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ReadySteadyBlog

One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

Blog entries for 'November 2005'

Wednesday 30 November 2005

Yaakov Shabtai

Duckworth, who I mentioned earlier today because, in January, they are releasing William T Vollmann's Rising Up and Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom, and Urgent Means, are also the publishers of Yaakov Shabtai. About Shabtai's Past Continuous Steven G. Kellman's said:


[T]hough her translation from Hebrew is otherwise supple and fluent, Dalya Bilu chose to divide the quick, dense mass of Shabtai’s original into discrete paragraphs and to introduce punctuation not present in Zikhron Devarim. The novel becomes more accessible, though at the cost of compromising Shabtai’s Heraclitean vision. Even so, Past Continuous is not an easy book to get into, though it is nearly impossible to get out of. Moving testimony to the fleetingness of all we encounter, it has earned an enduring place in contemporary Hebrew fiction.


(For all of Steven G. Kellman's review of Past Continuous.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 30 November 2005

Book stuff on t'web

Some interesting book stuff on t'web:


  • Michael Wood on William T. Vollmann in the NYRB. (Vollmann's Rising Up and Rising Down is out, in the UK, in January from Duckworth)
  • Michael Dirda on Reiner Stach's Kafka: The Decisive Years (via Steve)
  • Widely linked to this - guest writers name their favourite books of the year at the Guardian
  • Historic recordings of poets such as Tennyson, Yeats, Kipling, Betjeman and Sassoon are being made available through a new online initiative
  • Left Hyperstition 1: The Fictions of Capital (via Jodi)
  • Form of Life reviews Agamben's The Time that Remains
  • MetaxuCafé

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 29 November 2005

Full content RSS

I know lots of folk read RSB via newsfeeders like bloglines. Up until now, it has only been possible to read blog entries via this mechanism, but you can now subscribe to a full content feed.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 29 November 2005

Today in Literature ... on RSB

If you surf over to Today in Literature today you'll find this story:


On this day in 1811, a notice appeared in the Richmond, Virginia Inquirer asking for donations in aid of Eliza Poe, a young actress now "lingering on the bed of disease and surrounded by her children." Though two-year-old Edgar would be rescued by the Allan family, the life of poverty, abandonment and hand-outs so familiar to his mother would eventually return to stay.

But if heading over to the excellent Today in Literature site is just too much bother - no worries! Today's Story from TiL now appears, each day, here on RSB.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 29 November 2005

Paul Celan translations

In the November/December issue of the Boston Review, Marjorie Perloff writes about several Paul Celan translations in A Poet's Hope (via the Literary Saloon).

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 28 November 2005

Utopian Generations

Excellent - the first chapter of Nicholas Brown's Utopian Generations: The Political Horizon of Twentieth-Century Literature (of which Michael Hardt, co-author of Empire and Multitude, said: "Masterfully shuttling back and forth between Europe and Africa, Nicholas Brown gives us an exciting new perspective on modernism that is as philosophically astute as it is politically engaged") is online.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 28 November 2005

Dueling over The March

Before you nip over to the reading experience to read Daniel Green dueling with Miriam Burstein about E.L. Doctorow's The March, do make sure you read Leora's review here at RSB.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 28 November 2005

Manganelli and McPherson

Somehow, I missed Florian Mussgnug's review of Giorgio Manganelli's Centuria – One hundred ouroboric novels in the November 11th TLS (not freely available online). Happily, McPherson & Company ("an independent house since 1974 ... publish[ing] literary nonfiction and fiction (contemporary American and British fiction; translated Italian, French, and Spanish fiction), books in the arts and general culture, and a rediscovery series, Recovered Classics") got in touch, bringing not only Centuria to my attention, but also the rest of their excellent looking catalogue (and those T-shirts!)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 28 November 2005

Andrew Merrifield

Please take the time to read my interview with Andrew Merrifield, whose critical life of the Situationist Guy Debord is just out from Reaktion.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 26 November 2005

Tom Tom

Early in the week, I mentioned Tom McCarthy (of the International Necronautical Society) whose first novel Remainder (Metronome Press) is getting very good notices (and that includeds an extremely positive review in the TLS this week [not online]).


Yesterday, Tom's stablemate, another Tom, Mr Tom Gidley, kindly sent me his Stunning Lofts (another of Metronome's stylish paperback series):


It is the turn of the new millenium and London has transformed into a spiralling black hole of displaced lives and speculative real estate. In this mysterious novel written by British artist Tom Gidley, we follow the story of two men inexorably drawn to the darker dimensions of the city, battling between personal success, distraught relationships, and the breakdown of urban life. In this tautly written tale that glides between these parallel existences, we witness the increasingly dysfunctional patterns of everyday life in the capital colliding with the callous opportunism of late capitalism.

Later today, Mr McCarthy will give a talk tomorrow at the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design in Vancouver where he and Rod Dickinson will discuss their Greenwich Degree Zero exhibition (this via 3:AM).

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 26 November 2005

Finkelstein - new book and tour

Controversial writer, Norman "The Holocaust Industry" Finkelstein, is coming to the UK and Ireland for an author tour to talk about his new new book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (Verso).


His schedule is as follows:


Sunday 27th November 
Teachers Club, 36 Parnell Square, Dublin 1, Ireland at 3-5pm 


Monday 28th November
Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG at 6-8pm


Tuesday 29th November 
Glasgow University, George Williams Building at 2:30pm-4:30pm and also Edinburgh University, Appleton Tower, Lecture Theatre 1, Edinburgh at 7-9pm 


Thursday 1st December
Sussex University, Arts A5 lecture theatre at 1-3pm

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 25 November 2005

Theoria

I'm kinda done for today, so I think I'll indulge myself and take a proper look at Craig's Theoria blog (which I just found via the matchless and marvelous wood s lot) which looks very good indeed.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 25 November 2005

Dai Vaughan Non-Return

I've failed to mention some exciting news! Dai Vaughan's latest novel Non-Return (Seren) is out. You should certainly go out and buy a copy right now but, before you do, please take the time to read my interview with Dai and Dai's review of John Sommerfield's 1936 novel May Day. Whilst you are at the shops, do pick up Dai's previous novel Totes Meer (named, of course, after Paul Nash's haunting, remarkable painting) and, if you don't mind, bring something warm back for me.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 25 November 2005

13-digit ISBN

Are you guys interested in this kind of thing? I am, but it is a little ... erm ... specific! PN Online have a good article about the forthcoming changeover to 13-digit ISBNs. I guess if the 10-digit ISBN that sits on the back of all your books holds no fascination for you, you should just quickly move on and forget I even mentioned it:


With little more than a year to go to the deadline of 1 January 2007, how well prepared is the international book trade for the changes to the ISBN? The simple answer is that no one really knows. The sheer scale of the task is a big part of the problem. The ISBN is used in more than 160 countries around the world and is embedded in every conceivable book trade system and application.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 25 November 2005

New paperbacks from the New Press

Four new paperbacks, from The New Press, have just arrived at RSB Towers: Dale Peck's Hatchet Jobs; James Marcus's Amazonia; Christian Parenti's The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq (which an Amazon reviewer called a "superb study of a brutal, illegal occupation") and Esther Kaplan's With God on their Side ("essential reading for anyone concerned about America's direction under the second administration of George W Bush").


I know that Peck has ruffled countless feathers Stateside, but I'm still actually rather fascinated to read at least one or two of his supposedly quite brutal book reviews. Amazonia interests me because, for my sins, I worked for Amazon (the UK branch) for five long years. I think it is fairly obvious why both Parenti's and Kaplan's books suggest themselves.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 25 November 2005

Put About

This looks good (from the good folk at Book Works):


Put About: A Critical Anthology on Independent Publishing presents a timely discussion about independent publishing and publishing by artists, focusing on books where the makers keep control of every aspect of production through to distribution. Combining an interest in what and why publishers and artists feel compelled to deliver such materials, together with the economic models, audience and networks of association that can give independent productions a wider cultural presence, this book features a broad range of written and visual pieces alongside 'case-studies' from a selection of contemporary international publishers. Contributors include: John Baldessari, Simon Bedwell, Michael Bracewell, Andrea Brady, Cabinet Magazine, Bonnie Camplin, Maurizio Cattelan, David Dibosa, Matthew Higgs, Stewart Home, Lucy Lippard, Emily King, Gunilla Klingberg, Jakob Kolding, John Miller, Paul D. Miller aka Dj Spooky, Aleksandra Mir, Stéphanie Moisdon, David Osbaldeston, Raymond Pettibon, Lynne Tillman, Nicolas Trembley, and Axel John Wieder.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 25 November 2005

The Human War

Lee Rourke reviews Noah Cicero's angry and timely The Human War (Fugue State Press):


There is obviously an element of Holden Caulfield about Mark [the narrator], which is unavoidable I suppose. What is refreshing about him though is the vitriol he possesses for his homeland and the people it has purposely moulded into the drones around him. America and its obsessions has driven him to despair, it has turned him not only against Bush and God but his very own species. Mark sees no way out. He can never escape this thought, so he gets drunk and he gets angry, knowing it is not the solution.

(For all of Lee's review of The Human War)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 24 November 2005

STML

Short Term Memory Loss continue to do a fine job reviewing the lovely books issuing out of Paris-based (why aren't I Paris-based? Why? Why!?) Metronome Press. T'other week they reviewed Tom McCarthy's Remainder and, yesterday, they reviewed Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler's 1933 surrealist The Young and Evil.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 22 November 2005

Impac (very) longlist

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award longlist has been announced. Of the nominees, we've reviewed Case Histories, Cloud Atlas, I am Charlotte Simmons, Lighthousekeeping, Sixty Lights, Red Queen, Small Island and Snowleg. And we've interviewed Moris Farhi, whose excellent Young Turk also gets the nod, and David Mitchell.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 22 November 2005

Recent interview highlights

For those of you who read the blog via Bloglines or via some other newsfeeder, I thought I'd pick out some of the recent interview highlights on RSB.


My interview with Maurice Blanchot's English translator Charlotte Mandell has, gratifyingly, been fairly widely linked to. Astonishingly, it is Charlotte's first ever interview.


My short interview with Joseph Sherman, the Woolf Corob Fellow in Yiddish Studies at the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford, and expert on forgotten Yiddish modernist Dovid Bergelson has been less widely linked, but I think it is a fascinating piece and I'd urge you all to read it - and then to go on to read Bergelson (whose Shadows of Berlin was reviewed for RSB by Leora Skolkin-Smith).


New on the site yesterday, is my interview with postmodern "holocaust" novelist Raymond Federman. This is, I think, his first interview in the British "media" (is RSB the "media"? I'm not sure!) and is, to my mind, a really engaging piece. Federman is a singular writer and certainly worthy of your time.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 21 November 2005

Steven Shaviro on Transcritique

If you have a wee while, do take the time out to read Steven Shaviro's detailed review articles on Kojin Karatani's Transcritique: On Kant and Marx (parts one and two):


Kojin Karatani’s Transcritique is the most useful and important book of philosophy/theory that I have read in some time [...] I mean useful and important to me; it might be too narrow and specialized in focus for people who don’t share my particular preoccupations. For years I have been struggling to find ways to articulate Marx together with Kant: and that is precisely what Karatani accomplishes here. Karatani’s rereading of Marx’s Capital for the twenty-first century is not as sweeping as that of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri; nor does it have the vivacity and seductive wit of Zizek’s recent Marxist speculations. But perhaps it offers a more lucid account than either of what it really means to be encompassed on all sides, as we are today, by the flows of Capital, and by the supposed “rationality” of the Market.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Sunday 20 November 2005

Bruno Schulz

Too tired for anything, except to say: there are lots of excellent Bruno Schulz links over at wood s lot ... you should check them out - especially Mark Kaplan's tribute.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 19 November 2005

Luciferous Logolepsy

Thanks to the lovely Ross (good luck in your future ventures fella!) for bringing Luciferous Logolepsy to my attention:


Luciferous Logolepsy [is] a collection of over 9,000 obscure english words. Though the definition of an "english" word might seem to be straightforward, it is not. There exist so many adopted, derivative, archaic or abandoned words in what we loosely define as the "English Language", that a clear-cut definition seems impossible. For the purposes of this project though, words are included that may stretch any basic definitions. Particular attention has been paid to archaic words, as they tend to be more evocative - as if their very age lends additional meaning or overtones. Current personal favorites include skirr, epicaricacy and schizothemia.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 19 November 2005

Musical matters

Good to see Antony getting an interview in the Guardian. Talking about his favourite singers, he cites Cocteau Twins lead singer, the incomparable Elizabeth Fraser, whose voice accompanied me throughout my teenage years and beyond.


Recently, it has not been either Mr Hegarty or Ms Fraser's singing which has been playing whilst I worked and played, but Einojuhani Rautavaara's Cantus Arcticus, Deaf Centre's Pale Ravine and Tape's Rideau. Fans of Cocteau Twins will want to know, however, that Lullabies To Violaine: Singles and Extended Plays 1982-1996 is just out. Looks like Ms Fraser's voice will soon be reclaiming its rightful place here at RSB Towers after all.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 19 November 2005

JH Prynne

Still not 100% sure what I think of JH Prynne ... which is half the pleasure of reading him, of course. On my TBR-pile, Prynne's Poems (2nd edition; Bloodaxe) has been the cause of confusion and delight and frustration, in about equal measures, over the last few months:


JH Prynne is Britain’s leading late Modernist poet. His austere yet playful poetry challenges our sense of the world, not by any direct address to the reader but by showing everything in a different light, enacting slips and changes of meaning through shifting language.

Not since the late work of Ezra Pound and the Maximus series of Charles Olson have the possibilities of poetry been so fundamentally questioned and extended as they are in the life work of JH Prynne. When his Poems was first published in 1999, it was immediately acclaimed as a landmark in modern poetry. This expanded edition includes four later collections only previously available in limited editions.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 18 November 2005

Donald Watson RIP

Donald Watson (1910-2005) founder of the Vegan Society, and the person who coined the word vegan, sadly died on Wednesday night. Donald passed away at his home in the north of England. He was 95.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 17 November 2005

Statements stopped

Bruce Lawrence's Messages to the World, Verso's book of the statements of Osama bin Laden, was due to be in the shops today. But for reasons "unknown" the title has been held up by the Port Health Authority for 2 weeks. Reason to be paranoid? Certainly, Verso seem to think so saying in a Press Release: "Is there a fear that the book is too ‘infectious’ for the British people? The publication of this scholarly collection raises issues about the government’s Terrorism Bill: can it be regarded as ‘the distribution of propaganda’ or ‘the glorifying of terrorism’?"


Peter Preston, reviewing the title in the Observer last weekend said:


Here, with a shrewd, scholarly introduction from Bruce Lawrence, is the complete bin Laden reader, from his early days when the House of Saud was enemy number one to his final advice to George Bush, John Kerry and America's voters on the right way to win an election. It is full of brusque, slightly surprising judgments: 'Saddam Hussein is a thief and an apostate.' It can sometimes turn a neat, almost humorous phrase. Bush has declared, a 'Crusade attack' and the odd thing about this is that he has 'taken the words right out of our mouth'. Most strikingly, it deals in facts and assertions that can't easily be brushed aside.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 16 November 2005

Colloquy

The latest issue of Colloquy is devoted to Maurice Blanchot. Blanchot, The Obscure is edited by Rhonda Khatab, Carlo Salzani, Sabina Sestigiani and Dimitris Vardoulakis and contains essays from, amongst others, Peter Gunn, Mark Hewson, Leslie Hill and Louise Gray.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 16 November 2005

MobyLives

Yours truly is the UK correspondent for MobyLives Radio. Hear me make my podcasting debut, today, over at MobyLives. (Thanks to Melville House's Dennis for this wonderful opportunity.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 15 November 2005

Tom Gauld

Absent-minded fool that I am, I never mentioned this: Tom Gauld (the artist behind the RSB-Robot) was recently interviewed over at 3:AM:


I like anyone like [Tim Burton] and Gorey who can do atmosphere. Hopefully one day I'll get good at plots but my books at the moment have rather weird plots. The thing that really interests me at the moment is atmosphere. I think everything I've done has been about atmosphere and Burton's like that too I think. I suppose he has writers who do the story and he does the atmosphere. I do like people who when you read their books you feel as if you are going into that world. Jimmy Corrigan had that - it was a horrible world but it draws you in there. There's another one I really like - by a guy in New York called Ben Catshore who does a comic strip called Juliet Nipple Real Estate Photographer which is about a man shuffling around New York. It has a perfect New York atmosphere - drab, Jewish humour atmosphere and it's things like that that I am inspired by. Tim Burton is excellent.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 15 November 2005

New from Les Figues

Two more lovely books just out from Les Figues Press: Pam Ore's Grammar of the Cage ("a startling first collection of poetry: lyrical in tone and language, philosophical in scope, scientific in observation, and heartbreaking in the imagery of what’s been left. These are poems of nature and ecology from a former zookeeper and, as poet Ingrid Wendt says, 'a truly unique poetic voice.'") and Teresa Carmody's Requiem:


Requiem is a "folk opera, a lament for the unexamined life," writes editor and author David L. Ulin in his Introduction, "marked throughout by its own quiet tone of authority, which works to peel back the surface of what we imagine and examine what is going on underneath."

Drawing out the elliptical plain talk of those who would refer to themselves as simple, using Biblical language to pierce the callous and bruised souls of these lost, and sometimes found, people, Carmody creates, says Ulin, "art as observation, a literature constructed of the most minute details, a lens that allows us to see."

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 14 November 2005

Tom McCarthy and Metronome

Last week, Buzzwords mentioned Tom McCarthy. Tom is General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society a "semi-fictitious avant-garde network" also the author of Remainder published by the intriguing Metronome Press:


As a result of the research that led to Metronome No. 9, based on the international history of avant-garde publishing in Paris and its productive intersection between art and literature, we have undertaken a substantial development of Metronome: the launch of a new collection of paperbacks and the foundation of Metronome Press an experimental production and publishing company based in Paris.

The first activity of Metronome Press is the publication of fiction written by artists in the shape of a new paperback series. To ensure international distribution, these paperbacks are published in English, but soon will be translated into French and possibly other languages. In publishing in English yet from Paris, we are taking on Maurice Girodias’ brilliant intuition whereby he sought to highlight the cultural internationalism of Paris and turn it into a centre for global arts distribution.

And there is more on Tom's book Remainder at Short Term Memory Loss.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Sunday 13 November 2005

Charlotte Mandell interview

I'm thrilled to publish an email interview I did with Maurice Blanchot's translator Charlotte Mandell:


Reading Blanchot is a little like watching someone think. You have to have patience, since his essays move by nuance and suggestion, and come to focus slowly. English readers – Americans especially – are used to being fed information; in the case of an essay, they’re used to the conventional statement-exposition-conclusion format. The nice thing about Blanchot (and the thing a lot of people find exasperating about him) is that he doesn’t follow that formula, or any formula for that matter. Often no conclusion is reached. The subject is examined, and questioned, and looked at from different angles, but never really resolved. I like that a lot – it’s sort of like reading poetry.

(For all of my interview with Charlotte Mandell.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 11 November 2005

Sinéad Morrissey

Carcanet poet Sinéad Morrissey has been short listed for the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry for her third collection, The State of the Prisons. Now in its thirteenth year, the TS Eliot Prize has been called "poetry's most coveted award". The prize is designed to recognise the best new collection of poetry published in 2005 and revious winners include George Szirtes, Don Paterson and Alice Oswald. I've only read about half of Sinéad's collection, but what I have read has impressed me. I'll review it soon. Promise.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 11 November 2005

Words Without Borders

The November issue of Words Without Borders is available, featuring writing from South Korea: "Economic powerhouse, wounded nation, Buddhist wilderness sanctuary, and this year's guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair, South Korea is as various, as traditional and as modern in its literature as in its landscape." (Via Translation Exchange.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 11 November 2005

Ian Cutler

Ian Cutler's Cynicism from Diogenes to Dilbert is certainly worthy of your attention. Cynics get a very bad press and Ian is the man to put the record straight. Yiannis Gabriel, in his introduction to the book (which I'm reproducing, with kind permission of the publisher, as a book review here in RSB), says:


The repertoire of practices, aims and ideas initiated by the ancient cynics recur in the pages of this book, as Cutler imaginatively traces them in different cultural and political set-ups, in different discourses and different epochs. It is a measure of their power that they continue to resonate across all these boundaries. And it is a measure of Cutler's success that he has managed to display both the continuity and the richness of cynicism in its different incarnations. As a piece of intellectual archaeology, Cutler combines the obsessive attention to detail characteristic of the detective and the ability to make old themes and old ideas come alive in front of our eyes. The enduring quality of this book is its ability to vindicate cynicism as a defiant and imaginative stance that proudly declines to lapse into narcissism, self-pity or martyrdom, a stance from which we can learn much today.

(Click here for the whole of Yiannis Gabriel's introduction to Ian Cutler's Cynicism from Diogenes to Dilbert.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 11 November 2005

Damon and Naomi

Back in the day, my favourite band were Breathless who were, it was said, a bit like a British Galaxie 500. Damon and Naomi, the good folk behind Galaxie 500, have a wonderful newish album out The Earth Is Blue (okay, it was out in March, but I've only just got hold of a copy!) on their new label 20/20/20.


Damon and Naomi are also behind the excellent small press Exact Change (about whom more information can be gleaned from the Modern Word site).


Exact Change's most recent title is Fernando Pessoa's The Education of the Stoic: The Only Manuscript of the Baron of Teive:


Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) was a multitude of writers: his works were composed by "heteronyms," alter egos with distinct biographies, ideologies, influences, even horoscopes. The Education of the Stoic is the only work left by the Baron of Teive, who, having destroyed all his previous attempts at literary creation, and about to destroy himself, explains "the impossibility of producing superior art."

The baron's manuscript is found in a hotel-room drawer - not unlike editor and translator Richard Zenith's own discovery, while conducting research in the Pessoa archives, of a small black notebook whose contents had never been transcribed. In it he found the missing pieces of this short but trenchant complement to Pessoa's major prose work, The Book of Disquiet. Pessoa himself noted that despite their dialectical differences, the middle-class author of The Book of Disquiet (assistant bookkeeper Bernardo Soares) and the aristocrat Teive, "are two instances of the very same phenomenon -- an inability to adapt to real life."

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 11 November 2005

Moby does live!

MobyLives (the weblog that The Complete Review said, "towers above all other literary weblogs") has been rather quiet of late. I was a bit worried that Dennis Loy Johnson's blog (associated with his Melville House Publishing) had stopped altogether but, happily, the news is good: MobyLives is back ... but back as a podcast! How cool is that? MobyLives radio started last Monday and is a fine addition to all things blogospherical. Go and listen.


Very usefully, Ed gives us a rundown of all the literary podcasts that he is aware of. And it is a fair few.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 10 November 2005

Gillian Rose Memorial Event

Tom brings to my attention the Gillian Rose Memorial Event to be held on the 9th December at 6.45pm at the ICA in London. Speakers will include Gillian's sister Jacqueline Rose and also Howard Caygill, The Archbishop of Canterbury and David Held.


Gillian was my teacher at university: a profound thinker who wrote some wonderful books. See Lar's tribute for more.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 10 November 2005

Neil Bennun

RSB interviewee Neil Bennun has been shortlisted for the Booktrust The John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. The prize ("one of Britain's oldest and most prestigious literary awards") was founded over 60 years ago to recognise "fine young writers early in their careers from biographers, novelists and historians to travel writers, dramatists and poets."


The shortlisted books are: Neil's The Broken String; Anthony Cartwright's The Afterglow; Colin McAdam's Some Great Thing; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus; Rory Stewart's The Places In Between; and Jonathan Trigell's Boy A.


About the The Broken String:


The first people of South Africa, Stone-Age hunters and gatherers from the mountains and the arid flats of the interior, did not survive the arrival of settlers from Europe. Within decades an ancient world of sorcerers, hunters and artists was lost forever, along with the stories they told.

We would know next to nothing of their myths, their beliefs or the rituals that governed their lives if it were not for six bushmen, five of whom had been sentenced to hard labour in a Cape Town prison in 1869. Released into the country home of a Prussian linguist and his English born sister-in-law, they were invited to teach their language and to share a previously unknown world on the verge of extinction. Over the next 18 years they worked together to capture this lost world of myths, songs, pictures and moving personal histories. The notebooks answer questions about ancient rock art and describe the awful tragedy of a vanished people.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 07 November 2005

Eugenio Montale

This week's Poem of the Week is 1975 Nobel Prize-winning Eugenio Montale's To laze at noon. I'm a new convert to Montale - helped, in this, by Handsel Books' fine volume Montale in English:


Eugenio Montale (1896 - 1981) was the greatest Italian poet since Leopardi, perhaps since Petrarch, and is generally acknowledged as one of the preeminent European poets of the last century. His lyrical, mysterious poems abound in natural images--the high cliffs and inlets of the Ligurian coast, golden sunflowers, scolding blackbirds, and sun-scorched landscapes. Indeed, in the view of James Merrill, whose superb translations of several of Montale's poems appear in this volume, Montale was "the twentieth-century nature poet," in whose lines "any word can lead you from the kitchen garden into really inhuman depths." Also full of mythological and literary resonance, Montale's poems poignantly explore the connection between nature, the individual, and the divine.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Sunday 06 November 2005

Counterpunch on Brockes

Yesterday, I mentioned Emma Brockes smug and inept interview of Noam Chomsky. Today, I note (via Dead Men Left), Alexander Cockburn's excellent piece on Brockes' "fakery":


Brockes is claiming that Chomsky had, in reference to Srebrenica, put the word massacre in quotation marks, thus deprecating the idea that it was in fact a massacre. There's no other way to construe the sentences. Here's "massacre" in its quote marks and then in the next sentence "Chomsky uses quotation marks to undermine things he disagrees with" Next comes Brockes' summary of Chomsky's position, identified by use of the "witheringly teenage" quote marks: "Srebrenica was so not a massacre."

Now this is no little parlor game Brockes is engaged in here. For Guardian readers, a man who denies that a massacre took place at Srebrenica is not one who deserves to be voted the top intellectual on the planet. The opening headlines set Chomsky up, and the quote marks round the word massacre knock him down.

But there's no sentence in which Chomsky has ever suggested with the use of those quotation marks that a massacre in Srebrenica did not take place. There are passages, easy to find , in which Chomsky most definitely says it was a massacre. Brockes is faking it.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 05 November 2005

Shockingly smug and inept

Steve's blog reminds me that I meant to link to Lenin's Tomb, Interbreeding and Medialens on (Steve's words) "Emma Brockes' shockingly smug and inept" interview with Noam Chomsky. An appalling piece of journalism. Thank god for the blogosphere.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 05 November 2005

Melville

Andrew Delbanco's Melville: His World and Work gets a very positive shout from Jay Parini in the Guardian today. Hopefully, if Picador are kind enough to send one on, I'll be reviewing it here soon enough. In the meantime, I've just taken posession of Loren Goldner's abundantly titled Herman Melville: Between Charlemagne and the Antemosaic Cosmic Man: Race, Class and the Crisis of Bourgeois Ideology in an American Renaissance Writer which, if his website Break Their Haughty Power is anything to go by, will be a quite different take on Melville and his work.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 05 November 2005

c86

In 1986, I woke up to music. Mostly, this was due to the NME's infamous, ground-breaking, epoch-making, utterly fab c86 cassette. If you don't know what on earth I'm talking about this excellent, and much linked-to, article Twee as Fuck will fill you in.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 05 November 2005

Blogospherical stuff

Some bits and bobs from the blogosphere:

  • Languor Management lets us know about a new Ivan Bunin translation
  • The Literary Saloon tells us that Michel Houellebecq did not win the prix Goncourt (which went to François Weyergans for Trois jours chez ma mère) or the prix Renaudot (which went to Nina Bouraoui for Mes mauvaises pensées)
  • Much more interesting is news that Blind Rider, the latest Juan Goytisolo novel to be translated into English, is out from Serpent's Tail
  • Yom Sang-seop's Three Generations (Archipelago Books) gets reviewed over at Moorish Girl
  • Lars on, amongst other things, The Fall's Mark E Smith and the ubiquitous M.Houellebecq - A Block of Extraordinary Despair
  • Ellis on William Blake

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 05 November 2005

Joseph Sherman

Please take some time out of your day to read my interview with Joseph Sherman, the Woolf Corob Fellow in Yiddish Studies at the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford, and a world expert on the important Yiddish writer Dovid Bergelson. (And don't miss Joseph's Note on Bergelson's Obsolescence and Bergelson's story itself Obsolescence).

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 05 November 2005

Christmas pressies

Quite obvious, really, what you should all be buying each other for Christmas this year: Lars's follow-up to his excellent Blanchot's Communism: Art, Philosophy and the Political is out just in time for the annual, winter booze-up Blanchot's Vigilance: Literature, Phenomenology and the Ethical:

Of the many questions provoked by Blanchot's thought and writing, that of understanding its ethical and political significance is perhaps the most pressing. Spanning his literary critical and philosophical writings, and addressing such major concepts as the image and the neuter, Blanchot's Vigilance presents a sustained analysis of Blanchot's response to Levinas's ethical thought, the political commitments of the Surrealists, Heidegger's readings of the ancient Greeks, and the claims of psychoanalysis. In a series of thorough and lucid readings, Iyer presents Blanchot's central concern as maintaining a kind of vigilance over a difference which opens in the articulation of sense.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 05 November 2005

Another Kafka biography

Very kindly, my lovely postie has just dropped off a package containing the English-language translation of Reiner Stach's critically acclaimed Kafka biography Kafka: The Decisive Years (Harcourt):


This is the first of a three-volume, definitive biography of Franz Kafka. Eighty years after his death in 1924, Kafka remains one of the most intriguing figures in the history of world literature. Now, after more than a decade of research, working with over four thousand pages of journal entries, letters, and literary fragments, Reiner Stach re-creates the atmosphere in which Kafka lived and worked from 1910 to 1915. These are the years of Kafka's fascination with early forms of Zionism despite his longing to be assimilated into the minority German culture in Prague; of his off-again, on-again engagement to Felice Bauer; of the outbreak of World War I; and above all of the composition of his seminal works - The Metamorphosis, Amerika, The Judgment, and The Trial.


This is all very timely, as my dear friend Christian is just back from Prague and has, he tells me, bought me a Kafka T-shirt!


Also worth reading, of course, is my interview with another Kafka biographer Nicholas Murray.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 05 November 2005

Bitten by the Tarantula

Lee glowingly reviews Julian Maclaren-Ross's Bitten by the Tarantula:


All hail the poet of old Soho. It seems Julian Maclaren-Ross has finally arrived - and it surprises me that it’s taken quite this long. This arrival is long overdue. Gone are the heady, bohemian days of London’s vibrant Soho in which he was permanent fixture, all that remains is his voice, a lone voice that reports to us, in minute detail, that era. This is his enduring strength, and it is quite a task this ability to pass on to us the varying argots he captured, the idioms, the patois, the relentless pitter-patter of conversations in backrooms of smoky pubs and clubs. It’s not that surprising, then, his voice rings true amongst today’s media savvy, slip-stream cynicism. Today’s clipped idiolect would sit quite pretty alongside the multitudinous characters that frequented his fictions. Julian Maclaren-Ross’s voice rings true.


(See all of Lee's review of Bitten by the Tarantula.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 05 November 2005

Slammed

Apologies for the lack of posting this week, I've been slammed. When I have had a moment I've been hugely enjoying Nathalie Sarraute's The Planetarium (Dalkey). If Alain Robbe-Grillet is the father of the nouveau roman, then Sarraute is certainly its mother, as is ably demonstrated in her fine book of essays The Age of Suspicion, which I'd recommend to anyone wanting to know more about Sarraute's thinking on the novel.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

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Books of the Week

Edward Carpenter Edward Carpenter
Chushichi Tsuzuki
Cambridge University Press

This is the first full-scale biography of Edward Carpenter, an 'eminent Victorian' who played an intriguing role in the revival of Socialism in Britain in the late nineteenth century. 'A worthy heir of Carlyle and Ruskin', as Tolstoy called him, Carpenter tackled boldly the problems of alienation under the pressures of commercial civilisation, and developed a strongly personalised brand of Socialism which inspired both the Labour Party and its enemies, Syndicalism and Anarchism. A homosexual, he grappled with the problems of sexual alienation above all, and emerged as the foremost advocate of the homosexual cause at a time when it was a social 'taboo'. This study, based upon letters and many other personal documents, reveals much of Carpenter's personal life which has hitherto remained obscure, including his 'comradeship' with some of his working-men friends and his influence upon such notable literary figures as Siegfried Sassoon, E. M. Forster and D. H. Lawrence.

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Vigilant Memory Vigilant Memory
R. Clifton Spargo
Johns Hopkins University Press

Vigilant Memory: Emmanuel Levinas, the Holocaust, and the Unjust Death focuses on the particular role of Emmanuel Levinas's thought in reasserting the ethical parameters for poststructuralist criticism in the aftermath of the Holocaust. More than simply situating Levinas's ethics within the larger context of his philosophy, R. Clifton Spargo offers a new explanation of its significance in relation to history. In critical readings of the limits and also the heretofore untapped possibilities of Levinasian ethics, Spargo explores the impact of the Holocaust on Levinas's various figures of injustice while examining the place of mourning, the bad conscience, the victim, and the stranger/neighbor as they appear in Levinas's work. Ultimately, Spargo ranges beyond Levinas's explicit philosophical or implicit political positions to calculate the necessary function of the "memory of injustice" in our cultural and political discourses on the characteristics of a just society.

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Poem of the Week

Cousin Nancy

Miss Nancy Ellicott
Strode across the hills and broke them,
Rode across the hills and broke them --
The barren New England hills --
Riding to hounds
Over the cow-pasture.

Miss Nancy Ellicott smoked
And danced all the modern dances;
And her aunts were not quite sure how they felt about it,
But they knew that it was modern.

Upon the glazen shelves kept watch
Matthew and Waldo, guardians of the faith,
The army of unalterable law.

-- TS Eliot
Collected Poems 1909-62 (Faber and Faber)

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Word of the Day

fascicle

Part of a book published in installments. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary was published in fascicles. more …

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October's Books of the Month

Everything Passes Everything Passes
Gabriel Josipovici
Auschwitz Report Auschwitz Report
Primo Levi

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