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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 '22 March 2006'

Wednesday 22 March 2006

Paulhan review

Michael Syrotinski's translation of The Flowers of Tarbes by Jean Paulhan (the introduction to which is online here at RSB) got a decent, small review, courtesy of Steven Poole, at the Guardian last Saturday. We'll be interviewing Professor Syrotinski here at RSB very soon.

A sign at the entrance to a park says it is forbidden to carry flowers inside. The crass authoritarianism of such a stricture (the idea is that anyone actually carrying flowers must have picked them from the park itself) prompts the French literary critic Jean Paulhan to a scintillating essay on commonplace expressions, language and rhetoric that was first published in 1941 and should still give pause to contemporary writers eager to declare war on cliché ... The argument is playful and urbanely self-contradicting at every turn ... I especially liked the author's sober admiration of a poet "for whom poetry seems so serious that he has taken the decision to stop writing it". Most pleasingly, he ends up running rhetorical circles around himself, confessing that he was a "terrorist" all along and pleading with the reader to act as though he had said nothing. One hopes that Paulhan continues the conversation somewhere with the shades of literary giants, carrying as many flowers as he wishes.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 22 March 2006

Hart on L'Arrêt de mort

Yesterday, I briefly mentioned Blanchot's Death Sentence: for those who want to read more about this work of Blanchot's there is an interesting essay online from Kevin Hart called The Gospel of L'Arrêt de mort (thanks Steve). (Hart, you'll note, is the editor, along with Geoffrey Hartman, of The Power of Contestation: Perspectives on Maurice Blanchot and the author of Dark Gaze: Maurice Blanchot and the Sacred.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 22 March 2006

How Novels Think

Interesting, critical essay by Miriam Burstein over at the Valve on How Novels Think (which, you'll have noted, was one of my Books of the Week last week, and which is going to be the focus of an Ongoing Valve Book Event). Burstein starts her paper saying, "to think about Nancy Armstrong thinking about the novel, we need to begin with Ian Watt." Ian Watt, of course, is the author of The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (1957) which was, for years, the standard work in the UK on the genesis and development of the novel.

... Nancy Armstrong’s work is itself a decades-long engagement with Watt’s The Rise of the Novel in general and his understanding of literary history in particular ... For Armstrong, novels make things happen ... Novels do not emerge from philosophical, theological, or cultural debates; instead, they at once create and are created by them. This new model of literary history elevates the novel’s cultural significance, granting it a role equivalent to that of, say, philosophical treatises. Real intellectual work, in other words, takes place in what looks like a popular form.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

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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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