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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 '19 June 2006'

Monday 19 June 2006

Failed states of reviewing

Noam Chomsky has a new book out -- Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy -- which was idiotically reviewed in a snide piece of bile by Peter Beaumont in the Observer yesterday (a review glowingly reported on in an idiotic and snide blog by Michael Schaub at Bookslut). A decent response to Beaumont can be read over at Lenin's Tomb and many of the comments at the Observer blog are worth reading too.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 19 June 2006

Michael Schmidt OBE

RSB contributor (and my good friend), the poet, publisher, academic and critic, Michael Schmidt has been awarded the OBE: "For services to Higher Education and to Poetry". Huge congratulations Michael!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 19 June 2006

Is it really so sweet?

Steve recently got himself into a bit of hot water over at This Space for suggesting that Suite Française is being praised more for its backstory than for its inherent quality. I'll read my copy as soon as I can find it (like a good few other books, I'm struggling to pin it down since we moved), but I fear Steve is probably right. Its glowing reception does seem suspect: I hope it is not simply because of a nostalgic wish for "proper novels" and due to respect for its author's travails. But the remarkable story of the writing of the book does seem to be most reviewers' focus rather than the novel itself. Just look at the way Kazuo Ishiguro (from this weekend's Guardian summer reading article) encourages us to read it:

Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française, written as Nazi tanks rolled across France, captures the chaos, fear, humiliation, and very occasionally, the courage of the French, as well as portraying the complex emotions that developed between occupier and occupied. The story behind this novel, and Némirovsky's own fate, make for a heart-breaking coda.

It's the story within the novel that I want to read. The backstory is history and sociology, I'm interested to read it only if it works as literature.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Memorial Tablet

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’... that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west...
What greater glory could a man desire?

-- Siegfried Sassoon
Collected Poems (Faber and Faber)

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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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