Book Review

Queen Mob’s Teahouse: Teh Book edited by Russell Bennetts

some inevitably biased hagiography

Queen Mob’s Teahouse is an important magazine for me: it was one of the first places to ever publish my writing and it’s the only magazine for which I’ve ever held an editorship (send me satire to satire@queenmobs.com plez plez plez). Being frank, I’m an editor at Queen Mob’s like I am most things in my life: intensely for a few days in a row once a month then absently for weeks at a time. I like to imagine it’s how I’d parent. It’s certainly how I maintain all my friendships and familial relationships. I like my friends, I like Queen Mob’s Teahouse: but I also find dealing with other people stressful, which in the latter case means I get anxious whenever I think about logging into an email inbox.

ENN EEEE WHEYYY

Queen Mob’s Tea House: Teh Book (not a typo) is a brand new anthology published by Dostoevsky Wannabe and it contains an abundance of wonderfully varied literary treats that – in my humble, insider-outsider (well, insider but not an insider’s insider; an outsider’s insider, if you will) opinion – accurately reflects the content of the magazine.

My contribution is a crass picaresque about the time I got addicted to ibuprofen during my notorious Dalston partyboy phase of 2013, written in like early 2014, and this piece of writing is probably the least inventive text within the book. Wait, I should be more positive about myself: it is the most uninventive, yeah! It’s brash and funny, but it’s not revelatory, revolutionary or formally remarkable, but please do buy the book and praise me all the same lolololol.

Don’t buy it for me, though, buy it for everyone else, because Russell Bennetts has done a great job of editing an anthology with more facets than ten dodecahedrons. That’s a lot of facets, fyi.

Queen Mob’s Teahouse: Teh Book is a collection of poetry and prose and visual art, of pictures and limericks and interviews and concrete poetry and cartoon. There are experimental prose pieces written about robots, there are beautiful, haunting poems about displacement and disaster, and there is – of course – lots about sex and love and death and dying. Nice!

There’s a very international edge to the selections too, with lots of pieces centred on immigrant experience: in fact my younger, more self-destructive, less self-reflective, self was the only contributor whose unreflective middle-classness I found offputting. I find myself very funny, but I don’t like myself, or what I represent. Thank God (slash Russell Bennetts), Queen Mob’s Teahouse: Teh Book is not an anthology peopled by others like me. I’m the worst contributor, like in terms of how my writing implies my value to humanity. I’m the absolute worst. I’m not being mean about my writing, but about myself. My writing is fine: to say it isn’t would be to insult the anthology and its editor, which I refuse to do.

There are loads of phenomenal pieces in here, and some of my highlights are:

  • puerto rico is open for business by Raquel Salas Rivera: a haunting, deeply moving poem constructed using language found on a website trying to encourage disaster-capitalist type investment in Puerto Rico following the major damage of the 2018 hurricane;
  • Dorothy Chan’s powerful essay on the fetishisation of race, Asian Princesses;
  • Christina M Rau’s Survey, the piece I briefly mentioned above that’s an experimental piece of questions and answers that aims to ascertain if an individual is a robot or not;
  • A wonderfully frank piece on the literary stalwarts of sex and death, Dead Meat, by Claire Rudy Foster;
  • A poem by Eloise Grills on the validity of using cute animals as a distraction from real life problems, Animals are beautiful people who help me acclimate to the inevitability of death;
  • Gem Blackthorn on the risks and benefits of time spent being a lover of rich people, Thoughts From The Sugar Bowl;
  • Keith Kopka’s haunting poem about the lack of satisfaction to be found in infidelity, particularly when it is behaviour that is begrudgingly accepted, On My Way to the Funeral;
  • An arresting piece of dual-perspective fiction about the first meeting of a potential romance, Phone Party, by Michael J Seidlinger;
  • Deborah D.E.E.P. Mounton’s Drained, a poem about gender and urine;

I’m going to stop now, not because I didn’t love many other pieces in the book, but because I need to stop typing this and walk my dog. I have a life offline of this blog, JESUS.

To conclude, Queen Mob’s Teahouse: Teh Book is a wonderfully fun collection, with some really affecting pieces and some proper belly laughs. I’ll certainly be looking up the work of several of these writers in more detail. Reading such a variety of voices and forms in the same collection is a real treat, actually. Great work Russell Bennetts and the other attributed editors, Gem Blackthorn, Jeremy Fernando, Allison Grimaldi-Donahue, Erik Kennedy, Reb Livingston and Jasmine Mendez.

I’ve got my copy of the sister book of Queen Mob’s Tea House: Teh Book on its way, too, so I hope that will be equally as engaging, though I realise Berfrois: The Book is unlikely to be as chaotically raucous.

A great read, highly recommended.

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