Weekendnotes, Feb. 17-18

On Saturday mornings, Splice rounds up the previous week’s best literary criticism and serves it up to you in a single dish. You didn’t have any plans for the weekend, did you?

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In home news, the current issue of the ABR carries a review of Garry Disher’s Her by Splice masthead contributor Anna MacDonald:

Disher imagines a world in which small girls are sold by their desperate families and enslaved to men such as the brutal ‘scrap man’ – ‘a schemer, a plotter, a trickster’ in whom ‘nothing … rang true except rage and self-pity’ and who profits from the labour of womenfolk known as Wife, Big Girl, You, and Sister.

Anna’s review of Jorge Consiglio’s Southerly, translated by Cherilyn Elston, will appear here on Splice on Monday; in the meantime, you’ll need to be an ABR subscriber to read the full review of Her.

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Also in home news, masthead contributor Thea Hawlin interviewed the Italian writer and translator Livia Franchini for Review 31:

At worst, bilingualism can feel immensely frustrating – a sort of lingering incompleteness that can be really incapacitating for a writer, because you never feel quite in control of any one language. At best though, straddling two languages and cultures can generate new productive space for political thought and action in writing.

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This was a good week for Review 31; also worth checking out over there is Marc Farrant’s review of J.M. Coetzee’s Late Essays, 2006-2017:

…this collection will no doubt be taken by the reading public at large as reaffirming Coetzee’s canonical status as cosmopolitan sage. Such a characterisation nevertheless risks reinforcing, from the other side of the coin, an image of elitism and conservatism inherent to any notion of the canon. This might be corroborated by the fact that, with the exception of Némirovsky, the authors in this collection are all male and predominantly white and European. To judge Coetzee’s criticism accordingly, though, is to miss the subtlety and nuance of his writing; a subtlety that also makes him less a ‘World Writer’ and more a worldly writer, less concerned with a homogenising discourse and more with repudiating the narrow-minded ideologies behind national cultures.

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And on that note, Steve Mitchelmore has a typically lucid take — albeit a counterintuitive one — on Coetzee’s The Schooldays of Jesus and Elizabeth Lowry’s review of the novel in the Guardian last year:

While not being a major enthusiast for his work, I have often defended Coetzee from the reviewing consensus on his post-Disgrace novels (which, it should be emphasised, is essentially a British consensus). Except those novels are still clearly of this world, engaging with the meat industry, autobiography and relationship triangles, so the criticism seemed churlish. In both of these [ie. the Jesus] novels, however, defence is not so easy, as one proceeds as if over a desert gradually populating with generic CGI figures and buildings, familiar in many ways and yet obviously a construct; a science fiction landscape denuded of that genre’s imaginative twists and flourishes.

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Meanwhile, at the University of Reading, Eimear McBride has been blogging her adventures in the Samuel Beckett archives, as the inaugural recipient of the Beckett Creative Fellowship:

By the time he gets to ‘The Unnamable’ Beckett seems to me to have reached the distillation of his own voice and yet, in later years, he claimed to be unable to recognise himself as its author anymore. Happily, for the reader, that’s neither here nor there. As a writer though, and one with the opportunity to look at how much work went in to everything Beckett set himself to, that’s quite depressing.

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Lastly, two interviews on new work pushing the boundaries of literature. At 3am Magazine, Jacob Siefring sits down with B.R. Yeager to discuss Yeager’s Amygdalatropolis, which Siefring calls “the most sickening, most dangerous, and most thrilling book I have read in quite some time”:

BRY: The three different styles were pretty much there from the start. It emerged naturally. Structure is incredibly important for me — I don’t do a lot of plotting, but I put a lot of work into making sure different threads relate to or reflect one another. And I think it’s just more interesting to have multiple styles informing each other and breaking up the text. The book I’m currently working on uses a variation of this technique, employing three rotating first-person narrators. It’s also likely a cover for some of my deficiencies — it’s easier for me switch between styles to convey something rather than being restricted to just one.

JS: The constant switching captures a little of what it feels like to split one’s attention, constantly jumping between different texts, speed reading or scanning. Likewise, a lot of the text in Amygdalatropolis isn’t really meant to be read but skipped over, visually registered.

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And, at Minor Literature[s], Isabel Waidner talks to Thom Cuell about Liberating the Canon, the anthology of experimental writing she has recently edited for the micropress Dostoyevsky Wannabe:

Form should be an extension of content. Instinctively, it should. The point I’m making in LTC is that it isn’t, and it hasn’t been. Historically, working-class, BAME, LGBTQI and women’s literatures have tended towards straightforward narrative. Sociopolitical marginalisation and avant-garde aesthetics have not come together in UK literature, counterintuitively divorcing outsider experience and formal innovation. This is so counterintuitive, there has to be some serious governmentality (in a Foucauldian sense) at play to account for the state of innovative literature in this country (its normativity).

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And away you go! See you back here on Monday…