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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 'January 2006'

Tuesday 31 January 2006

Television

Jean-Philippe Toussaint's Television was reviewed (principally by Paul Morley) on Radio 4's A Good Read last week (see the complete-review's review). Astonishingly, this was apparently enough to move it into Amazon.co.uk's top 10.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 31 January 2006

Stand up!

Epigraph to the 18th century French revolutionary newspaper Les Révolutions des Paris (via Thivai Abhor's Dialogic):


Those above us look powerful only because we are on our knees. Let's stand up!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Monday 30 January 2006

Fluffy four

The fourth and final installment of Simone Lia's exquisite Fluffy comic is out now. Thank god! The suspense of what was going to happen to that wee stuffed rabbit was nearly more than I could take.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 30 January 2006

Gennady Aygi

Pierre Joris's fine blog, Nomadics continues to be the source of much interesting stuff. A few days ago he mentioned Mikrolithen sinds, Steinchen, the volume of Paul Celan's posthumous prose writings that came out in 2005 (Pierre, as you'll recall, is a skilled translator of Celan's poetry).


More pressingly, last Thursday, and again today, Pierre reports on the plight of Gennady Aygi, the major Chuvash poet of our times, now in his early seventies, who is very ill.


PEN — which is already helping Gennady with a gift from their emergency fund — would be happy to collect and pass through additional contributions from individuals [the] deadline for contributions ... February 15 ... money sent to PEN for this purpose should be clearly earmarked for the "FTW emergency fund/Gennady support." Send donations to:

PEN American Center
FTW emergency fund/Gennady support
588 Broadway #303
New York, NY 10012


PEN in Germany has set up a donation account to help Ajgis family with the hospital bill:

Commerzbank of Darmstadt; Germany
IBAN: DE 3750 8400 050 - 130808907
BIC: COBADEFFXXX

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Sunday 29 January 2006

Neglected

Although its been online for nearly a year, The Neglected Books Page had passed me by. But now I've come across it, I won't neglect to mention it: at Neglected Books "you'll find lists of thousands of books that have been neglected, overlooked, forgotten, or stranded by changing tides in critical or popular taste." The lists include surveys of forgotten books compiled in the last half-century like The American Scholar's 1956 and 1970 lists, the Antaeus series, David Madden's Rediscoveries, Writer's Choice, etc. Definitely worth a look.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 26 January 2006

Suilven Recordings

"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 Quinn, Suilven 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

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 26 January 2006

Virginia Woolf

Yesterday, wood s lot reminded me, was the anniversary of Adeline Virginia Stephen's birth (January 25th 1882 - March 28th 1941), daughter of Julia Jackson Duckworth, a member of the Duckworth publishing family, and Leslie Stephen, a literary critic and the founder of the Dictionary of National Biography. (Her life-span [1882-1941] is, I note, exactly that of James Joyce.) I had planned that this year would be my "Virginia Woolf year" (Julia Briggs' Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life whetted my appetite late in 2005) as I've only read Orlando. Maybe I should join The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain? No. I'll be fine. But I should, at least, read The Waves and Mrs Dalloway.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 26 January 2006

Beppe Grillo

if:book (the weblog of The Institute for the Future of the Book) give a thumbs up to Beppe Grillo:


... an immensely popular Italian political satirist, roughly the Italian Jon Stewart. Grillo has been hellbent on exposing corruption in the political system there, and has emerged as a major force in the ongoing elections there. While he happily and effectively skewers just about everybody involved in the Italian political process, Dario Fo, currently running for mayor of Milan under the refreshing slogan "I am not a moderate" manages to receive Grillo's endorsement.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 25 January 2006

Access keys

Access keys are keyboard shortcuts that help users who have difficulty in using pointing devices such as a mouse. RSB is fully set up with access keys - see our accessibility page for more details.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 24 January 2006

How do you transliterate it!?

Thomas Meyer, a poet whose recent books include At Dusk Iridescent: A Gathering of Poems, 1972-97 and Coromandel, has just translated Laozi's (or should that be Lao Tse?) Daode Jing (or should that be Tao Te Ching?):


In an unbroken flow of couplets, Thomas Meyer's translation of the Daode Jing captures the supple thought of this ancient Chinese text: "best to be like water / always useful / never difficult / settling in low-lying places..." Here, the insights of Laozi are rendered as conversational rather than scholarly, intimate rather than formal. As Meyer explains in his afterword, "The Daode Jing is table talk. An old man, not holding forth really, but just telling someone what he knows. After dinner, the dishes pushed aside, a glass of whiskey, a cigarette. Or a pub and a pint of beer, even." Conceived as such, this Daode Jing offers a vibrant mixture of paradox and plain sense, humor and compassion.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 23 January 2006

Excellent Ellis

Irving Layton (the "firebrand Canadian poet and lecturer [who] taught Leonard Cohen"), whose death was first brought to my attention by Ellis Sharp's blog, the excellent The Sharp Side, gets an obituary in the Guardian.


Fine work, as ever, today from Ellis, with his take on the Osama bin Laden / William Blum story and, yesterday, on John Banville's risible play Todtnauberg.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 23 January 2006

Pamuk off

As you'll have no doubt gathered from elsewhere, the Turkish government has dropped its case against the writer Orhan Pamuk who had been accused of "insulting Turkishness" because he had spoken about the genocide of Armenians in 1915.


However, more than sixty writers and publishers still face similar charges. The law which made it possible to try Pamuk (article 301 of the new penal code - thanks Moorishgirl) is still, apparently, in effect. Such prosecutions are likely to continue to happen, we'll probably just not hear about them.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 23 January 2006

Forum for European Philosophy

The Forum for European Philosophy is:


... an educational charity which organises and runs a full and varied programme of philosophy and inter disciplinary events in the UK. Over the past eight years, the Forum for European Philosophy has gained widespread recognition for its work in this area, developing a distinctive programme of thought-provoking events open to the general public. Our events range from conferences, discussion and reading groups to seminars and book forums, all of which are open to the public and most of which are free.

The next event is tonight at 6-7.30pm when Claire Colebrook will speak on The Work of Art that Stands Alone at Manchester Metropolitan University. For more information contact Catherine Lowe.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Saturday 21 January 2006

Busy busy busy

Busy weekend ahead (Mrs Book's birthday), but I did just want to mention two recent additions to company that I have been enjoying mightily: 3 Quarks Daily ("An Eclectic Digest of Science, Art and Literature") and The Beiderbecke Affair ("things literary • bix beiderbecke • korea • everything else").


3 Quarks Daily is a "filter blog" presenting "interesting items from around the web on a daily basis, in the areas of science, design, literature [Australian poet Peter Nicholson writes their Poetry and Culture column], current affairs, art, and anything else we deem inherently fascinating" (for me, the science news is the thing as I don't get that from anywhere else - Early Man Was Hunted by Birds anyone!?). You probably know it, but I'm fairly new to it, so I thought I'd share.


The Beiderbecke Affair is Brendan Wolfe's blog which "concerns itself with things literary while also indulging its proprietor's rather unrelated interests in the early jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke and Korean culture, history, and politics." It does the literary round-up things we know well enough from plenty of other blogs, but it does it very well, with a nice tone.


Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 20 January 2006

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

Consistently the most interesting literary prize around, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize always throws up some interesting titles. The sixteen strong long-list for this year is:

  • Tonino Benacquista's Someone Else
  • Tahar Ben Jelloun's This Blinding Absence of Light
  • Stefan Chwin's Death in Danzig
  • Philippe Claudel's Grey Souls
  • Marie Darrieussecq's White
  • Karen Duve's This is Not a Love Song
  • David Grossman's Lovers and Strangers
  • Judith Hermann's Nothing but Ghosts
  • Pawel Huelle Mercedes-Benz
  • Imre Kértesz's Fatelessness
  • Ellen Mattson's Snow
  • Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore
  • Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses
  • Dai Sijie's Mr Muo's Travelling Couch
  • Magda Szabó The Door
  • Dubravka Ugresic's The Ministry of Pain

For now, we have just Imre Kértesz's Fatelessness and Marie Darrieussecq's White reviewed here on RSB.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 20 January 2006

Exposure Shorts

Lee, the RSB techie (oh and so much more than that too!) is "very excited ... as Apple have just listed the Exposure Shorts Video Podcast on their podcast directory." For more information about what on earth this is, check out the Exposure Shorts website.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 20 January 2006

Green Integer and buses

So, I've not heard anything from the excellent American independent publisher Green Integer for an age and then, bus-like, three or four of their volumes come along at once. Most exciting is Pierre Joris' translation of Paul Celan's Threadsuns. Actually, I'm convinced that this has been out for a wee while, but I must be going mad (or they've reissued it) as Green Integer list this as landing February 9th. I'll get all this cleared up for you when I interview Pierre in the next month or so.


Just released - with a preface by Albert Camus - is Islands by Jean Grenier:


Jean Grenier (1898-1971) was a French philosopher and writer who combined a rigorous philosophical intelligence with an artistic and literary sensibility. Among his many works are essays, art criticism, autobiographical novels, travel essays, and the volumes of aphorisms, Lexiques and Les á-peu-prés. Grenier was also the teacher of another major French author, Albert Camus.

Islands, a collection of some of his most lovingly written and personal of philosophical speculations, was first published in an edition of five essays in 1933. The revised edition, with six essays, was published with a preface by Albert Camus in 1948; the third edition, upon which this translation is based, was published in 1959.

Joseph Conrad's great mate Ford Madox Ford has his "saddest story" The Good Soldier given the GI treatment too. I've been meaning to read this "brilliant tale in which nothing is quite what it seems, including the narrator's telling of the tale" for ages so, hopefully, having this gorgeous edition will encourage me.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 20 January 2006

Manchester Metro News

Those visiting RSB for the first time after the glowing wee article in this week's Manchester Metro News ("Britain's biggest free weekly newspaper", don't you know!) are very welcome ... but don't expect too much from me: all that talk of "taking the high-brow literary world by storm" has gone straight to my head. I best lie down.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 20 January 2006

A Night at the Majestic

Now, this looks like it could be quite good fun: Richard Davenport-Hines's A Night at the Majestic: Proust and the great modernist dinner party of 1922 (Faber). The publisher blurb runs:


One May night in 1922, in a grand hotel in Paris, five of the greatest artists of the 20th century sat down to supper. It would be the only time that Joyce and Proust, Picasso, Diaghilev and Stravinsky were in a room together. Each of these exponents of early twentieth-century modernism was at the peak of his creative powers, and of all of them, Proust was enjoying the most spectacular success. Yet within six months he would be dead.

A Night at the Majestic evokes the luxury and glamour of early-twentieth century Paris, the intellectual achievement of the modernist movement and the gossip, intrigue and scandal of aristocratic France. Above all, Richard Davenport-Hines gives us a compelling portrait of one writer's bravery and devotion to his masterwork - and of the people and the city which gave it shape.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 19 January 2006

National Book Critics Circle awards

The (American) National Book Critics Circle (founded in 1974 and consisting "of nearly 700 active book reviewers who are interested in honoring quality writing") have announced the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award finalists (not to be confused with the (American) National Book Awards).


Good to see Svetlana Alexievich's Voices From Chernobyl, last month's RSB Book of the Month Robert Fisk's The Great War for Civilisation, Jonathan Coe's Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of BS Johnson and Eliot Weinberger's What Happened amongst the shortlisted titles.


On the fiction shortlist they have EL Doctorow's The March and Andrea Levy's Small Island, both reviewed here on RSB.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 19 January 2006

WS Merwin

The poetry of 2005 National Book Award Winner WS Merwin has just arrived on my horizon. I've not read anywhere near enough to make a judgement yet, and what I have read I am, so far, rather cool about. But I'm interested enough to read more and, happily, I can: Copper Canyon Press have been kind enough to send on copies of Merwin's Migration: New & Selected Poems and his most recent collection Present Company and Shoemaker & Hoard have sent on his memoir Summer Doorways (in 1948, aged twenty-one, Merwin made his first trip to Europe ... and, amongst other things, he met the young Samuel Beckett).


About Merwin, the Copper Canyon website tells me:


WS Merwin was born in New York City in 1927. From 1949 to 1951 he worked as a tutor in France, Mallorca, and Portugal; for several years afterward he made the greater part of his living by translating from French, Spanish, Latin, and Portuguese. His many awards include the 2005 National Book Award in Poetry for Migration: New & Selected Poems, the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, the Tanning Prize for mastery in the art of poetry, the Bollingen Award, the Ruth Lily Poetry Prize, as well as fellowships from the Rockefeller and the Guggenheim Foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts ... For the past thirty years he has lived in Hawaii.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 18 January 2006

Swedenborg's Secret

Swedenborg's Secret is Lars Bergquist's biography - and the first major study - of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) in over 50 years. Who was he? Well, the Swedenborg Society tell us he was a "scientist, philosopher, theologian and visionary. Born in Sweden, he began his career as an engineer and inventor, later becoming interested in anatomy and religion. By the time of his death Swedenborg had gained fame throughout Europe as one of the greatest minds of the eighteenth century."


Reviewing the book in the Independent, Gary Lachman said:


Why then is this Scandinavian Da Vinci not better known? Because in 1744, when Swedenborg was in his mid-fifties, he went through a profound psychological and spiritual crisis, culminating in a visitation by Christ and his own entrée into the spirit world. Swedenborg abandoned his scientific work [amongst other things he had discovered a lunar method of establishing longitude at sea] and for the remaining years of his long life devoted himself to what he considered his destined task: the deciphering of the hidden, "internal" sense of Scripture, the full explication of which would usher in the New Church and Christ's second coming - not a physical return, but the unveiling of the Bible's true message, hitherto obscured by Catholics and Protestants alike.

So, clearly a nutter then! But an interesting one ... and one with local links for me - early radical figures like parliamentary reformer Joseph Brotherton were members of the Swedenborg Church in Salford, just up the road, and strict vegetarians.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 18 January 2006

Bye Loompanics!

Loompanics Unlimited, source of "hard to find, unusual, controversial books", is sadly going under - sale now on! (Via Dana/Maud)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 18 January 2006

BBC's RSS info

For those confused by RSS, the BBC's Feed Factory may prove useful.


As I've mentioned before, RSB has a content feed (separate to the blog feed) and I also have a combined blog and content feed. (For more on RSB webfeeds.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 17 January 2006

Pinter's speech becomes a book

Harold Pinter's impassioned - and quite brilliant - nobel lecture Art, Truth and Politics (freely available online) has been turned into a book by Route ("a cultural organisation and a home for contemporary story telling and ideas"):


Pinter speaks about the nature of truth; he gives some insight into his work and his creative process and makes the distinction between political theatre and political satire. The majority of his speech however is reserved for his position as a citizen. He talks of political language as not being interested in the truth but of power, and that language is employed to keep truth at bay.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 17 January 2006

The Midnight Bell

The London News Review Books Diary has a new home: The Midnight Bell (thanks to Andrew at 3:AM for the nod). Sean says, "You’ll find most of its old articles in the archive. Some of them are funny. Some of them are clever. Some of them are sad. Why not browse?" The name comes, of course, "... from the Patrick Hamilton novel. It’s collected in 20,000 Streets Under the Sky. Read it if you haven’t already." Good to have you back Sean.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 17 January 2006

Scarecrow 39

The latest issues of Scarecrow is now online (with "cover star" RSB interviewee Tom McCarthy). This issue includes stories by Stewart Home (Cheap Night Out) and Ellis Sharp (Ridiculous).

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 17 January 2006

Pierre Joris

Accomplished Paul Celan translator (Paul Celan: Selections, Threadsuns, Lightduress and Breathturn), Pierre Joris, has a new website (pierrejoris.com) and a new blog (pjoris.blogspot.com).


Pierre's Celan/Heidegger: Translation at the Mountain of Death is a must read. Hopefully, I'll be interviewing Pierre here on RSB very soon.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 17 January 2006

Stockhausen

Exciting: Stockhausen's Stimmung is live tonight (preceded by Amour de Loin's Troubador songs!) at the Bridgewater Hall here in sunny Manchester. This will make up for my missing most of the Shostakovich events. No French class for me this evening then! (Also see The Stockhausen Society and Karlheinz Stockhausen.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 17 January 2006

Duffy wins Eliot prize

Carol Ann Duffy, whose collection Rapture is one of the top-selling poetry collections in the UK, last night won the £10,000 TS Eliot poetry prize (via the Guardian). Can't say she was my choice.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 16 January 2006

That Whale is back

I know I've said this, but I don't care: MobyLives Radio returned on Saturday "with an all new show, including reports from our UK [me!] and Canada correspondents, new episodes of Far Flung Readers and Men, Men, Men, an interview with writer and Paris Review editor Philip Gourevitch, and more."

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 16 January 2006

TS Eliot prize

The TS Eliot Prize for poetry, now in its 13th year, will be announced tonight. Yesterday, in the Observer (thanks to Steve to bringing this piece to my attention), Robert Potts, in an excellent article, bemoaned, "[t]he problem with the Eliot Prize is ... that the results can be so bland. A number of books on this year's shortlist, despite blurbs suggesting their rare qualities, are barely distinguishable examples of orthodoxy." He does note (and I agree with him here too) that:

Two exceptions are Sinead Morrissey's The State of the Prisons, a book that does admit history and politics, and that is skilfully written; and David Harsent's Legion, a harrowing and highly intelligent book concerned with war and violence.

Hopefully, we'll be interviewing both Sinead Morrissey and David Harsent here on RSB within the next couple of weeks. Good luck to them both this evening.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 16 January 2006

Todtnauberg

On Radio 4, this Friday, the 20th January (at 14:15-15:00) John Banville's play Todtnauberg:


A fictional drama inspired by the meeting between the poet and holocaust survivor, Paul Celan, with the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger, at Heidegger's mountain retreat in 1967. No record was kept of this momentous meeting in the mountains, and the only mention is an obscure poem by Celan, Todtnauberg, which is the name of Heidegger's place.

It troubled Celan that the man he saw as one of the greatest of modern thinkers, so close to his own work, was a Nazi. One cannot even say 'had been a Nazi' because he never said anything that amounted to a renunciation. Late in life, Heidegger became interested in Celan's work. He attended public readings given by the poet, and in 1967 invited him to his famous Black Forest retreat at Todtnauberg.

Hardly an "obscure poem by Celan", Todtnauberg is a key poem in the Celan canon, but I'm intrigued as to what Banville will make of this.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 12 January 2006

ReadItSwapIt

Came across ReadItSwapIt ("the UK's free book swap shop!") a wee while back, but I don't think I mentioned it. Even if I did, worth mentioning it again: ReadItSwapIt "is a completely free service, so you can swap as many books as you like and you'll only pay for the postage."

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 12 January 2006

Poetry at the Troubadour

Popular London poetry venue the Troubadour Coffee House has announced its 2006 programme of readings, which take place every Monday from 8-10pm at 265 Old Brompton Road, SW5. The line-up includes: Alfred Corn, Nick Laird and David Harsent. Jane Yeh and Mimi Khalvati will be reading their work on 6th and 20th March respectively. Tickets cost £5.50 / £4.50 for concessions. Telephone 0208 354 0660 or email CoffPoetry@aol.com for more.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 12 January 2006

Irving Layton

Canadian poet Irving Layton died Wednesday 4th in a Montreal care facility where had been living since 2000. Layton was one of Canada's leading poets but, I'll admit, not a poet whose work I knew anything about until I read Ellis:


Irving Layton was a towering figure in twentieth century Canadian literature. He was born into a Jewish family in Rumania in 1912, shortly before they immigrated to Canada the following year. He was a prolific writer, publishing over 40 books during half a century of writing. Layton was best known for his poetry, much of which was written in a loose, confessional mode. In the mid-century he helped lead the rebellion against a stuffy, genteel Canadian poetic tradition which aped British verse.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 12 January 2006

Odds and sods

From around the 'sphere:


  • ESBNs and more thoughts on the end of cyberspace
  • Quotes from Blanchot's The Most High, Aminadab and The Infinite Conversation
  • A very good deal on literary journals
  • Mark Kaplan is back blogging regularly at Charlotte Street (indeed, he has been for a few weeks and I should have mentioned it earlier)
  • Waggish on Josipovici
  • David Beckham to be a judge for the 2006 British Book Awards
  • The Radical Anthropology Group (interesting [pdf] article on Chris Knight's Theory of Human Origins)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 12 January 2006

Me on Sarraute's The Planetatium

My review of Nathalie Sarraute's The Planetarium (Dalkey Archive Press) appears in today's Times Literary Supplement (I know! The TLS!)


Sarraute, like the best revolutionaries, knew her canon. Her conception of the novel was greatly influenced by both Proust and Virginia Woolf, but Flaubert (especially Bouvard and Pécuchet) and Dostoevsky were also important precursors ... Sceptical of plot, chronology, characterization and traditional narrative, yet highly structured, subtle and artful, The Planetarium's central narrative is beguilingly simple. Alain, a struggling writer, wants his aunt's impressive flat, a dwelling that he is convinced is too big for her and would be far more suitable for him and his wife - perfect for their ambitions of social advancement. His father is both ashamed of and enlivened by this behaviour, his aunt mortified ... Sarraute is not a writer for whom story is a central concern. Her fiction is built by carefully layering broken sentences connected by ellipses ... This feels like Woolf's stream of consciousness, but the sense of the words flows, languidly, complicatedly, rhythmically, as it does in Proust's radical, run-on sentences. Strangely, with so little attention paid to characterization, the novels are acutely psychological ...

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 11 January 2006

Some recent RSB highlights

A round-up of recent RSB highlights for those who read the site on a newsfeeder:


Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 11 January 2006

2000 entries

Congratulations to Splinters: the blog has been running for six years and has just posted its 2000th entry!

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 10 January 2006

The Reader

The excellent Liverpool-based literary magazine The Reader has a new website address: thereader.co.uk

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 10 January 2006

MobyLives Radio returns on 14 January

MobyLives Radio will return on 14 January 2006, "with an all new show, including reports from our UK (ahem, that's ... erm ... me!) and Canada correspondents, new episodes of Far Flung Readers and Men, Men, Men, an interview with writer and Paris Review editor Philip Gourevitch, and more."

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 09 January 2006

'sphere stuff

Around and about the 'sphere:

  • Moorish Girl reviews the excellent Ang Lee film Brokeback Mountain (which Mrs Book and I saw yesterday and very much enjoyed - I had a little cry, which is always nice)
  • Ellis on Weldon Kees and, earlier, on Sharon
  • Kate on Anna Kavan
  • The Institute for the Future of the Book have a new mission statement
  • Steve on James Wood on Henry Green

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 09 January 2006

Shakey in 2006

Last year was a bumper year for Shakespeare books. I don't really know why. I asked Mrs BookWorld, who knows lots about this kind of thing, and she didn't seem to think there was a significant anniversary to hang the books on, so I am left to ponder. (Sandra does tell me that her favourite books on Shakespeare are Jonathan Bate’s The Genius of Shakespeare and Helen Vendler’s The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets; I've heard very good things about Frank Kermode's Shakespeare's Language.) I managed to avoid reading just about anything about the bard (aside from Josipovici's wonderful essay in On Trust: Art and the Temptations of Suspicion) last year, so I thought I best remedy this in 2006. In 2005, OUP reissued their Shakespeare: The Complete Works (also see The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare) and Michael Wood his In Search of Shakespeare. New out last year, we also had: Peter Ackroyd's Shakespeare: The Biography; Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; James Shapiro's 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare; and then the more conspiratorial ones - Clare Asquith's Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare and Brenda James and William Rubinstein's The Truth Will Out: Unmasking the Real Shakespeare. Blimey. And these were just the big, populist titles. I best get my head down.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 09 January 2006

Three Scottish Poetry Library titles

The Scottish Poetry Library have kindly sent on three lovely wee books of poetry (co-published with Carcanet): Intimate Expanses: XXV Scottish Poems 1978-2002 (which contains poems by, amongst others, Iain Bamforth, John Burnside, Carol Ann Duffy, Douglas Dunn, Kathleen Jamie, Tom Leonard, Liz Lochhead, Edwin Morgan, Don Paterson and Iain Crichton Smith); How to Address the Fog: XXV Finnish Poems 1978-2002 (22 of the poems included were written in Finnish, three in Finland-Swedish. the poets are: Gosta Agren, Kari Aronpuro, Bo Carpelan, Tua Forsstrom, Paavo Haavikko, Anne Hanninen, Hannu Helin, Markku Into, Eeva Kilpi, Eila Kivikk'aho, Juhani Koskinen, Jarkko Laine, Rakel Liehu, Arto Melleri, Lassi Nummi, Lauri Otonkoski, Markku Paasonen, Mirkka Rekola, Pentti Saarikoski, Helena Sinervo, Eira Stenberg, Anni Sumari, Arja Tiainen, Sirkka Turkka); and At the End of the Broken Bridge: 25 Hungarian Poems 1978-2002 (includes work by Gyula Illyes, Otto Orban, Gyorgy Petri and Sandor Weores).


The SPL website is certainly worth taking a good look around. Particularly interesting is the information on the European Poetry Information Centre:


EPIC is the Scottish Poetry Library's project to expand the Library's European holdings and information resources, putting Scottish poetry into a European context, and to foster connections between Scottish and European poets.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 06 January 2006

Josipovici on Proust

Reading Gabriel Josipovici's The Lessons of Modernism and his The World and the Book, last night, I was reminded, yet again, what a matchless critic and writer he is. The first essay in The World and the Book is Proust: A Voice in Search of Itself. It's a superb paper which reminds us how "philosophical" and disruptive Proust's mammoth masterpiece actually is. And, crucially, how anti-novelistic. Lots of readers, who actually bother to read Proust, seem thrilled by its Edwardian grandeur and its scale and they miss its manifold subversions. Proust understands his own obsessions; he observes them and works through them within the body of the work. He recognises that the world within the pages of his book is not the world - despite the length of the work and some realist descriptions, the thrust of the work is anti-realist (there is nothing "natural" about Realism it is an invented, historically situated style): Proust is not attempting verisimilitude, he realises that truth is not mimesis.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 06 January 2006

McPherson and Robert Kelly

I mentioned McPherson and Company books back in November. Since then, a few of McPherson's lovely books have been sent on to me: Giorgio Manganelli's Centuria: One Hundred Ouroboric Novels looks superb (Tim Feeney, writing in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, called it, "metadestructive, immolating itself (and, by extension, its traditions), but leaving in its place something new and pure and often spellbinding") as does Juan Tovar's Creature of a Day ("[a]t the same time cryptic and pristine, even monastic in its mystical unraveling of the tragic sense of life, the novel presents itself as a labyrinth or a rose, as a beautifully constructed symmetry built upon twists and turns and shade"). But it is Robert Kelly (contributor to the RSB Books of the Year symposium and soon-to-be RSB interviewee) and his work which interests me the most, his Queen of Terrors (which breaks "loose from the constraints of linear thought, employing cubist technique in the construction of experience") is next to the bed and will probably get read this weekend.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Friday 06 January 2006

Iraqi Jews

I've just recieved Abbas Shiblak's Iraqi Jews: A History which looks fascinating. I think it was the excellent and ever-provocative Lenin's Tomb which first brought this to my attention:


If anyone is interested in the actual history of the Jewish exodus to Israel, you could do worse than read, for instance, Abbas Shiblak's Iraqi Jews: A History of Mass Exodus, 2005, which documents the complicity between the Jewish Agency in Israel and the pro-British Hashemite monarchy in forcing Jews to flee Iraq. Just like the Mizrahi Jews of the Maghreb, the Sephardic Jews in Arab countries were treated by the Zionists as a pool of useful labour, not to mention as footsoldiers for expansionist war.

The publisher blurb runs:


The Jews of Iraq constituted one of the oldest and most deeply rooted Jewish communities in the world. But in the early 1950s most of them left for Israel, under circumstances that remain the subject of heated controversy.

Iraqi Jews: A History examines the role of this community, highlighting the critical years of the late 1940s - after the establishment of the state of Israel - when deep rifts began to appear Iraqi society. The sad sequence of events that finally led to the mass exodus of Jews in the 1950s was marked by dishonesty on all sides.

An honest, impartial and well-documented account of a formerly well-integrated and vibrant community, Iraqi Jews: A History is a landmark in the political and social history of the Middle East.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 05 January 2006

Richard Price

Carcanet poet Richard Price will be reading alongside John Barnie and Nicholas Murray from 6.30-8.30pm next Wednesday at the Swedenborg Hall, 20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1 (nearest tube: Holborn or Tottenham Court Road). This event celebrates the relaunch of the Welsh poetry pamphlet imprint Rack Press, with the publication of three new pamphlets: The Green Buoy by John Barnie, Lute Variations by the sixteenth century French poet Louise Labé, with a range of English “improvisations” of two of her sonnets by Richard Price, and a longer collection, The Narrators, by Nicholas Murray.


Richard Price's first full collection, Lucky Day, was shortlisted for both the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Whitbread Prize for Poetry. The youngest of the Informationist group of poets, Scottish-born Price founded the magazines associated with them, Gairfish and Southfields. He is also the co-founder of Vennel Press, the imprint which brought many of the earlier Informationist collections to a wider audience.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 05 January 2006

Harold Pinter’s artistic achievement

Paul Bond, in his essay Harold Pinter’s artistic achievement (via Dialogic) says:


What is clear both from the Nobel citation and from Hari’s attack is the extent to which Pinter’s political thinking and his art are interlinked. Although he has written constantly throughout his career, he has never forced his work. It is surprising how few of his 29 plays are full-length pieces. He once said that “you write because there’s something you want to write, have to write.” From this vision of the necessity of artistic expression flows his confidence that you can “take a chance on the audience.” This is an increasingly rare trait and demonstrates a remarkable artistic independence in the present period. That he has been able to maintain this critical independence throughout a 50-year career marks him as quite extraordinary.

Bond does us all a favour here crushing the arguments of Johann Hari of the Independent newspaper who wrote an idiotic piece entitled Pinter does not deserve the Nobel Prize. Unless there was a new prize for "rage-induced incoherence," wrote Hari, Pinter’s "ravings" should not be broadcast. These ravings are some of the most powerful words I've ever read or heard.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 05 January 2006

Marxism and Children's Literature

Michael Rosen has just nudged me to remind you all about the conference on Marxism and Children's Literature at the University of Hertfordshire that he is helping to host on March 24th 23rd. Remiss of me not to mention it before.


Subversion? Improvement? Conformity? - Children’s Literature – some Marxist Perspectives.

A one-day conference at the University of Hertfordshire, March 23rd 2006. Speakers include Michael Rosen and Professor Terry Eagleton.

From its beginning as a form for the purpose of religious instruction for children in the early nineteenth century, to its status as a major vehicle for philosophical debate in the early twenty-first, children’s literature has been made use of by adults, writing for a wide range of purposes. This conference offers an opportunity to consider the development of the form, its uses and its outcomes, and to engage in debate with foremost thinkers in this field.

If you would like to contribute a paper for inclusion at the conference and for consideration in the new University of Hertfordshire Annual of Children’s Literature, please send an abstract of no more that 250 words to Dr Jenny Plastow (to be received by Friday January 20th 2006).

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 05 January 2006

The Library of Wales – Writing for the World

The literary saloon brings to my attention The Library of Wales – Writing for the World ("the best of Welsh writing in English"). According to icWales:


The starting lineup of five 20th century titles was selected from 50 respected Welsh fictional works that are no longer in print. The first two titles - So Long, Hector Bebb by Ron Berry and Border Country by Raymond Williams - were unveiled at the Hay Festival last May. Three more titles were announced yesterday - Country Dance by Margiad Evans, The Dark Philosophers by Gwyn Thomas and a compendium of socialist novels [Cwmardy & We Live] by Lewis Jones. The series will be officially launched at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay on January 17. Five further titles will be added in September 2006.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 04 January 2006

Mozart

Not only is this year full of Beckett fun, but 250 years after the birth of Austria's favourite son, 2006 is Mozart Year.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 04 January 2006

Three things!

Three pieces on RSB that I would like to draw to your attention ...


That Merciful Surplus of Strength is a reproduction of the opening of chapter one Blanchot's Vigilance by Lars Iyer:


Compared to writing, everything for Kafka disappoints. He falls short of his vocation and this is why, in what he writes to his friends and lovers and in his diary, it seems he is always in lieu of his own existence. But one should not be too quick to understand the privation to which he seems bound by his desire to write, nor indeed to interpret his Diary or even his literary writings as being marked by despair. His life is lived in the shadow of writing; he remains in writing’s space, in literature’s remove even when he does not write. This is already a great deal.

My interview with Simon Critchley:


[Wallace] Stevens is the poet who best expressed for me the situation of the relation of philosophy and poetry, but I am adamant that he should not be read for his philosophy. On the contrary, his poetry has different phases and moments, often very linguistically sensuous, musical and far from abstruse philosophical concerns, particularly the early work. But there is no doubt that much of his poetry, in particular the long, late poems like An Ordinary Evening at New Haven and Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction and the last poems from The Rock give powerful voice to the nature of the relation between words and world, thought and things. This relation is the province of epistemology, in many ways the central area of philosophy: how can a subject know an objective world? Stevens shows the shortcomings of this question and how we can, in a word, overcome epistemology. Thus, Steven’s poetry is a powerful challenge to the way in which philosophy and philosophers see the world, particularly in the Anglo-American tradition.

And Michael Schmidt's Editorial from PN Review no.167:


It is hard for a specifically English ear not to mishear, for example, the prosody of Wallace Stevens. We tend to find in him a relatively regular iambulator. But his own recorded readings transform an English reader’s sense (whatever that English reader’s accent might be) of the prosody. The prosody Stevens’ voice reveals can be distinctive, and hearing it changes the charm of his verse. The metrical poison so many poets imbibe with their Stevens is not his poison, but one drawn out of their own dialect, or their own conditioned expectation, due to the deceptively familiar surface of his poems.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 03 January 2006

Guardians of Power

Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media by David Edwards and David Cromwell (of Medialens) is just out from Pluto Press:


Can a corporate media system be expected to tell the truth about a world dominated by corporations?

Can newspapers, including the 'liberal' Guardian and the Independent, tell the truth about catastrophic climate change - about its roots in mass consumerism and corporate obstructionism - when they are themselves profit-oriented businesses dependent on advertisers for 75% of their revenues?

Can the BBC tell the truth about UK government crimes in Iraq when its senior managers are appointed by the government? Has anything fundamentally changed since BBC founder Lord Reith wrote of the establishment: "They know they can trust us not to be really impartial"?

Why did the British and American mass media fail to challenge even the most obvious government lies on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the invasion in March 2003? Why did the media ignore the claims of UN weapons inspectors that Iraq had been 90-95% "fundamentally disarmed" as early as 1998?

I hope to be interviewing the authors here on RSB later in the month.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 03 January 2006

Metamute

Some excellent articles over on Metamute: Steve "Storming Heaven" Wright's Reality check: Are We Living In An Immaterial World?; Peter Linebaugh's Charters of Liberty in Black Face and White Face: Race, Slavery and the Commons and Stewart Home's Rated X by an All-White Jury. (Linebaugh, as you may recall, is the author of The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic which he co-wrote with RSB interviewee Marcus Rediker.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 03 January 2006

Beckett at Reading

More Beckett centenary stuff: between March and June, the Beckett International Foundation in Reading will host a series of events to celebrate Beckett’s birth, including an exhibition (Samuel Beckett - The Irish European) in the Museum of Reading from 25th March to 25th June 2006: "[t]he first such exhibition in 35 years, it will tell the story of Beckett’s life and work, from his birth in Dublin on 13 April 1906, through his war-time experiences in France, to his fame following Waiting for Godot.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 03 January 2006

Lost Byron poem discovered

According to the Times, a librarian (god bless 'em all!) has discovered a lost poem by Byron, in a 19th-century book within the archives of University College London:


It is the only known manuscript of the untitled poem that appeared in print four years later, in 1816. It was assumed that the original had been lost, but a librarian stumbled across it during a routine cataloguing.

Dated April 19, 1812, the poet signed his name in Greek characters. The inscription is within an 1810 edition of The Pleasures of Memory by Samuel Rogers, a patron of the arts and a minor poet. It was a gesture of friendship from Byron, who later showed his disdain for the man.

Mislaid lines

Absent or present still to thee
My friend, what magic spells belong!
As all can tell, who share, like me,
In turn thy converse, and thy song.
But when the dreaded hour shall come
By Friendship ever deemed too nigh,
And “Memory” oer her Druid’s tomb
Shall weep that aught of thee can die,
How fondly will She then repay
Thy homage offered at her shrine
And blend, while Ages roll away
Her name immortally with thine

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 02 January 2006

Books of the Week

The eagle-eyed amongst you (or, perhaps, just those who read the site directly rather than via a newsfeeder) will have noticed that down the left-hand side of the RSB blog page we have a new feature: Book(s) of the Week. These books are, normally, those that have arrived fairly recently and constitute what I consider to be the pick of the week's post. Last week, I was thrilled to receive Interrogation Machine: Laibach and NSK by Alexei Monroe and Stanley Cavell's Philosophy the Day After Tomorrow. This week, whilst I settle into the new year and carry on with reading as much of Josipovici's criticism as I can get my hands on, I'll be dipping into Kafka's Blue Octavo Notebooks (in a lovely edition from Exact Change) and Proust's English by Daniel Karlin.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 02 January 2006

Beckett centenary festival

The Beckett centenary festival 2006 starts at the Barbican, in London, from March 21st to May 6th: "for six weeks, the entire Barbican Centre hosts Beckett events in each of its venues encompassing drama, prose, poetry, film, visual arts and music." And for more on other Beckett centenary events see samuel-beckett.net

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Sunday 01 January 2006

Happy New Year

I'm hoping that 2006 continues to see RSB doing so well - and I wish the very best to all the readers of the site, RSB contributors, and my friends over at BritLitBlogs. I've not get any proper resolutions, but 2006 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of Samuel Beckett’s birth, so lots of Beckett to be read and lots of Beckett stuff to write! (Ireland Online has details of Irish celebrations.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Submit News to RSB

Please let us know about any literary-related news -- or submit press releases to RSB -- using this form.

-- 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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