21 Jan

The Long Take (Robin Robertson)

This is an unusual book that feels like it shouldn’t be unusual. A long poem or verse novel set in the post-WWII USA, The Long Take is accessible enough that I can easily imagine a world in which it kicked off a popular interest in its form. Perhaps if it had won the 2018 Booker, for which it was shortlisted, this wouldn’t feel like the kind of thing only bookish weirdos with English degrees read, novels-in-verse would be less of a rarity, and I wouldn’t have found this one in a remaindered book shop at a knock-down price.

Then again, The Long Take does suggest some reasons for the cynical to doubt it ever had a chance at mainstream popularity. Its cinematic motifs trigger the thought that poetry is not a form amenable to lucrative film or TV adaptations. (2018, incidentally, was the first year a graphic novel was longlisted for the Booker; I understand that form has had some success in the world of moving pictures.) The poem also puts across quite strongly the idea that human people might be more important to our cities than cars and car parks, a position this country is deeply suspicious of.1

I’d like to live in a world where there were more books like this on the shelves, but so far I have made no effort to seek them out for my own shelves, so I can’t really complain. Perhaps there are loads of recent verse novels out there waiting for me. If so, I’m grateful to The Long Take for prompting me to look for them; if not, I’m just grateful to have chanced across this one.

But I’ve seen what happens to people who seem unsympathetic to car parks on the internet, so to placate the most tedious 🤣-posters on Facebook, I award The Long Take no stars. ☆☆☆☆☆


  1. It’s not that hot on other ideas expressed herein, like ‘war is bad’ or ‘poor and disabled people count as people’, but it at least knows it ought to pretend sometimes. 

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