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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 'December 2005'

Saturday 31 December 2005

Gabriel in German

Steve brings to my attention (and to the attention of the literary saloon) the pretty outrageous news that Gabriel Josipovici's latest novel Only Joking, written in English, is only to be available in German translation, as Nur ein Scherz (Zweitausendeins). This is rubbish! Better news is that The Singer on the Shore: Essays 1991-2004 is out from Carcanet in March (and a new novel Everything Passes is out in September). And, hopefully, in the early Spring, we'll be interviewing Gabriel here at RSB.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 30 December 2005

Torture

Widely circulated this (but the wider the better, I'm sure you'll agree): former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray is being strong-armed by the Foreign Office into returning documents "relating to details of the UK's use of 'evidence' obtained from torture in Uzbekistan. The particular embarrassment here is that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has claimed that [the UK] does not use 'information' obtained through torture elsewhere." (this quote via Dead Men Left, but see also Chicken Yoghurt, Lenin's Tomb, BlairWatch, Morning Star, Daily Kos, Antiwar.com, Empire Burlesque and the Independent newspaper for more on this).

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 29 December 2005

Stanley Cavell

One of my favourite books of this year was Robert Harrison's The Dominion of the Dead. Just popped onto my mat: Stanley Cavell's Philosophy The Day After Tomorrow (HUP), about which Harrison says:


Over the course of his long and prodigious career, Stanley Cavell has been concerned with a number of recurrent issues, both philosophical (Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin and ordinary language philosophy; Thoreau, Emerson, and Emersonianism; skepticism) and cultural (America; film; Shakespeare). He has also been, and continues to be, the foremost advocate in this country for a rapprochement between philosophy and literature with a merging of what are known as the Anglo-American and the Continental strains of philosophy. Philosophy The Day After Tomorrow comprises his most recent set of meditations on these issues, and as such it offers at once a welcome revisitation of his work to date and a nuanced, considered extension of his thinking. As is fitting for an intellectual of Cavell's standing, it also provides an opportunity to witness a philosopher at the height of his maturity working through questions to which he has devoted his extraordinary career.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 29 December 2005

Derek Bailey RIP

I've just learnt (via Waggish) that the superb improv guitarist Derek Bailey died on Christmas Day. RIP. (For more about Derek Bailey see Ben Watson's Derek Bailey and the Story of Free Improvisation .)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 28 December 2005

Chad Post interview

I've just posted an interview with Chad Post the Associate Director for Dalkey Archive Press. Answering my question, "what is your favourite Dalkey book?" Chad replies:


My favorite Dalkey book is probably Impossible Object by Nicholas Mosley. Or Thank You For Not Reading by Dubravka Ugresic. Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things by Gilbert Sorrentino is up there as well. It's too hard to pick just one ...

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 26 December 2005

Happy Hanukkah!

For those who don't know: Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is the Jewish Festival of Lights. The festival begins on the 25th day of Kislev (this year, today, December 26) and is celebrated for eight days. The festival marks the victory of the Jewish Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks, the most powerful army of the ancient world. At the end of the three-year war, the Maccabees recaptured Jerusalem and rededicated the temple where they discovered a single cruise of oil with the seal of the High Priest still intact. They had enough oil to last only a day, but the menorah that they lit miraculously stayed alive for eight days: the miracle of the oil.


For more background see Long Sunday: "The true miracle was that a group of people, against all odds and a far superior military force, rose up and fought off the shackles of oppression ... Their stubborness is an inspiration for all those who seek a better world."

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 23 December 2005

Against the Wall

I was about to finish Milan Kundera's excellent The Art of the Novel (recently reissued by Faber), but I got caught up reading Michael Sorkin's compelling Against the Wall: Israel's Barrier to Peace:


Called a “security fence” by the Israeli government and the “apartheid wall” by Palestinians, the barrier currently under construction in the West Bank has been the subject of intense controversy since the first olive tree was uprooted in its path. In violation of a ruling by the International Court of Justice and a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly, the structure juts deep inside Palestinian territory, altering not only the geographical landscape, but the political one as well.

This groundbreaking book includes a collection of outstanding original pieces, along with photographs and maps, that offer a frank critique of the wall from a range of perspectives—legal, historical, architectural and philosophical. Renowned writer and architect Michael Sorkin has assembled commentary from various international experts, including both Israeli and Palestinian voices. Together they reinforce a view widely held around the world (though not by the government of the United States): Israel’s wall can act only as a barrier to future peace.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 22 December 2005

Leora on Word by Word

RSB contributor Leora Skolkin-Smith (and author of Edges: O Israel, O Palestine) appeared on Word by Word: Literary Radio yesterday (the essay is also up on Jordan Rosenfeld's blog), talking about how "linear narrative and more tradition[al] methods" of story-telling do not work for her:


My mother was born in the ancient city of Jerusalem in a Palestine not yet damaged irrevocably by war and terror. Her first language was Hebrew but she knew at least seven European languages as well as English. Later, my mother was required to identify herself only as an "Israeli", despite her more innocent moments as a young Jewish girl in a wildly sensual and exciting early, multicultural Jerusalem. The world of her childhood was presented to me in unusual, variegated impressions and allusions, a cacophony of language sounds, and a series of stories about interrupted, dislocated lives.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 22 December 2005

Jorge Semprun

Brendan Wolfe has set up his own blog The Beiderbecke Affair. Yesterday, he mentioned Jorge Semprun (echoing thoughts expressed earlier by Steve):


Semprun was a Rotspanier, the label applied to him as a Spanish political prisoner at Buchenwald. He had been arrested as a resistance fighter in occupied France and deported. Before the arrest, he had also been a student at the Sorbonne, reading philosophy. He says he went without meals to buy Heidegger’s Being & Time after being inspired by Levinas’ essays. A good deal of the book [Literature or Life] is informed by such thinkers. He is much taken with the lines in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus: ‘Death is not an event in life. Death cannot be lived.’ He is taken because, after Buchenwald, he felt that he had in fact lived through death.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 22 December 2005

Poetry magazine

According to Adam Kirsch (in an article I found via the ever-useful The Page), "[u]nder its new editor, Christian Wiman, Poetry has done what long seemed impossible: It has reclaimed its place at the center of American poetry." Poetry has a fairly decent website too (currently offering a "holiday special" of half-price subscriptions). And, come the New Year, we'll be interviewing Christian Wiman and finding out how he managed to turn Poetry around.


Surely, the magazine at the centre of British poetry is PN Review? Well, it is my favourite anyway! The latest issue of PN Review is just out ... and it's a corker! As is now a regular feature on RSB we'll be publishing Michael Schmidt's editorial to PN Review no.167 here in a day or two. In the meantime, why not read his editorial to no.166?

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 22 December 2005

PennSound

I just came across PennSound (via a note in the NB column in the TLS would you believe), which is a web-based archive for "noncommercial distribution of the largest collection of poetry sound files on the Internet". Worth comparing and contrasting with Andrew Motion's recently launched Poetry Archive.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 21 December 2005

The Five Books of Moses

Norton have very kindly sent on Professor Robert Alter's The Five Books of Moses. This is an extremely handsomely packaged book (and I'd almost recommend for that alone), but it is far more important than just that:


Through a distinguished career of critical scholarship and translation, Robert Alter has equipped us to read the Hebrew Bible as a powerful, cohesive work of literature. The culmination of this work, Alter's masterly new translation and probing commentary combine to give contemporary readers the definitive edition of The Five Books. Alter's majestic translation recovers the mesmerizing effect of these ancient stories—the profound and haunting enigmas, the ambiguities of motive and image, and the distinctive cadences and lovely precision of the Hebrew text. Other modern translations either recast these features for contemporary clarity, thereby losing the character of the original, or fail to give readers a suitably fluid English as a point of contact. Alter's translation conveys the music and the meaning of the Hebrew text in a lyrical, lucid English. His accompanying commentary illuminates the text with learned insight and reflection on its literary and historical dimensions.

For those who are interested in thinking further about the bible as literature, I can't recommend Gabriel Josipovici's The Book of God highly enough.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 21 December 2005

2005's Top 10 Out–of–Print Books

According to the Book Standard, "Bookfinder.com, a website that facilitates searches for and purchases of used, rare and out-of-print books, has announced its list of the top ten most-sought-after out-of-print books of 2005, with Madonna’s infamous 1992 nudie book, Sex, leading the pack." The rest of the list is, sadly, just as uninspiring:


1. Sex (1992), Madonna
2. Sisters (1981), by Lynne Cheney
3. The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel (1981), by Felicitas D. Goodman
4. Where Troy Once Stood (1991), by Iman Wilkens
5. The Principles of Knitting (1988), by June Hemmons Hiatt
6. General Printing (1963), by Glen Cleeton
7. The New Soldier (1971), edited by John Kerry
8. The Lion's Paw (1946), by Robb White
9. Dear and Glorious Physician (1959), by Taylor Caldwell
10. The Book of Counted Sorrows (2003), by Dean Koontz

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 19 December 2005

More Pinter

Harold Pinter's astonishing 46 minute Nobel lecture Art, Truth & Politics can be downloaded, and watched as a video, from the Nobel Prize website. Pinter's essential Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics 1948-2005 is out now and a celebratory collection of four of his plays (The Birthday Party, No Man's Land, Mountain Language and Celebration) is being published by Faber, as a limited edition boxed set, later this month. In Carcanet's wonderful The Tenth Muse: An Anthology Antonia Fraser, Pinter's wife, picks a handful of her favourite of her husband's poems.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 19 December 2005

Tom McCarthy

I've been privileged to run some excellent interviews here on RSB these past couple of weeks (with Robert Gibson, Ken Worpole, Andrew Merrifield and Raymond Federman, amongst many others). I think my most recent interview, with Tom McCarthy, whose novel Remainder is being so highly vaunted at the moment, is one of the very best I've published here. Please do take the time to read it.


Tom (along with Stewart Home, RSB contributor Lee Rourke and 3:AM's Richard Marshall) will be reading at 3:AM Magazine's Xmas Bash (organised in conjunction with Scarecrow) which will take place at the Aquarium Gallery (10 Woburn Walk, London WC1) on 29 December from 7.30pm onwards.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 19 December 2005

Reading around the 'sphere

Some blogospherical joy:


  • Congratulations Shannon and Grainne
  • Literary groundhog day
  • Where's A Bookmark When U Need One? - what prominent Indians have been reading in '05 (via the literary saloon)
  • The Independent's Books of the Year list - widely linked to this, but its a nice list
  • Ellis on forgotten poet Christopher Smart
  • fuckchristmas.org - a fine rant indeed!

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 17 December 2005

Brockes

Yesterday, I linked to Emma Brockes piece on Joan Didion. When I posted, Brockes' name rang a big bell, but I was in a rush and didn't dwell on why. I should have done. She is, of course, the journalist who recently wrote an atrocious smear on Noam Chomsky masquerading as an interview, since pulled by the Guardian - more on this via medialens.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 16 December 2005

Joan Didion

Emma Brockes interviews Joan Didion in the Guardian on the back of her compelling memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, an account of how she managed to get through the grief-drenched year after her husband John Gregory Dunne and 39 year-old daughter Quintana both died.


I read The Year of Magical Thinking last week and was very moved by it. There was a lightness to it that I liked a great deal and, despite the heartwrenching subject matter, the book rarely succumbs to sentimentality. Didion's writing is powerful and measured. And there is a real intelligence to it. She seems to recognise in pacing her story out, in placing her memories as a narrative within the covers of a book, that she is already doing violence to what happened to her. She repeats, time and again, the precise times and dates on which the awful events of her year happened, as if forcing onto her story a shape she both knows it never had and yet will gain via its retelling. And knowing how contradictory that is. She says that she "had to write [her] way out of" the pain of that year, but she knows, too, that writing her year down changes the year she had.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 16 December 2005

Bernhard’s poetry

When I interviewed Michael Hofmann back in October, I asked him about Thomas Bernhard's poetry. Michael replied saying:


I’ve read very little of Bernhard’s poetry, just the occasional piece in anthologies. But then I don’t think anyone much has. I like his evolution. Six books of poems and then something like “Sod this!” and a novel, and then many more novels and plays. I’ve only seen two of the plays, Elizabeth II and Heldenplatz, and I thought they were both wonderful. I’d love to translate plays of his. You might be interested to learn that I’ve recently handed in a translation of Frost, that first novel.

Well, those of you - like me - still keen to read Bernhard's poems will be glad to learn that Jim Reidel's translation of In Hora Mortis/Under the Iron of the Moon is forthcoming from Princeton University Press in June of next year. Don't worry, I'll remind you!

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 16 December 2005

Pamuk trial halted

According to the BBC, "the trial of acclaimed Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk on charges of insulting his nation, has been suspended minutes after his first court appearance ... The next hearing was set for 7 February 2006."

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 16 December 2005

Theodore Roethke

God knows what I was reading, but twice last week I came across the name of Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) who, previously, was quite unknown to me. Well, glad synchronism! Jay Parini, in this week's TLS (article not available online), reviews Theodore Roethke: Selected Poems, edited by Edward Hirsch. And on the essential Modern American Poetry website, I read:


Roethke's historical significance rests both on his established place in the American canon and on his influence over a subsequent generation of award-winning poets that includes Robert Bly, James Dickey, Carolyn Kizer, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, William Stafford, David Wagoner, and James Wright. Although Roethke's last works have been criticized for their indebtedness to such high modernists as T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and W. B. Yeats, contemporary poets and critics have also emphasized the expansive vision of self, at one with American place, that Roethke masterfully presented in the Whitmanesque catalogs of North American Sequence. "There is no poetry anywhere," James Dickey wrote in the Atlantic (Nov. 1968), "that is so valuably conscious of the human body as Roethke's; no poetry that can place the body in an environment." Roethke's pioneering explorations of nature, regional settings, depth psychology, and personal confessionalism - coupled with his stylistic innovations in open form poetics and his mastery of traditional, fixed forms - have secured his reputation as one of the most distinguished and widely read American poets of the twentieth century.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 16 December 2005

Jane Austen's birthday

Today is Jane Austen's birthday. Born 16th December 1775 at the rectory in the village of Steventon, near Basingstoke, in Hampshire, the seventh of eight children, Austen, as everyone reading this will know, went on to write some of the most beloved novels in the English language. According the Jane Austen Society of Australia biography:


At the age of 14 she wrote her first novel, Love and Freindship (sic) and then A History of England by a partial, prejudiced and ignorant Historian, together with other very amusing juvenilia. In her early twenties Jane Austen wrote the novels that were later to be re-worked and published as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. She also began a novel called The Watsons which was never completed.

For more see the Jane Austen Society of the UK and the Jane Austen Society of North America.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 16 December 2005

My radio thing

You are encouraged to tune into MobyLives Radio. I do my thing today (I'll get better, I promise) but, despite my nonsense, the show is very fine, as usual. Yesterday, novelist Stephen Dixon talked about his work. I need to read me some Dixon, who Jonathan Lethem called "one of the great secret masters". His latest Phone Rings is recently out from Melville House. I'll start there, I think.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 16 December 2005

Pamuk and Werfel

As most of you will know, Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk (author of Snow, Istanbul and My Name is Red) today stands trial for "denigrating Turkishness". His crime? To have spoken out against the ongoing killing of Kurds in Turkey's south-eastern provinces and the 1915 massacres of Ottoman Armenians.


The only literary work that I know of that deals with the Armenian massacre is Franz Werfel's The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, which "would be a great book if only read as a story of human heroism. It is more than that, with its overtones of Old Testament character and of modern politics. It gives such life to the long Armenian struggle as it has never had in Western literature; and raises the name of Franz Werfel to new dignity in European letters." Which is praise indeed. My copy lies, unread, in the big bookcase at the foot of the bed. I'll dig it out this weekend.


And David Barsamian says:


I recommend that you all read the chapter Interlude of the Gods from Franz Werfel's The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. It is based on the historical record of a conversation between a German missionary Johannes Lepsius and Talaat Pasha and Enver Pasha. The genocide of the Armenians in 1915 was state organized and sponsored. Of that, there can be no doubt. If you can read the whole book you won't be disappointed. Werfel went to Syria after the genocide and heard the stories from survivors that form the basis of his novel. Werfel, an Austrian Jew, is famous for Song of Bernadette ... Incidentally, attempts to make the novel into a Hollywood film some years ago were blocked by the Turkish government.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 15 December 2005

Linkety, linkety, link

Fun and frolics from around the 'sphere

  • The Pamuk trial
  • Ignacio Ramonet on Torture
  • Some thoughts on Perec (and libraries)
  • Jodi on Collectivity
  • Penguin podcasts

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 14 December 2005

RSB Books of the Year 2005

I've just posted the ReadySteadyBook Books of the Year 2005. My thanks to Matt Christie, Simon Critchley, Peter Davidson, Raymond Federman, Tom Gidley, Debra Hamel, Kevin Jackson, Soniah Kamal, Robert Kelly, William Large, Tom McCarthy, Robert Macfarlane, Charlotte Mandell, Tom Meyer, Stephen Mitchelmore, Chris Paling, Julián Rios, Lee Rourke, Frank Ryan, Michael Schmidt, Anne Sebba, Leora Skolkin-Smith, Natasha Tripney, Lisa Williams, Ken Worpole and Behzad Yaghmaian who have all contributed to the symposium.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 13 December 2005

SOT: Underrated writers

The good folk at Syntax of Things kindly invited me to contribute some names to their Underrated Writers list, but I got embroiled in other things and, regrettably, never got around to sending them my choices (my chief nomination would have been Dai Vaughan). SoT asked "a wide range of litbloggers to tell us the writers who aren't receiving the attention they should ... [compiling] a list of 55 writers from 15 different litbloggers" and their resulting Underrated Writers list is now online.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 13 December 2005

John on Bookslut

I'm glad that John (via pas au-delà) has taken Jessa Bookslut to task for her stupid comment on Pinter's speech, but I do think another lit-blogger should wade in and condemn her facile derision. I wish I could be bothered, but I fear I'll drown my contempt in truculent, opprobrious adjectives. In lieu, I'll quote John asking:


Could this be a scintillatingly ironic performace of the very mendacious, thought-repellent use of language that Pinter's speech describes? Might be. Even at that, though, it's troublesome; too comfortable a gesture, redolent of the laugh track or the dormitory. And I just doubt it. Now anecdotal evidence is not conclusive, but this suggests that the extensive reading of middlebrow garbage along with the exertion of trying to sound hiply ironic about it really does blunt the mind and vitiate the morals. Is there a hell worse than this know-nothing solipsism, this moral idiocy worn like a badge?

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 12 December 2005

Thirty Essential London Novels

In Merlin Coverley's useful, if fairly pedestrian, overview of London Writing (Pocket Essentials), the author gives a nice list of The Thirty Essential London Novels. They are, he suggests:

  • Charles Dickens Bleak House (1853)
  • Richard Jefferies After London (1855)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle A Study in Scarlet (1887)
  • William Morris News from Nowhere (1890)
  • George Gissing New Grub Street (1891)
  • Arthur Machen The Great God Pan (1894)
  • HG Wells The War of the Worlds (1898)
  • Joseph Conrad The Secret Agent (1907)
  • Virginia Woolf Mrs Dalloway (1925)
  • Evelyn Waugh Vile Bodies (1930)
  • Gerald Kersh Night and the City (1938)
  • Patrick Hamilton Hangover Square (1941)
  • Henry Green Caught (1943)
  • Elizabeth Bowen The Heat of the Day (1948)
  • Margery Allingham The Tiger in the Smoke (1952)
  • Sumuel Selvon The Lonely Londoners (1956)
  • JG Ballard The Drowned World (1962)
  • Alexander Baron The Lowlife (1963)
  • Maureen Duffy Capital (1975)
  • Peter Ackroyd Hawskmoor (1985)
  • Iain Sinclair White Chappell Scarlet Tracings (1987)
  • Michael Moorcock Mother London (1988)
  • Martin Amis London Fields (1989)
  • Derek Raymond I Was Dora Suarez (1990)
  • Angela Carter Wise Children (1991)
  • Christopher Petit Robinson (1993)
  • Neil Gaiman Neverwhere (1996)
  • Anthony Frewin London Blues (1997)
  • Nicholas Royle The Director's Cut (2000)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 10 December 2005

Embracing the Infidel reviews

Two good reviews of Behzad Yaghmaian's Embracing the Infidel: The Stories of Muslim Migrants on the Journey West: Manfred Wolf, at SFGate.com says:


... a gripping tale of hardship, adventure and yearning, of hopes raised and dashed, and of troubled and sometimes heroic adaptations to refugee camps in Bulgaria, tent cities in Greece, slum ghettos in Turkey and, for the luckier ones, fugitive existences in Paris and London.

And Ron Jacobs, at Counterpunch says:


The stories here are poignant and gritty. They tell of the racism and ethnic rivalries within the migrant communities--rivalries that sometimes erupt into physical conflict over control of the human smuggling business; and they tell of friendships that cross those very same ethnic rivalries.

Ron's review is entitled No One Is Illegal; No One is an Infidel. No One Is Illegal also happens to be the name of a campaigning group who challenge ...


the ideology of immigration controls and campaigns for their total abolition. We oppose controls in principle and reject any idea there can be “fair” of “just” or “reasonable” or “non racist” controls. We make no distinction between “economic migrants and “refugees”, between the “legal” and the “illegal”. These are political categories invented by politicians. We campaign to break down these categories and support free movement for all and unity between all.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 09 December 2005

Escholarship

The University of California have many eScholarship Editions of their books online (the collection includes "almost 2000 books from academic presses on a range of topics, including art, science, history, music, religion, and fiction"). Happily, many of them are freely, publically accessible (via languagehat).

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 09 December 2005

Pinter - not on the news

As pointed out in a letter to the Guardian, "[o]n the day a British writer is awarded the Nobel prize for literature ... BBC1's 10 O'clock News and BBC2's Newsnight do not consider it merits a mention. The BBC's extensive coverage of the parochial Booker prize is in stark contrast to its indifference to the globally significant Nobel."

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 09 December 2005

Scouser

Because of my technical imbecility, I won't be doing my slot on MobyLives Radio today. Hopefully, I'll do something for Dennis on Monday. (Apologies, again, to Dennis for the mix-up.)


Whilst emailing yesterday, Dennis asked me the derivation of the word scouser (me being a Liverpudlian having come up in a conversation about John Lennon). Well, what I've found out is this: natives of Liverpool are known as scousers as they were fond of a stew called scouse, which is short for lobscouse which, as my mum makes it, is basically Irish stew. Scouse meaning "a native of Liverpool" dates in writing from only 1945. Scouser followed later.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 09 December 2005

UbuWeb

I have just come across UbuWeb ("a completely independent resource dedicated to all strains of the avant-garde, ethnopoetics, and outsider arts") and I can't believe I've not visited before: their Artist Index is astonishing.


I was thrilled to find recordings by Gertrude Stein made during the years of 1934-1935 including The Making of Americans: Parts 1 & 2, Matisse, A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson, If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso, Portrait of Christian Bérard, Madame Recamier: An Opera, How She Bowed To Her Brother and Interview (1934).


The site also includes UbuWeb Films featuring works by Samuel Beckett, Joseph Beuys, Luis Buñuel, John Cage, Henri Chopin, Rene Clair, Guy Debord, Marcel Duchamp, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Man Ray, Walter, Situationist International, Edgard Varêse and Le Corbusier, Dziga Vertov, Rene Vienet and many more.


Also worth checking out is /ubu ("slash ubu") Editions (book-length downloads from the likes of Barbara Cole, Robert Kelly, Peter Manson, Ron Silliman and loads more).

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 08 December 2005

Traité d'Athéologie

The most interesting title I pulled from the TLS Books of the year list was one of William Boyd's choices: Michel Onfray's Traité d'Athéologie (Grasset). This'll test my French to its limits! Seems both saddening and strange that atheism should need reaffirming in the 21st Century, but it certainly does. Onfray says the book was born out of "d'une indignation et d'une urgence":


trois siècles après le triomphe des « Lumières », et un siècle après la loi de séparation de l'Eglise et de l'Etat, le politique et le religieux soient encore si inextricablement mêlés dans nos sociétés prétendument laïques et démocratiques.

Puts me in mind of Shelley: Resolute Reader talking about Paul Foot (who wrote Red Shelley):


Shelley was also driven by a militant atheism that meant he was ostracised by the rest of the establishment he was from, during his lifetime. But it’s an atheism at the heart of some of his best poetry. This atheism meant that he clashed with all those who believed that the poor deserved to be poor, or were poor because of their own making. So Shelley was driven by a desire to both illuminate the world and change it.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 08 December 2005

The dream of concrete utopia

The Paris Group of the Surrealist Movement have issued an interesting and provocative statement:


In a society in which all previous forms of belonging, and therefore of associated consciousness, have been wiped out, these events testify to the eruptive and uncontrollable return of the social question, firstly under an immediately negative form, that fire—emblem of all apocalypses— symbolizes. Indeed, unlike the rebellions in Los Angeles in 1965 and in 1992, the population of the districts here did not massively join the rioters. And in contrast to May ‘68 neither poetry nor brilliant ideas are on the barricades. No wildcat strike is going to spread widely with these troubles. But the rulers have been give a good hotfoot and have been forced to unmask themselves.

In a flash, such warning lights have revealed—during these November nights—the return of a possibility that seemed to be lost: that of throwing power into a panic even when its forces are harassed in a disorganized manner through the whole territory by a handful of forsaken social casualties. From now on, we can imagine the strength of an uprising that would—beyond the inhabitants of the ghettos—include the whole population suffering from the rise of impoverishment, and would turn into civil war against the organs of capital and the state.

Beyond recent infernos presented as the very image of a nightmare, it is time that the dream of concrete utopia is raised anew.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 08 December 2005

Much more than a diary

Yesterday, I mentioned the fact that a really lovely diary cum planner had arrived from the good folk at Today in Literature. But "diary" really does sell it short: it contains 52 full-length TinL articles and really is very special. Go on - get one for y'mam!

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 08 December 2005

More on Google

Nikesh Arora, vice-president of European operations for Google has an op-ed piece (at least, that's what those Amerkans call them) in today's Financial Times:


The challenge is that most of the information in the world is not yet online, which makes it impossible to find unless you know exactly what to look for -­ and where. In this process, Google accepts that what its partners and customers see as opportunities, critics might see as threats.

Take, for example, Google's new book search service. Millions of out-of-print and out-of-copyright books are gathering dust in libraries everywhere. Google Book Search aims to make these and many other works - ­and the information they contain - ­universally discoverable.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 07 December 2005

Pinter attacks US policies

Harold Pinter has attacked US foreign policy, and Blair's backing of it, in his Nobel lecture (listen to the lecture here). Pinter, gravely ill with cancer, added that "the majority of politicians" weave "a vast tapestry of lies" to keep themselves in power. He called for an "unflinching, unswerving and fierce intellectual determination as citizens to define the real truth of our lives and our societies". (The transcript doesn't seem to be up on Pinter's official site yet, but presumably will be pretty soon. UPDATE: The Guardian have published the transcript.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 07 December 2005

TinL Weekly Planner 2006

Just received my Today in Literature Weekly Planner (that's diary to you and me). Nice. You probably need one. I don't - I'm really, really organised - but you probably do.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 07 December 2005

Podcast: Word of the Year

Not that surprisingly, the term podcast been declared as Word of the Year by the New Oxford American Dictionary, according to the BBC. My word of the year is mellifluous. Thinking about it, that is my word of the year ever year. I quite like lambent, too, but mellifluous is better!


For the publishing industry, it would seem that crap, shit or shite should be their word of the year. According to a report in the Independent, "Shit sells. Put something scatological in the title of your book and the bestseller lists beckon."


The trend began with Crap Towns, which spawned Crap Jobs and Crap Cars before a spate of titles, often spoofs, incorporating shit or shite. An online sales surge this week sent Is It Just Me or Is Everything Shit?: The Encyclopaedia of Modern Life, by Alan McArthur and Steve Lowe, to the top of the Amazon charts.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 06 December 2005

PEN on Google Print

As of November 30, 2005, 57% of PEN Members do object to the Google Print Library Project, as it exists today, and 43% have no objections to it.


I'm with Charlotte Mandell who says, "I think once a book is published it becomes public property, and the more people can read it, the better." But I do think Google are becoming worryingly megalomaniacal, and I agree with John Battelle that the "worm [may have] turned" against a company that is becoming "'too powerful' and [whose] ambitions are 'too great'."

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 06 December 2005

3:AM - the book!

London-based Snowbooks will be publishing a 3:AM anthology called The Edgier Waters next April. Now, I know that that is a long way off ... but its still exciting!

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 05 December 2005

Ellis on Saturday

Ellis chooses his Christmas books. Here he is (not for the first time) on Ian McEwan's Saturday:


A scandal far greater than the Dreyfus case, a betrayal more historic than that of Judas – the failure of the Booker Prize judges to award the prize to what is quite simply the most outstanding novel of the decade was (and I do not say this lightly) the single most shocking and tragic event of 2005.

No one has ever captured the joy of Mercedes ownership quite so movingly before - or the Greek epic dimensions of a game of squash. No one understands the problems of the modern world more acutely than McEwan, or the sinister destructive forces that threaten a quiet Saturday – namely, the working class, many of whom are in the grip of an uncontrollable disease which makes them belligerent and violent; a ghastly rabble of selfish, stupid anti-war marchers; incomprehensible Muslims, some of whom are quite literally mad.

Ian McEwan brilliantly reminds us that there are small-minded people and fanatics everywhere, full of resentment toward those of us for whom the only word is civilised.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 05 December 2005

Embracing the Infidel

I'm going to be interviewing Behzad Yaghmaian, author of Embracing the Infidel: Stories of Muslim Migrants on the Journey West very soon, but I thought I should mention his fine book first and tell you to go and take a look at Behzad's website:


In a tent city in Greece, they huddle together. Men and women from Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, and other countries. Most have survived war and brutal imprisonment, political and social persecution. Some have faced each other in battle, and all share a powerful desire for freedom. Behzad Yaghmaian lived among them, listened to their hopes, dreams, and fears–and now he weaves together dozens of their stories of yearning, persecution, and unwavering faith. We meet Uncle Suleiman, an Iraqi veteran of the Iran-Iraq war; once imprisoned by Saddam Hussein, he is now a respected elder of a ramshackle tent city in Athens, offering comfort and community to his fellow travelers…Purya, who fled Iran only to fall into the clutches of human smugglers and survive beatings and torture in Bulgaria…and Shahroukh Khan, an Afghan teenager whose world at home was shattered twice–once by the Taliban and again by American bombs–but whose story turns on a single moment of awakening and love in the courtyard of a Turkish mosque.

A chronicle of husbands separated from wives, children from parents, Embracing the Infidel is a portrait of men and women moving toward a promised land they may never reach–and away from a world to which they cannot return. It is an unforgettable tale of heartbreak and prejudice, courage, heroism, and hope.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 05 December 2005

Appelfeld wind Nelly Sachs Prize

Israeli author - and RSB favourite - Aharon Appelfeld, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Hebrew Literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, has won Germany’s prestigious Nelly Sachs Prize for literature for his "harrowing autobiographical stories of escape from the Nazis" (via TEV). More at the European Jewish Press. (Read an interview with Appelfeld in the Boston Review, originally published way back in December 1982.)


For more on Nelly Sachs (joint winner of the 1966 Nobel Prize for Literature) see her page at Pegasos. Or read Paul Celan and Nelly Sachs: Correspondence. Also see Steve's superb review of Appelfeld's A Table for One. (Green Integer have two Sachs titles: Michael Hamburger's translations of Collected Poems I (1944-1949) (out about now) and Collected Poems II (1950-1969) (out January).)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 05 December 2005

Thanks Bloglines!

Thanks to the good folk at bloglines for moving over the old site's rss subscribers to one of the new feeds (for more on RSB's webfeeds). For readers/subscribers who haven't seen the site since its makeover a couple of months back, welcome back, and please do take the time to have a good look around the site.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 02 December 2005

The Levys

Duckworth have kindly sent on Bernard-Henry Lévy's War, Evil and the End of History (originally out, in the US, from Melville House - worth noting is that Lévy will be interviewed on MobyLives Radio next week) and Le Contre-Ciel by René Daumal:


Le Contre-Ciel (‘The Counter-Heaven’) marked the start of one of the most daring and inventive careers in all of French literature. Written when its author was only twenty-two, it was honoured with the prestigious Prix Jacques Doucet, awarded by the reigning triumvirate of French letters, André Gide, Paul Valéry, and Jean Giraudoux. It is an exploration of, among other things, death as a beginning to life rather than end, a means of shedding superficial identity and experiencing understanding and awareness—concepts that Daumal later developed in his two great prose masterpieces, A Night of Serious Drinking and the posthumously published Mount Analogue.

Talking of the boss's publishing house, Melville have just published Bernard-Henry's daughter Justine Lévy's novel Nothing Serious (Winner of the Grand Prix Litteraire de l’Héroïne 2004):


Stylish, intelligent, and often scathingly funny, Nothing Serious is an unblinking portrayal of the search for self amidst the reckless glamorization of love.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 02 December 2005

December's Books of the Month

I meant to say this yesterday, but the very fact that it was the first of December rather passed me by. The over-warm office and the late-Autumn, mild wetness of the weather is not helping me work out the season either, so I was rather thrown. Anyway, books of the month ...


RSB interviewee (and contributorDai Vaugan's latest novel Non-Return (Seren) is our fiction book of the month. I can only endorse the Amazon reviewer who said, "Dai Vaughan's most accomplished work to date: epic, angry and hugely entertaining, Non-Return makes most contemporary fiction look distinctly tired"


Our non-fiction book of the month is Robert Fisk's massive The Great War for Civilisation (which the Guardian thought needed serious pruning), but which strikes me as hugely important.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 02 December 2005

MobyLives Radio

Yours truly will be doing his UK correspondent thing on MobyLives Radio today, talking briefly about this week's UK book news. (If you've not listened to MobyLives Radio do take the time, aside from my nonsense, it is very good indeed.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 02 December 2005

More RSB rss

In an attempt to keep improving the service for those folk who read RSB via newsfeeders (e.g. bloglines or newsgator), we've added (as I've mentioned) a content feed (separate to the blog feeds) and now we also have a combined blog and content feed. (For more on RSB webfeeds - many thanks Lee.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 01 December 2005

Metaxu and Simone Weil

Bud Parr (who blogs at Chekhov's Mistress) is the brains behind MetaxuCafé:


One of my greatest fears in naming this site MetaxuCafé is to trivialize the word metaxu. Simone Weil famously described metaxu as every separation being a link, which she illustrated with the idea of:

two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but it is also their means of communication

Her discussion considers the physical world that is both the barrier and the “way through” to the spiritual world. Thus metaxu represents an intermediary (as Plato would have it), a bridge. Weblogs are analogous, in a far more material sense, because they are a way through to some level of greater understanding, a bridge from a discussion that I may have with you in my living room to a discussion I can have with all of you on my site.


Last weekend, Nicholas Lezard reviewed Simone Weil: An Anthology ("an inspiring collection of work from a neglected thinker"):


Simone Weil can be neglected in the more modish surveys of philosophy: she dares to bring religion into her thinking. This can make some people nervous or plain embarrassed; for others, it simply rules her out.

One gets the feeling that Weil would not have been that bothered. She was, as Andre Gide described her, "the saint of all outsiders"; conventional behaviour was beyond her. "The Great Beast" was her encompassing term for the kind of mindless, conformist society which goes unquestioned by the majority. Born into a cultured and prosperous Jewish Parisian family, she entered the Ecole Normale Superieure - possibly the brainiest place on earth - coming ahead of Simone de Beauvoir in the exams, and one of only five women in the school.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

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-- Mark Thwaite, Managing Editor

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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