Saturday, March 22, 2014

Utter (And Three Other Books)

I have read four books, all completely different from one another and all brilliant in their own way. I will try to write more soon about Jen Hadfield’s Byssus (Picador), Tishani Doshi’s Everything Begins Elsewhere (Bloodaxe) and Gabeba Baderoon’s The Dream in the Next Body (Kwela/Snailpress).

But I have been re-reading Vahni Capildeo’s amazing Utter (Peepal Tree Press), a book with a tremendous range of voices and forms and with a beautifully iconoclastic sense of humour. It flits between mainstream and experimental enough to call the existence of such categories into question. I’m reading it again because once is not enough and twice may also prove insufficient. It is complex but rewards a bit of effort. I will write more coherently in due course but, seeing this is Saturday morning and you may need something to make you smile at the end of a long working week, here is Vahni reading a poem from the collection, ‘The Critic in his Natural Habitat’, which is probably the funniest thing I’ve read in ages. Funny in an uneasy sense, of course, like the best humour tends to be

“You seem to be serious about liking literature. Have you ever considered writing up some of these thoughts of yours? A poet like you could bring a fresh perspective to criticism. People would appreciate that. You needn’t worry: they wouldn’t expect scholarship...”

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