James Ley

The ABR Podcast 

Released every Thursday, the ABR podcast features our finest reviews, poetry, fiction, interviews, and commentary.

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Beejay Silcox

Episode #92

‘Those shelves have power’

Beejay Silcox on Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller by Nadia Wassef

‍In 2002, Nadia Wassef founded – with her sister, Hind, and their friend, Nihal – the Cairo-based independent bookstore Diwan. Wassef’s memoir, Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller, is a record of the setbacks and success of the store’s creation, while also an insight into a nation simmering with revolutionary politics. In today’s episode, ABR critic Beejay Silcox, who spent several years living in Egypt, describes in a personal review how she stumbled upon Diwan on her first night in Cairo: ‘a pocket of alphabetised calm in the city’s ever-roiling chaos’.

 

   

 

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There is a species of Victorian mystery story that is as pure an expression of nineteenth-century rationalism as you are likely to find. A strange event occurs which, at first glance, appears to admit no rational explanation; by the end of the story, it is revealed to have a logical explanation after all. Thus foolish superstition is banished by the pure light of reason. But there is another side to late-Victorian fiction of the unexpected, represented by Henry James’s ghost tale The Turn of the Screw (1898): a darker, slipperier, and far more unsettling narrative in which the supernatural elements are never satisfactorily explained and are charged with menacing psychological overtones.

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‘The fucken oozing nakedness, the despair of being such a vulnerable egg-sac of a critter, like, a so-called human being, just sickens me sometimes, especially right now. The Human Condition Mom calls it. Watch out for that fucker.’

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