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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 for 'September 2007'

Wednesday 26 September 2007

Blanchot's negativity

An essay over on Mike Duff's The Joyful Knowing blog entitled Blanchot and Hegel's abstract negativity that I'll respond to at the weekend. For now, the opening lines:

In Literature and the Right to Death, Maurice Blanchot invokes, like Bataille throughout his Inner Experience, the concept of pure nothing, (or, as a power, a becoming) abstract negativity, that Hegel defines early on in the Master-Slave dialectic in the Phenomenology of Spirit as well as in the beginning of the Science of Logic. The use for this is clear, and also aptly summarizes what I think Bataille thinks of it also, with respect to the work of literature. Blanchot says that "Literature professes to be important while at the same time considering itself an object of doubt," in the sense that it, "by its very activity, denies the substance of what it represents" and thus is "its own negation".

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 25 September 2007

Tuesday Top Ten -- Stephen Mitchelmore

This week's Tuesday Top Ten over on Editor's Corner at The Book Depository is from our pal Stephen Mithelmore of This Space.

Steve chooses "ten books that defy simple classification" and they are:

  • The Writing of the Disaster by Maurice Blanchot
  • The Great Fire of London: a story with interpolations and bifurcations by Jacques Roubaud
  • Extinction by Thomas Bernhard
  • Poetry as Experience by Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe
  • Lichtenberg and the Little Flower Girl by Gert Hofmann
  • Selected Writings I-IV by Walter Benjamin
  • Collected Poetry & Prose by Wallace Stevens
  • The Total Library by Jorge Luis Borges
  • Everything Passes by Gabriel Josipovici
  • The Singer on the Shore by Gabriel Josipovici

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 25 September 2007

Andre Gorz RIP

The philosopher André Gorz, 84, co-founder of the Nouvel Observateur weekly, has committed suicide together with his wife Dorine. More via AFP.

Wikipedia tells us:

Gorz was a theorist of workers' self-management. Later, he was also concerned with political ecology. His central theme is work: liberation from work, just distribution of work, alienated work, etc. He is also one of the advocates for Guaranteed basic income.

He also was a main theorist in New Left movement,inspired by the young Marx humanism and Alienation discussion and the liberation mankind,seeking a third way between communism and reform capitalism like his mentor, Jean Paul Sartre, but even in the same spirit as the people like C. Wright Mills and the people round him in the New Left Review, and Jurgen Habermas and the Frankfurter School. Gorz called him self an "revolutionary-reformist", a democratic socialist who wanted to see system changing reforms.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 24 September 2007

Antal Szerb event

Tomorrow night (Tuesday 25th September) at 7pm at the Calder Bookshop (51 The Cut, London, SE1 8LF) Pushkin Press are hosting a talk by "acclaimed novelist Paul Bailey and award-winning Hungarian translator Len Rix, about the work of twentieth-century Hungarian master novelist Antal Szerb." This in celebration of the newly published Oliver VII.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 24 September 2007

Blanchot posts

Saturday marked the hundred year anniversary of Maurice Blanchot's birth. This Space brings my attention to a post by Pierre Joris, The space opened by Blanchot, which was Pierre's contribution to the 2004 memorial volume Nowhere Without No, and to Spurious's Common Presence: Blanchot at 100.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 24 September 2007

Tom -- all up!

Computer problems meant that my five-part interview with Tom McCarthy didn't go up as smoothly as possible last week -- sorry about that. But all five parts are now online -- part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5. To make things easier, I'll collate all the parts of Tom's interview later this week.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 21 September 2007

Tom McCarthy interview (part 5)

Tom McCarthy, author of Remainder and Men in Space

Below is the fifth and final part of my week-long interview with Tom McCarthy:

Mark Thwaite: Are you dismayed by the current state of the world!?

Tom McCarthy: How could I not be? Beckett’s answer to this question was ‘Let it burn!’ – but then he has Vladimir in Waiting for Godot say ‘Was I sleeping, while the others suffered?’, which I think is the single best and most moving line ever written by any writer, ever. Everything’s political, ultimately – but I think good writing disengages from politics at a superficial level in order to experience it more profoundly.

MT: What are you writing now?

TM: Pathetically, my answer to this question is the same as it was when you last asked it over a year ago. I’m just under half way through a novel called C, which is about mourning, technology and matter. I’m writing it very slowly. It’s called C because it has crypts, cauls, call-signs, cocaine, cyanide and cysteine in it. And carbon: lots of carbon.

MT: Anything else you would like to say?

TM: Keep on keeping up the good work. RSB’s become a staple of my daily meander through cyberspace: the criticism, the links, it’s all good – apart from the announcements of various great writers’ and critics’ deaths, which I always read first on your site. Stop killing off our heroes!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 20 September 2007

Tom McCarthy interview (part 4)

Below is the fourth part of my week-long interview with Tom McCarthy:

Mark Thwaite: Who should we be reading from way back when and who should we be reading who is writing now? Why!?

Tom McCarthy: You gotta read the Greeks if you want to understand how the whole symbolic order fits together; it’s like the main-frame from which all subsequent literature springs. Read the Oresteia, Oedipus, Antigone. Then the Renaissance writers, obviously. And the big modernists. Not reading Joyce if you want to be a serious writer would be kind of like not looking at Picasso if you want to paint. In terms of now, I think some of the most interesting literary figures (as I suggested earlier) aren’t necessarily writers. The films of David Lynch, for example, have an extremely literary logic; his latest, Inland Empire, is structured like Finnegans Wake or the novels of Robbe-Grillet, with a set of repetitions regressing inwards, modulating as they repeat. He’s grappling with questions of narrative and representation and identity in a way that mainstream novelists simply aren’t, and is therefore much more interesting as a ‘writer’, even if he isn’t strictly speaking one.

MT: You've established yourself as a writer, but you still see yourself as an artist -- what non-writing work are you involved in at the moment?

TM: I’m heading off to New York this week to present the International Necronautical Society’s (INS) Declaration on Inauthenticity, a joint statement with INS Chief Philosopher Simon Critchley, who I see you’ve interviewed on these pages in the past. It’ll be delivered in the form of a White House-style press conference, at the Drawing Centre on the 25th Sept. There are also INS projects coming up at the Museet Moderna Kunst in Stockholm, where we’re going to install an audio ‘crypt’ in the gallery, at Tate Britain here in London and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. I’m also working with the artist Johan Grimonprez, who made this brilliant film called Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, all about airline hijacks, which won the Documenta prize a few years ago. He’s working on a new film about Hitchcock and the double, a theme obviously very close to my heart, and I’m writing a kind of voiceover-narrative for it.

MT: Are you dismayed by the current state of writing/publishing?

TM: Nes and yo. I think it’s a great time to be a writer; it’s just an awful time to publish. But, as I suggested earlier, a result of the closing out of literature by corporate publishing here in the UK has been that literature runs underground and bubbles up elsewhere: art, film, philosophy and so on. The borders between these disciplines get blurred, there’s hybridization, new forms emerging. That’s a good thing.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Wednesday 19 September 2007

Tom McCarthy interview (part 3)

Tom McCarthy, author of Remainder and Men in Space

Below is the third part of my week-long interview with Tom McCarthy:

Mark Thwaite: Do you read the critics? Have you been pleased with the responses to your novels? Have you learned anything from them?

Tom McCarthy: I’m interested in people’s readings of the books. A novel doesn’t end when it’s written; in a way, that’s just the beginning: the ‘meaning’ isn’t enclosed within it but emerges from its meeting with other texts, other moments – all textbook deconstruction stuff, I know, but no less true for that. Having said that, some readings are much more productive than others. Ones that interpret Remainder, for example, as a straight allegory or ‘solve’ it by suggesting that the hero’s dead but doesn’t know it yet are interesting but limited. The critic Andrew Gibson, who’s just put out a book on Beckett and Badiou, told me that my work is about ‘the radical death of the world,’ adding that this is the theme of twenty-first century philosophy. I’m not sure I understand what he means but it sounds really good.

MT: Remainder is a very philosophical novel. What first drew you to Continental Philosophy, to Blanchot et al?

TM: It’s such great stuff. The English empirical tradition is just bean-counting; it’s got nothing to do with proper thought. Real philosophy throws us radically and dynamically into the world, into language and experience, through desire towards death and so on. That’s why Heidegger, Levinas, Blanchot, Derrida – and Badiou too – are real philosophers. What draws me also is the centrality of literature to this tradition. Heidegger develops half his ideas from the poetry of Hölderlin or Gottfried Benn, Derrida from exquisitely close and creative readings of Genet, Ponge and Baudelaire. Where does the ‘philosophy’ end and ‘literature’ begin? The Post Card is a love-poem to rival anything by John Donne – only it’s not a poem; so what is it? And how do we categorise Edmond Jabès’s work? Criticism? Prose-poetry? ‘Meta-writing’? In good philosophy, the question of literature is always ‘live’, and ditto the other way round.

MT: You've said that you think the novel is safer in the hands of artists than with writers -- what did you mean by that?

TM: I don’t think that’s always the case; it’s all contingent. But with mainstream UK publishing becoming just the middle-brow branch of the corporate entertainment industry, the writers promoted by the big houses tend to be ones who are using the format of the novel to serve up nicely-packaged but quite unambiguous ‘thoughts’, or pat liberal ‘questions’ that bring their own answers with them – in other words, purging literature of the slipperiness, recalcitrance, abjection and a million other things that make it literary. Conversely, art’s become an arena where these very things are valued, and artists (as I think I said in our last conversation) are becoming more and more literate – and even using text and narrative in their work. Things move in cycles; maybe in fifty years time art will be all dumb and corporate and publishing dynamic and subversive, who knows? But at the moment, yes, it’s art and its networks that are curating literature – ‘curating’ in the classical sense of keeping it safe, letting it develop.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 18 September 2007

Tom McCarthy interview (part 2)

Yesterday, I posted the first part of my week-long interview with Tom McCarthy. Today, Tom lists his Top Ten Novels over on The Book Depository ... and I give you the second part of my interview with Mr McCarthy below:

Mark Thwaite: What do you see as the main fundamental differences between Men in Space and Remainder Tom?

Tom McCarthy: Superficially, they’re very different novels: dispersed third-person versus monomaniacal first, eclectic overabundance versus pared-down minimalism and so on. But ultimately they’re concerned with the same things. Repetition, for example, and the idea of inauthenticity. Also, as I hinted earlier, they’re both about failed transcendence. In both novels, there are two directions, two pulls: up, and down. Things get sent up towards the sky, the heavens; they come crashing down again. In Men in Space these things are people, eras, whole societies; in Remainder it’s blue goop from a windscreen-wiper reservoir – and also, of course, an aeroplane and whatever piece of hardware fell on the hero in the first place. In both novels, there’s a battle between an abstracting, idealist tendency and a material one that leads to clutter and detritus – and in both the latter wins hands down (go and look at Yeats’s The Circus Animals’ Desertion and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about). And both end in a kind of suspension: the hero of Remainder doing aerial figure-of-eights, or Nick stuck on the roof holding the rope while history’s wheel loops round and round...

MT: What were the biggest challenges of writing MiS? How did you overcome them?

TM: How do you write a novel about disintegration that’s not disintegrated, that’s coherent? And how do you write about things you’ve experienced while simultaneously configuring it all from a novelistic point of view? In the first draft, there were episodes in there simply because they’d happened to me and seemed important at the time; then you realize that that doesn’t matter: everything has to play a role within the novel’s architecture, its staging posts, relays and correspondences. Also, more prosaically (and it is prose we’re talking about, after all), how do you get a character into and out of a room? I find that hard enough.

MT: I understand the film rights for Remainder have been sold? What does this actually mean!? When might we see a film?

TM: A partnership of FilmFour and Cowboy Films have bought the rights and are producing the movie. They’re the partnership behind the recent adaptation of The Last King of Scotland, which was a huge success and won an oscar for Forrest Whittaker. The first draft of the script has been written, by John Hodge, who wrote the script for Trainspotting. I’m not technically involved, but the producer gave me a peek and it looked really good. Next they decide who the director will be. So maybe 2008/9 for the release date. It always takes longer and costs more than you think, apparently...

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 17 September 2007

Tom McCarthy interview (part 1)

Tom McCarthy, author of Remainder and Men in Space

Back in July, I did a five-part interview with Dan Hind (collected here). Doing the interview over the course of a week seemed to be very well received, so now it is time to do it again, this time with our pal the author Tom McCarthy (who I've interviewed before, of course).

Tom's novel Remainder has become hugely successful. His lastest novel is Men in Space.

Mark Thwaite: What gave you the idea for Men in Space, Tom?

Tom McCarthy: I lived in Prague in the early nineties, just after the Velvet Revolution. As though half-realising Plato’s vision of a philosopher-led state, this absurdist playwright, Havel, had come to power and filled parliament with his friends. The city was also a magnet for young would-be Bohemians from all over the world, and there were parties that went on for days, spilling from club to loft to opening to club again. Beyond the drunkenness, there was a real excitement, a sense that something new, a new Europe or new type of Europe, was emerging from the ruins of the Easter Bloc. A few years later, back in London, I wanted to write about it – or at least use it as the setting to write about something more entrenched. The image of the floating saint in the stolen icon painting that serves as the book’s ‘MacGuffin’ helped solidify some of the themes of regeneration and transcendence – or its failure – I was trying to get at; and of course the abandoned cosmonaut who doubles him in ‘contemporary’ (rather than ‘archaic’) time, orbiting above the stratosphere while the ex-Soviet states argue who should bring him down, did the same. These things came together slowly, though. There was no single Eureka-moment, like there was with Remainder when I got struck by deja-vu while looking at a crack and the whole novel was there in half an hour.

MT: How long did it take you to write it?

TM: I finished a version of it before writing Remainder, a really long time ago. Fourth Estate were going to publish that version, but the editor got blocked from above, and then the same thing happened at a couple more big publishers; so I put it aside and wrote Remainder. After that book took off I looked at the manuscript with Alessandro Gallenzi of Alma Books here and Marty Asher of Vintage in New York and we decided we’d do it. But by this time it was pretty old, and I wanted to rework it thoroughly before putting it out; so I spent the first three months of this year heavily rewriting, cutting loads and adding new stuff. So, to answer your question, it was written over two and a half years seven years ago and three months seven months ago. Got that?

MT: What is it about Central Europe at the moment just after the Soviet Union collapsed that you find so fascinating?

TM: An order of things disintegrating, all the old parameters being stripped away, or, to put it in drier philosophical terms, a grand narrative being fragmented (which, for the philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard, is the defining feature of the ‘postmodern’). It’s the vertigo, the exhilaration, the terror and the expectation – not to mention the eventual disappointment: they wanted The Republic and got Starbucks.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 17 September 2007

Nancy's tribute to Maurice Blanchot

Over on This Space, Steve reproduces Jean-Luc Nancy's tribute to Maurice Blanchot on the 100th anniversary of his birth:

Writing (literature) names this relationship. It does not transcribe a testimony, it does not invent a fiction, it does not deliver a message: it traces the infinite journey of meaning as it absents itself. This absenting is not negative; it shapes the chance and challenge of meaning itself. "To write" means continuously to approach the limit of speech, the limit that speech alone designates, whose designation makes us (speakers) unlimited... (More.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Friday 14 September 2007

Free books! Free books!

I'm giving free books away again -- over on The Book Depository. Go claim!!

Update: they've all gone!

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Arpaia, Coetzee, McEwan

Over the past couple of weeks I've read three vaunted books: Bruno Arpaia's The Angel of History, J.M. Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year, and Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach. All three were flawed, of course, because all novels are flawed. Literature is, after all, a project of failure: "Try Again. Fail again. Fail better." The Coetzee, however, stands head and shoulders above the other books: why?

Arpaia's story of the last months of Walter Benjamin's life reads like an accomplished novelisation of the film of Benjamin's trials and tribulations in trying to protect the manuscript of Passagen-Werk (what we now know as The Arcades Project) whilst fleeing Nazi Germany and trying to cross into Spain over the Pyrenees to the relative safety of Portbou. Intertwined with Benjamin's tale, told in the third person, is the first person narrative of Laureano Mahojo, a Republican militant who fought in the Spanish Civil War. His memories of the war form the background to the focal point of the novel when, one night, he meets Benjamin, and their lives briefly entwine.

Both the first and third person narratives disappoint, but in different ways. The tone of the former is deliberately that of the storyteller. Laureano is speaking directly to someone he addresses irregularly as "my son": we, the reader, are thus spoken to, admonished, involved quite directly. Aware that the Benjamin story is what we've come for, Laureano teases us that the detail of their meeting is soon to come, but first he wants to tell his own story, lay down in full the context of that meeting (at one level of abstraction, this does nicely reinforce the fact that the Spanish Civil War was an essential precursor to the coming slaughter of the Second World War). Confidently, he gives a bravura performance telling of his part in the heroism and folly of war. But the very coherence and detail of the linear narrative undermines any notion that Laureano's memories are anything but a story created by Arpaia. The author's eloquence foregrounds a lack of authenticity that is never investigated or even recognised. There is an awful, self-assured rhetorical quality that forbids deep involvement on the part of the reader who can never forget that this is a story and is never given the credit for a recognition that needs to be shared by the writer.

The parts dealing with Benjamin himself amount to a decent potted biography of his desperate last months. But they are arch and over-dramatised. At no point are Benjamin's thoughts on the novel used by Arpaia to help him investigate what it is he is doing writing his own book about the German critic.

McEwan's On Chesil Beach is airless, arid, almost pointillist. Exact and pedantic -- the work is claustrophobic and inorganic. It never becomes an artwork because it isn't an investigation into anything: it is the laying bare of a meticulous plan. McEwan doesn't write to discover, he writes to deliver his knowledge about his puppet characters. There is no silence in the work, there is only witheld information, which is quite a different thing. Is the starched writing a kind of pathetic fallacy for his characters' inward desperation? No. McEwan eschews empathy -- his writing constitutionally unable to create it -- because of his overarching need to direct. He is, perhaps, the best exponent of Establishment Literary Fiction that we have ...

Coetzee's latest effort is infuriating and frustrating in parts, as I said in the brief review of it I posted yesterday. But its investigation into itself makes it an invigorating read. I find myself, however, at odds with what I perceive to be Coetzee's project of deep irony that underpins his recent work. The provisionality that grounds, yet undoes, all writing can be addressed in a modernist or a postmodernist way: the search for new ways of investigating the endeavour of writing; or scepticism towards the possibility of such an address. When that scepticism is wrapped inside the investigation itself, absurdity beckons.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 10 September 2007

Peter Hallward "on the interests of the British press"

Via the (new to me; thanks Robin) Outside Philosophy blog:

Peter Hallward, the excellent philosopher working at Middlesex University in London -- also part of the Radical Philosophy editorial collective -- has written an outstanding article on the interests of the British press. He contrasts the blanket coverage of a missing child to the almost total overlooking of the death of 80 Haitians at sea, deaths for which British authorities are responsible due to their callous disregard of the lives of those they intercept fleeing the poverty of Haiti. Poverty for which, it should always be recalled, American policy bears great responsibility. The article appears on what looks to be an important resource,

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 10 September 2007

Diary of a Bad Year review

I've just written a wee review of Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year over on The Book Depository:

In J.M. Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year an ageing writer, J.C., who strongly resembles Coetzee himself, finds himself inappropriately drawn to his young amanuensis Anya. Her partner, Alan, is none too happy about Anya's working relationship with J.C.. Anya is untroubled by what she knows to be going through J.C.'s head, but is somewhat perturbed by some of the things that he has written and that she has to type up for him.

With Elizabeth Costello, and with Slow Man, Coetzee, one of the most brilliant novelists writing today, has shown himself to have a profound interest in the novel's form. Elizabeth Costello is a collection of philosophical essays just about holding together as a novel, as the essays we read are, nominally, Costello's own writings. In Slow Man, Costello arrives on the scene again to tell the principal protagonist, Paul Rayment, that she has invented him: a third of the way through what seems a (wonderfully written) conventional novel and Coetzee gets up to all sorts of destabilizing, metafictional tricks.

In Diary of a Bad Year, the tricks aren't as disturbing, but the interest in playing with form is still highly evident. Most of the pages of Diary of a Bad Year are split into three horizontally demarcated sections: we read J.C.'s non-fictional essays; Anya's take on their relationship; and then J.C.s take on his deepening involvement with Anya and Alan.

This clever structure, however, doesn't stop the novel being unsatisfying in a number of ways: J.C.'s essays aren't fully developed enough entirely to convince; and the accompanying story of the bizarre love triangle is too thin a fare fully ever to engage the reader. Coetzee's brilliance is never in doubt and this is, certainly, a must-read book (it should be read to see what Coetzee, a world-class practitioner, is trying to do with the novel), but it is, at times, an infuriating and frustrating read.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 10 September 2007

Rourke on McCarthy

Lee Rourke on Tom McCarthy:

Tom McCarthy leads the reader to a repeating series of ellipses that neither confirm nor deny; a feeling that humanity has been abandoned, and will be abandoned again and again. There is no 'divine mystery' to ascend towards, just a 'kind of Bermuda triangle'; a point of no return; an eternal repeating nothingness. McCarthy is fast revealing himself as a master craftsman who is steering the contemporary novel towards exciting territories. In unravelling the defining minutiae of an event in history, he manages to reveal to us the widening disintegration of our own present.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Wednesday 05 September 2007

Bolaño and Coetzee

A very busy day here. To cap it -- exciting stuff -- the new Coetzee (Diary of a Bad Year) arrived: yay! I've read about 75 pages so far ... and, actually, I'm not that bothered as yet. There is a plainess to Coetzee's writing that is so austere that it is almost rudely unpolished. I'm not sure I'm always convinced by this.

I did manage to write a longish blog about the Sony Reader over on Editor's Corner, so that's good.

Oh: Benjamin Kunkel on Roberto Bolaño over at the LRB.

Now, back to Coetzee.

Update: This wee post was originally entitled Bolaño and Sebald. That was a mistake! An interesting Freudian slip, though. Nothing here, to be said about Sebald: it was Coetzee I wanted to mention. But I'm intrigued I made the mistake -- both writers do, I think, have a deep connection which I want to ponder on. For now, sorry about my foolishness!

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 04 September 2007

Kerouac: just say no!

Via Anecdotal Evidence, a demolition of the Cult of Kerouac in Another Side of Paradise by Anthony Daniels (aka Theodore Dalrymple):

He led a tormented life, and I cannot help but feel sadness for a would-be rebel who spent most of his life, as did Kerouac, living at home with his mother. He also drank himself to a horrible death. But while it is true that most great writers were tormented souls, it does not follow that most tormented souls were great writers. To call Kerouac’s writing mediocre is to do it too much honor: its significance is sociological rather than literary. The fact that his work is now being subjected to near-biblical levels of reverential scholarship is a sign of very debased literary and academic standards.

I have seen some of the most mediocre minds of my generation destroyed by too great an interest in the Beats.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 03 September 2007

Philosophers on YouTube

The European Graduate School has made lectures from Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard, Slavoj Žižek and Judith Butler available on YouTube. Literature Compass Blog has all the details.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Monday 03 September 2007

The London Hanged

Resolute Reader takes a look at one of my very favourite history books, Peter Linebaugh's The London Hanged:

Linebaugh’s starting point is to argue that you cannot understand the history of London without understanding property relations within that society. And you cannot understand property relations and the development of capitalism without understanding the struggles that took place between those who had property, and those who had little or none.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 03 September 2007

Semantic web?

Via Petrona, I note an article about the semantic web in The Economist magazine. Semantic web? Here is The Economist's definition:

The semantic web is so called because it aspires to make the web readable by machines as well as humans, by adding special tags, technically known as metadata, to its pages. Whereas the web today provides links between documents which humans read and extract meaning from, the semantic web aims to provide computers with the means to extract useful information from data accessible on the internet, be it on web pages, in calendars or inside spreadsheets.

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Monday 03 September 2007

Mitchelmore on Montano's Malady

I'm back ... I think! What a hectic summer. Somehow, the rain has exacerbated how busy I've been.

But back to business -- here is Steve on Enrique Vila-Matas' Montano's Malady:

Montano's Malady [is] about a man who is literature-sick. Every situation in his life is immediately related to a memory of literature. Someone, he decides, looks like Robert Walser, which reminds him of that WG Sebald said Robert Walser looked like his grandfather and died in the same way, walking in the mountains, and so on. (Vila-Matas reminds me, incidentally, of a comic WG Sebald, if you can imagine such a thing). The narrator introduces his son, Montano, whose malady is the inability to write any further. The struggle with literature-sickness and Montano's Malady maintains the book's energy and, as Three Per Cent's review says, is also a sort of manifesto for a renewal of literature against its enemies (aka "Pico's moles").

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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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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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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