Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

"Noontide toll" by Romesh Gunesekera (Granta, 2014)

Linked short stories (there's are "North" and "South" sections) centred about Vasantha, a man-with-a-van in Sri Lanka. He retired from a desk job at 55. He's better with words than you'd expect, e.g. - "Her entourage - two Dutch visitors caught in the slipstream - looked crumpled as though they had slept together in a cramped cot" (p.10); "The blue bruise in the distance fattened like a mirage and began to sparkle" (p.13)

He's learnt a lot by observing his employers. He has opinions, but he keeps them to himself.

Those who hire him and those he meets have stronger opinions. An assassin describes his killing of a suckling mother - "I watch her on a stool, cradling him in her arm, you know. The head just there in the bend of the elbow. I see her lips move, very softly lullabying. She thinks she is safe but I am there. So close, I am hearing her. Same tune, you know, that we have. Tamil words, but the same sweet tune we all hear when we come into this world. I wait for her to finish the song and for the baby to have his fill. Let her pat the back and burp him, no? I don't know why but I think it is better if the little one is not left hungry. I watch the sun spread on her face. I see the chain around her throat, with that cyanide capsule of theirs, catch the light" (p.21)

In "Deadhouse" a man from England returns to the house he left 50 years before. It's rundown, about to become a shabby guest house. His son, who's accompanying him, had doubted that it existed. Now he suggests that his dad move back. Vasantha thinks (using words so fluently that I find them distracting) "He left long before the Tigers could even miaow, years before their great leader took his first popshot. Now the big shot was dead with a hole in his head and the blood of thousands has soaked the land, while Dr Ponnampalam has a balding head and a hole in his heart which he can't seem to fill for love or money". Later Vasantha thinks "A straight road going nowhere. That has been the story of my life.".

"Scrap" has a plot with political and symbolic overtones. He's driving 4 Chinese people about. As often, there's a guide, and some tension between Vasantha and the guide leaving Vasantha in the dark about the journey's purpose. They pass thousands of bicycles, abandoned, and armour-reinforced lorries. The Chinese are assessing the scrap value. At the coast they arrive at a scrapped ship, surprised to find a film-crew there. They're filming a pop video. The film crew aren't interested in the past. They see themselves as the future.

"Ramparts" didn't work for me. In this, the first story where we learn why he's unmarried, it's probably no coincidence that ramparts and a light-house figure - "I go everywhere in this country, but nowhere in my mind. Maybe you can never really leave the past behind. It is in your head and outside your control" (p.119)

"Humbug" has a neat plot and punchline, though it's rather long. Not for the first time, tourists come to see the past that the locals are trying to modernize.

In "Turtle", Czech tourists help introduce another data-point to contrast Sri Lanka with - "Everything had to have a double meaning otherwise there was no meaning" (p.171).

Overall, some of the symbolism seems too contrived but the stories are all entertaining reads. Given a different past (why not make him a failed journalist or poet?), Vasantha's fluency and knowledge of the world would be more easily believed. I liked how we could build up a portrait of him through the various story settings.

Other reviews

  • Shehan Karunatilaka (Guardian) (Vasantha begins the book as a pragmatist. ... It is his voice – wry, knowing and highly entertaining – that elevates this collection to something greater than the sum of its episodes. ... One might level the same criticisms as those directed at the heroes of The White Tiger and Slumdog Millionaire. What driver or tour guide born of the subcontinent's working classes would speak like this? Overall, the stories of the north are stronger than those from the south)
  • Steven Heighton (New York Times) (Each story in “Noontide Toll” raises the same quandary: How do we balance the need to remember, so as not to repeat our mistakes, with the need to forget, thus transcending them and moving on? ... One measure of literary merit is how well a work resists simple thematic summary. In “Noontide Toll,” unfortunately, the schematic purpose of almost every element is all too evident ... And yet, despite such patches of awkwardness, “Noontide Toll” succeeds as a sort of elegy, both for its narrator and for the old Sri Lanka)
  • Randy Boyagoda (Financial Times) (In “Roadkill,” the book’s most impressive story ... the book’s weaker stories offer too much preachy and pedagogic formulations about Sri Lanka’s recent history, or string up the messy ends of otherwise well-wrought tales. As much happens in “Humbug”)
  • Pico Iyer (Wall St Journal)

Saturday, 20 August 2016

"Imaginary Menagerie" by Ailbhe Darcy (Bloodaxe, 2011)

Poems from Brittle Star, Stinging Fly, Seam, The Wolf and an earlier pamphlet from tall-lighthouse. It's refreshing, albeit erratic. I like passages like this -

making them shiver, the steam whistle,

the train tracks that shudder like a mirror
in its frame when the train passes, shuddering,
a house near the railway with a framed mirror

in it. Snow is always general in Ireland now;
it is also always ashes; it is the backdrop for roses.

though things can become too strange. Here's part of "Telephone"

You took me home, all the same,
                     All the same,
the blasting veteran on our bus home
wields his unbusy stump.
It never buds purple moles,
explodes wild carrot. It stays the same.

     That's why in your arms I sing
the man with a data drive embedded
where his finger was

and I'm puzzled by (for example) -

  • "You twitch// like peeling wax or glue from fingers, your eyes/ Baghdad Zoo", p.22
  • "All the dogs in America have sisters of their own,/ all the birds have sisters, out on the highway./ Moths have moths for sisters, beating out for light,/ and I am speaking of you here, to everyone I meet", p.31 (here, as elsewhere, she indulges in repetition)
  • "You try to speak in pica, your claws kerns:/ We lay a blotched ligature.// You've bitten off more than you can mew:/ I've lined your throat with feathers", p.52 (I know what pica, kerning, and ligatures are in typesetting, but that doesn't help)

I liked "The Hotel" and "Molly Ban" too. I wasn't convinced by "Dog Song", "Shoes", "Spawn", "Caw Poem", or "Observations on hearing she was leaving Australia for home".

"The Monster Surely" is in couplets, each couplet containing "monster" and "spectacle".

Other reviews

  • Miriam Gamble (Magma) (In one of many gems in this extraordinary first collection ...)
  • Poem of the week: Silt Whisper (Guardian) (Her work is funny and stylish, with an agile, zesty erudition and no lack of political fire. But the quieter poems are appealing, too – poems like Silt Whisper, which is oblique and tender, and reminds us that poetry's language needn't always strive to say it all. The strategy of writing as if slightly out of breath is nicely chosen)

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

"Spill Simmer Falter Wither" by Sara Baume (Windmill Books, 2015)

The main character (a 57 year-old disfigured cripple, brought up by his single-parent father) expresses himself thus - "I'm on my way to purchase a box-load of incandescent bulbs because I can't bear the dimness of the energy saver, how they hesitate at first and then build to a parasitic humming so soft it hoaxes me into thinking some part of my inner ear has cracked" (p.8). Sometimes critics excuse such luxuriance by claiming that the narrator puts the inarticulate character's thoughts into words, but I don't think that applies to "It's a sound somewhere between cooing and keening, from an organ some place between belly and lung. Plaintive and elegiac, cavernous and craven" (p.27) or "It is spring in my dream. At first I think I know this innately, but of the things I think I innately know, I rarely do, I've only forgotten where they came from. And so I remember, it was the cut daffodils which showed me that it is spring" (p.30). This is not "out of character", it's a brain transplant. But it's a common literary conceit.

The loner lives in his late-father's house, always referring to it as his father's house. He gets a one-eyed dog from a shelter. He dreams from the dog's PoV, identifies with its fears ("it's okay to be frightened sometimes. I'm still afraid of almost every single form of social situation" p.36). The dog attacks another dog and maybe a child too. The loner flees rather than having the dog taken away. He stays on the road for months in his car, then makes his way back. During this phase of 11 weeks or so we have little sense of time passing or all the driving done. Indeed, it's unclear what year or even decade it is. On p.218 it says "I know each person is carrying a tiny screen in their pocket. I know each screen holds a list of the names of other people who are not here but somewhere out there also carrying a tiny screen" which is the first clue that we're in the age of the mobile. His limited access to people and the world leads to a very patchy notion of the outside world.

The main character didn't go to school. "With no one to guide me, everything I know is learned slow and fraught with errors" (p.40). Though he's apparently lived a sheltered life, he knows something about how others live - on p.98 he even uses the word "power-walking". He knows about "The people who visit fireplace showrooms on Sunday afternoons" (p.232). He has a way with words -

  • "Ducks are like socks. If you've only got one, then something's wrong" p.34
  • "Here's the sand you've already found dispersed about the car blanket, now it's truly everywhere, spread into bumps like the crunchy kind of peanut butter" p.47
  • "See the signs of summer, of the tepid seasons starting their handover with subtle ceremony" p.53
  • "My father's shelf full of gardening manuals would shake their spines in reproach" p.75
  • "My father's name was the same word as for the small insectivorous passerine birds found most commonly photographed on Christmas cards, with orange-red blushed breasts as though they've been water-boarded by molten-amber" p.85

Throughout, the writing kept me interested. The Prologue and Epilogue aren't necessary, though they're harmless enough.

SPOILER ALERT - Was it going to be like "The Wasp Factory" I wondered? Was the narrator somehow the missing mother? Mention of the rats and lack of mention of the father's death made me wonder whether the narrator was living off the pension of his dead father whose body he'd hidden in the house. The book doesn't really need such a melodramatic plot.

Other reviews

  • Anita Sethi (The second-person narrative, in which the dog becomes “you”, is a clever device, enabling Baume to “show not tell”)
  • Amy Weiss-Meyer (The plot isn’t the novel’s claim to originality. What gives Baume’s book its startling power—despite several (or more, depending on your tolerance) near-misses with sentimentality—is her portrait of an unexpectedly protean mind at work. This isolate, it turns out, isn’t trapped in himself. He’s attuned to others in a thoroughly unusual way ... where Curious Incident takes its narrative cues from a logical, rule-bound perspective on an overwhelming reality, Spill Simmer Falter Wither does the opposite. Baume’s novel revels in aesthetic leaps and dives, embracing the poetry of sensory experience in all its baffling beauty from the title onward.)
  • Joseph O'Connor (What elevates the book beyond the category of promising first novel is the author’s astonishing power with language ... This book is a stunning and wonderful achievement by a writer touched by greatness.)
  • Lucy Popescu
  • Emma Schofield (Ray’s character recalls Lennie from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and is as memorable. )
  • Kirkus review (The novel is set in an unspecified time before mobile phones, but even if it’s meant to be a few decades ago, it seems unreal that Ray could grow up without attending school and without any social services intervention. Baume perhaps means to make a statement about marginalized people who live unnoticed in the midst of their communities, but something doesn’t quite ring true in Ray’s isolation. The vague, sad ending doesn't help)

Saturday, 13 August 2016

"Light box" by K.J. Orr (Daunt Books, 2016)

The list of blurbers is like a UK short-story hall of fame - Constantine, Hershman, Gebbie, Colin Barrett, Alison MacLeod, Adam Marek, Tessa Hadley, etc. There are 11 stories from the Dublin Review, the White Review, the Sunday Times magazine, the BBC National short story award short list, etc. Settings include Argentina, USA. UK, Japan. Main characters (male and female) range from children to old men.

  • The Lake Shore Limited - I've read this before. I can see how it's influenced a story I've written ("The Delay"). A man on a long train journey gets talked to by an older woman. Only at the end do we know why he's on the train.
  • By the Canal - A newly met couple find a dying dog. The male kills it. The female leaves him. I found the ending too open and easy.
  • Disappearances - A retired, rich plastic surgeon starts a new habit of spending mornings in a cafe, not wanting to be known. But some ex-clients spoil things by revealing who he is. At the end we're told about the appearance of the waitress, as if it mattered to the man.
  • The Human Circadian Pacemaker - An interesting idea (a returned astronaut has dementia-like problems), and I like the change of setting at the end. But there's little clue that there ever was any closeness between the 2 main characters. The ending (as other stories') avoids the obvious, but this time achieves something positive too.
  • Rehearsal Room - A different kind of story, with repetition of "room", "space", "love", "realise", "seem to". At the end there's a surprising act of violence that causes a life-change.
  • The inland Sea - 21 pages. 2 young brothers cross a frozen lake that before long will join the ocean. There's rivalry, a hailstorm, memories of a visiting scientist who says that unique species live in the lake.
  • Still Life - 5.5 pages. A father looks after a teenage daughter who has become progressively more tired and numb until now she spends most of her time in bed.
  • Blackout - Two boys have eye problems and become friends as a consequence of the eye clinic. One of them has visions and kills himself at 15 when the boys were no longer friends. The survivor (who sometimes saw halos) felt guilt that he refused his friendship (or plea for help). At 25 he moved from the UK to New York. The story begins in a New York eye clinic when he's 40 and knows that he'll soon go blind. He recalls the Manhattan power-cuts and subsequent blackouts. He knows that he'll have to re-discover the world through touch. When he was young, his mother blindfolded him and made him find his way around, so he's ready.
  • The Shallows - A girl recalls her first periods. She recalls the embarrassment of being on a beach, being seen. She recalls observing a little boy there, 2 pretty girls, a man in a tight swimsuit, and an old topless lady. The man rushes in the water towards the boy. There are hints early in the story that the boy drowned.
  • The island - A young couple, holidaying in a hot place, end up alone on a little island. Perhaps they're stranded. The man kills a fish in front of the woman.
  • The Ice Cream Song is Strange - Morris, a businessman (never married but many affairs. Ex UK, now living in NY) goes to a hotel in Japan for a holiday, making the most of the facilities that on business trips he lacked the time to exploit. He loses consciousness in the sauna. He feels he's getting old. He wonders if he has a son, imagines what he'd be like.

Those are the bare facts of the plots. The interesting features lie elsewhere: in the tone, the glancing blows. In general,

  • She doesn't often zoom in meticulously on detail.
  • Much is made of presenting the information in non-chronological order. It works well. She flicks (in chunks as small as a paragraph) between time-lines. Tense changes are significant. There's some flash-forwarding too. "Blackout" ends with paragraphs that begin "He will try", "He will need", "He will remember". "The Shallows" contains "Years later, she would try to describe ...".
  • People deal calmly with the changed circumstances brought upon by illness. They like to have self-control, they like to prepare.
  • After a crisis, the characters flee, become inexpressive, or the story ends. In common with several of the main characters, the main character in "The Ice Cream Song is Strange" thinks "that maybe if he keeps his mouth shut for long enough his brain will re-programme"
  • There's more than an average amount of swimming underwater.
  • Strangers are significant. In "The island" and "The Ice Cream Song is Strange" the character's life may depend (or may have depended) on a stranger. In some of the other stories, the actions of a stranger cause facts about the main character to be revealed.
  • Though she may hint at a vital topic early in a story, explicit information is often withheld until late.
  • The endings often are meticulously ambiguous, even when new information is imparted not long before.

I'd have been happy to have written nearly all of them.

Other reviews

  • Sarah Gilmartin (As well as momentous change, the need to escape is a recurring theme)
  • Rupert Dastur (the short stories in Light Box revolve around the universal difficulties of loss, illness, and estrangement.)
  • Valerie O’Riordan (Orr’s stories focus on moments of inconclusivity; her characters grapple with a moment, or with the memory of a moment, or with a situation that they can’t, or won’t, process, and the stories, then, play out a snapshot of that struggle without offering much, or anything, in the way of resolution. ... Not all the pieces are equally successful, of course – the shorter ones (‘Rehearsal Room’, ‘Still Life’) felt as if the writer was attempting particular effects rather than fully drawing out an imagined world, and there was a consistent lack of levity that felt (to us, anyway) a little relentless.)

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

"The Three-body problem" by Liu Cixin (Head of Zeus Ltd, 2016)

I suspect that only SF fans will like this. It won the Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy Awards for Best Novel. At the sentence level it's rather inelegant, with an initial interest in the prettiness of the females. Overall it's fine, with several interesting Big Science ideas (shades of Stapleton and A.C. Clarke), though it took me a while to discern the novel's shape. It has footnotes to help with the Chinese allusions. From about a third of the way through I was keen to complete the book. I won't spoil things by telling you the plot.

Other reviews

  • Jason Heller (This is hard SF, full of lovingly lengthy passages of technical exposition about everything from quantum mechanics to artificial intelligence. But Cixin Liu supports all of that braintwisting theory with empathetic characters and a strong action-thriller backbone.)
  • Gary K. Wolfe (it’s for the most part a compelling piece of work, brilliantly translated by Ken Liu, whose astonishing con­trol of tone lets us experience the novel as a speculative thriller without losing the sense of Chinese language and culture that makes it uniquely different from the familiar rhythms of Western SF.)
  • Edward j Rathke (The Three-Body Problem is a novel of ideas, much like Asimov’s novels. There are characters, and I enjoyed them, but many of them are more shells and shades than fully developed people.)

Saturday, 6 August 2016

"Beatlebone" by Kevin Barry (Canongate, 2015)

It's 1978. John is being driven through Ireland. He asks to be let out - "It's four in the morning - the motor idles at a low hum - and the trees have voices, and they are very old" (p.7). "He's been coming loose of himself since early in the spring ... And he has been haunted by his own self for such a long while" (p.10).

He wanders, recalls his childhood and looking after his baby. Years before, he bought a nearby 19-acre island. He reads on a tourist display board that there are 365 islands. "So how will he tell which island is his?" (p.13). He finds a place to sleep. "He sits in his tomb up top of the Newport hotel. It contains a crunchy armchair, a floppy bed, several arrogant spiders, a mattress with stains the shapes of planets and an existential crisis. But he wouldn't want to sound too French about it." (p.22). He's signed in as Mr McCarthy. He knows the media will catch up with him. "All I want is to get to my island" (p.31), he says.

He's interested in words, and has a quick sense of humour. He calls a minder and they get drunk. He pretends to be Ken, with a stutter. Fragments of conversation come and go. There are stream-of-consciousness sections - "He circles and twists like an aggravated goose. Energy is the difficulty always. Too much of. An excess of. Flick out these fingers and they might shoot beads of fire. One neurotic foot in front of the other, and circling - what you do is you keep moving" (p.44).

He hides in the Amethyst Hotel (more a squat than a hotel) with a young couple and Joe Director, who fancies himself as a therapist. "Part four" is written almost like a play script. It begins by setting the scene -

Pale night.

An upstairs room at the Amethyst Hotel.

Once a room for dancing, its ghosts, unseen, move in silence across the old boards still.

Sea-rasp outside hoarse as love by night whispered.

The room is bare but there are symbols of the occult daubed on the walls.

The 4 of them have a Ranting therapy session. John walks out, his thick skin unpunctured despite his weak points being probed - the others know he's John Lennon. He spends a day in a cave by the sea, has a conversation with a seal.

Part Six begin at 11.11.11 on 11.11.11 by the entrance to the Dakota Building. "If I was going to make beatlebone everything it should be, I needed to get to the island" (p.176). It's the putative author, writing about his research. There's a photo of the hotel. The author even spent a night in the cave. There are a few psychological/biographical similarities between the author and John Lennon.

Then it's back to the story. His minder finds supplies and a leaky boat, and they head for the island

Home bites at him for a bit. But he will not go back there. The days of England are done for now. What the fuck is England good for? Sausages and beer and pale gawpy faces. He sits in the boat and he fucking well bails. On white porcelain cups in railway cafés the lipstick traces. The boat moves on its slow-boom beat and it dips and scoops and cuts through the water. His gut is all over the shop. His heart aches for old England. The dark sky growls; in the near low mountains there are rumbles. (p.211)

The next chapter's set in a London recording studio. It ends with a fragmented monologue about Liverpool, about the island, about avoiding a big egg that could be a symbol of his rebirth. In the final chapter he's making his way back to civilisation. He remembers first love.

There's a empty line between paragraphs, and many one-line paragraphs. The fluid style (mixing real/unreal, inner/outside seamlessly) and in-character dialogue reminds me of Nicola Barker's. I liked it.

Other reviews

  • Edward Docx (The Guardian) ( sentence by sentence, the writing is original, exact and telling. When Lennon is forced to lie low at the Amethyst Hotel on nearby Achill Island, the hog-like man running a “ranting” cult there has “tiny yellowish piss-hole-in-the-snow-type eyes” while his young acolyte has “milk-bottle shoulders”. There are a dozen great passages that lyrically solder the profound to the profane in the way of the great Irish playwrights. And lines emerge every few pages that make you want to read them again ... But for all this, on the macro level, the novel didn’t quite work for me. The problem manifests itself in the uneasy fissure between Barry’s command of language and his Lennon’s less comfortable relationship to words)
  • Steve Earle (New York Times) (Only a literary beast, a daredevil wholly convinced he was put on this planet to write, would ever or should ever attempt to cast a person as iconic as John Lennon as a character in a tale of his own invention... Books like this come along once in a generation, books by writers with real chops, who haven’t yet been discouraged from taking real chances and blurring the lines between disciplines. Barry employs every tool in his formidable toolbox — ­razor-sharp prose, powerful poetics and a dramatist’s approach to dialogue unencumbered by punctuation. )
  • Luke Brown (Financial Times) (Barry is an excellent writer of dialogue, skilled at establishing characters quickly, and accordingly he writes some of the best pub scenes in the language, hilarious cacophonies of egos clamouring for attention. He describes drunkenness exactly in disconnected bursts of clarity. ... Lennon, we realise, offers Barry a way to approach his own biography and the “sentimental forces” he has “always been repelled by and drawn to”. )
  • Eoin McNamee (Irish Times) (What is Lennon after? Its hard to tell, tied up in who he is. There is the frail figure unable to bear the weight of his own mythology. There’s the hard-headed survivor. The seeker, the rebel, the self-infantilising, guru-seeking peacenik. He composes music by tapping the subconscious and seeing if he can put manners on what comes out. He addresses his id in the same way ... The complexity and beauty of the language are counterpointed and boundaried by the honed-down structure.)
  • Jean Zimmerman (Barry absolutely nails the period ... Hallucinatory and beautiful, the language Barry employs to reveal Lennon's inner torment make Beatlebone much more than just a work of fan fiction.)
  • Francesca Wade (The Telegraph) (As Barry follows John’s strange journey, the boundaries between fact and fiction, author and subject, past and present morph. Dark, trippy and comic, Beatlebone is a heady exploration of creativity and identity.)

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

"The Skin Diary" by Abegail Morley (Nine Arches Press, 2016)

Poems from Agenda, Iota, Magma, New Walk, Poetry Review, Stand, etc, mostly with 2, 3 or 4-lined rectangular stanzas, the final stanza often being irregular. "Love Child" is formatted like a Shakespearian sonnet.

The earlier poems deal with childhood, then move through relationships, infertility and coping with loss. Sometimes (as with "Summer" and "Presence") an early poem will foreshadow a later one. In the final poems, perhaps too much is made from anecdotes.

I liked the first poem, "Before you write off your imaginary sister", whilst being slightly suspicious of it, partly because "Losing Elena" is also about an invisible friend, and partly because other poems use a similar technical device - a list of negations. Compare this poem with "remember how she didn't ... didn't ... how it didn't ... how water didn't ... how you didn't ... how she didn't ... how she didn't ... Before you know it, she's not at your wedding ..." to

  • "Childhood" (almost a companion piece to the above one, with an imaginary/real theme) has "She knows ... She knows ... it never knew ... never knew ... It didn't know ... pour tea from an imagined pot"
  • "Fish wife" has 3 stanzas each beginning "The woman who's not my mother".
  • "Presence" has "No one saw", "No one knew", "We didn't know", "No one heard", "you didn't know".

I also liked "If you stitch a woman", "The carrier bag", "The Skin Diary", "The Cabinet of Broken Hearts", "Foundling", and "Miracle" and most of the poems from p.44 about broken affairs and fertility except for the extended metaphors of p.46 (boats) and p.48 (body clock), "Post-" and "Achillea millefolium".

Throughout are scattered poems of interest. "Paddock Wood to Charing Cross" may not be a major poem, but it's a worthy addition. It's a mirror image of the poems that deal with a loved one's absence, the narrator imagining a lifetime's friendship with a stranger. In "The Bramble Hotel" the persona leaves the noisy house to hide away in brambles, though they hurt. "ordinary people/ say [fireflies] grow from glow-worms" but the narrator knows better - "there's no luminescence,/ just criss-crossing, a dot-to-dot drawing/ in red ink, linking one cut to another". "Love Child" is strange. Initially the persona stores a peeled, cellophaned potato in a fridge. It looks like a skull. She (I presume all the unidentified narrators are female) imagines having a fling with a grocer who she passes, fears he might open her fridge. The poem ends with "I know he'll fan out his fat hands, hold the hollows/ of the fontanelles, cradle it like a baby's head." it being unclear whether she imagines him holding her head or the potato.

Stitches, skulls and frost feature, as does glass in various forms, but I think water is the most frequently mentioned item. Of the first 9 poems for example, 7 mention water in the form of "bath", "river", rivulets", "tears", "water", "pools ... tides", and "rain". From p.41 I checked again, finding that water's mentioned in nearly every poem, and glass in every 5 or so. Natural cycles (day/night, tides, seasons) can't stay the progress of time, which is raced against in several of the poems. It's represented by egg-timers, sand, archives, and ticking bodies as well as the eponymous diary.

Other reviews

  • londongrip (This tender and complex poem shows once again Morley’s dexterity in dealing with feelings via commonplace tangible objects.)
  • HighWindows (the work of a poet with a blistering imagination and deftness of linguistic touch)