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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 '29 September 2005'

Thursday 29 September 2005

Who's going to get it?

Reuters asks if the Swedish Academy which gives out the Nobel prize for Literature (due to announce the winner next week) is going to confound critics again. Will it be Syrian poet Adonis (the bookies' favourite) or South Korean poet Ko Un, Thomas Transtromer of Sweden or even Aharon Appelfeld?

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 29 September 2005

Szirtes on Chandler

George Szirtes is delighted by Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida which is edited by our friend Robert Chandler (via Languor Management).

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 29 September 2005

Other People’s Letters

From a press release, from the publisher Helen Marx, concerning Other People's Letters: In Search of Proust, first published back in 1978:

Mina Curtiss, member of a prominent American family and sister of Lincoln Kirstein, the fabled ballet impresario, bravely left for post-war Europe in 1947 to assemble a volume of Marcel Proust’s letters, and wrote a detailed, straightforward memoir of her wry observations and humorous encounters. Incredibly, Mina Curtiss managed to track down and interview most of Proust’s intimate correspondents. A distinguished writer and Smith College professor, Curtiss crossed paths with notable characters including Celeste, Proust’s housekeeper and “guardian angel” from 1913 until his death, and the ambitious lothario Prince Bibesco, who uses his cache of coveted letters to seduce her. In 1951, while doing research on Georges Bizet, two years after the publication of her translation Letters of Marcel Proust, Curtiss was casually handed a group of letters—four written in Proust’s own persona, and four others in the self-assigned nom de plume of the heroine Pauline. An epistolary novel was begun in 1893 during a summer holiday by Proust and three of his classmates at the Lycée Condorcet. Although this text is absent from the bibliographies of Proust, including Phillip Kolb’s Correspondence, Curtiss generously includes this rare collection in the appendix of her Other People’s Letters, hoping other scholars would continue her research. In these youthful letters, one can find the earliest traces of what would become Proust’s most common and recurrent themes—found in Jean Santeuil and A la recherché du temps perdu.

(Also worth noting is The Proust Project (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) where 28 writers (including Shirley Hazzard, Lydia Davis, Richard Howard, Alain de Botton, Diane Johnson and Edmund White) were asked to choose and comment on their favorite passages from In Search of Lost Time.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 29 September 2005

Poetry kick

I read most of Helen Vendler's Poets Thinking: Pope, Whitman, Dickinson, Yeats (Harvard University Press) yesterday. Authoritative, if a little teacherly, Vendler's book is a pleasure to read. I'll review it properly over the weekend ...

Poetry has often been considered an irrational genre, more expressive than logical, more meditative than given to coherent argument. And yet, in each of the four very different poets she considers here, Helen Vendler reveals a style of thinking in operation; although they may prefer different means, she argues, all poets of any value are thinkers. The four poets taken up in this volume - Alexander Pope, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and William Butler Yeats - come from three centuries and three nations, and their styles of thinking are characteristically idiosyncratic. Vendler shows us Pope performing as a satiric miniaturizer, remaking in verse the form of the essay, Whitman writing as a poet of repetitive insistence for whom thinking must be followed by rethinking, Dickinson experimenting with plot to characterize life's unfolding, and Yeats thinking in images, using montage in lieu of argument.

Continuing the poetry theme, I was going to go on to read Adam Kirsch's The Wounded Surgeon (Norton), but John Palattella's damning article Prosaic Judgments in The Nation has put me off somewhat!

Michiko Kakuatani, writing in the New York Times (you have to register to see NYT articles, but it is free) reckons with The Wounded Surgeon Kirsch, the book critic for The New York Sun, has "established himself as a poetry critic of the very first order", but his colleague David Lehman called it "a book with a flawed thesis, a few valuable readings of poems and a mess of missed opportunities."

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 29 September 2005

Some recent Blackwell titles

Blackwell have sent on a couple of gems: the mammoth A History of Literary Criticism edited by M.A.R. Habib; How to Do Theory by Wolfgang Iser and Reading the Novel in English 1950-2000 by Brian Shaffer. The latter two aimed squarely at students, the first (at £95) presumably aimed at libraries ...

Blackwell also sent on Kierkegaard: A Critical Reader, edited by Jonathan Ree, which contains Gabriel Josipovici's excellent (would you expect any different?) essay Kierkegaard and the Novel.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 29 September 2005

Raymond Federman

Sam introduces me to the novelist, poet, critic and translator Raymond Federman.

I hadn't come across Federman before, but I think I should take a look at his work asap. Two articles of his worth a read are: The Real Begins Where the Spectacle Ends and The Necessity and Impossibility of Being a Jewish Writer.

Joshua Cohen, writing in Forward (free registration needed to read the whole review), effusing about Federman, said:

Federman's prose works — from Double through 2001's Aunt Rachel's Fur, the forthcoming The Farm and the book at hand, his new My Body In Nine Parts — are almost invariably plotless but full of narration or thrust, the characters less inventions than voice than they are voice, which is itself incarnations of voices, and the author less Federman than one, or all, of his many, many mouths.

His two most recent publications, coming out of Starcherone Books, are The Voice in the Closet and My Body In Nine Parts: With Three Supplements & Ten Illustrations.

More Federman info and links.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Thursday 29 September 2005

Stuff and links

  • Apparently Andrew Marr has read War and Peace 15 times!
  • New issue of Boldtype (edited by Mark Sarvas)
  • Founded by Brigid Hughes, the former Executive Editor of The Paris Review, A Public Space is a new independent magazine of literature and culture
  • Royal Shakespeare Company complete works website
  • Literature-map (via Splinters)
  • Buzzwords tells us that Times Literary Supplement editor (Sir) Peter Stothard has his own lit-blog
  • The Heresy of the Free Spirit in the Later Middle Ages (via Wood s Lot)
  • Welsh ... in a week!

Posted by Mark Thwaite

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-- Mark Thwaite, Managing Editor


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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