reservoirs of silence

a review of The Spokes by Miranda Mellis

Any text that tells a story also suggests a situation, but The Spokes shows a story submerged in its situation, such that a silence washes over it. We see the ship sink, and then, where it was, we witness the waters that bore it. Miranda Mellis’s writing is driven not by narrative logic but by magical acts of disclosure, of world-revealing. The Spokes is a story untold in its telling, unveiling an emergent whole. And for this reason it needs to be read all at once. As with any of Mellis’s works, to stop would be to break the spell, severing story from world. To resume after an interruption would be to read another text, just as we can’t return to our dreams in the daylight.

read the rest at 3:AM Magazine

the everyday as impenetrable

a review of Enrique Vila-Matas’ Dublinesque

If the book hints at Joycean encryption, it only does so to delight in misleading us. Ulysses buries its thematic workings, whereas Dublinesque raises them to the surface. Its deepest mystery lies in the way it insistently spells itself out. Whenever Riba sees a pattern, a parallelism, some figurative flourish, he can’t help but refer to it. For him, after all, literature is self-relation. As a result – and this is the real achievement of Dublinesque – literature is returned to experience. The novel is not a puzzle to be solved. It has always already solved itself, bringing what was buried back to life. This is a book in which things are no longer concealed; where writing and reading revivify whatever we thought was dead inside us. ‘You haven’t come to Dublin to turn yourself into a metaphor, have you?’ Riba is asked at one point. ‘That and so I can feel alive,’ he replies.

read the rest at ReadySteadyBook

mordant modernity

a review of Carl Cederström & Peter Fleming’s Dead Man Working

‘This book,’ assert authors Carl Cederström and Peter Fleming, ‘is about what it means to live and work in a dead world.’ The picture their research paints is of an ‘ideological coup’ in which work co-opts all sources of opposition. To detourn Derrida, these days there’s nothing outside of the office. Whether we call it ‘corporate social responsibility,’ ‘liberation management’ or whatever, work has attached itself to our inmost sense of ‘authenticity,’ corrupting our capacity for self-fashioning. As the authors put it, ‘work is no longer something we only do, but is also something we are.’ In consequence, ‘from now on, there is no such thing as a bad world, only a bad you.’

read the review at Mute

between positivism and magic

a review of Marek Bienczyk’s Transparency

Melancholy, Bienczyk muses, is determined by ‘divergent ways of seeing.’ The first is that of forlornly staring through a window, a familiar depressive habit, which arouses a sense of ‘seeing without having, a collision of sight and frustration.’ The depressive gaze reifies real experience, ‘crystallizing’ and ‘immobilizing’ it, as in an advert. However, there’s a second kind of melancholic sight, ‘the upward gaze,’ where we cast our eyes away from what pains us, toward heaven. Crucially, to turn our sight skywards isn’t escapism—after all, we’ll be brought back to earth once our necks start to ache. But in this ‘broken transcendence,’ we become briefly free of the world, without forgetting it.

read the rest at The Quarterly Conversation