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The Monday Review, week twenty four

1. Dear Boy, Emily Berry

I walked into old memories where I would visit the quiet, brightly-lit fourth floor of the Wellgate Library on Wednesdays. The book blurb reads:

"Eccentric, intimate, arch, anxious, decadent and sometimes mournful, [Dear Boy]'s confiding, conversational voices tell stories recognisable and refracted, carried along by the undercurrent [...] anguish and energy brought about by a long-distance love affair."

-- Faber and Faber, 2013


2. The Whole & Rain-domed Universe, Colette Bryce

Colette Bryce's The Whole & Rain-domed Universe, shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best collection, gives a vivid, poignant and unsettling account of growing up in Derry, Northern Ireland, during the Troubles. It relaxes into the ghostlike ancestry, and documents the atmosphere of suspicious and unease of cultural and familial tensions. Always, throughout the collection, is the presence of Colette.

We begin with a tiny corner

of a white page, edged

in bluish flame,

a fragment that increases


then narrows again

and peters away

revealing the newborn opposite

corner of the page,

an unburned sheet of paper


we replace the heart

into the heart

as we place the book

back into the hands

of its owner, only a child, a girl

who smiles at us

and leans into her writing.

--- from "A Simple Modern Hand"


3. The Pomegranates of Kandahar, Sara Maguire

The Pomegranates of Kandahar is beautiful, delicate, prosaic and detailed. It moves with lamentation into the devastation of Afghanistan following decades of war and political unrest. There is great mastery to Macguire's balance between natural images and 'the world' in all its natures.

4. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami. Translated by Philip Gabriel

What I Talk about When I Talk about Running is a highly engrossing memoir written by Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, in which the writer reflects on his interest and participation in long-distance running. The small collection of chapters also engages with topics of routine, writing, success, longevity and travel and jazz. Murakami began running in the early 1980s, and since then, has competed in over twenty marathons and an ultramarathon. I particularly appreciated the audio version of this memoir.

5. People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue, Preston M Sprinkle

In a manner that appeals to both scholarly and lay-audiences alike, Preston M Sprinkle reflects on difficult questions on how the church should treat people with same-sex attraction. This book was thoughtful, compassionate and topical, in light of current decisions faced by the Church of England.

6. The Kingdom, Jane Draycott

Adore the gentleness, the simple clarities, of the poetry written by Jane Draycott. Her mind deftly sorts through metaphor to build comparisons on life with astute, prosaic reflection. This fifth collection of poetry reflects a world we know, though altered a little by time, dimension and want. The collection feels like a journey where 'the windows of the tram car were open, and all the curtains floated in the wind.' But it is also circulatory in that all the poems appear to exist in an intimately known place. In 'Window', Draycott communicates her shared sense of longing:

[...] I see you at the window now,

the paper wings, the waving hand, the bright expanding room,

and so I leave my note with yours here on the sill

–– till soon, your friend and neither, World.

Highly recommend!

6. The Collected Poems & Drawing of Stevie Smith, edited and with an introduction by Will May

The poetry of Stevie Smith was recommended to me by musician Nick Cave in his interview Faith, Hope and Carnage. The poems are punchy, sharp and almost childlike in their deadpan, unvarnished nature. But the wit with which each line is delivered, and her detailed care of poetic forms demonstrate Smith's poetic grounding.


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