Click here to read my review in the Irish Times of Diana Evans’ Women’s Prize-shortlisted, Rathbones Folio Prize-shortlisted, Orwell Prize for Political Fiction-shortlisted (phew) novel Ordinary People.
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The monthly reading group of the British newspaper The Guardian, led by Sam Jordison, has selected W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn as its book for this month. You can read about the details here.... read more
W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz Sequence, Paris, December 1998.
Courtesy of the W.G. Sebald Estate
Today, May 18, 2019, is the 75th anniversary of the birth of writer W.G. Sebald. Two interrelated exhibitions are celebrating and examining his legacy at two neighboring institutions that are only 7 kilometers apart in Norwich: Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts. I’ve already dealt with Norwich Castle’s exhibition “Lines of Sight” in a recent post. The other exhibition explores Sebald’s use of photography. From the Sainsbury Centre’s website, here is their description of the exhibition “Far Away – But... read more
Julian Study Centre, UEA
In addition to the two upcoming exhibitions celebrating what would have been the 75th birthday of W.G. Sebald, there will be a symposium this Friday and Saturday at the Julian Study Centre Lecture Theatre, University of East Anglia, Norwich. Here are the details from its website:
On Friday evening May 10, 5-6.30 pm, Daniel Hahn will be hosting a panel discussion on “Translating W.G. Sebald,” with translators Jo Catling (UEA), Radovan Charvat (Czech Republic), Teresa Ruiz-Rosas (Peru) and Ulrika Wallenström (Sweden).
On Saturday 11 May the symposium program is as follows:
11.15 Welcome (Jo Catling, Duncan Large)
Richard Hibbitt (Leeds) –... read more
As we approach what would have been the 75th birthday of W.G. Sebald on May 18, 2019, two interrelated exhibitions will be celebrating and examining his legacy at two neighboring institutions that are only 7 kilometers apart in Norwich: Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts. I’ll deal with each in a separate post, starting with Norwich Castle’s exhibition, “Lines of Sight.” From the website of Visit Norfolk:
“Lines of Sight: W.G. Sebald’s East Anglia” at Norwich Castle from May 10 until January 5 2020 is an unprecedented exhibition celebrating the work of the author... read more
Portrait of Sebald by Marc Volk, 1992.
Uwe Schütte has written a new book about W.G. Sebald called Annäherungen (“Approximations”) to mark what would have been Sebald’s 75th birthday on May 18, 2019. This highly personal book by Schütte, a former PhD student of Sebald’s, comprises seven non-academic essays which aim to reflect a portrait of the author’s nonconformist personality and idiosyncratic texts. Avoiding the standard Sebaldian topics such as memory, exile, the Holocaust, trauma and so on, Schütte’s essays in Annäherungen deal with subjects like Sebald’s love of trees and his fascination with fire. He examines Sebald’s deep attachment to... read more
At first glance Caroline's Bikini appears to be the fabled Adultery-in-Hampstead novel; the literary unicorn that provides a caricature of English middle-class fiction. It features Evan, a young London professional, who becomes infatuated with Caroline, the wife in a couple who give him lodgings in their attic flat in a wealthy district of London. Except, rather than setting out the expected love triangle drama of that fabled novel, this is about what happens when Evan insists that his copywriter friend Emily produce a novel as a record of his love and how she then struggles with the task when, in... read more
When the postman delivered the book of Józef Czapski's lectures on Proust, I was slightly disappointed that it was such a slim volume, especially as 82 pages of actual text and a 25-page introduction cost me £10. Compared to the lack of moderation that Czapski says characterised Proust's commitment to his novel once he had abandoned his social and sentimental life, which had been marked by the same lack of moderation, the modesty here is extreme. However, given that the lectures were drawn solely from Czapski's memory of Proust's novel and personal experience of its Parisian milieu and delivered to... read more
Today's date means it is thirty years since Thomas Bernhard died. Twenty years ago I wrote a short introduction to his work for Spike Magazine to mark ten years since his death. In those days, Bernhard was more or less unknown in English-speaking countries, with subtitled documentaries like the one below unimaginable, and this was the first essay I had written for the new-fangled internet, so should be considered in that light. Below, I list what I've written about Bernhard on This Space, with a few other treats along the way.
The Indie Book Blog Is Dead says The Vulture, a commerical culturesite I may or may not have seen before – they all look and sound the same – focusing on another commercial culturesite that looks and sounds pretty much the same but one I had definitely seen before though had never considered to be a book blog, which has been sold to another commercial culturesite, signalling, apparently, the end of indie book blogs, a distinguishing phrase that stood out – independent of what, I wondered; any feeling for literature?
The article prompted a bemused shrug from Anthony as... read more
A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us, says Kafka in the famous letter.
I wondered what this might mean as the 'books of the year' lists began to appear last month. Imagine if each contributor constrained themselves to choose only axe-books. Each entry would likely remain blank and the value of what did appear would be extreme compared to the predictable logrolling we see each year. Or maybe they would be exactly the same, as the idea of such a book is so vague that it could include everything from everyday escapist relief to... read more
‘The best things in museums are the windows’ Paintings on gallery walls have always been distant to me. I think of Pierre Bonnard's quip as I wander, aware that I am too soon drawn toward the text panel on the wall beside each painting, to the wall itself, to the design of the gallery space – what if there were a hundred windows and only one painting? – and then to the giftshop, as if in search of something to close that distance: a postcard or Mondrian mug. I am always trying to understand this space, specifically why a painting, any... read more
I've been watching a lot of book videos on YouTube recently, with a growing desire to contribute to the conversation. At the same time I've wondered if making videos might be an answer to those times when writing a longish blog review is beyond my powers. Somehow a couple of thousand words seems like a lot more effort than talking to myself for 10 minutes. Anyway, I decided to give it a go and do a 'tag' video by way of introduction, without any special equipment or editing or, well, forethought really. It's taken me almost a week to... read more
Barkskins by Annie Proulx
Fourth Estate, 14th June 2016
E-book, 736 pages
*My copy supplied by the publisher via Netgalley.
As he cut, the wildness of the world receded, the vast invisible web of filaments that connected human life to animals, trees to flesh and bones to grass shivered as each tree fell and one by one the web strands snapped.
Annie Proulx's new novel is about devastation, both cultural and environmental. Over the course of 700 intensively researched pages and 300 years it charts the story of the colonization of North America, and the landscapes and ways of life it destroyed,... read more
Forgive me lovely people for I have slumped, both in my reading and in my blogging.
It's been over a month since my last confession and I've had to drag myself back to the keyboard like a stroppy teenager.
After a phenomenally good January to May of books, June was a bit of a wasteland. Thankfully July is looking up, but after an absence it's always difficult for me to get back on the horse and write again. The longer the gap the more books there are to be read for review, the more reviews there are to write, the easier it... read more
The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen
Bloomsbury, 2 June 2016
E-book, 355 pages
*My copy supplied by the publisher via Netgalley.
At nineteen Katherine North is the oldest Phenomenaut at Shencorp, the world's leading Consciousness Projection provider. Recruited at the tender age of twelve she has spent much of the last seven years hooked up to life support in a lab while her mind inhabits the bodies of other animals. In that time she has contributed enormously to scientific research on endangered species - her specialism - bringing back data and the lived experience of being an animal into the human... read more
Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg
Fourth Estate, 2nd June 2016
*My copy supplied by the publisher via Netgalley.
The 2nd of June seems to be this year's fashionable publication date for all the books designed to appeal to me. I count four ARCs on my TBR coming out that day and all of them sound ruddy amazing. I've been psyching myself up for a personal mini-challenge of reading them in quick and glorious succession, so that I can write about them in the run up to the Big Day. First up is a debut by Eleanor Wasserberg, a recent graduate from... read more
Journeyman by Marc Bojanowski
Granta, 5 May 2016
*My copy provided by the publisher for review.
Just a year ago the look, feel and blurb for this book would have sent me running for Bailey's Prize hill and the safety of my comfort zone post-haste. A carpenter has a dark night of the quietly masculine soul in mid-2000s California against the back drop of war in Afghanistan and Iraq? Take note of how I'm trying to extend my reading repetoire by trusting to the judgement of Granta and ploughing on in. As brave ventures go, this one turned out surprisingly... read more
Proof copies come and proof copies go, plainish covers giving little away, flagging up books ahead of publication, but of course they all come with dire warnings about 'not quoting without reference to the final copy' and then it's all a palaver to ask for a final copy, or hope one will be sent...or wing it and hope for the best.
If I'm honest only a small percentage make it through as 'of interest' and onto the 'anticipating' shelf, from whence there's another leap onto the 'pending' shelf, however five proofs (three from Bloomsbury, one from Harper Collins and one from... read more
With no imminent plans for a London trip this month I'm unlikely to see the new John Caple exhibition, but for those who will be in the city this might be one for the diary...except it's only on until June 30th, at the John Martin Gallery (38, Albemarle St, W1S 4JG) so you'll have to be quick.
I fell in love with all things John Caple when writer Nell Leyshon very kindly sent me a copy of his book Somerset in the very early days of the scribbles. The pictures immediately struck a deep chord with me and have done ever... read more
Some of you might remember an evening that I will never forget because I did sing its praises quite loudly on here at the time. Bookhound and I had gone to London last year to hear Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris talking about The Lost Words. There was to be a musical interlude with a couple of the 'spells' set to music and I hadn't really given that bit much thought...probably a bit of twiddling on a mandolin and some folksy ear-holding singing. In fact we were the luckiest audience in the world because we heard Kerry Andrews' performance of... read more
I’ve been dipping into A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe having for years thought it was a sort of memoir only to discover it is fiction. I'm ridiculously proud of my Plague, Pestilence & Poisons shelf but I rarely go there or I might have known this.
This plague thing all started because I have been listening to Backlisted Pod whilst working away in the greenhouse growing for the garden (my give-it-a-go dahlia seeds morphed into about 150 plants which then became a bit of a crisis). I’m sure I'm very late to the party on all this... read more
Well, I lasted precisely 4.25 days before bailing out of the Robert Fagles translation of The Odyssey and jumping back on board my beloved copy of Emily Wilson.
This for my book-a-day read through June.
Much as I loved the floppy comfortable feel of the book in my hand, with its deckle edges, Fagles felt too studious and academic (and complicated) for my needs, whilst Emily Wilson's translation is so readable and amenable but no less challenging for a non-Homer person like me.
And I discover that, as I read last year, I wrote in life happenings, on odyssey of my own through... read more
It's here, my favourite prize list of the year...
The 2019 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize Longlist:
Underland by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton)
Wilding by Isabella Tree (Picador)
Lanny by Max Porter (Faber & Faber)
Landfill by Tim Dee (Little Toller Books)
Time Song by Julia Blackburn (Jonathan Cape)
Our Place by Mark Cocker (Jonathan Cape)
How To Catch A Mole by Marc Hamer (Harvill Secker)
The Stopping Places by Damian Le Bas (Chatto & Windus)
Thinking On My Feet by Kate Humble (Aster)
Wild Woman Swimming by Lynne Roper (The Selkie Press)
Out of the Woods by Luke Turner (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
The Easternmost House by Juliet Blaxland (Sandstone Press)
Ghost Trees by Bob Gilbert (Saraband)
Maybe the book I am most thrilled to see alongside those I have shared thoughts on here, Underland, Lanny and Timesong, is Wild Woman... read more