“Mum and Celine fired the imagination of the city. Within a fortnight, the revolving restaurant on top of another city tower was calling itself The Squat. Mum wrote more elegantly than ever before. The ceaseless movement of air around the concrete latticework set her on edge, made her restless, filled her with longings that found expression in print. She assumed the persona of an avenging angel perched on the roof of the city, looking in on everyone’s lives. She imagined being able to peer over the back fence of the premier, look down the chimney of the aluminium smelter, see through the sun roof of every sports car, gaze into the load of every open truck, read over every shoulder. She wrote as if she could see everything that was hidden from her. She wrote all the gossip she knew to be true but insisted she was making it up. She held the whole city in the palm of her hand.”—
“When I’m having trouble writing something, I often close the document and compose the passage as email. I can feel the tug of the recipient at the other end of the wire, and this creates in me a certain pressure, an urgency. The letter always arrives at its destination.”—
“Each film in the trilogy explores some central concept: if Metropolitan is about virtue, then Barcelona is about beauty, and The Last Days of Disco about social life as a kind of performance. It’s harder to say what Damsels in Distress is about, it being so odd and so various. In it, some of the characters are taking a class on “Dandy Literature” – Peacock, Pater, Wilde, Firbank and Waugh. Like these writers, Stillman does one thing and does it supremely well. He makes Whit Stillman films. It’s impossible to imagine him making some other kind of work – a historical romance on the House of Saxe-Coburg for example, or an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street.”—Whit Stillman and the art of the courteous comedy | Film | The Guardian
I am often writing, but my walk made me really feel like writing in a way I haven’t in some weeks.
It’s not that the sparrow or the Chevy will get into a poem. They probably won’t. I never manage to will anything into a poem. I’m not sure I can spend enough time, or enough consistent time, with a poem, to get anything done for another month or so. I just realized all over again how little brainspace I’ve given myself this year so far.
Again it’s not the writing part of writing. There’s always writing. But the writing part of writing is just blah blah blah unless you get something worked out about the living part of living. Some people think you have to have an exciting life to write excitingly. Maybe. Really, what you have to have is a life in which you stop thinking intentionally, and just think, unmaking the bed of your mind the while.
Giramondo launch, Anguli Ma: A Gothic Tale by Chi Vu
Anguli Ma is the central figure in a traditional Buddhist folktale, a deranged killer who wears his victims’ fingers in a garland around his neck. Chi Vu presents him as a menacing abattoir worker who carries bloody chunks of meat home to his lodgings in plastic bags, in this suburban Gothic tale set in 1980s Melbourne, when the flight of Vietnamese refugees to Australia was at its height.
The gathering fear, the prevailing darkness, the strange contours of the house which has been divided and sub-divided to accommodate its female occupants, the macabre humour and surreal effects, mark Chi Vu’s novella out as a unique contribution to contemporary Australian storytelling, and our understanding of its communities.
Houses are likened to shoeboxes but shoeboxes are not
likened to houses. A car is likened to a heap but a heap is not
likened to a car. A child is a terror but terror is not a child.
A business might be a sinking ship but a sinking ship is no
business. A bedroom is a dog’s breakfast but a dog’s breakfast
is not a bedroom. A bad review might be a raspberry but a
raspberry is not a bad review. A haircut is likened to a disaster
but a disaster is not a haircut. Books can be turkeys but turkeys
are never books. A holiday might be a riot but a riot is not a
holiday. A garden might become a headache but a headache is
not a garden. I dream about you but you are not a dream.
Ted and I, by Gerald Hughes, is due this autumn from The Robson Press. Publisher Jeremy Robson, a poet who gave readings with Ted Hughes, acquired the book after Ted Hughes’s daughter Frieda mentioned that her uncle had written a memoir about his upbringing in the Yorkshire village of Mytholmroyd.
"Frieda and I were having a long lunch, and she mentioned that her uncle had written a memoir and asked if I’d like to see it. What a question!" Robson said at the London Book Fair this week. “It’s an evocative account of their childhood together, roaming the fields, fishing, shooting – all the material for Ted’s later poems, and a good deal more.”
Gerald is Ted’s older brother. A former gamekeeper, he emigrated to Australia in 1952, but the brothers continued to write frequently to each other.
Some very frank criticism of Amazon is being circulated at the LBF, as reported by Dennis Johnson from independent publisher Melville House:
Today’s hot story, in any event, was about the massive number of people from Amazon stationed not at the company’s booth but quietly working the floor in a giant disinformation and recruitment effort — or, as some saw it, an intimidation campaign. One of Amazon’s main efforts here seems to be to break up the alliance of little indies known as the Faber Factory, an ebook production and distribution service run by one of the world’s truly great indie publishers, Faber & Faber. Amazon has apparently targeted the membership aggressively in an effort to lure them away to Amazon’s own, similar services. One little publisher told us of being asked to take a meeting with the company, and having a team of five Amazonians show up to ‘splain it to him.
Meanwhile other stories are circulating of Amazon blanketing the rights hall — scene of the most intense, one-on-one rights sales meetings — with an enormous amount of personnel to have meetings directly with publishers’ rights agents, in a campaign to get them to sell rights directly to Amazon, skipping other publishers.
A rather nifty service from IMDB (the Internet Movie Database) I’ve just stumbled upon (forgive the internet pun.) Here be ninety news articles about Whit Stillman’s films… media clipping services, anyone? This goes back to 2008, and I am assuming IMDB Pro provides even more depth.
In this case, reading is moving from a ‘cold’ to a ‘hot’ medium, analogous to the switch from radio to TV, and is becoming more tribal—I know of several organizations working on ‘socializing’ reading, and every e-book reader now includes ways of sharing user annotations widely—both things McLuhan predicted.
Douglas Rushkoff replies:
…This is an interesting one, sure.
Hot/cool is an interesting approach, but I think Clay has the hot/cool reversed: cool media are ones that require active participation, and usually hit more than one sense at a time. Hot media are more engrossing, and less participatory. McLuhan saw radio as a hot medium, because it was high fidelity but hit just one sense—hearing. It was so hot, in fact, that Hitler was able to stoke his mob this way. Television, on the other hand, was a cool medium. It was grainy back then, and required more participation in order for the viewer to resolve the image. Kennedy, the “cool” candidate, did better than Nixon, the “hot” candidate. (Likewise, Obama, a cool candidate, did better on TV than Hilary, a hot one.)
The book is engrossing and uni-sensory, so it counts as hot in its current form. No participation, just engagement. We are swallowed up by the book. As the book becomes more digital, we tend to click around more, we have hyperlinks, we even have the ability to discuss the book with friends and peers as we read. These all contribute to making the book a more participatory and cooler experience. We can have more distance, we are alienated from the passion of the text to some extent, and we are connected to other readers. It’s a bit like watching Mystery Science Theater 3000, where you have buddies to comment on the action of the B-movie within the screen. A book in a Kindle is a bit like a screen within a screen—a Brechtian alienation effect that makes us all the more aware that we are reading a book. This puts us in a more objective, cooler posture—more conscious that we are interacting with a medium.
But I think if McLuhan were to be required to say something about ebooks, he’d probably just apply the tetrad: What does the medium amplify? What does it obsolesce? What does it retrieve? What does it flip into when it is pushed to the extreme?
It’s quite early, so it’s tricky to know how to answer these.
• My sense is that the ebook amplifies sharing and shared experience. Every book is a link, and a book club to be engaged in together.
• What does it obsolesce? Most simply, the printed book. Among other things, it obsolesces industrial production, and the centralized top-down control that goes with it. Everyone is a printer and publisher now.
• What does it retrieve? I’d have to follow Clay’s lead there: I think it retrieves some elements of peer-to-peer oral culture. To “read” the book is now to engage with others about the book. It’s more a conversation with fellow readers than a solo relationship with the author.
• The hardest one is the last one: what does it “flip” into when pushed to the extreme? I might just argue the end of authors. Since a writer no longer needs a publisher, everyone can be a writer. Furthermore, the digital document is read/write compared with a book, which is bound and done. Just as the net challenges central authorities, it challenges personal, solo authorship and the career one could have by claiming authorship.
• I think that’s what McLuhan would have ventured.
ps. The other thing McLuhan would have noticed is that the ebook creates order out of chaos. The scattered library immediately becomes a list that can be ordered and re-ordered along almost any parameter. “Mechanical Bride” was originally going to be called “Guide to Chaos,” remember. This chaos of the industrial press is obsolesced by the order of the digital book—which isn’t really a book at all, but a new kind of library.
This is taken from what seems to be a three-way email interview (if it was longer, where is the rest please? good stuff.)
Remember to click through the + signs at the ends of paragraphs to get the whole discussion.
If you were to pop by Anne Tyler's house in leafy Roland Park, Baltimore, on a Tuesday afternoon, you might interrupt her and five women friends deep into an episode of The Wire. They have seen all five seasons three times, and are discussing how soon they can begin a fourth viewing.
Nearly all of her 19 novels are set in Baltimore, where she has lived since 1967, and she has become so synonymous with the city that they run Tyler tourist trips. But fans will know that her fictional Maryland is a world away from that of detective Jimmy McNulty and co. “It is very true to Baltimore,” she says of the series. “It is a very pocketed city. We walk the same streets, the drug dealers are doing their business and I’m doing mine, and we almost don’t see each other.”
Now I have the perfect excuse to watch it all…though there is a note of caution in the middle of this excellent interview. I don’t think any writer should be interviewed until they’ve written at least fourteen substantial works. They are much more interesting when they’re further down the track.
Of course, the question pops up about the dearth of face space, and there is a very good answer:
"The simple answer is that any time I’ve spoken at length in an interview, I really can’t write afterwards for a long time. My mental image, which again is so fey, is that the Writing Elf has gone off in a sulk." The secret of writing "is to pretend to yourself that no one will see it, ever", an illusion which is shattered by talking about it. "We’ll see. When I get home again, how long will it take me to write? I’m curious to know. Will the Writing Elf understand?"
I’m not going to read all her novels (and I might not watch the whole of The Wire either), but this is a very good reason to resume an acquaintance with Nick Hornby’s inspiration. After all, they both like ordinary people.
“In the p. p. [prose poem] a field of vision is represented, sometimes mimetically and often pictorially, only to be, on occasion, put off abruptly; emotion is contracted under the force of ellipsis, so deepened and made dense; the rhapsodic mode and what Baudelaire called the “prickings of the unconscious” are, in the supreme examples, combined with the metaphoric and the ontological: the p. p. aims at knowing or finding out something not accessible under the more restrictive conventions of verse (Beaujour). (p. 977)”—
Definition of a prose poem from the New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics.
“I have become accustomed to trying to find things for free online when researching for projects, and this assignment wanted me to do the opposite. I thought this seemed crazy, and so did the guy who helped me at the library.
He said no student has ever asked for help with finding material that was not available on the Internet.”—
Here’s a podcast with Anne Enright and John Mullan at the Guardian about The Forgotten Waltz, with some interesting remarks right at the end by Enright about the Irish readers, whom she describes as amazing, but ‘entirely silent’ (at around 21.20)
The Irish readership is entirely silent…then there are the critics and commentators, who are involved in their own conversations and their own agendas, many of them to do with Ireland and Irishness and their own self-importance, and we must ignore them at all costs… This has always been the way in Ireland, for Irish writers.
The readers are there…I live near where (character) Fiona lives in the book, and I went up to have a cup of coffee with my kids, in a cafe the weekend after The Forgotten Waltz came out, and a woman passed by and she said, “I read it, I loved it!” …And I said, oh brilliant, if I get her…Fiona’s next door neighbour, I’m done.
(Jane Smiley rereads National Velvet by Enid Bagnold for the Guardian):
In her autobiography, Bagnold reflects on her Hollywood experience with bemusement – once she’d received her cheque for £8,000, she bought the most expensive cigarette case to be found in Bond Street for her husband (a hundred pounds), a silver-plated model pony for her daughter (£120), and some typewriters. Though she was smart enough to invest the remainder, she was not worldly-wise about taxes - every year, she threw away the tax notice she received in the mail. Eventually, Bagnold owed thousands in back taxes and interest, and because of clauses in the contract that she hadn’t noticed, she earned nothing from later productions. But the novel remains a strange and original production, inventive, lively and alluring, a fairytale rooted deeply in rain, muck and, as Araminty might say, what you kin call pain.
For most book collectors – and there seem to be fewer and fewer of them – finding what you want is now so easy that the only real consideration is what you are able or willing to pay. Twenty-five years ago, first editions of Kerouac’s On the Road were both scarce and valuable. Nowadays they still cost a lot, but there are masses of them on offer (abebooks.com lists 103 of them, priced between £3.84 and 18,562.60). It may be that a similarly large number were out there in the past, but nobody knew where they were. You had to find them, encounter them serendipitously one at a time.
So two things have happened, and they threaten to cut our archetype off at the knees: “treasure” is now common, and “hunting” involves nothing more exciting or time-consuming than booting up a computer and surfing the rare book sites. You want to collect Conrad? You could build a virtually complete collection in the next hour or two. What the hell fun would that be?
And without the underlying treasure-hunting archetype, and its attendant excitement, rare book dealing and collecting will wither as a form of life.
“When she began her blog in 2009, Qualey hoped she would bring Arabic literature to a broad group of people who had potentially never even thought about Arabic literature before. But instead, and unsurprisingly, the blog attracted an audience of specialists — translators, authors, academic librarians, Arabs living in diaspora — for whom this was a resource and space for dialogue that they had been searching for and unable to find. Rather than educating a new audience, she created a venue for an existing audience to interact.”—
A trove of fine images are to be found at the University of Otago’s Special Collections past exhibitions page. I’ve posted it here because their current exhibition also looks very cool and that’s where the images will live when it is over in 15 June. Confused? whip, click away.