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.

Friday, 21 August 2009

"London Magazine" (Aug/Sep 2009)

I bought this issue (Aug/Sep 2009) because they've been in financial difficulties recently, and because 2 people I know have pieces in there on subjects that interest me. The format is much as it's always been - about 140 A5 pages with stories, poems, articles and reviews (on cultural events as well as on literature). I've never been in it - I've been rejected once (the piece got a 3-figure sum elsewhere); accepted once (but the editor changed); and then a submission got lost in hyperspace.

Tania Hershman has 2 pieces of Flash Fiction, which is good news for flash. She's much published. I like her stuff, but not as much as others do. On p.72 I know that the neutrino radiation is no denser inside the tank than out. What I'm unsure of is whether the main character and the author know. The beginning's promising and the ending avoids closure, but doesn't have any wow factor. And "Transparent" is too transparent for me. Oh well.

Katy Evans-Bush's article on the ICA's "concrete art" exhibition reviews the show and discusses the topic. For me it deals too lightly with the topic, but I think the piece is just right for the magazine. It's interesting to catch the moment when text stops interacting with images and instead becomes the image. It's interesting how meaning changes when the word becomes decontextualised, and then changes again as letters begin to drift from the word. As she points out, new opportunities arise when breaking out of linear syntax, and yes, the Carl Andre piece she describes does "explore the condition of narrative". From what she says about the show I'd also agree with her about the lack of development in the field, and the neglect of new technologies.

Agnes Meadows expends 6 review pages on how wonderful Liz Almond's "Yelp!" is - "'impressive' is a understatement", "searing agony", "extraordinary strength, anger, bitterness and anguish", "simply stunning", "an extraordinary series", "The poetry will bite you ... It will draw blood", "she writes with poignant sweetness", "an unfailing eye for both the beautiful and the brutal". Over 3 pages of the 6 are quotes, so readers can decide for themselves. I'm not rushing out to buy it.

Mario Petrucci's 11 pages on Chernobyl include 3 pages of his 2-line stanza'd poems. It's an edited address to a conference. I found it waffly and repetitive. I think all he's saying is that "We can let Chernobyl demonstrate the supremacy of negative imagination, or we can repossess our potential to meet it with wisdom and growth" (p.44) but words bloat to fill the available space, spurred by the context's poetic license. So we get stuff like "A poem has the ability to alight in the mind, in the heart, not unlike an angel ... it is rather in vogue these days to suggest that Old Testament angels were neither sweet nor pure, but more like Jehovah's henchmen. Their plumage came not in white, but in shades of grey. There is something in that, though, because angels - like poems - are agents of difficulty as much as peace. This agency, embodied by poems and their messy grey-scale angelic impetus, is impoverished by post-enlightenment attempts to categorise literature and science as, at best, the most distant of relatives and, at worst, tribal arch-rivals" (p.37)

I've read some of Alison McLeod's stories. "The Light" (10 pages) doesn't pack enough weight. However, Guy Ware's story (8 pages) is one of the slickest I've read for quite a while.

The poetry has variety - rhymed and unrhymed, etc. Dunkerley's is right-aligned for some reason.

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