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  • Nonfiction: Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room by Geoff Dyer
    often have the feeling that though I hear some great songs these days they cannot usurp the space in my memory that have been imprinted on by the songs I listened to while I was still at university the songs that were my firsts in many ways since our twenties are often emotionally tumultuous as we perch precariously on the cusp of adulthood In part it s the nostalgia that holds you back so strongly you want to go back to a time when you are still vibrating with possibility when a song or a book or a movie can still change your life It is harder and more ridiculous to say that as you get older It seems right too that someone such as Dyer who is old enough today to have watched movies in a way we no longer do should write this book Could someone who grew up in our hyper technological world who hasn t had to suffer to watch a film write something as insightful These days it s so easy to watch a movie we can buy or rent a DVD or even better stream it online Back then you had to make the effort to go to the movies since home video only advanced in the 1980s Just as with music if you really liked a band you would have to go and watch them at a concert keep your ears peeled for their song to come on the radio These days consuming culture is no longer an act of sacrifice Your boast that you found Arcade Fire first before they became big would sound hollow since now you can go on Youtube and immediately hear a song and decide just as quickly whether you like them Still Dyer keeps to old habits Even today he forces himself to watch Stalker only in cinemas or at festival screenings so that it will forever retain its specialness each viewing of the film different according to where he watches it Some would call him a film snob because he insists great cinema must be projected not merely seen on television and offers up the idea of cinematic pilgrimages where people would go to a small cinema screening only one film for the entire year to pay respects to the cinema greats of the past It s a beautiful if quaint idea and not out of place in this increasingly brave new world where we often yearn for the old the vintage holding Prohibition themed parties and the like What really changes our way of appreciating and consuming culture however is the concept of time which has changed over the decades On one end there s Tarkovsky time and on the other moron time ticking on heedlessly in the 21st century where no one can concentrate on anything longer than about two seconds Zona is an antidote to today s heedless consuming of culture and our immediate retweeting and liking of everything on Facebook which is

    Original URL path: http://www.litro.co.uk/2012/08/nonfiction-zona-a-book-about-a-film-about-a-journey-to-a-room-by-geoff-dyer/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Novel: The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus
    of metaphors and allegories and the whole novel can be read as a reflection of the author s own progress into fatherhood At the same time the novel as a whole suffers precisely because of its brilliance The second half of the novel dips the careful balance established in the early half is broken Story makes way for the experimentation which is trying in its repetition and stagnates the work The Flame Alphabet covers the same issues again and again using the same imagery and scenes It begins to feed on itself each consecutive page feeling somehow less substantial than the last Ben Marcus The novel s borrowing of the thriller form also creates an expectation in the uninitiated reader which Marcus clearly had no intention of paying off By the end of the novel one cannot help but feel that Marcus could have made this already notable book into a truly brilliant one by sacrificing the middle ground instead of trying to be both anti novel and thriller The aphorism at the centre of the novel is at constant battle with the genre it is pretending to be part of Moreover though infrequent lazy thriller fillers dilute the work The plot thickens LeBov tells Sam who replies almost self referentially at this point the plot sucks Despite this Marcus s prose barely wavers in its quality There are sections of descriptive writing comprised you can tell with gleeful specificity by the narrator However the more Sam describes and the closer he gets to his own meaning the further we recede from reality I shaped letters with yarn hieroglyphs with yarn arranged yarn in the minimal splatter of contemporary shorthand With a tweezers I laid down a vertical script of yarn hung yarn from wire so it draped just so and with jets of air blew the yarn into letter shapes as it swayed Or so I surmised for I did not look at the device myself With yarn I wrote full sentences in the Coptic alphabet the Indus script Linear A and B all proven toxic already all capable in blocks and paragraphs to generate sickness micro coma paralysis in the reader but then I tugged each end of the yarn on these sentences until the words lulled long I tugged on the yarn and documented each stage until the yarn was pulled so taut it stood out in a straight line and could never be mistaken for language And so on in all its metaphorical glory Published 7 June 2012 Available in hardback and ebook from Granta Books Thank you to Granta for providing a review copy About David Whelan David Whelan is a fiction writer and journalist based in London England He was formally Litro s Reviews Editor and Fleeting Magazine s Interviews Editor Currently he writes for Vice s food vertical Munchies He is one of Untitled Books s New Voices and his fiction has also appeared in 3 AM Magazine Shortfire Press and Gutter Magazine

    Original URL path: http://www.litro.co.uk/2012/08/ben-marcus-the-flame-alphabet/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Novel: The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
    for escape routes from hotel rooms But there is an atmosphere of oppressive inevitability to his journey back to his hotel and back to the snare of his past Futh is insubstantial even his name is no more than a flutter of moth wings a puff of air from the lips He s a sigh of a man thinning hair a forgettable face a collection of memories and obsessions who leaves little mark on the world But as we become entangled in his compulsive circular memories of the small group of people and events who have shaped his life Futh lodges himself in our heads long after the final paragraph Alison Moore Futh is frozen in boyhood he must keep returning paused at the point his mother left him This point is his beacon the light around which he travels to which he returns A scene circles in his head revealing glimpses and flashes each time it appears His father tells him the French term for a stag night is l enterrement de vie de garcon the burial of a boy s life The Lighthouse is the story of the burial of a childhood under the flood of grief and loneliness caused by a mother s abandonment and then by the silt of years of disappointment and isolation that fill the chasm caused by her departure The novel ends inevitably yet shockingly This is powerful writing likely to shine in your memory for a long time The Lighthouse is published today in paperback Thanks to Salt Publishing for providing a review copy The 2012 Man Booker shortlist will be announced on 11 September About Litro Online Mail Web More Posts 713 Comments comments Prev Six Themed Lit Blogs You Should Follow Next Younger Years Pynchon Nabokov and Vonnegut Dan Norcott Lovely review Rohana I want to read it but it s not available here Related Posts Mad Scientists and Literary Experiments Strange Meetings Short Stories Reality Reality nbsp by Jackie Kay Litro TV Recent Posts Bringing Up Baby In the Night Time Before the Sun Rises at the Gate Theatre True Love in Los Angeles A R BY ANY OTHER NAME The Echo Travelling in Fiji The Litro Blog View Archive 11th February 2016 Litro 149 The Love issue Letter from the Editor By Eric Akoto Love we spend our lives craving it in one form or another searching for it and talking about it Its meaning is felt more than it is clearly expressed Some call it the greatest virtue Continue reading 9th December 2015 Litro 148 The Going Home issue Letter from the Editor By Eric Akoto This month in Litro 148 we explore the notion of what Going Home means to us Is it a familiar physical space A refuge A feeling A state of mind Or is home actually to be found in another human being maybe your partner your parents How do you know when you have found it Continue reading Contact Us General 44

    Original URL path: http://www.litro.co.uk/2012/08/novel-the-lighthouse-by-alison-moore-brief-but-luminous/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Novel: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
    taken them at face value there is an underlying feeling of boxes being ticked off Revealed in chronological order The Song of Achilles moves effortlessly from scene to scene but in doing so it sacrifices details that might invest the reader deeper in the story Despite its epic scale it perhaps suffers from being too thematically narrow centered as it is on the love story between Patroclus and Achilles relegating other characters who might have lent the two lovers more interesting dimensions to the sidelines Even Achilles never completely comes to life never really becomes human Sure he is half god but he is also half mortal his destiny pulled in two opposing directions towards Patroclus who serves as a grounding influence and his mother Thetis a goddess who disdains mortals and their mediocrity Perhaps part of the problem though I hesitate to call it such is Miller s writing in first person from Patroclus s point of view It is I think limiting in some ways although at the same time it does give Miller the opportunity to weave her magic when she comes to an unconventional dilemma towards the end of the book her narrator dies It is an odd place to be but Patroclus whose burdened soul is unable to move on speaks from the dead utterly convincingly he hovers seeing everything at times seeming to inhabit the eyes of Achilles Achilles Searching for the Shade of Patrocles 1803 by Henry Fuseli Any writer retelling a famous Greek myth has to decide what role the gods should play In this I think Miller has struck a fine balance A notable omission she made is of the enduring myth of Achilles s heel In fact that oft repeated story is not part of Homer s The Iliad in which Achilles was simply portrayed as extraordinarily gifted in battle not invincible That story only came about a thousand years later to make Achilles immortal Thetis brought him to the River Styx and dipped his body into its magic water however because she held him by the heel his heel was unprotected Presumably Miller chose to follow The Iliad s explanation of Achilles s invincibility because she was leaning towards a realist retelling notwithstanding the fact that the sun god Apollo and the river god Scamander both interfere in the war Apollo plucking Patroclus from Troy s walls repeatedly as he tries to scale it Scamander fighting Achilles when he chases after Hector Still there is something of the elemental about them divine presence as nature Thetis is the only godly being to inhabit any concrete form more monster in law than sea nymph Miller s novel is often a pleasure to read The formal elegance of the voice she employs is just right setting us in the right mood to immerse ourselves in these ancient times She turns some beautiful phrases so lyrical I find myself going back to them nut brown bodies slicked with oil Achilles s feet

    Original URL path: http://www.litro.co.uk/2012/08/novel-the-song-of-achilles-by-madeline-miller/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Novel: If This Is Home by Stuart Evers
    north west of England and their shared delusions I love you because you share the same dreams Because when I m with you I feel like a different person The majority of the novel is Mark s attempt to recapture that moment that sense of otherness provided only by a fulfilment of a dream or a love and there is a deep knowingness presiding over most of the prose As the reader is told It takes nothing for things to turn to shit Mark is drawn back to his hometown by a desire to see the truth maybe even for the first time Evers s minimalism is noteworthy because it is at once superficial and fast and what it lacks in emotional punch it makes up for with its ability keep the momentum going By the second half of the book the pages practically began to read themselves The strength of the writing also vastly improves by the second half which suggests the author or indeed the character of Mark is more comfortable describing his native Britain than America In the first half displays of certains emotions may have seemed unearned but the second half contains some truly moving passages The final hundred pages also increase the complexity of the narrative which adds a welcome layer to the story and Evers should be congratulated for presenting a potentially alienating literary device in a wonderfully simple way What may have appeared as a story about how a sleepy town awoke into a modern world reveals itself to be something else entirely It is a story that pretends to be an example of realism but is in fact keenly aware of the dangers of artifice Everything is flooding through Mark says during one particularly violent moment in Valhalla And we should believe him By the climax Mark has become the detective of his own life and the detective lest we forget is the archetypal postmodern reader It was a notebook a life written in optimism not real First published 5 July 2012 Out in hardback and ebook Thanks to Picador for providing a review copy About David Whelan David Whelan is a fiction writer and journalist based in London England He was formally Litro s Reviews Editor and Fleeting Magazine s Interviews Editor Currently he writes for Vice s food vertical Munchies He is one of Untitled Books s New Voices and his fiction has also appeared in 3 AM Magazine Shortfire Press and Gutter Magazine among others He holds an MA in Creative Writing from UEA Mail More Posts 11 Comments comments Prev Five Online Reads Fathers Next The Transatlantic Book War 1 Related Posts In Their Footsteps The Brontë Sisters Comics Get Technical When Autobiography Can Make Good Fiction Litro TV Recent Posts Bringing Up Baby In the Night Time Before the Sun Rises at the Gate Theatre True Love in Los Angeles A R BY ANY OTHER NAME The Echo Travelling in Fiji The Litro Blog View Archive 11th

    Original URL path: http://www.litro.co.uk/2012/06/novel-if-this-is-home-by-stuart-evers/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Nonfiction: Alain de Botton on Work
    in jobs we don t enjoy trapped by our own desire to succeed It s a phenomenon I can vouch for myself In 2005 I was ten years into a promising career in television I d worked my way up from runner to assistant producer and was all set to keep climbing The only trouble was I hated my job But admitting that publicly felt like I would be admitting to a serious weakness of character Status anxiety motivates us to get out of bed and drag ourselves to the office every day but it also causes bitterness and despair De Botton runs through philosophy s take on the subject David Hume on envying our contemporaries Alexis de Tocqueville on why we have so much and yet are so miserable and so on The book argues that the privileges and freedoms we pride ourselves on in Western society education for all equal opportunities justice social mobility are actually making us more unhappy With all that on our side society tells us the only people we have to blame for not achieving the riches recognition or lifestyle we want is ourselves It s a depressing thesis and I was therefore rather relieved to reach the section in the book titled Solutions De Botton s suggestions for keeping status anxiety in check are the most compelling part of the book His course of treatment includes philosophy following Socrates s example of not letting what others think of us dictate what we think of ourselves literature a little Jane Austen for some delicate ridiculing of the status obsessed art a dose of Chardin to big up the beauty of quiet domesticity and Bohemianism a decision to side step normal social expectations and move to Hoxton I probably could have done with reading a bit of De Botton at the time of my own career crisis In the end it was literature that came to my rescue anyway After an evening in the pub where a friend and I drunkenly came to the conclusion that we should just tell the bastards to sod off jack it all in and go and work in a secondhand bookshop I decided to jack it all in and go and work in a secondhand bookshop Once I d admitted to myself that despite what the world might think I d be happier to see my name on a shift rota than in the end credits I was happier Suggesting ways of gaining the perspective and self knowledge necessary to make such choices is De Botton s aim with Status Anxiety De Botton is like Marmite While he sells books by the million many critics loathe him Charlie Brooker wrote that he has forged a lucrative career stating the bleeding obvious in a series of poncey lighter than air books But perhaps lighter than air ponciness is really the attraction And reading him does not preclude you from also reading Proust or Schopenhauer In fact it probably makes it

    Original URL path: http://www.litro.co.uk/2012/05/why-is-an-airport-alain-de-botton-and-work/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Short Stories: Married Love by Tessa Hadley
    is dealing with the fallout She meets Hilda a spiky rude Canadian writer staying at the retreat where Ally works Their not quite friendship becomes a place where Ally can go to assuage her grief Hadley has a gift for throwing a character into sharp focus with only a few words like this from Married Love Em was gracefully loose jointed with her mother s hooded poetic eyes she worked in the toxicology department of the city hospital Or this from Friendly Fire All Pam s conversations began as if you hadn t stopped talking since you last saw her they were as cluttered as her car And this image from The Trojan Prince She s like a cat James thinks A sloppy little cat Under the neat fitting cap of her new hair her face is intensely familiar small and precise like a muzzle freckled and snub nosed the brows exclamation points always slightly raised I found myself nodding in recognition as I read recognition of feelings that must be universal but are hard to articulate walking into a warm noisy pub and seeing someone you love through the crowd a moment of shared silence with a colleague after a hard day s work seeing your own parents transform into strangers in the company of their adult friends or from A Mouthful of Cut Glass the sensation of having someone familiar to you in one setting a boyfriend from university transposed into an entirely different setting your childhood home She was taken aback by this stranger of hers ensconced so outrageously in the innermost sanctum of her family home The shock of it was voluptuous she felt with a shudder that the closer Neil came to her the less familiar he was This is what the short story does when it s working well reflecting what we feel back at us making it as strange as it is familiar as if we had caught a glimpse of ourselves from a new angle in an unexpected mirror Despite loneliness loss love jealously grief and all the other emotions that beset us most of us still manage to be quietly happy most of the time This strange paradox is at the heart of this collection First published 5 Jan 2012 by Jonathan Cape Available in hardback and ebook About Emily Cleaver Emily Cleaver is Litro s Online Editor She is passionate about short stories and writes reads and reviews them Her own stories have been published in the London Lies anthology from Arachne Press Paraxis Cent The Mechanics Institute Review One Eye Grey and Smoke magazines performed to audiences at Liars League Stand Up Tragedy WritLOUD Tales of the Decongested and Spark London and broadcasted on Resonance FM and Pagan Radio As a former manager of one of London s oldest second hand bookshops she also blogs about old and obscure books You can read her tiny true dramas about working in a secondhand bookshop at smallplays com and see more

    Original URL path: http://www.litro.co.uk/2012/03/review-married-love-tessa-hadley/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Anthology: The Best British Short Stories 2011
    for a brief moment into one of the Excitement Girls of whom she so disapproves A couple of the choices feel weaker stories that bring too much attention onto themselves as literature that are a little too loud and self referential I didn t feel comfortable with the surrealism and self consciously bombastic tone of Adam Marek s Dinner for Dead Alumni and failed to be engaged by Lee Rourke s Emergency Exit the choice of the second person tense makes it an uncomfortable read which may have been the author s intent but still ends up feeling artificial Philip Langeskov s Notes on a Love Story with its complex footnotes and a narrator who writes a story about a relationship that comes true causing the end of the relationship which he then writes a story about which seems to be this story feels very clever but its cleverness doesn t scratch far beneath a seemingly literary surface In So Much Time in a Life Heather Leach discomfits her reader by creating and uncreating characters as she goes along Leach s narrator who is perhaps Leach she introduces herself into the story at one point announces that Fiction is an evasion It s skillfully written and the conceit is powerful erasing a character feels as shocking as a death but the story as a whole left me feeling rather cheated I prefer my short stories to evade nothing to look their subject straight in the eye without flinching rather than hiding behind their status as stories The works that will hopefully still be popping up in collections in a decade or a century are unlikely to be those in which the reader is forced to guess at a clever setting or conceit with the story offering up little but that cleverness The stories that will last will be those that end with a crunch whose truth is hidden in plain view First published 3 May 2011 by Salt Publishing Available in paperback and ebook About Emily Cleaver Emily Cleaver is Litro s Online Editor She is passionate about short stories and writes reads and reviews them Her own stories have been published in the London Lies anthology from Arachne Press Paraxis Cent The Mechanics Institute Review One Eye Grey and Smoke magazines performed to audiences at Liars League Stand Up Tragedy WritLOUD Tales of the Decongested and Spark London and broadcasted on Resonance FM and Pagan Radio As a former manager of one of London s oldest second hand bookshops she also blogs about old and obscure books You can read her tiny true dramas about working in a secondhand bookshop at smallplays com and see more of her writing at emilycleaver net Mail Web More Posts 49 Comments comments Prev Famous Literary Characters Inspired by Real People Next Elizabeth Benett Mr Darcy True Love http NA Chris V So strange I had the opposite opinion on the majority of the stories you ve mentioned I really disliked the soft

    Original URL path: http://www.litro.co.uk/2012/02/fortune-cookies-sticks-rock-review-british-short-stories-2011/ (2016-02-15)
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