Anthony Grafton, who has made a career writing about similar rarities, conjunctions and mystifications, is a master historian, a writer who goes elbow deep, fearlessly, into artifact, archive, and multi-lingual sources (including Latin and Ancient Greek) as he chases the dragons of medieval magic and mystification.
Nelder’s world building is excellent and his scientific capability is very clear. Everything flows smoothly and makes perfect sense, even when it involves the wryly sardonic artificial intelligence, Can, whose witty missives are no longer quite as futuristic as it was in books 1-3 given the speed at which AI is developing, quantum displacement technology (the “pinch”), or turbojets that are able to descend into Jupiter.
The collection is an eye opener, poems made in an environment of incarceration and punishment about life ‘Inside’. About jail, about being a prisoner and the fear and danger of prison life. Most of the poems are coruscating and angry and explore issues of life inside, of loss and anger, pleading for real justice and rehabilitation, often displaying a hard wisdom learnt at the hands of corrupt and cruel prison officers.
Letters to a Dead Man are not letters but prose and poetry about a forbidden love or if not forbidden unethical. This intense love is between a man and a woman is set in Pentridge Prison. Reading the poems it is difficult to decide who was the prisoner and who was the free person. I had my suspicions which were confirmed later.
No sentimentality is encountered in Beale poems as he writes about life’s wounds and death. Be Quiet About Love demonstrates a philosophy of life that leans towards acceptance and resignation, often he expresses profound thoughts.
Hawk’s Cry by Mary Pacifco Curtis and Dominus by Tiffany Troy are episodic lyric poems that find beauty in the turn of the “pressed, pleated and fine” congregate towards empathy. In this wide-reaching conversation the two poets talk about their work, traditions, empathy, poetry in general and lots more.
In Monkey Wars Deborah Blum walks us through the battle-field between animal researchers and animal rights activists and asks how much suffering is worth how much knowledge. Written in 1994 the book still holds up today, just as books written on politics or religion still do, as deep moral questions don’t tend to evaporate away.
Everything is fragile, tenuous, in this world. It’s not threatening or frightening; indeed, a kind of vast resignation suffuses the scene. As the title of the collection, Nightfall Marginalia, suggests, the predominant atmosphere throughout is dusky, dark, and the principal mood is the nocturne – dreamy, romantic.
Süskind’s dark taste in comedy and clever use of logic permeate every page. Jean-Baptiste’s skill as a perfumer making camouflage, shadowing and eventually murder all possible with a few drops of a home-made fragrance. Like all superhero films or books one fantasises of having said superpower and the fantastical, god-like things one could do with it.
There are no notes or glossary, but neither is the book polemical. You are free to make your own conclusions from what comes across essentially, at least to my ignorant mind, as poetic play—full of irreverence and an open sense that we are all pawns in the global power play, and that no matter how powerful these world figures are – whether they be actors, writers, or politicians, it behooves us to pay attention and use our imaginations to engage.