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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 on '20 July 2005'

Wednesday 20 July 2005

Debra Hamel's Trying Neaira

Debra Hamel's Trying Neaira (Yale University Press) is the first book to tell Neaira's story to a non-specialist audience:

Neaira (pronounced "neh-EYE-ruh") grew up in a brothel in Corinth in the early fourth century B.C. She became one of the city-state's higher-priced courtesans while still a teenager. In the next decade she served as the sex slave of two former clients and endured an abusive relationship with a party-hopping Athenian. Finally, barely supporting herself in a sex industry depressed by the war then raging in Greece, she met Stephanos, an Athenian citizen, with whom she would live for the next thirty years or more.

Very kindly, Debra, who blogs at the-deblog and has reviewed at book-blog and thebibliofiles, has written a long piece all about Trying Neaira just for RSB:

The principal documentary evidence used in the book is of course the speech against Neaira, but many sources besides were used to provide the social, legal, and historical context of Neaira's story. I include in the book, for example, a lengthy description of how the trial against her would have been conducted. We happen to know about Athenian trials in considerable detail because of another extant text, a study of the Athenian constitution that was written by a student of Aristotle's--a very fortunate happenstance as the specifics are fascinating: 501 jurors, randomly selected for the purpose, will have heard Neaira's case, listening to the litigants' speeches for roughly two-thirds of a day, then giving their judgment on the case at the day's end. No professional judge overseeing the case. No debate among the jurors prior to giving their verdict.

[For all of Debra on Trying Neaira]

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 20 July 2005

Michael Schmidt's editorial from PN Review no.164

With the kind permission of Carcanet's Michael Schmidt we are publishing his editorial from PN Review no.164:

How far should the facts of a poet's ethnic or cultural identity impinge upon the editorial mechanisms that deliver poetry to its readerships? A different question: How far should the facts of a poet's ethnic or cultural identity impinge upon the programming mechanisms that deliver poetry to its audiences? The crucial difference is between poems in print and poems in voice, face, body, gesture, choreography. The answers to these two questions should differ: but much will depend on how informed about publishing, or event organizing, the asker is; and how page versus how performance-oriented. Editors are not generally aware of the ethnic or cultural identity of a new poet submitting poems, even when subject matter or diction suggests a specific background. An events organizer necessarily knows, and this knowledge is an element in the programming mix.

Spread the Word, a literature development agency, has been commissioned by the Arts Councils of England, Scotland and Wales to conduct a survey of all the Black and Asian poets in their catchment areas, to 'discover your experiences of the publishing world'. The research 'is focused strongly on achieving results, using the information we collect to produce strong recommendations to improve opportunities and support for poets in the future. These will be backed by all three Arts Councils and used to influence the publishing industry directly.' The 'industry' is implicitly defined as the magazine and book publishing industry; other, one is tempted to say more modern, forms of 'publishing' are hardly considered. Built into this research are a set of pre-suppositions and an implied mechanism of persuasion or implementation. Unease has been expressed among black writers themselves about the very terms of the research, welcome though it is in tenor.

[For all of Michael's editorial to PN Review no.164]

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 20 July 2005

News from Cabanon Press

Cabanon Press is the home of artists Tom Gauld and Simone Lia. Simone wrote and drew one of MrsBook's very favourite things, Fluffy, the final part of which Simone is working on right now. Tom, who has just contributed a new two page comic strip to issue 8 of Zembla, has a new book due out later this year - for more see the Cabanon news shed. Both artists also feature in the forthcoming Pictures and Words.

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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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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