The Long Take

The Long Take

Written by: Robertson, Robin

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A stunning modern epic that innovatively combines noir narrative and lyrical poetry, The Long Take follows Walker, a survivor of D-Day, from bucolic Cape Breton to an America beset by paranoia and corruption.

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 finds his way 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 dramatize its new anxieties. Both an outsider and, gradually, an insider, Walker finds work as a journalist, and tries to piece his life together as America is beginning to come apart: riven by social and racial divisions, spiraling corruption, and the collapse of the inner cities.

An epic for the modern world, it is a tale of damaged people trying to find kindness in the world, of cynicism and paranoia, and of redemption. Robin Robertson's fluid verse pans with filmic immediacy across the postwar urban scene — and into the heart of an unforgettable character. The Long Take is a genre-crossing work of stunning originality, beauty, and immediacy.

A stunning modern epic that innovatively combines noir narrative and lyrical poetry, The Long Take follows Walker, a survivor of D-Day, from bucolic Cape Breton to an America beset by paranoia and corruption.

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 finds his way 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 dramatize its new anxieties. Both an outsider and, gradually, an insider, Walker finds work as a journalist, and tries to piece his life together as America is beginning to come apart: riven by social and racial divisions, spiraling corruption, and the collapse of the inner cities.

An epic for the modern world, it is a tale of damaged people trying to find kindness in the world, of cynicism and paranoia, and of redemption. Robin Robertson's fluid verse pans with filmic immediacy across the postwar urban scene — and into the heart of an unforgettable character. The Long Take is a genre-crossing work of stunning originality, beauty, and immediacy.

Published By House of Anansi Press Inc — Oct 30, 2018
Specifications 240 pages | 6 in x 8 in
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Excerpt
Written By Robin Robertson is from the northeast coast of Scotland and now lives in London. His first collection of poems, A Painted Field, won numerous awards, including the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection and the Scottish First Book of the Year Award. His second collection, Slow Air, appeared in 2002, his third, Swithering, won the Forward Poetry Prize for Best Collection and was a finalist for the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, and his fourth, The Wrecking Light, was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, the Costa Poetry Award, and the Forward Poetry Prize. His work appears regularly in the London Review of Books, the New York Review of Books, and The Times Literary Supplement. In 2004 he received the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in London.
Written By
Robin Robertson is from the northeast coast of Scotland and now lives in London. His first collection of poems, A Painted Field, won numerous awards, including the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection and the Scottish First Book of the Year Award. His second collection, Slow Air, appeared in 2002, his third, Swithering, won the Forward Poetry Prize for Best Collection and was a finalist for the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, and his fourth, The Wrecking Light, was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, the Costa Poetry Award, and the Forward Poetry Prize. His work appears regularly in the London Review of Books, the New York Review of Books, and The Times Literary Supplement. In 2004 he received the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in London.

Winner, Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, 2018

Winner, Roehampton Poetry Prize, 2018

Winner, Goldsmiths Prize, 2018

Short-listed, Man Booker Prize, 2018

Commended, An Economist Book of the Year, 2018

Short-listed, Saltire Society Scottish Poetry Book of the Year Award, 2018

“A propulsive verbal tour de force . . . The Long Take is an audacious and often brilliant book. Poetry needn’t be a call to action but this one raises many questions, not the least of which is: What and whom should we root for in today’s world of diminished dreams?” —Washington Post

“Robin Robertson, one of the finest lyric poets of the age, flexes his artistic reach in a continuous narrative of more than two hundred pages, a beautiful, vigorous, and achingly melancholy hymn to the common man that is as unexpected as it is daring. Here we have a poet, at the peak of his symphonic powers, taking a great risk, and succeeding gloriously . . . 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.” —Guardian

“As a work of art, this dreamlike exploration is a triumph; as a timely allegory, it is disturbingly profound . . . Robertson’s The Long Take is one of the first major achievements of twenty-first-century English-language literature.” —Financial Times

The Long Take offers a wholly unique literary voice and form. A verse novel with photographs, it manages to evoke with exceptional vividness aspects of post-World War Two history that are rarely parsed together. Swinging effortlessly between combat with its traumatic aftermath, and the brute redevelopment of American cities, The Long Take shows us the ravages of capitalism as a continuation of war-time violence by other means. It is also a bold, eloquent homage to cinema as perhaps the only medium in which the true history of America has been preserved. This is a genre-defying novel. Cutting from battlefield to building demolitions in San Francisco and LA, to the killing of black men on the streets of America today, it imports into the very form of the writing one of the most famous film techniques: cross-cutting. You could be in the cinema, or listening to an elegy, or reading the story of one man’s devastating experience as he tries to rebuild the shards of his life after the war. A pageant of loss, The Long Take is also a lyrical tribute to the power of writing and image to convey, and somehow survive, historic and ongoing suffering and injustice.

” —Man Booker Prize Judges’ Citation

The Long Take recounts the inner journey of Canadian veteran Walker as he travels from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco attempting to rebuild his life after living through the horrors of war in Europe. In poetry of the utmost beauty, Robin Robertson interweaves themes from the great age of black and white films, the destruction of communities as cities destroy the old to build the new, the horrors of McCarthyism and the terrible psychological wounds left by war. Robertson shows us things we’d rather not see and asks us to face things we’d rather not face. But with the pulsing narrative drive of classic film noir, the vision of a poet, and the craft of a novelist, The Long Take courageously and magnificently boosts the Walter Scott Prize into its next decade.

” —

“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? How do we keep our conscience alive and ourselves well-balanced when everything else is slipping away, changing too fast? How much of the past should we allow ourselves to even remember when all that matters is to stay in the present moment, to stay afloat? 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.” —Goldsmiths Prize Judges’ Citation

The Long Take remarkably captures linguistic styles of 1940s American writing — Saroyan and Steinbeck. As it progresses into the mid-50s we’re hearing Ginsberg and Baldwin … you will be washed in all these when you read this poem … Robertson has chosen a supremely uncomfortable, recognizable flashpoint in U.S. 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. The only difference is that then it was Russkies and immigrants, and now, uh …

” —Sunday Herald

“Robin Robertson is instantly recognizable as a poet of vivid authority, commanding a surprised, accurate language of his own. The evocative truth and the crystalline ring of his words, line by line, make a kind of hope in themselves.” —W.S. Merwin, author of the Pulitzer Prize winner The Shadow of Sirius

“An inter-genre tour de force, The Long Take is a restless reimagining of conventional poetics. Through the poem’s protagonist, 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. With syncopated rhythms, staccato dialogue, and jump-scenes, the book weaves dizzying, jazz-like meditations on PTSD, masculinity, betrayal, and salvation by embodying, in sound, scent, and sixth-sense, one of America’s most hopeful and devastating decades. The result is a ravishing achievement.” —Ocean Vuong, author of the T.S. Eliot Prize winner Night Sky with Exit Wounds