Spike Island

Spike Island summer reading

We've put together a shortlist of books to read this summer. Let us know what you think via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram #SummerReads

Lynne Reid Banks The L-Shaped Room (1960, Chatto & Windus)

Set in the late 1950s, Jane Graham, the female protagonist finds herself unmarried and pregnant, and is forced to change her comfortable life at her father’s suburban home for a bug-ridden bedsit in Fulham, London. The room brings about her transformation from shame to self-acceptance, while she begins to understand the city from the window of her room and her body through restricted movement.

Tessa Lynch’s current exhibition at Spike Island L-Shaped Room takes its title from Banks' book.

Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art: Boredom (2017, MIT Press) Edited by Tom McDonough

In contemporary art, boredom is no longer viewed as a singular experience; rather, it is contingent on diverse social identifications and cultural positions, and extends from a malign condition to be struggled against, to an experience to be embraced, or explored as a site of resistance. This anthology explores this history: from the political critique of boredom in 1960s France to the recognition from the end of the 1980s of a specific form of ennui experienced in former communist states. Today, with the emergence of new forms of labour alienation and personal intrusion, deadening forces extend even further into subjective experience, making the divide between a critical and an aesthetic use of boredom ever more tenuous.

Marge Piercy Woman on the Edge of Time (1976, Alfred A. Knopf)

Connie Ramos, a woman in her mid-thirties, has been declared insane. But Connie is overwhelmingly sane, merely tuned to the future, and able to communicate with the year 2137. As her doctors persuade her to agree to an operation, Connie struggles to force herself to listen to the future and its lessons for today.

Durga Chew Bose too much and not the mood (2017, Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc)

On April 11, 1931, Virginia Woolf ended her entry in A Writer’s Diary with the words “too much and not the mood.” She was describing how tired she was of correcting her own writing to please other readers, wondering if she had anything at all that was truly worth saying. Woolf's attitude inspired Durga Chew-Bose to write and collect her own work. The result is a lyrical and piercingly insightful collection of essays, letters (to her grandmother, to the basketball star Michael Jordan, to Death), and her own brand of essay-meets-prose poetry about identity and culture. Chew-Bose captures the inner restlessness that keeps her always on the brink of creative expression.

Documentary Across Disciplines (2016, MIT Press)

Contemporary engagements with documentary are multifaceted and complex, reaching across disciplines to explore the intersections of politics and aesthetics, representation and reality, truth and illusion. Discarding the old notions of “fly on the wall” immediacy or quasi-scientific aspirations to objectivity, critics now understand documentary not as the neutral picturing of reality but as a way of coming to terms with reality through images and narrative. This book collects writings by artists, filmmakers, art historians, poets, literary critics, anthropologists, theorists, and others, to investigate one of the most vital areas of cultural practice: documentary.

Book your place for The Artists’ Feature Film (16 September 2017) with Erika Balsom (Editor of Documentary Across Disciplines) and Ben Rivers (also a contributor to the book.)

Eley Williams Attrib. and other stories (2017, Influx Press)

This debut collection from Eley Williams centres upon the difficulties of communication and the way in which one’s thoughts — absurd, encompassing, oblique — may never be fully communicable and yet can overwhelm. Attrib. and other stories celebrates the tricksiness of language just as it confronts its limits.

Book your place for Eley Williams introducing Attrib. and other stories at Novel Writers on Thursday 21 September.

Brian Dillon Essayism (2017, Fitzcarraldo Editions)

How to write about essays and essayists while staying true to these contradictions? Essayism is a personal, critical and polemical book about the genre, its history and contemporary possibilities. It’s an example of what it describes: an essay that is curious and digressive, exacting yet evasive, a form that would instruct, seduce and mystify in equal measure. Among the essayists to whom he pays tribute – from Virginia Woolf to Georges Perec, Joan Didion to Sir Thomas Browne – Brian Dillon discovers a path back into his own life as a reader, and out of melancholia to a new sense of writing as adventure.

Han Kang Human Acts (2016, Portobello Books Ltd)

Gwangju, South Korea, 1980. In the wake of a viciously suppressed student uprising, a boy searches for his friend's corpse, a consciousness searches for its abandoned body, and a brutalised country searches for a voice. In a sequence of interconnected chapters the victims and the bereaved encounter censorship, denial, forgiveness and the echoing agony of the original trauma. Human Acts is a universal book, utterly modern and profoundly timeless. Already a controversial bestseller and award-winning book in Korea, it confirms Han Kang as a writer of immense importance.

The events depicted in the novel provide a context for the early work of Kim Yong-Ik, whose exhibition is presented at Spike Island from 30 September to 17 December 2017.