frankly address the way average people must grapple with money trouble to be especially moving. So often books circumvent financial concerns by portraying privileged characters or they simply don’t address the issue at all. What Kingsolver seems particularly concerned in showing in this novel is the gradual disappearance of the middle class of America. The storyline that takes place near our present time focuses on a freelance journalist named Willa Knox whose family is on the brink of poverty despite the fact she and her husband Iano have worked hard their whole lives. Iano is a teacher at a university but he’s been unable to secure tenure. After a great tragedy their adult son Zeke who is a Harvard Business School graduate is left with an infant to care for on his own. Iano’s father Nick’s health is failing quickly, but Willa must painfully argue with their medical insurers to get the treatment he needs. The family partly subsists on food brought home by Willa’s daughter Tig from her job at a restaurant. Their house is literally falling apart around them and Willa often feels desperate despite having tried to make all the right choices to secure their family’s future. It’s a damning critique of the state of America that a family like this is crippled by financial pressures, but Kingsolver portrays their tenacity and warmth with wonderful insight.

The sections of the novel that take place during the 19th century also feature a central character struggling with money. Thatcher Greenwood is a science teacher whose new home has been shoddily built and he struggles to provide for his young wife and other members of their family. But he also grapples with the conservative religious values of his school who disallow him from teaching Darwin’s revolutionary findings and he’s eventually corralled into a gruelling public debate to defend the theory of evolution. He finds solace in befriending his neighbour Mary Treat, a biologist and real historical figure who assiduously observed and tested natural phenomena in her locality to the point of placing her finger in a Venus-flytrap for many hours to see if it’d feed on her! Mary Treat also kept a steady correspondence with Darwin himself. She’s a fascinating historical figure I’d never heard of before. Her surviving writing and letters attest to her pioneering scientific discoveries. Unfortunately, this historical section veers away from the budding relationship between Thatcher and Mary.

Scientist Mary Treat and a letter Darwin wrote to her.

Scientist Mary Treat and a letter Darwin wrote to her.

Kingsolver instead focuses on the murder case involving Charles Landis, a property developer who shot a journalist in cold blood after a critical article was published about him. It’s outrageous that Landis was judged in court to be not guilty based on temporary insanity. This is a significant and striking historical case and Kingsolver pointedly pairs it alongside the election of Donald Trump in the present day. But it unfortunately felt a bit too hastily crowbarred into the narrative so the author could make a statement. I feel it would have been truer to the story and integrity of its characters to keep Thatcher and Mary the focus of these sections instead. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating incident and it’s dismayingly noteworthy how bloated capitalists have criminally bent the law to their own purposes throughout American history.

Overall, the past and present sections are artfully woven together – a final phrase of each chapter creates the chapter title of every new section. These pairings combine to raise interesting questions about the meaning of history, progress and family. The question of shelter is explored throughout on a number of different levels from individual homes to the planet’s ability to provide to the way in which a country nurtures or neglects its people. These ideas are dramatically played out in the two families’ engaging stories. Kingsolver is wonderful at making shrewd observations about human nature whether it’s the process of grief “When someone mattered like that, you didn’t lose her at death. You lost her as you keep living” or humorously terse statements such as “Beautiful people liked to claim looks didn’t matter, while throwing that currency around like novice bank robbers.” She’s such a thoughtful and empathetic writer that I completely fall into her novels every time. “Unsheltered” is a book that’s fiercely concerned about where we’re going as a society, but offers a steely message of hope.

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
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Sally Rooney is a writer that stands out as the voice of young Ireland. The natural milieu of her characters are intellectual college educated women and men in their teens and twenties. From her first novel “Conversations with Friends” to her new Booker longlisted “Normal People” she presents their stories about grappling with relationships and finding a place in society with deceptively straightforward prose. While this runs the risk of appearing to have a parochial view of the world, it moreover reads as emotionally honest and engaging in a way that few writers can pull off. This new novel is the story of Marianne and Connell who come from very different socio-economic backgrounds. Connell's mother works as a cleaner at Marianne's family home. The differences in class seem an inconsequential part of their relationship at first, but as they get older it has more of an effect on how they connect to each other. The story charts the staggered journey of their bond from 2011 to 2015. You can read this novel for the insights it gives into modern life and the plight of a section of an emerging generation, but it's moreover a modern romance which meaningfully engages the reader in the characters' growth as individuals and tantalizes with the question: will they or won't they get together? 

Before I recently read this novel I went to literary event and bumped into the excellent writer Ruth Gilligan who remarked how it's not been remarked in many reviews how at its core “Normal People” works as a really gripping romance story. I wonder if literary critics are hesitant to acknowledge this fact out of a fear that Sally Rooney will appear like a less intellectual writer. It's something Rooney herself seems to grapple with as her character Connell discovers Jane Austen's novels and the pleasure of an old fashioned romance story. “Normal People” is really an updated version of “Pride and Prejudice” or “Emma” for the way it takes seriously the struggle to find a real emotional connection amidst societal influences. It asks questions such as to what degree does social perception factor into our private relationships? How does wealth and power influence our connection to each other? In what way are our current relationships hampered by the emotional baggage of our pasts? But these larger questions linger in the background without intruding upon the pleasures to be found in the plot of Rooney's story. Marianne and Connell's relationship is on a par with that of the great tortured romances in literature like Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler whose evident passion for each other is also stymied by circumstance and tragic misunderstanding. 

Rooney has a particular talent for writing about the quiet emotional core and inner conflicts of her characters without any flourishes or elaborate language. This struck me following the journey of her character Frances in “Conversations with Friends” and it's even more powerfully portrayed in Marianne whose complex toxic family situation is slowly revealed over the course of the novel. At one point she observes of Marianne that “She wants to tell him things. But it’s too late now, and anyway it has never done her good to tell anyone.” Rooney describes in this powerfully understated way how the most significant things are often left unsaid and how we hinder ourselves from forming lasting connections out of a fear of truly revealing ourselves. At the same time she shows how the nature of being dictates we are all locked in a struggle between our inner and outer realities: “In just a few weeks’ time Marianne will live with different people, and life will be different. But she herself will not be different. She'll be the same person, trapped in her own body. There's nowhere she can go that would free her from this. A different place, different people, what does that matter?”

It feels like Rooney is deeply suspicious of the elitism of some literary circles. At university avid reader Connell develops a desire to become a writer himself but he's wary that the apparent insights fiction appears to give might be false. As someone from a working class background he's especially cognizant of how class factors into who consumes literature. When attending a reading he observes: “It was culture as class performance, literature fetishised for its ability to take educated people on false emotional journeys, so that they might afterwards feel superior to the uneducated people whose emotional journeys they liked to read about.” At the same time, literature is a method of creating a cultural dialogue that he still wants to participate in. But I wonder if this instance also gives an insight into why Rooney is so steadfast in writing about characters that are young, intelligent and Irish rather than imaginatively inhabiting the lives of people who are radically different from herself. I can't imagine Rooney writing about the plight of a Syrian refugee as Donal Ryan does in his accomplished novel “From a Low and Quiet Sea”. I imagine this would feel to her like an act for the sake of appearances and showily engaging in cultural dialogue. That's not to say Connell's feelings are necessarily her own, but that it's striking in the two novels Rooney has produced that she's stuck to writing about the lives and concerns of a limited set of people. This doesn't demonstrate a lack of imagination, but the conscious intent of a talented writer. 

Since Donal Ryan is also longlisted for the Booker prize, it also seems interesting to compare “Normal People” to another Irish longlisted title “Milkman” by Anna Burns. Rooney and Burns have very different styles of writing and focuses - “Normal People” is set in rural Ireland and Dublin while “Milkman” is set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. But there's a striking coincidental parallel between the novels in that they both feature socially outcast female protagonists who read constantly to consciously escape their surroundings and develop relationships with men unwilling to label that relationship as committed. I don't know if this says anything significant about Ireland, modern social culture or the dynamic between men and women, but it's an interesting connection. While we can easily debate about the inherent worth of the Booker prize and the choices that the judges have made in their longlist this year, I enjoy how the prize has prompted me to read these new novels in close proximity to each other. But regardless of book prizes or literary culture in general, “Normal People” is a wonderfully engaging novel. 

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesSally Rooney
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The narrator of “Milkman” has the geekishly endearing habit of reading while walking wherever she goes. This 18 year-old wills herself to be completely removed from her time and the unnamed city in Northern Ireland she inhabits by concentrating on novels from the 19th century. Her desire to be elsewhere and invisible is understandable given that the atmosphere around her is extremely tense. She lives amidst The Troubles where there are car bombs, executions, surveillance and stringent (spoken and unspoken) rules in place where everyone must carefully navigate the “religious geography”. But she’s not able to fully extricate herself from her surroundings. One day at the beginning of the novel she becomes very conspicuous when she’s accosted by a shady character known as Milkman. Thereafter she’s the subject of vicious assumptions and suspicion. The way this novel rigorously catalogues and artistically renders the frustration and injustice of being raised within a divided war-torn country is admirable. Unfortunately I often found the actual experience of reading it to be frustrating and tedious at times, but I was carried through by sparks of genius that periodically shined throughout the story.

It’s difficult trying to describe my feelings about this book because its dense style is the thing that makes it a great as well as a challenging read. Both the author’s use of language and the text on the page is so tightly packed in it’s as if all the narrator’s irresolvable thoughts and emotions have exploded out. One publicity blurb I read described her writing as like that of Eimear McBride meets Edna O’Brien which is totally apt. Her writing isn’t as fragmented as McBride, but it does give the feeling of wading through a very thick body of water. I get how this reflects the narrator’s dilemma of being trapped in this community and the personal injustice she suffers being dragged into politics she wants no part of. It’s effective while conveying moments of fierce anger and wry comedy. However, there are also long periods of the narrative where I felt so bogged down with descriptions of the conduct and rules for existing in such strained circumstances that I was put off from reading any more.

The readability of the novel isn’t helped by the fact that almost everyone’s proper name is withheld as if naming them might dangerously implicate them in some way. Again, this is an effective technique for conveying the milieu of the narrator’s city and it does serve as an important part of the plot but it makes it quite difficult to fully envision the characters as rounded human beings. Where this element did feel effective for me was in the comic portrayal of the narrator’s younger sisters who are a single chorus of voices seeking to control the narrator by repeating edicts dictated by their “mammy” and sporadically showing a distinct sophistication beyond their young years. It also comes as a relief later on in the novel when central characters who feel so emotionally muted demonstrate hidden depths and concealed desires rather than just being unnamed beings.

There were certain sections which seized my attention and I spent a lot of time rereading them to try to fully take in their rich complexity. For instance, there’s a passage about the danger and difficulty of standing out as an individual in this combative landscape: “part of normality here was this constant, acknowledged struggle to see. I knew even as a child – maybe because I was a child – that this wasn’t really physical; knew the impression of a pall, of some distorted quality to the light had to do with the political problems, with the hurts that had come, the troubles that had built, with the loss of hope and absence of trust and with a mental incapacitation over which nobody seemed willing or able to prevail. The very physical environment then, in collusion with, or as a result of, the human darkness discharging within it, didn’t itself encourage light. Instead the place was sunk in one long, melancholic story to the extent that the truly shining person coming into this darkness ran the risk of not outliving it, of having their own shininess subsumed into it and, in some cases – if the person was viewed as intolerably extra-bright and extra-shiny – it might even reach the point of that individual having to lose his or her physical life.” This is a beautiful and heady way of describing the nature of growing up in this violent environment and coming to understand that the standard code of practice which no one dares oppose is the thing which is strangling the humanity out of this community.

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Another exquisite section lays out the duality of existing in this conflicted city: “There was no getting away from views and of course, the problem was these views between the areas, between one side and the other, were not just the same. It was that each was intolerant of the other to the extent that highly volatile, built-up contentions periodically would result from them; the reason why too, if you didn’t want to get into that explosive upsurge despite your view which you couldn’t help having, you had to have manners and exercise politeness to overcome, or at any rate balance out, the violence, the hatred and the blaming – for how to live otherwise?  This was not schizophrenia. This was living otherwise. This was underneath the trauma and the darkness a normality trying to happen.” This is such a complex way of conveying the inner struggle people feel in this environment, but following the author’s circuitous logic can be too laborious at times.

Mostly what pulled me through “Milkman” was the deep sense of empathy I felt for the narrator. She must suffer the indignity of being characterized as a certain type of person by her family, friends and community just because a disreputable thug sidles up to her without an invitation. I really felt her turmoil as once the public opinion had been decided there was no way for her to escape it. All she wants is to remove herself from it, but there’s no way for her to escape this toxic environment. The trauma that results from being forcibly pulled into such a self-conscious drama is poignantly reflected in her viscous narrative. I just wish it was able to maintain its effectiveness while also being more readable.

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesAnna Burns
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It’s risky when poets become novelists. When a writer transitions from focusing on language and metre crafted into carefully honed short pieces to a sustained storyline centred on characters and plot, there’s a danger that the author’s ideas won’t show as robustly. Of course, there are plenty of poets who successfully wrote in both forms (such as Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Plath or Ben Lerner) and many books utilize elements of each form to gloriously withstand categorization (like Virginia Woolf’s The Waves). 

Katharine Kilalea is a South African writer who moved to the UK where her poetry collection One Eye’d Leigh was nominated for multiple literary awards.OK, Mr Field is her debut novel which follows the beleaguered existence of its eponymous hero after a train accident that leaves him incapable of carrying on his career as a concert pianist. In some ways, this feels exactly like the sort of novel a poet would write: it’s meandering, image-focused and its characters remain vague outlines. But in other ways it’s crafted more like a philosophical or surrealist novel that seeks to defy metaphor and psychologically describes the difficult feelings of the solitary protagonist. 

Mr Field was a renowned European musician, but after his debilitating accident he decides to uproot himself and his wife Mim to Cape Town where they reside in a replica of Le Corbusier’s ‘Villa Savoye’, set on the coastline. The long horizontal windows and free floor plan allow views of the sea. But Mim disappears fairly quickly leaving behind notebooks filled with trite descriptions comparing the ocean to the rhythms of human existence. Rather than seek out what has become of his wife, Mr Field sinks into a contemplative, directionless and lonely state, imagining the voices of birds or a dog or a widow named Hannah Kallenbach.

He obsessively lingers outside Hannah’s window preferring a muted form of observation rather than actually interacting with her. The very logic and rhythms of his existence are modulated by the modernist structure he resides within and the construction of a tower near his own property. This is no doubt highly influenced by the many years the author has spent working in an architecture practice and her current pursuit of a PhD focused on the experience of space in poetry. It allows for many interpretations and meanings as Mr Field is caught in an ambiguous state between fogginess and clarity, dreams and reality, life and death. Stripped of his passion he has become a stranger to himself and lacks a motivation in his life. He seems to want all the comforts of a home and a relationship but without engaging with real people. In this limbo-state he might be “a part of the unhappiness that’s come apart from the total mass of unhappiness” but outwardly he is essentially fine or at least “OK”.

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Some of the most effective parts of the novel are the descriptions of Mr Field’s new relationship to music. His old piano - which had always inspired him in the past - becomes an object of resentment. He was never enthusiastic about playing Chopin’s famous Prelude or “Raindrop” piece which he feels verges on sentimentality. But now, with his injured hand, when he tries to practice this piece of music again it’s like his hands work as if they are unknown to each other: “the way my hands moved in relation to each other. They seemed to understand something about the piece that I had never understood myself. Before, they had been a pair, operating together, but now they were independent.” And the repeated A-flat note that is meant to simulate the steady sound of raindrops becomes a backdrop to Mr Field’s story just like the waves outside his windows. They are a reminder of the dull persistence of time amidst personal loss and riotous emotions. Mr Field, however, seems to feel curiously resistant to their being interpreted as such. It’s this tension: the desire to exist without residing within any larger symbolic meaning which makes the story of this novel so disarmingly innovative as well as frustrating in how it eludes meaning. 

This is a deeply meditative novel whose curious tone teases out tantalizing questions about how we position ourselves in the world and about the gap between our inner and outer realities. The story knowingly resists any form of logical plot or certain conclusions. It’s a book that readers will most probably find either richly engaging or frustratingly tedious.

This review also appeared in the Open Letters Review: https://openlettersreview.com

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
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I hugely admire a book that can be so brazenly sexual and plunder the depths of personal experience to tease out meanings that are profound and revelatory. Richard Scott’s book of poetry “Soho” demonstrates a full frontal engagement with queer experience while vigorously searching for a gay lineage and history to connect to. In its opening poem 'Public Library, 1998' the poet performs an Orton-Halliwell stunt of defacing library books to insert the “COCK” and gayness into literature as well as highlighting queer subtext. The final long poem ‘Oh My Soho!’ documents a search for that history in the present-day manifestation of a queer community that feels in some was disconnected from its past. There’s a potent anger in how “We’re a people robbed of ancestors – they were stolen, hooded, from us” through stigmatisation and death by criminalization and disease, but also how reformed queer identity has become: “We, too, are not immune to this shameful progress; us homos are no longer revolting!” The double meaning of this line is blistering in its recognition of progress, but at the expense of behaviour which has been sanitised by heteronormative practices and a lack of political engagement. Scott seamlessly treads between the personal and political to create poetry that burns hot pink. This poetry gripped me, turned me on, made me teary-eyed and left me grinning.

In one of my favourite poems 'Sandcastles' a scene plays out where a family at a playground is encroached upon by a “tall gent”. The narrator self-consciously migrates between the identities of the people there to engage in furtive public toilet sex or become a nurturing influence to a girl building sandcastles or become the girl playing in the sand. So there is a mind-blowing simultaneous embodiment of these contrasting feelings of perversion and innocence. One of the most gut-wrenchingly emotional poems 'crocodile' describes what it is to have survived sexual trauma “I have died already and somehow survived” but tragically being made to feel like your tears are not valid. Several poems describe the negotiation between the childhood self and the fully-cognizant sexually-active adult. Some focus on how childhood abuse can be transformed into adulthood fetishes like in the poem ‘under neon lights my arms glow scar-‘ while others explore dark feelings of self-loathing “I hated still hate this body”.

Other poems have a much more light-hearted nature and poke fun at the cult of poetry such as 'Permissions' which invokes the community of chap books and poetry slams where poets freely fuse together imagery to titillate, disturb, connect or grieve “collecting rapey verse like a tramp pocketing bin-butts”. Another poem sees the poet critiquing himself for co-opting theorists and writers after having just presented a series of poems re-imagining the love poetry of Verlaine and splicing in quotes from writers such as Walt Whitman, Kosofsky Sedgwick, Mark Doty, Michael Foucault and Jean Genet. Scott lambasts himself ‘shame on you faggot for bending whitman to your will” in a way that endearingly shows he’s not taking himself too seriously while writing about serious things.

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Throughout the book there is a rigorous engagement with sex, the body and desire. These include feverish poems which celebrate the act such as ‘slavic boys will tell you’ whose format on the page takes on the evocative shape of a mushroom. But frequently there is a sense of sex being mixed with violence or death. One of the most striking is the poem ‘you slug me and’ whose startling invitation “ask the terrible questions of my flesh” describes how violence in sex can be a means towards self-discovery. Another poem ‘you spit in my mouth and I’ takes on a Jean Genet-like mentality to discover levels of beauty in sexual degradation. An entire section of the book includes poems focusing on shame as a complex attendant to sex, especially for gay people. Scott describes “those pre-grindr days when loneliness stung like a hunger” and how “my head's a cloud and my heart's a puddle”. The triumphant final poem ‘Oh My Soho!’ describes the desultory sensation “I’m chock-full of shame, riven with dark man-jostling alleyways, a treasure map of buried trauma.” An ever-recurring need for sexual gratification makes it seem as if we are condemned to a state where “this desperate place... is your home now”. But the poem 'the presence of x' epitomises Scott’s rejection of religion and “heteronormative bullshit” out of a commitment to “believe in sex the blue hours you've spent fucking me the bruises you left on my arms”. This results in an individual who gazes askance at society to resolutely declare “I am the homosexual you cannot be proud of”.

It’s so heartening to see a fresh generation of poets like Richard Scott, Andrew McMillan and Danez Smith whose writing engages with the dimensions and politics of queer identity in refreshing new ways. I loved reading this playful, moving and riotous poetry collection. 

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesRichard Scott
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Basing a psychological thriller around a nanny who murders the children she cares for makes for a terrifyingly effective sensational story, but where “Lullaby” by Leila Slimani really excels is in its sophisticated take on classism, privilege and isolation in modern-day Paris. The novel opens with the discovery of young children Adam and Mila who have been slain by their nanny Louise. How Louise came to become an integral part of this family’s life and felt driven to this gruesome end is deftly explored throughout the story. Busy professionals Myriam and Paul grow increasingly distanced from the care of their children and the upkeep of their home once they hire Louise. The tension between the couple’s personal and professional relationship with the hired help is tested over time until the nanny’s position as an intimate familiar within the household becomes untenable. This is a fast-paced gripping tale that raises a lot of provocative questions.

It’s interesting how when a horrendous tragedy like the one depicted in this novel occurs one branch of public opinion will inevitably ask “How could the mother let this happen?” Obviously this a judgemental and loaded question, but if it’s going to be asked why don’t people also ask how the father could let this happen. It points to a continuing misogynistic view that it’s the mother’s position to care and protect for children. Slimani sensitively portrays how Myriam finds her passion at being a talented and skilful lawyer outweighs her desire to participate in the daily parenting of her children. Since Louise is so talented and capable in her domestic work eventually “Myriam lets herself be mothered.” Since Myriam’s husband Paul is equally ambitious in his career it presents a dilemma that many parents must face when trying to balance family life with their professions. Yet, the reality is that many hired child minders come from low-income or impoverished backgrounds where nannies have to abandon caring for their own families to work caring for other children. This creates a conflict where both the parents and the child-minders are driven into an emotional quagmire.

I had the wonderful privledge of having lunch with Leila Slimani.

I had the wonderful privledge of having lunch with Leila Slimani.

I found it particularly effective how Slimani portrayed the struggles of the circle of nannies who Louise encounters. Her friend Wafa who works as a child-minder is in such a desperate situation she’s basically been reduced to indentured servitude or slave labour. She remarks to Louise: “They pay my rent, but in exchange I can never say no to them.” This power dynamic is complicated by the intimate relationships which develop between the carer and the children/parents. Nannies are treated in some ways as part of the family, yet they are also an employee. Louise’s purportedly liberal-minded employers are only prepared to extend their empathy for Louise’s particularly precarious situation to a certain extent. At the same time, it’s entirely understandable that these hard-working parents don’t comprehend Louise’s situation and it’s believable that Louise tries to hide the reality of her situation. The tragedy at the heart of this novel is that we live in an imbalanced capitalist system where the privileged want to believe they’ve hired a Mary Poppins, but nannies are obviously real and complicated individuals. 

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesLeila Slimani
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It’s a challenging thing to write about ordinary modern life and daily interactions with friends without making it seem frivolous. Part of me was unsure what to feel about “Conversations with Friends” by Sally Rooney at first because so much of the story casually follows the lives of a group of relatively privileged friends. The novel is narrated from the perspective of introverted young poet and university student Frances. She and her performance poetry collaborator/ex-girlfriend Bobbi befriend journalist/photographer Melissa and her semi-famous/effortlessly handsome husband Nick. Frances describes her time with this group of people as they attend book/art gallery launches, parties or holidays in France – all while conversing about politics, popular culture and gossip about each other. In particular, the story focuses on Frances’ challenging affair with Nick and the effect this has upon everyone around them. The novel builds a subtle power as it traces the disconnect between what we say, how we act and what we’re really feeling. She shows how it usually takes time and distance to really understand the meaning of what we felt and our friends’ different positions. It’s striking the way Rooney captures the sense of alienation we can feel within friendships where we often struggle to converse about the things that really matter.

This novel reminded me somewhat of Belinda McKeon’s recent novel “Tender” about the tumultuous friendship/affair a woman named Catherine had with her primarily homosexual friend James during their university years. It also felt in some ways similar to Eimear McBride’s “The Lesser Bohemians” about a young woman’s heart-wrenching tryst with an older actor. All these novels meaningfully portray the voices of refreshingly new young female perspectives on modern Ireland, but use quite different styles and focus on very different ideas. While ostensibly about romance, these stories are about women who aren’t as interested in establishing a long-term partner or husband as relating to their sexual partners as friends. They also poignantly portray the realities of sex in new ways. As well as recording conversations, Rooney includes different kinds of text messages or emails some characters send to each other. It’s easy to read different things into the phrasing of these communications and it feels familiar how Frances spends time puzzling over their real meaning as well as composing, deleting or not responded to certain messages. It’s also poignant how Frances encounters real difficulties in her life such a painful medical condition, her father’s alcoholism and strained financial circumstances, but finds it difficult to confide these matters to her friends.

Something that struck me about this novel was the way Catherine quite often feels emotionally slighted by Nick, but seldom thinks to consider the feelings of her ex-girlfriend Bobbi and how this affair might be impacting her. It seems like we often default to a state of victimhood where we feel we’re not receiving the attention we believe we deserve yet don’t realize how emotionally neglectful we’re being about people close to us that we take for granted. This leads to a lot of darkly searching questions about the real meaning of friendship and its limitations which is something I’ve been thinking about a lot since also reading Lionel Shriver’s new novella “The Standing Chandelier” so recently. I really appreciated the way “Conversations with Friends” shows how we don’t often understand our own feelings until we’re confronted with trying to communicate them to someone close to us. It’s a challenging, ever-evolving process, but this novel movingly shows how it’s one which can help us to personally grow and connect to each other. 

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesSally Rooney
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I don’t often listen to audio books, but I decided to read “4321” this way because it’s over a thousand pages long and Paul Auster narrates the novel himself. For me, it’s definitely a different experience listening to a book (as opposed to reading a physical copy) and I doubt I would have finished reading this book if I weren’t listening to it. Not all long books justify their lengths and I don’t think “4321” does this - but that’s not to say there aren’t a lot of great things about this novel. I understand why Auster wrote it as such an epic. This allowed him to fully flesh out the central concept of the novel where we follow four different possible lives that a single adolescent boy might have lived if chance had steered him in one direction or another. The novel periodically flips between these alternate timelines so the reader experiences them all simultaneously. It’s effective in realizing the poignancy of Auster’s idea where one small twist of fate can change the course of a person’s life forever, but it weighs the overall novel down with so much detail and repetition (do we really need to read about this boy’s puberty multiple times?) that it makes the experience somewhat tedious.

If I read this novel in physical form I would undoubtedly have become distracted with the less engaging parts like the numerous geeky tangents about baseball and put the novel down. But listening to it I could let my mind drift and then re-engage when it gets to juicer or more fascinating sections. The set up for the novel is excellent where we learn about the different generations preceding the novel’s hero Archibald Isaac Ferguson with its many family deceits that feel like a fantastic Russian drama. At one point in his youth Archibald or “Archie” falls out of a tree and breaks an arm. This causes him to obsessively consider how things might have been different if he'd only reached a bit further of a branch or never climbed up the tree at all. From there, the four different threads of his life branch out. Each diversion also dramatically changes the course of life for his family as well. This plays out most poignantly with his parents who various stay together or separate. For instance, it was fascinating thinking how his father's misfortune might have allowed his mother to develop more as an independent individual and an artist.

However, a difficulty with dividing the story into different possible life routes is that Auster uses each of the four threads to ponder separate large scale social issues. So different threads variously explores issues like racism or sexuality, a sporting life vs the writing life, political engagement vs apathy. While there's nothing wrong with the content of these it began to feel a little too neatly divided for me and it seemed like the author was controlling the course of the story to consider these things rather than letting Archie's life flow in a way that felt more natural. I've heard Auster has claimed Archie's story isn't autobiographical, but the outline of Archie's life as a Jewish boy coming of age in the 60s on the outskirts of NYC does sync quite closely with Auster's. I wonder if this book would have been more successful if he'd written it as an autobiography where he considered several different plausible outcomes for his life if he'd made different choices. This would also make Auster's tangents about baseball or the writing process (he even includes an odd experimental short story which seems like something Auster might have written as a precocious younger man) feel more natural. As Archie comes of age throughout the 60s a heavy amount of references to larger social events are sprinkled throughout the text and sometimes these feel clunkily plonked in as if the author were grabbing at old news headlines found on microfiche. All these points of reference and the many lists of specific cultural films, writers and artists from the time could have been more naturally incorporated into an autobiography.

One interesting historical scene this novel included was poet Robert Frost's slightly improvised poem read for John F. Kennedy's 1961 inauguration.

Like Haruki Murakami, Auster feels like the quintessential young reader's writer. This is the first book I've read by him in more than a decade. I read his novels heavily in my early 20s and that seems like the right time. By that I don't mean his writing isn't sophisticated. I found it really meaningful how “4321” naturally raises a lot of compelling questions about the nature of personality – how much is essential and how much is malleable? Also, the novel gets at the wonder of how a path in life can take such unexpected courses even when we think we can predict which way it will go. There are some excellent nuanced characterizations and psychologically insightful scenes. However, overall the voluminous detail and commitment to heavily fleshing out each thread of Archie's story tested my patience as it felt like it wanted to continue expanding endlessly rather than arching toward a natural end.

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesPaul Auster
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I’ve been taking time with the poems in this collection for a couple of months. This is such a short book, but I often find I need to be in the right headspace to really hear what a poet is saying. Since I read so much fiction I find it difficult not to read a narrative into a collection of poems. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing this, but it feels to me like the primary aim of poetry isn’t to tell a story that can be easily summarized. It’s more like an artistic arrangement of language that should wash over you. Nevertheless, if I had to describe an overarching theme to the moving poems in this collection I’d say it’s about dealing with a mother’s death. The collection is prefaced by a quote from Freud: “The loss of a mother must be something very strange.” The poems frequently delve into the complex psychology of trying to understand this sometimes embattled relationship, especially after death. A cluster of the poems at the centre of the book give nods to Freud. Just how or why the mother died isn’t entirely clear although there are indications of self-harm or suicide: “People you love can be removed from the world (They can remove themselves).” But the overarching impression of these poems is of someone dealing with that grief, reflecting on the condition of loss and the way she still carries the presence of this lost mother.

Part of the reason these poems feel so painfully personal is the way the daughter narrating can sometimes lambast herself for not being self sufficient and for needing a mother that she can’t have. There’s also a frustration at not being able to accurately translate into language all the riotous emotion which accompany this state of being as in the poem ‘Drunken Bellarmine’: “I cannot make manifest this collection of feelings, but look at me: I want to be loved for the wrong reasons. I mean I want to be hated for the right reasons. I have been lonely.” There’s the anguish of being left alone even though she intellectually understands death and accepts this, but it can never be fully accepted. This causes her to perceive the mother as both a care-giver and a tormenter. She imagines the mother sneering down at her “We all have to die sometime, Your Majesty”

This creates a dialogic within the narrator where she understands the departed mother’s point of view, but she can’t reconcile the reality of it. This creates within her a split sense which prompts Berry to write some of her more technically ambitious poems. Some take the form of scripted plays where there is a conversation between Me One and Me Two. It also inspires a lot of imagery looking at water or reflective surfaces where the inner and out life blur into each other. Other poems suggest how she retreats infinitely inward like in the poem ‘Two Rooms’ where she exists “in a room inside a room” and only once within these walls within walls can she feel “safe.”

From a localized story of grief, these poems expand out to meaningfully consider larger issues of love and relationships. The fact that the people we love are capable of surviving without us can feel like a betrayal. Although we’re aware these feelings are entirely selfish it doesn’t detract from the pain of knowing people’s lives can carry on without our being a part of them. In the poem ‘Once’ which narrowly trails down the page she writes: “I sent my loved ones away & kindly they went I imagined them active in my absence & it was like rehearsing my death their capacity for survival was thus proved & mine too insultingly so”. The converse perspective of this is that we are also able to survive without our loved ones if forced to do so and if we can find the strength to carry on. The final poem ‘Canopy’ beautifully encapsulates a possible strategy for doing so.

I really connected with this collection. These are poems worth lingering over.

You can hear Emily Berry read her poem ‘Everything Bad is Permanent’ here: https://soundcloud.com/faberbooks/everything-bad-is-permanent

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AuthorEric Karl Anderson
CategoriesEmily Berry