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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 '05 December 2006'

Tuesday 05 December 2006

Josipovici on Hawkins' Dante: A Brief History

At school, if another child encouraged me to do something stupid, doubtless a teacher would upbraid me by saying something like, "Well, if Charlie told you to put your hand in the fire would you do it?" Of course, one was supposed to be chastened: no, certainly one wouldn't place one's hand in a fire on Charlie's behest. And, yes, I'll admit, what I've just done was probably almost as stupid: I'll consider myself rebuked. Sorry, Miss.

As I've got older, however, there are one or two people whose judgement I trust so implicitly that, yes, if they told me to put my hand in the fire, I just might.

So, if Gabriel Josipovici says something is good, it is. Full stop. Here he is blurbing RSB's Book of the Month, Peter Hawkins' Dante: A Brief History:

Peter Hawkins' knowledge of and passion for Dante shines through every page of this elegantly written book. He writes, moreover, with passion and precision. This is not only a superb introduction to Dante, but a work which will move and enlighten those thoroughly steeped in a poet who remains, seven centuries after his death, still very much our contemporary.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 05 December 2006

Angier on Jelinek

Carole Angier on Elfriede Jelinek's Greed at the Literary Review (via 3 Quarks):

If you have read Elfriede Jelinek's most famous novel, The Piano Teacher, you'll know what to expect from Greed. First of all, pathological characters, rendered with glassy fury: traditional Austrian self-hatred, like that of Kraus, Canetti and Bernhard, but - I know it's hard to imagine - even more hateful. Second, something you don't find even in them: a great deal of violent, sado-masochistic, four-letter sex. In sum, a horrifying vision of human nature ('friends, that is, greedy beasts') and nature itself ('fundamentally evil'), in which human beings are objects, and objects are human - days stretch their limbs, valleys grin, handkerchiefs 'are quite stiff from everything they've had to swallow in their lives'.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 05 December 2006

Robert Walser

Patrick Kurp (and Dave) bring my attention to Golden Rule Jones' work on Robert Walser (1878-1956), the Swiss-German writer who "led a life of obscurity but whose admirers included Kafka, Hesse, Musil and Walter Benjamin":

In memory of Robert Walser, who died 50 years ago on Christmas Day, Golden Rule Jones has undertaken a shamefully belated act of homage on behalf of the English-speaking world by translating from the German, with a friend, Carl Seelig’s Wanderungen mit Robert Walser. Walser spent more than 20 years of his life in mental hospitals. Seelig was an admirer and eventually the guardian of the great Swiss writer, and visited him once or twice a year from 1936 until Walser’s death. Seelig accompanied Walser on long walks in the mountains surrounding his sanitarium at Herisau. By 1936, Walser had stopped writing but Seelig worked to keep his friend’s work in print. Seelig’s book, published the year after Walser’s death, chronicles his visits, but so far as I can tell this intriguing and valuable sounding book has never been translated into English.

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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