Friday 17 February 2023


Losing the Plot by Derek Owusu            $33
Driven by a deep-seated desire to understand his mother's life before he was born, Derek Owusu offers a powerful imagining of her journey. As she moves from Ghana to the UK and navigates parenthood in a strange and often lonely environment, the effects of displacement are felt across generations. Told through the eyes of both mother and son, Losing the Plot is at once emotionally raw and playful as Owusu experiments with form to piece together the immigrant experience and explore how the stories we share and tell ourselves are just as vital as the ones we don't.
"Derek Owusu is a writer of rare empathy, intensity and allure. This brief verse novel, in untranslated Twi and various registers of English, observes the inner life of an exhausted immigrant mother, notions of cultural disinheritance, and mutable identities." —Paul Mendez
"I write from the heart, first.
What Have You Left Behind? by Bushra al-Maqtari          $38

In 2015, Bushra al-Maqtari decided to document the suffering of civilians in the Yemeni civil war, which has killed over 200,000 people according to the UN. Inspired by the work of Svetlana Alexievich, she spent two years visiting different parts of the country, putting her life at risk by speaking with her compatriots, and gathered over 400 testimonies, a selection of which appear in What Have You Left Behind? Purposefully alternating between accounts from the victims of the Houthi militia and those of the Saudi-led coalition, al-Maqtari highlights the disillusionment and anguish felt by civilians trapped in a war outside of their own making. As difficult to read as it is to put down, Bushra al-Maqtari's unvarnished chronicle of the conflict in Yemen serves as a vital reminder of the scale of the human tragedy behind the headlines, and offers a searing condemnation of the international community's complicity in the war's continuation.
This is an extraordinary collection of testimonies. It’s almost unbearable to read, but averting your eyes from the suffering to which the book bears witness feels craven. Brave, painful, necessary and harrowing, Bushra al-Maqtari’s work confronts the reader with the devastation of the war in Yemen and gives a voice to those whose lives have been destroyed by it." —Marcel Theroux
Bushra al-Maqtari's boundlessly humane project of collecting firsthand accounts to document the nearly decade-long Yemeni civil war – and the West's complicity in it – is unblinking in its moral gaze. Every single voice collected in these pages is a blow to the heart. By the time I finished this book, I was consumed by sorrow and rage. This is an act of witnessing, and of making us engage in the witnessing of a disgraceful, criminal war that will shake your soul." —Neel Mukherjee
>>"They robbed me of my children."
>>A locked room for loss

The Waste Land: A biography of a poem by Matthew Hollis            $50
T.S. Eliot's 1922 poem 'The Waste Land' has been said to describe the moral decay of a world after war and the search for meaning in a meaningless era. It has been labeled the most truthful poem of its time; it has been branded a masterful fake. Hollis reconstructs the intellectual creation of the poem and brings its charged times to life. Presenting a mosaic of historical fragments, diaries, dynamic literary criticism, and new research, he reveals the cultural and personal trauma that forged 'The Waste Land' through the lives of those involved in its genesis: Ezra Pound, who edited it; Vivien Eliot, who sustained it; and T.S. Eliot himself, whose private torment is woven into the seams of the work. "Deeply and brilliant concerned with the tendrils of unhappiness and Eliot's triumphant creative response to it." —Guardian
>>Animated sand.
>>Words heard and seen.
>>Death by water

Trilogy by Jon Fosse (translated by May-Brit Akerholt)          $35
Trilogy is Jon Fosse's critically acclaimed, luminous love story about Asle and Alida, two lovers trying to find their place in this world. Homeless and sleepless, they wander around Bergen in the rain, trying to make a life for themselves and the child they expect. Through a rich web of historical, cultural, and theological allusions, Fosse constructs a modern parable of injustice, resistance, crime, and redemption. Consisting of three novellas (WakefulnessOlav's Dreams, and Weariness), Trilogy is a haunting, mysterious, and poignant evocation of love.
t is easy to see Fosse's work as Ibsen stripped down to its emotional essentials. But it is much more." —New York Times
Read Thomas's review of Fosse's (later) Septology
The Fallen by Carlos Manuel Álvarez        $23
Diego, the son, is disillusioned and bitter about the limited freedoms his country offers him. Mariana, the mother, is unwell and forced to relinquish her control over the home to her daughter, Maria, who has left school and is working as a chambermaid in one of the state-owned tourist hotels. The father, Armando, is a committed revolutionary who is sickened by the corruption he perceives all around him. In meticulously charting the disintegration of a family, The Fallen offers a poignant reflection on contemporary Cuba and the clash of the ardent idealism of the old guard with the jaded pragmatism of the young.
"A beautiful and painful novel that demonstrates the power of fiction to pursue the unutterable." —Alejandro Zambra

"Álvarez does a neat job in this very short but nutritious novel of establishing the personalities of his characters firmly enough that it comes as a real shock when he upends our expectations of how they might behave." —Jake Kerridge
A war foretold that never takes place. A death foretold that never takes place. And in the middle of this is the inevitable collapse of a family and a country. The Fallen is a subtle, intelligent and profoundly moving novel which sketches, in elegant and thoughtful prose, a rarely seen Cuban landscape." —Alia Trabucco Zerán

My First Popsicle: An anthology of food and feelings edited by Zosia Mamet           $37
Food is a portal to culture, to times past, to disgust, to comfort, to love: no matter one's feelings about a particular dish, they are hardly ever neutral. Mamet has curated some of the most prominent voices in art and culture to tackle the topic of food in its elegance, its profundity and its incidental charm. With contributions from David Sedaris on the joy of a hot dog, Jia Tolentino on the chicken dish she makes to escape reality, Patti Smith on memories of her mother's Poor Man's Cake, Busy Philipps on the struggle to escape the patterns of childhood favourites and more, My First Popsicle is an ode to food and emotion.

The Passenger: Space                  $37
'Night, Sleep, Death and the Stars' by Lauren Groff; 'The Universe Underground' by Paolo Giordano; 'We All Hated Each Other So Much' by Frank Westermann; Plus: discovering new planets and destroying satellites; returning to the Moon (this time to stay); the Mars delusion. In the 1960s, the rivalry between the superpowers brought us into space, adding a whole new dimension to human life. The last frontier was open: between 1969 and 1972 twelve men (but no women) walked on the moon. No one has since. The space race revealed itself for what it really was: a political and military competition. Space agencies, however, have not been idle and the exploration of the solar system has continued with probes and robots. Without politics, science has thrived. But the lack of government funding has opened space exploration to the forces of capitalism: the race has started again, with different rules and different players. Colonising Mars might not be the solution to humanity's problems, but the promise of space - whether expressed in a tweet by Elon Musk or a photo taken by a NASA rover on Mars - keeps proving irresistible (as does this illustrated miscellany).
>>What is it about space? 
Wanderlust: A history of walking by Rebecca Solnit          $28
What does it mean to be out walking in the world? From pilgrimages to protest marches, mountaineering to meandering, this modern classic weaves together numerous histories to trace a range of possibilities for this most basic act. Touching on the philosophers of Ancient Greece, the Romantic poets, Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennett, Andre Breton's Nadja, and more, Rebecca Solnit considers what forms of pleasure and freedom walkers have sought at different times. Wanderlust invites us to look afresh at the rich, varied, often radical interplay of the body, the imagination, and the world when walking. New edition.
"Radical, humane, witty, sometimes wonderfully dandyish, at other times, impassioned and serious." —Alain de Botton
Mercia's Take by Daniel Wiles          $25
1870s, the Black Country. Michael is a miner. But it's no life. Michael exhausts himself working two jobs, to send his son Luke to school, so he won't have to be a miner too. Down the pit one day, he finds a seam of gold. If he gets it out, he can save his own life, and Luke's. But his workmate has other ideas. Mercia's Take summons an England in the heat of the industrial revolution, and the lives it took to make it.

"Energy and passion fuels this harsh and beautiful first novel; Daniel Wiles connects us viscerally to the past we have buried, the history we choose to ignore." —Hilary Mantel
"Read this novel and marvel at its language, dark and gleaming as obsidian. Daniel Wiles channels the Southern Gothic into the vernacular of the Black Country and unearths from the past a tale of desperation that speaks to our current damnation. A striking debut." —Paul Lynch

Elderflora: A story of ancient trees by Jared Farmer           $40
Humans have always revered long-lived trees. Our veneration took a modern turn in the eighteenth century, when naturalists embarked on a quest to locate and precisely date the oldest living things on earth. The new science of tree time prompted travellers to visit ancient specimens and conservationists to protect sacred groves. Exploitation accompanied sanctification, as old-growth forests succumbed to imperial expansion and the industrial revolution.Taking us from Lebanon to New Zealand to California, Farmer surveys the complex history of the world's oldest trees, including voices of Indigenous peoples, religious figures, and contemporary scientists who study elderflora in crisis. In a changing climate, a long future is still possible, Farmer shows, but only if we give care to young things that might grow old.Combining rigorous scholarship with lyrical writing, Elderflora chronicles the complex roles ancient trees have played in the modern world and illuminates how we might need old trees now more than ever.
>>The tree whisperer. 
The Darkness Manifesto by Johan Eklöf        $40
In our era of 24/7 illumination, an excess of light is a pressing problem. Just about every creature on earth, humans included, operates according to the circadian rhythm. The world's flora and fauna have evolved to operate in the natural cycle of day and night, but now light pollution has become a major issue. This challenges our instinctual fear of the dark and urges us to cherish the darkness, its creatures, and its unique beauties. 

Tiggy Thistle and the Lost Guardians by Chris Riddell           $30
Zam, Phoebe and Bathsheba, the three guardians of magic, disappeared with no warning nearly ten years ago, leaving the Kingdom of Thrynne in the icy grip of a powerful sorceress. Most people have fled in desperate search of warmer lands, escaping the snow monsters that roam the streets. Meanwhile, nine-year-old Tiggy Thistle lives hidden and safe with a kindly Badger — until the day she meets the elf Crumple Stiltskin, one of the crafty Stiltskin brothers, she suddenly has to run from her happy home. So begins Tiggy's quest to find Zam, Phoebe and Bathsheba - the lost guardians and their beautiful cloud horses - the only people, she believes, who can save Thrynne from the curse of endless winter. Tiggy Thistle and the Lost Guardians is the second and final title in 'The Cloud Horse Chronicles'. Illustrated throughout in two colours by Riddell at his best, and presented as a handsome hardback. 
>>Drawing and reading
Once Upon a Fever by Angharad Walker            $22
Since the world fell sick with fantastical illnesses, sisters Payton and Ani have grown up in the hospital of King Jude's. Payton wants to be a methic like her father, working on a cure for her mother's sleeping fever. Ani, however, thinks the remedy for all illness might be found in the green wilderness beyond the hospital walls. When Ani stumbles upon an imprisoned boy who turns everything he touches to gold, her world is turned upside-down. The girls find themselves outside the hospital for the first time, a dark mystery unravelling.
Tumbleglass by Kate Constable            $20
Thirteen-year-old Rowan is helping her older sister Ash paint her bedroom when she discovers a mysterious ring that transports them both back in time to 1999. To a party being held in the very same house! While Ash dances, Rowan unwittingly disrupts the laws of time, and when she wakes up back in the present day, her sister is missing, and - even worse - everyone in their family seems to be forgetting she ever existed. With the help of her magical neighbour Verity, Rowan must find the courage to travel back through the history of the house. But can she find everything she needs to rescue Ash before her sister disappears forever? 

The Future is Degrowth: A guide to a world beyond Capitalism edited by Matthias Schmelzer, Andrea Vetter, and Aaron Vansintjan          $35
Offering a counter-history of how economic growth emerged in the context of colonialism, fossil-fueled industrialisation, and capitalist modernity, The Future Is Degrowth argues that the ideology of growth conceals the rising inequalities and ecological destructions associated with capitalism, and points to desirable alternatives to it.
All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The true story of the woman at the heart of the German resistance to Hitler by Rebecca Donner            $28
Born and raised in America, Mildred Harnack was twenty-six and living in Germany where she witnessed the meteoric rise of the Nazi party. She began holding secret meetings in her apartment, forming a small band of political activists set on helping Jews escape, denouncing Hitler and calling for revolution. When the Second World War began, she became a spy, couriering top-secret intelligence to the Allies. Now in paperback. 
"While never less than scrupulously researched, this biography explodes the genre of 'biography': experimental but achieved, Donner's story reads with the speed of a thriller, the depth of a novel and the urgency of an essay, like some deeply compelling blend of Alan Furst and W.G. Sebald'." —James Wood
The Mirror and the Palette: Rebellion, revolution and resilience; 500 years of women's self-portraits by Jennifer Higgie          $30
"A bewitching, invigorating history of women artists, the work they've made and the impossibly hard conditions in which it was produced. I can't think of a more satisfying riposte to anyone who asks why there have been no great women artists than to present them with this incandescent book." —Olivia Laing
"Brilliant, reveals an until-now hidden history of women's self-portraiture. A gift that keeps on giving." —Ali Smith
Now in paperback. >>Also available in hardback
Freeman's: The best new writing on Animals edited by John Freeman          $28
Over a century ago, Rilke went to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, where he watched a pair of flamingos. A flock of other birds screeched by, and, as he describes in a poem, the great red-pink birds sauntered on, unphased, then 'stretched amazed and singly march into the imaginary.' This encounter - so strange, so typical of flamingos with their fabulous posture - is also still typical of how we interact with animals. Even as our actions threaten their very survival, they are still symbolic, captivating and captive, caught in a drama of our framing. This issue of Freeman's tells the story of that interaction, its costs, its tendernesses, the mythological flex of it. From lovers in a Chiara Barzini story, falling apart as a group of wild boars roams in their Roman neighbourhood, to the soppen emergency birth of a cow on a Wales farm, stunningly described by Cynan Jones, no one has the moral high ground here. Nor is this a piece of mourning. There's wonder, humour, rage and relief, too. Featuring pigeons, calves, stray dogs, mascots, stolen cats, and bears, to the captive, tortured animals who make up our food supply, powerfully described in Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk's essay, this wide-ranging issue of Freeman's will stimulate discussion and dreams alike.

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