by Carmina Masoliver
From the first line in the acknowledgements section – “This book is built on a lifetime of resentment” – Shy Radicals by Hamja Ahsan illustrates a special kind of humour, that may have an element of truth, but also puts something serious in a light-hearted way. The book as a whole, has many of these gems, showing the distinct style of Ahsan’s writing that can deliver brutal honesty in a way that makes the reader laugh out loud.
Likewise, Shy Radicals deals with a world that is part-truth, part-fiction: Aspergistan is ‘the homeland of oppressed Shy, Introvert and Autistic Spectrum peoples’ and a comical nod to the psychologically atypical natures of most shy people. Perhaps Aspergistan’s location within the now-divided Indian subcontinent is an acknowledgement that the Western world is representative of the loudness and extrovert dominance that shy people have to fight against. This fight referred to here, is against “the Extrovert-Supremacist world camp”. This alignment with the Eastern world is also seen in the use of the Eastern Lunar models for the new calendar proposed in the chapter on culture.
by Hannah Rose
Your new book, Illegal, tells the story of your arrest and deportation from Ecuador and your consequent return over the Colombian border with the help of corrupt police. There’s also a love story which runs through it. Crime and love both sell books – was this thematic mix deliberate?
My original intent was to focus on borders and revolution but almost every person who read a draft, especially early on, wanted to know more about the love story. So I kept adding more with each new edit. We’ve all been in love so that shared experience makes it relatable and easier to digest. That common basis is a great launch pad to touch on everything else, too.Continue Reading
by Eli Lambe
Dave Eggers’ The Circle, both the book and the recent feature-length adaptation, is a dystopia formed around a Facebook/Apple/Google/Amazon-esque corporation, one which hosts and shares almost every aspect of its users lives. The novel does a remarkable job of capturing the subtle ways in which this model is marketed to us, how this format of data-as-product is often shrouded in apparently progressive buzzwords – community, accountability, transparency, participation – whilst the company which operates under this model does so under the same values as every other corporate entity.
There is a veneer of progressivity and respectability that companies adopt in order to retain and gain customers – like Facebook making it easier to harass trans people, or implementing guidelines that protect white men but not black children, and at the same time, for one month of the year, patchily providing a rainbow “pride” react to the users who liked lgbt@facebook. Perhaps not as extreme as Eggers writes in The Circle, but eerily close enough: “Anytime you wanted to see anything, use anything, comment on anything or buy anything, it was one button, one account, everything tied together and trackable and simple, all of it operable via mobile or laptop, tablet or retinal.”Continue Reading
by Toby Gill
When Theresa May announced her snap election, I was travelling across Japan. At the time I was spending a lot of time on a variety of very slow trains (the famous bullet trains were somewhat beyond our budget). This gave me a lot of down-time to ponder my electoral choices, and consider which way I should vote. It also gave me a lot of time to read the latest tome of modern history I had picked up: Martin Pugh’s State and Society; a social and political history of Britain since 1870. It is not a politicised book; it markets itself as a rigorous work of academic history, designed to introduce new undergraduates to the period – a task it performs superbly.
However, this is a politicised book review.Continue Reading
by Carmina Masoliver
The cover of Better Watch Your Mouth displays a set of lips and teeth pulling the kind of expression you would make after being told such a thing. It suggests an unapologetic rejection of censorship, which is later reflected in the poem ‘Ugh, Men’ with the statement ‘we will not censor ourselves (x3)’.
This is a collection that mixes everyday language with profound metaphor, and beautiful imagery with emotive stories. It begins with the telling of others’ stories and gradually becomes more personal, yet in a way that is also relatable, as time skips back and forth like the mind floating back to memories, some singed with pain and others with nostalgia.
by Eli Lambe
Rich with reference and metaphor, Ali Smith’s Autumn is a triumph. Published incredibly quickly following the chaos of the EU Referendum in June 2016, it fully captures the feelings of isolation, division, and distrust that seems to have characterised the 12 months since. The atmosphere of unreality is masterfully tied together with dream-sequence, ekphrasis, and lies. The principal character, Elisabeth sums it up concisely as an eight year old in 1993: “It’s about history, and being neighbours.”Continue Reading
by Eli Lambe
The Power is a profoundly affecting read. In it, Naomi Alderman envisions a switching of roles and of power dynamics, deftly parodying and reflecting back the ways in which we justify, enforce and understand gender roles.
It asks the question: “What if women were stronger than men; What if men had to be afraid of women?” and follows its core characters – Roxy, the daughter of a British crime boss; Tunde, a Nigerian journalist; Allie, an American foster kid who escapes an abusive household; and Margot, an American Mayor trying to balance her city in the wake of this sudden shift, and protect her daughters Jocelyn and Maddie – as the world progresses towards “Cataclysm.” Continue Reading