NWR Issue r9

Review 9

Even as we are all still in shock following the folly of the EU referendum, now, more than ever is the time to try and counteract the potentially evil influence of a centralising media focused on a populist, corrosively mainstream and two dimensional political identity.

If you identify with Wales (ambiguously, ironically, by whatever route), read us, read our writers and our books, support our publishers, artists and film-makers. Commit to our culture. Or find it gone, washed back to the 1950s on a wave of union-jack spattered lukewarm lemonade. Even if you define yourself against Wales (your hangups we forgive), be intelligent and informed. Wales’ mainstream media is weak and populist; Wales’ broadsheet culture is dominated by the centralist Guardian. Don’t let an England-centric paper be all you read. New Welsh Review is part of the solution.

It has been a very good long while since Radio Four turned its sights towards Wales’ literary scene. Ironically, considering the above, our five-minutes of fame approaches. I’ll be on Mariella Frostrup’s Open Book on Sunday 10 July at 4pm (rep Thursday 14 July, 3.30pm), talking alongside Addlands (reviewed here) novelist Tom Bullough. Time allowing, I hope to cover Borders writers, our obsession with borders and our healthy ability to belong to more than one place; our liking for the short form in story and prose; post-devolution Welsh-language fiction (with its quaint interest in bureaucracy); Gothic rural fiction; dirty urban fiction; historical personae in poetry; faulty narratives and the moment when poets were advised to lose their ‘victim status’. And let’s not forget the drive, led by the Wales Literature Exchange, to set our literature within a European context (insert expletive). It seems that Iwan Llwyd spoke too soon when in 1997 he published a poem entitled ‘Best of a Bad Bunch (take this badge offa me)’ in his collection, Dan Ddylanwad, Cerddi ’Merica, Canada a Chymru. In it he wrote that it was time to dump the politics: ‘daeth dyddiau diosg bathodynnau / a byw’. But I, among many disenfranchised Remain supporters, will be pinning my campaigning badges on right now.

On offer for summer: the borders’ writers, ever the pride of Wales, are out in force, with recent Wales adoptee Oliver Balch Under the Tump, Tom Bullough Addlands, reviewed here) and John Barnie (writing about poetry and science).

Crime fiction, still in ascendance (as our politics descend into their own Scandi-noir) is represented by another Borders man, ex-Met cop, ex-soldier, PTSD-affected Matt Johnson, a self-publishing ‘discovery’ who, according to our rave review, has the ring of authenticity and has mastered the genre. His novel is Wicked Game. Cardiff-resident Belinda Bauer, another crime sensation of novels set in the West County and Wales (I particularly enjoyed her Cardiff- and Brecon Beacons-set Rubbernecker) writes in her latest, typically witty, layered and accessible book, about a displaced Hmong refugee, missing children and the need to keep believing.

Among our poetry books, Gomer has clearly hit the jack-pot with Anna Wigley’s latest, Ghosts, which our reviewer Vicky MacKenzie calls ‘a poet… worthy of the word… [committed] to sacrosanct precision.’

I’m not at all in the mood for charismatic jack-the-lads who, in my experience, are never worth even the briefest of frissons, but Wales (via mid 70s Ceredigion drugs bust Operation Julie) had its brush with one of these: self-styled ‘flaneur’, gangster go-between and drugs procurer to rock stars. Liz Jones spills the beans in her review of Keiron Pim’s biography of David Litvinoff.

Kaite O’Reilly’s plays are the most restorative offering this month, which is what is required in these dark days of ignorance, uncertainty and intolerance of difference. Her Selected Plays, including The Almond and the Seahorse and In Water I’m Weightless, puts those we label ‘disabled’ front stage. Her themes are disconnection, exclusion and ‘lazy preconception’. O’Reilly’s work, her review argues, ‘bristles with energy and a raw, punk-like anger’. A dose of which is sorely needed in a Wales in which the EU-funded projects and funding that supported our underprivileged citizens were voted off the agenda by those very people who stood to gain from them the most.

Read the Review here


previous editorial: Spuds and Lobster
next editorial: Review 10, August 2016


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