"Søren Kierkegaard wrote that Pietism is 'the one and only consequence of Christianity'. Praise of this sort - particularly when coupled with Kierkegaard's significant personal connections to the movement in Christian spirituality known as Pietism - would seem to demand thorough investigation. And yet, Kierkegaard's relation to Pietism has been largely neglected in the secondary literature." Christopher B. Barnett's Kierkegaard, Pietism and Holiness would thus seem to work over the same ground and back up the case of Daphne Hampson's superb Kierkegaard: Exposition & Critique, and James Rovira's paper
Kierkegaard, Pietism, and Existentialism: Eighteenth-Century Pietism as the Origin of... read more
Mark Rothko believed that the art of children and the work of modern painters were directly related. They were related because of their influence of “primitive” art. According to Rothko, it “transforms itself into primitivism, which is only the child producing a mimicry of himself.” (Jeffery Weiss 2000) He also observed that “the face that one usually begins with drawing is already academic. We start with color.” (Jeffery Weiss 2000) Modern artists like children who are influenced by the primitive both express a natural feeling in their best work through art that is created without mental interference.... read more
After the Beautiful
"In his Lectures on Fine Art, delivered in Berlin in the 1820's, Hegel argued that art works involve a unique form of aesthetic intelligibility, and that what they rendered intelligible was the state of collective human self-knowledge across historical time. This approach to art works has been extremely influential in a number of different contexts. The question posed in this lecture is whether Hegel's approach might also be of any value in understanding the most radical revolution in the later history of art, modernism. Accordingly the attempt is to provide a Hegelian interpretation of the paintings of... read more
The MacLehose Press is having an ebook sale. You can find lots of very cheap books in translation here (this, by the way, is part of the wider Quercus ebook sale with hundreds of books under a £1; I work for these guys, but you know that, right?!)... read more
John Williams’s 1965 novel Stoner was the sleeper hit of 2013. A groundswell of word-of-mouth success in some European countries early this year coincided with the reissue of the book in the UK by Vintage Classics in December 2012 (having previously been published by NYRB Classics in 2006), and soon every UK newspaper wanted a piece of the action too. Attention is now beginning to turn to his other novels. This one was brought to us again by NYRB Classics in 2007, and next year it will be reissued, unappealingly emblazoned, in the UK.
Butcher’s Crossing (1960) was Williams’s second novel,... read more
A couple of years ago on this blog, I bemoaned the fact that Faber has frequently rejacketed some of William Golding’s books, without ever doing the whole lot. (The last time they were all issued in consistent editions was in the 1980s, with Paul Hogarth’s sinister designs. I can still recall the bloodied pig’s head from studying Lord of the Flies at GCSE.) Well, bemoan no more, because this year the decent thing has been done: handsome covers by Neil Gower, new introductions, reset text. In the last few months I have read The Spire – clearly a work of brilliance... read more
Click here to read my Sunday Times review of Iain Sinclair’s new book, American Smoke: Journeys to the End of the Light. It’s a short one – 230 words – so even if you don’t have a subscription, you can read most of the review in the over-the-paywall preview.
As it’s such a short review, I didn’t have room to include some of my favourite passages from the book. So here they are, somewhat stripped of context.
“Like Kerouac I was slow to draw breath, a blue baby. Provoked to shout only when hope was fading, after my visiting father dropped a... read more
When I finished this book recently, I tweeted “You’re going to have to read this book, I’m afraid. I know, but there it is. Truly upsetting but impossible to shake.” That might do for a recommendation, and if you’re convinced, then don’t read on: go get it. After all, I seem to be in good company, and novelists in particular seem to like it. Lee Rourke called it “truly one of the best novels I’ve read.” For Stuart Evers it is “a fucking wonder of a novel.” Away from the brevity of social media, Anne Enright called it an “instant... read more
I’ve written about Muriel Spark before on this blog – was it really over five years ago? - but that was one of her later books, as by then I’d read most of the novels from her greatest and most productive period. (That, I think by pretty common consent, would be the 1950s to mid-1970s.) In a recent phase of trying to avoid all the new titles coming in to catch up with older books, I decided to reread a book that is one of her shortest, most memorable and certainly starkest.
The Driver’s Seat (1970) is 101 pages long (in the... read more
The remarkable collaboration between the Center for Writers & Translators at the American University of Paris and Sylph Editions continues to put out thoughtful and beautifully-produced publications. They have just released numbers 21 and 22 in their Cahiers Series, with texts by Anne Carson and Paul Griffiths.
In The Tilted Cup: Noh Stories (Cahier 22), Paul Griffiths translates eleven traditional Noh plays and turns them into eloquent, brief stories. In a brilliant bit of pairing, the stories alternate with color photographs by John L. Tran showing mostly empty shopping malls and other indoor public spaces. As the editors of the Cahiers Series put it,... read more
It seemed like all his histories involved deception…
Following in her grandfather’s professional footsteps, the unnamed narrator of Daisy Hildyard’s first novel Hunters in the Snow is a history student studying for her Ph.D.,but her real education in the construction and interpretation of history emerges through the close relationship with her grandfather, Jimmy. When Jimmy dies, she finds herself responsible for cleaning out his rural Yorkshire house, where she discovers his unpublished research files. Hildyard interweaves the young student’s reminiscences of conversations and long walks with Jimmy into the four main historical tales that emerge from Jimmy’s files: the years 1461-1471 in the life... read more
The DVD of Grant Gee’s film Patience (After Sebald) has been released. I’ve written about Gee and his film several times, but here’s the primary link on the content of Patience (After sebald), which also bears the subtitle A Walk Through The Rings of Saturn. The DVD contains one “extra”: a 20-minute “Ambient Visual Representation of the Film by The Caretaker.” The ambient musician The Caretaker was responsible for the score for Patience, and this short video piece combines layered images from the film with The Caretaker’s layered music and sounds into a meditative, almost abstract experience. The DVD is... read more
When I open my mouth, a whale swims out and I am the hologram projected from its spout.
Duality provides the structure for Nathan Hok’s book of poems The Narrow Circle. The forty-four poems are divided equally into two sections called The Interior and The Exterior, but the poems themselves seem to be doing everything they can to eradicate the boundary between inner and outer. The book’s telling epigram comes from William Blake:
They told me that I had five senses to inclose me up.
And they inclos’d my infinite brain into a narrow circle,
And sunk my heart into the Abyss,... read more
Reading S, the new book by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst, presents some challenges. Ultimately, it helped me to think of the book in my hands as two books. The original book, shall we say, is Ship of Theseus by one V.M. Straka, “published” in 1949 by the poetically named Winged Shoes Press. S, on the other hand, is the ex-library book in which two students of “Pollard State University” have written extensive annotations and personal notes and left countless loose items accumulated during their research into the book and the identity of its mysterious author.
I chose to read Ship of... read more
The new book production simply called S has received a lot of hype in its first days. S is the concoction of J.J. Abrams, Doug Dorst, and Mulholland Books, which is “an imprint of Little, Brown and Company devoted to publishing the best in suspense fiction.” Most of the hype has been focused on the concept and the remarkable production values of S, drather than the literary content. S comes housed in a slipcase and secured by a belly-band. The bulging volume that emerges is a rather amazing replica of a mid-20th century book called Ship of Theseus by V.M Straka, fitted... read more
Two years ago, walking by the sea, I listened to the New Yorker's fiction podcast in which the writer Lauren Groff read aloud her choice of story from the magazine's history: Alice Munro's Axis. It was pleasant company for three-quarters of an hour, telling the story of two women, Grace and Avie, as they reach adulthood in the postwar years, go to college and begin relationships. For Groff, reading an earlier story by Munro was an epiphany and changed her mind about fiction. As a young writer, the writers she wanted to emulate were "very experimental, the breakers of the... read more
You have made me unhappy. I bought your "Metamorphosis" as a present for my cousin, but she doesn't know what to make of the story. My cousin gave it to her mother, who doesn't know what to make of it either.So begins a letter to Franz Kafka written in 1917 by Dr Siegfried Wolff, a veteran of the trenches. He goes on to list other family members equally perplexed by the story and pleads for some help to protect his reputation: "Only you can help me". Apparently there is no evidence of a reply. Not that possession... read more
Robinson Crusoe, Jane Eyre, David Copperfield. Novels used to have character names as titles, a reaching its peak at the end of the 19th Century; a trend notable in David Lodge's novel Author, Author about the later career of Henry James. When George du Maurier discusses plans for novels and stories with his distinguished friend, the titles are surprisingly mundane: Peter Ibbetson, Owen Wingrave, Sir Edmund Orme and, of course, Trilby. Times have changed. Look at the Booker Prize archives and the only shortlisted novel you'll find with a character's full name as the title is Elizabeth Bowen's Eva Trout... read more
Jesus was not your everyday literary critic. Luke tells of his teaching in a synagogue: And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent... read more
I don't know how people can read an emotional novel. Unless the reader is hoodwinked into thinking the novel can deliver 'real' emotion. — Lee Rourke (@LeeRourke) August 14, 2013 Twitter is an unreliable arena for literary debate because terms cannot be defined – What is an emotional novel? What is a real emotion? – and one can only misunderstand by assuming answers. Better to move away. Displacement is therefore precisely Twitter's value for literary debate. Lee's rightful distaste for button-pushing novels displaced me to remember a passage in Saul Bellow's More Die of Heartbreak in which the narrator... read more
The first time Hans Henny Jahnn's trilogy Fluß ohne Ufer came to my attention was in Reiner Stach's biography of Kafka. I noted that of the "five monumental unfinished ruins of modern German-language prose" that includes two by his subject, River Without Shore is the only one still to be translated into English. A few years later, China Miéville recommended The Ship, the first part of the trilogy that had been translated over forty years ago. Imagine a longer, more expressionist version of The Stoker and you have a good idea of what it's like. It made me wish the... read more
"I don't know quite how to put it. I've got kids that enjoy stealing. I've got kids that don't think about stealing one way or another, and I've got kids that just tolerate stealing because they know they've got nothing else to do. But nobody - and I mean nobody - has
ever been hungry for it like this boy. If he had a bloody gash across
his throat and a physiker was trying to sew it up, Lamora would steal
the needle and thread and die laughing. He… steals too much."
I find myself without much to say about Scott... read more
"Clear, beautiful night - I've heard it said
it's the time when the living walk with the dead;
the dead could be closer than you think - my dear,
does that thought cause you fear?"
Staying with the theme of translation begun in my last post (if it counts as a theme when said posts are almost a month apart), I recently read A Bouquet (1853), a collection of deliciously dark nineteenth-century Czech folktales, compiled by Karel Jaromír Erben (1811-70), and translated into English for the first time in 2012, by Marcela Malek Sulak. A copy was sent... read more
With the winners of this year's Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards announced a few weeks back, it seems like a good time to strongly recommend a couple of recently published books that should be contenders for next year's prize.
Each novel is the first work by its author to be published in English - although we're late to the party on Liliana Bodoc, at least, who has been translated into something like six other languages already. Both books were sent to me for review by SFX magazine, and I'm very glad they were.
The first, which was translated from Spanish by... read more
The roof of the dovecote stealthily rose, and two sets of eyes peered
out through the gap. One pair of eyes were coal beads, set between a
bulging bully brow and a beak the colour of pumpkin peel. The other pair
were human, and as hot and black as pepper.
Mosca's eyes had earned her countless beatings, and years of
suspicion. For one thing, they had a way of looking venomous even when
she held her pointed tongue. For another thing, her eyes wielded a power
that was beyond everyone else in Chough except the magistrate. She
Everybody knew that... read more
I didn't plan it this way, but apparently this is turning into the season of snarky posts about books I've really disliked this year. Well, on to round two: The Historian (2005), by Elizabeth Kostova.
The Historian was published to a cacophony of hype. I recall it sounding quite good at the time, though not (apparently) good enough to break it out of the chains of my TBR shelves, where it had languished from 2006 until this spring. In April, I picked it up to take with me on Reading Week. Reading Week is pretty much exactly what it sounds like:... read more
Time for another reprint of a review I first published elsewhere; this piece, about EJ Swift's debut novel Osiris, appeared in SFX magazine back at the beginning of this year, and somehow or other I seem to have forgotten to repost it until now. Still, book two of the series is out in the US next month (although not in the UK until February next year, alas), so let's pretend I'm just being timely, eh?
Dystopia is back.
Granted, it’s always been literary fiction’s preferred mode for dabbling in
genre, and in the Young Adult field you can’t move for the stuff. But... read more
Hooray for publishers Canongate who, as well as streaming the audio book of A Christmas Carol for free this week, are also offering massive discounts of 60% with free P&P (for UK residents only) on almost ALL their books in the run up to Christmas, not just a few but almost ALL of them, and from what I can see this includes audio books too.
Canongate first came to my attention proper years and years ago when Offspringette worked in post-production for BBC Scotland. The poor thing was having a well-earned rest from editing Balamory (apparently that song grates after about ten... read more
...and how relieved I am that the great man has been released from what was arguably another form of imprisonment and allowed to embark on his final journey.
Reading the obituaries and the tributes it struck me how my life spans two thirds of Nelson Mandela's, and what a momentous time and a privilege it is to have witnessed what he achieved. History may never see the like again, what a time to be here.
I have been dusting off the dovegeyreader archives and it seems a good moment to bring this post back into the light of day, my thoughts back... read more
'Silent night; a soft breeze from the desert laying a dusting of sand on the dark road, blessing the homes.'
If there is one place I might choose to be this Christmas (it's December, we can say it now) apart from being at home, which I love, it would be Orkney, to see and hear the traditional service of Nine Lessons and Carols at St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.
Having thought the tradition of those nine lessons and carols could only have emanated from King's College, Cambridge, I am pleasantly surprised to discover that it actually has its origins at Truro Cathedral in... read more
Hello Chums, Magnus here.... been busy, got far too many bird tables to watch plus I somehow keep finding myself on the wrong side of the bedroom window, and ha ha, they can't think how I get onto the Impossible Roof....and so what if I can't get back down again.
Do I look terrified...
Well did you like my Cathedral then??
Not many cats named after one of those I'll bet.
Remember way back when, and they'd just come back from Orkney and I too had been born in stable (sort of) and decided to pitch up on the doorstep and live here...and... read more
That title just about covers this gallimaufry of a post..
Do you ever sit through something on the TV for the sake of it...because you're knitting or sticking stamps in your stamp album or something, and it'll do??
Silent Witness (umpteenth repeat) and I never really liked it first time around, all that wistful gazing into the distance as if seeing something the rest of us can't, and I was spitting bones the next day when I realised that I had missed children's author Judith Kerr on Imagine.
Thank heavens for iPlayer, and still some time left to watch if you missed it.
Judith... read more
I have to admit that there were moments, as I was reading The Breath of Night by Michael Arditti, when I wondered what on earth squeamish old me was doing reading a book that from one innocent page flick to the next suddenly left me stranded, miles from anywhere, and confronted by an episode of crucifixion...
...or a moment of acid-pouring down a male dancer's posing pouch.
Well at least I think that is what happened, I have to admit I looked away and flicked swiftly onwards on the Paperwhite.
The situation in the Philippines had looked so dire on TV following the... read more