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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 on '19 December 2007'

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Ellis on Rourke

Ellis Sharp enthusiastically reviews RSB-contributor Lee Rourke's book of shorts Everyday on his blog The Sharp Side. Hopefully, my copy will arrive soon!


Every insurrection requires leadership and drive. In storming the citadel of Establishment Literary Fiction, Lee Rourke has, over the past two or three years, emerged as the V.I. Lenin of the literary underground. As the editor of Scarecrow he has both set out a manifesto and passionately and enthusiastically promoted a very diverse range of writers from the margins of our culture. We are no longer in the realm of Martin and Julian and Ian but in a bleaker, less consoling place. Stewart Home, Ann Quin, Noah Cicero, Tom McCarthy. And many, many others. An alternative geography of literature to the ones in the corporate supplements, the corporate review pages.

T'was I who first coined the phrase Establishment Literary Fiction and I'll be writing more here on the blog, and elsewhere, about what I consider it to be very soon. But I just wanted to note, today, that by deriding most current literary fiction as merely a particular brand of genre fiction, I wasn't suggesting that the remedy for this was something one might call "anti-Establishment Literary Fiction."


Novels/short-story collections are churned out in their tens of thousands each year. The antidote to this excess of mediocrity is art. It is artistry that is lacking in so very much of what is pumped out today, and being anti-corporate is no guarantee that what you are writing is not going to simply be an inverted form of Establishment Literary Fiction itself.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 19 December 2007

Handke sells papers

Via the Literary Saloon:


As Three Percent mentioned, Peter Handke has sold off another lot of his papers (this time from the past two decades or so) to the Austrian National Library; see, for example, the AFP report, Austria pays 500,000 euros for Handke manuscripts, as well as the official ÖNB press release, Handke-Vorlass geht an die Österreichische Nationalbibliothek.

In Die Presse Anne-Catherine Simon reports (in German) on the hand-over of the papers: apparently Handke stuffed them into two suitcases and a bag, and handed them over in Cheville on 8 July; the library isn't quite sure what to do with the empty suitcases.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 19 December 2007

ROTR RIP

Edward Champion's excellent Return of the Reluctant blog is, sadly, no more. Yesterday, Ed announced that he was "done with blogging. And I’m serious this time." He'll be sorely missed. He does hold out this glimmer: "... if I do come back through a blog, and, frankly I’m on the fence right now, it will be in a new form."


Well, whatever the format, let us hope he is back soon.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Books of the Week

Montano's Malady Montano's Malady
Enrique Vila-Matas
New Directions

The narrator of Montano's Malady is a writer named Jose who is so obsessed with literature that he finds it impossible to distinguish between real life and fictional reality. Part picaresque novel, part intimate diary, part memoir and philosophical musings, Enrique Vila-Matas has created a labyrinth in which writers as various as Cervantes, Sterne, Kafka, Musil, Bolano, Coetzee, and Sebald cross endlessly surprising paths. Trying to piece together his life of loss and pain, Jose leads the reader on an unsettling journey from European cities such as Nantes, Barcelona, Lisbon, Prague and Budapest to the Azores and the Chilean port of Valparaiso. Exquisitely witty and erudite, it confirms the opinion of Bernardo Axtaga that Vila-Matas is "the most important living Spanish writer.

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Castorp Castorp
Pawel Huelle
Serpent's Tail

Picking up on a throwaway line in The Magic Mountain, Castorp tells the story of Hans Castorp’s student years in Gdansk, long before the adventures in Davos described in Thomas Mann’s novel. Pawel Huelle skilfully creates a credible scenario for this influential period in Hans Castorp’s development, imagining what happened when the rational German student was exposed to the Slavonic eastern edge of the Prussian empire. He comes across people, events and ideas that anticipate some of the encounters he will experience in years to come, including an enigmatic Polish woman who becomes his obsession. Set at the dawn of the twentieth century, Castorp faithfully recreates the atmosphere of central Europe as the storm began that would lead to two world wars. Beautifully written, full of humour, mystery and eccentricity, this is a moving tribute to a masterpiece of European literature.

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Heidegger's Hut Heidegger's Hut
Adam Sharr
The MIT Press

Beginning in the summer of 1922, philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) occupied a small, three-room cabin in the Black Forest Mountains of southern Germany. He called it "die Hütte" ("the hut"). Over the years, Heidegger worked on many of his most famous writings in this cabin, from his early lectures to his last enigmatic texts. He claimed an intellectual and emotional intimacy with the building and its surroundings, and even suggested that the landscape expressed itself through him, almost without agency. Heidegger's mountain hut has been an object of fascination for many, including architects interested in his writings about "dwelling" and "place." Sharr's account -- the first substantive investigation of the building and Heidegger's life there -- reminds us that, in approaching Heidegger's writings, it is important to consider the circumstances in which the philosopher, as he himself said, felt "transported" into the work's "own rhythm." Indeed, Heidegger's apparent abdication of agency and tendency toward romanticism seem especially significant in light of his troubling involvement with the Nazi regime in the early 1930s. Sharr draws on original research, including interviews with Heidegger's relatives, as well as on written accounts of the hut by Heidegger and his visitors. The book's evocative photographs include scenic and architectural views taken by the author and many remarkable images of a septuagenarian Heidegger in the hut taken by the photojournalist Digne Meller-Markovicz.

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Poem of the Week

Sonnet (on the Death of Mr Richard West)

In vain to me the smiling mornings shine,
And reddening Phoebus lifts his golden fire:
The birds in vain their amorous descant join,
Or cheerful fields resume their green attire:
These ears, alas! for other notes repine,
A different object do these eyes require.
My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine;
And in my breast the imperfect joys expire.
Yet morning smiles the busy race to cheer,
And new-born pleasure brings to happier men:
The fields to all their wonted tribute bear;
To warm their little loves the birds complain.
I fruitless mourn to him that cannot hear,
And weep the more because I weep in vain.

-- Thomas Gray
Selected Poems (Bloomsbury)

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Word of the Day

adultescent

An adult whose activities and interests are typically associated with youth culture. more …

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January's Books of the Month

Walter Benjamin's Archive Walter Benjamin's Archive
Walter Benjamin
Reading Joyce Reading Joyce
David Pierce

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