Anneke Schwob reviews
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride
Coffee House Press
Eimear McBride’s debut, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, is difficult in almost every sense of the word. Removed from specificity of time (post-Star Wars, pre-iPods) or place (split equally between Ireland’s generically rural and the anonymously urban), McBride’s nameless protagonist fights her way through adolescence under the repressive regimes seemingly de rigeur for an Irish bildungsroman. Her conflict is familiar – an upbringing awash in patriarchal religion; family relationships both fraught and fiercely protective; a deeply uncomfortable, exploitative sexuality – but the terms of engagement feel urgent and fresh.
Given both McBride’s nationality and broad thematic strokes, the comparisons to Joyce have felt both thickly strewn and inevitable. McBride acknowledges a debt: in an essay in The Guardian, she said, “Reading Ulysses changed everything I thought about language, and everything I understood about what a book could do.” Drawing parallels, also, with Samuel Beckett, Edna O’Brien, William Faulkner, reviewers have called the book’s style “neomodernist” and “stream-of-consciousness.” This last, however, doesn’t seem quite apt. McBride’s prose resists streaming; at times, it seems barely conscious. The Girl is inchoate, her thoughts choppy, as disordered and half-formed as the title. Sentences are broken into stuttering clauses. Meaning aggregates through repetition only to be disrupted by another character’s crosstalk, lost forever. Maintaining a firm grip on the narrative is a pointless exercise; leaving plot behind to coast on waves of prose similarly futile. Rather, the text demands to be felt – affectively, yes, but also viscerally.
Continue reading Book Review: Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
Imaginative Empathy: The Poetic Letters of Richard Howard
Hannah Star Rogers reviews
A Progressive Education by Richard Howard
Turtle Point Press
Richard Howard’s experiments in dramatic monologue and dialogue over six decades, in books like Fellow Feelings (1976) and Talking Cures (2003), have demonstrated what we might think of as his imaginative empathy—the way his poetic addresses ask readers to reconsider the situations of his speakers. His collected volume, Inner Voices: Selected Poems, 1963-2003, shows how his voiced poems developed from kinship with writers and thinkers to explorations of the lives of 19th century portrait-sitters.Perhaps we should not be surprised that this poet, critic, and translator can create the worlds of others through their voices, renowned as he is for his important friendships with literary figures including Roland Barthes (for whom he acted as host in New York and, eventually, translator), Susan Sontag, and Amy Clampitt. Howard’s new book demonstrates to us once again the rewards of thinking with someone else’s mind.
Continue reading Book Review: Richard Howard’s A Progressive Education
Noa Snir was born in Jerusalem, where she graduated with honors from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. She is currently residing in Berlin, where she works as a freelance illustrator. She has worked with magazines worldwide and exhibited her work in Israel, Germany, the US, and Portugal. Noa’s work is frequently inspired, both thematically and visually, by the old world. She is interested in naive and folk art, religious art and art brut – art created by people who did not perceive of themselves as artists. Pieces from her Scheherazade series appeared in The Carolina Quarterly 64.1. You can find more of her work at www.noasnir.com
Why Scheherazade? What about this story attracted you to it?
I find the 1001 Nights stories to be an illustrator’s dream. The literary piece is so rich and unconventional. Scheherazade is the female protagonist who provides the framework for this incredible mythology and breathes life into the stories, yet we don’t know much about her. In my work I wanted to put the focus on her—a young, clever girl who finds herself in the midst of an impossible situation and uses her wit, humor and charm to keep herself and her younger sister alive, night after night, for years. The book tells us how her nights are spent (entertaining the king using whatever means necessary), but I was interested what her days looked like.
Continue reading “an illustrator’s dream”: An Interview with Noa Snir
LESLIE BAZZETT’S novel Abandon was a finalist for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, and was nominated for a Pushcart Press Editor’s Choice Award. Her short fiction debuted in The New England Review, where it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and received Special Mention. Subsequent work has appeared in West Branch and The Carolina Quarterly (both also nominated for a Pushcart Prize) and NER Digital. Most recently, her work again appeared in The New England Review, and was the online fiction selection for that issue. She has just completed a new novel, Taken. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, poet Michael Bazzett, and their two children.
Stories Do Not Come From Pencils
Titles are tricky. I liked this one for its complete lack of sophistication. Because this is a story about the seven-year-old writer I once was, living in a shitty factory town in Massachusetts, armed with a blue pencil I was certain would carry me back to my father.
You see, my mother had left my father, whom I adored – a musician, a great artist – and taken us from Boston to live with her lover in his crumbling town. I don’t know what the factory originally produced. It had since been repurposed to make sleeping bags. On my walk home from school, I would often stop to peer in through the barred windows that were permanently fogged with steam, clouded as the eyes of a lunatic.
That I associate mental or physical impairment with the place is not an accident. It was infamous for inbreeding. I read somewhere that at one point it had the highest rate of dwarfism and genetic mutations of any town in the country. Many of these unfortunates lived in a dilapidated brick house on the same street as my school. Retards, as they were called in those days. Specials. Coming to or from school I would sometimes get caught behind a crossing. A little school bus – not even yellow, that’s how shitty this town was – would be parked, hazards blinking in the road, all the specials jerkily crossing into the street, hooting indecipherable exclamations I always took to be curses or taunts.
Continue reading How to Mine the Past
IAN BASSINGTHWAIGHTE is a writer and photographer living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he attends the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. His work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The Common, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly, Guernica, Tin House, and more.
I’m terrified of black holes, but fascinated by the mystery of what’s inside them. I love zombies, but that’s not to say I want to meet one. Nor am I ashamed to admit that I like Armageddon, the Bruce Willis movie about the impending impact of an asteroid the size of Texas. My favorite part: when Steve Buscemi, in an ode to Dr. Strangelove, sits on a nuclear warhead and pretends to ride it like a bull. In real life the bomb would’ve failed to detonate, the asteroid would’ve hit Earth, and humanity would’ve been eradicated. The catastrophe, of course, having gone unnoticed in the cosmos. Nothing truly lost; nothing really changed. After all, in the famous words of Carl Sagan, Earth is just a pale blue dot. Worse still, that pale blue dot appears on a huge black canvas full of other dots. Those dots come in several colors, and are innumerable.
Continue reading How to Prepare for the End of the World: A User’s Guide to Saying Goodbye