A Quest for the Quotidian

An extract from my review of Claire-Louise Bennett‘s Pond was quoted in Guardian Australia‘s “December literary picks” published on 10 December 2016:

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett (Picador)

Guardian reviewer Andrew Gallix wrote of this collection of 20 stories:

Reading them is an immersive experience. We come to share the “savage swarming magic” the narrator feels under her skin by focusing at length on her “mind in motion” … One of the most striking aspects of this extraordinary book is how well we get to know the narrator — whose brain and body we inhabit — yet how little we know about her. We don’t even learn her name …

What Bennett aims at is nothing short of a re-enchantment of the world. Everyday objects take on a luminous, almost numinous, quality through the examination of what Emerson called “the low, the common, the near” or the exploration of Georges Perec’s “infra-ordinary” — a quest for the quotidian.”

Theorems Estranged Into Pure Poetry

An extract from my review of Agustín Fernández Mallo‘s Nocilla Dream appears on the back cover of Nocilla Experience (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2016).


By juxtaposing fiction with non-fiction … the author has created a hybrid genre that mirrors our networked lives, allowing us to inhabit its interstitial spaces. A physician as well as an artist, Mallo can spot a mermaid’s tail in a neutron monitor; estrange theorems into pure poetry.

Savage Swarming Magic

Lauren Elkin was kind enough to quote from my review of Pond when introducing Claire-Louise Bennett at Shakespeare and Company on 4 May 2016:

Andrew Gallix wrote in his review for the Guardian, of the stories in Pond — quote — “Reading them is an immersive experience. We come to share the ‘savage swarming magic’ the narrator feels under her skin by focusing at length on her ‘mind in motion’“.

Here is a picture I took of Claire-Louise signing a copy of her book at Chez Panisse, following her reading.


Seeing the World Come Into Focus

Julie Muller Mitchell, “Eminent Theorist,” Stanford Magazine March-April 2016

Girard’s first book, Deceit, Desire and the Novel (published in French in 1961; the English edition followed in 1966), introduced his theory that human motivation is based on desire, and our desires are based upon what others want, emphasizing the role of imitation in our lives. In developing his theory of mimetic desire, he argued that human conflict results not from our differences but rather from our sameness. As people seek what others want, these competing desires lead to rivalry, jealousy and violence. In a 2010 article in the Guardian, writer Andrew Gallix said that discovering Girard’s book was like “putting on a pair of glasses and seeing the world come into focus.”

What the Whole Thing is About

Caleb Crain. Rev. of Memory Theater, by Simon Critchley. The New York Times 16 December 2015

… In “The Phenomenology of Spirit,” Hegel imagined history as a long, bloody drama acted out by the spirit of history, which played all the characters. Critchley cleverly describes (or rather, claims that his late teacher cleverly described) Hegel’s idea of history as a moving memory theater — “a kind of proto-­cinema.” The narrator concludes that his own experiments have failed because his memory theater didn’t move, and he looks forward to a posthuman upgrade: “an endlessly recreating, re-enacting memory mechanism.” This sounds awfully like the Internet, to which it is so tempting nowadays to offload one’s more tedious tasks of remembering — and indeed, in a recent interview with Andrew Gallix of 3:AM Magazine, Critchley has admitted that the Internet is “what the whole thing is about.” Maybe it makes more sense to think of “Memory Theater” as an allegory.