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Shannon Burns

Shannon Burns

Shannon Burns is a freelance writer and member of the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice. He is a former ABR Patrons' Fellow, and has published short fiction, poetry, and academic articles. He is the author of a memoir, Childhood (Text Publishing, 2022).

Shannon Burns reviews 'Essays One' by Lydia Davis

April 2020, no. 420 20 March 2020
Essays One is the first of two volumes of collected non-fiction drawn from all periods of Lydia Davis’s long career. While the second collection will, according to the author, ‘concentrate more single-mindedly on translation and the experience of reading foreign languages’, this volume has an alternating focus on writing and reading practices, translation, commentary, reviews, and personal e ... (read more)

Shannon Burns reviews 'Ducks, Newburyport' by Lucy Ellmann

December 2019, no. 417 25 October 2019
Lucy Ellmann’s ambitious seventh novel stages the workings of a mind as it digests – or fails to digest – life-altering experiences. Ducks, Newburyport is, for the most part, the ruminating inner monologue of a bewildered and frightened woman. It spans a thousand mostly artful pages and is an undeniably impressive accomplishment. However, for readers who relished Ellmann’s brilliant comic ... (read more)

Shannon Burns reviews 'The Rapids: Ways of looking at mania' by Sam Twyford-Moore

August 2018, no. 403 26 July 2018
In The Rapids: Ways of looking at mania, Sam Twyford-Moore takes a personal, exploratory, and speculative approach to the subject of mania. Because the author has been significantly governed by manic episodes on several occasions (he was diagnosed with manic depression as he ‘came into adulthood’), The Rapids offers an insider’s perspective. It also considers some of the public and cultural ... (read more)

Shannon Burns reviews 'Relatively Famous' by Roger Averill

May 2018, no. 401 26 April 2018
In Relatively Famous, Roger Averill combines a fictional memoir with extracts from a faux-biography of the memoirist’s Booker Prize-winning father, Gilbert Madigan. The biography amounts to a fairly bloodless summary of the events of Madigan’s life, and his son’s memoir is similarly sedate. This makes for a limp but sensitively conceived novel about paternal failure and the extent to which p ... (read more)

Shannon Burns reviews 'The Last Days of Jeanne d’Arc' by Ali Alizadeh

October 2017, no. 395 27 September 2017
The many gaps in the verifiable history of Jeanne d’Arc’s early years in rural France, as well as her improbable rise to prominence and martyrdom, have left room for a considerable amount of speculation and projection over the centuries. There is no shortage of fictional or historical accounts of her life, or ways of characterising the Maid’s struggle, but with The Last Days of Jeanne d’Ar ... (read more)

Shannon Burns reviews 'The Town' by Shaun Prescott

September 2017, no. 394 25 August 2017
Shaun Prescott’s début novel shares obvious conceptual territory with the fiction of Franz Kafka and Gerald Murnane, both of whom are mentioned in its promotional material. As with The Castle (1926) and The Plains (1982), The Town recounts the dreamlike experiences and observations of an enigmatic narrator–protagonist after he arrives in an unnamed town. But unlike Kafka’s surveyor or Murna ... (read more)

Shannon Burns reviews 'The Lost Pages' by Marija Peričić

August 2017, no. 393 25 July 2017
Alan Bennett once wrote of Franz Kafka: ‘One is nervous about presuming even to write his name, wanting to beg pardon for doing so, if only because Kafka was so reluctant to write his name himself.’ Even so, Bennett gave us Kafka’s Dick (1986), which – alongside a sputtering stream of demythologising critical interventions into Kafka studies – partially undermined the sainted version of ... (read more)

Shannon Burns reviews 'Edge of Irony: Modernism in the shadow of the Habsburg Empire' by Marjorie Perloff

May 2017, no. 391 30 April 2017
In her introduction to Edge of Irony, Marjorie Perloff claims that in order to ‘understand Modernism ... we have to read, more closely than we have, the deeply ironic war literature of the defunct, multicultural, and polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire’. To that end, she compiles a series of essays that focus on writers who lived through and were lastingly influenced by, the final throes of the H ... (read more)

Shannon Burns reviews 'Autumn' by Ali Smith

January–February 2017, no. 388 20 December 2016
Ali Smith is a formally and thematically exuberant writer who takes obvious pleasure in the art of storytelling, the mutability of language, and slippages in representation and perception. Her novels are typically embedded in the contemporary world, and take account of social and technological developments, as well as political conflicts and crises. They also tend to give equal space to suffering ... (read more)

Shannon Burns reviews 'The Life of D.H. Lawrence' by Andrew Harrison

December 2016, no. 387 30 November 2016
Readers who expect to be treated with gentlemanly courtesy have always found D. H. Lawrence rough going. His explicit fictional representations of sex and his anti-war diatribes were widely condemned in his lifetime, and his novels were duly censored or withdrawn from sale in Britain and beyond. Lawrence’s prose style – lyrical and sensuous one moment, brusque and coarse the next – can be as ... (read more)
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