By: David Lewellyn
Published by: Seren
Eleven is a novel told entirely in the patter of a thread of inner-office emails. We experience the characters of the book through the emails they send; and some of the emails they don’t send (saved as drafts). It is an interesting way to structure a book and allows for many unreliable narrators to lead a mismatched series of events.
The emails are sent over one day, specifically September 11th 2001. We see the normal life in the office until the twin towers fall and then we see the shock that follows.
Yet even during the world-wide panic, the office workers continue through their day almost the exactly the same way as before the event. This seems to be a comment on how normal life can seem to go on, despite a massive global event that will have an effect on the world for decades. The book is also a comment on the general numbness of modern society, and the role technology plays in this. So no matter what happens on the news the characters remain mostly indifferent. Perhaps they have been numbed by constant dramatic reporting on even minor events.
The book is an interesting one- especially due to its layout. Unfortunately its layout can also be annoying in places and dampens some of the impact of the book.
By: seekers of lice
Publisher: if p then q
Published: October 2014
Encyclops is an intriguing trip into false scientific conclusions in an almost foreign language. Like the poet’s name, it manages to be ugly and beautiful at the same time.
The poems in Encyclops have their own special language. It is thick with scientific-sounding words; and other words with twisted meanings that have more to do with onomatopoeia than actual meaning or connotation.
Yet despite this oddly false and disorganised language; the book seems to be desperately trying to communicate with the reader. It’s garbled message is a romance with difficulty and the common human struggle. Political themes such as nuclear war are partially explored, allowing the reader to fill in the gaps. This makes it an incredibly challenging, but also intensely personal read.
In other places the text trips itself up with interruptions like a Caryl Churchill script.
The structure of the collection has underlined titles, followed by a short verse. There are many of these to a two paged spread. This creates the illusion of bitesized poetry; although thematically this probably expresses more about division within a single person or object (such as the book).
Encyclops is an exciting collection, and a key example of everything modern experimental poetry is.
Title: Everyone Knows this is Nowhere
By: Alice Furse
Publisher: Burning Eye Books
Published: October 2014
In world where university puts students £30,000 plus in debt, Alice Furse’s novel about a disillusioned, newly graduated woman is startlingly relevant. Furse writes with the weary weight of personal experience about a young woman trapped in a mundane job, despite her intelligence and university degree. The tedium of the job drives her (the un-named protagonist) to try and discover some kind of meaning in her life. This slow realisation forms the start of her journey.
The protagonist’s romantic relationship with a man known only as “The Traffic Warden” is a metaphor throughout the novel for her internal struggle- their relationship wavers parallel to her psychological journey. As their relationship grew out of meeting at university, this aspect becomes especially poignant when Furse chooses to describe the absurdity of the current educational system. The Traffic Warden relationship is also a gauge for the journey of the protagonist towards a mature understanding of herself and the outside world. This extended metaphor is amplified by the symbolism of the protagonist’s dreams- she dreams repeatedly of feeling trapped in her soul destroying job and tedious relationship.
Don’t worry- there are no New Age style revelations in the book. Instead it is about finding contentment in the ordinary and moving forward towards larger goals at a steady pace. Furse’s focus is how the characters ARE as themselves. She manages a large cast and range of characters with detail and characteristics that anyone who has worked in an office will recognise.
This book is for anyone who has done a degree and quickly become disillusioned with life after it. And that is a pretty broad audience.
Title: The Outsider
By: Various (edited by Neil Coombs)
Publisher: Dark Windows Press
No, not the novel by Camus or S.E. Hinton. Instead this book takes a piercing look into the worlds of tragically neglected artists, with an unmatched scope.
‘The Outsider’ looks at the work of outsider artists and includes essays written by the artists themselves.
Recently there has been a growing interest in the work of outsiders (artists working outside of the system of traditional education and galleries). This interest in itself is a contraversial issue with a catch-22 element. If outsider art becomes part of the mainstream, then how can it still be defined as being ‘outside’ of the art system?
There is also a lot of predjudice against the outsider label, as it can be used in a derogatory way- suggesting that outsider art does not take as much skill as academic art.
“The Outsider” tackles these issues by going directly to the artists for information. However it does also take on the analysis of outsider art by industry ‘professionals’.
The book mostly looks at artists troubled by mental health issues. It praises this intense ‘sometimes obsessional’ art and its ‘undeviating honesty’. Some of the artists use their work to escape into a ‘private world’ whilst others use art to express the grim realities of their illnesses. One woman creates art based on the commands of her spirit guide.
“The Outsider” covers art from all over the world, and in a massive variety of styles. Pencil sketches are included beside oil paintings and sculptures made of found objects. All of the art is reproduced beautifully- these images alone make the book stand out.
The essays in the book are secondary to the raw power of the artworks; but they all provide fascinating and independent perspectives.
Overall “The Outsider’ is a fierce decleration of war against the pitfalls of the contemporary art world.
By: Chrissy Williams
Publisher: If p then q
Released: March 2014
Epigraphs is exactly what the name suggests- a collection of various quotes that could be used as epigraphs. The range of the quotes covers authors, characters in novels, films, TV, comic books, interviews with famous people and social neworking posts. The art of the book is hidden in the arrangement of these quotes. They are not always linked thematically, yet they still manage to run on from each other in a cohesive narrative of sorts.
Chrissy Williams has taken advantage of a massive range of influences in order to create something fascinating. The book also has cultural relevance- showing how all of these pressing bites of information that surround us everyday can all be classfied as being about one thing- LIFE.
Title: A Ladder for Mr Oscar Wilde
By: Geoff Sawers, Peter Hay
Publisher: Two Rivers Press
This short pamphlet is an inventive mixture of biography, debate and imaginative pen and ink illustrations. The text mostly focuses on Wilde’s unfair incarceration in Reading Goal, as well as commenting on the prison conditions and politics of the 1800s. The main body of the text is punctuated by Peter Hay’s illustrations and small contextual notes.
A Ladder for Mr Wilde would be a fascinating text for anyone interested in Oscar Wilde’s writing, not just his poem ‘The ballad of Reading Goal’ but also the expansive range of poetry, prose and plays that Wilde produced before his incarceration. It is also an informative resource for anyone interested in the system of punishment in the UK; or the bitter history of those prosecuted for homosexuality before it became legal in 1967.
Title: Ten Thousand Things
By: Jeremy Toombs
Publisher: Burning Eye Books
Numberous reviews of Jeremy Toombs’ poetry have noted its similarities with the Beat poets and writers of the 1960s (this is also something Toombs acknowledges himself in the poem ‘Kerouac’). Yet a reading of ‘Ten Thousand Things’ reveals just as much common ground with traditional and romantic poetry. Toombs observes nature as well as human psychology. Although all of his poems are held together with rhythm (like the beats), they also take on many different forms and styles. The poems also carry an intense sense of place, inspired by Toombs’ own experiences whilst travelling.
My favourite poem of the collection is ‘Imagination’. It is the most vivid and urgent of the collection, and embraces the full range of Toombs’ topics and poetic devices. Maddness, nature, the sea and (of course) flights of imagination are all covered in this single poem. The entire poem clicks together to form one long sentence from a series of seperate lines. There is a definate beat- this must be one of the poems that encourages comparision between Toombs and the Beat poets.
Throughout the collection Toombs quotes many religious and poetic sources; presumably collected on his travels…and also the wisdom of Yoda (in fact there is an entire poem dedicated to Star Wars references (‘On Trying’).
A few of the poems are aided by erratic and sketchy illustrations. In places these help with the poems and their imaginative flow; but in other places the images only serve to impede the imapact of the words.
Overall ‘Ten Thousand Things’ is a varied read; but it has enough positive points to take a look at. It frequently provides a new or at least eccentric perception of the world.