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

Blog entries for 'April 2006'

Friday 28 April 2006

More on Appelfeld

More fabulous stuff on Aharon Appelfeld over at Spurious. The post reminds me that I need to put my hand in my pocket and shell out for a copy of Michael Brown and Sara Horowitz's Encounter with Aharon Appelfeld. The volume brings together critical papers, a number of Appelfeld's short stories, a long interview and a complete bibliography of Appelfeld's works and secondary sources (well, complete at time of publication, which was 2003).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 28 April 2006

Reading the World 2006

This year's Reading the World website is now up online, featuring books in translation from ten different publishers. This is the second year of Reading the World, a "collaboration between booksellers and publishers to help bring international voices from around the world to readers."

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 28 April 2006

Subscribe to Blog

If you should so wish, you can now have my ruminations, digressions, rhetoric and guff delivered direct to your in-tray. The wonderful Lee has set up a Subscribe to Blog service (see the left column on the blog). Enjoy!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 27 April 2006

TS Eliot's prose

Faber and Faber have announced the projected publication of a seven-volume edition of The Complete Prose of T.S. Eliot, under the General Editorship of Ronald Schuchard and an advisory board comprising Warwick Gould, Archibald Henderson, Sir Frank Kermode, Edward Mendelson and Christopher Ricks. The edition will be published jointly by Faber and Johns Hopkins University Press in the United States:


TS Eliot was one of the most prolific and wide-ranging prose masters of our age, and the collections of essays published during his lifetime have had an immeasurable impact on literature, culture, and the humanities. At the beginning of the 21st century, however, the majority of Eliot's prose (over 700 essays and articles) remains uncollected or unpublished, nor are there critical editions of those collections published during his life. For the past fifty years, most assessments of Eliot's work and thought have been produced with little access to these materials, which remain scattered in numerous libraries and institutional collections around the world.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 26 April 2006

Matchbox

Matchbox is a new Manchester-based poetry magazine. Each issue is devoted to one poet and contains some of their poems, and a free gift, in a matchbox. The first issue is by Togara Muzanenhamo whose new collection, The Spirit Brides, will be coming out this summer from Carcanet. The matchboxes are available now, in Manchester, in Blackwell's, the Cornerhouse, Herbivores Cafe, The Basement and via subscription through the Matchbox website. Future issues are to include Bill Griffiths, Ray DiPalma, Lisa Jarnot and Peter Inman.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 26 April 2006

On "No Swan So Fine"

My Poem of the Week this week is the often anthologized No Swan So Fine, first published in 1932, by Marianne Moore (1887-1972). The poem suggests that a china swan, symbolising art, has outlasted and outlived Louis XV of France ("The king is dead.") Now, I was going to attempt a quick reading of the poem (as I did last week with John Burnside's Septuagesima), but I don't think I'll get a chance. Anyway, this below, by Pamela White Hadas, does a very tidy job:


No Swan So Fine asserts that there is no live swan, "no swan, / with swart blind look askance / and gondoliering legs, so fine" as the china one among its finely sculptured and polished flowers in the Louis XV candelabrum. The last half-line of the poem reads, simply and abruptly, "The king is dead." A way of life that went along with the king's life is also dead. The swan is alive only insofar as art is, but dead in its extravagant finality of form. Insofar as kings represent unprogressive ceremony and permanent superfluity, the swan and the king share a fate. The poem is a compression of an important ambivalence toward animals petrified as art. This swan appeals to Marianne Moore with its delicacy, elegance, and perfection; it appeals more than a live swan with "gondoliering legs." Yet, attractive as it is to her, she must admit that it is dead; it represents, more than a way of life, a royal fatality. The attraction is vital and fatal.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 26 April 2006

Chernobyl

Twenty years after the Chernobyl disaster, Belarussian writer Svetlana Alexievich, author of Voices from Chernobyl, talks to Sonja Zekri (over at Sign and Sight) about the new face of evil and the lessons to be learned from the reactor catastrophe:


Svetlana Alexievich is obsessed by Chernobyl. For years she has travelled to the "zone", the radioactive area, talking with firemen and soldiers, with "liquidators" who cleared out the radioactive rubble from the ruins of the power plant, with survivors and people who have returned to their homes. Her findings are collected in a book, Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster. It is an echolocation of the catastrophe. Svetlana Alexievich, who was born in Ukraine and grew up in Belarus, lives in Sweden. We have yet to understand Chernobyl, she says. It is a foreign text.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 26 April 2006

poetrymagazines.org.uk

I did not know about this! The new poetry magazines archive, poetrymagazines.org.uk, is:


... a free access site to the full-text digital library of 20th and 21st century English poetry magazines from the Poetry Library collection. This site was launched on 22nd August 2003.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 25 April 2006

Pen World Voices Festival of International Literature

Bud Parr has written reminding me about week-long Pen World Voices Festival of International Literature at MetaxuCafe.


In conjunction with the Words Without Borders blog, we will be covering over 30 events this week and posting at MetaxuCafe and other places around the Web.

Highlights include an interview with Dubravka Ugresic (author of The Ministry of Pain) by James Marcus and photographs by Mary Reagan.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 25 April 2006

Beckett on the radio on CD

I failed to mention, back on Beckett's birthday on the 13th, that the British Library have just released Samuel Beckett: Works for Radio. Steve Cleary, British Library Sound Archive Curator of Literature and Drama reckons: “Beckett was emphatic that his works for radio were conceived for aural reception only, and was disinclined to permit their presentation in another medium such as the stage, even as unadorned readings. They are works of art in themselves, presented here in their original incarnations, as their author intended.” This is a 4-CD set of the original BBC broadcasts and it is the first time these recordings have been made commercially available:


These rarely-heard historic recordings were originally broadcast by the BBC and feature the five works created by Beckett expressly for the broadcast medium: All That Fall, Embers, Words and Music, Cascando and Rough for Radio, together with the rarely heard curio, The Old Tune - Beckett's translation of Robert Pinget's La Manivelle - and the monologue From an Abandoned Work. The broadcasts span the period 1957-1976.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 25 April 2006

David Newsom's Mother

Via Lance Mazmanian, I hear the good news that Sian Heder and RSB-interviewee David Newsom have been asked to take their short film Mother to the Cannes Film Festival's Cinefondation Competition, May 2006. Theirs is one of just eighteen shorts selected from more than 1500 submissions.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 25 April 2006

Barton on five Shakespeare books

Anne Barton reviews five recent William "he died a papist" Shakespeare titles over at the New York Review of Books. She looks at: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro (a "consistently intelligent and informative study"); Secret Shakespeare: Studies in Theatre, Religion and Resistance by Richard Wilson (which Barton doesn't seem to rate much); Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare by Clare Asquith (which, says Barton, contains "innumerable inaccuracies and misunderstandings of Shakespeare's texts"); Shakespeare: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd (who is, we read, "given to totally unfounded pronouncements about Shakespeare's creative processes") and That Man Shakespeare: Icon of Modern Culture (yup, new to me too that one) by David Ellis ("wonderfully helpful and apposite ... both shrewd and perceptive").

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 25 April 2006

Fruit Loops

Marilynne Robinson, author of the much-vaunted novels Gilead and Housekeeping, recently spoke at the University of Kentucky about contemporary writers’ disdain for their readers. "Much of today’s literature, she said, seems to be written on an intellectual level that assumes the reader did not progress beyond childhood. ‘If a grocery store were stocked on the same principle, it would carry only Fruit Loops,’ Robinson said." (via Maud).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 25 April 2006

Thomas Meyer's Coromandel

Poet Thomas Meyer's Coromandel is now online. (And a CD is available from Brown Roux, 17 Stuyvesant Street #16, New York, NY 10003, for $15 US dollars (including p&p).)


Start in the middle. Speak to the heart. Touch the quick flesh of words. Explore the bardo of the instant. Bring the present moment suddenly, startlingly, to life. Thomas Meyer does that: he wakes us up to ourselves, and makes us wonder why we had been so long asleep. Coromandel is an urgent message from another world – but which one? The deities within us speak and become words on a page: swooning, we follow.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 25 April 2006

Jerusalem in exile

"What is the image of Jerusalem that dwells in your mind?" So asks artist Steve Sabella at jerusalem-in-exile.net:


Work started on the preparation of an exceptional book with a new concept jerusalem in exile – tangible memories by artist Steve Sabella. The book seeks to explore the visual imagery held of Jerusalem by Palestinians who live in the Diaspora, as well as by Palestinians who live in Palestine but are incapable of reaching their city. The project will photographically ‘materialize’ the various mental images Palestinians hold of Jerusalem in their memories and imagination. The art experience will be documented in an art book, to be edited by poet Najwan Darwish that will compile various testimonies and texts on Jerusalem and other related subjects by a number of distinguished Palestinians artists, intellectuals and participants.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 25 April 2006

Marx and Philosophy Annual Conference

This year's Marx and Philosophy Society Annual Conference kicks off at 10.30 on Saturday 27th May (£10 waged, £5 unwaged, payable at the door; Room 728, Institute of Education, University of London, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1). Speakers include Bob Cannon (Capitalism, Fetishism and Modernity), Drew Milne (Michel Henry's Marx) and Mark Neocleous (The Politics and Philosophy of Redemption: Marxism, National Socialism, and the Dead). To reserve a place in advance please email Martin McIvor.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 24 April 2006

Whisper "Louise"

I was going to be reviewing Douglas Oliver's Whisper "Louise" for PN Review in the next month or so, but another article on the book came in so my piece wasn't needed and I'm off the hook! (I'll be reviewing the excellent In Time of Need instead.) The title was recently reviewed by John Hall for Jacket magazine and now, this weekend, Martyn Everett of BookSurfer reviews it:


Poet and one-time Cambridge journalist Douglas Oliver has written a remarkable book, interweaving recollections of his own life with accounts of episodes from the life of the legendary anarchist Louise Michel. But it is far, far more than a simple exercise in biography, as Oliver uses the coincidences and dissonances of the two lives as a way of exploring memory and meaning, the construction of self, and the nature of revolutionary action.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 21 April 2006

Appelfeld's For Every Sin

A long, discursive, demanding, wonderful post from Mr Spurious, Hillcrests and Valleys, on Aharon Appelfeld's For Every Sin.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 21 April 2006

Krasznahorkai

Worth keeping your eyes our for: War & War, by Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai, is just about to land. Originally published in Hungary in 1996, I think, this is Krasznahorkai's second novel in English from American publisher New Directions (who don't have the rights to sell War & War in the UK, so you won't find it in a UK bookshop, but getting it online will be easy enough) translated by poet George Szirtes, who also translated the earlier The Melanchology of Resistance. No less than WG Sebald commented that Krasznahorkai's prose "far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing."


Film buffs may well recognise Krasznahorkai's name as he has co-written with the director Béla Tarr (as Waggish has written so compellingly about).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 21 April 2006

The Poetry Foundation

The content of the The Poetry Foundation (American publisher of Poetry magazine) website gets better all the time. Their recent podcasts have been very good (April is National Poetry Month in the US) and now, happily, they've got themselves an RSS feed.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 21 April 2006

The failure to express

A superb post, over at This Space, from Steve last night, in which he discusses Wallace Stevens and ends quoting Beckett (from a 1960 letter to an Israeli writer): "there is nothing more exciting for the writer, or richer in unexploited expressive possibilities, than the failure to express."


And there is a nice Beckett post, from Dan, over at The Reading Experience, entitled Making Me Say More Than I Want to Say, discussing "Beckett's disdain for elaborate readings of his work."

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 20 April 2006

A reading of Burnside's Septuagesima

Spurred to read John Burnside by Cape's recently issued Selected Poems, I made his poem Septuagesima my Poem of the Week this week. Below is my reading of Septuagesima.


For those of us who only read fluently in one language the epigraph, in Spanish, at the head of John Burnside's poem Septuagesima, is the second hurdle we face after the title of the work itself. Septuagesima is the name given to the third from last Sunday before Lent in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. Known among the Greeks as Sunday of the Prodigal, the title is taken from the Gospel of Luke's famous The Parable of the Prodigal Son, (chapter 15, verses 11-32), which customarily is read on the day. Understanding this, we are immediately tuned to the fact that this may well be a religious poem or a poem where knowing some of the religious connotation or background or resonance of the title is probably of some importance. A poet is not going to choose such a title, and append such an epigraph, carelessly.


Jorge Guillén y Álvarez (1893–1984) was born in Valladolid in Spain and was a member of the so-called Generation of '27 poets. The quote in the epigraph is from Guillén's poem Dawn. In English translation it would read something like: "Names. / Above, below they cover the essence / of things." These words set the theme of the coming poem and are echoed both right at the start of Burnside's verse ("the day before Adam came / to name the animals") and towards the end ("before the names, / beyond the gloss of things).


The first tercet of Septuagesima again tells us that God is in the house - "I dream of the silence / the day before Adam came". And the second stanza's "God's bright fingers" fully confirms the hint of the title, whether we know anything about Burnside's faith or not, that this is indeed a religious poem. The poet dreams of the earth's silence before God had made mankind, way before the events of the Fall. Looking out onto "a winter whiteness" he wonders would that time then be in any way like this time now. Is this light, bright silence in any way like the silence "before Adam"? If it is (and the hint is that it is "like this, perhaps"), what does that tell us?


We read that the "gold skins" of the newly created, at the time of their newness, were "still implicit with the light". The poet seems to be suggesting that the creatures of creation were themselves formed out of this (Divine) light and the "gold" brings our attention to how precious that creation is. I find myself reminded of William Blake's God reaching down, out of the clouds, almost pure light. Perhaps, in times of quiet contemplation, we can get "beyond the gloss of things" by seeing in the day's quotidian light the very Divine light from out of which it was separated? "[B]eyond the gloss of things" is the Divine. And it is all around us; a patina on our fellow creatures; an ever-present companion - who, asked TS Eliot, "is the third who walks always beside you?"


Philsophers have long argued about how to discover the thing itself, language being a bridge to the thing described but, finally, a barrier to it: language merely refers. Burnside suggests that we are "sometimes / haunted by ... the forms / we might have known / before the names". Before the corruption of language, just after God first separated the light from the dark, before the animals were named, the forms of things simply were. In their quiddity, their thing-ness still "haunts" us (note the repetition of "haunting" and "haunted"). But why "haunt"? It seems an oddly non-Christian word (ghosts and ghouls haunt, not the Christian God).


We are sometimes "haunted by the space / we fill". As when we enter a huge, cavernous church or, more simply, just a cave. And sometimes haunted "by the forms / we might have known": the people we might have become or loved; the paths not taken. At the very least, "haunt" suggests the supernatural. It brings our attention to the unnaturalness of God, perhaps even to something frightening about Him. But, despite this one word, the tone of the poem is not fearful, nor fearsome. Burnside dreams "of the silence" before Man was made, and before Sin came. Echoes of those days "before the names", before our Creation and so before our separation from God, can be felt in the light shining now, today, any day, which, finally, is our reassurance: light's silence always speaks of God.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 20 April 2006

Verso goodies

Always a pleasure to receive books from Verso. And yesterday three gems arrived from "the most radical publisher in the UK and US" (or so they style themselves these days): Negri's Books for Burning: Between Civil War and Democracy in 1970's Italy ("Long before Antonio Negri became famous around the world for Empire and Multitude, he was infamous across Europe for [these] incendiary writings" ... Books for Burning consists of five pamphlets written between 1971 and 1977); David Harvey's Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development; and a backlist title, Franco Moretti's Atlas of the European Novel, 1800-1900.


For those interested in Moretti, Franco Moretti's Graphs, Maps, Trees: A Valve Book Event ("a series of short essays and comments") is a good place to start online.


For those interested in David Harvey, the first chapter in Spaces of Global Capitalism, Neo-Liberalism and the Restoration of Class Power, is online (beware PDF).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 20 April 2006

Freud, Rilke and Lou Andreas-Salomé

Ooh, now I am excited about this: Freud's Requiem: Mourning, Memory, and the Invisible History of a Summer Walk (Continuum) by Matthew Von Unwerth (director of the Abraham A. Brill Library of The New York Psychoanalytic Institute & Society, and coordinator of the Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination, no less!) The book is billed as an exploration of Freud’s ideas "on creativity and mortality and their roots in his history" and a search for "broader lessons about love, memory, mourning, and creativity."


Written in 1915 during winter and wartime, Freud’s little-known essay On Transience records an afternoon conversation with 'a young but already famous poet' and his 'taciturn friend' about mortality, eternity, and the 'sense' of life. In Freud’s Requiem, the philosophical disagreement between Freud and his companions - who may have been the poet Rainer Maria Rilke and his muse and former lover Lou Andreas-Salomé - becomes a prism through which to consider Freud’s creativity as a response to his own experiences, from his passionately curious, lovestruck teenage years to his death after a long struggle with cancer in 1939. Drawing on a variety of literary and historical sources - Homer, Goethe, as well as Freud’s own writings, including his letters - Freud’s Requiem is both an intimate personal drama and a spirited intellectual inquiry.

For more on similar, Lou Andreas-Salomé's memoir of Rilke You Alone are Real to Me (Carcanet) is thoroughly to be recommended.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 19 April 2006

Reading for Life

Reading for Life is:


... a project that aims to raise funds for Cancer Research UK by asking people why books matter to them. The project is being led by the English undergraduates at two Oxford Colleges, Jesus and Keble and the English undergraduates at Oxford Brookes. The students invite you to contribute to this website to let us know how reading has made a difference to you. Write in, and tell us about a piece of writing - from an extract of a novel to a poem or the lyrics of a song - which has been important to you in some way.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 18 April 2006

The Romanian

Next month, 3:AM is helping to launch Bruce Benderson's The Romanian (published by London-based Snow Books), the first non-French novel to win the Prix de Flore ("Le prix de Flore, du nom du célèbre café de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a été créé en 1994. Il s'est donné pour mission de couronner un jeune auteur au talent prometteur."). The UK launch is on May 3rd at 7.30pm at The Horse Hospital, London WC1N 1HX.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 18 April 2006

Amateur Germanist

I seem to have become a bit of an amateur Germanist over the past few weeks. I've been thoroughly enjoying Georg Heym'a Poems and Georg Trakl's Poems and Prose (both from the wonderful Libris) and Michael Hofmann's The Faber Book of 20th Century German Poems is never far from reach at the moment. It was this book that reminded me, again, how much I like Bertolt Brecht's verse. So, next to be read is Hanns Otto Münsterer's The Young Brecht (also Libris): Münsterer was among a group of Brecht’s early friends, the appendix here includes versions of Brecht’s verse not to be found elsewhere. Whilst I'm thinking about Brecht (1898-1956), The International Brecht Society looks like a mine of good information (including a useful Brecht in English Translation page).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 17 April 2006

Balderdash and Piffle and the OED

First shown in January and February 2006, Balderdash and Piffle was a major BBC TV series, shown in the UK, which helped to update the Oxford English Dictionary. To accompany a follow-up programme, shown yesterday, you can freely use OED Online for the next week.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Sunday 16 April 2006

Terror and Liberalism critiqued

Aaronovitch Watch does a very fine job of critiquing Paul Berman's "obsequious, trite, facile smear" Terror and Liberalism (via Lenin). Nice to see the same blog having a decent pop at Nick Cohen too.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Sunday 16 April 2006

Juan Goytisolo profile

The 75-year-old Spanish writer Juan Goytisolo is profiled by Fernanda Eberstadt in today's New York Times magazine (via Rockslinga).


Goytisolo's most recent book in English-translation was The Blind Rider (Serpent's Tail), which I've yet to read. I can, however, heartily recommend State of Siege and The Marx Family Saga. For those interested to learn more, this Guardian profile from August 2000 is good background reading and there is an excellent interview over at the Center for Book Culture.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Sunday 16 April 2006

Muriel Spark obits

Obituaries for Dame Muriel Spark can be found at:


  • Independent on Sunday
  • The Observer
  • The Scotsman
  • Sunday Telegraph
  • Sunday Times

More Muriel Spark links at the Literary Saloon.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Saturday 15 April 2006

Muriel Spark RIP

Sad news: Muriel Spark has died, on Thursday, aged 88, in the small Tuscan town of Civitella in Val di Chiana where she had lived for the last 27 years. Probably still best known for 1961's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Spark wrote 24 novels, short stories and some fine poems. Born Muriel Sarah Camberg, in February 1918, in Edinburgh, to a Jewish father and Anglican mother, her last novel, The Finishing School, was published in 2004; in the same year Carcanet published All the Poems.


According to a Houston Chronicle report: "Spark had quirky writing habits. She wrote longhand, with little if any revision, in spiral-bound notebooks she got from a stationer in Edinburgh. She never used a pen anyone else had touched."


The film of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, starring Maggie Smith, and bringing her a best actress Oscar in 1969, seems to have masked just what an experimental and fine writer Spark actually was. Her short books are acid sharp and whole, like the very best short stories.


Some Spark links (thanks Jenny): Guardian profile from 2000; Muriel Spark Archive at the National Library of Scotland; Spark in conversation; Contemporary Writers Spark page (includes decent bibliography and critical overview); James Wood review of The Finishing School.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 13 April 2006

Modern European Poetry

My new favourite poetry book, first published by Bantam in 1966, and sadly out of print as far as I can tell, is Modern European Poetry. Edited by Willis Barnstone (with the assistance of seven other experts in their respective fields - Patricia Terry, Arthur S Wensinger, Kimon Friar, Sonia Raiziss, Alfredo De Palchi, George Reavey, Angel Flores), and six years in the making, this is an astonishing anthology of modern French, German, Greek, Italian, Russian and Spanish poetry which contains poems by every important European poet, including Nobel Prize-winners Pasternak, Quasimodo, Seferis and Aleixandre. "The work of virtually every European poet in the languages represented was considered before the final selection was made." Does anyone make books this well any more? An amazing resource. (Brought to my attention by Michael Hamburger in the introduction to his The Truth of Poetry: Tensions in Modern Poetry from Baudelaire to the 1960's.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 13 April 2006

Beckett birthday

Fathoms from Anywhere, an online Beckett exhibition, went live today because today, of course, is the hundred year anniversary of Big Sam's birth. I'll be working on the RSB Samuel Beckett minisite, if I get a moment, over the weekend.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 11 April 2006

Through A Glass Darkly

A reminder to the London-based: Through A Glass Darkly, a joint reading from the folks at 3:AM, Scarecrow and the Sohemians, will take place this Thursday in the upstairs room of The Wheatsheaf, 24 Rathbone Place, London W1, starting at 7.30pm. Its free.


3:AM have just published their list of the 50 Least Influential People in Publishing. I am in the enviable position of being both in 3:AM's list and in the Observer list they are rightly taking the piss out of. Surely, then, I win!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 11 April 2006

Two new destinations

Two new - to me - book destinations worthy of your attention: Pulp.net ("The Online Home of New Fiction"), which includes some nice, short reviews by Harpreet Singh; and The Poem, which is "a taster of contemporary poetry in Britain and Ireland."

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 11 April 2006

Larkin on 3QD

Nice post on Hull's most famous son, Philip Larkin, over at 3 Quarks Daily, from Australian poet Peter Nicholson:


For Gerard Manley Hopkins there was Heaven-haven, when a nun takes the veil, and perhaps a poet-priest seeks refuge, but for Philip Larkin there is no heaven. There is Hull, and that is where Larkin, largely free of metropolitan London’s seductions, finds his poetry and his poetics.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 11 April 2006

Three new reviews

I've just published three new book reviews here on RSB. All very different and all very good: Stuart Watkins provides a detailed and damning review of Daniel C. Dennett's Breaking the Spell; Ken Worpole reviews Jaroslav Andel's beautiful The New Vision for The New Architecture: Czechoslovakia 1918-1938 and Max Dunbar writes about Ed Trewavas's grim debut Shawnie.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 10 April 2006

Georg Heym

One of my Books of the Week this week is Antony Hasler's translation of Georg Heym's Poems (Libris). Heym (1887-1912), who died tragically young, has always been in the shadow of Georg Trakl, who was born in the same year as him. Whilst understandable, this is a real pity. Michael Hofmann has called Heym an "authentic prodigy" (when he reviewed this very volume) and Rilke praised him privately. Hofmann argues, "of the German expressionists (Benn, Trakl, Van Hoddis, Stadler and others) - the modern generation that arrived just before the first world war, whose equivalent in England I suppose would be the imagists - Heym is much the most literary and, on the surface, the most conventional." This, you'll note, does nothing to lesser the pleasure of reading him. For more on Heym, Patrick Bridgwater's Poet of Expressionist Berlin: Life and Work of Georg Heym (from the wonderful Libris, who also publish Heym's The Thief and Other Stories) is your best place to start.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 10 April 2006

Interview with Leora

Mrs Book and I have just bought a house, so things are going to be pretty busy over the next few weeks. Please forgive me, in advance, for what it likely to be a paucity of posting!


In the meantime, I give you: my interview with the lovely Leora Skolkin-Smith author of Edges: O Israel, O Palestine (Glad Day Books), which was a 2006 PEN/Faulkner Award Nominee.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 07 April 2006

More on Amorgos

Last week my Book of the Week was Sally Purcell's evocative translation of Nikos Gatsos's Amorgos, about which I thought I'd give you a bit more information.


In 1943, with Greece in the grip of a crippling famine and groaning under Nazi occupation, Gatsos published his major work, the epic poem Amorgos. Written in one night of intense, concentrated effort, Amorgos was a surrealist stream-of-consciousness, a profoundly mysterious and magnetic incantation, a paean of despair and hope, celebratory and bitter, whose seismic cultural influence reverberates to this day. Much admired by the Nobel laureates Odysseus Elytis and George Seferis (both published by Anvil), it reshaped the Greek poetic tradition but, amazingly, was Gatsos's only work.

Gatsos was born in the village of Asea in Arcadia, likely on December 8, 1911 (though some accounts hold 1914). He spoke several languages and studied at the School of Philosophy in Athens.

The legendary Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis adapted a portion of Amorgos in a rembetika song and Gatsos soon became the premier lyricist in Greek popular music. Working with friends like Hadjidakis, Nana Mouskouri, and Mikis Theodorakis (who adapted Odysseus Elytis’s Axion Esti), Gatsos spearheaded the renaissance of Greek popular music in the postwar era. Well versed in English, French and Spanish, he translated poetry and plays by Lorca, O’Neill, Strindberg, Lope de Vega, Genet and Tennessee Williams into Greek. He died in Kifissia in 1992.

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Thursday 06 April 2006

Books that move men

A year ago, Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins conducted a survey of women readers to find a "watershed" women's novel, "the book which, above all others, had sustained individual women through key moments of transition or crisis in their lives." The winner was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, with Pride and Prejudice not too far behind. Jardine and Watkins have now repeated the exercise (more details of which can be found in the Guardian) with men. A very different list has emerged with The Outsider by Albert Camus coming out top. Other favourites for the men were Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. One reason advanced for the kind of books these men chose was that "men's formative reading was done between the ages of 12 and 20 - indeed, specifically around the ages of 15 and 16. For men, fiction was a rite of passage into manhood during painful adolescence. Many men admitted that they had read little fiction since".

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Thursday 06 April 2006

Worpole on Ian Hamilton Finlay

RSB interviewee Ken Worpole takes a look at Ian Hamilton Finlay’s world: "The landscape artist Ian Hamilton Finlay created an extraordinary fusion of sculpture, inscription and philosophy in his Little Sparta garden."


Ian Hamilton Finlay, who died at the age of 80 on 27 March 2006, was one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. His output was marked by intense political controversy.

His early works, poetry and short stories, developed in the early 1960s into an engagement with the world of concrete poetry, an artistic form first popularised in Brazil, though Finlay's variant was self-generated and contemporaneous (like that of his Scots compatriot Edwin Morgan, whose 1966 poem observed of his friend "you give the pleasure / of made things"). Some of this was exhibited at an international exhibition of concrete poetry at the Brighton festival in 1967, where I first saw it, and it made an immediate impact then – principally one of delight.

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Wednesday 05 April 2006

Michael Schmidt's StAnza Lecture

Remiss of me not to have linked to this earlier (and prompted to do so now because of the ever-useful The Page): RSB interviewee, poet, novelist, literary historian, translator, founder of Carcanet Press and Professor of Poetry at Glasgow University Michael Schmidt's 2006 StAnza Lecture What, How Well, Why?

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Wednesday 05 April 2006

New Chap Book commissions

The excellent Book Works is calling for proposals for new chap books: "a series of artists’ books of short treatises/chapters/pamphlet style publications." For application details please send a large self addressed envelope to:

Book Works
19 Holywell Row
London
EC2A 4JB

or email jane@bookworks.org.uk


As you'd hope, Book Works "welcome proposals from all sections of the community, including practitioners from culturally diverse backgrounds." The deadline for proposals is May 12th 2006.


Before you send them a 900 page manuscript (hint: don't), take a look at their other lovely, tiny chap books, including Suitcase Body Is Missing Woman by Eva Weinmayr, Lost in Space by Andrew Dodds and Head in the Railings by Siôn Parkinson.

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Wednesday 05 April 2006

Jarrett-Macauley wins Orwell Prize

The Orwell Prize for Political Writing has been won by a novelist: Delia Jarrett-Macauley has won the prestigious award for Moses, Citizen and Me (Granta) a book about child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Now, I heard this on the Radio 4's Today programme this morning, but I can't find out much more information online. As soon as I do, I'll update this post.

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Tuesday 04 April 2006

Arno Schmidt exhibit

The Literary Saloon tells of an Arno Schmidt exhibition at the Schiller-Nationalmuseum in Germany. Devoted, obviously, to none other than Arno Schmidt. Who hell he!? Well, the complete-review's own Arno Schmidt page is a very good place to start to find out more. And, whilst you are browsing the second issue of the Green Integer Review, you could pop into the main Green Integer site and look up Schmidt's Radio Dialogs I, Radio Dialogs II and The School for Atheists.

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Tuesday 04 April 2006

Exclusive offer from The Reader

I mentioned, back on the 28th March, that I'm going to be working with a number of literary journals and magazines over the coming months to bring to RSB readers some unique subscription offers. PN Review, for example, is offering an 18 month subscription for the annual subscription price of £29.50 and now The Reader magazine is also offering RSB readers an special subscription deal: a cut price subscription, plus a free issue.

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Tuesday 04 April 2006

McCarthy makes it!

RSB interviewee Tom McCarthy, whose novel Remainder (Metronome - see 3:AM's interview with Metronome boss Clementine Deliss) so impressed our reviewer Lee Rourke last year, has been snapped up by Alma Books in the UK (and Random House in the US). Tom's novel will be out, with Alma Books, in July.

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Tuesday 04 April 2006

Huchel

My latest obsession is German poet Peter Huchel. You may have noted that Anvil Press's bilingual edition of his selected poems, translated by the marvelous Michael Hamburger, The Garden of Theophrastus, is one of my Books of the Week. (Actually, that's the second Anvil book in a row: last week it was Nikos Gatsos's Amorgos). And I'm eagerly awaiting Libris's In Time of Need to land. This is a "conversation about Poetry, Resistance and Exile" between German poet, and friend of Peter Huchel, Reiner Kunze, and Huchel's French translator Mireille Gansel, which addresses, to some extent, Hölderlin's question, "What use are poets in time of need?" I will be reviewing In Time of Need for PN Review next month. Reiner Kunze's work in English translation is, sad to say, well out of print.

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Monday 03 April 2006

Bilious Brecht and Libris

I just noticed (from the Guardian Unlimited Books newsfeed on the bottom right of the RSB homepage), this Brecht story: "A series of letters discovered in a Swiss cellar reveal how Bertolt Brecht, Germany's famously uncompromising playwright, fell out with some of the 20th century's most glittering literary figures, including the novelist Christopher Isherwood" (from Newly discovered letters show Brecht's talent for offending). Well, to be honest, I didn't notice! Mr Nicholas Jacobs, of Libris, brought it to my attention.


Libris, as you may not know, are Germanists, who publish some wonderful writers including Brecht, Heym, Mörike, Schiller and Trakl amongst many others.


Two world wars and twelve years of national socialism took their toll on the reception of German culture in Britain, particularly literature (German music survived unscathed). Libris’s principle aim was and is to contribute to the restoration of that literature to its rightful place in the English-speaking world.

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Monday 03 April 2006

Transformation: Politics of the Messianic

Tonight, between 6-7.30pm, in room 335, Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, the Forum for European Philosophy presents: Michael Dillon on Transformation: Politics of the Messianic. Michael Dillon is the author of Virtual Security in Millennium: Journal of International Studies and Intelligence Incarnate in Body and Society. For further information please contact: Catherine Lowe or Joanna Hodge.

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Saturday 01 April 2006

Lichtenberg and the Little Flower Girl

I've just posted a review of Gert Hofmann's Lichtenberg and the Little Flower Girl. For those interested in the work of this underrated German master, Edmund Hardy's excellent review of The Parable of the Blind is also certainly worth a read.


Simplicity is an underrated virtue in fiction, too often it is assumed that plainness and restraint are artless and Spartan. It is presumed that explanation and elaborate backstory create a fully rounded character. But such mimetics do not always make for satisfying art: the elaborate can be merely ornate: motivation can be imposed without a real feeling for the characters' true selves. Allowing a character to not have his/her motivations pinned down and explained away can give a story wings. In Hofmann's short, sturdy, pointed paragraphs, Lichtenberg is presented to us as he presents himself to the uncomprehending citizens of Göttingen: a dandy, an eccentric, a naïve, a learned fool; a flawed man, a good friend, an amateur. All this, and more, without crass psychology and with much humour.

(For all of my review of Hofmann's Lichtenberg and the Little Flower Girl.)

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

-- Mark Thwaite, Managing Editor

Books of the Week

Edward Carpenter Edward Carpenter
Chushichi Tsuzuki
Cambridge University Press

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

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

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

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Poem of the Week

Cousin Nancy

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

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

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

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

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Word of the Day

fascicle

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

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October's Books of the Month

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

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