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Apr/May 2013

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Reviews & Interviews


(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

 

Ann Skea reviews...

The City of Devi
by Manil Suri
 
It would be easy to parody the events which make up the rest of this book. The miraculous escapes, the Bollywood style Devi celebrations, Jaz's camp cousin "Aunty" Rahim who helps them escape the Muslim Limbus thugs, the final sexual consummation which almost qualifies for nomination for the Bad Sex Award, and the predictable ending: all these are the stuff of Bond movies.

Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace
by Kate Summerscale
 
Henry already had a mistress and two illegitimate children, and he proved to be, in Isabella's words, an "uncongenial partner... uneducated, narrow-minded, harsh-tempered, selfish, proud." He also persuaded her to hand him control of the money that had been settled on her by her father.

Schroder
by Amity Gaige
 
With his glib account of his failings, his protestations of love for his estranges wife, and his hints of childhood trauma documented in interspersed fragments describing a childhood escape, with his father, from Communist East Germany, Eric Kennedy comes across as a self-serving sociopath.

Granta 122: Betrayal
edited by John Freeman
 
Janine di Giovanni, who has reported on wars for more than 20 years, begins "Seven Days in Syria" with her baby son, whose tiny nails she finds herself unable to cut. She charts this same sense of vulnerability in the lives of the Syrian people as she sees the effects of war gradually seep into their lives.

This Magnificent Desolation
by Thomas O'Malley
 
O'Malley writes about the recent past. The world in which Duncan and Maggie and Joshua live is not the fast-moving, high-rise, modern business world, and there is something of Steinbeck in his ability to capture the atmosphere of lives lived always on the edge of poverty, surrounded by loss and death.

The Ambitions of Jane Franklin: Victorian Lady Adventurer
by Alison Alexander
 
Jane, it seems, was not averse to lying or to doctoring her writings in order to present herself as a loyal, devoted, loving, and above all, ladylike and charming wife, but this does seem to have been the way most people who met her saw her. Perhaps earlier biographers were naive in taking her writings at face value, but Jane was certainly not the only writer to fudge the facts, and in the end Alexander's biography does nothing to reverse the accepted view of her character, it merely adds "ambition" to Jane's attributes

 

Gilbert Wesley Purdy reviews...

Song of the Departed: Selected Poems of Georg Trakl
by Georg Trakl, translated by Robert Firmage
 
Trakl had had a brief success, some years earlier, in Salzburg, having a one-act play performed and writing prose. Robert Firmage informs us, in the introduction to Song of the Departed, that "at this time Trakl began to wear dandified clothes and long hair and to spend hours at a time drinking wine in brothels and country taverns." But, upon the failure of a second play, he destroyed all he had written and concentrated entirely on his pharmacy studies at the University of Vienna, and his personal exploration of drugs.

Bender: New and Selected Poems
by Dean Young
 
But, with Young, there is more than a reader generally finds in such poems—more than is generally found in the many poets who would imitate him. His poems more often skirt meaning. He has clearly done the reading, as it were, and his considerable talent at having fun arrives, more than occasionally, at a juxtaposition that is a comment on itself and the times it so delightfully describes.

 

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