Blog Roll

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

ReadySteadyBlog

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

The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs: "Mark Thwaite ... has a maverick, independent mind"

Blog entries for 'February 2007'

Tuesday 27 February 2007

Against All Gods

Ooh, atheism! Who'd've thought it would become flavour of the month like this? Dawkins' blunt yet shrill The God Delusion didn't convince me at all, it just made me think Dawkins was a bit of a scary megalomaniac. As an atheist, it didn't convince me as a book, as an argument, but then neither have any of the religious responses to it that I've read. Often these argue well enough for the existence of something, i.e. something spiritual (we can't empirically prove or find love, but we know it exists), but none argue convincingly for the specificity of their own very particular brand of religion. Dawkins doesn't get out of the double-bind of needing a prime mover, but equally that is no justification for thinking e.g. that Christ is the way to salvation, nor that "we" need saving. It is a huge leap from arguing that there is "something out there" to being able to posit that your own version of faith is any kind of truth.


Anyway, just landed on the mat, we have AC Grayling's Against All Gods (published by Oberon Books who say: "World renowned philosopher A C Grayling tackles the question of religion head on in this series of bold, unsparing polemics on a topical and highly controversial subject.") Hopefully, I'll be interviewing ACG very soon.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Tuesday 27 February 2007

Interview with Gabriel Josipovici

There is an interview with the peerless Gabriel Josipovici over at Cruelest Month. (Gabriel's novel Goldberg: Variations is just out with Harper Perennial in the States; also worth noting once again, Gabriel's website):


It is all very well setting a short story in an earlier period, but I had no desire to ‘research the period’ as I would have had to do if I was to write a whole novel set in it. I not only do not particularly like historical novels (with a very few maverick exceptions, such as William Golding’s The Spire), I don’t believe in them or think they are a viable road for the modern writer to go down.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Monday 26 February 2007

Coetzee and me

When I say Coetzee and me, I don't mean to pretend a link between the great man and my 'umble self (excerpt that we both seem to have a soft spot for the beasts of the field;  Coetzee's latest speech in defense of animal rights is excerpted at the Sydney Morning Herald [via TEV]). What I meant to suggest was the first part of this post would be about JMC (done!) and the second part (coming up) would be about me ...


So, its been very, very busy around here of late! Do, please, forgive the paucity of posting. Last week I had a review of Rosalind Belben's marvelous Our Horses in Egypt in the TLS (not online, although there is a short version of the review over at The Book Depository, and I'll post a full version here on RSB sometime very soon) and I've just sent "filed the copy" for my review of Aharon Appelfeld's new one, All Whom I Loved, with the Telegraph. Again, I'll post a version of that here soon. It's a wonderful and very understated novel.


This Thursday, World Book Day you'll note, I'll be down in Big London Town, talking to the creative writing students at Roehampton University. And on Saturday, I'll be addressing the delegates at the Independent Publishers Guild conference. So, busy, as I said!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , ,

Friday 23 February 2007

Jakov Lind obit.

There is an obiturary of Jakov Lind (born Heinz Jakov Landwirth; 1927-2007) in today's Independent (thanks Tony):


The writer Jakov Lind chronicled the nightmare of Nazi Germany. He once defined himself as one of "the literary unicorns who worked in two languages like Beckett, Nabokov and Conrad", having written dazzlingly original works first in his native German and later in an idiosyncratic English. His collection of short stories Eine Seele aus Holz (Soul of Wood) does indeed place him in that exalted company through its blend of surrealistic humour and narrative power. It should be compulsory reading for anyone seeking insight into the sources of political sadism.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Friday 23 February 2007

Lynn Truss interview

I've just posted a nice interview with punctuation guru Lynne Truss over at The Book Depository:


Dickens and Chekhov are my two greatest heroes. I was telling someone the plot of Uncle Vanya the other day in a pasta place in Brighton, and by the end of it we were both in tears.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Friday 23 February 2007

Elie Wiesel attacked

78 year-old Elie Wiesel, author of Night, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, was dragged out of an elevator in a San Francisco hotel earlier this month by a Holocaust denier who berated and attacked him. I don't think Elie was badly hurt; hopefully he's doing fine now. (More on this, in a rather shrill piece, via the New York Observer.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Thursday 22 February 2007

keepourmuseumsopen.org.uk

A reader (hi Katherine) has just sent me this:


I read your info about the William Morris Internet Archive and wondered if you'd be intrested in adding a link anywhere on your site to keepourmuseumsopen.org.uk [this being the William Morris Gallery & Vestry House Museum]. Waltham Forests Labour Council are trying to close the gallery and this website details their plans and information about contacting them.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Thursday 22 February 2007

Foucault, Zizek and Baudrillard Studies

From theoria, via wood s lot:


The fourth issue of Foucault Studies, the first issue of Zizek Studies, and the first issue of the fourth volume of Baudrillard Studies are all available.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Thursday 22 February 2007

William Morris Internet Archive

You may have noted this mentioned on Booksurfer -- a still-growing William Morris Internet Archive:


Not yet complete but still an amazing online resource -- it will eventually provide free access to "virtually all written material from William Morris that was published in his lifetime." Most of the material in the archive was provided and transcribed by the late Nick Salmon (author of the William Morris Chronology). In particular the website includes many articles and talks that are difficult to locate including Morris's contributions to Commonweal, as well as the remarkable Socialist Diary, edited and annotated by Florence Boos (originally published by the History Workshop Journal in 1982). This is a website to bookmark and return to again and again.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , ,

Thursday 22 February 2007

New Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe website

A message from Daniela Hurezanu about the recently deceased French philosopher Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (cross-posted over at Editor's Corner):


After the announcement of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe's death three weeks ago, a friend of mine and I tried to find a way of remembering and publicly honoring him, and decided, for lack of a better solution, to put together a web site where his ex-students and friends can share memories and honor the exceptional philosopher, writer and teacher who was Philippe. We finally came up with something and we invite you to take a look at the site and, if you have anything to contribute, please do so; if not, maybe you can pass the information along to someone else. So far we have a text in French and one in English, and either language is acceptable for future contributions. Considering that this is a work in progress, any suggestion is welcome. Thank you.

http://lacoue-labarthe.solidether.net/

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Wednesday 21 February 2007

T.S. Eliot remix MP3s

T.S. Eliot remix MP3s (via disquiet). No. Really:


A 30-minute segment of a piece that Janek Schaefer performed one month ago, on January 20, as part of the Sound:Space sonic arts symposium in England, has been uploaded as the latest entry in the Gene Pool Podcast series of the Digital Media Centre. It achieves its meta state through simple means. A man's voice is heard so that each phrase is spoken first into one ear, then the other, and perhaps a third. That the man is saying things like "present in time future" and "what might have been is an abstraction" and, ultimately, "footfalls echo in the memory" gives the repetitions additional meaning. The poem, of course, is T.S. Eliot's "Burnt Norton." In time, an additional element is introduced, chiming background synthesis that nestles the stanzas (MP3).

For a more raw take on this layering, download the version on Schaefer's audioh.com website (MP3). In that edit, which is just over three minutes, nothing is heard but the voice, playing out thanks to three separate tone arms on his single, ingenious Tri-Phonic Turntable. More info at sound-space.info and digitalmediacentre.org. Full text of Eliot's poem, if you weren't encouraged to memorize it during school, at tristan.icom43.net.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Wednesday 21 February 2007

More on Mai Ghoussoub

The publisher Saqi Books have sent me a press release about Mai Ghoussoub -- I'll quote it in full:


Our dear friend Mai Ghoussoub, artist, author, playwright and founding director of Saqi died suddenly on 17 February 2007 in London.

Mai was born in 1952 in Lebanon. She studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts/Lebanese University and graduated from the American University of Beirut with a BA in French Literature, before moving to London in 1979, where she studied sculpture at Morley College and the Henry Moore Studio. That same year she and her childhood friend, André Gaspard, founded the Al Saqi Bookshop, which has become a beacon of Arab culture in London, occupying 26 Westbourne Grove for the past twenty-eight years. They ventured into publishing in 1983, founding Saqi, and in 1990 started the Arabic publishing house Dar al-Saqi in Beirut. Since the 1980s Mai combined her activities as an artist, writer and publisher: ‘I write for my sculptures and I sculpt for my words.’ Her art has been exhibited nationally and internationally. She wrote numerous articles on culture, gender, aesthetics and the Middle East, and is the author of many books in English, Arabic and French. Her short stories have appeared in various anthologies, including Hikayat: Short Stories by Lebanese Women and Lebanon, Lebanon. In 2005 she wrote, directed and performed Texterminators at the Lyric and Dominion theatres in London, the Unity Theatre in Liverpool, and the Marignan Theatre in Beirut. It was described as ‘outstanding theatre’ by Time Out. Most recently, her work was featured in the exhibition Beirut Out of War, which she curated with Ara Azad, Suheil Sleiman and Rana Salaam, at the MAN Museum in Liverpool.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Monday 19 February 2007

Mai Ghoussoub RIP

Mai Ghoussoub of Saqi Books has died suddenly, aged just 45. More when I have it...


Mai was born in Lebanon and received her BA in French literature from the American University of Beirut. She moved to London in 1979 where she later studied sculpture at Morley College. She then worked as an artist, author and publisher with her works being exhibited in many venues in the UK.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Monday 19 February 2007

RSB on the BBC

Welcome to those of you who have been directed to ReadySteadyBook via the BBC's Open Book radio programme: do have a good look around! RSB was featured on the programme yesterday with "literary editor Suzi Feay" kindly saying she was, "pretty impressed by it ... good standard of writing ... book choices intelligent and varied." Which is nice.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Monday 19 February 2007

Jakov Lind RIP

Jakov Lind has died. I have no more information at present, I'm afraid. "Jakov Lind was born in Vienna in 1927. As an eleven-year old boy from a Jewish family, he left Austria after the Anschluss, found temporary refuge in Holland, and succeeded in surviving inside Nazi Germany by assuming a Dutch identity." After a literary apprenticeship in Israel, he made his reputation through works of fiction written in German and later in English. He was probably most famous for Soul of Wood, now sadly out of print.


Ironically, Forward.com's Joshua Cohen published a homage to Jakov just a couple of weeks ago entitled Paying Tribute to a Living Legend:


Lind’s oeuvre spans nearly 20 volumes, which have won him admiration and prizes, both in mainland Europe and in his adopted United Kingdom. Indeed, his reputation once was enormous: Critical acclaim, so often given to comparison, at one time held him as a successor to Franz Kafka; in the German-speaking world he was regarded as the peer, if not master, of Gunter Grass. Soul of Wood, a collection of stories, and the novels Landscape in Concrete and Ergo should have long established Lind’s fame and posterity, and not, perhaps as consequence of the very moral and stylistic complexity that makes them so important, his lamentable present estate.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Thursday 15 February 2007

Keep the British Library free

There is an online petition calling on the government to keep the British Library free to users. Many of you will be aware of the recent publicity around the 10 Downing Street web site petition on the subject of road tolls, well this is a similar thing! I wonder how many libraries the government could fund if it stopped bombing kids in Iraq for ten minutes?

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Wednesday 14 February 2007

Cost of Iraq War

Whenever a politician or government minister says "we can't afford that" they are lying. Full stop. If they want to afford it, they can afford it. The price tag for the Iraq War (via 3 Quarks, quoting John Allen Paulos in his Who's Counting column at ABC News) is now estimated at $700 billion ...


... $700 billion in direct costs and perhaps twice that much when indirect expenditures are included. Cost estimates vary — Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz puts the total cost at more than $2 trillion — but let's be conservative and say it's only $1 trillion (in today's dollars).

As a number of other commentators have recently written, this number — a 1 followed by 12 zeroes — can be put into perspective in various ways. Given how large the war looms, it doesn't hurt to repeat this simple exercise with other examples and in other ways.

There are many comparisons that might be made, and devising new governmental monetary units is one way to make them. Consider, for example, that the value of one EPA, the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, is about $7.5 billion. The cost of the Iraq War is thus more than a century's worth of EPA spending (in today's dollars), almost 130 EPAs, only a small handful of which would probably have been sufficient to clean up Superfund sites around the country.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Tuesday 13 February 2007

Charisma: The Gift of Grace, and How It Has Been Taken Away from Us

I've just posted Daniel Frank and Aaron Manson's foreword to Philip Rieff's latest and last book Charisma: The Gift of Grace, and How It Has Been Taken Away from Us. Thanks go to both Daniel and Aaron for allowing me to reproduce their essay here on RSB.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Tuesday 13 February 2007

Tom McCarthy top ten

Our pal, Tom McCarthy, has a "music-related" list over at Dusted Magazine. He suggests that My Bloody Valentine's Loveless is "the best album ever? Maybe." And he's probably right. Tom's novel Remainder is just out in the States.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Monday 12 February 2007

Blanchot in America

Charlotte Mandell has put her essay Blanchot in America (which was written after Blanchot's death) up on her website. It joins another shorter essay on Blanchot, A Language of Absence (via Burhan).

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , ,

Friday 09 February 2007

Book Depository up for awards

The Book Depository has been shortlisted for two prestigious business prizes: the Fast Growth Business Awards, which seeks to find the "UK's best mid-market business", has The Book Depository up for Retail/leisure Business of the Year; and at the Retail Week Awards, TBD has been shortlisted for the Emerging Retailer of the Year. That little black number of mine is going to get so much wear this year!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Friday 09 February 2007

A torturer speaks out

Eric Fair, "one of two civilian interrogators assigned to the division interrogation facility (DIF) of the 82nd Airborne Division," writes about his "experiences as an interrogator in Iraq":


Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.

Mistakes? Mistakes!?

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Friday 09 February 2007

Ecclesiastical Proust Archive

The Ecclesiastical Proust Archive is "a site for researching and discussing Proust. It provides a searchable database of all church-related passages in the Recherche along with related images." (Via the Institute for the Future of the Book.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: , ,

Thursday 08 February 2007

Tribute to Thomas Bernhard at KGB

On Sunday, February 18th at the KGB bar in New York there is going to be a tribute to the fiction of Austrian novelist, playwright and poet Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989). Readers will include poet Wayne Koestenbaum, Ben The Age of Wire and String Marcus and Dale Hatchet Jobs Peck. Needless to say, I shall not be there, but rather will be tucked up by the fire here in snowy Stockport, perhaps vicariously joining in by reading Jonathan Long's The Novels of Thomas Bernhard.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Thursday 08 February 2007

Saad Eskander the Baghdad Librarian

Via the HUP publicity blog, a story from the New York Times about Saad Eskander, the director of Iraq’s National Library and Archive in Baghdad, who has kept a diary (hosted at the website of the British Museum Library -- thanks Catriona!) of his efforts to keep the library open amid the increasing violence:


I received bad news, as soon as I arrived to my office. In my absent, INLA was bombed twice and snipers' bullets broke several windows. Fortunately, no body was hurt. My staff withheld these information from me, when I contacted them. They claimed that they did not want me to be worried and to spoil my visit.

I spent the rest of the week trying to advise a number of my employees what to do, as they got death threats. The Sunnis, who lived in Shi'i dominated districtwere given an ultimatum to abandon their homes and the Shi'is, who lived in a Sunni dominated district, had to leave their homes. So far, two of my employees were murdered, the first worked in the Computer Department, and the second was a guard. Three of our drivers, who worked with us by contract, were murdered and three others were injured.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Wednesday 07 February 2007

Norman Mailer

You'll have noticed, no doubt, the press concerning Norman Mailer's latest book, The Castle in the Forest, his first novel in ten years. My copy has yet to arrive (whilst I chew my fists in bated anticipation, I'll finish The Dawkins Delusion?, Alister McGrath's disappointingly shrill response to Richard Dawkins disappointingly shrill atheist bestseller The God Delusion), but I understand that it is on the way. In an interview with Robert McCrum at the weekend, Mailer said that people are "going to have a shit fit" about the work: I wonder if anyone will bother to concern themselves with whether the 84-year-old's latest effort is well-written or not or whether the content --  Mailer "imagines the early life of the 20th century's foremost representative of evil, Adolf Hitler, as narrated by one of Satan's minions" -- will be the sole concern of our "literary" journalists? If you can bear it, Nextbook have a podcast/interview with Mailer where he talks with Nermeen Shaikh.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Wednesday 07 February 2007

Malcolm Bowie obituary

The Independent newspaper have published an obituary of Malcolm Bowie:


Many readers of Bowie will have a special affection for Proust Among the Stars, published in 1998 and awarded the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in 2001. Although Bowie describes this as an introductory volume, written "in schematic and accessible form", it is, in fact, a distillation of accumulated, long-pondered, critical wisdom about a writer who seemed able to draw out of Bowie what was most precious to him and in him. Here, Bowie is the consummate moraliste and himself an indispensable spiritual companion.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Monday 05 February 2007

Malcolm Bowie RIP

I've just learned of the sad death of the British academic, and Master of Christ's College, Cambridge from 2002 to 2006, Professor Malcolm Bowie. Malcolm (May 5th 1943 - January 28th 2007) was an acclaimed scholar of French literature who wrote several books on Marcel Proust, including the excellent Proust Among the Stars. As yet, I've seen no obituaries and have no further information (if you know more, please leave a comment or email me. Thanks).


Update: There is some information about the funeral ceremony to be held for Michael, this coming Wednesday, at the University of Cambridge website. (Thanks to Dave Lull for this.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags:

Monday 05 February 2007

New Rieff

Frantically busy here (busy adding content to The Book Depository site, finishing a review of -- one of my Books of the Month -- Rosalind Belben's wonderful Our Horses in Egypt for the TLS, and busy painting my cellar) ... so you must forgive the scant posting here at RSB. However, whilst I am here, do note that the latest (last? he died last summer) Philip Rieff volume Charisma: The Gift of Grace, and How It Has Been Taken Away from Us has just landed:


In Charisma, Philip Rieff explores the emergence and evolution of this mysterious and compelling concept within Judeo-Christian culture. Its first expression was in the idea of the covenant between God and the Israelites: Charisma – religious grace and authority – was transferred through divine inspiration to the Old Testament prophets; it was embodied by Jesus of Nazareth, the first true charismatic hero. Rieff shows how St. Paul transformed charisma into a form of social organization, how it was reworked by Martin Luther and by nineteenth-century Protestant theologians, and, finally, how Max Weber redefined charisma as a secular political concept. By emptying charisma of its religious meaning, Weber opened the door to the modern perception of it as little more than a form of celebrity, stripped of moral considerations.

Rieff rejects Weber’s definition, insisting that Weber misunderstood the relation between charisma and faith. He argues that without morality, the gift of grace becomes indistinguishable from the gift of evil, and it devolves into a license to destroy and kill in the name of faith or ideology. Offering brilliant interpretations of Kierkegaard, Weber, Kafka, Nietzsche, and Freud, Rieff shows how certain thinkers attacked the very possibility of faith and genuine charisma and helped prepare the way for the emergence of a therapeutic culture in which it is impossible to recognize that which is sacred. Rieff’s analysis of charisma is an analysis of the deepest level of crisis in our culture.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Friday 02 February 2007

The Dawkins Delusion?

I guess this was coming: the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge have just published The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist fundamentalism and the denial of the divine by the Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University, Alister McGrath (with Joanna Collicutt McGrath). My copy, I'm told, is on the way. I'll let you know if it is any use once it arrives.


In their press release, the publisher quotes Michael Ruse, Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University, as saying: "The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGraths show why."


World-renowned scientist Richard Dawkins writes in The God Delusion: 'If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.' The volume has received wide coverage, fuelled much passionate debate and caused not a little confusion. Alister McGrath is ideally placed to evaluate Dawkins' ideas. Once an atheist himself, he gained a doctorate in molecular biophysics before going on to become a leading Christian theologian. He wonders how two people, who have reflected at length on substantially the same world, could possibly have come to such different conclusions about God. McGrath subjects Dawkins' critique of faith to rigorous scrutiny. His exhilarating, meticulously argued response deals with questions such as: Is faith intellectual nonsense? Are science and religion locked in a battle to the death? Can the roots of Christianity be explained away scientifically? Is Christianity simply a force for evil?

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Submit News to RSB

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

-- Mark Thwaite, Managing Editor

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)

-- View archive

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 …

-- Powered by Wordsmith.org

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

-- View archive