Book Review: Bristol

Bristol is an anthology of experimental prose poetry from the wonderfully subversive publisher, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, under their DW Cities imprint. Created in collaboration with an array of literary groups, each book in the series is accompanied by a local event held in the city featured. Like the writing, the idea may be innovative but it is satisfying that such a venture is made possible by supporters and contributors. The literary world benefits from original thinking.

This slim title contains diverse work from six writers. It opens with a concept piece from Sarer Scotthorne which I interpreted as a commentary on the effects of zero hours contract relationships. There is a feeling of risk and disconnection – of those who sign up being expendable. Hours are described as ‘missing’, method as ‘island gropes’ or ‘into a kind of abyss’. It is strangely disconcerting.

Vik Shirley offers a series of poems on celebrity (Betsy) and their varied acolytes (vigilantes). Betsy is a has been whose continued fame relies on her intense following. They demand certain standards for inclusion and have become a power in themselves. The real Betsy is no longer needed for the vigilantes to continue as influencers.

David Turner sets his pieces in the Tate Modern and provides an entertaining alternative commentary on famous art installations. They are playful in their treatment of the conceits and rage of well known artists and their work.

Paul Hawkins’ contribution is more opaque. I took from it a cynical despair at continuing demand for vanilla living and writing.

“the world is full of climbers
putting the win on instagram

hucksters pumping sherbet after sherbet
of effects into the stratosphere

balm ready
going super soft option for the whining win”

Lizzy Turner opens with a quartet of diary entries highlighting the problems of living with anxiety. She then blacks out increasing sections, thus bringing to the fore the ongoing darkness of such a condition. It is a powerful evocation.

The final contributor is Clive Birnie whose bio explains he works with appropriated text. His six interrelated poems are about deals and money-making. Their protagonist, The Lemon Squeezer, is a ‘cease and desist investor’. There is mention of disgrace and deteriorating conditions, of catastrophe ‘becoming commoditised’ – advise given:

“A fool should sell himself, while
he still has something left to sell.”

One of the difficulties of reviewing experimental writing is a concern that my interpretations may be wide of the mark intended. Such is the risk taken by any writer publishing their work. As a reader I enjoyed unpacking this collection. It benefits from rereads and offers much to consider.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the editor, Paul Hawkins.

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Book Review: God Future

God Future, by David Quiles Guilló, is described on the publisher’s website not as a story but as a premonitory vision. It is an example of abstract literature which I would recognise as experimental prose. The book has no page numbers, chapters or headings. There are no capital letters and no punctuation. The stream of words can at times appear incoherent, yet by persevering there is meaning to be gleaned.

Its title page describes it as “a very strange book” and it is dedicated “to everyone who will never attempt to read it”. I did. As an ordinary if voracious and somewhat eclectic reader, these are my thoughts.

There are three entities interfacing, named as one, two and three. Whatever conciousness they have is related as system process. Thoughts are streamed as they reshape concepts to search out meaning. It reads as a mixtape of mind riddles, an attempt to make sense of human living.

To go outside is to downgrade a firewall. Misunderstandings are unsolved equations. Death is a device lost. Interactions require synchronicity and compatibility. Secure connections are advised. Hackers abound. There is a warning to “be very careful when downloading feelings”. There is much superfluous code.

Upsets in relationships require reboots but without reconfiguration data traffic may cause further system crashes. There can be “strong emotional reactions as updates occur”. Single player mode is possible but rare in the longterm. Sound is everywhere, silence loud. The presentation of a device can be altered but matters less than software.

This is the “doomed human condition” described in technology speak. There is depth to the ideas presented if one can extract them from the conceptual narration. In this I would say I was partially successful.

In many ways I approached this book as I would poetry – trying to work out what is going on, what is clever and what hopelessly opaque to someone with my abilities. When I had finished I checked to see how it is described elsewhere. The author writes that his book is:

“The apocalyptic view that the only three living entities are the ones that survived inside the autonomous internet of things, and where fate of consciousness relies on them to communicate, and communication depends in figuring out how to use all the data that humans left behind many centuries ago.”

I had understood some of this, although figuring out how to make sense of many of the convoluted strings of words was at times a challenge. It is an interesting idea and a strangely satisfying puzzle to attempt to solve. It is not by any stretch an easy read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.