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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 '30 March 2007'

Friday 30 March 2007

All Whom I Have Loved review

My review of Aharon Appelfeld's All Whom I Have Loved appeared in the Daily Telegraph t'other day. Its been cut. Annoyingly, that happens! I'll put a much fuller, unmangled review online here at RSB in a day or so, but in the meantime my Telegraph review will have to suffice, although it doesn't even begin to explain how moving I found Appelfeld's latest work, and its lack of substance as a piece rather embarrasses me. How slight, awkward and flimsy next to Appelfeld's lambent rigour.

Indeed, reading the latest Maurice Blanchot collection, A Voice From Elsewhere (wonderfully, unfussily translated -- as ever -- by our friend Charlotte Mandell), I've been wondering again about the worth of the kind of evaluative reviews one reads here on RSB and in the broadsheets. Blanchot has this astonishing ability to think along with (to abide with) the writers about whom he is writing. There is the assumption of good faith, and the shared endeavour of communication and its attendant impossibilities. But Blanchot, quite rightly, only spends his time thinking along with and writing about writers who deserve a reader as astute as he was. In the first eponymous essay from A Voice From Elsewhere, Blanchot references Giacometti, Henry James and Mallarmé, to help him think/write about Louis-René des Forêts; later, "trying to understand the Lyotard text called The Survivor, while continuing to meditate on the poems [of...] Louis-René des Forêts", Hegel, Proust and Levinas aid in the enquiry.

Under the profundity of a gaze like Blanchot's most writing withers. The majority of what gets published today is shockingly trite. Reading Blanchot reminds us of the challenge of being a good reader, but that has to start with having decent things to read. Aharon Appelfeld is 75. I hope he has many years of writing ahead of him. Authors are ten-a-penny, but there are precious few writers in the world.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 30 March 2007

How fast do you read?

A friend says to me, "you must read really quickly." I don't. Truly. Actually, it seems to me that I'm quite a slow reader. I read a lot, for sure, but I don't think I read very quickly. On average, about 30 pages an hour. Isn't that really quite slow?

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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