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ReadySteadyBook is an independent book review website devoted to reviewing the very best books in literary fiction, poetry, history and philosophy.
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1. SR... some thoughts on recent reading

As I mentioned last Monday, I'm enjoying Steven Shaviro's new Whitehead-meets-Speculative Realism (SR) book Universe of Things, but before I (hopefully) review it, I should perhaps make a brief comment on why I'm reading it. And that particular story makes better sense if I mention that I'm also reading Peter Wolfendale's Object-Oriented Philosophy: The Noumenon's New Clothes (from the always excellent Urbanomic) and briefly mention why I'm reading that...

I read more philosophy books than books on any other topic – and, to be honest, it's probably more than time that RSB reflected that a little more clearly. It's a little difficult suddenly to begin a "justification" for my interests, but I want to start shaping up to providing one, not least because it will help me (I hope) articulate what I find lacking in a number of the works that have been fascinating me of late.

Like many, my head has been (somewhat) turned by the vibrant SR/OOO blogging community. And if you spend any time in this particular pond you soon come across the work of Graham Harman – one of the big fishes.

I find Harman's work... problematic. And I'll come back to that later. But I also find it profoundly engaging, subtle and intellectually exciting. For now, I'll just mention Harman's notion of withdrawal as an example of a technical term that, I think, is particularly fecund.

Levi Bryant defines withdrawal like this: "Withdrawal is a protest against all ambitions of domination, mastery, and exploitation. What withdrawal says is that all entities harbor – as Graham likes to put it – scarcely imagined volcanic cores bubbling beneath the surface that we are never completely able to master or control. It is this from whence his profound respect for things – human and nonhuman – indeed his indignation against those that would try to reduce things to signifiers, concepts, sensations, lived experiences, intuitions, etc., arises. Harman seldom talks about politics or ethics, but who can fail to hear an ethical refrain throughout all his work..."

Harman proposes that no object is ever exhausted by its relations; that an object's real properties are hidden and can never fully be grasped. I find that a fascinating and productive thought. And I find I read so much philosophy because of a love of – and a quest to find – words and phrases, constructions and contortions, that help me form new thought-words and new thought-worlds. Philosophy, for me, is simply a search for better ways to think about the world, and if that means working through some pretty dreadful prose every now and again, so be it. So, when I ask myself why I'm pushing through pages and pages of dry, technical, definitional analysis and forbidding, unforgivable academicese, it's because of the diamonds in the dirt. A term like withdrawal opens something new up for me.

Shaviro's book is useful because it is telling me that process thought is able to shed light on Harman's philosophy, that a dialogue between those two thinkers is helpful to understanding both. It is also bringing my attention back to how very Deleuzian such thought is... all is becoming, nothing is static being, and so you can, I think, map onto that a constant 'flow' between the 'real' and the 'fictional' which doesn't bespeak a 'reality hunger' but more a constant lack in reality which is areadly always 'over-filled' by the fictive, the constructed. Reality is gappy, and thought is real. There are similarities here to Miguel de Beistegui's Proust as Philosopher. (And the car crash of scare quotes in this paragraph is evidence, of course, that further thought is needed!)

What I'm finding missing in Wolfendale's admirable volume, however, is such food for thought. Wolfendale's Kantian/Sellarsian takedown of Harman was waiting to be written. (You can read a 77-page "taster" in Speculations.) And despite Nick Land's recent comments that Wolfendale's book "deserves to be absorbed in very different terms to those it superficially invites," I'm afraid I find myself amongst the superficial. Wolfendale scores some knockout blows, but Harman bounces back up like a weeble. Wolfendale himself writes: "Whatever else can be said about Harman’s presentation of OOP, it is certainly compelling. On the one hand, it attempts to reveal the inherent oddness of the world we live in, by painting us a landscape of a reality in which everything is radically individual, cut off from everything else in almost every respect, connected only by fleeting glimmers of phenomenal appearance. On the other, it attempts to humble humanity by seeing humans as just one more disparate association of objects within the universal diaspora." Like good fiction, philosophy, for me, doesn't have to prove facts – it doesn't need to limit itself to a theory of knowledge – it needs to open up our minds and make us epistemoligically astute. And that starts with fascination, with an aesthetics perhaps. In such a struggle, Wolfendale can't help but come off sounding like something of a humourless pedant. His book does have virtues, however, and, as I said, I do find Harman problematic... but I've written enough for one day.

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2. Review: The Universe of Things

Austin Roberts reviews Steven Shaviro's The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism:

One of the most interesting trends in recent philosophy is what is sometimes called Speculative Realism. The name comes from a conference in 2007 at the University of London that brought together four very different philosophers who nevertheless were united in their efforts to resurrect realist metaphysics: Quentin Meillassoux, Ray Brassier, Graham Harman, and Iain Hamilton Grant. Each of them hold quite different metaphysical positions, but all four critique what they name "philosophies of correlation." As a theologian and not a philosopher, I can't help but make a connection to my field here. Just as the Radical Orthodox movement identifies a key moment in the history of philosophy (for RO, this is Duns Scotus' univocity) that leads to its destructive decline, the Speculative Realists point back to Kant's apparently disastrous argument that the thing-in-itself is unknowable. MORE...

I've just started this myself. Lots of Whitehead, and lots of good sense so far...

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3. The Contemporary Spanish-American Novel

From World Literature Today, review of The Contemporary Spanish-American Novel: Bolaño and After:

This unique collection of essays by fifty scholars and writers on the work of sixty-nine contemporary novelists from Spanish America is a valuable resource for scholars and readers alike. The authors included for discussion were born between 1949 and the early 1970s and have published the bulk of their work since 1996. The essays on individual writers are organized in six chapters based on their point of origin from one of the following geographical and cultural regions: Mexico, Central America, the Spanish speaking Caribbean and Venezuela, the Greater Andean region, the Southern Cone, or the United States. Although much of US Latino literature is currently being written in English, the editors conclude that the influence of these writers and their works on Spanish American letters, both in English and in Spanish translation, merits their inclusion in this volume. For readers who do not read Spanish, information is provided on recent novels that have been translated into English, and, for film aficionados, cinematic adaptations of novels by the authors studied are also cited. MORE...

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4. Collapse Vol. VIII ready for pre-order

Collapse Vol. VIII is finally ready for pre-order. Do it.

With the public trial of 'Casino Capitalism' underway, Collapse VIII examines a pervasive image of thought drawn from games of chance. Surveying those practices in which intellectual resources are most acutely concentrated on the production of capitalizable risk, the volume uncovers the conceptual underpinnings of methods developed to extract value from contingency - in the casino, in the markets, in life.

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5. Review: Kierkegaard's Relation to Hegel Reconsidered

According to standard interpretations of 19th-century European philosophy, a stark ’either / or’ divided Hegel and Kierkegaard, and this divide profoundly shaped the subsequent development of Continental philosophy well into the 20th century. While left Hegelians carried on the legacy of Hegel’s rationalism and universalism, existentialists and postmodernists found inspiration, at least in part, in Kierkegaard’s critique of systematic philosophy, rationality, and socially integrated subjectivity. In Kierkegaard’s Relation to Hegel Reconsidered, Jon Stewart provides a detailed historical argument which challenges the standard assumption that Kierkegaard’s position was developed in opposition to Hegel’s philosophy, and as such is antithetical to it. (It is worth noting that, in Hegel: Myths and Legends, Stewart criticized the ’either / or’ from the other direction, arguing that Hegel is not the arch-rationalist he is often taken to be). Without denying the existence of a certain “metalevel” dispute between Hegel and Kierkegaard, Stewart argues that (a) many of Kierkegaard’s central ideas, such as the theory of stages, are creatively, i.e., not uncritically, adopted from Hegel, and, (b) the true target of Kierkegaard’s critique is not Hegel per se, but prominent Danish Hegelians of his time. According to Stewart, ignorance of Kierkegaard’s intellectual milieu, coupled with a distorted and inadequate understanding of Hegel, has led many English-speaking critics to adopt the overly simple ’either / or’. Stewart seeks to correct this problem by showing how Kierkegaard’s writing rose out of, and responded primarily to, debates in Denmark in the 1830’s and 40’s surrounding Hegel’s philosophy and its implications for theology. MORE...

Review of Jon Stewart's Kierkegaard's Relation to Hegel Reconsidered (from way back in 2004) in NDPR.

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6. Launch of Stewart Home's new novel

Launch of Stewart Home's new novel The 9 Lives of Ray The Cat Jones (Test Centre) on Thursday 6 November 2014 at 6.30pm, at The Function Room, Upstairs at The Cock Tavern, 23 Phoenix Road, London NW1 1HB.

This is also the final opportunity to see Stewart Home & Chris Dorley Brown's current exhibition The Age of Anti-Ageing at The Function Room.

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7. Edges reissue

The Story Plant have re-issued RSB-contributor Leora Skolkin-Smith's highly praised novel Edges:

It's summer, 1963. Fourteen-year-old Liana travels to Jerusalem, accompanied by her older sister and larger-than-life mother. The trip takes her from a sheltered life in Westchester County, NY to the hot, bustling, and thoroughly confusing landscape of the Middle East, where Jewish and Arab cultures exist side by side in an uneasy truce. She soon drifts away from her colorful family and their over-the-top relatives, and starts a furtive, increasingly passionate, secret relationship with the runaway son of an American diplomat. Together, they abscond to neighboring Palestine, where they hide in an abandoned monastery, while a frantic search for the two missing youngsters gets under way on the other side of an increasingly hostile border. More...

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8. Review: Maurice Blanchot and Fragmentary Writing

It is not too surprising that of all the singular voices in modern French literature Maurice Blanchot (1907-2003) is still relatively unknown to an English readership. Despite the indelible mark that he has left on the strand of 20th century French literary criticism and philosophy that continues to enjoy popularity in translation today—from Roland Barthes to Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault—we have only recently begun to learn how to read Blanchot. This is at least in part because the reclusive author has remained enigmatic, even in France. Blanchot never held a University position, nor did he give lectures or frequent the many literary cafes and salons in Paris. Instead, he retreated from the spectacle of public life and made a living strictly off his vocation as a writer. More...

Maurice Blanchot and Fragmentary Writing by Leslie Hill reviewed by Michael Krimper in MakeMag.

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9. Wolfendale event

On Friday November 7, from 7.30 - 9.30pm, Urbanomic presents a book launch and discussion with Peter Wolfendale on his new book Object-Oriented Philosophy, followed by Q&A, at Baltic Kitchen, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK.

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10. Tristan Garcia at ICA

"French philosopher and novelist Tristan Garcia is joined in the ICA Cinema by London-based writer, musician, broadcaster and curator Morgan Quaintance, for a discussion about his recent writings. Touching upon Garcia’s literature and philosophy, the pair will punctuate their conversation with screenings of TV and film clips that have lent influence to Garcia’s work." MORE.

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11. Bookblast

Information about my friend Georgia's "boutique agency", BookBlast, can be found on the BookBlast website:

BookBlast is a boutique agency which focuses on a small number of clients. The UK, US and France are the regions where we are most active.

We offer B2B editing services and French-to-English translation.

From December 2014, BookBlast ePublishing will release ebook Classics and new writing from the outside looking in...

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12. Marxism and the Critique of Value

Marxism and the Critique of Value, edited by Neil Larsen, Mathias Nilges, Josh Robinson, and Nicholas Brown, "aims to complete the critique of the value-form that was initiated by Marx...

While Marx’s “esoteric” critique of value has been rediscovered from time to time by post-Marxists who know they’ve found something interesting but don’t quite know which end is the handle, Anglophone Marxism has tended to bury this esoteric critique beneath a more redistributionist understanding of Marx. The essays in this volume attempt to think the critique of value through to the end, and to draw out its implications for the current economic crisis; for violence, Islamism, gender relations, masculinity, and the concept of class; for revolutionary practice and agency; for the role of the state and the future of the commons; for the concepts that come down to us from Enlightenment thought: indeed, for the manifold phenomena that characterize contemporary society under a capitalism in crisis."

You can download a pdf of the whole book at mcmprime.com.

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13. Ten years of This Space

Ten years ago my dear friend Stephen Mitchelmore started his superb book blog This Space. It remains a vital inspiration, and the most essential book blog out there.

Recently, for a book project of my own that never got off the ground, I interviewed Steve. This Space's anniversary seems like an excellent time to publish it...

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14. Knausgaard’s essay on Handke

This "beautiful essay on language and the work of Peter Handke was presented two days ago by Karl Ove Knausgaard at the Skien International Ibsen Conference. The Austrian novelist and playwright Peter Handke is the winner of the the 2014 International Ibsen Award, the world’s most prestigious theater prize." It really is a stunning essay and one, I think, that shows that those who read Knausgaard as some kind of uber-realist are missing his supreme literary artistry...

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15. Robert Chandler on Kazimir Malevich

There has never been a better year to look at the work of Kazimir Malevich, a pioneer of abstract art often seen as the greatest Russian painter of the twentieth century. “Malevich: Revolutionary of Russian Art,” first shown in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and now at London’s Tate Modern, is the most comprehensive exhibition of his work ever.

Malevich is known above all for his Black Square (1915)—a black square surrounded by a margin of white—the most prominent of the abstract, geometric paintings he called Suprematist, first shown at the now famous “0.10” exhibition in Petrograd in 1915. With Suprematism, Malevich hoped to create “a world in which man experiences totality with nature,” though using forms “which have nothing in common with nature.” He declared the Black Square to be the “zero of form,” claiming that it eclipsed all previous art. This iconoclastic icon was first shown hanging diagonally across the corner of a room, the traditional place for the most sacred icon of all.

Robert Chandler writes on Kazimir Malevich in the NYRB.

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16. From Communism to Capitalism

Just out from Bloomsbury, Michel Henry's From Communism to Capitalism: Theory of a Catastrophe (translated by Scott Davidson):

Both a unique witness of transformative events in the late 20th century, and a prescient analysis of our present economic crises from a major French philosopher, Michel Henry's From Communism to Capitalism adds an important economic dimension to his earlier social critique. It begins by tracing the collapse of communist regimes back to their failure to implement Marx's original insights into the irreplaceable value of the living individual. Henry goes on to apply this same criticism to the surviving capitalist economic systems, portending their eventual and inevitable collapse.

The influence of Michel Henry's radical revision of phenomenological thought is only now beginning to be felt in full force, and this edition is the first English translation of his major engagement with socio-economic questions. From Communism to Capitalism reinterprets politics and economics in light of the failure of socialism and the pervasiveness of global capitalism, and Henry subjects both to critique on the basis of his own philosophy of life. His notion of the individual is one that, as subjective affect, subtends both Marxist collectivism and liberalism simultaneously. In addition to providing a crucial economic elaboration of Henry's influential social critiques, this work provides a context for understanding the 2008 financial shock and offers important insights into the political motivations behind the 'Arab spring'.

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17. Where is our Graham Harman?

As I tried to make very clear in my post on Sunday, the small and contained argument that I'm advancing is not that serious and interesting writing about books is not happening online. Categorically, it is. I listed five blogs and bloggers in my original Guardian postThis Space, David Winters, 3:AM, Flowerville, Time's Flow Stemmed – and in my follow up blog, I listed several more – John Self, Berfrois, LARB and Dan Green. Very many more wonderful book-related spaces and places could be mentioned – The Quarterly Conversation and HTMLGiant both deserve a shout, as do Marooned Off Vesta, Infinite Patience and in lieu of a field guide. Without all this fine online work, the cultural landscape would be very much more bleak. Thank god for websites!

I'm really not sure how more clearly I can say this: I'm not saying interesting work is not going on; I'm not saying you can't find great writing about writing online; I'm simply pointing out the observable, and to me rather odd, fact that in very many other fields (all kinds of genre writing, political blogs, philosophy blogs, food writing etc, etc) a named individual of real skill has emerged from the blogosphere to change the debate in their respective fields. Richard Seymour fundamentally changed, and often set, the debate in his part of the Left. Graham Harman has changed the debate in Continental Philosophy regarding realism for good.

Or lets take the offline example of James Wood – via his 'criticism'/reviewing he has changed the conversation by banging on about e.g. Hysterical Realism or bringing our attention to Free Indirect Discourse. Sadly and strangely, nothing remotely like this has come out of the online conversation about books. Take also e.g. Blanchot's NRF monthly essays from back in the day – quietly and insistently his interventions changed the conversation, altered perceptions, re-routed thinking. The Blanchot example could perhaps be seen as being a little arcane, but I think it might be the best example. Blanchot's monthly essays – no requirement here whatsoever that the blogging should be daily or even weekly – slowly, via their form, percolated into the consciousness of literary France, and changed literary critical discourse for good.

Blogging has added more critical voices to the general clamour. Great. Good to have more voices, excellent to have more views. But neither in content or form has it substantively affected the wider book conversation. These days we just have lots more reviewers mimicking newspaper reviews. Plainly, noting this does not equate with suggesting in any way that blogging is dead, or that online writing is not a considerable cultural boon.

The question remains, however, why have no serious literary critics emerged, maintaining a blog, doing innovative work and gaining a following for that work and changing the wider conversation, as we have seen in plenty of other fields? Where are the lit-critical Jack Monroes, Graham Harmans, Paul Slaines, Richard Seymours, Ian Bogosts? I don't see them. And I regret the lack.

In the UK, one blogger, John Self, has become a talisman. John is a superb book reviewer. Everyone should read him. He writes straight up and down reviews in the broadsheet style, penetrating and amusing, incisive and witty, and he has rightly been embraced by the Guardian, and thousands of eager readers. He is a tremendously good writer. He is not, however, a literary critic, and his writing, on the blog, echoes the form and style of response we see every week in the newspapers. That is not a value judgment, it is a fact. And it echoes another fact: no literary critic has yet emerged from the blogosphere; no writer has yet emerged from the large and informed online writing community and changed the wider conversation about writing on writing.

You may well think that the world doesn't need literary critics. Fine response! You may well think that book reviewing suffices. It's an entirely valid point. You may well want to ignore my actual argument and tell me that great writing is happening online here, there and somewhere else. And, as I've stressed, I can only agree that it absolutely is. Wikipedia tells me the "term 'weblog' was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997." So blogging has been around for a long time. And blogging is just part of the wider online writing revolution, the vibrancy, breadth and depth of which can only be applauded; it astounds and amazes. But in very many other fields, writers have emerged from online and changed their respective fields for good. Particularly noteworthy, as I've said, is the rise and rise of speculative realism which has fundamentally changed the debate raging in modern European Philosophy and is setting the agenda for exciting work ahead. It's a wonder to behold. Has this happened in the field of literary criticism? No, it has not.

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18. Writing in a Digital Age

I was honoured to be invited to speak at The Literacy Consultancy's Writing in a Digital Age conference yesterday. (A particular personal pleasure because I got to see Lynne Hatwell and Sam Leith again, and it had been far too long in both cases.) Huge thanks to the organisers for inviting me. Seemed to be a very vibrant and well run affair, and I enjoyed the discussion immensely.

The conference was the occasion for writing this piece (What became of literary blogging?) for the Guardian last Monday. It was the subs at the Guardian who framed the piece thus: I hoped that blogs could provide an outlet for the serious criticism missing from the mainstream media. I didn't reckon on Twitter but it doesn't give a terrible sense of my thinking.

Principally, I wanted to make the observation that whilst the book blogosphere had thrown up some fine writers (those I mention at the foot of the piece, but several others could be cited - and, indeed, the comments thread, whilst occasionally inane and dyspeptic as per Guardian comments threads, throws up some fine examples) it had not thrown many good literary critics. This is simply a fact.

Blogging has been around a good decade now, and the online writing revolution has touched every sort of genre and created well-known writers of many stripes. We've had the rise of fan-fiction (E.L. James), paranormal fiction (Amanda Hocking), women's fiction (Anna Bell) and erotica (James, and H.M. Ward); we've had food writers (Jack Monroe), political blogs (from Paul Slaine / Guido Fawkes to Richard Seymour / Lenin's Tomb) and philosophers (the rise of and rise of speculative realism and all its countless blogs and forums) all hugely affecting their respective fields; we've had wonderful book bloggers (like John Self) arrive on the scene and add sparkle and insight to the book review pages of the MSM; and we've had exciting Multi-Author Blogs (like 3:AM, Berfrois, LARB) arriving to show how broad-based, intelligent and informative online writing can be. All this shows the wonderful diversity and energy of online writing. Most all examples are to be welcomed. But despite the fine work of a few (and I should mention Dan Green here because Dan has worked hard over the years to use blogging as a means to write seriously about books and literature) good literary critical writers have not turned up in droves. I wish I was wrong about this. But it's a fact.

I'm deliberately not defining literary criticism above because by not defining it I'm hoping to keep the category as wide open as possible; I'm not being proscriptive here: if you think it's literary criticism, that's good enough for me. I think most would agree that book reviewing and literary criticism are very different (even if they can be on a continuum). And we all know the difference between a Guardian review and an essay in the LRB and a book by Gérard Genette. Many fine book reviewers have emerged from the blogosphere, but I don't think we can hide from the fact that no serious literary critics have emerged, maintaining a blog, doing innovative work and gaining a following for that work as we have seen in plenty of other fields.



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19. The Actuality of the Theologico-Political

The Actuality of the Theologico-Political conference starts at Birkbeck, London, today:

Today’s (post) political thought has been turned into an ethics and a legal philosophy. The business of politics is supposed to promote moral values and ethical policies which are reached either through a discursive will formation (human rights, humanitarianism, freedom etc.) or through the language of rights (original positions, striking a balance between individual rights and community goods, rights as trumps etc.).

Religion can help to revive the political, to re-politicize politics: it can help the construction of new political subjects who break out of the ethico-legal entanglement and ground a new collective space. In early Christianity, the communities of believers created the ecclesia, a new form of collectivity. Asimilar role was played in early Islam by the umma. Paraphrasing Kierkegaard, one can say that we need today the theologico-political suspension of the legal-ethical.


More...

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20. OMD - Souvenir



All I need is co-ordination
I can't imagine, my destination
My intention, ask my opinion
But no excuse, my feelings still remain
My feelings still remain...

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21. Sorrow is nothing but worn out joy

"Sorrow is nothing but worn out joy..."

Nice review of one of my favourite films here:

"Old Joy is a movie where nothing and everything happens. It is perfectly paced, wonderfully acted and incredibly shot. The score by Yo La Tengo is also extraordinary and it helps the movie feel so sacred..."

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22. Fitzcarraldo Editions

These guys popped up on Twitter the other day (@FitzcarraldoEds): "a London-based publisher, will be publishing long-form essays and novels." They start publishing "[i]n August, a novel: ZONE by Mathias Enard (originally published by @open_letter in the US and @ActesSud in France)... In September, an essay: MEMORY THEATRE by Simon Critchley, with images by Liam Gillick."

Great books to start with. (ZONE was reviewed by Steve at This Space here: "Everything is coursed into a recital, a unique poetic ritual of mourning to reach the destination that is itself. Zone is indeed soaked in trauma yet, in Mathias Énard's hands and Charlotte Mandell's fluid translation, it is exhilarating, and has to be read."

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23. Three Carcanet Poets on the Forward Shortlist

Carcanet Press "are delighted to announce that the Carcanet poets Louise Glück, Kei Miller and Jeffrey Wainwright have been shortlisted for the 2014 Forward Prize for Best First Collection and Best Single Poem category!"

William Sieghart, who founded the Forward prizes in 1991, said the writers on the shortlists 'bring news that stays news, in fresh and startling language', and that their voices 'remind readers that, in an age of shortened attention spans, good poetry can communicate insights and visions with a power other art forms can only envy'. This year the Forward panel is led by Jeremy Paxman, alongside the musician Cerys Matthews and three poets: Dannie Abse, Helen Mort and Vahni Capildeo. The winners will be announced on 30 September.

LOUISE GLUCK
Faithful and Virtuous Night
SHORTLISTED FOR BEST COLLECTION
"One of the purest and most accomplished lyric poets now writing" - Robert Hass

KEI MILLER
The Cartographer Tries to Map His Way to Zion
SHORTLISTED FOR BEST COLLECTION
"Raise high the roofbeams, here comes a strong new presence in poetry" - Lorna Goodison

JEFFREY WAINWRIGHT
‘The Empty Road’ from PN Review
SHORTLISTED FOR BEST SINGLE POEM

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24. Musical Sunday

 

Two music-related books to get me through Sunday...

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine (she of The Slits; if you don't know, you probably won't care, but maybe you should – she writes well about "art school, squatting, hanging out in Sex with Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, spending a day chained to Sid Vicious, on tour with The Clash, and being part of a brilliant, pioneering group of women making musical history").

And Emily Petermann's The Musical Novel: Imitation of Musical Structure, Performance, and Reception in Contemporary Fiction:

The Musical Novel builds upon theories of intermediality and semiotics to analyze the musical structures, forms, and techniques in two groups of musical novels, which serve as case studies. The first group imitates an entire musical genre and consists of jazz novels by Toni Morrison, Albert Murray, Xam Wilson Cartiér, Stanley Crouch, Jack Fuller, Michael Ondaatje, and Christian Gailly. The second group of novels, by Richard Powers, Gabriel Josipovici, Rachel Cusk, Nancy Huston, and Thomas Bernhard, imitates a single piece of music, J. S. Bach's Goldberg Variations.

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25. The politics of depression

I’ve suffered from depression intermittently since I was a teenager. Some of these episodes have been highly debilitating – resulting in self-harm, withdrawal (where I would spend months on end in my own room, only venturing out to sign-on or to buy the minimal amounts of food I was consuming), and time spent on psychiatric wards. I wouldn’t say I’ve recovered from the condition, but I’m pleased to say that both the incidences and the severity of depressive episodes have greatly lessened in recent years. Partly, that is a consequence of changes in my life situation, but it’s also to do with coming to a different understanding of my depression and what caused it. I offer up my own experiences of mental distress not because I think there’s anything special or unique about them, but in support of the claim that many forms of depression are best understood – and best combatted – through frames that are impersonal and political rather than individual and ‘psychological’. (More...)

Fantastic article from Mark Fisher on why mental health is an exigent political issue over on Occupied Times.

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