The Long Take: Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
Mr B's review
Walker has returned home from the Second World War, but not without baggage. Drifting through the mean streets and dim-lit bars of NYC, LA and San Francisco, he finds it increasingly hard to fend off intrusive memories as the seasons change. Considerably less idealistic than a Kerouac bum, Walker evokes a sense of heartbreak for a broken man and a broken dream in the most stunning language and form. – Laura
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018
Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize 2018
Winner of The Roehampton Poetry Prize 2018
Winner of the 2019 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
‘A beautiful, vigorous and achingly melancholy hymn to the common man that is as unexpected as it is daring.’ –John Banville, Guardian
A noir narrative written with the intensity and power of poetry, The Long Take is one of the most remarkable – and unclassifiable – books of recent years.
Walker is a D-Day veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder; he can’t return home to rural Nova Scotia, and looks instead to the city for freedom, anonymity and repair. As he moves from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco we witness a crucial period of fracture in American history, one that also allowed film noir to flourish. The Dream had gone sour but – as those dark, classic movies made clear – the country needed outsiders to study and dramatise its new anxieties.
While Walker tries to piece his life together, America is beginning to come apart: deeply paranoid, doubting its own certainties, riven by social and racial division, spiralling corruption and the collapse of the inner cities. The Long Take is about a good man, brutalised by war, haunted by violence and apparently doomed to return to it – yet resolved to find kindness again, in the world and in himself.
Robin Robertson’s The Long Take is a work of thrilling originality.
A blisteringly beautiful vision of America rotting in the aftermath of the Second World War . . . Robertson’s book is stylish, daring, high concept and amazing. * Evening Standard * The Long Take is written in precise, deliberate English of lyric grandeur. True literature at its most compelling. — Eileen Battersby Robin Robertson’s wonderful new book is hard to classify. It would be possible to review The Long Take as if it were a novel, even a thriller of sorts . . . This is a poetic work in which human degradation is afforded fleetingly beautiful expression . . . It reads at time as a secular Pilgrim’s Progress and many of it’s sequences put me in mind of Denis Johnson’s reports from the abyss of drugs and drink. * Literary Review * Robertson has chosen a supremely uncomfortable, recognizable flashpoint in US history, an almost perfect mirror image of the nation today: crude, newly unleashed material ambitions mix with off-the-chart levels of fear and paranoia. — Todd McEwen * Sunday Herald * The Long Take, by Robin Robertson, is a narrative in verse set in the immediate post-war years in America, that is at once heartbreaking and bracing. Think of it as the best black and white 1940s movie you will ever encounter in print. — John Banville * Guardian, Best summer books 2018 * The Long Take is a bullet of a book. It is deeply noir, scything open post-war Los Angeles to show us a living, breathing city: a complicated social setting with cinema layered into its very fabric, a place growing at the expense of many of its most vulnerable citizens. It is a bold book – both imaginative and brave – but, more than that, it is a book that hits its target. It flies. It feels true. — Ryan Gattis, author of All Involved Having held his readers in the grip of many small tales, Robin Robertson now launches into a full narrative telling, which is alive with the details of post-war American life as well as the jumpy subjective life of its protagonist. The Long Take will thrill you with its shadowy mysteries and cinematic intensity. — Billy Collins The words flow like the frames of a classic film masterpiece. — Mike Hodges, filmmaker, Get Carter, Croupier, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead Modern, complex, political … The Long Take is very much in line with the tradition that inspired it, not least when Robertson emphasizes “the dead streets of Los Angeles”, and the possibility that the United States, with its hatred of the other, might soon turn fascist… The Long Take’s larger theme is the capacity of greed and politics to turn hope into despair. In this way, the poem speaks to the present as well as to the past. * Los Angeles Review of Books * The beauty of The Long Take lies in Robertson’s seemingly effortless ability to evoke the magic of cinema on every page . . . One of the most moving records in recent times of human fragility, ambition, injustice, violence, and our deeply troubled path through cities and nature…The Long Take will be remembered for its unparalleled originality, and an uncompromising power of storytelling that transcends the boundaries of film, fiction and poetry. — Kit Fan * Poetry Review * Like all of Robertson’s work, I approached The Long Take with great anticipation, for few writers so expertly pull the curtains back on the many collective fictions, both ancient and new, that constitute our understanding of the world. All of Robertson’s extraordinary gifts as a writer are on display here: his probing intelligence and wit, the strangely tactile beauty of his lines, and his stubborn refusal to ignore all that lingers unaccounted for at the edges of our vision. I was genuinely bowled over by it. — Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds Robertson has cast a national, cultural, psychological and class outsider of vibrant and seedy post-war America into a palpable anti-hero eerily resonant with our contemporary world. The result is a ravishing achievement. — Ocean Vuong, author of Night Sky with Exit Wounds, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize This is a poem-cum-novel by Scottish writer Robin Robertson, the prize-winning author of five previous poetry collections, which is a cinematic road trip through America. It’s from the point of view of Walker, a discharged World War II combat vet. Rather than return to Canada at the end of the war, he drifts from New York to Los Angeles to San Francisco. There are flashbacks to the war but he basically walks through an America which changes around him. It’s an incredible achievement, showing how poetry can reach the parts narrative prose can’t. — Irvine Welsh * Metro * As a work of art, this dreamlike exploration is a triumph; as a timely allegory, it is disturbingly profound… One of the first major achievements of 21st-century English-language literature. * Financial Times * Composed in a mixture of verse and prose, The Long Take is a book with a big heart. The beauty of the language will seduce the reader from the very start. How do we put ourselves back together in a damaged world? . . . By taking this long journey west – across New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles – Robin Robertson tells a universal story. With its undeniable beauty; quiet, modest but strong pull, this book will shift something in your soul. By the time you have finished reading it, you won’t quite be the same. — Elif Shafak The Long Take shows it is perfectly possible to write poetry which is both accessible and subtle, which has a genuine moral and social conscience . . . This is a major achievement and will linger long in the reader’s mind — Stuart Kelly * Scotsman on Sunday * `Absolutely stunning…his beautiful verse describes things better than any picture could… The language is astonishing.’ — Arifa Akbar * Front Row * A beautiful, vigorous and achingly melancholy hymn to the common man that is as unexpected as it is daring . . . The Long Take is a masterly work of art, exciting, colourful, fast-paced – the old-time movie reviewer’s vocabulary is apt to the case – and almost unbearably moving. — John Banville * Guardian * The Long Take is like a film noir on the page. A book about a man and a city in shock, it’s an extraordinary evocation of the debris and ongoing destruction of war even in times of peace. In taking a scenario we think we know from the movies but offering a completely different perspective, Robin Robertson shows the flexibility a poet can bring to form and style. — Man Booker judges’ citation
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