For many of us who enjoy reading, there may have been a lot of flat rectangular shaped presents under the tree. Books are the gift that keep on giving; not only are they a pleasure to open but then they keep on giving with every page you turn – and then a little more after when you carry on thinking about what you’ve read.
We have compiled a list of the books we received over Christmas and a short review of one of these books each.
Joshua’s New Year reading:
Zaffar Kunial, Us(Faber & Faber, 2018)
Raymond Antrobus, The Perseverance(Penned in the Margins, 2018)
Matthew Dickman, Wonderland(W. W. Norton & Company, 2018)
Jack Kerouac, Collected Poems[ed. Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell] (Library of America: 2012)
Various, City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology [ed. Lawrence Ferlinghetti] (City Lights Books, 2015)
Various, The Forward Book of Poetry 2019(Bookmark, 2018)
Jacqueline Rose, The Last Resistance (Verso, 2017)
Joshua’s reviews so far:
Zaffar Kunial’s debut collection, Us, is a thought provoking exploration of journeys. Journeys of the poet, journeys across the bridges between worlds. Kunial explores the journeys between the Kashmir – of his father’s youth – and the Midland’s of his mother’s birth. The poems in this collection explore the roots of language (in ‘The Word’, Kunial discusses his father’s misplacing of ‘the’ in sentences) but also the roots of people (That although Kunial was born in England, his mixed-race status makes him feel as if he is in a ‘halfway house’, not really belonging anywhere). His beautifully simple style of poetry makes this collection a a pleasurable read while exploring potentially heavy themes such as the poet’s journey and identity in modern Britain. A great way to start the New Year’s reading.
Kerouac’s Collected Poems edited by Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell, is probably the most complete volume of Kerouac’s poetry that I have seen. It contains the complete Books of Blues, collections of haiku, and Kerouac’s more religious Psalms. I’ve always loved the freeness and simple rhythms of Kerouac’s writing and this volume is no exception, it contains the funny poems that are best read-out-loud in jazzed tones, but also the flowing musings on religion and friendships that were sometimes missed in his lifetime due to his image as the King of the Beats.
Reece’s reading list:
James Anthony & William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Retold (Penguin, 2018)
Franz Kafka, The Castle (Penguin, 2000)
The Penguin Book of Haiku (Penguin, 2018)
Richard Mabey, A Brush With Nature (Ebury, 2014)
Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Faber and Faber, 1984)
Penguin Modern Collection (Penguin, 2018)
Reece’s Reviews So Far (all volumes from Penguin Modern Collection):
William Carlos Williams, Death the Barber:
A dazzling set of poems that leave you with razor sharp, visceral images seeming to form a hologram on the page. The self-titled ‘Death the Barber’ and ‘This Is Just to Say’ are my two favourites, but all offer unrivalled poetical pleasure.
Akutugawa & Others, Three Japanese Short Stories:
Nagai Kafū, Behind the Prison
Uno Kōji, Closet LLB
Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, General Kim
Three strangely touching and haunting short stories that resonated with my thoughts stronger than I expected them to. ‘Behind the Prison’ is the danger of insatiable travelling appetites, but also the struggle of familial expectation and homely constraints. ‘Closet LLB’ warns of the misuse of human potential, both by self and others, and the spiral into dangerous dreams and chewing way at what could have been. Finally, ‘General Kim’ is the humorous imagining of national bias that lets us laugh at ourselves and our myths, but poignantly reminding us that the perpetuation of our pride can lead to dangerous and difficult-to-deal-with patriotism.
Wendell Berry, Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer:
Although hard to grasp at first, Berry makes some fascinating points in both his essays about the danger of technology, especially in his rebuttal of reviews relating to his first essay. He dismantles their blind-sighted feminism with slight humour and clear, logical points which is an inspiration in itself for future essay writing. He is also, like myself, ‘not an optimist’, and I feel my original struggle with his essay is the same he had thirty years previously: where do we draw the line?