ReadySteadyBlog

Launch of Stewart Home's new novel The 9 Lives of Ray The Cat Jones (Test Centre) on Thursday 6 November 2014 at 6.30pm, at The Function Room, Upstairs at The Cock Tavern, 23 Phoenix Road, London NW1 1HB.

This is also the final opportunity to see Stewart Home & Chris Dorley Brown's current exhibition The Age of Anti-Ageing at The Function Room.

On Friday November 7, from 7.30 - 9.30pm, Urbanomic presents a book launch and discussion with Peter Wolfendale on his new book Object-Oriented Philosophy, followed by Q&A, at Baltic Kitchen, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK.

"French philosopher and novelist Tristan Garcia is joined in the ICA Cinema by London-based writer, musician, broadcaster and curator Morgan Quaintance, for a discussion about his recent writings. Touching upon Garcia’s literature and philosophy, the pair will punctuate their conversation with screenings of TV and film clips that have lent influence to Garcia’s work." MORE.

The Actuality of the Theologico-Political conference starts at Birkbeck, London, today:

Today’s (post) political thought has been turned into an ethics and a legal philosophy. The business of politics is supposed to promote moral values and ethical policies which are reached either through a discursive will formation (human rights, humanitarianism, freedom etc.) or through the language of rights (original positions, striking a balance between individual rights and community goods, rights as trumps etc.).

Religion can help to revive the political, to re-politicize politics: it can help the construction of new political subjects who break out of the ethico-legal entanglement and ground a new collective space. In early Christianity, the communities of believers created the ecclesia, a new form of collectivity. Asimilar role was played in early Islam by the umma. Paraphrasing Kierkegaard, one can say that we need today the theologico-political suspension of the legal-ethical.


More...

Next Wednesday, 12 June 2013 (18:00 - 19:30) at Goldsmiths Gabriel Josipovici in conversation with Josh Cohen:

Gabriel will read from his work and reflect on the art of fiction with Josh Cohen, Professor of Modern Literary Theory, Department of English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths.

Fabulous looking event:

WWTBD – What Would Thomas Bernhard Do
Talks, discussions, lectures, films, performances, concerts, parties
May 17–26, 2013 Daily 2pm–2am
Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier Museumsplatz 1 1070 Wien, Austria
kunsthallewien.at

As a prelude to its repositioning, the Kunsthalle Wien organizes a ten-day festival dedicated to key issues of today's society. WWTBD – What Would Thomas Bernhard Do takes up the tradition of Thomas Bernhard's critical and recalcitrant thinking, transfers it into the present, and breaks it down into various disciplines in the sense of a concise analysis of the present.

Deliberately posed without a punctuation mark, the question What Would Thomas Bernhard Do does not raise expectations of a singular answer. It rather makes room for a wide range of statements, discussions, as well as the construction of both stable and fragile investigative and intellectual edifices. What Would Thomas Bernhard Do does not only work in a scientifically logic or poetical way, but also musically, visually, and, above all, in the togetherness and confusion of a marathon without a traced-out finishing line.

About one hundred protagonists from the fields of fine art, music, literature, art theory, sociology, philosophy, and economics will participate in the performance of a spectacular and innovative play. Six to twelve acts a day will be modulated in different tempi and tonalities so that they work as singular elements, but also become part of the overall tableau developed by WWTBD in the course of its ten-day duration. The invited protagonists being confronted with each other in the choreographed sequence and in different formats and the visitors are productively involved in what happens, offering leeway for interpretation along the fault lines of society.

Lectures will be followed by performances, discussion rounds by readings, vocal numbers, or musical performances, conversations, and DJ and party events. The stage set by the US artist Barbara Kruger and an intervention by the Austrian artist Heinrich Dunst provide the two constant factors for WWTBD.

Spike Island’s fourth book and zine fair brings together international independent publishers, designers and collectives whose work focuses on experimental design and literature:

Participants include: An Endless Supply / B.Books / Bedford Press / Book Works / Bronze Age Editions / City Edition StudioColin Sackett/UniformBooks / Copy / Eastside Projects / Foyles / G39 / Hato Press / Hyphen Press / Influx Press / Laydeez do ComicsLibrary of Independent Exchange / Mule PressMuseums Press / Nom de Strip / Penned in the MarginsSpike Associates 

Reading area: Åbäke / AND Publishing / APFEL / Sophie Dutton / Gratuitous Type / Teller / Weng Nam Yap

To accompany the fair, we also present a series of short talks, performances and readings by artists and writers including Luke Kennard, Patrick Coyle, Samuel Hasler, Holly Corfield-Carr, I Am Dora and Marie Toseland

Alongside this are a rare exhibition of works by Modernist printer Desmond Jeffery and a temporary studio where Spike Island-based designer Jono Lewarne works with UWE students throughout the day to produce a printed publication.

This evening of "politics, poetry & the fictions of modern love... with Danny Hayward, Jennifer Cooke, Reina van der Wiel and Felicity Allen" looks interesting (more at parasol-unit.org), particular the talk by Danny Hayward (How to be Dominated, or, Night Thoughts on Poetry and World History):

The talk will attempt to specify a category of writing that wishes not only to contest the ownership of the category of the popular, but which wants actively to ownthat category. In its first parts it will offer a polemical history of its central category for the previous two centuries of capitalist development, from Schiller via Wordsworth to Brecht, before proceeding to a more speculative discussion of contemporary writing that wishes to seize (and not merely to gain) popularity from the interests for whom popularity is a synonym of turnover. Setting itself in equal opposition to Adorno's view of "high" and "low" culture as two torn halves that will not be added together, and the profitable therapeutics of anything goes, the talk will argue that a contemporary communist popular culture can only function as a comedy of domination instated at the level of syntax, prosody, and narrative. Broadly speaking, the talk will claim that the poetic writing, if it wishes to maintain some relation to historical development, must learn how to work with its own domination.

On 29 and 30 August 2012, the UK Kant Society (UKKS) and the Centre for Idealism and the New Liberalism at the University of Hull (CINL) will host a joint conference entitled ‘Kant and the British idealists’. The conference seeks to explore the relationship between any aspect of the philosophies of Immanuel Kant, Kantians and the British idealists.

OMG, there is a UK Kant Society (this might be the worst website in the world, mind you)! Aims here; oh, and they publish the Kantian Review, btw. The conference will be held at Cave Castle Hotel, South Cave, near Hull, which looks very posh!

Verso asks Slavoj Žižek what are his favourite books on Hegel (in preparation for their overnight reading of Less Than Nothing)...

So, if you've been helped (or hindered) by any particular book on Hegel, leave a comment!

Nice idea:

We are pleased to be working with Verso to present History is made at night: a special event over 24 hours to launch Less Than Nothing, the new book by the radical philosopher, polymath, film star and cult icon, Slavoj Žižek.

The event will start with a seminar introducing the thought of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel given by philosopher and writer Iain Hamilton Grant. Žižek will then give a talk, and there will be an opportunity to ask questions and have books signed during a break after the talk...

On Thursday May 3, 6-8pm, Tower Hamlets Local History and Archive, Bancroft Road, London E1 4DQ, Ken Worpole will be talking about Jew Boy by Simon Blumenfeld (republished by London Books with an introductory essay by Ken):

Simon Blumenfeld's 1935 novel Jew Boy distils poverty and politics in the tumultuous world of the Jewish East End in the 1930s, where boxers mixed with anarchist and communists, and Yiddish actors and poets rubbed shoulders with gamblers and gangsters. All were united in their hatred of fascism and prepared to use force when necessary to defeat it.

Tonight, Monday 9th April, at 7:45pm, London's Southbank Centre will host the UK launch for Best European Fiction 2012:

Welsh, Dutch, and German authors will share their stories included in the collection. Duncan Bush, Sanneke van Hassel, and Clemens Meyer will discuss their work with the anthology's editor, Bosnian novelist Aleksandar Hemon, as they confront the issue of what Europe itself means in the 21st century and how the notion of a "European literature" is a continually diversifying concept.

For more information, and to purchase tickets to the event, please click here.

To read interviews with series editor Aleksandar Hemon and personal statements by contributors to this year's volume, click here.

Again, A Time Machine: Stewart Home: SPACE hosts the first UK retrospective of Stewart Home’s work –

From his earliest work Stewart Home has expressed an avantgardist desire to write himself into the archive of culture. Mixing myth and polemic, with plagarism and a savage ideological critique, the parodic manifestoes of Generation Positive, progressed into the self-historicising magazine Smile, the Neoists, and finally The Art Strike – an aggressive appropriation of Gustav Metzger's strike proposal (more...)
Opening Thursday 5 Arpil 6:00pm until 9:00pm (SPACE 129-131 Mare Street, London E8 3RH.) Show runs until 20 May 2012.

New Simon Critchley book just out:


The remarkable resurgence of interest in religion has become one of the defining issues of our time. Whether approached from a “post-secular” perspective, or fanatically affirmed/denied by fundamentalists of both religious and atheistic persuasions, we are living in a moment where religion and a wider constellation of its concerns have an inescapable hold over us.

Simon Critchley's new book The Faith of the Faithless attempts to philosophically re-frame the nature of the current debates over the role of religion in the 21st century. In the book, out today, Critchley proposes a new perspective on belief – one that attempts to avoid the obstacles that have increasingly hobbled serious reflection and constructive dialogue about religion in our world.

Together with the book's release, Critchley will be speaking at the New York Public Library tomorrow night with Mark Mazower, where he hosts the next installment of his ongoing conversation series On Truth (and Lies). The topic of the conversation is The Historian's Truth. Next Tuesday, February 7th at 7pm, Critchley will appear at BAM with the ever profound and provocative brother Cornel West, where the two will discuss the concept of religion and faith in secular society (more over at VersoBooks.com...)

Literature Across Frontiers will be presenting the report Literary Translation from Arabic into English in the UK and Ireland at the Free Word Centre, in London, tonight (from 6.30pm).

Artists, writers and curators today, more than ever, take part in a time-pressured culture of high performance. One is constantly expected to be productive, professional, and to deliver good work. Is this the way we really want to work? How do people working within the arts manage the imbalance between work and life? Can one be productive by being less productive? Are there creative possibilities in exhaustion, failure and laziness? Writer and critic Laura McLean- Ferris, Paul Pieroni, curator of Space, and writer and philosopher Lars Iyer, author of Spurious, discuss the potentials in being less productive.
The Trouble with Productivity: event at the ICA in London next Tuesday.

"On the 10th anniversary of his death, a unique event celebrating the late, great writer W.G. Max Sebald; with Anthea Bell, Ian Bostridge, A.S. Byatt, Julius Drake (tbc), Ian Galbraith, Dan Gretton, Grant Gee, Rachel Lichtenstein, Christopher MacLehose, Katie Mitchell, Andrew Motion, Iain Sinclair, Will Stone, Bill Swainson, Marina Warner and Stephen Watts. Curated by Gareth Evans; staged in association with Katie Mitchell."

More on the event here...

Tickets are now on sale for the third Picture This at Somerset House – Writers’ Talks in The Courtauld Gallery hosted by Frances Wilson.

Authors and dates include:

  • October 4 – Tracy Chevalier & Iain Sinclair 
  • October 19 – Marina Warner & Frances Spalding
  • October 25 – Geoff Dyer & Blake Morrison

Each author will give a 20 minute talk about their favourite painting from the permanent collection at the Courtauld Gallery. Talks are followed by a Q&A session.

Doors 18.30 for private view of the gallery, event starts 19.00. Tickets: £12.50/£11 concessions. Tickets include private view of the Courtauld Gallery, talk and a complementary drink.

More information at: somersethouse.org.uk

The 2nd International Translation Day Symposium organised by English PEN in partnership with Free Word and the Literary Translation Centre is happening tomorrow, 30th September 2011.

Here is the press release:

One year after the inaugural International Translation Day symposium at the Free Word Centre, professionals in the industry come together to celebrate new achievements and to look at future challenges.

The day kicks off with the launch of the final Global Translation Initiative Report, Taking Flight: New Thinking on World Writing, a series of eighteen vital and illuminating essays from distinguished translators, authors, publishers and journalists from around the globe.

Jonathan Heawood, Director of English PEN, chairs a panel showcasing some of the great translation initiatives that have developed since last year’s International Translation Day. Jane Aitken (publisher, Gallic Press) reveals some of the obstacles of publishing The Elegance of the Hedgehog; Ros Schwartz (translator) discusses mentoring programmes; Sarah Ardizzone (translator)updates us on progress of the schools programme Translation Nation; and Rachel Van Riel (Opening the Book) talks about reader development initiatives that really work.

The afternoon is devoted to a series of workshops with topics ranging from practical issues such as how to get started as a translator, education, funding and training for literary translation, to wider cultural concerns such as literary translation in review media, the role of literary festivals, the translation of minority languages and intercultural understanding.

The day culminates with a keynote speech from acclaimed conductor Charles Hazlewood who asks us what JS Bach and The Prodigy have in common. As he outlines the connectivity between the father of the High Baroque and this quartet of techno terrorists, Charles reveals the story behind his own success in building and connecting audiences for very different kinds of music.

Celebrated author Ahdaf Soueif also lends her support to International Translation Day, discussing her particular blend of the personal with the political, fiction and history with Amanda Hopkinson in the evening.

The third annual World Literature Weekend is almost here. From Friday 17 to Sunday 19 June, esteemed writers and translators from across the world are coming to Bloomsbury to participate in what is sure to be a brilliant festival.

Some events are already sold out and some of them only have a few tickets left. So if you want to see Cees Nooteboom in conversation with A.S. Byatt, Manuel Rivas’ talk on his new novel Books Burn Badly, Dutch poet Laureate Ramsey Nasr in conversation with Ruth Padel, leading Catalonian authors discussing their language and history, Javier Cercas discussing his books, a thrilling live translation with Shaun Whiteside, Mike Mitchell, Daniel Kehlmann and Daniel Hahn... among other events and talks, then book your tickets now.

Interesting looking "book presentation and conversation", at The Swedenborg Society, between Brian Dillon and Momus on the release of their new books (Sanctuary and Solution 214–238, The Book of Japans) on Monday, June 27, 2011, 7pm (admission: £5.00):

Sanctuary is a fiction set in the ruins of a Modernist building on the outskirts of a city in Northern Europe. The structure, a Catholic seminary built in the 1960s and abandoned twenty years later, embodies the failure of certain ambitions: architectural, civic, and spiritual. But it is the site too of a more recent disappearance. A young artist, intent on exploring the complex and its history, has gone missing among the wreckage. Months later his lover visits the place, unsure what she is looking for, and finds herself drawn into the strange nexus of energies and memories that persist there. Sanctuary is a story about what survives – of bodies, ideas, objects and the artistic or literary forms that might describe them – in the wake of catastrophe.

Following the success of The Book of Scotlands, Momus has been commissioned to write another book as part of Ingo Niermann’s Solution Series. Solution Japan, or The Book of Japans, makes a case for the rehabilitation of the idea of the “far.” We live in a time when difference and distance have been eroded and eradicated by globalization, the Internet, and cheap jet travel. The Book of Japans restores a sense of wonder – along with a plethora of imagination-triggering inaccuracies – by taking the reader on a trip not just through space but also time.

Brian Dillon was born in Dublin in 1969. He is the UK editor of Cabinet magazine and AHRC Research Fellow in the Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Kent. He is the author of Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives (Penguin, 2009) and a memoir, In the Dark Room (Penguin, 2005). His writing appears regularly in such publications as frieze, Artforum, the Guardian, the London Review of Books, and the Wire. He lives in Canterbury. briangdillon.wordpress.com

Momus is the pseudonym of Scottish musician, artist, and writer Nick Currie. Born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1960, he has released twenty albums of pop music on independent labels like 4AD, Creation, and Cherry Red. He writes regularly about art, design, and culture for the New York Times, ID, frieze, Spike, and 032c. In addition to The Book of Scotlands, Momus has published a novel, The Book of Jokes (Dalkey Archive Press, 2009). imomus.com

Liberalism: Slavery, imperialism and exploitation – panel discussion with Domenico Losurdo, Robin Blackburn and Richard Seymour. Tonight, May 5th 2011, at King’s College London. Hosted by the European Studies Department in association with Verso Books.

In this definitive historical investigation of the formation of liberalism from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, Domenico Losurdo overturns complacent and self-congratulatory accounts by showing that, from its very origins, liberalism and its main thinkers—Locke, Burke, Tocqueville, Constant, Bentham, Sieyès and others—have been bound up with the defense of the thoroughly illiberal policies of slavery, colonialism, genocide, racism and elitism. Losurdo probes the inner contradictions of liberalism, also focusing on minority currents that moved to more radical positions, and provides an authoritative account of the relationship between the domestic and colonial spheres in the constitution of a liberal order.

The triumph of the liberal ideal of the self-government of civil society—waving the flag of freedom, fighting against despotism—at the same time feeds the development of the slave trade, digging an insurmountable and unprecedented gap between the different races. Domenico Losurdo

Domenico Losurdo is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Urbino, Italy and the author of many books, most recently Liberalism: A Counter-History.

Excellent talk at London's ICA last night between Paul Taylor (author of Žižek and the Media) and Slavoj Žižek.

As ever, Žižek was discursive, endearing, funny and incisive. I never fail to be impressed that he pulls of that mix so effortlessly. (I had the pleasure of meeting him before the talk, and he was exactly the same talking with a group of friends and colleagues as he is up on stage.)

At the end of his talk he mentioned that he was perhaps coming to the end of his tether with playing the role of philosophy's clown (a role he accepted he invented and perpetuated in dialogue and tension with the media) and has almost finished writing a big, boring book on Hegel. I can't wait! Žižek suggested it was going to be six or seven hundred pages long, with the first hundred pages about Plato, and the next hundred or so discussing Fichte.

You heard it here first!

What are grey vampires and how do they retard the insurrectionary potential of digital discourse? How does Derrida’s notion of hauntology contribute to an understanding of dubstep artist Burial? Is Basic Instinct 2, routinely derided as a cine-atrocity, a Lacanian reworking of Ballard, Baudrillard and Bataille in service of the creation of a “phantasmatic, cybergothic London”? What is interpassivity and in what ways has it come to define the corporatized incarceration of modern academia?
2 Talks by Mark Fisher, author of Capitalist Realism

On the 4th of May, at the ICA in London, in a talk entitled Screening Thought - The Media's Philosophical Problem, Slavoj Žižek and RSB interviewee Paul A. Taylor (author of Žižek and The Media) explore the difficulty of conveying philosophical ideas within today's media:

Increasingly, intelligence is only tolerated in pre-approved and reassuringly non-challenging forms - deprecatory humour (Stephen Fry), decaffeinated reasoning (Alain de Botton), or suspiciously grand narratives (Simon Schama). Žižek himself is constantly pigeonholed by such media clichés as 'the Elvis of cultural theory' and 'the Marx Brother'. This event sets out to question 'what can be done?' by serious thought in a culture of sound bites. Is the best that media philosophers can hope for to 'Try again, fail again, fail better'?

Russia will be the Market Focus of the London Book Fair 2011. This decision was made in recognition of Russia’s rapid growth in the publishing field in the past two decades and following the success of the Russian Pavilion and Russian Literature Week, held in conjunction with The London Book Fair and in the presence of Minister Mikhail V. Seslavinsky and His Excellency Ambassador Yury V. Fedotov.

Over 50 of Russia's best new authors are coming to take part in events and seminars at the London Book Fair. The Market Focus will present both internationally established writers, such as Vladimir Makanin, Ludmila Ulitskaya, Dmitry Bykov, Boris Akunin, Sergei Lukyanenko and exciting, up and coming authors to the forefront of the international book publishing industry and to the attention of the English speaking world. The project will not only feature the best in contemporary fiction, but it will also be a unique opportunity to explore the vibrant world of new Russian poetry, with events with poets Lev Rubinstein, Andrei Rodionov, Maria Stepanova, Linor Goralik and Dmitry Kuzmin. The breadth of Russian non-fiction will also be well represented, with discussions and debates led by acclaimed writers and journalists such as Pavel Basinksy, Sergei Ivanov and Leonid Parfenov.

More info at academia-rossica.org...

Details of the upcoming Logic of the World event, celebrating Robert Kelly's 75th birthday, and his fifty years teaching at Bard College, on Saturday May 7th at 32 Second Avenue, New York can be found on the Logic of the World 'blog'. Expect talks, readings and performances by Vyt Bakaitis, Carey Harrison, Michael Ives, Pierre Joris, Nicole Peyrafitte, Peter Lamborn Wilson and many more. All are welcome.

Museums at Night, "the annual after-hours celebration of arts, history and heritage, will take place this year over the weekend of Friday 13th to Sunday 15th May":

From the splendours of London’s V&A to the tiny Glenesk Folk Museum North of Angus in Scotland, from Ruthin Gaol in Wales to Newlyn Art Gallery in Cornwall, hundreds of museums and galleries across the UK will be opening their doors at night for gallery gigs, twilight film screenings, theatre shows, midnight murder mysteries, all-night sleepovers, torch-lit tours and much more. Tying in with the European event La Nuit des Musées, Museums at Night will be offering the chance to experience a whole array of fantastic museums, cultural venues and historic houses once the sun goes down.

World Book Night, taking place on Saturday 5th March 2011...


...is launching with an ambitious website connecting readers across the UK and Ireland with events as they unfold in the build up to World Book Night when one million free books will be given away by 20,000 passionate readers in a high profile celebration of the written word.

The World Book Night site is at worldbooknight.org

London-based readers might be interested in this forthcoming talk:


Politics of the Useless: The Work of Art in Benjamin and Heidegger on Tuesday 8 March, 12.30 – 2pm Graham Wallas Room (A550), Fifth Floor, Old building, LSE (please note this is a lunchtime seminar).

In this talk, David Ferris will examine the use and uselessness of art with respect to its political significance. The talk will focus on two almost contemporary works, Benjamin’s The Work of art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility, and Heidegger’s The Origin of the Work of Art, including the different, evolving versions of each of these works.

David Ferris is Professor of Humanities and Comparative Literature, University of Colorado at Boulder.

There is going to be a Translating Celan conference on Tuesday 23rd November, at the Goethe-Institut in London. Tickets: £15 (£8 concesssions):


On the 90th anniversary of his birth, award-winning translators discuss the challenges of translating Paul Celan, as well as Celan as translator. The conference also includes an impromptu workshop on one particular poem. The conference is on Tuesday, 23 November 2010, 10am to 2pm at the Goethe-Institut London. Speakers include Jean Boase-Beier, Ian Fairley, Charlotte Ryland and Wieland Hoban.

Paul Celan, Europe's most compelling postwar poet and author of the Todesfuge (Death Fugue), was a German-speaking, East European Jew. His writing exposes and illuminates the effects that Nazi destructiveness left on language. Celan’s father died in a Ukrainian labour camp; his mother was shot. After this, as Hugo Gryn said, Celan was in the position of being a writer in the language both of his mother and of his mother's murderers. Celan was born on 23 November 1920 in Cern?u?i, Romania, he drowned himself in the Seine on 20 April 1970 in Paris.

Novelist Sylvie Germain will be appearing at The French Institute, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 at 7.30pm on 8 December 2010 to promote her recent novel Hidden Lives (L'Inapercu). Tickets £5 (£3 concessions). Early reservation is recommended. (0207 073 1350 — box.office@ambafrance.org.uk)

My dear friend Christian Stretton (artist, librarian, dad!) went to see author Jonathan Franzen in Manchester last week (3rd October). He reports back:


When Jonathan Franzen appears behind the lectern at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, he stops and stands amidst all the applause with a confused look on his face. Franzen is caught in a moment of time directly between the generous media coverage of his new book Freedom being recalled for pulping, and the equally extensive column inches devoted to the spectacles snatch which will occur tomorrow night.

This pregnant pause though is not due to his being at the centre of a media whirlwind. Instead, his confusion is brought about by the nature of the lectern which he stands behind. In fact, the lectern is an improvised ‘customer comments’ box and, as such, is much too short for his tall frame, and has no place on which he can rest his book. He wrestles the box onto the stage, and then shuffles it around, before looking up and grinning, as if noticing us for the first time.

If you were aware of Franzen’s work only through the copious articles and reviews which he garners, it would be easy to hate him. But to read his books, and to see him speaking confidently, openly about his writing, is another matter. Seeing him here tonight as a vulnerable, all too human writer, a gulf appears evident.

There are many questions tonight (from Dave Haslam) about Franzen’s media presence: he shifts uncomfortably in his seat when asked about the ‘Great American Novelist’ label, talks about the ‘unreality’ of these promotion tours, and even mentions Oprah. But these are not his most interesting (or revealing) answers. Only when Haslam gets down to the writing do we find Franzen exposed. When asked if he reveals his own political beliefs even when writing in character, his articulate response explains how he has many differing opinions in his head, each held to be true at the same time, and the characters that he creates are a way of resolving these differences.

Haslam clearly admires Franzen, and so his line of questioning is unlikely to provoke. Nevertheless, when he asks about Franzen’s own teenage years, the audience note a small crumble in the time it takes for Franzen to compose his answer. ‘At the start of the tour, I said I wasn’t going to talk about the meaning of the title,’ he begins, tantalisingly. The ‘Freedom’ of the title, he goes on to explain, is more about his own personal freedom from his past. This book, it seems, was his release; a way of breaking from his adolescent self. ‘I feel like I was an adolescent until about two years ago’ he smirks (Franzen is 52 years old).

There is no question, Franzen presents himself well. By his own admission, he is unafraid of public speaking, so doesn’t really see the polarity of his writing life, compared to his promotional life. By the end of the evening, we are all charmed by his answers. Yet, for all his success, I feel sympathy for a gentle, fragile man with a talent for constructing a good sentence, caught in the eye of a storm that he seems incapable of creating himself, and unlikely to enjoy.

As I leave, he shakes my hand. A confident American handshake with good eye contact. He seems to have enjoyed tonight, for all its unreality.

The Wu Ming Foundation ("a collective of novelists based in Italy, a country that's living its darkest period since the old days of fascist dictatorship (1922-1945)... authors of Q, 54 and Manituana") are in the UK and on the road:


Christopher Reid will be reading from The Song of Lunch, A Scattering and perhaps others at the Wapping Project bookshop, London, E1W 3SG, this Thursday, 4 March, at 7.30. The space is small; to ensure a place, email lydia.fulton@mac.com (via SonofaBook; thanks Charles!)

David Belbin (thanks Dave!) tells me:


On May 8th 2010, the University of Nottingham will host a celebration of the life of one of its most widely respected alumni, the novelist Stanley Middleton. The Booker Prize winning author died in July 2009, a week short of his 90th birthday. The celebration will include live music, readings from Stanley’s novels, poems and unpublished letters, together with short talks on his life and work (more...)

Tonight, I'll be at the South Bank Centre for A different window: reading European fiction, in which Aleksandar Hemon (editor of Best European Fiction 2010), AS Byatt and Tom McCarthy will discuss their personal readings of European writers such as Kafka and Nabokov and the impact of European fiction on their own writing. Sadly, I understand that the event is now sold out.


However, on Wednesday, another Best European Fiction 2010 event is happening with Andrej Blatnik, Jon Fosse and Christine Montalbetti discussing their work and reading from BEF 2010. The Monday event is really just a prequel for the Wednesday event so, if you've missed out on tonight's gig, make sure you don't miss out on Wednesday's session where you'll have a real chance to engage with some very exciting writers. More at the South Bank website.

Anyone near Oxford should make the effort to head to the Museum of the History of Science's superb Steampunk exhibition. It is, we're told, "the world’s first exhibition of Steampunk art" and is a delight. One of the most enjoyable and surprising exhibitions I've seen in a very long time. Only two fairly small rooms, admittedly, but packed with some startling artefacts. Do it.


Imagine the technology of today with the aesthetic of Victorian science. From redesigned practical items to fantastical contraptions, this exhibition, curated by Art Donovan, showcases the work of eighteen Steampunk artists from across the globe.

Expect ’steam-powered’ computer mice, clockwork hearts, brass goggles and the latest state-of-the-Steampunk-art eye-pod (more...)

Tonight, Thursday 1st October, at 7.00 p.m. at the Calder Bookshop (opposite The Young Vic; 51 The Cut, London SE1 8LF), Robert Chandler will be talking about his recent, short biography of Alexander Pushkin. Robert will talk about what he learned while writing his book, and also read passages of Pushkin's poetry and prose in English.

Last Thursday, I spoke at Legend Press's first Publishing Laid Bare Conference. Basically, I said, "the internet is good, bloggers are fab" -- so nothing particularly newsworthy there then! But thanks so much to the good folk at Legend Press for inviting me to speak and thanks to everyone for the warm reception I got from those in attendance on the day.

World Literature Weekend -- 19th to 21st June 2009:


The idea of dedicating a weekend of talks and discussions to foreign and translated literature has evolved over the six years since the London Review Bookshop first opened and began holding events that have earned it a proud reputation. Looking back at those events, I notice one thing immediately: how lucky we have been in attracting writers from all over the world. This festival is our way of celebrating that; several of the distinguished authors who have agreed to take part are travelling from abroad especially for the festival. (More.)

On Saturday (20th June) the first Oxford Working Class Bookfair is being held:


... between 11 am and 6 pm at Ruskin College, Walton Street, Oxford... On the eve of the Summer solstice there will be a gathering of the tribes - a bookfair - a place to meet likeminded people and exchange ideas and information. There will be talks, badges, posters, DVDs, CDs, workshops, music, culture, short films, magazines, lectures, warm atmosphere, fellowship, meet new people, education, entertainment, magazine, newspapers and BOOKS! (More.)

Next Thursday, 19th February, 7.00-8.30pm, at the Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, South Kensington, SW7, London, Rupert Read of the University of East Anglia is giving a talk winningly entitled: Gramsci and ‘The Lord of the Rings’: Optimism and Pessimism at a Time of Crisis. The event, organised by the Forum For European Philosophy, is free and open to all without registration.

As part of Jewish Book week, on Sunday March 1st at 2pm "Paul Verhaeghen and Boyd Tonkin discuss moral choices, writing history and translating one's own work into English." Verhaeghen, as you'll recall, won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize last year with "his extraordinary novel Omega Minor, an exploration of the world of Nazis and Neo-Nazis alike, the destructive logics of The Holocaust and the Bomb, truths that kill and lies that keep alive, passionate love and devouring lust. "

Emil Hakl will be in London this week to present his novel Of Kids & Parents. The author will appear at the following two venues accompanied by his translator Marek Tomin:


Thursday, Jan. 22, 6:30 p.m.
Borders Books and Music
122 Charing Cross Road
London WC2H 0JR
T: 0207 379 8877

Sponsored by the Czech Centre, refreshments provided. For more info go here.


Friday, Jan. 23, 7 p.m.
Calder Bookshop
51 The Cut
London SE1 8LF
Tel. 0207 620 2900


Both events are free and all are welcome.


For more about the novel, take a look at the Twisted Spoon website. For an author profile, see the Prague Post.

On Saturday 17th January 2009 (16.30–18.00), INS General Secretary Tom McCarthy and INS Chief Philosopher Simon Critchley will deliver the INS Joint Statement on Inauthenticity:


The International Necronautical Society (INS) is an alliance of writers, artists and philosophers. In The Tate Declaration, INS Chief Philosopher Simon Critchley and General Secretary Tom McCarthy attack the self-serving ideology of 'authenticity' that pervades contemporary western culture, proposing instead a practice of radical inauthenticity (more...)

Alex Ross on upcoming Messiaen fun:


With the centenary of Olivier Messiaen drawing nigh, here are some additions to my Messiaen 100 post of some weeks back. First, the DG label is releasing a mammoth, thirty-two-CD Complete Edition of the Maître's works, with authoritative performances by the likes of Olivier Latry, Roger Muraro, Pierre Boulez, Myung-Whun Chung, and Kent Nagano (his great recording of Saint François d'Assise). Also, I earlier neglected to note that the Cleveland Museum of Art is offering a strong cluster of events over the next several weeks... At Southbank in London, the unstoppable Boulez will lead a Messiaen concert on Dec. 10 and a Carter concert on Dec. 11, including something of his own on each night for the sake of variety — or, perhaps, continuity (more...)

Tomorrow is National Poetry Day. I suggest you all stay at home and read Wallace Stevens.


If you do happen to venture out into the mean streets tomorrow and are anywhere near Manchester then you should know that Clarity or Death!, a new collection of poems by Geoffrey Hill-expert Jeffrey Wainwright (author of the excellent and very useful introduction to poetry Poetry: the Basics and the very fine Acceptable Words: Essays on the Poetry of Geoffrey Hill), is being launched, Thursday 9th October at 6.30pm, in Lecture Theatre 7, Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University. (The event is free, introduced by our pal Michael Schmidt, but for more information please email: j.draper@mmu.ac.uk.)

Short notice, I know (this is happening, erm, today):


A special one-day event will celebrate the launch of The Original Frankenstein, the latest Bodleian Library publication. Frankenstein Day at the Bodleian Library will take place on 7 October 2008. Events include: a special display of Mary Shelley's original manuscripts; a lecture by Charles E. Robinson, the author of the new edition and a book launch with Brian Aldiss as guest speaker (more...)

Next Thursday (9th October) at 7pm at the Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, South Kensington, SW7, London, Daniel D. Hutto, Professor of Philosophical Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, is giving a talk entitled: Wittgenstein: The End of Philosophy?

Writer and artist Alasdair Gray will be in conversation with novelist and artist Tom McCarthy (3pm Friday 17th October) as part of the Frieze Talks 2008. (Thanks Rowan.)

I'm talking at the London Literature Festival this coming Saturday:


To celebrate the shortlist for The Best of the Booker Prize, our distinguished panel of writers champion the novel they think should win. Featuring Edna O’Brien on JG Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur, Kamila Shamsie on Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Peter Kemp on Pat Barker’s The Ghost Road and Mark Thwaite on JM Coetzee’s Disgrace. Other guests discuss Nadine Gordimer’s TheConservationist and Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda. The panel read short extracts from the books, followed by their own critical appraisal. At the end of the evening the audience are asked to cast their vote.

Tonight, as part of the 1968 and its Legacies season: An evening celebrating Dalkey Archive’s classic avant-garde books, and discovering which writers carry the flame today. Speakers include: Amanda Michalopoulou, Deborah Levy, Alain Arias-Misson, Karen Moller, Jasia Reichardt, Tom McCarthy; and readings will range from Ann Quin, Henry Green, Stefan & Franciszka Themerson to Djuna Barnes and Claude Simon doors open 7pm. Event at The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1HX (tickets: £3).

Interesting event tonight at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 7:30pm (tickets are £12)


Our leading thinkers discuss the history and future of radical thought at this centrepiece event in the Southbank series All Power to the Imagination. After the events of 1968 there was a dramatic rise in the popularity of radical theory, but in the 21st century it seems to be on the wane – is it still useful? Has its utopianism been found lacking after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of neo-liberalism? Where is the next generation of radical thinkers? A distinguished panel of authors from Verso’s acclaimed Radical Thinkers series discuss the context in which radical thought evolved in the 1960s and debate its future.

Panellists are: Peter Dews author of Logics of Disintegration: Poststructuralist Thought and the Claims of Critical Theory; Mark Kurlansky author of 1968: The Year that Rocked the World; Ernesto Laclau author of On Populist Reason; Jacqueline Rose author of Sexuality in the Field of Vision; and Göran Therborn author of What Does the Ruling Class Do When it Rules?. The event is chaired by Patrick Wright author of Iron Curtain: From Stage to Cold War.

The 30 best books festivals in the British Isles: the definitive 2008 guide by Megan Walsh and Caroline White (writing in The Times).

It is The London Book Fair next week (April 14th-16th). I'll be going down to meet and greet folk with my Book Depository hat on. And I'll be speaking at an English PEN event on the Tuesday afternoon. I'm not exactly sure of the details of the talk yet -- I'll let you know as soon as I have them.

I'm back from Oxford and from speaking at the Oxford Literary Festival. Busy day yesterday what with my Today programme appearance and all! If the warm and generous comments left on the blog are anything to go by the talks have gone down pretty well. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to leave a comment.


And a big welcome to everybody who has just come across ReadySteadyBook ... I hope you enjoy looking around the site.


If you want to read more about last night's Blogging the Classics debate, reports from the OLF can be found at the Times, Other Stories, Eve's Alexandria and Torque Control.


Some of these reports have photographs. Yes, I do look fat. Yes, the stripey jumper was probably a bad idea!

I was on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning (should you wish, you can "listen again")! I was on at about 8:20 am, talking about blogging...


I had lots to say, of course, but didn't really get the chance to say as much as I would've liked. I wanted to talk a bit about my work at The Book Depository, I wanted to mention BritLitBlogs, I wanted to say how fab This Space is ... but I never really got a chance.


Never mind: I'll be going over the same ground at length again this evening at the Oxford Literary Festival where dovegreyreader and I will be discussing Blogging the Classics with John Mullan and John Carey.


If you get a chance to come along, do come and say hello afterwards!

Tomorrow, Slavoj Žižek is talking at the University of Leeds on the The (Mis)uses of Violence (details here).


I'm reliably informed that: "attendance is free, free car parking is available and everyone is welcome!" Which is nice.


Update: the Leeds website isn't entirely clear on this, but I've been assured that this event is fully open to the public. Yay!

Short notice, I know, but tonight at 7pm at The Salt Museum (162 London Road, Northwich, Cheshire, CW9 8AB) -- Halloween Horrors: An evening of readings from Phobic: Modern Horror Stories with Nicholas Royle, Conrad Williams and & Emma Unsworth. Admission is £3 (on sale at the door; redeemable against the price of the book).

Lisa Appignanesi, prize-winning novelist (The Memory Man), translator (The Year is '42, with John Berger), writer (Losing the Dead) and Deputy President of English PEN talks to two acclaimed translators about their recent work: Len Rix (Pushkin Press) is the translator of Hungarian novelist Antal Szerb (Journey by Moonlight, The Pendragon Legend and Oliver VII); and Magda Szabó (The Door). Patrick Camiller (Dalkey Archive) is the translator of contemporary Romanian novelist Dumitru Tsepeneag (Vain Art of the Fugue). The event is on Wednesday 24th October at 7pm (tickets £3, available in person or on 7794 1098) at Waterstone's, 68-69 Hampstead High St, London.

Tomorrow night (Tuesday 25th September) at 7pm at the Calder Bookshop (51 The Cut, London, SE1 8LF) Pushkin Press are hosting a talk by "acclaimed novelist Paul Bailey and award-winning Hungarian translator Len Rix, about the work of twentieth-century Hungarian master novelist Antal Szerb." This in celebration of the newly published Oliver VII.

"London Lit Plus (LL+) is an open festival, which means anyone can participate, and anyone can hold an event. All you have to do to be included is to submit your event, and we’ll add it to the list on this website. We want to showcase all the wonderful literary goings-on in London that we can in a two-week period.

The only conditions for entry are that it must be literary, it must be within the M25, and it must be taking place between the 29th of June and the 13th of July 2007.


LL+ was started by a loose coalition of literary types, including, but not limited to, 3:AM Magazine, Scarecrow, Social Disease Publishing and booktwo.org, with the simple aim of creating a non-commercial festival without an agenda, programmed by the people involved, to showcase the myriad of literary events that happen every week in London, but are frequently overlooked."

Lee "Scarecrow" Rourke is reading with Toby Litt this evening in Big London. More information via 3:AM.

Tom McCarthy has dropped me a line to tell me about an event he is involved in at the London-based British Film Institute this evening (starting at the very specific time of twenty to seven!):


What is the cultural logic of repetition? Is repetition the same as re-enactment? What role does trauma play in all this? Are these questions, by their very nature, inherently political?

Writer Tom McCarthy, whose novel Remainder sees an obsessed Everyman re-enact increasingly violent situations in a bid for 'authenticity', and artist Rod Dickinson, known for his large-scale re-enactments of the sermons of cult leader Jim Jones and the Obedience to Authority experiment of psychologist Stanley Milgram, discuss these issues with each other at the BFI, London. (18:40, £5, £4 concs).

I doubt there'll be very much from me here until about Wednesday. On Monday and Tuesday of next week I'll be down in our great metropolis attending the London Book Fair ("one of the world’s leading forums for the business of publishing" so it says, but actually quite a ball-achingly dull, if seemingly necessary, trade jamboree). Principally, I'll be there with my Book Depository hat on, but if anyone wants to meet for a cuppa, drop me an email, and I'll see if we can't arrange something.

Short notice I know, but this evening at 6pm, in Lecture Theatre 6 of the Geoffrey Manton Building, at MMU, there is going to be an Alice Oswald reading.


Alice is the author of Woods etc. and Dart. She is a past recipient of the Forward Poetry Prize and The Eric Gregory Award, and has been short-listed for the T.S. Elliot Prize. She was named one of the Poetry Book Society's Next Generation poets in 2004. This event is hosted by the Writing School, is open to the public, and is free of charge to students and staff of MMU, £5 (£3 concessions) to the rest of us.

I attended a fascinating, wonderful, incisive (just think very positive adjectives!) talk by Gabriel Josipovici on Wednesday evening -- entitled Whatever happened to modernism? -- at the Commonwealth Institute, Russell Square, Big London. And I wasn't the only one: excellent report on the evening from Ellis Sharp and also from Steve at This-Space.

Gabriel Josipovici will be giving this year's James Coffin memorial Lecture, sponsored by the Institute of German and Romance Studies. His subject is "What Ever Happened To Modernism?" The lecture takes place next Wednesday, 14th March, and starts at 6.00 pm. It is taking place in the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (28 Russell Square, London, WC1B 5DS). The lecture will be followed by a reception. All are welcome, and admission is free, but please let igrs@sas.ac.uk if you would like to attend.

On Sunday, February 18th at the KGB bar in New York there is going to be a tribute to the fiction of Austrian novelist, playwright and poet Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989). Readers will include poet Wayne Koestenbaum, Ben The Age of Wire and String Marcus and Dale Hatchet Jobs Peck. Needless to say, I shall not be there, but rather will be tucked up by the fire here in snowy Stockport, perhaps vicariously joining in by reading Jonathan Long's The Novels of Thomas Bernhard.

A play featuring sketches of fourteen of Harold Pinter's works opens at London's Haymarket Theatre next week. There are pictures over on the BBC's Today website.

Announcement: "Due to adverse weather conditions, the Geoffrey Manton Building is being evacuated on orders from the Vice Chancellor and will be closed from 4.30pm today. Please note that, as a result of this, tonight's reading event (Matthew Welton and Linda Chase) is cancelled. Apologies for any inconvenience caused."


We're battening down the hatches here in grey old Stockport, awaitin' the storm to arrive with some trepidation. Trepidation, and tea!

A production of Beckett’s Happy Days opens at the National Theatre, London, on the 18th January. The National have written to me saying:


We are very keen for Beckett enthusiasts to attend the preview performances in order for them to continue discussions about the production. We are therefore offering a great ticket deal for these enthusiasts for the 18 – 23 Jan whereby they can claim best available seats for £15.

To take advantage of the offer, you just need to quote "Friends of Beckett" when calling the box office (020 7452 3000).

You know, I've never read anything by Anthony Trollope. I should probably remedy that soon. Anyway, if you fancy a bit of theatre, you can have "an evening with one of Britain's most loved and most prolific authors, Anthony Trollope. Edward Fox takes on the mantle of the novellist and brings alive some of his most loved characters for an evening no fan of Trollope's work will ever forget." The tour starts at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, on the 10th January, and moves around the South of England until it arrives at Marine Theatre, Dorset on the 24th March.

The programme for Jewish Book Week 2007 is now online. Our pal Michael Rosen is up on the first Sunday (25th February), and the week ends on Sunday 4th March with Gabriel Josipovici in conversation with Bryan Cheyette.

Next year's Thursday evening reading events at MMU (Meet the authors, meet the poets) has been announced. All the events are hosted by the Writing School and are open to the public. A selection of books will be available to buy from our special Blackwell’s stall before each event begins. Admission is £5.00 (£3.00 concessions; free to students and staff of MMU). The evenings are held in Lecture Theatre 6, Geoffrey Manton Building (opposite the Commonwealth Aquatics Centre on Oxford Road, Manchester city centre) at 6.30 pm.


14th December:  Sarah Hall
11th January:      Owen Sheers
25th January:      Jean Sprackland
1st February:      Trevor Hoyle
8th February:      Simon Armitage
15th February:    Rosie Bailey and U.A. Fanthorpe
22nd February:   Matthew Hollis
1st March:          Carol Rumens
8th March:          Livi Michael
15th March:        Martyn Bedford
22nd March:       Jackie Roy and Jeffrey Wainwright

To celebrate the (UK) publication of Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts and Fragments, edited by Alice Quinn (Carcanet), there will be an Elizabeth Bishop Celebration on Friday 24th November (in Manchester Central Library, Committee Room 2nd floor 1-2pm -- the event is free).


Michael Schmidt will talk about Bishop and her work, there will be audio recordings of Bishop reading, and Manchester writers (like me!), students and fans of her work will contribute by reading some of her poems aloud to the gathered masses.


I was recently sent Art and Memory in the Work of Elizabeth Bishop by Jonathan Ellis (Ashgate), but I've not had a chance to look at it. The publisher reckons:


Jonathan Ellis offers evidence for a redirection in Bishop studies toward a more thorough scrutiny of the links between Bishop's art and life. The book is less concerned with the details of what actually happened to Bishop than with the ways in which she refracted key events into writing: both personal, unpublished material as well as stories, poems, and paintings. Thus, Ellis challenges Bishop's reputation as either a strictly impersonal or personal writer and repositions her poetry between the Modernists on the one hand and the Confessionals on the other.

Although Elizabeth Bishop was born and died in Massachusetts, she lived a life more bohemian and varied than that of almost all of her contemporaries, a fact masked by the tendency of biographers and critics to focus on Bishop's life in the United States. Drawing on published works and unpublished material overlooked by many critics, Ellis gives equal attention to the influence of Bishop's Canadian upbringing on her art and to the shifts in her aesthetic and personal tastes that took place during Bishop's residence in Brazil during the 1950s and 1960s. By bringing together the whole of Bishop's work, this book opens a welcome new direction in Bishop studies specifically, and in the study of women poets generally.

The Folkestone Literary Festival started a few days ago and goes on until this coming Saturday. On that day, November 18th, the last event is Debating Nuclear Energy: Solution or Setback?: Martin Empson and Malcolm Grimston. Martin, campaigning journalist and member of the Socialist Workers’ Party, recently reviewed George Monbiot's Heat on RSB, Grimston is a Member of the Atomic Energy Authority and Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House.

Two wee reminders ... as I mentioned on Monday, the poet Roy Fisher is reading at Manchester Metropolitan University (in the Geoffrey Manton Building, on Oxford Road, Manchester, opposite the Aquatics Centre; £5/£3 concessions) tonight at 6.30pm.


And Tom McCarthy (worth checking-out is Tom's recent talk on Trocchi) will be reading from and discussing Remainder with Simon Glendinning of the Forum for European Philosophy at Borders, 120 Charing Cross Road, London also tonight at 6.30pm. This event is free.

Jeffrey Wainwright (author of the excellent Acceptable Words: Essays on the Poetry of Geoffrey Hill) writes to tell me that Roy Fisher is reading at Manchester Metropolitan University (in the Geoffrey Manton Building, on Oxford Road, Manchester, opposite the Aquatics Centre; £5/£3 concessions) this Thursday coming at 6.30pm:


Roy Fisher was born in Birmingham in 1930 and is not only one of England’s senior poets but one of the very best. He has published many books of poetry in a wide variety of forms and formats. His work includes major long poems such Wonders of Obligation and the epic-scale works A Furnace and City. His interests and influences range through American modernism, painting and jazz – he has been a professional jazz pianist – and his myriad subject-matter includes the subtlest of transitory perceptions, the post-industrial world and the foibles of the contemporary arts scene. In all his topics and styles he is witty and acute. Asked to describe his perfect reader he replied: "she would be a woman who would nose around the back of a row of lockup garages to see what she could see, without making a song and dance about it". His collected poems The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2005 is published by Bloodaxe Books. This reading, his first in the North-West for many years, will be a major occasion.

The good folks over at 3:AM are organising a tribute to Scottish almost-Situationist Alexander Trocchi (author of, amongst other things, Young Adam and Cain's Book; for more see A Life in Pieces: Reflections on Alexander Trocchi).


White calves, black ski-trousers will be held at The Three Kings pub, Clerkenwell Close, London EC1 (Farringdon) at 7.30pm this Thursday. RSB interviewees Tom McCathy and Stewart Home will both be in attendance. Should be a good night.


Ooh, goodness, lots of signposting from me today. Well, anyway, this looks interesting (and I can't go!): from the Forum for European Philosophy on Thursday 12th October (6.30-8.00pm) at Borders, 120 Charing Cross Road, WC2, London, Rosi Braidotti (Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Utrecht University) is to give a talk entitled The Ethical Accountability of Nomadic Subjects. On Thursday 2nd November RSB interviewee Tom McCarthy takes the stand, same time at the same venue, in the next Borderlines event.

As part of the of the Manchester Literature Festival (which starts on Thursday, the William Boyd gig looking like that day's highlight), or running parallel with it (I'm not quite sure!), is the Manchester Festival of Palestinian Literature: "the UK’s first-ever festival of Palestinian literature in English translation."

Today is World Mental Health Day. (See also the official site for the World Mental Health Day Project and Mind.)

News in from the TLS:


The Times Literary Supplement (TLS) today announces its next talk on famous names in literature, as a part of the third in a series of talks celebrating the National Portrait Gallery’s 150th Anniversary. On Thursday, October 5 at 7pm, at the National Portrait Gallery, Michael Holroyd, and Roy Foster will lead a discussion on George Bernard Shaw to commemorate the birth – also 150 years ago – of the this world-famous playwright and socialist, George Bernard Shaw. Holroyd, prize-winning biographer and Foster, Professor of Irish History at Oxford University, will discuss Shaw’s provocative legacy.

I'm told that there is still plenty of availability and tickets can be obtained at the door on the night of the event or in advance by telephoning 020 7306 0055 and asking for The Ticket Desk.

From Buzzwords (and also Literature North West):


Libertine Magazine launches tomorrow at Manchester's Central Library (6pm/free entry and wine). It is "dedicated solely to poetry, lyrics and the liberation of the language that they use". The first issue includes an interview with Carol Ann Duffy in which she discusses Mozart, Madonna and Lennon/McCartney. Guillemots frontman Fyfe Dangerfield talks about Kerouac, Lewis Carroll and his own poetry. All that as well as "great features exploring the inspiration that great names of music and literature have on each other, plus a wide variety of excellent and original brand new poetry and song lyrics submitted from around the world".

Levi Asher on Monday night's Seeds of Peace benefit reading:


I attended an outstanding group reading last night at the McNally Robinson bookstore in Soho [NYC]. The theme was Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, and the event was sponsored by a group called Seeds of Peace. The event began with a bang when Leora Skolkin-Smith read a surprising personal document, a passionate love letter an anonymous Muslim teenager in Beirut had written to her Jerusalemite Jewish mother in the 1930's. These readers were intent on breaking down the idea that Jews and Muslims cannot co-exist, and one touching, revealing story after another was offered ...

Russian, American and Italian poets and artists will convene in Florence from 15-17th November to discuss Dante's Divine Comedy. But unless some kind benefactor steps forward, I shan't be there! Organised by the Fondazione Romualdo del Bianco, the conference will bring together international poets, artists, translators and interpreters to explore readings and re-readings of Dante's work through poetry, theatre, music and figurative and multimedia arts. Speakers include poets Robert Pinsky, Edoardo Sanguineti, Yusef Komunyakaa and film director Giancarlo Cauteruccio. Interpretations of Dante's poem will be enacted at the recently restored House of Dante Alighieri Museum in the heart of Florence during the three-day conference. Visit florence-expo.com or email info@fondazione-delbianco.org.

Very short notice I know, but today, between 1-2pm, in the Committee Room, 2nd Floor, Manchester Central Library (in partnership with Bloodaxe) there is a free poetry reading featuring Clare Shaw and Jackie Kay.


I won't be at the poetry, but tonight I will be over at Manchester's Common bar, attending the midweek Licktronica event, where the superb Helios will be playing live. Helios's new CD Eingya is gorgeous, wonderful, fabulous ... As is just about everything else on the peerless Type label.


News from good friend of RSB Leora Skolkin-Smith:


In response to the current crisis in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, a group of authors have organized a benefit reading, with donations and book sale profits to go to Seeds of Peace, a non-profit which brings together teenagers from conflict zones, especially the Middle East, to teach skills aimed at advancing reconciliation. The reading will be held September 18th at McNally Robinson Booksellers, 50 Prince Street, New York, 7 pm. Fifteen authors will read in all, and the current list includes: Diana Abu-Jaber, David Gates, Masha Hamilton, Natalya Handal, Binnie Kirshenbaum, Bernie McFadden, Wendy Orange, Evelyn Shakir, Joan Silber, Leora Skolkin-Smith, Cathy Sultan, and Katharine Weber. Grace Paley and Robb Forman Dew are helping organize the event, and Skolkin-Smith, whose novel, Edges: O Israel, O Palestine, was published by Paley's Glad Day Books, will serve as committee chair and MC. Sue O'Doherty, writer, and clinical psychologist in NYC, is head of the organizing committee.

Blogging here on RSB will recommence this coming weekend, or early next week. In the meantime, London-based readers might want to know about this (via Through A Glass Darkly):


Value This Man: the work of B.S. Johnson is scheduled for the evening of Thursday August 17 and will feature Jonathan Coe, Paul Tickell and David Quantick in conversation, as well as other special guests and possibly even some screenings. It all takes place from 7.30pm, upstairs at The Crown Tavern, 43 Clerkenwell Green, London EC1. The entry fee is £2.00.

Serpentine Gallery curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and architect Rem Koolhaas are organising a live 24-hour interview marathon from 6pm on July 28th to 6pm July 29th, interrogating a line-up of artists, writers, philosophers and whatever that are meant to represent a cultural snapshot of London. The list of interviewees includes Ken Adam, Tariq Ali, Damien Hirst, Doris Lessing and Tom McCarthy.

I attended a wonderful lecture last night, given by Michael Schmidt on Coventry's finest son, the poet Philip Larkin. I'm not a huge fan of Larkin, but Michael did a wonderful job at almost persuading me to reread him properly. Next Monday (3rd July), Michael will be giving another lecture, this time on the Poets of the New York School (see the Carcanet anthologies The New York Poets (John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara and James Schuyler) and New York Poets II: from Edwin Denby to Bernadette Mayer). The lecture will take place at the Tai Chi Village Hall (behind the house at 163 Palatine Road, Manchester, UK; £7, £5 concessions). To reserve places, email Linda Chase.

From Friday 19th to Sunday 28th May it is the 5th Chorlton Arts Festival:


This year brings the biggest programme to date, with over 80 performances, in over 40 different venues, over 8 days. There is everything you could wish for: dance, drama, music, poetry, film, art exhibitions, the arts in schools programme, and the annual arts trail on the meadows of Chorlton Ees.

Twenty years after the Chernobyl disaster, Belarussian writer Svetlana Alexievich, author of Voices from Chernobyl, talks to Sonja Zekri (over at Sign and Sight) about the new face of evil and the lessons to be learned from the reactor catastrophe:


Svetlana Alexievich is obsessed by Chernobyl. For years she has travelled to the "zone", the radioactive area, talking with firemen and soldiers, with "liquidators" who cleared out the radioactive rubble from the ruins of the power plant, with survivors and people who have returned to their homes. Her findings are collected in a book, Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster. It is an echolocation of the catastrophe. Svetlana Alexievich, who was born in Ukraine and grew up in Belarus, lives in Sweden. We have yet to understand Chernobyl, she says. It is a foreign text.

This year's Marx and Philosophy Society Annual Conference kicks off at 10.30 on Saturday 27th May (£10 waged, £5 unwaged, payable at the door; Room 728, Institute of Education, University of London, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1). Speakers include Bob Cannon (Capitalism, Fetishism and Modernity), Drew Milne (Michel Henry's Marx) and Mark Neocleous (The Politics and Philosophy of Redemption: Marxism, National Socialism, and the Dead). To reserve a place in advance please email Martin McIvor.

Next month, 3:AM is helping to launch Bruce Benderson's The Romanian (published by London-based Snow Books), the first non-French novel to win the Prix de Flore ("Le prix de Flore, du nom du célèbre café de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a été créé en 1994. Il s'est donné pour mission de couronner un jeune auteur au talent prometteur."). The UK launch is on May 3rd at 7.30pm at The Horse Hospital, London WC1N 1HX.

Fathoms from Anywhere, an online Beckett exhibition, went live today because today, of course, is the hundred year anniversary of Big Sam's birth. I'll be working on the RSB Samuel Beckett minisite, if I get a moment, over the weekend.

A reminder to the London-based: Through A Glass Darkly, a joint reading from the folks at 3:AM, Scarecrow and the Sohemians, will take place this Thursday in the upstairs room of The Wheatsheaf, 24 Rathbone Place, London W1, starting at 7.30pm. Its free.


3:AM have just published their list of the 50 Least Influential People in Publishing. I am in the enviable position of being both in 3:AM's list and in the Observer list they are rightly taking the piss out of. Surely, then, I win!

The Literary Saloon tells of an Arno Schmidt exhibition at the Schiller-Nationalmuseum in Germany. Devoted, obviously, to none other than Arno Schmidt. Who hell he!? Well, the complete-review's own Arno Schmidt page is a very good place to start to find out more. And, whilst you are browsing the second issue of the Green Integer Review, you could pop into the main Green Integer site and look up Schmidt's Radio Dialogs I, Radio Dialogs II and The School for Atheists.

This Thursday, 30th March, between 1-2pm, (when surely most good folk are locked in offices?) at Manchester Central Library (in the second floor reception room), Comma Press are launching Parenthesis "a new generation in short fiction ... a showcase for emerging talent in UK short fiction." It's free, refreshments will be provided, and there will be readings by Anna Ball, Adam Marek, Alistair Herbert and L.E. Yates.

Jeanette Winterson, author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, The Passion, The Powerbook and (most recently) Weight, will be reading, talking and answering questions at Manchester Metropolitan University at 6pm on Wednesday 22nd March. This event, which is free and open to the public, is hosted by the MMU Writing School. The reading will take place in Lecture Theatre 7, on the ground floor of the Geoffrey Manton Building (directly opposite the Manchester Aquatics Centre on Oxford Road). For further details about this event, contact Andrew Biswell, the Academic Director of the Writing School.

The Berlin-based Peter Weiss Foundation for Arts and Politics based has sent out an appeal to commit the 20th of March (the third anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq) as an Anniversary of the Political Lie. In support of this, public readings of Eliot Weinberger’s What I Heard About Iraq will be performed across the world.


The text is a collage of the statements made by American administration officials and their allies leading up to the war, and then, after the war began, of these same officials, as well as American soldiers and ordinary Iraqi citizens. It is a history of the Iraq war in "soundbites," from 1992 to January 2005. After its publication in the London Review of Books, the text was the most-visited article ever on the magazine's website, and was reproduced or linked on some 100,000 other websites.

The London reading will be held at the London Review Bookshop, 14 Bury Place, London WC1, with Terry Jones, David Calder, Jenny Diski, Susan Wooldridge, Andy de la Tour and Tariq Ali. It starts at 7pm, wine will be served, it's free entry, but you will need to reserve a seat (call 020 7269 9030).

I've been to the London Book Fair: horrid; massive; corporate; bonkers. I now need to sleep. Tomorrow, I shall blog. Chad Post has done so already.

According to a report in the Guardian this morning, "after three and a half years' research, and the detailed examination of six paintings, the National Portrait Gallery has concluded that the so-called Chandos portrait shows the true face of Shakespeare - probably."


The Searching for Shakespeare exhibition at the Wolfson Gallery (part of the National Portrait Gallery) runs from today until the 29 May 2006 and features six portraits of the Bard, including the Chandos portrait which is deemed to have the strongest claim to verisimilitude.

Today is World Book Day.

The Split-Lit festival ("Celebrating Women's Writing") starts Thursday 2nd March at the oh! art centre, Oxford House, Derbyshire Street, E2 and other London venues (via Jai):


This highly accessible literary festival explores issues and ideas with a diverse international line-up of novelists, journalists, broadcasters, poets, playwrights, comics, artists and musicians. Coinciding with International Women's Week the programme presents writers from across the globe ... The Festival celebrates new writing and independent publishers with writers whose imaginations will challenge and inspire and publishers who give opportunities to writers who deserve the light. The programme includes discussions and debates, readings, talks, performances, exhibitions and workshops, the International Women's Day Lunch and a rip-roaring Comedy Night.

Hamid Ismailov was forced to flee Uzbekistan because he was regarded as having "unacceptably democratic tendencies". He came to London in 1994 and is now head of the BBC Central Asia Service. His debut novel The Railway, translated from Russian by RSB interviewee Robert Chandler, will be published by Harvill Secker on Thursday 2nd March 2006:


Set between 1900 and 1980, The Railway introduces to us the inhabitants of the small town of Gilas in Uzbekistan. Among those whose stories we hear are Mefody-Jurisprudence, the town’s alcoholic intellectual; Father Ioann, a Russian priest; Kara-Musayev the Younger, the chief of police; and Umarali-Moneybags, the old moneylender. Their colourful lives offer a unique picture of a land populated by outgoing Mullahs, incoming Bolsheviks, and a plethora of Uzbeks, Russians, Persians, Jews, Koreans, Tatars and Gypsies.

On March 8th at 5.30pm there will be a reading, with Robert and Hamid, including snacks and wine! The event is free and will be held at St Benet’s Chapel, Queen Mary College, Mile End Road, E1 4NS (Mile End tube). For more (and please RSVP): kcf19@dial.pipex.com.


On April 4th at 6.30pm Robert and Hamid will be accompanied by music from Uzbek musicians (presumably, not whilst they read). This event is also free and to be held at Leighton House, 12 Holland Park Road, W14 8LZ (High St. Kensington tube). For more (and essential to RSVP): JacksonRowlandson@randomhouse.co.uk.

There are a fair few literary festivals happening this time of year:


The London Book Fair ("the global publishing community’s leading Spring forum for bookseller, publisher and librarian buyers and specifiers worldwide") is running March 5-7th. The LBF is a trade show, so not nearly as interesting as it thinks it is.


Bath has: The Bath Shakespeare Festival (March 6-19th) and The Bath Literature Festival (March 4-12th).


Keswick, in the Lake District, has: Words by the Water (organised by Ways With Words) (March 10-19th). I'm fairly sure, RSB interviewee Michael Schmidt is talking at some point during this event ...


Then there is the Oundle Festival of Literature (March 4-18th). The line-up includes PD James, Polly Toynbee, Sir Roy Strong, Anthony Horowitz, Louis de Bernieres and the Antonius Players, George Alagiah, Michael and Rebecca Frayn in conversation with Maya Jaggi, Wendy Cope and Joanna Trollope. I shall not be attending!


English PEN tells me about The South Bank Centre presenting Stop The Clock: Writers and the Perception of Time: "Stop the Clock questions how we read the present through our collective past. In this major series of talks on history and the perception of time, British and European writers will discuss the way contemporary writing explores these themes." They look to be an interestting series of conversations (although, for my money, a weekend indoors with Proust or Bergson would probably serve just as well). The talk, on Tuesday 7th March, with Rem Koolhaas and Cees Nooteboom looks to be the most interesting, although I'm sure Ismail Kadare, with his French translator David Bellos, and Harry Mulisch on Tuesday 28th March will be pretty good too.

Jewish Book Week kicks off this Saturday with David Grossman in conversation with Maya Jaggi. The rest of the programme looks full of good stuff. Realistically, I can't see me getting to much of it though: more likely is that I get over to the Huddersfield Literature Festival (March 16th to March 19th) which features Joanne Harris, Sarah Hall, Julie Myerson, George Szirtes and Paul Farley (thanks to Linda at Poets and Players for the link).

Manchester blogger Conscious and Verbal gets it about right when s/he says, of Geoffrey Hill's poetry reading, which Hill gave in Manchester last night, that it was, "serious, funny, heart breaking, daft. All those things." Hill is a wonderful communicator and the reading, superbly attended (two or three hundred people, I would guess), was nicely structured with Hill reading a couple of poems from each of his collections. The reading was introduced by Professor Jeffrey Wainwright whose Acceptable Words: Essays on the Poetry of Geoffrey Hill is just out from Manchester University Press. (For those afraid of poetry, Wainwright's Poetry: The Basics does the primer/intro job very nicely.)

Geoffrey Hill will read his poetry tonight at Manchester Metropolitan University at 5.30pm (Lecture Theatre 3, Geoffrey Manton Building, Rosamond Street West, Off Oxford Road, Manchester city centre). Presented by the MMU Writing School and Carcanet poet Jeffrey Wainwright, this is a rare opportunity to hear Hill read in the UK, marking the recent publication of his new collection, and recent RSB Book of the Week, Without Title (Penguin). Admission is free; no advance tickets necessary. For more information contact Jeffrey Wainwright. Hill's Selected Poems is being reissued by Penguin in June.


The complete-review Geoffrey Hill page is a good starting place to learn more about Hill (as is the Geoffrey Hill Study Centre and the The Geoffrey Hill Server):


Not a simple poet, and not for everyone, by any means. Moral, Anglican, traditional (hidebound, some might suggest), Hill can easily be off-putting. He wins us over on the strength of his verse - he has a fine ear for the English language - and the rigor to which he subjects his ideas ... His subject matter is often obscure, but there are rewards there for the reader willing to work with the text ... It is poetry that provokes thought and that lingers.

The folk at the Beyond the Book Project are asking, "Do you live in or near Bristol?" Errm, no. No I don't! Why are they asking? Well, the Beyond the Book team will be in Bristol (Avon, UK) in mid-February and are looking for readers to join their discussion groups. Online they have a questionnaire aimed at readers in the Bristol area to coincide with Bristol's Great Reading Adventure. (This year the Great Reading Adventure organisers have chosen Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days as their book.)

"Suilven Recordings is quickly turning into one of the greatest sources for unconventional and totally unique music", so says Mouvement Nouveau ("the newest and most dynamic monthly online publication on classical and experimental music"). Daniel Patrick QuinnSuilven Recordings supremo, says, "Me and the live band The Rough Ensemble are embarking on a debut UK tour next month, parading militarily south to the capital in two VWs and finishing up on the south coast. The Suilven Empire has so far confirmed the following dates:


  • Edinburgh Henry’s Cellar Bar Monday 13th Feb
  • Nottingham Maze (Forest Tavern) Tuesday 14th Feb
  • Manchester (venue TBC) Wednesday 15th Feb
  • Cambridge Man On The Moon Thursday 16th Feb
  • London Betsey Trotwood Friday 17th Feb
  • Brighton The Fortune Of War Sunday 19th Feb