Book Review

Ghost Clinic by Nathaniel King

hauntology is not just a spotify playlist

fyi I was given this as a review copy so feel free to disregard the below as I was bribed with a book 😱😱😱 #corruption

The name Nathaniel King seems familiar… this keeps happening to me, seeming to recognise a name or a stranger and I don’t know if that’s because I’ve reached an age where I’ve heard so many names before and met so many people that the same minor figures from the past are genuinely recurring in the peripheries of the present, or instead if this is just a sign of gradual psychological collapse, is it my own brain losing its ability to differentiate between truth and lies, stranger and acquaintance, reality and imagination.

The only notable times this has happened in such a way that it becomes relevant to this blog have both been when reading texts vaguely themed around or engaging with hauntology: that book about nuclear war safety propaganda, and this one: Ghost Clinic by Nathaniel King.

Actually I think I am fracturing pretty severely really, my lover is away for almost three whole weeks and so my dog and I will be alone in this place I do not adore and without her I have no real reason to be here, there’s no reason without the person here that we returned to this place for, a place where I don’t feel safe or happy or with any potential for any kind of future, so yeah, I feel pretty fractured, pretty dangerous, pretty haunted myself; everyday I’m in London, back in London, a London that I thought I’d fucking escaped and which I hadn’t just as I haven’t escaped any of the things that I try to escape here in order to escape errrrrrr arrrrgh haroooo hreeeer

Oh wow oh yes oh wow


So, Ghost Clinic is a collection of “lyrical essays”, which is a nice and sufficiently (while not being irritatingly (at least not to me, but who am I?)) vague catch-all that pleasingly sums up what can be found in here – bursts of prose, never more than a few hundred words long (mostly much less), never a whole page in length, 20 such pieces plus an interlude in the centre of the text of “pure” poetry, which honestly I loved

-I (mentally ill poet-blogger scott manley hadley) loved loved loved King’s blunt verse in the book’s centre, his quick evocative playfulness, the simple and tight direct thought to word, and I enjoyed the second half of the book significantly more than the first and presumed it was just the result of the warm internal glow I was experiencing following on from the page and a half of (for me) real top tier poetry, but when I immediately flipped the book, burning on that verse high, to start it again and read through again, that buzz stopped, stalled, then reappeared in the second half again… so it wasn’t me getting calibrated to or switched onto, into, through, connected to King’s vibe (vie-buh), there genuinely is something in the second half here that I jived with yeah and something in the first half that I didn’t no-

It is about haunting, yes, about the ghosts of high culture and low (or shall we say “mass”) culture, of the impressionists and of JSTOR and of streaming services and of canned laughter and of television, of cars and dying and ghosts and clinics, of hauntings and of haunting, of of of

I liked it; I liked it a lot more and understood it a lot more than I was expecting to given the blurbs at the start of the book, which alienated me as a reader more than the text itself ever did (I’m not an idiot, I just think polysyllabic words are (mostly) bad, and are used to imply a nuance that doesn’t necessarily exist in the world, or are instead used to claim a specificity (that word’s a bit long tbh) that reflects a gap between the mind and reality, which is a place of vagueness and of mush, of things coagulating and mushing together, parts rotting into wholes, wholes rotting into parts…

I liked it.

Ghost Clinic made me think a little, made me smile a lil wry smile. I would read more King, especially – where it exists – more of his verse, which really was right up my facking street. Link me in the comments, someone.


“dreaming about / black and white furbies / soft as couture”; “blood-red vine tomatoes”; “bottled mist / from funhouse mirrors”

Order Ghost Clinic direct from Broken Sleep Books is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

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