Unfit Criticism 4: The Negative Review

In August of 2020, Shane Neilson created The Negative Review on the e-newsletter program Substack. Acquiring more subscribers than he ever dreamed of for an esoteric site devoted to critical prose about Canadian poetry, Neilson delivered a detailed piece each month. He questioned “scandal” as currently constructed in CanLit, pushed back against shame politics, wondered why so many mediocre white Canadian male poets were releasing Selected volumes at a time of diversity in Canadian literature, and even dared to write a negative review about Dionne Brand.

The Negative Review (ShanCor Enterprises, 2021) covers/mentions the following writers: 

Alden Nowlan, Northrop Frye, Sherrie Malisch, D.G. Jones, Margaret Atwood, John Moss, Russell Brown, Frank Davey, Barry Cameron, Michael Dixon, Smaro Kamboureli, Paul Barrett, Robert Lecker, Terry Eagleton, James Doyle, Sabine Milz, Sam Weselowski, Douglas Murray, William Giraldi, Lucy Alford, Matthew Zapruder, Rita Felski, Michael Lista, M. Travis Lane, Zachariah Wells, Jason Guriel, Carmine Starnino, James Pollack, Robyn Sarah, Dane Swan, A.F. Moritz, Jody Chan, Ali Blythe, John Elizabeth Stinzi, Manahil Bandukwala, Dennis M. Lewis, Eric Miller, Laura Moss, Karina Vernon, Aislinn Clare McDougall, Sarah Dowling, Gwen Benaway, Cassandra Blanchard, Nick Bradley, Nyla Matuk, Andrew Dubois, Marc di Saverio, Paul Vermeersch, Jay MillAR, Carmine Starnino, Dionne Brand, Canisa Lubrin.

The Negative Review contains the following essays:

  1. Return of Thematic
  2. We Shall Know You By Your Reviews: The Woke White Male and Alden Nowlan’s Collected Poems
  3. Spoiled Identity and the Frozen Now
  4. Crito Revolta: On Marc di Saverio’s Crito di Volta (Toronto: Guernica, 2020)
  5. The Missing Vision in the Visionary: Shared Universe: New and Selected Poems 1995 – 2020 (Toronto: ECW Press, 2020) As Some Generic DystopiaTM.
  6. He Doesn’t Look Like a Poet: On Jay MillAr’s I Could Have Pretended to Be Better Than You (Vancouver: Anvil, 2019)
  7. Like My Dad, Rapping: A Review of Carmine Starnino’s Leviathan (Kentville: Gaspereau, 2020)
  8. Dionne Brand is the Most Powerful Poet in Canada and No Negative Reviews are Permitted, This Message will Self-Destruct in Five Seconds Beep: A Review-Essay on Doomscrolling in Dionne Brand’s The Blue Clerk (McClelland and Stewart, 2019)
  9. The Rebranding: Canisia Lubrin’s The DyzgraphXst (McClelland and Stewart, 2020)
  10. Why Woke CanLit Twitter Matchmade Me and Holy Wild (Toronto: Bookhug, 2018). 
  11. The Protest is This Way: The Problem with Watch Your Head: Writers and Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis (Toronto: Coach House, 2020.)
  12. The Neilson Ratings: A Big Lie Whites Tell Themselves So That They Can Hoard Social Capital Instead of Awards

If you’re interested in purchasing copies (only serious queries), then use the message function on this site. $500 per book, $1250 for all 4 in the series. If you are a Canadian university library, I’m afraid only one university per province will be allocated a copy (with one exception). I hope it was you!

Unfit Criticism 2: Personal Investments

The second in a unique series of critical texts by Shane Neilson, Personal Investments centres the author’s method of “bioreviewing.” Using this lens, Neilson brings books by writers into relation with his own subjectivity, offering unusual aesthetic commentary intermixed with his own experience. Later, Neilson focuses more squarely on prose, collecting together substantial essays on (mostly Canadian) novels and nonfiction.

Personal Investments covers the following writers: Jonathan Franzen, Marc di Saverio, Rimbaud, Christian Bok, Kenneth J. Harvey, Doug Glover, Peter Behrens, Darren Bifford, Czeslaw Milosz, Ian Dowbiggin, David Shields, Fanny Howe, Chris Gudgeon, Casey Plett, Michael Winter, David Adams Richards, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Terry Eagleton, Sam Harris, John Terpstra, Art Seamans, EJ Pratt, Alison Pick, Joshua Shenck, David Healey, Dawn Raffel, Steven Henighan, Stan Rogal, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jim Johnstone.

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction
2. Part One: Adventures in Bioreviewing
3. Time and Fever
4. Freedom
5. Language On Holiday
6. The Festival of No More Words
7. Explosions: A Review of Douglas Glover’s The Life and Times of Captain N
8. Finnegan’s Wake in the Porridge Universe: A Review of Peter Behrens’ The O’Briens
9. Borrowing Magic: A Review of Darren Bifford’s Wedding in Fire Country
10. Review of Ian Dowbiggin’s The Quest For Mental Health: A Tale of Science, Medicine, Scandal, Sorrow, and Mass Society
11. David Shields and the Laziness Inherent
12. Coda: This is What I Wanted To Sign Off With
13. The Poetics of Plot: A Review of Chris Gudgeon’s Song of Kosovo
14. Zero Chronology: Notes on the Use of Time in Casey Plett’s Little Fish
15. Review of Michael Winter’s Into the Blizzard: Walking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead
16. Review of Alison Pick’s Far to Go
17. But Transcendence: A Review of Running the Whale’s Back: Stories of Faith and Doubt From Atlantic Canada
18. Review of David Adams Richards’s God Is: My Search for Faith in a Secular World and John Terpstra’s Skin Boat: Acts of Faith and Other Navigations
19. How bad is this book? Let me count the ways. A review of Art Seamans’ The Dead One Touched Me From The Past: A Walk With Writers Through The Centuries
20. It’s Not All About the Brain: A Review of Joshua Shenck’s Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression
Challenged a President and Fuelled his Greatness

21. Healey and Goliath: A Review of David Healey’s The Creation of Psychopharmacology
22. The Parodox I’m Really Pulling For: A Review of Dawn Raffel’s The Strange Case of Dr. Martin Couney
23. When Words Are An Anticlimax: A Review of Steven Henighan’s When Words Deny the World
24. Nice try, Doestoevsky: A Review of Stan Rogal’s bafflegab
25. The Story of Thee Hellbox Press: An Interview with Hugh Barclay and Faye Batchelor
26. Poetic Composition and the Implications of Scientific Theory: Jim Johnstone and Shane Neilson in
27. Idiosyncratic Notes on the Essays
28. Acknowledgements
29. Endnotes

If you’re interested in purchasing copies (only serious queries), then use the message function on this site. $500 per book, $1250 for all 4 in the series. If you are a Canadian university library, I’m afraid only one university per province will be allocated a copy (with one exception). I hope it was you!