Lots of new stuff on the indispensable backdoorbroadcasting.net:
... starting with the 2013 Hayes Robinson lecture – which is an
annual lecture from the department of History at Royal Holloway:Richard Kagan – The Plaza and the Square: Perspectives on Cities in the Early Modern Atlantic Worldand the annual Hellenic Institute (also at Royal Holloway) chipped in with an interesting lecture on the Greek Diaspora:Richard Clogg – Xeniteia: the Greek diaspora in modern timesAnd one more offering from the History department at Royal Holloway:Jonathan Waterlow – No Laughing Matter? Popular humour and Soviet society in Stalin’s 1930s
Lots more links the BBC news... read more
WWTBD – What Would Thomas Bernhard Do
Talks, discussions, lectures, films, performances, concerts, parties May 17–26, 2013
Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier
1070 Wien, Austria
As a prelude to its repositioning, the Kunsthalle Wien organizes a ten-day festival dedicated to key issues of today's society. WWTBD – What Would Thomas Bernhard Do takes up the tradition of Thomas Bernhard's critical and recalcitrant thinking, transfers it into the present, and breaks it down into various disciplines in the sense of a concise analysis of the present.
Deliberately posed without a punctuation mark, the question What... read more
Let's be clear: My Struggle is not about the life of Karl Ove Knausgaard. The interminable specifics of the content are superficial necessities for an experiment in stretching the everyday to such a degree that it becomes translucent...
Stephen Mitchelmore discusses Knausgaard's My Struggle – Book 2 (A Man in Love).... read more
Goodness! Nothing from me for almost three months. I think that's my longest spell of blogging silence ever. I've been working too hard and playing far too little, and that looks set to continue for a while. Regardless, I have a few fine articles stacking up from kind contributors that need to see the light of day forthwith. So, expect them, and a few minor interventions from me, too, over the coming week or more. ... read more
Writing in The Quietus, Nix Lowery gets it spot on, calling 'Subterraneans' Bowie's "most po-mo moment on Low, and also arguably the most beautiful":
'Subterraneans' is a multi-layered and celestial piece, a sonic painting brimming with referentiality and subtext. With a reversed bassline taken from his rejected The Man Who Fell To Earth soundtrack, Bowie references his attachment to the film, to his character Thomas Newton, and to the general sense of a man out of step, and out of time, with his surroundings – allegorically explored earlier in his work through his 'Major Tom' character. The main melody, a sweeping... read more
It’s a good idea, I think, to revisit favourite books from time to time and see how they are faring, how you and they measure up against one another. I did it last year with Joseph Heller’s Something Happened. Martin Amis’s 1984 novel Money, probably his most highly-praised, has pleased me so much in the past that, more than a decade ago, I used its narrator’s name for my own online identity and have been stuck with it ever since. Vladimir Nabokov, a literary hero of Amis’s, said that “one cannot read a book; one can only reread it.” And... read more
To recap: Belfast-born Brian Moore (1921-1999) wrote twenty novels, and I am reading (and in some cases rereading) them in chronological order. You can see them all here. In fact to say he wrote twenty novels is not quite complete. He began by writing thrillers, initially in his own name and subsequently under two pseudonyms, first Bernard Mara and then Michael Bryan (were their books significantly different, I wonder?). He kept this up for a time after he began writing ‘serious’ novels, though unlike Graham Greene’s ‘entertainments’, Moore’s pseudonymous thrillers (Wreath for a Redhead, A Bullet for My Lady, Murder in Majorca…) are forgotten. His first six novels proper -... read more
Gerbrand Bakker’s The Detour (tr. David Colmer; US title: Ten White Geese) is a short, odd but captivating book which brings a European literary sensibility to rural Wales. While reading it I struggled to think of other novels I’ve read which are set in Wales: Kingsley Amis’s wildly overrated The Old Devils, perhaps, and part of Patrick McGrath’s brilliant Asylum. About the latter, one unhappy Amazon reviewer said “[McGrath] seems to suffer from an extreme form of xenophobia centered on the Welsh and they are described in this book variously as: lacking in warmth towards strangers, wheedly-voiced, suspicious, dour, sly,... read more
How much of our experience of a book comes from expectations? High hopes can either offer artificial buoyancy – at least initially – or make disappointment all the more acute. The human desire for loyalty and continuity must be relevant also: if we liked the author’s other books, we will want to like this one; it streamlines and simplifies things for us. (By us, of course, I mean me.) So it is with J.M. Coetzee, he of the Booker double and the Nobel, a reliable source of reading pleasure if any living author is. His new book seems to plough... read more
My already limited rate of reviewing books here seems to have slumped almost to a stop. From labouring under the sense, a few years ago, that I had to write about everything I read – that my experience with a book was in some way not finished, not processed, otherwise – I am now coming to understand that reading and running (as Salinger put it) is a reliable pleasure in itself. Nonetheless, occasionally I read a new book which I want to share, and that urge is compounded when the book comes after a run of duds. The more I... read more
Here is my review in the Guardian of Chloe Hooper’s new novel, The Engagement. It is “a sleek and sly two-hander, a thriller almost, which sets everything out clearly for the reader and yet remains filled with uncertainty.”
... read more
In one of my favorite stories by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Man of the Crowd,” the narrator impulsively singles out an elderly gentleman and determines to follow him wherever he goes (sounds like the premise for an art piece by Sophie Calle, doesn’t it?). For most of the next two days and two nights, the old man leads the narrator on an erratic, exhausting excursion through the city of London, taking a meandering path through the high and low neighborhoods of London with no apparent pattern or goal. The way in which Poe’s narrator allows an arbitrary character to determine... read more
The German Bookshop in London is having an event with Uwe Schütte on May 22 at 19.00.
We are delighted to have the author of W.G. Sebald. Einführung in Leben & Werk, Uwe Schütte, with us to introduce you to many little known aspects of the life and work of W.G. Sebald. His book was published in autumn 2011 to coincide with the tenth anniversary of his premature death. It provides new biographical material and examines all major literary works. In addition, a chapter on Sebald’s critical writings sheds an interesting light on a neglected yet crucial part of his oeuvre. ... read more
Sebald was always asking us to reflect on how we access the past, how we rescue the dead, and how the writer performs that real, but necessarily fictional, reclamation. – James Wood
The Guardian has published an except from the much awaited publication of A Place in the Country, Jo Catling’s English translation of W.G. Sebald’s Logis in einem Landhaus (1998), an important collection of essays on Robert Walser, Gottfried Keller, Johann Peter Hebel, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Eduard Mörike, and Jan Peter Tripp. (The Guardian‘s excerpt is drawn from the section on Rousseau.) Here’s an excerpt from their excerpt.
The room I... read more
“This material,” the back page explains, “in an earlier form, was part of the first draft of American Smoke: Journeys to the End of the Light, a book due to be published in November 2013. It was decided, as the text moved through later stages in the editing process, that a London detour might be confusing. Now it stands alone.” That excerpt, Iain Sinclair’s Austerlitz & After: Tracking Sebald, has just been released as a chapbook that packs a real punch for its mere 28-pages.
This being Iain Sinclair, the reader should not be surprised to find that the Sebald pages... read more
About two months ago I wrote about an exhibition I had seen at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City called “The Magnificent Collection of Gilbert G. Hargrove” and its accompanying publication The Hargrove Family History. The objects in display in that exhibition were (for the most part) truly from the museum’s collection, but the collectors were fake. The “Hargrove family” had been created out of thin air by the curators. Now, Mark Dion, an artist I admire and whose work I have written about before, has created a similar installation at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts called “The Curator’s Room.” ... read more
After writing a post not long ago on a book about a small provincial river in France – it seems more than fitting to follow up with a book about a small provincial river in England. Charles Rangeley-Wilson’s just-released book Silt Road: The Story of a Lost River unearths (quite literally) the meandering path and lost history of the Wey, a more or less obscure river about halfway between London and Oxford. The Wey is but seven winding miles in length and one can drive from its source to the point where it disappears forever in a half hour. But... read more
Musician John Harmer writes: "I read in Gabriel Josipovici's wonderful novel Infinity: The Story of a Moment about a piece composed by the fictional hero of the book Tancredo Pavone called Six Sixty-Six. I had to play it when I read about it."
Also available via Soundcloud, where you can read the relevant passage from the novel.... read more
The focus of the first volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard's six-book series My Struggle is in the foreground of its narrative and in the title of the UK edition – A Death in the Family – which for the book-devouring industry mitigated such a prolonged presentation of one man's relatively ordinary childhood and youth. And you can expect the content of the second – A Man in Love – to do the same: the author's romance, marriage and parenthood will occupy review coverage alongside doubts as to the value such indulgence has now that the initial hit has been absorbed.... read more
In Repetition, Handke allows the peculiar light which illuminates the space under a leafy canopy or a tent canvas to glisten between words, placed here with astounding caution and precision; in doing so, he succeeds in making the text into a sort of refuge amid the arid lands which, even in the culture industry, grow larger day by day.WG Sebald's remarkable essay Across the Border, on Peter Handke's 1986 novel Die Wiederholung, translated by Ralph Manheim in 1989 as Repetition, has been made available in English by Cannon Magazine. You can download it as a PDF. Even better news is... read more
So then, Lars Iyer's Exodus, the third in a trilogy of enchantingly morbid novels. Let me start by saying that a review might be the wrong response, heedless of how the form disarms the reader even as it provides generic options in which to contain what is otherwise a very odd book.
As readers of Spurious and Dogma will know – and will delight in the knowledge – this is a series in which monologic perorations, complaints and lamentations over the state of contemporary philosophy and the destruction of academic philosophy by the forces of capital constitute the... read more
A question arises from my breathless response to volume one of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: have I contradicted my exasperated review of David Shields’ Reality Hunger? At least, this is a question I ask myself. After all, as the author explained, this autobiographical work was written only when fiction failed him. He had published two novels but: I wanted to write something completely different, and I wanted to write about my father ... About his fall, how he somehow changed from being a father, a perfectly ordinary teacher, a local politician, to a divorced, dead alcoholic. For three... read more
This is the part of a books of the year entry you don’t read because you’re scanning to find the titles this writer has chosen. You haven't noticed his name but you'll check it once your own good judgement has been confirmed.
The first is Karl O. Knausgaard’s My Struggle, a popular one this year – you’ve registered the title already because he was chosen in that other list in that other place by that other guy – who was it? Visceral realism blah scandal in Norway blah full of profound insights blah. Oh look, there are the names... read more
If it were up to me, I would try to forget the Hunger Games entirely.
Never speak of them. Pretend they were nothing but a bad dream. But the
Victory Tour makes that impossible. Strategically placed almost midway
between the annual Games, it is the Capitol's way of keeping the horror
fresh and immediate. Not only are we in the districts forced to remember
the iron grip of the Capitol's power each year, we are forced to
celebrate it. And this year, I am one of the stars of the show. I will
have to travel from district to district,... read more
We all went down to the tar pit, with mats to spread our weight.
was standing on the bank, her hands in a metal twin loop behind her.
She'd stopped sulking; now she looked, more, starey and puzzled.
Barnarndra pointed to the pit. "Out you go then, girl. You must walk on
out there to the middle and stand. When you picked a spot, your people
can join you."
So Ik stepped out, very ordinary. She walked out. I
thought - hoped, even - she might walk right across and into the
thorns the other side; at the same time, I... read more
I read for 14 hours straight yesterday, or pretty much. That's a lot of hours, even by an avid reader's standards. I so rarely get the time to give myself over completely to a book. It's the first time since I was sick in January that I've read for more than an hour or two in one go, and it was good. Now I feel all loose and relaxed and balanced as though I've done vigorous physical exercise, when the exact opposite is true. Many of you already know that I wasn't alone on this reading marathon, yesterday (and a... read more
It was the first-ever story about a truly enormous natural event that
was both about the world and was told to the world. Part of the planet's
fabric had been ripped asunder: and part of that same planet, the part
connected by cables and telegraphs and with access to newspapers, was
now being informed of the event. And the very process of relating the
dramatic happenings, especially. In the weeks and months that followed,
would enable all who heard, read and understood it to share in the cruel
intimacy of the moment.
On paper - or in pixels - it's a... read more
"This book," says Natalie Zemon Davies at the start of stranger-than-fiction popular history The Return of Martin Guerre (1983), "grew out of a historian's adventure with a different way of telling about the past." Her telling concerns a wonderfully odd little legal case from 16th-century Languedoc, centred on an imposter named Arnaud de Tilh. De Tilh successfully posed as a missing man named Martin Guerre for several years - even living in Guerre's house with Guerre's family - until Guerre's wife Bertrande one day denounced him for fraud, took him to court. Bertrande was then reunited with her lost husband,... read more
"Brother Matthew would have prescribed comfrey," she observed.
"And you are amused to find me doing the same?"
"Strangely enough, I think it is consoling. I have a great love of comfrey. And I loved Brother Matthew."
The Abbott felt at that moment that he was the true inheritor, not only
of the defunct Brother Matthew's role on the island, but of all the arts
and failings of Apollo.
John Fuller's Booker-shortlisted Flying To Nowhere (1983) is the sort of odd, charming little novel - or perhaps more accurately novella, since it's 105 pages long and quite large of print - that it almost... read more
Yes, it's time to drag out the 1976 funny-hat-blue-belt photo again (fourth year of training, finals taken, results awaited) and tag another post under The Sufferings of Student Nurse collection, and If I'd known then what I know now I think I would have been rightly terrified at the mere thought of my student nurse ward allocation to Cohen CD, Infectious and Skin Diseases at Great Ormond Street, on March 10th 1974. My last ward before heading off to secondment at the London Hospital for the SRN part of the training that combined RSCN (Registered Sick Children's Nurse) with it.
I know the... read more
I have come to the borders of sleep, The unfathomable deep Forest where all must lose Their way, however straight, Or winding, soon or late; They cannot choose.
Many a road and track That, since the dawn's first crack, Up to the forest brink, Deceived the travellers, Suddenly now blurs, And in they sink....
Edward Thomas knew much of holloways and Robert Macfarlane quotes this poem in his latest book Holloway, produced with fellow writer Dan Richards and artist Stanley Donwood. The book is a slim but rich and intense fusion of words, observations and drawings compiled after the three returned... read more
Not a lot to report to be honest, I'm plum tuckered out keeping the Tinker stocked up with fresh rabbit. I leave him half a one, carefully dissected, outside his front door every morning because I can never resist having a little nibble first, but it's all demanding and exhausting work and between you and me they all seem less than grateful.
Now as regards this holloway, well I don't go up there much but of course you-know-who is out there every five minutes flaunting those ridiculous ears...
And Faber are kindly offering FIVE copies of Holloway by Rob,... read more
...and sending good wishes and warm thoughts to anyone affected by this devastating tragedy.
I've just been watching the news, and the massive tornado cutting a swath through those communities, and trying to imagine 200mph winds and how terrifying that must have been. I'm hoping America have the U.K. equivalent of Shelterbox and the means for people who have lost everything to create at least a temporary home very quickly.
And then the most heart-warming moment of the woman being interviewed on Sky News at the site of her flattened home, and grieving the loss of her dog, at which point out crawled the missing... read more
I wonder if anyone else heard Melvyn Bragg on the radio recently, taking no prisoners as he urged the BBC to up its game with Arts programming in the face of increasingly high-standard competition from Sky and Channel Four. He was forthright and very direct ( thank heavens we still have people who can be, and broadcasters who will air such ascerbic criticism of themselves...I love the BBC for it) about programmes shifting from BBC One to the remoter outpost of BBC Four, as well as reducing in frequency, and as far as I can tell only seem to 'star'... read more
Some of you may recall, as part of the Edward Thomas project on here a couple of years ago, a lovely post that included some pictures of a beautiful, hand-illustrated and bound edition of Edward Thomas's poem Adlestrop, done by ninety-year old Harold Page, Fran H-B's father.
Fran has been a daily visitor here for years, comments regularly, and we meet up occasionally, and indeed Team Edward Thomas saw that work for real as Fran brought it with her when we took tea with author Matthew Hollis as part of the project.
On arriving in Sussex for a few days walking the... read more