RaveIrish Times (IRE)This Woman’s Work is billed as challenging \'the historical narrative of music and music writing being written by men, for men\' and \'seeks to confront the male dominance and sexism that have been hard-coded in the canons of music, literature and film\'. That’s laudable and very necessary, but it’s not anti-feminist to hope there is also also going to be irreverence, complication, thrills, ridiculous devotion, mystery and all the things that make the serious business of music so joyful. Glad to say, it’s all in there ... Beautiful pieces ... Bright and insightful ... While reading these passionate essays, I felt there was so much I wanted to experience, so much I hadn’t heard before.
Virginie Despentes tr. Frank Wynne
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)Vernon’s crowd are snappy, funny, loquacious, quick, brutal, thinkers, street philosophers, and so Vernon, although given top billing, accounts for only one individual in the equivalent of an ensemble film. We move in and out of the speech styles and worldviews of this kaleidoscopic crew, through third-person free indirect thought and embedded dialogue...Frank Wynne’s flexible, fine translation means this happens in a manner that is thrilling and exhilarating to read, whether it’s hipster slang, dispassionate staccato or slow, misanthropic bitterness. When interviewed, Wynne said that capturing Despentes’ dialogue was like \'trying to catch lightning in a jam ja\'. Yet this is what he does ... You are disgusted? Then, Despentes seems to say, be so by society too. This is a world of contradictions, pain and ugliness. These people are cynical and disaffected. They satirise their own society. Never mind the revolution being televised – here’s the massacre, which will also be serialised ... Despentes can move from pulp fiction tropes and revenge motifs to episodes of horrific violence against women, to scenes of stripped-down delicacy and implication, such as a mother’s relationship with her adult son, or a woman’s relationship with her married employer ... The baggy narrative structure, where individual characters jostle against each other and have their say, moves towards a sudden, apparently shocking conclusion which, of course, the skilful Despentes has prepared us for all along. And then, beyond this, there is a mythologising coda, an imaginative projection which could be silly but is in fact deeply moving ... The first two books in the trilogy were reviewed with great appreciation and brio by the late Eileen Battersby in this paper. She imagined how Vernon would appear in the apocalyptic finale of Subutex 3: \'a surreal, passive Prospero\'. And there is indeed that quality, achieved through Despentes rough rock’n’roll magic.
PositiveThe SpectatorBowlaway, Elizabeth McCracken’s first novel in 18 years, is a great American candy-color Buddenbrooks ... Swap the family with their grain business in Thomas Mann’s novel for the Truitts and their bowling alley in Salford, north of Boston, and you will have the stuff of McCracken’s rambunctious saga ... With its whimsy and wackiness, this is a funhouse of a novel. Even the most incidental of characters are granted glorious vignettes ... \'Nothing is for sure.’ And so it is in the unpredictable and startling world of Bowlaway.