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Blog entries on '18 July 2005'

Monday 18 July 2005

Coe's Elephant

It is strange, I suppose, that I have not yet got around to mentioning Jonathan Coe's Like A Fiery Elephant: The Story of B.S. Johnson much on the site. Strange because, as you'll all know, it won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2005 and I've read it and I've been banging on about BS Johnson for years!

It is, indeed, a very fine biography - a form I have little love for. Before reading it, I wondered whether Johnson's failed fictions and his sad life needed memorialising, but after reading it, one is left in no doubt. Coe has written an excellent book.

Continuum, Coe's US publisher, have the introduction (pdf beware!) online. And BBC promise an extract (pdf beware!), but my computer couldn't navigate the link ...

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 18 July 2005

The Complete Works

The Royal Shakespeare Company is to stage the biggest festival in its history , inviting theatre companies from across the world and around the UK to join the Company in a unique celebration of Shakespeare’s complete works.

From April 2006 the RSC will host The Complete Works, a year-long Festival of the entire Shakespeare canon at its Stratford-upon-Avon home. The Festival embraces film, new writing, and contemporary music, as well as a comprehensive survey of theatre artists currently interpreting Shakespeare worldwide. The Complete Works will celebrate the truly global reach of the greatest writer in the English language, and will be the first time all 37 plays, the sonnets and the long poems have been presented at the same event.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 18 July 2005

Kadaré backlash?

The Literary Saloon discusses the (perhaps inevitable) Kadaré backlash. I've been in touch with Professor Barry Baldwin, whose letter in the TLS this week, How dissident was Ismail Kadaré?, moved Michael of the Literary Saloon to write.

Professor Baldwin argues in his letter "there is absolutely no question about what kind of animal he was and what pack he ran with; in fact, his resume screams careerism and conformity". Michael asks, "what does it matter? ... It is an interesting issue, but it also deserves a considerably broader examination than Dumitrascu or Baldwin allow for."

Professor Baldwin, I hope, will be able to respond here on ReadySteadyBook to Michael's concerns. I do know that the letter in the TLS was edited and that a longer article may well soon appear in The American Scholar. I do think we must be careful here: firstly, we shouldn't lionise Kadaré as a daring dissident, but we must be cautious of judgement too; secondly, we should attend to the quality - or not - of his writing.

Kadaré, winner of the inaugural 2005 Man Booker International Prize, is not a writer I know well. About his The General of the Dead Army I wrote:

The General of the Dead Army, Ismail Kadaré's meditation on the consequences of war, is a hugely moving account of duty and loss. It is 20 years since the end of the Second World War and an Italian army general is sent to Albania to search again for the bodies of those who lost their lives in the campaign. He is armed with maps, lists, measurements, dental and other records. He tours the countryside organising digs and disinternments and, as he tries to find the dead sons of forgotten families, he wonders at the sense, and scale, of his task. He discusses and argues with the curt Italian priest who is accompanying him. He finds his footsteps followed, sometimes anticipated, by a fellow general who is also looking for bodies; the bodies of his German countrymen. He struggles with the Albanian countryside, weather, labourers who work for him and peasants who watch their work. And he fights the despair that grows as the size, scope and, ultimately, the hopelessness of his task becomes ever more apparent.

Kadaré's plaintive novel is a consistently heartfelt lament to all those who have died and been effected by war but it is also a beautiful work displaying the skills that make him one of the great modern European writers.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

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As you sow, so shall you reap. The bags packed,
Umbers and gold swollen between the purse-strings,
Getaway cars nose on a hot scent.
Under striped canvas the patrons gather,
Staring at blue, incorrigible seas.
The stubble burns a hole in summer's pocket;
Upon the baked crust of their world, the mice
Scatter their ashes to the harvest moon.

-- Peter Scupham
(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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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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