Reviews

Gleam and darkness

A review of John Hollander's 'The Substance of Shadow'

Right: Ferdinand Olivier and Heinrich Olivier, 'The Invention of the Art of Drawing (the daughter of Butades of Sicyon and her Lover),' 1804, pen and ink, watercolor. Via Wikimedia Commons.

In Pliny’s Natural History,the original act of aesthetic representation is said to be the tracing of a lover’s shadow on a wall, an outline that would remain after that body takes its sorrowful leave.

From legalese into nothingness

A review of Hugo García Manríquez's 'Anti-Humboldt'

Photo of Hugo García Manríquez (right) courtesy of García Manríquez.

As a bilingual and bicultural individual, I have learned that the vectors that constitute my identity pull me sometimes in different directions depending on which side of the border I’m standing. I embody the challenging experience of engaging in conversation and producing works of literature in my second language. This perspective is always present in my writing; the effects of the binational polarization coming from the imminence of the border are unescapable. When it comes to literature that is written precisely at or in tension with the US/Mexico border, how far do the ripples go?

As a bilingual and bicultural individual, I have learned that the vectors that constitute my identity pull me sometimes in different directions depending on which side of the border I’m standing. I embody the challenging experience of engaging in conversation and producing works of literature in my second language. This perspective is always present in my writing; the effects of the binational polarization coming from the imminence of the border are unescapable.

Giving way to a knot

A review of 'Anemal Uter Meck'

Photo of Mg Roberts (right) by Smeeta Mahanti.

Anemal Uter Meck begins with an amnesiac transformation, the “anemal”/animal of the title seen immediately in the dedication “for raptors everywhere,” and in the first lines of the book: “you forget you were someone/something / else. you forget your beak. your.”[1] We may start there, but we certainly do not rest there. Mg Roberts moves quickly between a fistful of strands and conversations, never showing the whole of them.

Anemal Uter Meck begins with an amnesiac transformation, the “anemal”/animal of the title seen immediately in the dedication “for raptors everywhere,” and in the first lines of the book: “you forget you were someone/something / else. you forget your beak. your.”[1] We may start there, but we certainly do not rest there. Mg Roberts moves quickly between a fistful of strands and conversations, never showing the whole of them.

'The heart's vast and cratered purpose'

'In June the Labyrinth'

Photo of Hogue (left) © Sylvain Gallais.

Cynthia Hogue’s In June the Labyrinth turns from the meditations on grief and loss Revenance illuminated with tact and grace to the dimensions of mortality itself. The book’s protagonist, Elle, at once a distinct personality and a compilation of formidable women, suffers, recovers, and dies by the series’ end.

'Like a postponed present'

Reading reality in Mandelstam's 'Voronezh Notebooks'

Osip Mandelstam’s mugshot after his second arrest by the NKVD, 1938. Via Wikimedia Commons.

In describing life under the Stalinist regime in Russia, Nadezhda Mandelstam writes in her celebrated memoir, “To lose one’s memory — provided it was an honest one — is to lose touch with reality.”[1] These words are especially profound from a woman famous for saving her partner’s words, the poems of Osip Mandelstam, by committing them to memory. And today, as we grapple with what it means to understand reality, Nadezhda Mandelstam’s words come to mind when not only memory ebbs, but facts themselves seem elusive.

In describing life under the Stalinist regime in Russia, Nadezhda Mandelstam writes in her celebrated memoir, “To lose one’s memory — provided it was an honest one — is to lose touch with reality.”[1] These words are especially profound from a woman famous for saving her partner’s words, the poems of Osip Mandelstam, by committing them to memory.