Blog Roll

Anecdotal Evidence
The Beiderbecke Affair
Biology of the Worst Kind
The Book Depository Editor's Corner
Book World
BOOKSURFER
Buzzwords Blog: 3AM Magazine
Castrovalva
Dialogic
Edward Champion's Return of the Reluctant
The Elegant Variation
Fernham
KR Blog
languagehat.com
LibrarianInBlack
the Literary Saloon
Long Sunday
MadInkBeard - Updates
The Midnight Bell
Mountain*7
Nomadics
The Olive Reader
pas au-delà
The Reading Experience
scarecrow
signandsight.com
splinters: books, authors, literature, travel, politics
Spurious
Tales from the Reading Room
This Space
University of Nebraska Press
Waggish
Weblog - A Don's Life - Times Online
Weblog - Peter Stothard - Times Online
Powered by Bloglines

ReadySteadyBlog

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

Blog entries for 'March 2006'

Friday 31 March 2006

There is nobody like Pessoa

Published on Tuesday, but only in the US for now, is A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe (not that that means you can't buy it very easily from anywhere!) This is the "largest and richest volume of poetry by [Fernando] Pessoa available in English, featuring poems never before translated alongside many originally composed in English." The poems are translated by the unlikely-named Pessoa expert Richard Zenith (translator of the wonderful, eccentric and baggy The Book of Disquiet and who edited and translated The Education of the Stoic: The Only Manuscript of the Baron of Teive). Zenith provides a useful introduction and notes and good information on Pessoa's "heteronyms". "There is nobody like Pessoa" is something WS Merwin once said, by the way. But, you now, I could've said that!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , , ,

Friday 31 March 2006

Friday fare

Stupidly busy today with all sorts of nonsense, but when I had a moment earlier I noted:


  • Ismo, at Splinters, bringing our attention to Alasdair Gray's blog (Ismo himself has a very decent blog over at Oblique Screenwriting Strategies)
  • C L R James - The Black Jacobins
  • Amongst Angels, Or John McGahern Dies (there are lots more McGahern links over at TEV)
  • Chandrahas Choudhury on Yashodhara Dalmia's Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Thursday 30 March 2006

3 Quarks for Koufax

The excellent - and widely praised - 3 Quarks Daily has made in to the top ten finalists in the prestigious Koufax Awards. 3 Quarks Daily say:


If you haven't done so already, we would very much appreciate it if you would consider taking just a few moments to send an email to wampum@nic-naa.net and put the word "Koufax" in the subject line. The body of the email should be: "I vote for 3 Quarks Daily for both Best Group Blog AND Blog Most Deserving of Wider Attention."

3 Quarks Daily hopes "to present interesting items from around the web on a daily basis, in the areas of science, design, literature, current affairs, art, and anything else we deem inherently fascinating." For a "filter blog" I sometimes wish they'd filter just a little more! I only need them to bring to my attention three or four things before I start to wonder if they are helping me fight information overload or merely adding to it. But, for all that, I'm a fan. (Oh, and there was a nice piece by Australian poet Peter Nicholson on The Sydney Opera House a couple of weeks back that I should have mentioned.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Thursday 30 March 2006

Poetry magazine

The US-based Poetry magazine was founded by Harriet Monroe in 1912 when "American poetry remained stuck in the twilight of the nineteenth century and an exhausted Romanticism inherited from England." Poetry is still going strong, not least because of a considerable bequest, worth more than one hundred million dollars, from the pharmaceutical heiress Ruth Lilly to the Poetry Foundation (Poetry's parent body) and is currently edited by Christian Wiman (who a couple of years ago made some controversial— and by that I mean wrong-headed — comments about Wallace Stevens). Why all this? Yesterday, I mentioned that I've set up an exclusive subscription deal for RSB readers to PN Review. Well, you lucky things, a similarly great deal for RSB readers will soon be offered by Poetry magazine. You'll have full details in about a week.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Wednesday 29 March 2006

New links

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed two new links on the navigation at the top of each RSB page: "minisites" and "offers". I've launched a Samuel Beckett and a Maurice Blanchot "minisite" (minisites are just special areas of RSB dedicated to particular writers, their life and work) and they'll be more to come (the next should be for Christine Brooke-Rose). The minisites are still being worked on, so do please forgive any daft mistakes. The only "offer" so far is the PN Review offer I mentioned yesterday, but there are plenty more to come.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Wednesday 29 March 2006

Reading Middlemarch

Ooh look: a Reading Middlemarch blog! I remember reading George Eliot's wonderful work when I was marooned in an hotel in Munich about six years ago. Polished it off in about three days. And loved every minute of reading it. (More on Eliot at Victorian Web and via Professor Mitsuharu Matsuoka's website. Or read "George Eliot" by Virginia Woolf - this article by Virginia Woolf being first published in the Times Literary Supplement on the 20th November 1919.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Wednesday 29 March 2006

And now Cathy Tyson!

Happily, Condoleezza Rice's forthcoming trip to Liverpool seems to be turning into something of a farce. And now, Cathy Tyson has backed out! More at A Logical Voice (via manchizzle) and Condiwatch.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Tuesday 28 March 2006

Finlay and Lem

You will, no doubt, have noted the sad passing of both poet/artist/gardener Ian Hamilton Finlay and "Polish satirical and philosophical science fiction writer" (most famously of Solaris) Stanislaw Lem. There are lots of links and information, on both these writers, at many sites, but wood s lot and Pierre's blog are good places to start learning more.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Tuesday 28 March 2006

Paulhan profile

I've just published a wonderful, short profile of Jean Paulhan by Professor Michael Syrotinski. This accompanies Michael's Introduction to Paulhan's The Flowers of Tarbes which I published here on RSB at the beginning of February. Michael is the foremost Paulhan expert here in the UK, note his Defying Gravity: Jean Paulhan's Interventions in Twentieth-century French Intellectual History, The Power of Rhetoric, the Rhetoric of Power: Jean Paulhan's Fiction, Criticism and Editorial Activity, and Progress in Love on the Slow Side. I'll be interviewing Michael soon, in the meantime these excellent Paulhan texts should keep you busy!


It's difficult to overstate the importance of Jean Paulhan's role in French literature in the first half of the twentieth century, and the influence he wielded. He was closely involved with the leading literary review in France, the Nouvelle Revue Française, from 1920 to his death in 1968, and the director of the review during its illustrious interwar years. His position at the heart of the French literary scene, along with the many other associated editorial activities through which he nurtured and published the cream of a generation of writers, earned him the reputation as the 'grey eminence' of modern French literature.

(For all of Professor Syrotinski's profile of Jean Paulhan.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Tuesday 28 March 2006

PN Review special subscription deal

PN Review is offering an exclusive, special subscription deal to RSB readers: the opportunity to purchase an 18 month subscription for the annual subscription price of £29.50. That's 9 issues for the price of 6 - 50% extra reading! (For more about this subscription deal.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Tuesday 28 March 2006

McGough boycotts Rice

According to the BBC, Poet Roger McGough has "pulled out of a gala concert to welcome Condoleezza Rice to the city, amid protests by anti-war campaigners." Anti-war campaigners, including the Merseyside Stop the War Coalition, are expected to protest outside the event in Liverpool on the 31st March.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Monday 27 March 2006

Parenthesis

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

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , ,

Monday 27 March 2006

On Late Style

I began reading Edward Said's On Late Style (one of my Books of the Week this week, alongside Amorgos by Nikos Gatsos) at the weekend. The book, nicely reviewed by Paul Griffiths in the latest BookForum, was left unfinished when Said died of leukaemia, aged 67, back in September 2003. With the help of his wife Mariam and the literary critics Richard Poirier and Michael Wood (who, as one would expect from such an excellent writer, provides a useful, short introduction) the work has been constructed and looks to be a fitting last book by a key intellectual figure of the last few decades.


The first essay in the book is an engagement with Adorno's work on late Beethoven. Indeed, Adorno haunts this work. Whilst On Late Style is being billed as Said's last book of literary criticism it is every bit as much a book of musicology.


Edward Said looks at a selection of essays, poems, novels, films, and operas to determine what late style may explain about the evolution of the creative life. He discusses how the approaching death of an artist can make its way “with anachronism and anomaly” into his work, as was the case in the late work of Thomas Mann, Richard Strauss, Jean Genet, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, and C. P. Cavafy. Said examines Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Genet’s Le captif amoureux and Les paravents, Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Visconti’s film of Lampedusa’s The Leopard, Euripides’ The Bacchae and Iphigenia at Aulis, and Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, among other works.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , ,

Monday 27 March 2006

The Devil Is a Gentleman

JC Hallman's The Devil Is a Gentleman sounds bonkers, like something Jon Ronson or Louis Theroux might write, but coming out of an engagement with William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience:


Varieties was a watershed effort: a bestselling portrait of history’s pluralism and a defense of the spiritual quest, in all its guises, against the era’s increasingly secular sentiments. Today, with all the old tensions between skeptics and believers still in place, JC Hallman pays homage to James’s exploration of offbeat religious movements. But where James relied on the testimony and biographies of prophets and mystics, Hallman travels directly to some of America’s newest and most unusual religions, trekking from Druid circles in the mossy hills of northern California to the gleaming mother church of Scientology ... Along the way, he participates in a variety of rites and reports on a broad spectrum of beliefs. Eventually Hallman adopts James as his patron saint, spiritual adviser, and intellectual companion on the journey that will culminate in the creation of this book, a compelling combination of adventure and biography, spotted with hair-raising predicaments and rife with poignant portraits of unforgettable characters, including William James himself.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Friday 24 March 2006

Borges and the Plain Sense of Things

Gabriel Josipovici, who I recently interviewed here on RSB, has kindly allowed my to republish his wonderful essay Borges and the Plain Sense of Things, from his recent collection of essays The Singer on the Shore. As always with Josipovici, Borges and the Plain Sense of Things is a beautiful, nuanced and exceptionable piece of work from one of our very, very finest critics.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Friday 24 March 2006

Chomsky: The New Galileo?

I recently interviewed Chris Knight, professor of anthropology at the University of East London, and author of the acclaimed Blood Relations: Menstruation and The Origins of Culture. Chris made some controversial remarks about Noam Chomsky in our interview which he has now expanded upon in an essay he has written exclusively for RSB entitled Noam Chomsky: The New Galileo?

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Thursday 23 March 2006

Laurence Sterne in Cyberspace

Who doesn't like a bit of Sterne!? Laurence Sterne in Cyberspace is a linktastic site full of Sterne-stuff including a full text HTML version of Tristram Shandy and a Hyper-Concordance to the Works of Laurence Sterne. The site put me on to The Shandean ("an annual volume devoted to Laurence Sterne and his works") published by the Laurence Sterne Trust. Sadly (and stupidly) none of the articles from The Shandean are online! No matter - plenty of links to good reading at the Open Directory Project.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Thursday 23 March 2006

Love libraries

Love libraries is "a campaign to get everyone excited about what public libraries can do for readers and how we can make them better" (via Bookglutton). Over 12 weeks, three libraries will be transformed into "models of a future library service with reading at its heart" and you can follow the progress of the facelifts to Coldharbour library, Newquay library and Richmond library via the Love libraries site.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Wednesday 22 March 2006

Paulhan review

Michael Syrotinski's translation of The Flowers of Tarbes by Jean Paulhan (the introduction to which is online here at RSB) got a decent, small review, courtesy of Steven Poole, at the Guardian last Saturday. We'll be interviewing Professor Syrotinski here at RSB very soon.


A sign at the entrance to a park says it is forbidden to carry flowers inside. The crass authoritarianism of such a stricture (the idea is that anyone actually carrying flowers must have picked them from the park itself) prompts the French literary critic Jean Paulhan to a scintillating essay on commonplace expressions, language and rhetoric that was first published in 1941 and should still give pause to contemporary writers eager to declare war on cliché ... The argument is playful and urbanely self-contradicting at every turn ... I especially liked the author's sober admiration of a poet "for whom poetry seems so serious that he has taken the decision to stop writing it". Most pleasingly, he ends up running rhetorical circles around himself, confessing that he was a "terrorist" all along and pleading with the reader to act as though he had said nothing. One hopes that Paulhan continues the conversation somewhere with the shades of literary giants, carrying as many flowers as he wishes.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Wednesday 22 March 2006

Hart on L'Arrêt de mort

Yesterday, I briefly mentioned Blanchot's Death Sentence: for those who want to read more about this work of Blanchot's there is an interesting essay online from Kevin Hart called The Gospel of L'Arrêt de mort (thanks Steve). (Hart, you'll note, is the editor, along with Geoffrey Hartman, of The Power of Contestation: Perspectives on Maurice Blanchot and the author of Dark Gaze: Maurice Blanchot and the Sacred.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Wednesday 22 March 2006

How Novels Think

Interesting, critical essay by Miriam Burstein over at the Valve on How Novels Think (which, you'll have noted, was one of my Books of the Week last week, and which is going to be the focus of an Ongoing Valve Book Event). Burstein starts her paper saying, "to think about Nancy Armstrong thinking about the novel, we need to begin with Ian Watt." Ian Watt, of course, is the author of The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (1957) which was, for years, the standard work in the UK on the genesis and development of the novel.


... Nancy Armstrong’s work is itself a decades-long engagement with Watt’s The Rise of the Novel in general and his understanding of literary history in particular ... For Armstrong, novels make things happen ... Novels do not emerge from philosophical, theological, or cultural debates; instead, they at once create and are created by them. This new model of literary history elevates the novel’s cultural significance, granting it a role equivalent to that of, say, philosophical treatises. Real intellectual work, in other words, takes place in what looks like a popular form.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Tuesday 21 March 2006

Telecommunism

k-punk on Telecommunism:


The proletariat are factory-farmed replicants who believe they are something called the working class. The task for telecommunism is to strip out the false memory chips binding them to the quasi-organic earth, in order to produce a New Earth for a 'people that do not yet exist'.

Also worth a read is Jon on Tronti, over at Long Sunday. Jon promises a "Tronti fest" to come: looking forward to that!


Of further interest may be the fact that I'll be posting Nick Dyer-Witherford's essay Cyber-Negr: General Intellect and Immaterial Labour (from The Philosophy of Antonio Negri: Resistance in Practice (Pluto) here on RSB within the next day or so.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Tuesday 21 March 2006

György Kurtág

It may have passed your notice - it certainly passed mine - that a month ago (February 19th) was György Kurtág's 80th birthday. About 20 years ago, Kurtág, one of the leading European composers of our time, but hardly a household name here in the UK, wrote his largest work. Kafka-Fragmente is "a vast, 60-minute cycle of 40 separate movements amounting to a collage of Kafka's novels, letters and diaries set as the subtlest, most expressive duets for soprano and violin" (according to last Sunday's Observer). Performed by Juliane Banse and violinist Andras Keller, the work's four sections are a powerful testament to a great composer. If you like Shostakovich, give Kurtág a go.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Tuesday 21 March 2006

Scarecrow 42

Scarecrow no.42 is now online. Editor Lee Rourke muses on the value of opening paragraphs ("the hook, the dazzling light that draws us closer, that pulls us into the text") and quotes the beginning of Lydia Davis’s translation of Maurice Blanchot’s Death Sentence. And this issue's cover star is Juan Rulfo whose remarkable Pedro Paramo (Serpent's Tail) is highly recommended.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Tuesday 21 March 2006

With Borges

I've just reviewed Alberto Manguel's memoir With Borges:


Borges had known he would turn blind from an early age and finally lost his site in 1957. He was a voracious reader of a wide range of books and Manguel lists some of the titles that were housed in the modest flat Borges shared with his mother, Doña Leonor (who called him Georgie, which was his Northumbrian grandmother's nickname for him), Fanny, their maid, and Beppo, the big white cat. Borges, it transpires, loved Stevenson, Chesterton, Henry James and Kipling, and he loved the Arabian Nights, the Bible, epics like Njals Saga, Homer and Virgil: "epic poetry brought tears to his eyes." He disliked "faddish" literary theory blaming French literature "for concentrating not on books but on schools and coteries."

(For all of my review of With Borges.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , ,

Tuesday 21 March 2006

Romantic Poetry and the Fragmentary Imperative

Ooh, I like the look of this: Romantic Poetry and the Fragmentary Imperative (SUNY Press):


Romantic Poetry and the Fragmentary Imperative locates Byron (and, to a lesser extent, Joyce) within a genealogy of romantic poetry understood not so much as imaginative self-expression or ideological case study but rather as what the German romantics call "romantische poesie"—an experimental form of poetry loosely based on the fragmentary flexibility and acute critical self-consciousness of Socratic dialogue. The book is therefore less an attempt to present yet another theory of romanticism than it is an effort to recover a more precise sense of the relationship between Byron's fragmentary or "workless" poetic and romantic poetry generally, and to articulate connections between romantic poetry and modern literature and literary theory. The book also argues that the "exigency" or "imperative" of the fragmentary works of Schlegel, Byron, Joyce, and Blanchot is not so much the expression of a style as it is an acknowledgment of what remains unthought in thinking.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Monday 20 March 2006

National Book Critics Circle Awards

I failed to mention that the (American) National Book Critics Circle Awards were recently announced. Two books reviewed here on RSB got the nod: EL Doctorow's The March and Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , ,

Monday 20 March 2006

Monday morning odds and sods

Monday morning odds and sods:


  • Excellent essay by Brian Phillips: The First-Person Don Quixote (caution: pdf)
  • LibriVox's "objective is to make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet" (via Out of the Woods Now)
  • New home for Golden Rule Jones
  • John Barlow on Fante (via John himself and Dan)
  • The inhuman work of Pierre Guyotat
  • I Cite continues to impress

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Monday 20 March 2006

Slought Foundation

The Slought Foundation looks fascinating (thanks Charlotte): "317 projects with 212 hours of recorded audio are accessible online." There are some great resources here, which include: interviews with Sun Ra and John Coltrane; a seminar with Hélène Cixous; readings from Allen Ginsberg, Robert Duncan, Basil Bunting, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley; discussions with Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Olson, Margaret Avison, Denise Levertov. Lots and lots of goodies.


Slought Foundation (pronounced 'Sl-aw-t') is a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization that broadly encourages new futures for contemporary life through public programs with internationally renowned artists and theorists ... Through over 200 exhibitions, events, trade publications, and a significant internet presence, we have set new standards for critical practices that resist the market-driven orientation and drive to permanence of today's institutions ... we believe that the point of any cultural practice should not be simply to display objects, but to present a problem, not simply to make something coherent but to create something that is purposely critical or provocative. Devising alternatives to traditional forms of cultural display necessarily entails de-familiarizing the practice of 'art appreciation' for audiences, and evading practices associated with most cultural organizations.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Saturday 18 March 2006

This morning's post

Not much in this morning's post, but what came was wonderful: Alberto Manguel's short memoir (just 74 pages) With Borges (from Telegram Books, new imprint of Saqi Books); the Ingeborg Bachmann reader Last Living Words and Steve Katz's Antonello's Lion (Green Integer); and, thrillingly, two new CDs from the sublime Cold Blue Music - Daniel Lentz's On the Leopard Altar and Chas Smith's Descent.


In 1964, in Buenos Aires, Jorge Louis Borges, by this time blind, approached sixteen-year-old Alberto Manguel, then serving in a book shop, and asked if he would be interested in a part-time job reading aloud to the old writer. With Borges is "part memoir, part biography and all celebration of the living quality of literature."


Ingeborg Bachmann (1926-1973) was, as many of you will know, as well as a poet, dramatist, and novelist, and leading voice in post-war German literature, the lover of Paul Celan.


Cold Blue Music is the leading exponent of West Coast minimalism and post-minimalism. "The label defines a certain ‘Southern California sound,’ uncluttered, evocative and unusual, with a wistful emotional edge."


Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , ,

Friday 17 March 2006

Good night for radio

I was at the last of this year's Human Sciences Seminars yesterday evening (Dr. Tanja Staehler (University of Sussex) giving an interesting paper on Plato and Levinas on Writing Law), so I missed last night's Analysis programme on Radio 4 presented by Kenan Malik, whose Man, Beast and Zombie: The New Science of Human Nature I enjoyed so much last year. In the programme, Malik was asking "whether humanism still has any meaning - and what politics might look like without a humanist impulse." You can access the programme online, at the BBC, for about the next week.


It was a bit of a vintage night on Radio 4 last night, actually. As I was driving home, I was happiliy entertained by Don Quixote -Spanish romance and the first novel.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Friday 17 March 2006

Celan online

I noticed this pretty extensive online archive of Paul Celan poems, translated by Michael Hamburger the other day, but I didn't explicily link to it. Useful.


(Blimey! RSB readers have already managed to bring down the Celan site! Geocities only allow 4Mb an hour bandwidth, so pulling the site down is fairly easy: here's an alternative link to the same Paul Celan poems.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Thursday 16 March 2006

Kafka essays

Via Brian Sholis, a couple of Franz Kafka essays: the first, by Robert Alter, a review essay of Reiner Stach's Kafka: The Decisive Years, which first ran in the New Republic and is now reprinted online at Powells.com; the second, by Jeff Fort, is in the current issue of The Believer.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Thursday 16 March 2006

Jeanette Winterson in Manchester

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

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , ,

Thursday 16 March 2006

Weinberger readings

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


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

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

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Wednesday 15 March 2006

More on Celan

Ellis Sharp responds to discussion here at RSB and at This-Space (note, particularly, Amie's comments) about his The Complicity of Paul Celan.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Wednesday 15 March 2006

Not One More Death

To be "rushed out in time for the 3rd anniversary of the declaration of war on 20th March and the major international demonstrations on 18th March", Verso (in collaboration with the Stop the War Coalition) are just about to release Not One More Death: "Luminaries of literature, science and music unite in their condemnation of the unjust war on Iraq and its disastrous occupation":


John le Carré attacks Tony Blair’s attempts to save the US and UK’s special relationship by giving legitimacy to the war; Richard Dawkins writes of the terrifying discourse of Good and Evil that dominates the Bush government’s thinking; Brian Eno tears apart the alleged reasons for the war and makes a compelling argument for the withdrawal of troops; Michel Faber highlights how language and rational debate gurgles down the drain in an atmosphere of hysteria; Harold Pinter’s excoriating Nobel acceptance speech; Iraqi writer Haifa Zangana documents the shocking record of atrocities in occupied Iraq and argues for the right of the Iraqi people to resist

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , ,

Wednesday 15 March 2006

Kohn on Dennett

Marek Kohn, author of the fascinating A Reason for Everything (Faber), and upcoming RSB-interviewee, critically reviews Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a natural phenomenon. (Lots more on the controversial Dennett if you follow all these links on 3Quarks; also see this Guardian interview.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Wednesday 15 March 2006

New from Clinamen

The two latest titles from the excellent Clinamen Press are certainly worthy of a larger audience: Virtual Mathematics: the logic of difference, edited by Simon Duffy, and The Transversal Thought of Gilles Deleuze: Encounters and Influences, by RSB-interviewee James Williams, are both well-produced, challenging works of modern philosophy. I'll be commenting more on both of these books over the coming weeks.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , ,

Wednesday 15 March 2006

Pinter speaks to Michael Billington

Wilfred Owen prize-winner (for poetry opposing Iraq conflict), Franz Kafka prize-winner, Nobel prize-winner, and now the winner of the Europe Theatre prize ("a recognition of one of the greatest living playwrights"), Harold Pinter speaks to Michael Billington (from yesterday's Guardian) about his work.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Wednesday 15 March 2006

Gabriel

I don't think that my admiration for the work of Gabriel Josipovici is any secret whatsoever. So, as you can imagine, I'm absolutely thrilled to have just published an interview with Gabriel here on RSB. (Thanks to Steve with his help and advice on some of the questions.) One of our very, very finest critics, and a wonderful novelist in his own right, Gabriel Josipovici is one of the few writers working in English today who seems to have thoroughly understood the ongoing challenge of Modernism.


Asking him about the quality of "lightness" that he had once remarked was vital to the success of The Iliad, Gabriel answered:


For complex reasons art before the Romantics could be both profound and ‘light’. Homer’s and Shakespeare’s plays are cases in point. After the onset of Romanticism it’s as if depth had to entail solemnity, weightiness. Contrast Mozart and Beethoven, Pope and Wordsworth, Fielding and George Eliot. I love many works written after 1800, but I wish it were lighter. And I can’t stand those great nineteenth century works that take themselves so seriously and try to found a new religion, like Mahler’s symphonies. That’s why I love Stravinsky: for me he has everything: wit, lightness, precision, yet a plangency that is deeply moving. He remains the artist I would most like to emulate (one can have ones dreams). I love some of the novels of Bellow and Nabokov and Muriel Spark and Thomas Bernhard because I think they laugh at themselves and their own pretensions even as they burrow into the depths. I love some of the novels of Aharon Appelfeld because they say what they have to say in the simplest way and then stop, and what they have to say moves me deeply. But I could go on and on, with a list of my favourite modern novels – which would include works by Malamud, Shabtai, Simon, Perec, Duras, Robbe-Grillet, Kundera, Joseph Heller and Peter Handke.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Tuesday 14 March 2006

More on Complicity

I mentioned yesterday, Ellis Sharp's article The Complicity of Paul Celan. Ellis is a fine, high-minded writer whose blogging is always intelligent, often excoriatingly so, and well-argued. I'm not sure that he quite right, however, to direct his ire towards Celan. Or, better, I'm not sure whether Celan's poetry can be read as instrumentally as Ellis reads it, taking the lead from Celan biographer John Felstiner, as an endorsement of the state of Israel and thus as direct evidence of what Ellis calls Celan's "complicity in oppression and injustice."


Ellis cites Denk dir ("It’s a cryptic, elusive poem, like most of Celan’s verse," he rightly cautions). Introducing it, he says it "appears to be a direct response to the Six Day War" [my emphasis]. He follows Felstiner's (biographically reductive) reading throughout despite saying, later in his piece, something which I would agree with: "Felstiner’s book is both classically orientalist and Zionist in its attitudes."


At the beginning his essay, Ellis retells the famous anecdote, one which exemplfies an archetypical moment of misinterpration, whereby, after Celan's meeting with Heidegger (recently so disatrously dramatised by John Banville), Heidegger thrills at the poem (Todtnauberg) that Celan has left him. Heidegger, who knows how willfully, how blindly, sees no rebuke in Celan's ambiguous, yet sad, pointed, accusatory poem.


Certainly, as Steve says, "Celan has a critical aura of protection about him" and one "cannot read his long account of the poet's brief relationship to Israel without unease." And I'm grateful to Ellis for this essay. That the author of such an exceptional oeuvre made mistaken political judgements is indeed "worthy of discussion", but that Celan remained in Paris, writing recondite, intricate works should further caution us against condemning him as a mouthpiece for Zionism. Celan did support Israel; regardless, it is exceedingly difficult to drag his poetry into unambiguous support for anything: I don't think even Celan can be allowed to do that. Certainly, his biographer's politics shouldn't be allowed to flatten his opaque, cryptic, beautiful words.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Tuesday 14 March 2006

NY Librarians' 25 Most Memorable Books

This has been widely linked to, but librarians rule, so I'm happy to keep the meme alive: the New York Public Library has unveiled its annual list of 25 Books to Remember.


The Books to Remember program celebrates its 50th anniversary this year—with a list of outstanding titles chosen for their “distinct and lasting contribution to literature.” A panel of NYPL librarians works for months to pick the year’s most outstanding titles. The panel of seven begins by examining hundreds of book reviews. Next, they plunge in, each reading on average more than 100 of the year’s most notable works. Discussions and debates follow as the merits of each book are weighed. Finally, a vote decides which 25 make the list of the year’s most memorable reads.

The list includes some of the (dull) usual suspects (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer; Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro; On Beauty by Zadie Smith), some books we've reviewed here on RSB (The March; Small Island), Windows on the World by Frederic Beigbeder, which I thought clumsy and disingenuous, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, which moved me a great deal, and a couple of other titles that look worth tracking down - Bread and Roses: Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream by Bruce Watson ("vividly reconstructs the story of the 1912 textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a watershed moment in American labor history") and The War Works Hard by Dunya Mikha’il (translated from the Arabic by Elizabeth Winslow, this "intimate, subversive, and farsighted collection by an Iraqi poet chronicles the effects of tyranny and war on the psyche.")

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Monday 13 March 2006

Manchester New Poets’ Night

Poets and Players present a New Poets’ Night tonight, at 7.30pm, at the Tai Chi Village Hall, behind the house at 163 Palatine Road, Didsbury, Manchester (£4/£2 concessions). Please note that all the reading slots have been filled, but that shouldn't stop you going along to listen!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Monday 13 March 2006

Ellis Sharp on Celan

Ellis Sharp has written a provocative article entitled The Complicity of Paul Celan:


John Felstiner’s book on Celan no longer seems to me as admirable as it once did. And neither does Paul Celan. It is dispiriting to perceive how the great poet of loss and suffering was silent about Israel’s victims. And Celan’s silence about Jews as persecutors and their victims appears to be reciprocated by everyone who writes about him.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Friday 10 March 2006

Ill!

I'm stupidly ill with some awful 'flu thing. I'll be back to blogging on Monday after a weekend spent in bed (with Gert Hofmann's Lichtenberg and the Little Flower Girl). In the meantime, do please take the time to read my interview with Los Angeles-based actor and photographer, and author of the wonderful Skip, David Newsom.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Wednesday 08 March 2006

New CONTEXT

You've probably all noticed this, but, you know, I've been very busy! The new issue of CONTEXT is online: there is a previously unpublished piece by William H. Gass (Knopf were kind enough to send me Gass's new collection of essays A Temple of Texts last week, so I'm a wee bit attuned to his name at the moment), a Mat Unit obituary, a new essay by Dubravka Ugresic, and a piece about Flann O'Brien's letters, among much else good stuff.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Wednesday 08 March 2006

A Public Space

Brigid Hughes, ex-editor of The Paris Review, left that esteemed organ to create a new magazine focussing on fiction and poetry. Issue one of her A Public Space is available now:


The debut issue is:
Charles D'Ambrosio, Kelly Link, Anna Deavere Smith, Marilynne Robinson, Haruki Murakami, Rick Moody, Motoyuki Shibata, Yoko Ogawa, John Haskell, Lucy Raven, Peter Gizzi, Matthea Harvey, Antoine Wilson, Peter Orner, Ian Chillag, Jeremy Glazier, and others.
On:
Superheroes, Hollywood in the McCarthy Era, translating grapefruit into Japanese, New Jersey porn, Tutsi women, the coal mines of West Virginia, Chekhov, Galileo, Salinger, that weird guy who lives down the street and drives by your house slowly, Bertolt Brecht, digging a hole to China, and more.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Tuesday 07 March 2006

Ivor Cutler RIP

Ivor Cutler poet, singer, songwriter and storyteller has died, aged 83 (more over at 3:AM).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Tuesday 07 March 2006

Fun at the LBF

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

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Sunday 05 March 2006

51st Most Important Person in Publishing?

This is unexpected: Robert McCrum has an article in today's Observer Our top 50 players in the world of books. Top of the "ones who nearly made the list" is ... well, me: the Observer seems to reckon that I'm the 51st Most Important Person in Publishing!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Friday 03 March 2006

Tony loves Trotsky

Intesting piece in the Independent reporting that the PM Tony Blair revealed his favourite reading matter at a World Book Day event in London yesterday. Blair said: "There were people who got me very involved in politics. But then there was also a book. It was a trilogy, a biography of Trotsky by Isaac Deutscher, which made a very deep impression on me and gave me a love of political biography for the rest of my life."


Radical publisher Verso will be loving this. Verso publish Isaac Deutscher's massive biography of Trotsky in three volumes: The Prophet Armed: Trotsky 1879-1921, The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky 1921-1929 and The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky 1929-1940. In a press release the publisher asks, "does this mean that even Verso, the radical left publishers, are now part of the Blairite project?" Let's hope not: the thought of a whole load of publishers tooling up and invading Iran does not make me happy!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Friday 03 March 2006

PNReview editorial

I neglected to mention that Michael Schmidt's excellent editorial to PN Review no.168 is now online here at RSB. Schmidt seems to be one of the few critics around who has noticed how self-laceratingly, blackly funny the poet Geoffrey Hill is. And how bawdy too! Certainly, Hill is a far more approachable writer than the severe, arcane, opaque oracle he is sometimes painted as:


From its dedication to the Italian poet Eugenio Montale to its impassioned dialogue with the novelist, publisher and poet Cesare Pavese, who committed suicide in 1950, there is a fascinating erotic current. And the book is marked by Hill’s peculiar brand of humour, Old Testament and merciless and true, not least when he reflects on himself.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Friday 03 March 2006

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize shortlist

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize shortlist has been announced. For the past few years the prize has always thrown up some interesting titles but, despite thinking Fatelessness a very good book, I'm a bit underwhelmed by the rest of the choices this year: This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun; Mercedes-Benz by Pawel Huelle; Fatelessness by Imre Kertész (reviewed on RSB; and Kertész will be talking on Sunday at Jewish Book Week); Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson; The Door by Magda Szabó and The Ministry of Pain by Dubravka Ugresic.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Friday 03 March 2006

Chris Knight

Yesterday, I posted a brilliant interview with the radical anthropologist Chris Knight. Chris is professor of anthropology at the University of East London and the author of the highly acclaimed and controversial Blood Relations: Menstruation and The Origins of Culture. Please take the time to read the interview (which Stuart did for RSB); it really is very good!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Thursday 02 March 2006

Chandos is Shakespeare. Maybe.

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


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

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Thursday 02 March 2006

World Book Day

Today is World Book Day.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Wednesday 01 March 2006

The Destruction of Memory

Yesterday, Reaktion very kindly sent on to me Robert Bevan's excellent looking The Destruction of Memory. Just now I read, via the Distributed Presses blog, of an article by Robert Bevan in the Sydney Morning Herald:


Bevan argues that ... attacks on cultural and religious sites are "double attacks" on a society's foundations, "This is not collateral damage. It can be an attempt to destabilise a society or, where memories, history, and identity are attached to architecture and place, to enforce forgetting." In addition to the destruction of the Golden Mosque by unknown forces, Bevan's editorial provides various examples of different factions' uses of architecture in Iraq: the Shiite Mahdi Army's occupation of the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf in order to gain protection from the U.S forces, who knew that attacking the shrine would be unforgivable in the eyes of the Shiite population; the reprisals from Shiite groups toward Sunni mosques following the destruction of the Golden Dome; the U.S. military's use and disregard of historical sites, its militarily worthless "Shock and Awe" method, and its general failure to protect Iraq's heritage sites from looting and destruction.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , ,

Wednesday 01 March 2006

Email tax?

Worrying news posted at if:book:


After years as an Internet urban myth, the email tax appears to be close at hand. The New York TImes reports that AOL and Yahoo have partnered with startup Goodmail to start offering guaranteed delivery of mass email to organizations for a fee. Organizations with large email lists can pay to have their email go directly to AOL and Yahoo customers' inboxes, bypassing spam filters. Goodmail claims that they will offer discounts to non-profits.

Moveon.org and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have joined together to create an alliance of nonprofit and public interest organizations to protest AOL's plans. They argue that this two-tiered system will create an economic incentive to decrease investment into AOL's spam filtering in order to encourage mass emailers to use the pay-to-deliver service. They have created an online petition called dearaol.com for people to request that AOL stop these plans. A similar protest to Yahoo who intends to launch this service after AOL is being planned as well.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Wednesday 01 March 2006

Octavia Butler RIP

Octavia Estelle Butler (1947-2006), "the first African-American woman to gain popularity and critical acclaim as a major science fiction writer", died on Saturday after suffering a fall on the pavement outside her home. There is a lot of obituaries and memories all over the net - the Octavia E Butler homepage is as good a place as any to start for more information; wood s lot has a lot of links too (scroll down to the entries dated 02.27.06).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

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.

-- View archive

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.

-- View archive

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)

-- View archive

Word of the Day

fascicle

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

-- Powered by Wordsmith.org

October's Books of the Month

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

-- View archive