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

Blog entries for 'February 2006'

Tuesday 28 February 2006

Stout and Schroeder

This week's Books of the Week are Janis P Stout's Coming Out of War (University of Alabama Press) and Severin Schroeder Wittgenstein (Polity). Stout probes the work of Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, and Randall Jarrell and challenges the belief that war poetry was written only by men by examining the writings of Rose Macaulay, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Schroeder's book is a clear account of Wittgenstein's philosophy, framed against his biography.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 28 February 2006

Deleuze’s Stoicism

Something of a local institution, the Manchester-based Human Sciences Seminar has been running for about 25 years. All meetings begin at 5pm, on Thursdays, in the Geoffrey Manton Building, Room 3.35, in Manchester city centre. Last week Alison Stone, from Lancaster University, gave an excellent and well-attended talk entitled Are There Two Sexes? I'll be interviewing Alison later in the year about her forthcoming book Luce Irigaray and the Philosophy of Sexual Difference (CUP).


This coming Thursday, 2nd John Sellars, from Oxford University, will be giving a talk entitled Deleuze’s Stoicism. Should be good. Sellars' book-length study of Stoicism is out from Acumen in April.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 28 February 2006

Split-Lit

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


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

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 28 February 2006

Gennady Aygi RIP

Chuvash poet Gennady Aygi (1934-2006) has died, last Thursday, of cancer. One of the outstanding Russian poets of the 20th century, his most important works remained virtually unpublished in the Soviet Union until the 1980s, by which time he had been published and translated in more than 20 countries and several times nominated for a Nobel prize. See the Guardian obituary and more background from Nomadics.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 27 February 2006

The Railway

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


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

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


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

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 27 February 2006

March festivals

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


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


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


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


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


Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 24 February 2006

Get London Reading

The Get London Reading ("[e]ncouraging Londoners to make more time for reading") project came to my attention the other day when a young man shoved a copy of The Rough Guide to London by the Book into my hand as I was running to catch a train back to sunny Stockport after a day in a very cold London. The guide is "[p]acked with obscure and intriguing information (How did Graham Greene survive the bombing of his Clapham house in 1941? Which nineteenth-century poet was in the habit of sliding naked down the banisters?), it chronicles the waves of novelists, poets and playwrights who have lived in London over the centuries, written about it, and developed its identity as a result." You can download (pdf!) a copy if you fancy a gander.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 24 February 2006

Stop the Clock

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

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 24 February 2006

News from Tom and Simone

Tom Gauld and Simone Lia's exhibition of books, drawings, paintings and prints continues to run at Analogue Books up in Edinburgh. You can also see some of the work in the Cabanon Press gallery. Also worth noting is that Tom's new screenprint The Hairy Monster, a guide is just out. Tom also has a new story entitled Sample Collection Unit 413/R87.13 in the anthology Kramers Ergot Six which is due out this summer. Simone's Fluffy part four is also out now, completing the cutest story ever told about a rabbit who thought he was real.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 24 February 2006

Daffs

The Lake District National Park Authority have set up a website to monitor when the first daffodils blossom in the Lake District! The Petal Peek bulb watch has been created so that visitors will know exactly when the flowers that inspired William Wordsworth are spotted for the first time in 2006. The main flowering of daffodils is expected in late March.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 23 February 2006

Jewish Book Week

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

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 23 February 2006

Melville musings

Widely linked to this, but worth another shout I think: Robert Birnbaum interviews Andrew Delbanco, author of the very fine Melville: His World and Work.


Moby Dick astonished, delighted and thrilled me when I read it a few years back, but if you haven't got the time or inclination (I mean, really, you should have!) do find time to read Melville's astonishing Bartleby the Scrivener (our friends at Melville House publish a lovely edition).


Jodi, over at her wonderful I Cite blog has been talking about Bartleby recently, with reference to Žižek's new book, The Parallax View:


At the end of The Parallax View, Žižek presents Bartleby's "I prefer not to" as the key figure of a new politics, a politics that moves past "the politics of 'resistance' or 'protestation,' which parasitizes upon what it negates, to a politics which opens up a new space outside the hegemonic position and its negation."

You can read all of Jodi's on Žižek at Long Sunday.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 23 February 2006

Farting and thinking of Dante

Beckett once said to a friend, "All I want to do is sit on my ass and fart and think of Dante". "Ass"? Surely Beckett would have said "arse"? Anyway, Beckett centenary a timely reminder of a lifetime of artistic integrity, by Rachel Campbell-Johnston, in today's Times (via the literary saloon) reminds me, again, of the upcoming Beckett centenary events and that James Knowlson's Beckett Remembering: Remembering Beckett: Uncollected Interviews with Samuel Beckett and Memories of Those Who Knew Him (Bloomsbury) is out in the UK March 6th (Arcade's version has been out in the US since January).


Thinking of Dante, fans of Italy's finest son should certainly remember The William and Katherine Devers Series in Dante Studies (issuing out of the University of Notre Dame Press). Part of that excellent series is John A Scott's remarkable Understanding Dante, which was Book of the Week here on RSB a month ago.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 23 February 2006

Book sniffing

According to The Times:


The decay of Britain’s most treasured books will be halted with the help of a device developed to help police to detect drugs and bombs. The British Library is buying an “electronic nose”, with the help of a £200,000 grant from an American foundation, to sniff out books in urgent need of conservation. An electronic sensor can determine whether paper is breaking down at a molecular level from the musty smell, caused by acids, which is the first sign of decay.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 22 February 2006

Paul Avrich RIP

It has come to my attention that Paul Avrich (1931-2006), the noted historian of anarchism, died on the 17th February (via Normblog). Avrich was born in New York City on August 4, 1931. He was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize several times and in 1984 he won the Philip Taft Labor History Award. The Library of Congress houses the Paul Avrich Collection, a collection of over twenty thousand manuscripts and publications on American and European anarchism that Avrich donated to the library. Amongst his works are Kronstadt, 1921, The Russian Anarchists and Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background. More from anarkismo.net and Interactivist Info Exchange.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 22 February 2006

Ingeborg Bachmann

Green Integer are about to release Last Living Words: The Ingeborg Bachmann Reader, translated from the German by Lilian M. Friedberg with an introduction by Dagmar C. G. Lorenz (the book should be available, in the UK, in July). Bachmann was a close friend of Thomas Bernhard's and appears as a character in Extinction (so Steve tells me). Green Integer have previously published her early work Letters to Felician.


This Ingeborg Bachmann Reader consists of works of poetry and fiction published during the life of the great Austrian writer. Brilliantly translated by Lilian M. Friedberg ... Bachmann is no longer the frail and tortured writer presented in so many previous translations, but is a writer who stands as a strong woman and major literary figure. Born in Klagenfurt, Austria on June 25, 1926, Ingeborg Bachmann studied law and philosophy at the universities of Insbruck, Graz, and Vienna ... Over the next many years, she produced numerous collections of poetry, fiction, and radio plays, including Anrufung des Großen Bären (Invocation of the Great Bear), the collections of stories Das dreißigse Jahr (The Thirtieth Year) and Simultan, and the novel Malina.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 22 February 2006

Mountain 7

Very handsome, newish blog that is certainly worth your attention: Mountain 7 (via The Midnight Bell). Always good to see the fabulous Stars of the Lid namechecked.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 20 February 2006

Lowell and Hill. And Home.

My two Books of the Week this week are Michael Hofmann's small selection of Robert Lowell poems (Faber and Faber) and Jeffrey Wainwright's helpful and very readable essays on poet Geoffrey Hill, Acceptable Words (Manchester University Press). I hope to be speaking with Professor Wainwright about his book, here on RSB, very soon.


This week's interview is with provocative writer and artist Stewart Home. Responding to a question of mine regarding Alexander Trocchi, Stewart said:


Although a tad literary in terms of sentence construction, I think both Young Adam and Cain’s Book are extremely good pieces of prose. I also like much of Trocchi’s occasional writing such as Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds. He was a very good writer, but definitely flawed as an individual. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to describe Trocchi as a tosser when it comes to thinking through the drug scene around him, and the way he liked to get other people, and particularly beautiful young women, hooked on smack. That said, while my mother was involved in Trocchi’s drug scene for years, he wasn’t responsible for her getting into skag. Regardless of what you think of him as a man (and I don’t think much), you can’t knock his skill as a writer. Your phrase flawed hero pretty much sums him up.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 20 February 2006

Queneau in patois

Raymond Queneau's story from Exercises de style translated into Jamaican patois by Ria Bacon (via Ramage):


Now hear dis, mek Ah tell oonu, wa day de bus dem full up wid so much people dem. An ah see dere one dem jump up good fuh nutten boasie maaga jancro wid him winjy neck fit fe choke, ah tell yah bwai! ‘im a fix a ribbon an ‘is ‘at fenky-fenky come een like ‘im Selassie ‘isself, yaah! Smady cut yai an’ ‘im vex an’ bawl some faasty nying’i-nying’i. It oht fi mek one kass-kass, ah’m tellin’ yah. Cho! ‘im nah tallowah doh an’ ‘im jus’ kiss ‘im teet’ an’ a go cotch far dereso quick quick.

Kiss mi nek, nah tree hower layta me see ‘im gen laba-laba wid ‘im breddah oo seh ‘im muss put ‘im button likkle more higher depan ‘im coat so, seen?

Jack Mandora

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Sunday 19 February 2006

Circle jerk

This is about exactly right (via Dialogic):


So you have your typical right-winger newspaper in Denmark, who - surprise, surprise - tend to score political points off provoking the 'opposing team'... so they publish cartoons... basically suggest that 'the other guys' are completely unreasonable and hate us and are probably evil. Unfortunately for them, other right-wingers, this time in Iran, pick up on that, see a chance to score political points by suggesting that 'the other guys' are completely unreasonable, and hate us, and are probably evil. All they wanted were some cheap political points, instead they got an international incident, which leads right-wingers, this time all over the world, to pick up on the chance to show how 'the other guys' are completely unreasonable and are probably evil and totally hate our guts. It's a transcontinental right-winger circle jerk, it's the Sam Huntington version of the special olympics. Fuck those guys.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 17 February 2006

More on Barbara Guest

Yesterday (thanks Pierre), Charles Bernstein's wrote:


Barbara Guest died last night in Berkeley. I got the news this afternoon from her daughter Hadley. For now, I want to recast some remarks I made on the occasion of Guest receiving the Frost Medal of the Poetry Society of America in 1999:

I want to thank Barbara Guest for a lifetime of poetry for which we, as readers, have been unprepared - to thank her for continually testing the limits of form and stretching the bounds of beauty, for expanding the imagination and revisioning - both revisiting and recasting - the aesthetic. For we are still unprepared for Guest: she has never quite fit our pre-made categories, our expectations, our explanations. She has written her work as the world inscribes itself, processurally, without undue obligation to expectation, and with a constant, even serene, enfolding in which we find ourselves folded.

More information on Barbara Guest at: Electronic Poetry Center, Jacket Magazine and Penn sound.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 17 February 2006

Barbara Guest RIP

Poet Barbara Guest (1920-2006) has died (on Wednesday, I believe). I don't have any more details than that (but there are more links over at wood s lot). When I do, I'll update this post - what we do have is a nice appreciation of Guest by Ron Silliman. (Guest's most recent book was the lovely Red Gaze [Wesleyan University Press].)


Pierre reproduces the verse, below, from Biography:


A single seeming blinded object
    a sentence    a voice
          the throat
then the rushing. Sound rushing
dramatic
away from its disability
there's a note selective.

Passage without a pen
through the hurricane
  whorl    shell    Shade

Fictions dressed like water.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 17 February 2006

Hill reading

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

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 16 February 2006

Wood on Alter

James Wood reviews Robert Alter's beautifully presented and "remarkable new translation of the Pentateuch," The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary, in this week's London Review of Books:


Robert Alter eschews ‘face’ to describe the surface of the world at the start of Genesis, and I miss the cosmic implications, but his first two verses amply compensate with their own originality: ‘When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath hovering over the waters, God said: “Let there be light.” And there was light.’ The King James Version has ‘without form and void’ for Alter’s Anglo-Saxonish ‘welter and waste’, but Alter, as throughout this massive work, provides a diligent and alert footnote:

The Hebrew tohu wabohu occurs only here and in two later biblical texts that are clearly alluding to this one. The second word of the pair looks like a nonce term coined to rhyme with the first and to reinforce it, an effect I have tried to approximate in English by alliteration. Tohu by itself means ‘emptiness’ or ‘futility’, and in some contexts is associated with the trackless vacancy of the desert.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 16 February 2006

Hofmann on Lowell

Out in March, in Faber's Poet to Poet series, is Michael Hofmann's choice of Robert Lowell (1917-1977) poems. Lowell's Life Studies, published in 1959, is seen as a decisive turning point in American poetry, a turn to the confessional and autobiographical which, I'd argue, has not, recently, served poetry that well (how many sub-Plath emotings do we need?) As Hofmann says in his excellent introduction, Lowell was controversial throughout his writing life - and remains so. Faber published Lowell's massive Collected Poems in 2003. (More on Lowell at Modern Amercican Poetry site. Some useful links at learner.org too.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 16 February 2006

Geoffrey Hill in Manchester

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


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


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

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 15 February 2006

The Road to Guantánamo

A new (British) film, by director Michael Winterbottom, about the horrors of Guantánamo Bay has, it seems, excited audiences at the Berlin International Film Festival and is being tipped to win the festival's prestigious Golden Bear award. The film is funded by Channel Four and will air on British TV on March 9th (the day after, the film will be released online, on DVD and in cinemas). The Road to Guantánamo is the story of the three British Muslims (Rhuhel Ahmed, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul, the so-called Tipton Three) who were held at the US military base for two years without charge or trial.


This is all very timely as it was only yesterday that the Guardian reported that a leaked UN draft report said that treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay constitutes torture in some cases and violates international law.


Usefully, just recently out in paperback from The New Press is Torture: A Human Rights Perspective edited by Kenneth Roth and with an introduction by Geoffrey Robertson. Due soon is David Rose's Guantánamo: The War on Human Rights.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 14 February 2006

Melville's Marginalia

From Melville's Marginalia Online:


The acclaimed writer of Moby-Dick, Billy Budd, Sailor and other revered works of American literature was also, as might be expected, a great reader of books. Yet few even among American literary scholars are familiar with the scope and variety of Herman Melville's personal library, and the profound influence of his reading on the growth of his intellect and on the composition of his own fiction and poetry. From youth onward Melville educated himself through rigorous, systematic reading, a habit of life and mind he assumed after the bankruptcy and death of his father required him to withdraw from formal schooling. By the time of his death in 1891, Melville’s library numbered some 1,000 volumes before being dispersed among friends, family members, and second-hand book sellers in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 14 February 2006

Mitchell on Heidegger ... and John Gray

The enowning blog brings my attention to a blogcasted conversation with Andrew Mitchell about the philosophy of Heidegger. (More on Stanford podcasts.) Mitchell is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford University with research interests in contemporary continental philosophy, philosophy and literature, and he is in conversation (the programme is called Entitled Opinions and it has a great archive, with programmes on Robert Musil, Michel Tournier, Virgil, Proust, Camus and more) with Robert Harrison (author of the superb The Dominion of the Dead).


enowning itself has recently had some interesting things to say about the provocative John Gray. For me, Gray's anti-humanism is leaden and unsophisticated and you can sense that the bloke was once scarily right-wing, but he seems to be what passes muster as a public intellectual these days so I'm glad to see enowning bothering to read him carefully:


Gray is here following a common pattern: Heidegger is considered an important philosopher by those who have read him; I don't understand him; Heidegger was a Nazi; Nazism is universally condemned; I'll simply dismiss Heidegger's way of thinking by ascribing his politics to it. It is, of course, Heidegger's own fault that his critics can avail themselves of this excuse, but it doesn't say much for the critics either.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 13 February 2006

Now with tags!

We (thanks Lee) have just added tags ("book and publishing news", "authors", "blogosphere", "events", "personal", "technical", "music" and "manchester" so far) to RSB to help you navigate the RSB blog content a bit better. You'll find the wee 'tag' link underneath the "posted by Mark Thwaite" bit on each blog entry. No doubt, you'll have seen the like before. If not, check out e.g. Technorati.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 13 February 2006

More from Mitchelmore

Regular readers of RSB will know how highly I rate the writing of fellow blogger Stephen Mitchelmore. Steve, who writes both at Splinters and at his own, superb blog This Space (and, I'm always thrilled to note, has contributed a number of reviews to RSB), has this week had his third article in the TLS in about as many months. This time Steve critiques Keith Ridgway's Animals in a fine piece of writing that is about as taut and as philosophical as it gets.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 13 February 2006

James Williams

This weeks' Books of the Week are Christine Brooke-Rose's last and latest novel Life, End of (Carcanet Press) and James Williams' Understanding Poststructuralism (Acumen). James, you'll also note, is this week's RSB interviewee. I'll be publishing an extract from his excellent Understanding Poststructuralism later in the week.


As I mention in my interview with James, Understanding Poststructuralism is bound to be sold as an introductory text for students, but it is actually an awful lot better than many such books are. James is obviously in full command of his material and his very clearly written book mounts a strong defence of the importance of poststructuralism and some of its key thinkers. I'd highly recommend it.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Sunday 12 February 2006

Green Integer Review

Widely linked to, but worth citing again just in case you've not seen it: the first issue of Green Integer Review is now online.

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Sunday 12 February 2006

A few days silence

Sorry! I've been overwhelmed these past few days with all sorts of nonsense. Should be back to regular blogging by the middle of next week.

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Tuesday 07 February 2006

Night Haunts

I've just discovered Night Haunts, an ongoing, online, nocturnal journal, by Sukhdev Sandhu (who I'll be interviewing here on RSB very soon) and Artangel. In Whatever happened to the London night, Sukhdev ponders:


There was a time, well over a century ago now, when it was considered one of the finest Victorian inventions. Before then, the onset of darkness had spelled an end to the day. It represented its outer limits, its polar extremes. The night was seen as lawless, foreign territory teeming with rogues and banditos who took advantage of what Shakespeare called its 'vast, sin-concealing chaos' to revel in an orgy of depravity and pestilence. It snuffed out the civility and social etiquettes of daytime and brought back trace memories of an older London dense with eldritch forestry.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 07 February 2006

Recent RSB highlights

Just a quick review of some of the recent goodies here on ReadySteadyBook:


Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 07 February 2006

Geuss

Raymond Geuss's Outside Ethics (PUP) has been hanging around my TBR-pile for a few months now. Monday Musing: Liberalism's Loss of the Skeptical Spirit, a nice piece on 3 Quarks Daily yesterday, has pushed it up to right near the top:


I recently completed Raymond Geuss’ Outside Ethics, a collection of essays from various talks on contemporary Western political and moral philosophy. I’ve been a fan of Geuss’ work ever since reading his very thin but insightful book The Idea of a Critical Theory, which Ram once described as lacking an unnecessary word, and after taking his course on continental political thought in my first year of graduate school. For the most part, Geuss' concerns have been on continental philosophy and continental thinkers, to which he brings an (for lack of a better phrase) Anglo-American analytic clarity.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 06 February 2006

New Scarecrow

The new Scarecrow (number forty, would you believe?) has just hit the wires, with a focus on Situationist Raoul Vaneigem (author of the The Revolution of Everyday Life) and an interview with writer Stewart Home.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 06 February 2006

New Brooke-Rose books

Christine Brooke-Rose was born in Geneva and educated at Somerville College, Oxford and University College, London. She taught at the University of Paris, Vincennes, from 1968 to 1988 and now lives in the south of France. Carcanet have just released her Life, End Of:


She is eighty. Facing death, she considers her experiments with narrative, and with the narrative of her life. What is the purpose of the narrative she is creating here, and what the purpose of the life that lives it in the writing? At the centre of Life, End Of, in a mock-technical lecture from the Character to the Author, she comes to accept that her experiments in narrative are like life: the narrative creates itself ... Christine Brooke-Rose’s last novel is a darkly comic exploration of the meanings and non-meanings to which, in the end, life and art lead us.

Carcanet have also reissued The Brooke-Rose Omnibus:


The Brooke-Rose Omnibus brings together four unexpected novels: Out, a science-fiction vision of a world surviving catastrophe; Such, in which a three-minute heart massage is developed into a poetic and funny narrative; Between, a glittering experience of the multiplicity of language; and Thru, a novel in which text and typography assume a life of their own. Linking them all is wit, inventiveness and the sharply focused intellegence of Christine Brooke-Rose, a great European humanist writer.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Sunday 05 February 2006

Coming Out of War

The University of Alabama Press ("Life is short. Read good books.") have just published Coming Out of War: Poetry, Grieving, and the Culture of the World Wars by Janis P Stout. Back-cover puff (coming from Philip Beidler, author of Late Thoughts on an Old War: The Legacy of Vietnam) reckons:


It is hard for me, as a reader, to contain my praise. This study of the poetries of the great wars of the 20th century in their relation to what Stout calls the culture of mourning is comprehensive and masterful. It is immensely learned, yet readable. Most important, the book is intensely wise and humane, distilled from a career of reading and writing and meditating on the meanings of art forms and expressions.

And the publisher's own description certainly make it sound worth a read:


While probing the work of such well known war poets as Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, and Randall Jarrell, Stout also highlights the impact of the wars on lesser studied, but equally compelling, sources such as the music of Charles Ives and Cole Porter, Aaron Copland and Irving Berlin. She challenges the commonplace belief that war poetry came only from the battlefield and was written only by men by examining the wartime writings of women poets such as Rose Macaulay, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, and Gwendolyn Brooks. She also challenges the assumption that World War II did not produce poetry of distinction by studying the work of John Ciardi, Karl Shapiro, Louis Simpson, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens. While emphasizing aesthetic continuity between the wars, Stout stresses that the poetry that emerged from each displays a greater variety than is usually recognized.

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Saturday 04 February 2006

Camus at Combat

Camus at Combat: Writing 1944-1947 (Princeton University Press), edited and annotated by Jacqueline Lévi-Valensi, translated by Arthur Goldhammer, and with an introduction by David Carroll, has just landed.


Paris is firing all its ammunition into the August night. Against a vast backdrop of water and stone, on both sides of a river awash with history, freedom's barricades are once again being erected. Once again justice must be redeemed with men's blood.

"Albert Camus (1913-1960) wrote these words in August 1944, as Paris was being liberated from German occupation. Although best known for his novels including The Stranger and The Plague, it was his vivid descriptions of the horrors of the occupation and his passionate defense of freedom that in fact launched his public fame." Usefully, PUP have a copy of the first chapter online:


Articles that appeared in clandestine issues of Combat can at best be classified as "probably" by Camus, and it is not out of the question that he wrote others. For obvious reasons, he kept no record of what he wrote, and no firm conclusions can be drawn from either the themes or the style of what was published, since everything that appeared in the paper constituted an act of resistance and reflected goals shared by everyone who wrote for it.

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Saturday 04 February 2006

Manchester Bloggers

Manchester Bloggers is an "aggregation of posts from Manchester Bloggers." Manchester, North of England, UK this is. RSB has just joined up.

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Saturday 04 February 2006

Too much fact in Banville's The Sea

Nice piece in The Times today (by Kenneth J Harvey, author of The Town That Forgot How to Breathe) satirising the ridiculous James Frey debacle:


After reading John Banville's Man Booker prize-winning The Sea, a slim volume trumpeted as fiction, I was startled to discover, upon perusing my hefty atlas, that this supposedly fantastical place named Ireland was an actual island ...

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Friday 03 February 2006

storySouth

storySouth's new winter 2006 issue is out:


Women writers hold a special place in southern literature. From Gone with the Wind to The Color Purple, from To Kill a Mockingbird to the stories and novels of Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, and Carson McCullers, southern women have both defined the genre of southern literature and created its most enduring literary examples ... In this issue ... WA Bilen discusses why so many people misunderstand, and continually mistreat, our most iconoclastic southern writer in her penetrating essay Hiding Harper Lee.

I'm a big fan of Flannery O'Connor. Note to self: write something about Flannery O'Connor soon.

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Friday 03 February 2006

Calling Bristol

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

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Thursday 02 February 2006

Attila Jozsef

You'll find a nice, detailed post (with lots of good links) on the Hungarian poet Attila Jozsef (1905-1937) over on Chandrahas Choudhury excellent The Middle Stage blog. Jozsef, he tells us, "lived a short, sharp, incandescent life, wracked by poverty, loneliness, suffering and uncertainty, which he somehow managed to channel into verse of great beauty and poignancy."


In an autobiographical essay written in 1937, the year in which he took his own life by throwing himself under a freight train, Jozsef recounts all the things that he did to survive from day to day:

"War broke out when I was nine and our lot became progressively worse. I did my share of queuing. There were occasions when I joined a queue at the foodstore at nine o'clock in the evening and just when my turn was coming at half past eight the next morning they announced that all the cooking fat had gone. I helped my mother as best I could. I sold fresh water in the Világ Cinema, I stole firewood and coal from the Ferencváros goods station so that we should have something to burn. I made coloured paper windmills and sold them to children who were better off, I carried baskets and parcels in the Market Hall, and so on."


Quoting Jozsef's What Will Become Of Him, and also his late poem Lullaby, Chandrahas argues that, "[f]ew poets have written about poverty - its gnawing uncertainty, lack of hope, pathetic abjectness, raw despair - so powerfully."

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Thursday 02 February 2006

Foucault and the Iranian revolution

On the University of Chicago Press blog (cleverly entitled The Chicago Blog), comes information about a new book of theirs - Foucault and the Iranian Revolution:


On February 1, 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran after fifteen years of exile [and] was acclaimed the leader of the Iranian Revolution. Later that year revolutionary students would storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran and take the staff hostage, to profound consequence. One observer of the Iranian Revolution was Michel Foucault, who was a special correspondent for Corriere della Sera and le Nouvel Observateur, for whom he wrote a series of articles. In Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism, Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson illuminate Foucault's support of the Islamist movement and show how Foucault's experiences in Iran contributed to a turning point in his thought.

Also, read Foucault's What Are the Iranians Dreaming About?

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Thursday 02 February 2006

Shame

Good to see Ron Silliman, Steve and the literary saloon all mentioning Robert Kelly and Birgit Kempker's Shame: A Collaboration. I hope to be interviewing Robert here on RSB about his work very soon:


Shame is a bi-lingual text in prose and poetry ... When Birgit Kempker — a younger German writer living in Basel — invited Kelly to create a work together, neither knew the other except by reputation. They proceeded, over the course of two years, to communicate by e-mail through sixteen exchanges, and the subject was shame, shame at its most personal and prosaic and intimate, sometimes even fetching, and at its most generic and couched and poetic and hallucinatory ... Shame is a book spoken between two lovers who will never be lovers, a book of the unabashed and prised apart secret intimacy that can be laid bare against all constraint by ghostly lovers — virtual, exemplary, psychic guides to one another...and the rest of us.

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Thursday 02 February 2006

Comments

We've changed the comments procedure here on RSB to make things a little easier for everyone: if you have not posted a comment on RSB before, it will need to be approved by me, but once you have an "approved" comment, you can go ahead and post further comments to your heart's content. We have also introduced a captcha code to prevent spam.

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Thursday 02 February 2006

Ruined

Bud, at Chekhov's Mistress, brings my attention to the fact that "a lot of people are talking about “great first sentences” of novels." Ed started this (linking to 100 Best First Sentences) and Jenny Davidson has also contributed to the meme. For my money, you can't get much better than the opening line of Anita Brookner's first novel A Start in Life (1981) (re-titled The Debut in the States):


Dr. Weiss, at 40, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.

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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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Cousin Nancy

Miss Nancy Ellicott
Strode across the hills and broke them,
Rode across the hills and broke them --
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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
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Primo Levi

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