PositiveThe Irish Times (IRE)Moving between retellings of biblical stories, heuristic commentary and speculative cultural theory, Calasso spins an epic that is heroic and anti-heroic at once. Portraits of Saul, David, Solomon, Abraham and Moses present a chronicle of relentless patriarchy but Calasso’s attention wanders constantly to the figures on the fringes ... The Book of All Books is in no sense a work of conventional theology, and prominent among its themes is the extraordinary violence required to sustain divine authority. By returning scripture to its wider roots in myth and hearsay, Calasso works to defuse the mystique of patriarchal violence ... Whatever his personal beliefs, Calasso the biblical exegete has achieved a comparable, intimate reciprocity with his text ... With Calasso’s death, European writing has lost a master of comparable stature.
RaveLiterary Review (UK)Wilson’s target is less a straightforward biography than a sifting of Lawrence’s legacy for what remains urgent and alive, the aim being to shed its infernal baggage in search of an abiding paradise. One threat to her Dante comparison is how remote from heaven Lawrence increasingly appears, his attachment to the physical world growing shriller the weaker his grip on it becomes. But these tensions are all part of the drama ... Wilson’s Guilty Thing, her life of Thomas De Quincey, is one of the finest recent literary biographies. Partial portrait though it is, Burning Man is in the same league ... this is a book that performs a rare and laudable task: of saving a writer, posthumously, from himself. We are all beneficiaries of Wilson’s articulate and persuasive advocacy.
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Still Life is a book written in full cognizance of the approach of death, and as such cannot help but wear a testamentary air. Yet freshness and surprise are central to its success ... With Still Life, Carson has achieved the remarkable feat of closing his oeuvre with a book that recapitulates his previous creative chapters, while at the same time striking out in a new direction. It emerges from a lifelong passion for art, and a deep engagement with other ekphrastic poems across the Irish, British, American and French traditions ... In the even-tempered poems of Still Life it is, perhaps surprisingly, flourishes of despair that are in short supply ... An unexpected central role in Still Life goes to the vintage onyx pencil used by Carson to write his poems. Like Beckett’s Malone, Carson will often move between descriptions of his everyday routines and descriptions of the pencil as it commits them to paper. Sometimes, again in Beckettian style, this throws up narrative paradoxes, as when a poem in the present tense describes the breaking of a pencil nib, but the poem presses on regardless ... Still Life is among Carson’s very best work, and anglophone poetry is immeasurably the poorer for his passing.
RaveThe Literary Review (UK)Academic critics of Dryden or Pope were not in the habit, the last time I checked, of interspersing their monographs with reminiscences of sex clubs in Manhattan. An affectionate excursus on that subject in Mark Doty’s What is the Grass announces that this is no ordinary piece of literary criticism ... Doty is one of the most compelling modern singers of ‘the body electric’ and in What is the Grass he has produced an elegant meditation on the great founding father of American poetry ... Whitman’s aesthetic of intimacy is replicated in Doty’s engaging memoir ... Lawrence called Whitman a poet with ‘his privacy leaking out in a sort of dribble, oozing into the universe’. But Doty helps us feel the touch and connection of great art afresh. It is a warmly affecting performance.
PositiveThe GuardianThere is scarcely one of the 271 sections in this book that does not assail the reader with the force of a vatic last judgment ... Hill...likes nothing better than dishing out thunderbolts. He takes as read that ours is a world of false prophets ... The poet’s heroes are Samuel Taylor Coleridge and John Ruskin, high Tories both, but present day Tories are \'both rabble and oligarchy.\' Such is Hill’s seriousness that commentators often fall on his more frolicsome moments with unseemly haste. The element of \'music-hall kvetch\' remains strong here, but the line between quip and tragic harrumph is often blurred ... this is a book that squarely confronts age and death ... Those baffled by the procession of eminent names should imagine they are reading a latter day Anglo-Saxon chronicle saga, and being treated to a roll call of the kings of Mercia, if that would help ... In Hill as in Browning, the poles of sacred and secular, vision and squalor, run very close together. The Book of Baruch is a work of the sovereign imagination in a state of radical alienation, to put it in Hillian terms, and all the better for its soiling at the hands of a fallen and imperfect world.