Review: Hazel Manuel, 'The Geranium Woman'

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In tragedy, the plot is propelled by a hamartia—the flaw of the protagonist that causes subsequent events. The protagonist of The Geranium Woman suffers such a flaw, which consists of her naïvely in falling for something analogous to Mornington Crescent. Popularised in Britain by the radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, it's a game in which you move between locations on the London Underground to arrive at the eponymous Northern Line station. As you play, you challenge the ‘legality’ of other players’ moves, debating an increasingly baroque rule-system invented along the way. It’s an in-joke and farce—one with no adherence to a system of actual rules. Hazel’s hero, newly a CEO in Paris, is unaware of the Mornington Crescent in-joke of her company’s corporate ethics and the other hypocrisies of many of her interactions. She attempts to play, hoping to reform the hyper-masculine world of business and shareholders as well as navigate open and undefined relationships, within the loose strictures and conventions that secretly oppose her values. She does so against the backdrop of her father’s recent death and the implied existential, memento mori revelation of her own mortality—with shorter chapters giving us moments of his deathbed reflections.

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Review: Suzy Rigg ‘Songs of my Soul’

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Divided into three parts of an inner journey—Discovery, Holy Fire, Resurrection— Suzy Rigg’s Songs of my Soul is a diverse poetry collection. It has pieces that tackle the aches of isolation and fear and loss,’ For one so alive/ it is hard to believe, you are gone’ as well as more jovial light verse about the London urban experience, such as ‘The C-O-M-M-U-T-E’ in which one feels the, ‘touch of a strangers bag or case/ The jolt of an armpit right in your face’. Rigg’s début is a ‘song full of longing, loneliness, fear.’ (p.5), but it is also, ‘a joyous chime of freedom’. From allusions to Red Riding Hood in ‘Footprints’ (p.6) to Rapunzel in ‘Things not forgotten’, these poems are often suffused with the primordial archetypes of fairytale, an eerie play of life and death. The book is striking; in ‘tightrope’ Rigg’s experiments with concrete forms while exploring the fragility of life and elsewhere with subjects as difficult as the black diaspora. It’s also sometimes wry, warning at one point that ‘all characters are creations of this poet’s imagination and any similarity to persons you may know is just spooky.’ Songs of my Soul is an impressive introduction to a new and original voice. I look forward to more work from this poet.

Review: Julio Cortázar 'Multinational Vampire: An Attainable Utopia'

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Part comic book, part novella, part epistolary literature, and replete with footnotes, Julio Cortázar’s fantastically experimental Fantomas versus the Multinational Vampire: An Attainable Utopia (translated by David Kurnick) is a majestic wonder in its sheer, resplendent weirdness. There’s even an appendix delightfully entitled, ‘A friendly piece of advice: read the appendix last, why rush things when we’ve gotten off to such a good start?’ And the first two chapters are prefaced, á la early modern literature, with proleptic summaries such as ‘Concerning how the narrator caught his train in extremis (and from here on we dispense with chapter headings, as there will be numerous beautiful pictures to punctuate and enliven the reading of this fascinating story).’ The mass destruction of all the world’s literature as a part of a vast conspiracy, famous authors threatened with death if they deign to write again, Susan Sontag amongst the cast, a hero who makes references to the surrealist film Un chien andalou and the revolutionary utopian Second Russell Tribunal all come together in a book that satirises the superhero genre so much better than the better known Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s The Watchman ever manages. The author stand-in Julio, opines on things such as that ‘the people are alienated, badly informed, deceptively informed, mutilated by a reality that very few understand.’ Or even that ‘history is like stake and potatoes, you can order it everywhere and it always tastes the same.’

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Review: Morgan Bell's 'Laissez Faire'

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From fairytales to moments of pathos, from science fictions to parables, Morgan Bell’s Laissez Faire is similar to her earlier work Sniggerless Boundulations in that it collects weird and disorientating vignettes and microfictions, but feels more developed. Bell’s voice retains her witty absurdism, but it is complemented by a greater confidence that allows more depth of situation and character. With ‘The Glass Of Water’ a girl is navigating unfamiliar rules and craves ‘the family vibe, it didn’t matter whose family.’ Over and over, Bell places us into the heads of complex people robbed of belonging and purpose or merely appalled by the world: in ‘No Small Thing’ a woman loses her love for a man after learning how he ‘euthanized’ his pets and in ‘Juniper Bean’ another is literally torn by her opposing desires for the familiar and adventurous personified as a squid and pelican, ‘“Well girlie?” goaded the squid. “Your loyalty to kin and convention, or a whole heap of flapping around and some undefined potential to create.” “Do you wish to dwell or soar?” asked the pelican. “It’s a game of chance either way.”’ As the title Laissez Faire suggests, the interconnecting theme is that quite anything goes—anything can happen to anyone and the rules and parameters that help us make sense of existence are merely effective but restrictive illusions.

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Retake: Tales from the Greenhills

Retake: Tales from the Greenhills

Yesterday I posted a link to an Amazon review of Terry Melia's wonderful Tales from the Greenhills. Amazon promptly removed my review without explanation or a means of contacting them, as well as deleting another review written by my mother—who runs a publisher in Wales called Cinnamon Press. Today I repost both reviews here. First, Jan Fortune's excellent endorsement:

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Tales from the Greenhills Review & Other Updates

Just posted my Amazon review for Terry Melia's Tales from the Greenhills, a book that deserves to be widely read. As well as adding it to my own list of available edited work. Currently working on new, exciting editing and preparing to release leaflets for the Rowan Tree website. Exciting days.