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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 '10 September 2007'

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, haitianalysis.com.

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
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Serendipoetry

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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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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