Click here to read, just in time for last-minute present-buying for bookish friends, my review in The Spectator of The Penguin Classics Book, a beautiful, sumptuous, detailed and shaming history and catalogue of perhaps the only classics publisher in the UK that is a genuine household name.
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Click here to read my Irish Times review of two new Lucia Berlin books: Evening in Paradise (more stories, following from A Manual for Cleaning Women) and the memoir/photos/letters collected as Welcome Home.
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In Iowa, where I live, it is going to get to at least 24 below zero Fahrenheit this week, maybe colder. The wind chill from this Arctic vortex will be about -50. I plan to stay indoors and read. If you need something to get you through your winter doldrums, I suggest Remedios Varo’s beguiling brand of Surrealism. Wakefield Press has just put out a small volume called Remedios Varo: Letters, Dreams & Other Writings, translated by Margaret Carson. Best known as a painter, Varo (1908-1963) was born in Spain and then became twice an exile. She first fled the... read more
Here is my bibliography of works of fiction and poetry published in 2018 containing embedded photographs. You can see bibliographies for other years underneath the pull-down menu “Photo-Embedded Literature” at the top of Vertigo. I also maintain bibliography that spans 1892 to the present at Library Thing (http://www.librarything.com/catalog/VertigoTwo). If you know of a book that I have not mentioned, please let me know in a comment. My thanks to the many Vertigo readers who have already pointed out books that I had not known about!
Forrest Gander. Be With. NY: New Directions, 2018. Contains a poem sequence called “Littoral Zone,” which consists... read more
I needed her to say the words, I needed her to spell it out. But the conversation continued, driven by useless bits of information.
Adam Scovell’s Mothlight is a quietly unsettling novel narrated by Thomas, a young academic lepidopterist who specializes in studying and collecting moths. Growing up, Thomas was obsessed with two elderly women—Phyllis, a professor of entomology and a collector of moths, and her sister Billie. At first, Thomas’s obsession revolved around a mystery—why did Phyllis treat her sister with such open disdain? “What had Billie done, I thought, that Phyllis Ewans considered so awful as to behave so... read more
I have several duplicate Sebald books in my collection that could use good homes. $25 each plus $2.50 media rate postage per title (within the US).
Logis in einem Landhaus. Hanser, 1998. Second printing. Cloth bound. An unread copy without dust jacket.
For Years Now. Poems by W.G. Sebald, Images by Tess Jaray. Short Books, 2001. First edition. Paper bound. An unread copy. SOLD.
Die Beschreibung des Unglücks. Residenz Verlag, 1985. First edition. Cloth bound. A fine copy without a dust jacket.
Schwindel. Gefühle. Eichborn, 1990. First edition of Vertigo. Cloth bound. A very good copy with very minor evidence of wear at corners... read more
Film still from Patience (After Sebald).
Today is the seventeenth anniversary of the death of W.G. Sebald, and it seemed like a good time for another shout out to Grant Gee’s excellent documentary Patience (After Sebald). I’ve watched Patience numerous times and it never fails to impress me. It’s also a sad reminder of what we lost when Sebald died suddenly at the age of 57. I wrote about Gee’s film shortly after it came out in 2011.
There are several ways to see Patience. It’s currently available on the streaming service Mubi (although, unfortunately, not in the United States).... read more
Michelle Bailat-Jones. Unfurled. NY: Ig Publishing, 2018.
Olga Medvedkova. Going Where. London: Sylph Editions, 2018. The Cahiers Series 33.
Neither of us realized we had been living in a borderland all that time, a place where rules are too often unspoken, never declared. We didn’t understand there were passports and checkpoints involved. And that not all three of us would make it through.
So begins Michelle Bailat-Jones’s second novel Unfurled, whose narrator Ella is about to have one very bad week. Ella is a veterinarian, highly sensitized to the health and needs of animals, but prone to ignoring those things that make... 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
Beyond a certain point there is no return. This point is to be reached.
On Saturday I discovered that another secondhand bookshop in Brighton has closed; the third this year. Saturday mornings have often involved a walk along the promenade, a turn right into Ship Street and onto Colin Page's around the corner on Duke Street. There will be no motivation now the books are gone.
The window displayed antiquarian volumes of no interest to me, and indeed more or less everything inside the shop was of no interest to me, but in good weather the... read more
This sumptuous Folio Society edition of Dante's Vita Nuova translated from the Italian by Mark Musa arrived with the suggestion that I post photographs to accompany anything I wanted to write. So here it is, bathed in marine light.
What I wanted to write was unclear to me, and feeling incapable of adding anything worthwhile to the centuries of studies, I began with the basics.
The book was published in 1295 and comprises 31 poems and a prose narrative described by Robert Harrison as juxtaposing "quasi-hallucinatory dreams and visions with pedantic commentary on the poems"; an unusual... 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
I'm sitting here at my desk staring out at this...
The greenhouse swaddled and bandaged up in a valiant attempt to protect it from Storm Erik and any more Big Freezes, us having been a little too late to defend against the ravages of Storm Whatever-The-Last-One-Was. The door shunted ajar and the gale took out several of the back windows, now repaired. It's not so much the repairing, nuisance though it is, it's more the equation of number of pieces of glass x distance travelled across the grass = infinity. 'Someone' puts the gloves on and goes over it with a... read more
When the Gamekeeper broke his leg back-along, and was eventually whisked off to the operating theatre for some running repairs requiring the contents of the Screwfix catalogue, I nipped into Plymouth for a book browse...as you do whilst under duress. I chose a couple of what I would call Easy Readers, which is not to demean the quality, but I reckoned I needed page turners, and one of them was Munich, the other was Force of Nature by Jane Harper. As it happens, what followed, in terms of support, keeping company (we did a lot of summer bird watching, happy days)... read more
...journals / diaries, I'm not sure when one word became more fashionable than the other, and now there's something called 'bullet journaling' which is very big business. I'm envious of those who sketch each day or event (and here are some brilliant ones on Instagram) or create beautifully artistic entries. It isn't quite what I strive or have the time for, though I have now succumbed to the joys of washi tape for a bit of added interest.
But hold on, I'm feeling a bit smug because 2018 was the first full and complete year that I have EVER written a... read more
First things first, I must now confess to a complete blank on the lineage of the House of Windsor.
What a disgrace.
Well, the early days of the House of Windsor that is, created in 1917 to break with any prior associations with Germany... but who exactly were the brothers and sisters, the children of King George V and Queen Mary?
I've sorted it out now but I can't believe I had never really paid attention and understood the place of Dukes of Gloucester and Kent in the grand Windsor scheme of things. To save anyone else the embarrassment, though I feel sure... read more
My love for all things Joni has been well-documented on here down the years so I couldn't think how on earth I had missed Reckless Daughter - A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe, published in October 2017,
And then I knew exactly how, because I had been here with my lovely and completely un-reckless but very adventurous daughter...
I had spent October 2017 in New Zealand with Offspringette, and missed all the articles and publicity. By the time I arrived home it was all about Philip Pullman and The Book of Dust, and it was La Belle Sauvage that would... read more
Thank you for all the kind and encouraging comments about the Tinker's Cott / dovegreyretreats endeavour...we already have some bookings which is very exciting, and we are really looking forward to our season. Included in any visit is some time to chat about books (and quilts) with me should anyone want to do so (and so far it seems they would like that) and as a separate venture I am hoping to offer a few 'dovegreydays' for small groups in the future.
I envisage a day spent in and around chez dovegrey, with bookish chat in the Book Room, walks along... read more