Tag Archives: reviews

An American Road Trip ‘Playlist’ of Books


Today you can read your way across America with me – over on Books for Women, Women’s Books:


NEW YORK CITY:  All aboard at Port Authority Bus Terminal. Find your seat and strap in. There are so many choices for the city that loves to read about itself, so I’ve gone for two…

Read more here!


Also you might have missed these two excellent reviews of Flesh of the Peach, in Scots Whay Hae and The Bottle Imp. My heart.


Additionally, some good things are brewing with both On the Edges of Vision, currently out of print after the shuttering of Queen’s Ferry Press, as well as for the nascent second collection (and the novella that goes along with it). Firm news when I have it to share.


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Sitting at the ladies’ table

A few days old now, but I took part in a roundtable on Kate Zambreno’s Heroines. At the discussion (if one can be ‘at’ an online space) were Joanna Walsh, Christine Cody, myself and Michelle Bailat-Jones, who put the whole thing together and asked thoughtful and probing questions of the group:



The chattering woman is the muse of modernism. Her talk that is represented as unconscious and intuitive and associative. He always accompanies her with a notepad. He copies down her “disordered” speech, and later he will use it to convinct her.

Kate Zambreno, Heroines, p.83

In 2012, Semiotext(e) published Heroines by Kate Zambreno, a book that is as much memoir as it is literary criticism, that is also a kind of novel, and that questions its readers about all these forms and how we define them, how we work within them and around them. The book also opens up a discussion about women’s writing and the literary canon, about who gets to “write women”—their fiction and their biographies—and from what perspective.


We decided to put together this discussion in response to Heroines, as it’s a book that has stirred up much interest, a fair amount of praise and some controversy.




In other news, I am working on an application for a three-month fellowship in New Zealand at the Pah Homestead in Auckland. It’s a bit of a long shot, but the position is open only to writers of Scottish origin or inclination, so I do have my hopes. It would be an incredible opportunity, and something that I would never be able to do under my own steam. Wish me luck!


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My review of Hausu (1977) on up on The Female Gaze


I write as one possessed by this film, this bizarre cult horror-comedy that bubbles my blood candy-flavoured around my heart, its strange, haunting refrain stuck to the roof of my mouth.


It helps to be lying down while tackling things.

I wish I had actual candyfloss to dissolve on the tongue.

Anyway, where to begin? How about the plot?


Read more 


If you like the sound of Hausu, watch it and we can chat about it. Seen it already? What do you think?


The Female Gaze Review is a brand new online journal with an all-women staff.  It went live on Monday, and the first review, of Break Any Woman Down by Dana Johnson (review by Leesa Cross Smith) is here.


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Looking aslant



I’ve been trying to keep myself busy. Lounging in writing and talking myself half blind at work. It happens, if I talk too much, read too much. I’ve been wandering around the city with students, looking at the stones of the Old Town, stacked up one against the other and on one another, crowding in.


Also: I have been trying to mentally tackle my response to Tamara Faith Berger’s Maidenhead. Which is not purely positive, which requires framing – I can see what the novel is doing, and yet I look at it. I look at it and I can’t. But I will. I will organise some thoughts that are somewhat coherent.


Not helpful: having been reading ‘what should a review do’ style essays here there and everywhere.  I feel like the writers of these essays don’t want to rub their whiskers against books, or taste books with an anteater tongue or half close their eyes and imagine the text as it is laid out on the page revealing something of the image within, a rhythm created by shape. Is this style of review Romantic? Or is it reductive? (Even asking this question makes my head hurt).


I have been tilting my head at an angle for weeks. Writing to make right, and not-writing because the contents of my head have all fallen to one side.


What do you do, at times like these?


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Writing is Waiting

I’ve been working on my first review for PANK and finding it unusually stressful. I just really want it to be good enough, but the language of critique is hard for me. Always I cannot see with a clinical eye, but have to touch everything instead, working out the shapes and textures. Right now, I’m waiting for D to have time to proofread what I’ve done so far, to point out any weaknesses or confusion so that I can smooth them away. Added to this, I’m also waiting for the weekend, when D will be able to sit down and read the manuscript of the current with me, to play spot-the-no. No, this doesn’t make sense, no, this is not clear enough, no, this does not sing.

That means, for now, I have set the manuscript aside, cannot fiddle with it even a bit. I have nothing for my hands to do: I keep hearing dud notes through the wall, and it irks. But a bit of distance is necessary. Writing is waiting, not just typing. Not even thinking – sometimes the silence is needed, to let the subconscious seethe and click, like a nest of something, a swarm of something, knitting away in the dark.

I have, after much of humming and hawing, finally decided that the title is not what I want for it, that it should be Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts, so that’s what it shall be from now on. The last words found written on a piece of paper, inside a wallet, on the body of Stephen Foster, writer of ‘Oh! Susanna’,  ‘Beautiful Dreamer’. It carries more within it than a generational descriptor. It hints, it hums sweetly, but not too sweetly.

Anyway, to keep my mind from rattling too much, I’m posting these pictures of Spring. Soothing, and only pleasant, of the blossoms on the ornamental cherries which seem to be everywhere in this city. You turn a corner and there they are, heavy with puffs of white or pink. These were taken behind the National Museum, beside the Potterrow Port:


Filed under 2012, art, consolations of writing, Edinburgh, Planning, The Now