Charlie Campbell

Poetry and Poker

Risky Business: People, Pastimes, Poker and Books


Bloomsbury 409pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

I once walked into a branch of Waterstone’s in search of a copy of The Savage God, Al Alvarez’s book on suicide. I was directed to the self-help section. Maybe the sales assistant genuinely thought I would find it there, maybe she thought I needed the sort of help that only a copy of The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Creativity, Brilliance and Dreams can provide. Either way, I left the shop empty-handed. But this incident sums Alvarez up both as a writer and as a man – he’s hard to place. His collected essays illustrate this quality perfectly. He’s as happy writing about poker or polar exploration as he is about poetry – it is risk, of any kind, that interests him, and this is the thread that binds together his new collection. As Alvarez puts it, ‘Risk concentrates the mind, sharpens the senses and, in every way, makes life sweeter by putting it, however briefly, in doubt.’ His essays on poker-players and explorers tend to bear this out, the essays on writers less so. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,