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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 '08 May 2007'

Tuesday 08 May 2007

Tom McCarthy's top 10 European modernists

An unusually good day over at the Guardian. First, Lee's piece on Ann Quin, and now we also have Tom McCarthy's top 10 European modernists. About Maurice Blanchot, Tom says:

Nobody has better thought through the question of what literature fundamentally is than this man: it's a non-space, a vanishing, a being-towards-death. Blanchot was lined up in front of a Nazi firing squad in 1944, but was reprieved at the last minute and lived, albeit as a virtual recluse, until 2003, endlessly narrating the unnameable disaster - of history, thought, writing itself.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 08 May 2007

Rourke on Quin

Scarecrow boss, Mr Lee Rourke, has a nice piece on Ann Quin over at the Guardian:

Quin was born in 1936 in Brighton, one of our more interesting seaside towns (she died there too in 1973: swimming out to sea one morning by Brighton Pier never to return to our shores again). Four books were published in her lifetime: Berg (1964), Three (1966), Passages (1969), and finally Tripticks (1972). Berg is her most famous (and possibly my favourite). It is a paean to the Nouveau Roman of writers like Alain Robbe-Grillet, eschewing the literary trends of her day: those angry, realist campus yawns that put the British working-class voice on the literary map. Ann Quin's was a new British working-class voice that had not been heard before: it was artistic, modern, and - dare I say it - ultimately European. It looked beyond the constructs of our society. It was fresh, alarming, and idiosyncratic. It wasn't static; it moved with the times.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 08 May 2007

Roberto Bolaño

A nice pile of books arrives from New Directions, one of my favourite publishers. Included are César Aira's How I Became a Nun (whose Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter I enjoyed so much back in October) and Wilhelm Genazino's The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt ("This brief and poignant novel from Germany explores existential questions as its 46-year-old narrator reflects on broken relationships and other failures, and struggles to come to terms with life.")

Also included is Roberto Bolaño's Amulet. Bolaño is getting a lot of press at the moment for The Savage Detectives (out in the UK in July from Picador). Here is a quote from a recent review in the Washington Post (via 3 Quarks):

Bolaño not only wrote exactly what and how he pleased; he also viciously attacked figures such as Isabel Allende and Octavio Paz, accusing them of being conformists, more interested in fame than in art. In poems, stories (some of them included in his Last Evenings on Earth), novellas (such as Distant Star and By Night in Chile), two mammoth narratives (one under review here and 2666, scheduled for publication next year in English translation), and an essay collection (called, in Spanish, Entre paréntesis), he cultivated such a flamboyant, stylistically distinctive, counter-establishment voice that it's no exaggeration to call him a genius. 

The Savage Detectives alone should grant him immortality. It's an outstanding meditation on art, truth and the search for roots and the self, a kind of road novel set in 1970s Mexico that springs from the same roots as Alfonso Cuarón's film "Y tu mamá también." Its protagonists are Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, fringe poets professing an aesthetics they describe as "visceral realism." Their hunt for a precursor by the name of Cesárea Tinajero takes them to the Sonora Desert, portrayed by Bolaño as a land of amnesia.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 08 May 2007

Hesperus rant

Nice rant from Katya over at the Hesperus Press Blog:

I honestly don’t believe that our society has ‘dumbed down’. I think we as an industry need to provide the range to allow readers to make their own decisions, for god’s sake let someone choose the author with the funny name. And the media need to expand their attentions to more than the books with the largest marketing department behind them.

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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