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ReadySteadyBlog

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

Blog entries for 'June 2006'

Friday 30 June 2006

News form

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed a few small changes on the blog page (thanks so much Lee). Most usefully (I hope) is that we've added a form to the site for readers/publishers/authors/bloggers to let me now about their literary news.


If you do have cause to use the form, please remember that ReadySteadyBook is a literary site, so if you have self-published a crime novel, that's great, I'm thrilled for you, I hope its sells millions of copies, but I do not need to know about it via the RSB news form. Thanks!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 29 June 2006

Nature in the Poetry of Celan

This, The Discourse of Nature in the Poetry of Paul Celan: The Unnatural World by Rochelle Tobias, is, according to Henry Sussman, a "major achievement in the study of Paul Celan's poetry, above all in the field of close exegesis and the cultural ethics and politics implicated by close reading" and it looks very interesting:


Paul Celan has long been regarded as the most important European poet after 1945 but also the most difficult owing to the numerous references in his work to his personal history and to a cultural heritage spanning many disciplines, centuries, and languages. In this insightful study, Rochelle Tobias goes a long way to dispelling the obscurity that has surrounded the poet and his work. She shows that the enigmatic images in his poetry have a common source. They are drawn from the disciplines of geology, astrology, and physiology or what could be called the sciences of the earth, the heavens, and the human being. Celan’s poetry borrows from each of these disciplines to create a poetic universe — a universe that attests to what is no longer and projects what is not yet.

This is the unnatural world of Celan's poetry. It is a world in which time itself takes physical form or is made plastic. Through a series of close readings and philosophical explorations, Tobias reflects on the experience of time encoded and embodied in Celan's work. She demonstrates that the physical world in his poetry ultimately serves as a showcase for time, which is the most elusive aspect of human experience because it is based nowhere but in the mind. Tobias's probing interpretations present a new model for understanding Celan's work from the early elegiac poems to the later cryptic texts.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 29 June 2006

Zukofsky: the definite article

Last night, I read Charles Bernstein foreword to Prepositions + : The Collected Critical Essays of Louis Zukofsky (Wesleyan University Press -- Prepositions is part of The Wesleyan Centennial Edition of the Complete Critical Writings of Louis Zukofsky).


Louis Zukofsky (1904-1978) was one of the Objectivist poets, a group of second-generation, mainly American Modernists (Zukofsky, Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen, Carl Rakosi, Lorine Niedecker and the British poet Basil Bunting) who emerged in the 1930s heavily influenced by Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams (the only poet to be published as both an Objectivist and an Imagist poet). Bernstein's essay is only very short, but it’s a useful piece for situating Zukofsky. In it he quotes Zukofsky's famous statement that:


... a case can be made out for the poet giving some of his life to the use of the words a and the: both of which are weighted with as much epos and historical destiny as one man can perhaps resolve. Those who do not believe in this are too sure that the little words mean nothing among so many other words."

Zukofsky's provocation made me think, again, about language, poetry and truth: issues far too big to say much of worth about here and now. But the care with which a good poet tends to language, even to the tiniest words, is instructive. Between the definite article and the indefinite article there is an entire universe; infinity lies between a and the.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 29 June 2006

Recent web reading

Here are a few links to stuff I should have mentioned, but haven't yet:


  • "What happens when Blanchot's writings are refracted through the prism of what he calls community? They shift slightly, or shimmer in a different way." Lars on Blanchot on communism
  • CONTEXT no.19 is online
  • Hobson's Island by Stefan Themerson
  • Happiness is its own end: Borges and Blindness

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 29 June 2006

Poe books

Matthew Pearl (author of the bestselling The Dante Club and now The Poe Shadow, a thriller centered around Poe's mysterious death) recently picked his top 10 books inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. Scott Peeples' The Afterlife of Poe stands out. Pearl reckons:


Peeples, president of the Poe Studies Association in the United States, chooses a perfect framework for a study of Poe. Poe did not really become the Poe we know until after his death. Peeples expertly examines responses to Poe's writings as well as his life in the century and a half since his death. His chapter on Poe's death, and the way it has been perceived, stands among the very best texts on the subject.

The Afterlife of Poe is kindly being sent on by the publisher, Camden House, and I'll review it as soon as I can. The Poe Shadow is published by Harvill Secker so that probably won't get reviewed: getting review copies from Harvill Secker is, sadly, like getting blood from a stone.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 28 June 2006

Franco Moretti

There is a fascinating piece by Eric Bulson (whose The Cambridge Introduction to James Joyce is due out this coming September) in the TLS (article not online) this week about the controversial work of Franco Moretti, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Stanford. Bulson reviews the multi-volume Il Romanzo and also Graphs, Maps, Trees (for more, see The Valve Book Event discussing the latter title, and also Bill Benzon’s Signposts for a Naturalist Criticism and Timothy Burke’s Franco Moretti: A Quantitative Turn for Cultural History?).


In August, PUP release two volumes of selections from the five-volume Italian Il Romanzo: The Novel, Volume 1: History, Geography, and Culture and The Novel, Volume 2: Forms and Themes:


Nearly as global in its ambition and sweep as its subject, Franco Moretti's The Novel is a watershed event in the understanding of the first truly planetary literary form. A translated selection from the epic five-volume Italian Il Romanzo (2001-2003), The Novel's two volumes are a unified multiauthored reference work, containing more than one hundred specially commissioned essays by leading contemporary critics from around the world. Providing the first international comparative reassessment of the novel, these essential volumes reveal the form in unprecedented depth and breadth -- as a great cultural, social, and human phenomenon that stretches from the ancient Greeks to today, where modernity itself is unimaginable without the genre.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 28 June 2006

Frank O'Hara

I mentioned the Poets of the New York School yesterday and, unbeknownst to me, that on the day that it would have been Frank O'Hara's 80th birthday (probably).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 28 June 2006

Ohio Impromptu

Mark Kaplan is back blogging at Charlotte Street (his URL was "stolen" for week or so but, happily, it's back up-and-running now). As well as his usual very fine philosophical musings, Mark has found Beckett's Ohio Impromptu online (at the ubiquitous YouTube). Directed by Charles Sturridge and starring Jeremy Irons, it's a compelling piece.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 27 June 2006

Primo Levi and Translation

Interesting article: Primo Levi and Translation by David Mendel. (He quotes Levi: "An author who is confronted by one of his own pages translated into a language he knows, feels in turns - or at one and the same time - flattered, betrayed, ennobled, x-rayed, castrated, planed down, violated, embellished, killed.")


And, remember, there is always quality stuff over on Languagehat when it comes to translation and language issues.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 27 June 2006

Poets of the New York School

I attended a wonderful lecture last night, given by Michael Schmidt on Coventry's finest son, the poet Philip Larkin. I'm not a huge fan of Larkin, but Michael did a wonderful job at almost persuading me to reread him properly. Next Monday (3rd July), Michael will be giving another lecture, this time on the Poets of the New York School (see the Carcanet anthologies The New York Poets (John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara and James Schuyler) and New York Poets II: from Edwin Denby to Bernadette Mayer). The lecture will take place at the Tai Chi Village Hall (behind the house at 163 Palatine Road, Manchester, UK; £7, £5 concessions). To reserve places, email Linda Chase.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 27 June 2006

British Council blog

The British Council has just started a blog. Susan Tranter writes:


I've just found out that James Lasdun (above) has won the National Short Story Prize. My first feeling is guilt that I'd missed the boat and not been able to update the EnCompass news section accordingly. But on reflection, it seems a little strange to me that a prize which was so hyped at the time of its launch, can be awarded so quietly. I gather you had to be in the right place (listening to BBC Radio 4) at the right time (early evening, 15th May) to find out what happened, and I, evidently, was not. (And I'm not the only person who forgot all about the prize pretty much as soon as it was announced - see this post on The Tart of Fiction blog.)

Oh, short stories. Nope, whatever you say, I just can't get that excited about them. Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964), Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) ... that's about it for me. Now, novellas: I likes them!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 23 June 2006

Logos: David Harvey and Imre Kertész

Googling for information about David Grossman (he has just had two books come out, Lion's Honey and Lovers and Strangers, and I hear his See Under: Love is very good, but I've never read him) I came across an Imre Kertész's essay Jerusalem, Jerusalem -- Reflections sparked by the sight of a war-torn city in Logos ("a journal of modern society & culture"). I didn't recall coming across Logos before, so I took a look around the site. Their New Winter Issue is online and it looks very decent. Best of all, it has an interview with RSB pin-up David Harvey.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 23 June 2006

Spooky Stirner

Good to see: Dylan Trigg on spooky old Stirner (the dude who wrote The Ego and Its Own):


The strangeness of Stirner was immediate as I worked though the book: it read like an unhomely Hegel, adopting broadly the same structure as Hegel’s Phenomenology but radically inverting the content. If the ghost of Hegel was present in Stirner, then Stirner’s haunto-analytical work on his master generated its own “spooks.” Spooks, this is the term Stirner applies to the disruption of the ego project, made evident by certain meta-narratological myths which bind the human to a specious freedom. Stirner’s dialectical account of the emergence of “the moderns” in the first section of the book concludes with the image of possession and spirits.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 23 June 2006

Faust

No, not Goethe's book, but FW Murnau's 1926 silent classic! The good folk at Masters of Cinema have very kindly sent on a copy of their Two-disc 80th Anniversary Special Edition of the film. And, for once, "special edition" actually means something: this is a "newly found domestic German print featuring completely different takes and much better resolution than the previously seen export print released outside of Germany". I'm going to review this on RSB soon and, if me and the Masters of Cinema folk can get it together, I'm going to review a good few of their other gems too.


Murnau, a perfectionist, shot multiple takes of each scene with only prime takes making the final German domestic cut of Faust. Only the prints made for export outside Germany were seen until recently, indeed this version was at one time thought to be the only version (it used discarded takes, errors, less impressive special effects, and human stand-ins for real animals). Using the nitrate duplicate negatives printed by UFA in 1926 (and an array of international sources) Murnau's favoured domestic German version of Faust has now been meticulously reconstructed by Luciano Berriatúa for Filmoteca Española from which this newly restored transfer is sourced.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 23 June 2006

parallax 39

The latest edition of the University of Leeds Centre for Cultural Studies magazine parallax (number 39) has just landed. Its a special Blanchot edition guest-edited by William Large (author of the very fine Emmanuel Levinas and Maurice Blanchot: Ethics and the Ambiguity of Writing; Clinamen) and containing essays by RSB interviewees Simon Critchley (Forgetfulness Must: Politics and Filiation in Blanchot and Derrida) and Lars Iyer (There is Language: Speech and Writing in Blanchot). Also included is an essay by Thomas Carl Wall (Larvae) whose book Radical Passivity (SUNY Press) I keep hearing very good things about and must track down.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 23 June 2006

Books That Shook The World

Melvyn Bragg's Twelve Books that Changed the World listed no novels (Principia Mathematica; Married Love; Magna Carta; Book of Rules of Association Football; On the Origin of Species; On the Abolition of the Slave Trade; A Vindication of the Rights of Woman; Experimental Researches in Electricity; Patent Specification for Arkwright’s Spinning Machine; The King James Bible; An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations; and Shakespeare's First Folio). It was an, erm, intriguing list, but perhaps not what most folk expected to be served up. A more obvious list comes in the shape of a new series of "short biographies of world-changing books" from Atlantic Books. Whether we need a new series on introductory books notwithstanding, these are a handsome lot and include Simon Blackburn on Plato's Republic, Janet Browne on Darwin's Origin of Species, Christopher Hitchens on Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, Bruce Lawrence on The Qur'an and Francis Wheen on Karl Marx's Das Kapital. The series continues with books on the Bible, Smith's Wealth of Nations, Machiavelli's The Prince, Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey and von Clausewitz's On War.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 23 June 2006

Nebraska blog

The University of Nebraska Press have gone and entered the blogosphere and join a few other university presses (like OUP and the University of Chicago Press) using blogs to push their wares. And good on them too: the university presses publish some fine books.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 21 June 2006

A Lesser blog

Wendy Lesser, editor of the excellent (American) literary quarterly The Threepenny Review, has begun to blog. Well ... kinda! As Scott and Dan have pointed out, it's not really a blog, doesn't have an RSS feed, and seems predicated on a pretty negative view of lit-bloggers! Anyway, welcome to the fray Wendy.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 21 June 2006

Schmidt on Foxe's Book of Martyrs

Nice: RSB interviewee Michael "OBE" Schmidt on Foxe's Book of Martyrs (thanks Max).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 21 June 2006

Max on Henry; Henry on Max

Max wrote an excellent and considered review of Henry Baum's North of Sunset t'other day here on RSB. Henry's rebuttal to said review can be read over on his Ash Tree blog.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 20 June 2006

Tuesday Science: the ghost of Sokal

Way back in 1996, the physicist Alan Sokal provoked a storm when he wrote a hoax paper for the postmodernist journal Social Text called Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity. The journal published the piece, seemingly unfazed by Sokal's assertion that science should be seen in its ineluctable historicity, and arguing for a new, liberatory mathematics. He later published a book, with Jean Bricmont, called Intellectual Impostures, which took apart some of the more pseudoscientific and pretentious claims of writers including Lacan and Baudrillard.


Were any lessons learnt? Not if this interview (Dividing the species: Race, Science and Culture) in Mute magazine is anything to go by, although it is amusing and instructive to compare what Luciana Parisi has to say with what Alan Sokal wrote in his original Social Text paper.


Thankfully, RSB interviewee Marek Kohn is on hand to inject a note of sanity into the proceedings. Parisi has clearly picked up a few undigested insights from modern science, and attempted to use them as a basis for her frankly impenetrable politico-philosophical musings. Of course, we should be careful not to lapse into anti-intellectualism when faced with difficult and specialist language, but there is a difference between necessary difficulty and an author being willfully obscure to cover up the fact that what they're saying is twaddle.


The argument, as made clear by Sokal and Bricmont, is not that postmodernist philosophy has nothing important or interesting to tell us. As Sokal said (from Wikipedia):


My goal isn't to defend science from the barbarian hordes of lit crit (we'll survive just fine, thank you), but to defend the Left from a trendy segment of itself... There are hundreds of important political and economic issues surrounding science and technology. Sociology of science, at its best, has done much to clarify these issues. But sloppy sociology, like sloppy science, is useless or even counterproductive.


I agree with Kohn that the intellectual cold war between cultural and biological ways of seeing humankind should come to an end. But on the basis of this interview, it looks like a cease-fire is some way off. The two sides are not yet even talking the same language.

Posted by Stuart Watkins
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Monday 19 June 2006

Failed states of reviewing

Noam Chomsky has a new book out -- Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy -- which was idiotically reviewed in a snide piece of bile by Peter Beaumont in the Observer yesterday (a review glowingly reported on in an idiotic and snide blog by Michael Schaub at Bookslut). A decent response to Beaumont can be read over at Lenin's Tomb and many of the comments at the Observer blog are worth reading too.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 19 June 2006

Michael Schmidt OBE

RSB contributor (and my good friend), the poet, publisher, academic and critic, Michael Schmidt has been awarded the OBE: "For services to Higher Education and to Poetry". Huge congratulations Michael!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 19 June 2006

Is it really so sweet?

Steve recently got himself into a bit of hot water over at This Space for suggesting that Suite Française is being praised more for its backstory than for its inherent quality. I'll read my copy as soon as I can find it (like a good few other books, I'm struggling to pin it down since we moved), but I fear Steve is probably right. Its glowing reception does seem suspect: I hope it is not simply because of a nostalgic wish for "proper novels" and due to respect for its author's travails. But the remarkable story of the writing of the book does seem to be most reviewers' focus rather than the novel itself. Just look at the way Kazuo Ishiguro (from this weekend's Guardian summer reading article) encourages us to read it:


Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française, written as Nazi tanks rolled across France, captures the chaos, fear, humiliation, and very occasionally, the courage of the French, as well as portraying the complex emotions that developed between occupier and occupied. The story behind this novel, and Némirovsky's own fate, make for a heart-breaking coda.

It's the story within the novel that I want to read. The backstory is history and sociology, I'm interested to read it only if it works as literature.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 15 June 2006

ReadySteadyBroch

Its funny how you find things out: all the Herman Broch titles that were printed under Penguin Modern Classics are now out of print. I was shocked to learn this only about an hour ago. And how do I know this? Well, RSB contributor Paul Griffiths has written (back in 2003) a fine book on the serialist composer Jean Barraqué, called The Sea on Fire, which I was talking about with his publisher, Boydell & Brewer, only this morning. I was surfing for more information on Barraqué and remembered that he was a friend and lover of Michel Foucault's who had planned to write a collection of pieces based on Hermann Broch's The Death of Virgil, but who only completed two of the projected parts (Chant aprés chant (1966), and Le temps restitué (1957/68)) before his death.


Anyway, this got me thinking more about Broch and about possibly featuring him and his work here on RSB. Maybe even doing a minisite. But Penguin tell me that he is out of print. So ReadySteadyBroch is going to have to wait until I chase down some second hand copies. (If any of you have any Broch's lying about that you don't want please email me!)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 15 June 2006

Robert Kelly on Magic

A fascinating read this (originaly presented at the Princeton Conference on Magic and Cinema back in March): ADAMAGICA: Magic and Iconolatry in Film by the poet Robert Kelly: "Magic is what the mind comes back to time and time again to right itself."


For those interested to know more about Robert ... well, you can wait until our forthcoming interview or -- and I'd advise this for now -- you can read this wee extract from an interview with Robert in the Modern Review (the site says this is just an excerpt from the 44-page interview in the magazine itself, but I've not seen a copy of it yet): "So that’s what poetry could be. All the pleasures I had from reading, fantasizing, learning, music: all in this one strange thing, this alien, incomprehensible, but immensely sensual event."

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 15 June 2006

Donald Hall

I don't know the work of Donald Hall. Indeed, until yesterday, I'm not sure that I had even heard of him. Certainly, the name hadn't stuck. Anyway, the New England poet succeeds Ted Kooser, a Nebraskan writer, as the new US poet laureate: "Solitude, ritual, and a work ethic that matches the granite of his New Hampshire home. These are the elements that frame the poetics of Donald Hall, who was named the 14th poet laureate of the United States on Wednesday, June 14, 2006." (says Arthur Allen):


The position has existed since 1937, from 1937 to 1985 as “Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress,” and from 1986 on as “Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.”  Poets appointed by the librarian of Congress have included Robert Lowell,Elizabeth Bishop, Conrad Aiken, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Penn Warren, Richard Wilbur, and Joseph Brodsky.

And the recently departed Stanley Kunitz. He was the 10th laureate, I believe. Publisher Norton were kind enough to send on a copy of The Collected Poems which I'll get around to reviewing some time soon I hope.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 14 June 2006

Sellars' Stoicism

Good times! John Sellars' Stoicism (Acumen) has just landed. Billed as "the first introduction to Stoic philosophy for 30 years" the book is "aimed at readers new to Stoicism and to ancient philosophy, it outlines the central philosophical ideas of Stoicism and introduces the reader to the different ancient authors and sources that they will encounter when exploring Stoicism." I heard John talking not that long ago and he was brilliant. So, naturally, I'm very excited to read this. I wonder if being "excited" to read it is wrong though!?


The term "Stoicism" derives from the Greek word "stoa," referring to a colonnade, such as those built outside or inside temples, around dwelling-houses, gymnasia, and market-places. They were also set up separately as ornaments of the streets and open places. The simplest form is that of a roofed colonnade, with a wall on one side, which was often decorated with paintings. Thus in the market-place at Athens the stoa poikile (Painted Colonnade) was decorated with Polygnotus's representations of the destruction of Troy, the fight of the Athenians with the Amazons, and the battles of Marathon and Oenoe. Zeno of Citium taught in the stoa poikile in Athens, and his adherents accordingly obtained the name of Stoics. Zeno was followed by Cleanthes, and then by Chrysippus, as leaders of the school. The school attracted many adherents, and flourished for centuries, not only in Greece, but later in Rome, where the most thoughtful writers, such as Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus, counted themselves among its followers. (via The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Unlike ‘epicurean,’ the sense of the English adjective ‘stoical’ is not utterly misleading with regard to its philosophical origins. The Stoics did, in fact, hold that emotions like fear or envy (or impassioned sexual attachments, or passionate love of anything whatsoever) either were, or arose from, false judgements and that the sage--a person who had attained moral and intellectual perfection--would not undergo them. The later Stoics of Roman Imperial times, Seneca and Epictetus, emphasise the doctrines (already central to the early Stoics' teachings) that the sage is utterly immune to misfortune and that virtue is sufficient for happiness. (via Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 14 June 2006

Polyphony sucks

Nice piece on RSB favourite Morton Feldman over at The New Yorker:


Wilfrid Mellers, in his book Music in a New Found Land, eloquently summed up Feldman’s early style: “Music seems to have vanished almost to the point of extinction; yet the little that is left is, like all of Feldman’s work, of exquisite musicality; and it certainly presents the American obsession with emptiness completely absolved from fear.” In other words, we are in the region of Wallace Stevens’s “American Sublime,” of the “empty spirit / In vacant space.”

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 13 June 2006

Elie Wiesel's Night

Elie Wiesel's Night was recently re-translated (from the French by Elie's wife Marion Wiesel) and made an Oprah's Book Club choice in the USA, hugely helping sales of the newly revised version. Elie Wiesel's own Preface to the New Translation is online:


The reader would be entitled to ask: Why this new translation, since the earlier one has been around for forty-five years? If it is not faithful or not good enough, why did I wait so long to replace it with one better and closer to the original?

In response, I would say only that back then, I was an unknown writer who was just getting started. My English was far from good. When my British publisher told me that he had found a translator, I was pleased. I later read the translation and it seemed all right. I never reread it. Since then, many of my other works have been translated by Marion, my wife, who knows my voice and how to transmit it better than anyone else. I am fortunate: when Farrar, Straus and Giroux asked her to prepare a new translation, she accepted. I am convinced that the readers will appreciate her work. In fact, as a result of her rigorous editing, I was able to correct and revise a number of important details.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 12 June 2006

Gyorgy Ligeti RIP

Sad news: the composer Gyorgy Ligeti is dead. Born in 1923, to Hungarian Jewish parents, in the predominantly ethnic Hungarian part of Romania's Transylvania region, his father and brother both died in concentration camps in World War II. Ligeti fled to Austria in 1956 after the Hungarian uprising and, in 1967, became an Austrian citizen. Along with Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis and Pierre Boulez, Ligeti helped revolutionise postwar music. An excerpt from his 1966 work Lux Aeterna was used on the bestselling soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick's Space Odyssey. Kubrick returned to Ligeti in 1999 using the composer's Musica Ricercata II as the theme for Eyes Wide Shut.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 12 June 2006

Professor David Graeber

Language Hat brings my attention to Professor David Graeber. I knew I recognised his name, but due to a shocking dereliction of duty, I note with regret that I've not read his Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (Prickly Paradigm Press) despite it having been sat on the TBR-pile for a long good while. I shall remedy this very soon (and endeavour to review some of the other excellent Prickly Paradigm pamphlets too). By all accounts (see, for example, his interview with Joshua Frank in Counterpunch), David is having serious problems with his bosses at Yale.


Further reading might include: Anarchism in the 21st Century an article by David Graeber and Andrej Grubacic; The New Anarchists; Give it Away - an article about the French intellectual Marcel Mauss.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 12 June 2006

Piotr Rawicz

Populist as ever (!), you'll notice that this week is Piotr Rawicz week here on RSB. My two Books of the Week are the astonishing Blood from the Sky (Elliott & Thompson) and Anthony Rudolf's incisive reading of that work, Engraved in Flesh: Piotr Rawicz and His Novel "Blood from the Sky" (Menard Press). I'm also thrilled to have been allowed to reproduce Anthony's Afterword to Blood from the Sky here on the site, which is just about the best introduction to Rawicz that you'll find anywhere.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 12 June 2006

Letter from Paul Trewhela

Interesting letter from Paul Trewhela in the Guardian Review at the weekend:


One reads from Mark Curtis ("Voice of the unpeople", June 3) that John Pilger has come to the conclusion that there is a certain "ambiguity" about the heritage of Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and that the government of the African National Congress has presided over the empowerment of a small black elite alongside the continued impoverishment of the majority.

In making these unremarkable observations in his new book, Freedom Next Time, Pilger is merely marching in step with the South African communist party or the veteran South African journalists Stanley Uys and James Myburgh.

My late colleague, Dr Baruch Hirson (Pretoria Prison, 1964-73) and I (Pretoria Prison and the Fort, Johannesburg, 1964-67), anticipated Pilger's observations more than 16 years ago in our journal, Searchlight South Africa (banned there), in article after article. At that time and for a decade-and-a-half afterwards, Pilger's global tribuning of the people had its attention elsewhere. More honest, less ideological, and with no bandwagon to give it attention, is Carol Lee's new book, A Child Called Freedom (Century 2006) published to commemorate the 30th anniversary this month of the Soweto school students' uprising. Anyone interested in conditions of poverty in the "new" South Africa, and the unpleasant fate of those who sought democracy in Soweto and in the ANC in exile, would do better to read this unpretentious book.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Sunday 11 June 2006

Gilbert Sorrentino goodies

Thanks to our friends at Coffee House Press we've added some more goodies to our Gilbert Sorrentino minisite. Now on RSB we have some great excerpts from his work. These are: A Beehive Arranged on Humane Principles from The Moon In Its Flight; Pair of Deuces from A Strange Commonplace; Sea of Cold from Lunar Follies and The Tomato Episode from Little Casino.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 09 June 2006

Friday Science: Cosmology

I am currently reading Simon Singh’s Big Bang, and it’s a perfect primer on the whole field of cosmology if, like me, you know absolutely nothing about it. I know the earth is round because I’ve seen the pictures, but how did the ancient Greeks figure it out? How did they then proceed to measure how big it was? How did Einstein prove Newton wrong? How can we know anything about the origin of the universe? As well as getting the basics in cosmology, you also get a lesson in how science works, how it progresses, why people thought the way they did in the past, and how we know they were wrong. How we know what we know, and how we can test if it’s really true. All great stuff.


At the end of the book, Singh lists some websites if you want to find out more. One of the best is the Nasa website’s Cosmology 101 course. It explains clearly and simply the main ideas, and has nice colour pictures, something Simon Singh’s cover artist should have learnt from.


Better for images though is the Nasa gallery. This also has classic images of the moon landings for all you conspiracy nuts out there.


Perhaps more next week. But finally for this week, let’s just look at what you’re letting yourself in for if you start to get into all this stuff. Physicists probe the fifth dimension is a story that takes us into the 11th dimension (via 3Quarks.

Eleven dimensions? If that doesn’t make any sense to you, don’t panic. Getting to grips with relativity will be more than enough to be going on with. As Singh relates, the physicist Ludwig Silberstein once said to Arthur Eddington that he “must be one of only three persons in the world who understands general relativity”. Eddington stared back in silence, prompting Silberstein to tell him not to be so modest. “On the contrary,” replied Eddington, “I am trying to think who the third person is.”


In our more irreverent age, I expect there’s at least one person out there in the blogosphere who has copied and pasted something from Cosmology 101 into their blog, which they think destroys relativity theory. Can you find one? First entry in the comments box wins a ReadySteadyBook bookmark!

Posted by Stuart Watkins
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Friday 09 June 2006

Ficowski and Twisted Spoon Press

You may have noticed the sad death of Jerzy Ficowski (October 4th 1924 - May 9th 2006) last month. The Polish poet, translator, and scholar was well known for his essays on the life and work of Bruno Schulz and was "one of the best Holocaust poets" according to Yala Korwin (for more see The HyperTexts). I know little of his work, but I'm boning up. 


The excellent Twisted Spoon Press have just released Waiting for the Dog to Sleep, Ficowski's only collection of prose, which is wending its way to me as I blog. Twisted Spoon is "an independent publisher based in Prague. Focusing on translating a variety of writing from Central & Eastern Europe, our list includes some internationally recognized names as well as up-and-coming authors who are having their work published in English for the first time." They have a great list, so if RSB goes all Eastern European over the next month, you'll know why.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 08 June 2006

Flores-Bórquez on Hill

Melissa Flores-Bórquez has a rather jerky, but nonetheless decent review of Geoffrey Hill's Without Title over on the poetry blogzine Intercapillary Space.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 08 June 2006

The Menard Press

As I have just mentioned Anthony Rudolf's Menard Press (with reference to Geoffrey Squires and his XXI Poems), I should say a little more about this fab little publisher.


Menard have recently released WG Shepherd's Mother's Milk (a very decent collection that I'll review here soon enough). I was very kindly invited to the book's launch but, sadly, this had to be cancelled because the author is unwell (get better soon Bill!) The invite, however, brought Menard Press to my attention and made me take a look at their titles. I was particularly interested to see Anthony Rudolf's own Engraved in Flesh: Piotr Rawicz and his Novel Blood from the Sky. Piotr Rawicz is an almost entirely forgotten figure (although this novel, Blood from the Sky was republished a couple of years back by Elliott & Thompson) and I wanted to know more. Very happily, Anthony is allowing me to reprint his fine Afterword to Blood from the Sky here on RSB. So, very soon, you'll all know who Piotr Rawicz is!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 08 June 2006

Geoffrey Squires

When I interviewed the philosopher Simon Critchley a wee while back he mentioned the poetry of Geoffrey Squires. Diligent as I am, I wrote to his publisher Wild Honey Press to get a review copy of his Untitled and Other Poems but, frustratingly, they never responded to my email. (I note today that Geoffrey's Twenty-one Poems was published by our friends at the Menard Press, but that was back in 1980, so that collection is no doubt well out of print. I'll check.) Anyway, Geoffrey has just written to let me know that a new long poem of his, Lines, has recently been published as a free downloadable ebook by Shearsman.


Update: Well, good to know, Geoffrey Squires' XXI Poems is, indeed, still in print (with the Menard Press).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 08 June 2006

Overrated Writers Project

Levi Asher, over at LitKicks, is having fun with his Overrated Writers Project (please do Ian McEwan Levi -- if you don't, I will!) He did a nice takedown of William Vollmann yesterday (which garnered a good response -- of sorts -- from Ed Champion.) Alma Books have just published Vollmann's Europe Central here in the UK. I must admit, I baulked at the idea of reading it when I saw how brick-thick it was.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 08 June 2006

Comments problems

We seem to be having some problems with the "comments" functionality on the blog. We're working to get this fixed but, in the meantime, if you'd like to add a comment to a blog entry and you can't get it to work (it does seem to be working for some folk, so do try the traditional method first!) just email me the comment and I'll add it for you. Thanks!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 07 June 2006

Waggish on Wake

Ooh there seems to be a fair amount of "signposting" to do today. Again, I should have mentioned this earlier but, y'know, I was probably drunk. Anyway, Waggish has just read Joyce's Finnegans Wake (nice post on Sunday on The Books on the (Finnegans) Wake) which is the one Joyce book, like many other folks, that I've not read. And, for now, despite Waggish's enthusiasm ("What did I get from it? Among other things, a sense of limitless possibility. Was it worth it? Yes. But I have only invested a couple months, not the decades that others have.") I can't see myself jumping in. It is the limpid, yet depthless, writing of a Beckett or an Appelfeld that most attracts me at the moment. Joyce's difficulty seems like a perverse game. And I don't want to play.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 07 June 2006

Guardian Sorrentino obit.

The Guardian newspaper finally gets around to a Gilbert Sorrentino obituary. More on GS on the RSB Gilbert Sorrentino minisite.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 07 June 2006

The Quarterly Conversation Summer 2006

I should have mentioned this a week or so ago: the latest The Quarterly Conversation (issue 4, Summer 2006) is now online. It includes a "survey of bloggers, publishers, writers, and editors to start a discussion over what books have shaped literature since 1990": Some of the Best Books Since 1990.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 06 June 2006

Temple Grandin

I'm hearing good things about the fabulously-named Temple Grandin and her book Animals in Translation (Bloomsbury.). Horizon have made a TV documentary about her which is due to air in the UK on BBC2 on Thursday night at 9pm. It's called The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 06 June 2006

Edward Hirsch interview

There is an interview with Edward Hirsch over at his publisher's website (Harcourt). I started reading Hirsch's Poets Choice (one of my Books of the Week) last night and it really is a lovely book. Chunky and nicely produced, Hirsch gives a bit of an introduction to each of his chosen poems and then presents the poem itself. I'm always a sucker for a bit of a context to anthologised poetry; and Hirsch does a good job here.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 05 June 2006

June Poetry

The June issue of Poetry magazine has landed. Always a pleasure. (Do remember that RSB readers can get a special subscription rate to Poetry as well as other fab offers.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 05 June 2006

Swindon

Just been to Swindon and back. Shattered. Swindon is further away from Manchester than any place on God's good earth. Nowhere is further away from my house than Swindon. I may sleep for the next three days.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 01 June 2006

The Book Depository

Back on the 19th May, Steve mentioned The Book Depository. Well, I'm thrilled to say that I am The Book Depository's web-editor!


Fantastically, I have complete and utter editorial discretion and can feature whatever books I like. Most certainly, The Book Depository is a commercial site, but my job there is to surface forgotten, ignored and marginal books, as well as -- for reasons of topicality -- those that have become Books of the Moment by being, for example, Book of the Week over on Radio 4.


At the moment, if you visit The Book Depository site, you may get a wee bit of a sense of déjà vu: a good deal of the content (book reviews and interviews) have come from RSB. But, going forward, there will be lots and lots of unique content on The Book Depository that will be quite different to what you'll read here.


I'm thrilled to be helping The Book Depository folk out. I used to work with the Big Boss (Andy) back in my Amazon days and I know how committed he is to extending the range of books that are easily available -- and at a great price (free shipping on everything!)


I'll also be blogging for The Book Depository over on my Editor's Corner. I'll be focussing more on trade-/publishing-related news and, again, on books (crime, graphic novels, erotic, plainly bonkers) that I don't focus on here - RSB being, after all, a literary site.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 01 June 2006

Librarians Without Borders

Librarians Without Borders is:


an organization that was born in February 2005 by a group of socially-minded librarians who wanted to address the vast information resource inequity existing between different regions of the world. Our vision is to build sustainable libraries and support their custodians and advocates -- librarians.

Via Booksurfer.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 01 June 2006

jPod

jPod, Douglas Coupland's new book, has an official site:


Coupland's latest novel updates Microserfs for the age of Google. Six programmers are bureacratically marooned in jPod — meet them here, read an extract, read an interview with Douglas Coupland, download a podcast, order the exclusive signed special edition ...

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 01 June 2006

Ten Poems from Hafez

Sylph Editions have just sent on a copy of the absolutely gorgeous, sumptuously produced book: Ten Poems from Hafez (translated by Jila Peacock). Lovely to see such a fine edition of medieval Farsi poetry.


Hafez (d. 1390) is Iran’s premier and most quoted lyric poet. His status in his own country, and his universal appeal, can be compared with that of Shakespeare in the English-speaking world. The painter and printmaker Jila Peacock has chosen ten love poems from Hafez and following the footsteps of the great Islamic calligraphers, has produced ten shape-poems that sit by her own translations from the Persian. Accompanied by Robert Hillenbrand’s erudite introduction and a foreword by Parvin Loloi, this book is an exceptional achievement, a celebration of the marriage between word and image.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 01 June 2006

In Hora Mortis

James Reidel's translation of Thomas Bernhard's poems In Hora Mortis / Under the Iron of the Moon (PUP) is out any moment now. Franz Wright, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, endorses the book thus:


Already recognized as a champion of neglected genius, Reidel continues his admirable project by providing American readers with the early verse works of the modern prose master, Thomas Bernhard. This is a beautiful and necessary book. The translations themselves immediately strike me as both accurate and inspired, and are accompanied by a highly readable and erudite introduction which vividly brings to life the young Bernhard and his efforts (alongside older contemporaries such as Krolow, Eich, Bachmann, and Celan) to recreate for literary and moral purposes the great language the Nazis destroyed.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 01 June 2006

Describing books' condition

Do you buy a lot of secondhand books online? I do! And I get very annoyed when the books are not exactly as described. I don't mind at all if a book is battered, but I want to know that before I buy it, so I don't get a nasty surprise. Anyway, here is a good grading system for books from the Independent Online Booksellers Association (via BookLad).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Submit News to RSB

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

-- Mark Thwaite, Managing Editor

Books of the Week

Edward Carpenter Edward Carpenter
Chushichi Tsuzuki
Cambridge University Press

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

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

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

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Poem of the Week

Cousin Nancy

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

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

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

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

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Word of the Day

fascicle

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

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October's Books of the Month

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

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