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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 'September 2006'

Saturday 30 September 2006

David Gemmell RIP

Fantasy writer David Gemmell has died. From his publisher Transworld:


It is with great sadness that we announce that David Gemmell died on Thursday 28 July, at the age of 57. David had quadruple heart bypass surgery two weeks earlier and appeared to making a good recovery, which made the news all the more shocking.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 29 September 2006

TLS talk on GBS at NPG

News in from the TLS:


The Times Literary Supplement (TLS) today announces its next talk on famous names in literature, as a part of the third in a series of talks celebrating the National Portrait Gallery’s 150th Anniversary. On Thursday, October 5 at 7pm, at the National Portrait Gallery, Michael Holroyd, and Roy Foster will lead a discussion on George Bernard Shaw to commemorate the birth – also 150 years ago – of the this world-famous playwright and socialist, George Bernard Shaw. Holroyd, prize-winning biographer and Foster, Professor of Irish History at Oxford University, will discuss Shaw’s provocative legacy.

I'm told that there is still plenty of availability and tickets can be obtained at the door on the night of the event or in advance by telephoning 020 7306 0055 and asking for The Ticket Desk.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 29 September 2006

Paola Kaufmann RIP

Paola Kaufmann, author of The Sister and the forthcoming The Lake has died suddenly, from a brain tumour, at the age of 37.


This, below, from her publisher Alma Books:


Born in 1969 in Rio Negro, Argentina, Paola achieved great success, not only as a writer, but also as a biologist and scientific researcher. In the short space of five years, she produced three books, The Devil’s Golfcourse (winner of the Fondo Nacional de las Artes Prize), The Sister (winner of the Casa de las Américas Prize) and The Lake (winner of the Planeta Prize for fiction).

It is tragic that a writing career, which had delivered so much in such a short life, could not continue; doubtless Paola would have continued to write books of beauty and insight to be enjoyed by fans the world over. As an author, she was a joy to work with and shall be sadly missed by all here at Alma.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 28 September 2006

Libertine Magazine launch

From Buzzwords (and also Literature North West):


Libertine Magazine launches tomorrow at Manchester's Central Library (6pm/free entry and wine). It is "dedicated solely to poetry, lyrics and the liberation of the language that they use". The first issue includes an interview with Carol Ann Duffy in which she discusses Mozart, Madonna and Lennon/McCartney. Guillemots frontman Fyfe Dangerfield talks about Kerouac, Lewis Carroll and his own poetry. All that as well as "great features exploring the inspiration that great names of music and literature have on each other, plus a wide variety of excellent and original brand new poetry and song lyrics submitted from around the world".

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 28 September 2006

Two essays by Agamben

Two essays by Giorgio Agamben (via the Continental Philosophy blogsite): A Brief History of the State of Exception and The State of Emergency.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 27 September 2006

Joseph Koerner interview

I'm going to be posting an interview here on RSB with the superb art historian Professor Joseph Leo Koerner later this week. In the meantime, to whet your appetites, here is Eamon Duffy reviewing Koerner's excellent The Reformation of the Image (from the LRB):


Joseph Koerner's scintillating, learned and eloquent book explores this shift [art as no longer sacred, but instead offering an alternative form of textuality, mere food for thought] by an extended investigation of the method and meaning of Cranach's Lutheran paintings, especially the monumental altarpiece he painted for Luther's own church, the Stadkirche at Wittenberg, installed there in 1547 as a memorial to the first and greatest of the reformers. Koerner sees in this altarpiece the key to a new aesthetic, which preserved art by turning it into a form of pious self-effacement, enacting its own theological redundancy by presenting itself as a mere system of useful signs, not so much an alternative as a supplement to text, a vehicle for information and affirmation of the new gospel. Emptied of emotion and of claims to transcendence, Lutheran art represented the sacred not by confronting the visible church with images of the invisible church, a company of the saints caught up in a heavenly worship (as in Catholic altarpieces such as Duccio's Maestà or van Eyck's Ghent Adoration of the Lamb), but by depicting the quotidian activities of the visible church itself.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 27 September 2006

New Tom Waits CD

Ooh goody: "Tom Waits will release a CD called Orphans, due out for 21 November. The three CD's called Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards will contain coversongs and material made for film and theaterproductions, 'rough and tender tunes', according to Waits." (Via Musique Machine.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 27 September 2006

Kierkegaard book auction

From Yahoo!: "Unique Kierkegaard book on auction after 150-year search":


A book by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, featuring a handwritten dedication to Denmark's famed storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, is to be sold at auction after a 150-year search around the globe.

Newspaper Jyllands-Posten said the dedication in Either/Or was the only hard evidence of direct contact between two of Denmark's biggest literary figures, and described the sale of the highly sought-after copy as a cultural and historic sensation.

Jyllands-Posten itself goes on to say:


Although Søren Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Andersen were contemporaries - most likely rubbing shoulders in Copenhagen's intellectual circles during Denmark's Golden Age of the 1840s - their relationship had been merely speculative. At least until the discovery of the book.

Several years ago, scholars had discovered an effusive 'thank you' letter signed by Andersen among Kierkegaard's papers, but the book itself remained elusive.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 26 September 2006

Michel Onfray

Back in December, I mentioned Michel Onfray's Traité d'Athéologie (Grasset). Well, it seems that Serpent's Tail will be publishing what I understand is the first of Onfray's titles (he is only 46 and has already written thirty books!) to be translated into English.


Onfray sounds like a fascinating thinker and writer. This is (just some of) what Doug Ireland has to say:


A radical libertarian socialist, a self-described 'Nietzschian of the Left', Onfray's philosophical project is to define an ethical hedonism, a joyous utilitarianism, and a generalized aesthetic of sensual materialism that explores how to use the brain's and the body's capacities to their fullest extent - while restoring philosophy to a useful role in art, politics and everyday life and decisions. All this presupposes, in Onfray's philosophy, a militant atheism and the demasking of false gods.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Sunday 24 September 2006

PEN talks to Elif Shafak

PEN talks to Elif Shafak, recently acquitted of charges of “insulting Turkishness” in Turkey. Under Turkey’s laws, at least eighteen other authors are awaiting trial for “insult.” (via the excellent KR Blog). In English-translation, from Elif, we have The Flea Palace and The Gaze (both from Marion Boyars; both soon to be reviewed here) and The Saint of Incipient Insanities (from FSG). Next year, the book that caused the recent fuss, The Bastard of Istanbul, is out in the UK, in April (with Penguin imprint Viking). Congratulations too are due: Elif gave birth to Shererazade Zelfa the Saturday before last. Wonderful news!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 22 September 2006

Primo Levi: "new" book

From The Independent today an overview of Levi's Auschwitz Report (Verso): "Primo Levi's earliest account of the Holocaust was not a memoir or a novel but a document detailing what happened inside the Nazis' most notorious death camp. Compiled in collaboration with a fellow survivor at the request of their Soviet liberators, the Auschwitz Report is a work of extraordinary restraint and lucidity. As it appears for the first time in English, we tell the story of how it came to be written, and publish extracts."

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 22 September 2006

New stuff on (prize-winning) Book Depository

I've just posted an interview with Hilary Spurling (author of The Unknown Matisse and Matisse the Master) and an interview with Luke Brown of Tindal Street Press (one of the smallest publishers ever to reach the Man Booker Prize shortlist, with Clare Morrall's Astonishing Splashes of Colour) over at The Book Depository (which last night "fought off competition from Amazon's Advantage scheme and BIC's e4books initiative to take The Nielsen BookNet Supply Chain Initiative of the Year": yay! This is an important "industry" thingy: see the BookSeller for more).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 21 September 2006

MacLehose joins with Quercus

I don't normally do much publishing trade news here on RSB (I do a bit more of that over at The Book Depository), but this is interesting (thanks Michael; via the BookSeller):


Quercus is backing Christopher MacLehose, former publisher of Harvill, to set up a separate publishing unit specialising in translated literary fiction.

MacLehose will acquire and edit around 10 titles a year, funded by Quercus. The titles will be published by Quercus under the joint MacLehose Press/Quercus imprint, beginning next autumn.

MacLehose headed up Harvill for 21 years, where his acquisitions included Haruki Murakami, Ismail Kadare, Peter Hoeg and Henning Mankell. MacLehose became editor-at-large of Harvill Secker at the start of 2004, and left the company in July.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 21 September 2006

OUP USA blog

Lots and lots of interesting bits of author information over at the OUP blog (OUP USA this is). Today, it says, amongst other things (today's things being an excellent piece on Women and Literature):


Happy Birthday wishes go out to author, socialist, and human rights activist Upton Sinclair, who was born on this date in 1878.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 21 September 2006

Eqbal Ahmad

Another fine looking title that I notice is just out from Columbia University Press is The Selected Writings of Eqbal Ahmad. I'd never heard of Eqbal until about an hour ago, but Noam Chomsky's foreword (caution pdf!) makes him sound well worth reading. The publisher's quote Edward Said:


Eqbal Ahmad was perhaps the shrewdest and most original anti-imperialist analyst of the postwar world. Ahmad's themes were always liberation and injustice, or how to achieve the first without reproducing more of the second. Humanity and genuine secularism in this blood-drenched old century of ours had no finer champion.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 21 September 2006

Seeds of Peace event

Levi Asher on Monday night's Seeds of Peace benefit reading:


I attended an outstanding group reading last night at the McNally Robinson bookstore in Soho [NYC]. The theme was Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, and the event was sponsored by a group called Seeds of Peace. The event began with a bang when Leora Skolkin-Smith read a surprising personal document, a passionate love letter an anonymous Muslim teenager in Beirut had written to her Jerusalemite Jewish mother in the 1930's. These readers were intent on breaking down the idea that Jews and Muslims cannot co-exist, and one touching, revealing story after another was offered ...

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 21 September 2006

Things Beyond Resemblance

One to note: Robert Hullot-Kentor's forthcoming book, Things Beyond Resemblance: Collected Essays on Theodor W. Adorno, is due out next month from Columbia University Press. I got this via Brian Sholis:


It comprises over twenty years' worth of the philosopher and translator's essays on Adorno's work. Word earlier this week from another friend, an artist who knows Adorno's writing very well, reminded me of its imminent publication, and, by coincidence, I came across a copy yesterday. (I love how things come into one's field of vision not long after one opens one's eyes.) I skimmed it before and after last night's lecture, and found much to make me want to plunge in earnest into Adorno's writings...

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 20 September 2006

Ted H on the telly

Moral philosophy's firebrand Ted Honderich was on the telly last night (on Five's Don't Get Me Started). The programme was entitled The Real Friends of Terror and it rehearsed the arguments in his recent Continuum title Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War: Palestine, 9-11, Iraq, 7-7. Honderich argued clearly and convincingly that Blair's moral barbarism is atrocious, and that the real cause of the 9-11 and 7-7 attacks is the ongoing situation in Palestine. The programme was good polemic and it is always nice to see Blair (and Bush) condemned so trenchantly. But Honderich's argument is maddening.


If you jettison politics in favour of "moral philosophy" and the (very questionable and hubristic) "principle of humanity" (the principle Honderich uses to ground his argument, a principle, in short, that everyone should have "good lives") you concede to politicians the very ground you should be fighting them on. Politicians aren't (just) morally stupid; they are also CEOs of countries that have political and strategic ends to follow by whatever means. Throwing politics out of the window, and blaming politicians for moral stupidity, means no questions are asked about oil and arms, about realpolitik. Engaging with Blair's arguments as a moral philosopher flatters a politician's spin as somehow worthy of being taken seriously. There is a spurious War on Terror and tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians because of oil, power and money. Moral failings may certainly stem from the hunger for these "resources", but they are not the cause of the wars fought to capture them.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 19 September 2006

A note on Josipovici's Everything Passes

Gabriel Josipovici's Everything Passes is hugely affecting: disquieting, profound, emotionally truthful. It occupies just sixty pages. I'm wary of talking about this astonishing and beautiful book for two reasons: I fear invoking cliches about it punching above its weight, about it being short but never slight; and I fear that, as with the work of Beckett, a prolix review would be entirely inappropriate given the minimalist qualities of the work in question. But criticism, like all metalanguages, tends to infinity with regard to its object: you can write endlessly about any work of art, but, in the end, it must be allowed to speak for itself. How, then, to let Everything Passes speak and, yet, to write about it, to respond to it?


As Steve noted the other day, "There are some books whose first lines, the opening lines, are enough. Reading them, you know this is it. This is why you read." As Steve quotes, the novel (the diminutive novella seems too pretty, too dismissive) begins:


A room.
He stands at the window.
And a voice says: Everything passes. The good and the bad. The joy and the sorrow.
Everything passes.


Immediately, a rhythm. The stage is set. Indeed, these could almost be stage directions. (And, again, and not to Josipovici's detriment, one thinks of Beckett.) The stage is set, and we are drawn on, we read on. The tone is melancholy, minatory even. Looking through a cracked window pane, Felix remembers. Brief sketches, but full enough, redolent of a flawed, full existence. A lived life. Josipovici doesn't create characters by packing the narrative with events that pretend, via accumulation, to some authentic, life-like verisimilitude (the more facts, the more real; the more pages, the more real!). Rather, he builds an emotional veracity that arises from an honesty about the nature of writing itself. And so, and at first this feels a little abrupt, the monosyllabic work opens out and Rabelais is recalled (but this is never bloodless, intellectual writing: Josipovici manages, via a concision that verges on the magical, to evoke the full confusion and pain of familial love in a matter of a sentence or two). Rabelais: the writer who invented modern writing. Writing that was to be read, by strangers, not made as part of, and for, a community. The writer who first knew the absurdity of modern writing, of writing, to be read, by and for these strangers. The writer who first knew. Extreme contemporary!


Rabelais is remembered and other memories intrude. A life passes. Everything passes. A lover passes besides Felix, and gently pushes her way into the garden. His son and daughter come and go. A wife, that lover, a life. Even words pass. But these, these pass slowly: the book contains as much silence and space (it is almost auto-contemplative) as it does language. And this is only right. Beautiful.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 18 September 2006

A note on Roth's Everyman

Looking back over a few weeks' blogging I sometimes note, not the books that I have mentioned, but the books that I've read that somehow haven't, in one way or another, made it into my entries here on RSB. The "absent" books may not have formed any part of the blog, but they have often been important as part of my thinking about literature and its attendant difficulties. (Or, rather, my ongoing difficulties with literature.) One such unmentioned book is Philip Roth's Everyman. I found the work hugely flawed. But, then, flaws are what make a work of art interesting, of course. There is no such thing as a perfect life and, so, a perfect novel is itself impossible to imagine. It would be like finding out that there really is an answer to the riddle that is life, the universe and everything; such an answer could only ever be a banality.


Everyman was received with mixed reviews (Tim Adams in the Guardian praised it highly; Michiko Kakutani called it, "a cobbled-together production of a writer coasting wearily along on automatic pilot") and my own feelings share the critics' general ambivalence. AS Byatt glossed the story thus: "The book opens with his funeral, and ends with the moment of his death on the operating table. In between, with a blunt and steady progress, the reader sees through his eyes the slow dissolution of his body." But it isn't the story that is interesting here (in truth, a good tale is the last thing I'm looking for when I read a novel): it is the form and the style of the work. Both whether the form and the style engage with the content, reflect it, bolster its truth and whether, in themselves, they question, in some way, the very certainty of the endeavour that is writing.


John Banville called Roth's style in Everyman "measured, understated, withholding - in a word, plain." Certainly, it is the plainness that is most affecting about the piece. Not, here, the macho, unadorned, "muscular" prose of any number of post-Hemingway writers (from the Beats to Fante and Bukowski), but something more artful, refined and reserved. Prosaic, here, because it is restrained, not because it is vapid. And artful because, starting as the story does with our Everyman's funeral, the narrative has nowhere to go, no real surprises to spring. And how apt that is! The inevitability of the narrative is admitted at the outset. The absurdity of the endeavour written into the writing of the piece: I can't go on writing, because my character is already dead, I'm already dead. I'll go on writing.


Only writing that knows the absurdity of writing in a world where death has undone so many should expect our time and effort. This is a slight work from Roth, uneven in its tone, unbelievable in some of its dialogue, seemingly rushed in some of its phrasing, confused in overall effect. But it is a compelling and troubling work even so. Its assurance is belied by the discomfiting truths that the very shape of the work embodies. And its inability to remain assured in the face of the truths it is awkwardly working out make the novel, I think, if not entirely satisfying, honest and praiseworthy.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 18 September 2006

Ismo's here!

RSB contributor Ismo Santala is in London! As he said over at the Splinters blog:


Anyway, the point of this post is to get the word out: I arrived in London two days ago, and will be living (& studying) here until the end of January. Since the express purpose of my stay is to improve my spoken English, I'd like to meet with as many bloggers, writers and artists, etc. as possible.

You can find my email address by visiting my weblog (click on my name on the top of the sidebar). If nothing else, I'd appreciate some good links/resources re: literary London. Thanks.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 14 September 2006

A small Booker quirk

The Man Booker Prize shortlist was announced yesterday. Nothing of particular interest on it to my mind. I was, however, amused to see that two books entitled Mother's Milk seem to be around and about this year. Edward St.Aubyn's shortlisted title and W.G. Shepherd's Menard Press title:


[Shepherd's] Mother's Milk is a series of thirty poems, written over a period of about thirty years. It charts the psychological renewal of the poet, his journey from alcohol-dependancy to sobriety. This slow awakening takes him from a dark night of depression and despair to a place of reconciliation, where he can feel whole and where the spirit is no longer located in spirits.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 13 September 2006

A coming Blanchot

Good pal of RSB, Blanchot translator Charlotte Mandell has been working her wonders again. Charlotte's translation of A Voice from Elsewhere (Lydia Davis says, "This welcome new volume, beautifully translated, is an essential addition to our library of Blanchot in English") is due out from SUNY Press in February. So, Valentine's Day gifts are not going to be a problem next year then!


A Voice from Elsewhere represents one of Maurice Blanchot’s most important reflections on the enigma and secret of “literature.” The essays here bear down on the necessity and impossibility of witnessing what literature transmits, and—like Beckett and Kafka—on what one might call the “default” of language, the tenuous border that binds writing and silence to each other. In addition to considerations of René Char, Paul Celan, and Michel Foucault, Blanchot offers reflections on Lyotard’s work, together with a sustained encounter with the poems of Louis-René des Forêts and, throughout, a unique and important concentration on music—on the lyre and the lyric, meter and measure—which poetry in particular brings before us.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 13 September 2006

Transmission

I met the guys behind Transmission, Dan McTiernan and Graham Foster, at the Manchester Independent Book Market, back on the 2nd September:


Transmission is one of the most exciting and innovative literature magazines being printed in Manchester. Established as a not-for-profit venture, the creators of Transmission are dedicated to providing a high quality medium for aspiring writers and artists to display their talents. The publication combines original and varied writing with quality illustration and snappy design.

Certainly, the Transmission boys are trying to do an interesting thing, combining new, local (North of England-based writers) work (of mixed quality) with a fairly literary magazine (eg interviews with Sarah Waters and Anthony Burgess´s new biographer Andrew Biswell and writing guidance from RSB interviewee Michael Schmidt). I'm not convinced yet, however, that they've fully proved themselves. What would be nice was if the contents for the sold-out early issues were put online, then you'd all be able to check it out.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 13 September 2006

Red the Fiend

The matchless Dalkey Archive Press have just released their latest Gilbert Sorrentino novel, Red the Fiend: "a recasting of Sorrentino’s Aberration of Starlight, this is the story of how a child becomes a monster: of how Red the boy becomes Red the Fiend."


This reminds me that I never mentioned Derik A. Badman's online comic Elegy for G.S. (which is in the latest The Quarterly Conversation). And it also reminds me that I need to do some work on the RSB Gilbert Sorrentino minisite and on my other minisites too.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 13 September 2006

Thanks! But please stop now!

Many of you, it would seem, have very kindly nominated RSB for inclusion in the Manchester Blog Awards ("winners will be announced at an awards ceremony during the Manchester Literature Festival, at Urbis, on October 16 at 7pm.") Happily, RSB is now well and truly nominated (and "nominations do not count as votes") so, please, don't concern yourselves any further with nominating RSB -- that is now done and dusted -- just keep your fingers crossed that we get shortlisted "in early October."

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 12 September 2006

Milan Kundera

Been a wee while since we heard from Milan Kundera here in the UK. Well, good news is that Kundera's The Curtain (originally published as Le Rideau, in French in April 2005 by Gallimard) will be published in English in February 2007 by HarperCollins. The Curtain is "a seven-part essay by Milan Kundera, along with The Art of the Novel and Testaments Betrayed composing a type of trilogy of book-length essays on the European novel." Goodness knows if and when we'll be getting another novel, though. The last one was Ignorance (written in 1999 in French and published there in 2000; translated into English in 2002 by Linda Asher).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 12 September 2006

Jonathan Rée blog

Philosopher Jonathan Rée has a blog (which is part of the BBC Blog Network):


If freedom is to be really desirable, then it must have a relation to something beyond what you happen to want – a relation, as I said, to something like reason, responsibility, even truth.

You may know Rée as the author of I See a Voice or the very useful Kierkegaard: A Critical Reader.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 08 September 2006

Dante fun in Florence

Russian, American and Italian poets and artists will convene in Florence from 15-17th November to discuss Dante's Divine Comedy. But unless some kind benefactor steps forward, I shan't be there! Organised by the Fondazione Romualdo del Bianco, the conference will bring together international poets, artists, translators and interpreters to explore readings and re-readings of Dante's work through poetry, theatre, music and figurative and multimedia arts. Speakers include poets Robert Pinsky, Edoardo Sanguineti, Yusef Komunyakaa and film director Giancarlo Cauteruccio. Interpretations of Dante's poem will be enacted at the recently restored House of Dante Alighieri Museum in the heart of Florence during the three-day conference. Visit florence-expo.com or email info@fondazione-delbianco.org.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 08 September 2006

Jameson on Žižek

Widely linked to this, but certainly worth reading (and hence repeating the link): Fredric Jameson on Slavoj Žižek's Parallax View in the LRB.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 08 September 2006

Memories are made of this

Hahaha! I remember this:


I'm a bit of a connoiseur of "difficult" music. We had a record player in the sixth form common room, and whoever bought records in, got to play them on it. There was a challenge to play something so annoying that everyone would leave. Most of the sixth form were incredibly dull and would occasionally treat us to a Phil Collins or Meat Loaf album, which was reason enough, I think to impose on them something a little more out there. Psychic TV's The Full Pack - ten minutes of wolves howling was my masterpiece - though I think the most unlistenable thing we ever heard there was the first Alien Sex Fiend album; approach with care. Reading in this month's Mojo about An Electric Storm by White Noise from 1969, I had to get it, particularly with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's Delia Derbyshire involved. I must admit I was half expecting some unlistenable hippy shit, but it's actually great - first track sounds like Stereolab! So, not that unlistenable after all.

The above from The Art of Fiction blog yesterday. Dude wants to try to have converted the world to Whitehouse!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 08 September 2006

Salt

FYI (as the young people say), I've just posted a nice interview with Chris Hamilton-Emery, of the poetry publisher Salt, over on The Book Depository site (as part of the Publisher of the Week slot I do over there).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 07 September 2006

Today in Manchester

Very short notice I know, but today, between 1-2pm, in the Committee Room, 2nd Floor, Manchester Central Library (in partnership with Bloodaxe) there is a free poetry reading featuring Clare Shaw and Jackie Kay.


I won't be at the poetry, but tonight I will be over at Manchester's Common bar, attending the midweek Licktronica event, where the superb Helios will be playing live. Helios's new CD Eingya is gorgeous, wonderful, fabulous ... As is just about everything else on the peerless Type label.


Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 06 September 2006

Scroggins poems

Some new poems from Mark Scroggins can be found over at the excellent Intercapillary Space. Mark, as you may be aware, is an expert on Louis Zukofsky, his book Louis Zukofsky and the Poetry of Knowledge being an essential read if you want to know more about the great Objectivist.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 05 September 2006

György Faludy RIP

György Faludy, 96, a poet and translator considered one of Hungary's greatest literary figures of the last century, died Friday in his Budapest home (via LA Times, thanks TEV):


Faludy fled the Nazis and the communists, and his works were banned in his home country for decades. He spent 33 years in exile, first in Europe and later mainly in Toronto, where he obtained citizenship. He returned to Hungary in 1989, shortly after the publication there of his autobiographical novel My Happy Days in Hell. First published in English in 1962, the book was considered a precursor to Alexander Solzhenitsyn's accounts of the Soviet concentration camps. Born to a Jewish family in Budapest, Faludy first gained acclaim in the mid-1930s for his translations of the ballads of 15th century French poet Francois Villon. He left Hungary in 1938 amid rising intolerance against Jews and hostility to his political views. He returned after World War II and was imprisoned in the infamous Recsk labor camp in 1950 on false charges by Hungary's Stalinist regime. In the camps, he organized literature courses to keep the prisoners occupied. Faludy was released in 1953, when the camp was closed after Stalin's death.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 05 September 2006

Chandrahas Choudhury interview

Chandrahas Choudhury, writer behind the fine blog The Middle Stage, gets the bloggasm interview treatment.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 05 September 2006

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

Well, it worked for Dickens, so Penguin are giving the old serial another try. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters is, initially, only to be made available to 5000 subscribers ("Ten thrilling chapters in handsome perfect bound editions"), delivered to your door, over ten weeks, for just £25 (not sure of the overseas prices):


The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters will be available as an exclusive, limited edition subscription set of ten instalments beginning in early October and ending in December. To ensure you are one of the lucky recipients of these exclusive editions, you must sign up via the Penguin website in September. When you have signed up, you will receive one beautifully produced chapter through the post each week for ten weeks beginning in October.

Publishers are always looking for new (or old) ways to sell their wares, so you can't blame them for that. But the book sounds like terrible tripe:


When Miss Temple finds her engagement broken off without suitable explanation by her fiancé Roger Bascombe, she is given a choice: turn away from polite society or turn adventuress and discover the reason for her rejection. Deciding to secretly follow her former lover, Miss Temple finds herself a trespasser at a masked ball. There, strange and unspeakable acts involving electricity and books of glass (not to mention a murder) take place and Miss Temple almost loses both her virtue and her life.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 04 September 2006

Proustiana

Happily working my way through William C. Carter's Proust in Love, and soon to turn to The Memoirs of Ernest A. Forssgren, Proust's Swedish Valet, and afterwards probably returning to finish Richard Davenport-Hines' Proust at the Majestic: The Last Days of the Author Whose Book Changed Paris, I realise that I'm always in the mood for some Proustiana! And then, yesterday, Slightly Bluestocking brings my attention to Henri Raczymow's Swan's Way. The publisher's blurb reads thusly:


What begins as a meditation on the fictional identity of the elegant "swan" of Proust's In Search of Lost Time becomes, through a series of turns and twists, an ingenious investigation of the character's real-life counterpart, Charles Haas. Part novel, part essay, part literary sleuthing, Swan's Way is a critical tour de force. Through an inspired reading of Proust's text, Henri Raczymow gradually unravels the multiple contradictions of Charles Swann's personality, brought into focus by the fault lines in Proust's narrative method. The author traces Swann's evolution and the multiple ways in which his Jewish identity keeps peeping through the veneer of respectability of this sophisticated dandy. Through a parallel inquiry into the history of the Jockey Club--to which Haas, a Jew, was, like Swann, exceptionally admitted--and the transformation of the German-Jewish Haas into the fashionable British Swann, Swan's Way evolves into an examination of the question of personal identity and posthumous survival. Charles Haas's Jewish identity is the invisible thread that guides Raczymow through the maze of Proust's work, which serves as a backdrop against which fin-de-siècle French society enacts the ugly drama of anti-Semitism. Blurring the boundaries between life and fiction, Swan's Way leads the reader ever deeper into the unresolved question of literary and personal character.

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Saturday 02 September 2006

What I'm doing today

Well, I was going to stay in today, hide from the rain, and read David Peace's The Damned Utd., but news of the Manchester Book Market (via The Literary Saloon) has just filtered through the wires, so I guess I'll be off into town to buy books (and records: the new Susanna And The Magical Orchestra is out!)


The Manchester Book Market is a brand new initiative designed to give independent publishers and retailers, of books and magazines, the opportunity to sell their product directly to the public. The project was set up in response to a perceived under-representation of the independent book sector, in Manchester and, if successful, will hopefully grow from a one-off initiative to a regular fixture on the specialist market calendar.

The event has been will take place on the busiest shopping days of the week, Friday and Saturday, to give traders the best possible opportunity to make profit and promote their organisations to potential consumers. Also, St. Anne’s Square is considered to be the ‘best pitch in town’ as a central attraction for shoppers from all sides of the city. The addition of an outdoor coffee shop, and potentially live literary events, will help ensure that consumers are kept in the vicinity.

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Friday 01 September 2006

A Thomas Bernhard question

A RSB reader writes asking:


I would really like to get the best versions of Thomas Bernhard's work. I have not read him before, so (1) could you recommend the books (ie translation etc.), and (2) the order that I should read them in!"

So (as they say) I decided to ask an expert and consult Steve: who advises:


There are no versions to worry about. Only one novel has two translations (Cutting Timber/Woodcutters). Order ... well, chronologically is the easist, though reverse order would probably give the better impression: Gargoyles, The Lime Works, Correction, Yes, Concrete, Gathering Evidence (not a novel, but ...), Old Masters, The Loser, Cutting Timber, Extinction. I've left out one or two minor works but Three Novellas is great. See also thomasbernhard.org/works.

Worth noting that Gargoyles and The Loser are being re-issued this November and next July respectively (by Vintage USA) and remembering, too, that Michael Hofmann's new translation of Bernhard's Frost is due from Knopf in October.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Books of the Week

The Poem and the Journey The Poem and the Journey
Ruth Padel
Chatto & Windus

Ruth Padel's The Poem and the Journey suggests that the secret of reading a poem is seeing it as a journey, and argues for the value of reading poetry on the journey of your own life. Padel expertly reads sixty contemporary poems to argue her case -- from the title poem of Seamus Heaney's latest collection to others by Elizabeth Bishop, James Fenton, Tony Harrison, Rosemary Tonks and Kathleen Jamie; with poets as different as J. H.Prynne, John Ashbery and Jorie Graham and Jean "Binta" Breeze.

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Joyce's Voices Joyce's Voices
Hugh Kenner
Dalkey Archive Press

When a “correspondent from Missouri,” wrote to Hugh Kenner and asked that he elaborate on his assertion that “Joyce began Ulysses in naturalism and ended it in parody,” Kenner answered with this book. Joyce’s Voices is both a helpful guide through Joyce’s complexities, and a brief treatise on the concept of objectivity: the idea that the world can be perceived as a series of reports to our senses. Objectivity, Kenner claims, was a modern invention, and one that the modernists—Joyce foremost among them—found problematic. Accessible and enjoyable, Joyce’s Voices is what so much criticism is not: an aid to better understanding—and enjoying more fully—the work of one of the world’s greatest writers.

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Poem of the Week

He Resigns

Age, and the deaths, and the ghosts.
Her having gone away
in spirit from me. Hosts
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I don't feel this will change.
I don't want any thing
or person, familiar or strange.
I don't think I will sing
any more just now;
ever. I must start
to sit with a blind brow
above an empty heart.

-- John Berryman
Selected Poems (Library of America)

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Word of the Day

fizgig

1. A squib: a type of firework made with damp power that makes a hissing sound when exploding. 2. A kind of top spun by pulling a string wound around it. 3. A flirty, frivolous girl. 4. A kind of harpoon with barbs for spearing fish. 5. A police informer. more …

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