Brilliant Book Titles #316

little larger

Blurb:
This is the largest and richest volume of poetry by Pessoa available in English. It includes generous selections from the three poetic alter egos that the Portuguese writer dubbed “heteronyms” – Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Alvaro de Campos – and from the vast and varied work he wrote under his own name.

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You can reserve a copy on South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #315

i am so clever

Blurb:
‘Why do I know a few more things? Why am I so clever altogether?’

Self-celebrating and self-mocking autobiographical writings from Ecce Homo, the last work iconoclastic German philosopher Nietzsche wrote before his descent into madness.

One of 46 new books in the bestselling Little Black Classics series, to celebrate the first ever Penguin Classic in 1946. Each book gives readers a taste of the Classics’ huge range and diversity, with works from around the world and across the centuries – including fables, decadence, heartbreak, tall tales, satire, ghosts, battles and elephants.

 

Brilliant Book Titles #314

supposedly

Blurb:

A collection of insightful and uproariously funny non-fiction by the bestselling author of INFINITE JEST – one of the most acclaimed and adventurous writers of our time. A SUPPOSEDLY FUN THING… brings together Wallace’s musings on a wide range of topics, from his early days as a nationally ranked tennis player to his trip on a commercial cruiseliner. In each of these essays, Wallace’s observations are as keen as they are funny.

Filled with hilarious details and invigorating analyses, these essays brilliantly expose the fault line in American culture – and once again reveal David Foster Wallace’s extraordinary talent and gargantuan intellect.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

 

Poetry Roundup #2: July – December 2019

So, I’m back with another poetry roundup. As mentioned in our first roundup, I read a lot of poetry collections (121 in 2019!) and, because of this, I don’t review it as much as I should do, hence this roundup of books I recommend, and recommend you avoid. It should go almost without saying that these were merely books I read during these months, and not necessarily new releases (and also, I must stress, just my one opinion!) –

Avoid:

Shiner by Maggie Nelson
Acrimony by Michael Hoffman
Stranger, Baby by Emily Berry
If All The World and Love Were Young by Stephen Sexton
O Positive by Joe Dunthorne
Of Mutability by Joe Shapcott
In Nearby Bushes by Kei Miller
Surge by Jay Bernard

So much here I didn’t like and couldn’t get into. Maggie Nelson has become a bit of a superstar with books like The Argonauts, so I thought I’d try her first collection Shiner, which I bought. If I buy a poetry collection, I usually force myself to read the entire thing even if I don’t like it, since I spent actual money on it. Shiner, I abandoned and gave to the charity shop.

Faber, I’m sorry to say, of late has been putting out a lot of flat, featureless poetry. I really couldn’t get into either Berry’s Stranger, Baby, Joe Dunthorne’s O Positive or Jo Shapcott’s Of Mutability, which won the Costa Book of the Year in 2010. I need a bit more music in my poetry. Same with Miller’s In Nearby Bushes which “investigates the placeless place” but instead, unfortunately (as there is something of Miller that I like, but it’s never really paid off in his books), is much ado about nothing.

Finally, I’m here to be the grinch talking about books nominated for prizes. One of the most-hyped and most anticipated poetry books of the past couple of years is Irish poet Stephen Sexton’s first collection, If All The World and Love Were Young, and I honestly feel like I’m living in bizarro world, or that everyone is gaslighting me, because I hated it (there really is no other word for it) and everyone else seems to not just love it, but adore it. It is nominated for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and I fully don’t get it. (Can anyone explain? Please?). Also, I got current Costa nominee, Jay Bernard’s book Surge, and boy, I really didn’t like it (the person who gave it to me for Christmas liked it, so I gave it back to them as a present, hah!) – the language did so little for me (for more on this year’s Costa, read on!)

Anyway, enough moaning, and onto the good stuff.

Recommended

– Closet Sonnets: The Life of G.S. Crown, 1950 – 2021 by Yakov Azriel
– Death Magazine by Matthew Haigh
– The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus
– We Have The Melon by Gregory Woods
– Boss Cupid by Thom Gunn
– One Still Thing by Nell Regan
– Her Birth by Rebecca Goss
– Girl by Rebecca Goss
– Flèche by Mary Jean Chan

Queer poets, as you can see, are coming up trumps in the Recommended, so let’s deal with the other, smaller group first.

Reading Rebecca Goss this year was revelatory. I bought Girl on instinct and was blown away by her form and bought Her Birth soon after. Both beautifully written and immaculately constructed books, they are essential modern (dare I say) classics.

Nell Regan’s (whom, full disclosure, I know) latest collection is One Still Thing and it is by far my favourite of hers. I’m very excited for her translation of Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, the classic Japanese anthology (literally to the point that it’s on the curriculum there) featuring 100 poets with a poem each coming from Dedalus later this year.

Raymond Antrobus’ The Perseverance is a deft exploration of d/Deafness as well as his relationship with his father. Rightfully garnering a lot of praise, and winner of the Ted Hughes award (which is hysterical considering he literally erases one of Hughes’ poems, Deaf School, in his book).

And onto the queer poets. Yakov Azriel is a master of the sonnet form. This collection is, interestingly, subtitled ‘The Life of G.S. Crown, 1950-2021’, which was Yakov’s pen name prior to coming out. The book is glorious and beautiful and sad. Written exclusively in Petrarchan sonnets, it’s a masterclass of the form with close to 200 of them, dealing with what then to him was forbidden desire that he could not act upon. Essential, and deserving of a wide readership.

Matthew Haigh’s Death Magazine is a brilliantly surreal skewering of magazine culture. Using a technique (in places? throughout?) that I normally have little time for – cut-up – his poems are otherworldly revelations, as best evidenced in the cover image and promotional postcards that were used to advertise the book. A singular experience.

The next two are books by Gregory Woods (his first) and Thom Gunn (his last). In a lot of ways, Woods is a successor to Gunn, and was praised by him (Gunn blurbed him, and made contact first having fallen in love with Woods’ poems he read in magazines). We Have The Melon is a wonderful, and wonderfully frank, collection of poetry, in a variety of forms (including formal work, which I love) that is highly recommended. It’s my favourite of the books of his I’ve read so far (more to go). Gunn’s final book, Boss Cupid, comes eight years after winning the first Forward Prize for The Man in the Night Sweats and over the past year or two I have been working my way through Gunn – I have his collected and this book. Something, however, made me skip ahead to Boss Cupid and I’m glad I did. It takes all the lessons he’s learnt writing for 50 years and applies them. It is masterful, and a truly great volume to go out on.

Finally, in this section, as previously threatened I’m going to talk about the Costas again, this time, much more positively! Mary Jean Chan’s debut collection, Flèche , is a wonderful collection about a young Chinese poet whohas moved to the UK, her coming out, her relationship with her mother, and her first romantic relationship. Gorgeously written, it is definitely concerned with its topic but not to the detriment of it (like Bernard’s Surge, which, to me, feels all topic and little poetry). An assured debut that is garnering a lot of notice however, it is not our pick for the Costa’s (it was just edged out), as there is another in our Highly Recommended…

Highly Recommended

 


– Haiku in English: The First 100 Years, edited by Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland and Allan Burns
– The Man in the White Suit by Nick Drake
– The Quick by Jessica Traynor
– Reckless Paper Birds by John McCullough [ROUNDUP PICK]

I spent a lot of these six months reading and writing haiku and of all the single- and multi-author collections of haiku I read, Haiku in English: The First 100 Years was my favourite, an immaculately edited collection full of robust, imagistic yet decisively western haiku. Including, of course, one of the proto-western haiku (even if it doesn’t conform syllabically), Ezra Pound’s

“In the Station of the Metro

The appartition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on wet, black bough.”

Another favourite from this collection was Cor van den Heuvel (quite the Name in haiku circles) with this haiku:

“hot day
the mime leans into a wind
that isn’t there”

Trying to pick a Roundup pick amongst the final three selections was so difficult I had to reread all three books! […] Okay, time has now passed, and I’ve done that, so let’s talk about the three books.

Nick Drake (no, not the singer Nick Drake)’s first collection was a bolt from the blue for me. It’s language was just so clear, but also dense, when I read it from the library, I immediately bought a copy for myself. Full of the strangeness of countries, and cities, it is a deserving winner of the 1999 Forward Prize for Best First Collection. I read his most recent collection, and didn’t have the same response with that as I did with this, but I’m still looking forward to reading his middle two.

I first heard some of the poems from Jessica Traynor’s second collection, The Quick, live at a reading. She read a number of pieces from an early sequence of the book called ‘Witches’ that jumped out at me as utterly essential. The stanza that stayed with me was from the third part, ‘The Witch’s Love Song to Her Ex’, was its powerful ending: “as we wrap a hundred scarves around your neck / and wind and wind until you find you’re choking – and isn’t it only what’s best for you. And doesn’t it serve you right”. Such an Irish way of talking about and delivering vengeance.

Upon rereading however, the book, that won out was John McCullough’s Reckless Paper Birds. Nominated for this year’s Costas (but, since writing began, Mary Jean Chan’s Fléche won), John’s third collection is a distillation of his work. Out of the books of his I’ve read (the chapbook Cloudfish and his second collection Spacecraft), Reckless Paper Birds is by far and away my favourite. Deft, assured and full of quietly devastating craft and the most wonderful use of verbs (the book opens with the phrase ‘The day connives’ and man, using that verb there says more than novels), its lines sing a beautiful song rooted in John’s hometown of Brighton and queerness and poetic flights of fancy that somehow are still grounded in the real – often intrusively real- world. Sad and beautiful and weird and possessing of a poem entitled ‘Your Kindness Has Snapped Me Like An Old Deckchair’ which, if it doesn’t make you want to read it, I don’t know what will, but also seems to sum up the themes and motifs rather nicely.

A deserving winner of our Roundup Pick, as is custom, I’m going to close by featuring a poem from it, in this case, the poem, ‘Stationery’ (this poem has some indenting, like a slight staggering with the second line slightly indented from the first, and the third indented twice as much as the second, but it will not for the life of me, whatever I try or do, take hold in WordPress! So you’ll just have to imagine it!). See you all in July for Roundup #3.

Stationery

September is going all out to ease us in.
The clouded sky is a whiteboard for helpful diagrams,
the first cool air as welcome as your hand inside my jeans.

Autumn zips round with its orange highlighter
and you provide nifty shocks and marshmallows,
leaving pornographic Post-its that ask me to rendezvous,

please, for hot chocolate. I am the type of man
who likes unnecessary displays of manners,
who appreciates thank you cards, warning signs,

a forest of regretful notices for building works.
I admire rows of gingkos that lose all their foliage
in one drop to form a Yellow Brick Road.

I am a desperate Lion today, stalking Scarecrow.
I chew biros, glimpse at my watch too often. I was so afraid
of being late to see you, once, I turned up six days early.

Love is horrific like that. First it’s a rabbit, then a duck,
then it’s a ravenous, one-eyed sock puppet;
but the rest is yoghurt adverts. And you fasten my thoughts

with the most beautiful paperclips, even the filthy ones,
like the time I saw a grove of ripening chilli plants
become a rainbow of penis trees. Do you wish to continue,

says the voice of a self-service checkout. Yes, yes I do.
Between the shops, the sea snuggles under its blue leaves.
The clock tower waits patiently for Christmas,

a familiar figure below it waggling his arms
to lure me over. Succeeding. Your skilful face punches
a giant hole in the day and I jump through it.

Brilliant Book Titles #313

stories to sing

Blurb: 
The speculative shines bright in the dark with these stories by Matthew Bright: a boy with a secret begins work at a strange library housing all the books never written; Dorian Gray’s love of beauty struggles in the face of AIDS-era San Francisco and the Castro; the tomb of the Empress is adrift in space and hungry for the concubines aboard her; two men in an old film finally realize that they are trapped but still they seek the means for finally declaring their love for each other. These and other tales of the queer fantastic should be the perfect bedtime read.

Brilliant Book Titles #312

think write speak

Blurb: 

The last major collection of Nabokov’s published material, Think, Write, Speak brings together a treasure trove of previously uncollected texts from across the author’s extraordinary career.

Each phase of his wandering life is included, from a precocious essay written while still at Cambridge in 1921, through his fame in the aftermath of the publication of Lolita to the final, fascinating interviews given shortly before his death in 1977.

Introduced and edited by his biographer Brian Boyd, this is an essential work for anyone who has been drawn into Nabokov’s literary orbit. Here he is at his most inspirational, curious, playful, misleading and caustic. The seriousness of his aesthetic credo, his passion for great writing and his mix of delight and dismay at his own, sudden global fame in the 1950’s are all brilliantly delineated.

Brilliant Book Titles #311

boot sale

Blurb: 
For football fans who hungrily feed on gossip and rumour, Christmas comes twice a year – once in August and again in January. These are the months when the transfer window dominates thoughts, when the prospect of a new signing or two reinvigorates the hopes and dreams of the hopelessly devoted.

Nige Tassell goes behind the scenes to observe the workings of the transfer window and to examine why it continues to hold such fascination for a nation of football lovers. He speaks to players, managers, chairmen, agents, scouts, analysts, fans, journalists, broadcasters and even bookmakers to hear how they survive – and possibly prosper from – these red-letter months in the football calendar. Completely up to date to include key action from the 2018/19 transfer window.

Nobody writes about football like Nige Tassell: poignant, funny, nostalgic and reminds us why we love the game.

Rusty Brown by Chris Ware

Rusty Brown

I was very, very excited for this. Chris Ware is a fantastic cartoonist and graphic novelist. His Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth was a total masterpiece that won The Guardian First Book Award.

His last major graphic novel, Building Stories, was a boxful of surprises – containing books, posters, tiny chapbooks and more, all of which can be read in any order. It was the story of a building and its residents, both current and historical.

Rusty Brown – 22 years in the making – is the story of a single day and a bunch of interrelated characters. Like all of Ware’s work, it is impeccably drawn and designed and cut through with a deep sadness which Ware captures so well.

The one thing I didn’t realise when reading – until the very end, with it’s intertitle Intermission – that it’s the first of two books. That was a little offputting, but the stories here are very strong, however it’s hard to judge the book as a whole, since it’s only the first half.

That said, the bravura Jordan Lint section chronicled Lint’s entire life in around 80 pages and moved me to tears and is worth the price of the book in and of itself.

Highly recommended.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here. 

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

the-hellbound-heart

So, I’ve never read any Clive Barker and I thought it was time to rectify that.

I started with The Books of Blood (Volumes 1-3) and, despite their occasional silliness, I really liked them a lot.

The Hellbound Heart whilst not part of them, would thematically fit (but it’s too long – a novella, rather than one of Barker’s long short stories). It is also famously the basis for the film Hellraiser, which was also written and directed by Barker.

And, I think, therein lies the problem.

I’ve seen the movie and I liked it, but the novella which preceeded it feels like a sketch that Barker fully fleshed out and realised in Hellraiser.

The story in brief: predatory lothario Frank has a magic box that can access the Cenobites, whom he thinks will give him eternal pleasure instead of endless pain. His brother, deeply in love with his wife Julia (but not reciproacted by her who had an affair with Frank) move in to a new house. The brother’s daughter pops in and out. Frank escapes but is a scrap of himself and needs blood. And Julia, madly in love, starts seducing men and bringing them home for him to kill…

An interesting but not essential read. Try instead the first omnibus of The Books of Blood (I’m current about to start the second omnibus, Volumes 4-6).

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You can reserve this online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here. 

Brilliant Book Titles #309

dance like.jpg

Blurb:

Giant hornets, rampaging rabbits, dancing dinosaurs, angry ants, human boiler systems. A nightmarish vision of a post-apocalyptic future? Maybe. But these are also the furry characters who add that little extra spice to every sporting occasion. These are the world’s mascots.

What is the point of them? To cajole, to intimidate, to inspire, to celebrate, to console, to terrify young children? Who knows, and frankly, who cares? They are here to stay and there’s nothing we can do about it, so we might as well enjoy them.

Dance Like Everybody’s Watching! is a loving and hysterical celebration of the best, worst, silliest and most absurd mascots sport has to offer.