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Book Reviews: June 2015

19 June 15 words: Write Lion
With 97 Ideas about Creativity, Shelves, The Electric, The Woman Under The Ground, The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and Trident Undone
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97 Ideas about Creativity
Jim Shorthose and Kim Errington
£7 (Maketomake)
If the answer to the universe is 42, then the answer to creativity is 97, at least according to these authors. Drawing upon a broad range of traditions and disciplines, this collection explores the ideas, experiences and approaches of creativity, with a few interrelated illustrations lobbed in for good measure. It’s the perfect book for the bog when, excuse the pun, smart arses require a bit of inspiration or guidance. Underpinning these nodes of wisdom, speculation and metaphor is a loose journey that takes us though the creative personality, the logic of creativity, relationships and places, and ends with the stages of the creative process. It’s an interesting read, leaning somewhere between Marxist philosophy and pragmatics. Naturally, it opens with ‘dialectics’ – which in academia means ‘it’s OK to contradict yourself’ – but contradiction is essential to this innovative conception of creativity, as it’s the plurality of voices that brings about wisdom. James Walker

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Shelves
David Belbin, Ella Joyce
Free (Shintin’)
If the aim of Dawn of the Unread is to promote debate about Nottingham’s literary heritage, then issue fourteen will get a lot of people talking. Written by the Chair of the UNESCO City of Literature bid and including a bookcase of fifty-odd Nottingham authors, it’s bound to delight or depress, depending on whether you’ve been included. It’s arguably the most personal tale to date, detailing Belbin’s friendship with Bulwell-born Stanley Middleton, the humble Booker Prize-winner who returned to teaching after his win in 1974. Unlike previous issues, this switches focus to other literary figures who have graced our streets, from JM Barrie (Pedro Pan) to Dorothy Whipple, suggesting we need to build on this incredible legacy. Graham Joyce was originally commissioned but, when he passed away last year, his daughter was drafted in. It’s a lovely nod to her father and makes this issue feel like a snug chair to fall asleep in. Samantha Smith

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The Electric
Andrew David Barker
£7.99 (Boo Books)
Ever wondered what Bogart did after he shuffled off this mortal coil? Why, he carried on making films, of course. Or at least he did in Andrew David Barker’s intriguing debut novel, and those films were shown at The Electric. Barker’s story is very much a labour of love and his passion for classic cinema is evident in every scene. But he can also spin a good yarn and this coming-of-age tale combines just the right amount of sweetness, teenage confusion and loss, and nostalgia. While I’m not sure the story benefited from the retrospective narrative style, Sam, the fifteen-year-old main character and narrator is affable enough for me to forgive this in an otherwise enjoyable read. I saw this as a young adult novel but if you’ve a yen for movies from the forties, there’s something for you here too. Sue Barsby

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The Woman Under The Ground
Megan Taylor
£7.99 (Weathervane Press)
We’ll start with Mrs Sawyer, a mother on a school run. What could be more ordinary? With Megan’s characters, each one has a particular brand of darkness within. In Mrs Sawyer’s case, it’s the voices. For Cara, she cannot resist the lure of the woods, and that place where all her secrets collide – where a woman made of earth and roots lies in the ground. Megan Taylor’s first short story collection is a beautiful but dark affair, exploring illness, guilt, trauma, absent mothers, ghosts as physical manifestations, imaginary siblings, broken relationships and insects preserved behind glass. But it’s offset by some beautiful Tim Burton-esque illustrations which accompany each story and distort the reader’s expectations. If you like short stories, you won’t want to rush with this book. Read it slowly. Treasure its characters – the wonderful, dangerous, honest creatures that they are. Emily Cooper

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The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath
HP Lovecraft & INJ Culbard
£14.99 (Self Made Hero)
You may think your dreams are weird, but they have absolutely nothing on the brain-shattering insanity that runs through the mind of Randolph Carter as he slumbers. Talking cats and pyramids on the moon are only the half of it. In his quest to once again visit the glorious sunset city glimpsed while he slept, Carter flees reality for the landscape of his dreams. Logic and physics go right out of the window, and Carter journeys through fantastic landscapes and encounters the denizens of Lovecraft’s febrile imagination. This is the latest in Culbard’s series of Lovecraft adaptations, and is every bit as fine as its predecessors. The art is beautiful and evocative, doing Culbard’s usual bang-up job of rendering the indescribable horrors and unimaginable strangeness of Lovecraft’s original story, and the whole book retains the entirely appropriate surreal, compulsive mood of a vivid, disturbing dream. Robin Lewis

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Trident Undone
Ed. Tony Simpson
£6 (The Spokesman)
If you want to cut through the political spin, take the red pill and jump down the rabbit hole with Tony Simpson to discover the brutal truth of the neoliberal obsession with nuclear deterrence. Robert Green presents a frightening account of how Thatcher threatened to nuke Argentina unless Francois Mitterrand handed over secret codes to jam their missile acquisition system that France had sold to them. Discover how a post-WWII Prime Minister, in a time of austerity, spent £100 million of public money to develop nuclear weapons without consulting parliament, mirroring issues around the proposed renewal of Trident in 2016. There’s the friendship between pacifist Bertrand Russell and the enigmatic Albert Einstein, the almighty fuck up that is Guantanamo Bay, the paradigm shift in Europe represented by Syrizas that aims to pick up where social democrats failed, and a beautiful photograph of an ‘upright’ Stephen Hawking protesting in 1968. Outstanding, inspirational and utterly frightening. James Walker

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