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

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Blog entries for 'January 2007'

Wednesday 31 January 2007

Lacoue-Labarthe obituary

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe gets a nécrologie, written by Jacob Rogozinski, "professeur de philosophie à l'université de Strasbourg," in today's Le Monde:


Le philosophe Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe est mort dans la nuit du 27 au 28 janvier, à l'âge de 66 ans, à Paris, où il était hospitalisé. Ceux qui l'ont connu n'oublieront pas l'intensité de sa présence, de son regard, de son écoute, sa grande générosité, et cette manière qu'il avait de s'exposer sans réserve, comme si l'essentiel était en jeu à chaque fois.

Né le 6 mars 1940 à Tours, il étudie la philosophie à Bordeaux, tout en militant dans une mouvance d'extrême gauche proche des situationnistes.

More on Lacoue over at Theoria: Blog and wood s lot.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 30 January 2007

More on Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe

The first obituary (that I've seen) of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe has just appeared in the French newspaper Liberation:


Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe est mort d'insuffisance respiratoire dans la nuit de samedi à dimanche, à l'hôpital Saint-Louis à Paris. Philosophe, germaniste, traducteur et homme de théâtre, professeur d'esthétique à l'université de Strasbourg, il avait 67 ans.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 29 January 2007

Children of Men

I really, really should say more about film here on t'blog! In the meantime, here is k-punk on Children of Men:


British cinema, for the last thirty years as chronically sterile as the issueless popluation in Children of Men, has not produced a version of the apocalypse that is even remotely as well realised as this. You would have to turn to television - to the last Quatermass serial or to Threads, almost certainly the most harrowing television programme ever broadcast on British TV - for a vision of British society in collapse that is as compelling. Yet the comparison between Children of Men and these two predecessors points to what is unique about the film; the final Quatermass serial and Threads still belonged to Nuttall's bomb culture, but the anxieties with which Children of Men deals have nothing to do with nuclear war.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 29 January 2007

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe RIP

Sad, sad news: Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe has died (on Saturday I think). For the moment, this is all I know:


Chers collègues, chers amis,

Je viens d'apprendre avec une grande émotion le décès de Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. Nous sommes tout unis dans la douleur du deuil.

If any one knows more details, please let me know.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 26 January 2007

New Coetzee titles

Scanning the pages of The Bookseller magazine, I note that Harvill Secker has acquired a new JM Coetzee novel, called Diary of a Bad Year, which is due out in the UK in September. Not as long to wait for thankfully, we also have, coming in March, Coetzee's Inner Workings: Literary Essays 2000-2005.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 26 January 2007

Wolfgang Iser RIP

Wolfgang Iser, best known for reader-response theory, died yesterday:


Wolfgang Iser (July 22nd 1926 – January 24th 2007) was a German literary scholar. He was born in Marienberg, Germany. His parents were Paul and Else (Steinbach) Iser. He studied literature in the universities of Leipzig and Tübingen before receiving his PhD in English at Heidelberg by defending the dissertation on the world view of Henry Fielding (1950). A year later he was appointed an instructor at Heidelberg and in 1952 an assistant lecturer at the University of Glasgow, where he started to explore contemporary philosophy and literature, which deepened his interest in inter-cultural exchange.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 26 January 2007

The Queen of Feistiness?

Ayn Rand is joining the Penguin Modern Classics list for the first time with Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead both due out in February. Penguin say, "Rand wrote what are seen as the manifesto of Objectivism, but they're also political thrillers that keep you gripped. And Angelina Jolie is to star in the film version of Atlas Shrugged, which is coming out in 2008."


All I (think I) know about Ayn Rand is that she was rampantly right-wing (Objectivism, according to the wikipedia, is: "the pursuit of one's own happiness or "rational self-interest" ... the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual human rights, embodied in pure, consensual laissez-faire capitalism"), but I've no idea whatsoever if her books are any use. Any of you good folk read them? Any good?

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 26 January 2007

Pinter's People

A play featuring sketches of fourteen of Harold Pinter's works opens at London's Haymarket Theatre next week. There are pictures over on the BBC's Today website.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 26 January 2007

Mark Sarvas profile

Via the literary saloon: "The Elegant Variation-man Mark Sarvas is profiled by Tom Teicholz in The Jewish Journal, in Literary paprika. Lots of background information!"


Mark Sarvas, a New York-born son of Hungarian parents, a voracious reader, a Francophile and a foodie, comes to Los Angeles to be a writer, sells some screenplays and starts an acclaimed literary blog, The Elegant Variation.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 26 January 2007

John Taylor Caldwell RIP

I've just learned of the sad death, at the ripe old age of 95, of the veteran Glasgow anarchist, (and comrade and biographer of Guy Aldred), John Taylor Caldwell. John was born on the 14th July 1911 and died a couple of weeks ago on the 12th January.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 26 January 2007

New from Cold Blue Music

A couple of noteworthy new releases from the peerless Cold Blue Music:


Michael Fahres's The Tubes: "weaves together the breath-like sounds of the Atlantic Ocean as it strikes tubular volcanic rock formations on the Island of El Hierro (the westermost of the Canary Islands) with the breathy tones of Jon Hassell's trumpet and Mark Atkin's didgeridoo, creating a starkly beautiful study of breath patterns and the sounds of air in tubes".


Charlemagne Palestine's A Sweet Quasimodo Between Black Vampire Butterflies for Maybeck: "a piece for two pianos played simultaneously in a tremolo style that Palestine calls "strumming," a technique that has defined his piano music since the late '60s. It spins out its sonic tapestry in surges and ebbs, and dense sonorities with hypnotically dancing overtones grow from its few opening pitches. This live recording from the Maybeck recital hall also contains Palestine's short comments about his life in California in the '70s and, accompanied by a rubbed brandy snifter, his singing of a few very short "ritual" songs in his unique falsetto vocal style".

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 25 January 2007

Respecting translators

Back almost exactly a year ago, the literary saloon noted that the translator Charlotte Mandell's name was, quite shockingly, not mentioned anywhere at all on the Random House version of her rendering of Bernard-Henri Levy's American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville.


The book that Charlotte translated is now out in the UK with Gibson Square. And guess what? No mention of Charlotte's name anywhere! I wrote to Gibson Square a couple of weeks ago now asking them to explain themselves, but I've still not heard anything back in reply. This is quite, quite out of order.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 25 January 2007

New look for 3:AM

Fellow Britlitbloggers, the good folk of 3:AM magazine, and their blog Buzzwords, have a great new look and feel. Go see!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 25 January 2007

Peter Owen blog

The excellent independent publisher Peter Owen now has a blog.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 25 January 2007

AD Nuttall RIP

Sad news. AD Nuttall died yesterday. Harold Bloom once called Nuttall, "The best living English literary critic." A professor and fellow of New College, Oxford, Tony was the author of a number of books including Dead from the Waist Down (a long review of which, by Julia M. Klein, can be read at The Chronicle), Openings, The Common Sky, A New Mimesis and the forthcoming Shakespeare the Thinker.


Speaking about Dead from the Waist Down, Frank Kermode said:


I have now read A.D. Nuttall’s book with all the pleasure I expected. He is the most learned of literary critics, and his subject here is, appropriately, scholars and scholarship. I do not think I have ever read an account of Middlemarch and Casaubon as fine as this, and the studies of Mark Pattison and the other Casaubon, Isaac, are beautifully executed. The distinction he draws between scholarship and pedantry should be of great interest in the modern graduate school, and his love of Oxford is not mere sentiment but part of his scholarly character. I would recommend this book to all who seriously aspire to good scholarship.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 24 January 2007

Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature

Five finalists have been selected for the new $100,000 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature:


The winner will be announced in mid-March. The Prize is the largest-ever Jewish literary prize given, and is one of the largest literary prizes in the nation [the US that is].

Sami Rohr's children and grandchildren established this award to celebrate Mr. Rohr's 80th birthday -- and to honor his lifelong love of Jewish writing.

Each year, a prize of $100,000 will be presented to an emerging writer whose work, of exceptional literary merit, stimulates an interest in themes of Jewish concern.

"One of the goals we wish to accomplish through the creation of the Sami Rohr Prize is the establishment of an elite corps of writers of Jewish literature from all over the world," said Geri Gindea, director of the program, which operates as a department of the Jewish Book Council. "This Prize will also help bring to light the emerging voices of today's Jewish writers, their own journeys, and their own unique experiences living as Jews in the modern world."

The five finalists are:
Naomi Alderman of England for Disobedience;
Amir Gutfreund of Israel for Our Holocaust;
Yael Hedaya of Israel for Accidents;
Michael Lavigne of San Francisco, CA, for Not Me;
and Tamar Yellin of England for The Genizah at the House of Shepher.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 23 January 2007

Derbyshire and Cohen

In a post earlier today, Jonathan Derbyshire quotes from (some of?) his forthcoming interview with Nick Cohen, "in which he and I discuss his forthcoming book What's Left?" I suspect that I will have plenty to take issue with in Cohen's book, but I've yet to see a copy, and so will reserve my comments to simply trying to work out what Jonathan (and Cohen) mean in the following. Cohen is quoted as saying, "Because you’re no longer a socialist putting forward a programme, you don’t have to stand for anything. That’s why so many people read Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore – they don’t have to commit to anything. They just have to jeer." Jonathan calls this a "chastening diagnosis" He goes on to say, "at least in setting it out Cohen shows that there is still an alternative on the left to Chomsky’s suave nihilism and Moore's lumpen idiocies."


The only coherent reason for singling out Chomsky and Moore in this way is that they are both bestselling authors. Politically their methods are miles apart and, whilst no doubt many people buy books by both writers, their agendas and their constituencies are very different too. Moore's populism is useful for puncturing the pomposity of the powerful; Chomsky's critiques are far more considered and careful. Regardless of this, I take objection to Cohen's statement that those who read Chomsky and Moore do so merely to "jeer". Of course, when one buys a book one commits to nothing whatsoever. But many of those who have bought books by Chomsky and Moore, like I'm sure some who will buy Cohen's book, do so because of a profound interest in what is going on in the world. Those books represent just part of a way that they might begin to understand and engage in it. Further, I have no idea whatsoever how Chomsky can be called a "nihilist" (Derbyshire I'm sure knows what this word means, so I have no idea why he applies it). I'm guessing that it might be because Chomsky offers a partial critique of the Left from the Left, but I'm unsure. And the phrase "Moore's lumpen idiocies" sounds like the silliest kind of snobbery to me.


What underlies this rather forceless little attack on Moore and Chomsky, and those who read them, is Cohen's statement, followed by Jonathan's comment that "‘socialism as a practical political project is simply dead.’ What remains is the anti-imperialism of fools." What that actually equates to meaning is that those who opposed the war in Iraq, and the subsequent killing of 650,000 Iraqi civilians, are idiots. Well, I'm an idiot then. I console myself by thinking, nay jeering, that at least I know what nihilism means.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 23 January 2007

Proust and Vermeer

A Proust/Vermeer dissertation at the Essential Vermeer site (via Moleskine Modality). Quoting from Anthony Bailey's study, The View of Delft:


Through Vermeer Proust meditated his own end. In May 1921 the exhibition of Dutch painting at the Jeu de Paume was attracting crowds, drawn to see among other things, Vermeer's View of Delft and Girl with a Pearl Earring. According to George Painter's biography of him, Proust had read in the Paris press articles on the Vermeers by Lèon Daudet and Jean-Louis Vaudoyer. At last he decided he had to go and see them. At nine one morning, a time when he is usually just going to sleep, Proust sent a message to Vaudoyer asking him to accompany him to the Jeu de Paume. Leaving the apartment he had a terrible attack if giddiness, and recovered from it and went on down stairs. At the exhibition, Vaudoyer steadied the writer's shaky progress towards the View of Delft. Proust was apparently revived by Vermeer for he managed to go on to the Ingres exhibition and then to lunch at the Ritz before returning home, though according to Painter he was still 'shaken and alarmed' by the attack. He never went out again.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 23 January 2007

Kurp on Nabokov

Patrick Kurp on Nabokov:


On July 2 we will observe the 30th anniversary of Vladimir Nabokov’s death, a reality that remains unacceptable. I have never fallen so hard for a writer as I did for Nabokov in 1970, when I started reading all his available books, out of order, early self-translated Russian titles mingling promiscuously with the American and post-American masterpieces. One of the reasons I fell in love with Tristram Shandy was that I read an essay by Frank Kermode in which he likened Nabokov’s Bend Sinister to Sterne’s masterpiece. Nabokov was never a systematic critic of literature but his influence on my tastes was lasting. Dostoevsky remains “Dusty,” and Freud, more than ever, is the “Viennese quack.” The aim of reading and writing, he taught us, is “aesthetic bliss.”

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 23 January 2007

MIA facing "very significant challenges"

The encyclopedic Marxists Internet Archive is in trouble:


In early November we came under sustained denial of service attack from Internet hosts in China attempting to exploit a misconfiguration in our server's operating system. The nature and origin of the attack, our previous history with the PRC, and the experience of others suggest that this maybe politically motivated and directed by the Chinese government. Protecting ourselves necessitated rebuilding part of the kernel and rebooting the system remotely. The failure of the system to properly boot into the new kernel caused a prolonged outage as we scrambled to find someone with the necessary access to get the system back into the previous configuration. More...

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 22 January 2007

Pinter awarded Legion d'Honneur

I'm not quite sure how I missed this but, on Wednesday, Harold Pinter was awarded the Legion d'Honneur by the French prime minister, Dominic de Villepin (more in the Guardian).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Saturday 20 January 2007

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist

Always one of the most interesting literary prizes around, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize announced its longlist yesterday. Dag Solstad's Shyness and Dignity would get my vote; Linn Ullmann's Grace arrived for my reading pleasure yesterday.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 18 January 2007

Welton and Chase: no go!

Announcement: "Due to adverse weather conditions, the Geoffrey Manton Building is being evacuated on orders from the Vice Chancellor and will be closed from 4.30pm today. Please note that, as a result of this, tonight's reading event (Matthew Welton and Linda Chase) is cancelled. Apologies for any inconvenience caused."


We're battening down the hatches here in grey old Stockport, awaitin' the storm to arrive with some trepidation. Trepidation, and tea!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 17 January 2007

Sayed Kashu's Let It Be Morning

In my last post I said, "Whilst on a continuing lookout for new fiction that is 'intelligent, edgy, and interesting' I mostly find mediocrity or much worse." Sayed Kashua's Let It Be Morning is a particurly good example of just exactly what I mean.


I was asked to review Kashua's second novel (his debut was the well-received Dancing Arabs) for the FT. (My review should be published very soon; indeed, it may well have already seen the light of the day. After the sub-editor and I wrangled over every line, goodness knows how butchered it might be when it appears!) In the inside cover of the book there are several glowing notices from US and German newspapers, as well as one from Ha'aretz, the Israeli newspaper that Kashua works for. One of the US reviewers quoted is Laila Lalami, whose often very fine blog, which used to be called Moorish Girl, you may well know. Laila is quoted as writing, "the text is rendered quite beautifully and the absurdity of the events [Kashua] describes so unflinchingly brings to mind Kafka". On Saturday, reviewing the book in the Guardian, Maya Jaggi wrote: "disturbing and powerfully accomplished ... Let It Be Morning is reminiscent of Orwell and Kafka". Wow! Sounds great, doesn't it? It isn't.


My review of Let It Be Morning was my first for the FT. The initial draft was very elliptical as I didn't want to condemn the book too strongly, but the FT's sub-editor, quite rightly, seemed to want me to be more forthright and direct. I still held myself back even in the finished piece, however, simply stating, "Let It Be Morning reads as a rather prosaic documentary. It dutifully reports on the quotidian miseries that occur because of the barricade [the novel is about what happens to an Arab Isreali village when surrounded by Isreali tanks], but the writing itself never moves beyond the commonplace." One word would best sum up the novel and that is adequate. It is fine. It would be difficult to render a narrative about the difficult, liminal status of Arab Israelis totally boringly, but Kashua, a journalist, brings us nothing but a journalistic recounting of events. The glowing reviews seem to think that the fascinating content and context of Kashua's work is enough to make his book noteworthy, but that simply isn't good enough. The book is mediocre through and through.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 17 January 2007

On Liddle

Rod Liddle's recent Sunday Times article, Has fiction lost its power?, has been widely circulated and commented upon. Indeed, Scott Esposito's always engaging Conversational Reading referred to the article just yesterday. Like Fausto, one of Scott's commenters, I found a number of the book recommendations in Liddle's piece rather unconvincing, and I find the bloke himself (after pro-war absurdities) quite odious. Like Scott, I'm suspicious that Liddle is just a sour elitist but, unlike Scott, I find myself agreeing with the basic, well-worn argument of the piece. Scott says, "When I can read 70 novels a year -- many of them recently published -- and find a majority of them very intelligent, edgy, and interesting, then all arguments for the so-called decline of fiction are going to feel inherently flawed." I'm astonished. I read as omnivorously as most, yet I find nearly all the new novels I read to be very, very meagre fare indeed. Whilst on a continuing lookout for new fiction that is "intelligent, edgy, and interesting" I mostly find mediocrity or much worse.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 16 January 2007

201 Stories by Chekhov

From the website 201 Stories by Anton Chekhov (found via Patrick Kurp's Anecdotal Evidence):


About Anton Chekhov: One of Russia's greatest writers, Chekhov began his career writing jokes and anecdotes for popular magazines to support himself while he studied to become a doctor. Between 1888 and his death he single-handedly revolutionized both the drama and the short story. Near the end of his life he married an actress, Olga Knipper. He died from tuberculosis in 1904, age 44.

About this project: Constance Garnett translated and published 13 volumes of Chekhov stories in the years 1916-1922. Unfortunately, the order of the stories is almost random, and in the last volume Mrs. Garnett stated: "I regret that it is impossible to obtain the necessary information for a chronological list of all Tchehov's works." This site presents all 201 stories in the order of their publication in Russia.

About the notes: I have added notes to explain both the cultural practices of 19th century Russia and the occasional Britishisms that Mrs. Garnett used in her translations. Passages marked in blue have an explantory note at the end of the story. I am particularly indebted to Edgar H. Lehrman's A Handbook to 86 of Chekhov's Stories and Ronald Hingley's notes in the Oxford Chekhov (Volumes 4-9). A complete list of Constance Garnett's translations of Russian literature is here.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 16 January 2007

Heaney wins TS Eliot Prize

A very fine post from Steve, over at This Space, about Craig Raine's new book on TS Eliot's poetry (see excerpt) which is one of my Books of the Week this week.


Also, Seamus Heaney, who is currently recovering from a mild stroke, has been named winner of the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry:


Irish poet and Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney has been named winner of the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry, collecting a cheque for £10,000. He won for his latest collection, District and Circle, which draws on his travels to work on the London Underground in his younger days. The prize was presented by TS Eliot's widow, Valerie Eliot, at a ceremony in central London. (More via the BBC.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 15 January 2007

Wilkinson on László Krasznahorkai

Over at Hungarian Literature Online, Tim Wilkinson reviews László Krasznahorkai's Satan Tango (via the literary saloon). Once you've read that, mouse over to HLO's interview with Krasznahorkai:


Whenever I manage to state my view in its full extent, my partner in conversation at any point of the world invariably reminds me: if you paint such a gloomy picture of the world, then why write? This is a subtle way of asking why I don´t shoot myself in the head right there and then and, indeed, why I hadn´t done so a long while ago. My critical remarks do not mean that I think or have ever thought that literature could directly interfere with the workings of the society it criticises or rejects. The impact that a writer can exert over his or her own society is far more subtle, almost indecipherably complex and indirect, working through a number of transformations. I even doubt whether at such a degree of remoteness you can still call this an impact and an influence.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 15 January 2007

Robert Anton Wilson RIP

Robert Anton Wilson (January 18, 1932 – January 11, 2007) died last Thursday. RAW, famously the author of The Illuminatus! Trilogy with Robert Shea, was a "prolific American novelist, fnord, essayist, philosopher, psychologist, futurologist, anarchist, and conspiracy theory researcher."

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 15 January 2007

Beckett's Happy Days at the National

A production of Beckett’s Happy Days opens at the National Theatre, London, on the 18th January. The National have written to me saying:


We are very keen for Beckett enthusiasts to attend the preview performances in order for them to continue discussions about the production. We are therefore offering a great ticket deal for these enthusiasts for the 18 – 23 Jan whereby they can claim best available seats for £15.

To take advantage of the offer, you just need to quote "Friends of Beckett" when calling the box office (020 7452 3000).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 15 January 2007

Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture, and Action

Affinities "is a web-based journal that focuses on groups, movements, and communities that set out to construct sustainable alternatives to the racist, hetero-sexist system of liberal-capitalist nation-states." Contributors include Steve Wright, author of the excellent Storming Heaven: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism. Beware the PDFs, though!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Saturday 13 January 2007

Haynes wins Costa

You probably all caught this earlier in the week, but FYI: John Haynes has beaten Seamus Heaney, amongst others, to win the Costa Book Award (formerly the Whitbread) for poetry with his Letter to Patience (published by the small Welsh independent Seren, who coincidentally are my Publisher of the Week over at The Book Depository) set in a small mud-walled bar in northern Nigeria at a time of political unrest. Haynes' collection will now appear on the shortlist for the main award, which will be announced next month.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 11 January 2007

Behind

I'm a bit behind this week, what with recently starting full-time at The Book Depository, and having deadlines to meet for a longish article (on Death and Literature don't you know!) in a Time Out book, which isn't due for publication for a wee while yet, and for a review in the Financial Times (I know!) of Sayed Kashua's pretty poor Let It Be Morning. All this by way of saying that I will be writing about Pascale Casanova's Samuel Beckett: Anatomy of a Literary Revolution very soon. In the meantime, Ghunka.com has a decent, sympathetic review of the book online which is worthy of your attention, but with which I have several difficulties. For now, I'll just say I'm far less sympathetic to Casanova's argument than Ghunka.com.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 11 January 2007

Linda Chase and Matthew Welton

The Manchester-based poets Linda Chase and Matthew Welton will be appearing at Manchester Metropolitan University on Thursday 18th January 2007. Admission is £5.00 (£3.00 concessions; free to students and staff of MMU) and the venue is: Lecture Theatre 6, Geoffrey Manton Building (opposite the Commonwealth Aquatics Centre on Oxford Road, Manchester city centre, UK).


Linda Chase grew up on Long Island in commuting distance of New York City. She has been a stage costume designer, a Tai Chi teacher and is currently an Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. She co-ordinates the Poetry School Manchester and in 2004 started the Arts Council funded Poets and Players performance series. Her first collection These Goodbyes was published by Fatchance Press in 1995, and two further titles have been published by Carcanet: The Wedding Spy (2001) and Extended Family (2006).

Matthew Welton was born in Nottingham and currently lives in Manchester. He is course leader for the Creative Writing degree at Bolton University, editor of Stand magazine, and a director of the Manchester Literature Festival. His first collection, The Book of Matthew, won the 2003 Jerwood-Aldeburgh prize.

This event is hosted by the Writing School and is open to the public. A selection of Linda's and Matthew's books will be available to buy before the reading from our special Blackwell's stall. Get your copies signed by the poets.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 11 January 2007

Ars Interpres

I meant to mention this the other day when someone (Steve probably) brought it to my attention: Ars Interpres, an international print and online journal featuring "contemporary English language poetry and English translations of modern poetry from Scandinavia and other countries around the world."

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 11 January 2007

More on Tillie Olsen

Anne Fernald, who blogs at the wonderful Fernham, and who I'll be interviewing soon in her capacity as the author of Virginia Woolf: Feminism and the Reader, writes:


Tillie Olsen, a leftist, feminist novelist who was targeted by McCarthy-era smear-tactics and wrote, too, of the struggles of writing while also working and raising children died two weeks shy of her 95th birthday.

Her granddaughter commented on my blog and let me know about a really great tribute planned for this Saturday:

"the family requests that on her birthday, January 14th, people whose lives have been touched by Tillie gather with friends in their homes and public libraries to celebrate her life and to read her work together. We would be comforted to hear from you about your celebrations. Please email us: tillies_family@childpeacebooks.org"

It would be wonderful if people from the feminist blogging and litblogging community could take a few hours out, on this upcoming Martin Luther King Holiday Weekend, to her.

You can visit the family's memorial site here: tillieolsen.net

I would really be excited to think that we all could re-read (or read) I Stand Here Ironing or some other great story and inform the family about it.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 09 January 2007

Trollope anyone?

You know, I've never read anything by Anthony Trollope. I should probably remedy that soon. Anyway, if you fancy a bit of theatre, you can have "an evening with one of Britain's most loved and most prolific authors, Anthony Trollope. Edward Fox takes on the mantle of the novellist and brings alive some of his most loved characters for an evening no fan of Trollope's work will ever forget." The tour starts at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, on the 10th January, and moves around the South of England until it arrives at Marine Theatre, Dorset on the 24th March.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 08 January 2007

Jewish Book Week 2007

The programme for Jewish Book Week 2007 is now online. Our pal Michael Rosen is up on the first Sunday (25th February), and the week ends on Sunday 4th March with Gabriel Josipovici in conversation with Bryan Cheyette.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 05 January 2007

More on Tillie Olsen

I mentioned the sad passing of Tillie Olsen back on Wednesday, but I know little about the writer herself. Happily, Anne has written a wonderful appreciation of Olsen over at Fernham.


Good friend of RSB, the publisher and writer Anthony Rudolf, contacted me when he heard of Olsen's death. Anthony knew Tillie and had recently written to the TLS championing her work in a letter that they didn't print but I reproduce below:


Two missing titles so astonished me in Claire Harman’s review of Myles Weber’s Consuming Silences – “a study of famously stalled or one-hit writers” -- that I reread the piece to make sure my eyes had not skipped a few sentences. No, I was right first time. I am referring to Tillie Olsen’s wonderful but supposedly unfinished novel Yonnondio: from the Thirties (Faber, 1975) -- the confused manuscripts turned up in the early 1970s and she reworked them nearly forty years after writing the book (1932-1936) -- and to Ralph Ellison’s second novel Juneteenth, also unfinished (he lost years because part of the manuscript was consumed in a fire) and which received a mixed critical reception. For me, Yonnondio is no more unfinished than Schubert’s symphony.

Unfortunately, there are two possibilities concerning these omissions: either Myles Weber did not mention the two books, which raises severe doubts about his research and his conclusions, or Claire Harman herself has failed to mention them. If Weber did not mention them, Harman should have rebuked him, assuming she knew of their existence. If he did mention them, perhaps she was unconsciously seeking to improve the story of silence on the part of two prose fiction writers who, on the strength of their first books, Tell me a Riddle and Invisible Man, count as major figures in American literature. As indeed does Henry Roth, whose late and prodigious flowering after decades of silence – although he wrote essays -- surely muddies the waters of Weber’s thesis more than Harman allows.

As for Ellison, not only did he write a second novel, he also wrote many extraordinary essays. Since when is a writer obliged to write only in one genre? To judge by Harman’s account (or her account of Weber), you would think Ellison did nothing for decades but worry about Invisible Man. In respect (or rather disrespect) of Tillie Olsen, Claire Harman vilifies and ridicules Silences, a classic work about creativity and its associated problems. Finally, Harman (or Harman’s Weber) is simplistic when it comes to Olsen’s class politics, which have to be read and understood alongside the legendary long silence of a great poet, her near contemporary George Oppen.

This is a good opportunity to ask your readers if they can help me concerning the provenance of a brilliant and appropriate phrase Tillie Olsen uses in Silences, namely ‘trespass vision’, as applied to Rebecca Harding’s Life in the Iron Mills, and which she herself puts in quotation marks. This suggests she has borrowed the phrase from another writer, but unusually she does not give a reference.

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Thursday 04 January 2007

The Thomas Gray Archive

The Thomas Gray Archive is a ...


virtual archive for the study of the life and work of English poet Thomas Gray (1716-1771). It consists of two major sections: the Primary Texts section and the Materials section. The former contains searchable electronic editions of Gray's complete poetry with critical apparatus and extensive collaborative commentary, selected prose works, a browsable calendar to Gray's complete correspondence, a concordance to the poetry, a digital library of primary sources and audio-visual media, and a finding aid to Gray MSS. The latter section is comprised entirely of contextual materials, such as criticism, a biographical sketch, an introductory chronological table of Gray's life and work, a glossary of names and terms, a select bibliography of print materials, a picture gallery, and links to related online resources.

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Thursday 04 January 2007

In Our Time on Borges

This morning, at 9am, on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time, there is going to be a programme on Borges:


Jorge Luis Borges is one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, best known for his intriguing short stories that play with philosophical ideas, such as identity, reality and language. His work, which includes poetry, essays, and reviews of imaginary books, has had great influence on magical realism and literary theory. He viewed the realist novel as over-rated and deluded, revelling instead in fable and imaginary worlds. He declared “people think life is the thing but I prefer reading”.

Translation formed an important part of his work, writing a Spanish language version of an Oscar Wilde story when aged around 9. He went on to introduce other key writers such as Faulkner and Kafka to Latin America, liberally making changes to the original work which went far beyond what was, strictly speaking, translation.

He lived most of his life in obscurity, finding recognition only in his sixties when he was awarded the International Publishers' Prize which he shared with Samuel Beckett. By this point he was blind but continued to write, composing poetry in his head and reciting from memory.

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Wednesday 03 January 2007

Notable titles coming in 2007

I'm just going through the up-and-coming book releases for the next few months so that I can make sure we get good, timely author interviews and book reviews etc. up on The Book Depository site. There are bucketloads of shiney, new releases, as there always are, but I've not spotted anything yet that really gets me very excited at all. So, a quick plea: have any of you good folk noticed any really good books, especially fiction, coming in the next few months? I've got plenty of information on the new Iain Banks, Tracy Chevalier, Dan Rhodes, Steven Saylor and similar guff, but nothing very RSB-esque is jumping out. Help!

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Wednesday 03 January 2007

Tillie Olsen RIP

Tillie Olsen has died: "activist, feminist and an influential and widely taught fiction writer who narrated and experienced some of the major social conflicts of the 20th century, [Olsen] died Monday night, two weeks before her 95th birthday" (more via The New York Times).

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Tuesday 02 January 2007

Top albums of 2006

I've not really managed to figure out which my favourite (non-classical) albums of last year were as yet. Really, you know, I'm still quite tired! The Wire's Rewind 2006 (list not online annoyingly) often chimes with my own listening, as does Boomkat's chart, and the PitchforkTop 50 Albums of 2006 isn't a bad list either. I'm thinking, in no particular order whatsoever, that The Gentleman Losers' eponymous effort, Johann Johannsson's IBM 1401, Users Manual, Helios' Eingya, William Basinski's The Garden of Brokeness, Xela's The Dead Sea, Loscil's Plume and Library Tapes' feelings for something lost all deserve a mention and each were very fine in their own way. And I'm also thinking that this needs a lot more thought!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 01 January 2007

Happy New Year

Happy new year! All the very best to all in 2007!


Things should get back into normal gear around here on Wednesday which is also my first day full-time in my new job editing The Book Depository website. It's gonna be another busy year!


Oh, and if you haven't seen it already, we recently redesigned BritLitBlogs (thanks Lee!) Go take a look -- it's real nice!

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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.

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Serendipoetry

Omens, after Alexander Pushkin

I rode to meet you: dreams
like living beings swarmed around me
and the moon on my right side
followed me, burning.

I rode back: everything changed.
My soul in love was sad
and the moon on my left side
trailed me without hope.

To such endless impressions
we poets give ourselves absolutely,
making, in silence, omen of mere event,
until the world reflects the deepest needs of the soul.

-- Louise Gluck
Averno (Carcanet Press)

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Word of the Day

The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or two

Pre-order Anu Garg's new book: The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words (ISBN 9780452288614), published by Penguin more …

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October's Books of the Month

The New Spirit of Capitalism The New Spirit of Capitalism
Luc Boltanski; Eve Chiapello
Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM
Steve Lake, Paul Griffiths

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