Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter. Some of the links to PDFs change or disappear, so if something interests you download it quickly.

Christine Brooke-Rose

Christine Brooke-Rose

Are we in the process of forgetting Christine Brooke-Rose? I hope not as she is an extraordinary writer and critic. Her memoir-novel Remake is an extraordinary example of experimental autobiography that has stayed with me since reading it ten or more years ago. Brooke-Rose’s fiction is often compared to Ann Quin and BS Johnson, as well as her French compatriots George Perec, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Phillipe Sollers. As well as a bloody exciting writer, Brooke-Rose was an astute critic. You’ll get a feel for her style in this essay [PDF] on Franco-Bulgarian philosopher Tzvetan Todorov. I also recommend Brooke-Rose’s quartet Out, Such, Between and Thru.

William Wordsworth’s The Prelude [PDF], which I consider his finest work. I’m not a huge Wordsworth enthusiast, but parts of it blow me away.

I’ve only dabbled with Paul Ricoeur’s work, intrigued by his complex Freud and Philosophy: An Essay in Interpretation in which he positions psychoanalysis as a language rather than a science. I was convinced by what I understood of his argument, and keep intending to read Ricoeur’s work more extensively. This Introduction: Reading Ricoeur [PDF] usefully establishes Ricoeur’s work as an exploration of the problem of human capability, or what Ricoeur termed the anthropology of the capable human being.

If you only ever read a single literary theory primer, Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle’s Literature, Criticism and Theory [PDF] is my suggestion. Illuminating and well-written.

Another of those complex French philosophers, Bernard Stiegler writes on technology, time, consumerism and politics. His essay on Suffocated Desire, Or How the Cultural Industry Destroys the Individual [PDF] reads beautifully in parallel with Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception [PDF], which is life-altering material for me, and which I wrote about earlier in the year.

Robert Musil’s Young Torless [PDF] is a classic bildungsroman on the twin themes of innocence and experience.

Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle [PDF] in which he introduces, among other concepts, the death-drive.

The concept of paratexts might seem a little geeky, a theoretical cul de sac, but I love flicking through Gérard Genette’s little book Paratexts: thresholds of interpretation [PDF], about those elements that accompany a published text: blurbs, author’s name, the title, preface or introduction, or illustrations, thresholds that shape one’s reading of a text.

The Companion to Russian Literature [PDF] is brimful of essays spanning Russian literature from the Middle Ages to the post-Soviet period. I’ve only read a few to date but recommend those of Katerina Clark and W Gareth Jones.

Chris Janaway’s advocacy for Schopenhauer as the greatest philosopher:

Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter. Some of the links to PDFs change or disappear, so if something interests you download it quickly.

 Virginia Woolf with father, Sir. Leslie Stephen

Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out [PDF] published in 1915, though conventional in form, carries all her later themes.

Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway: Invisible Presences [PDF] by Molly Hoff.

Italo Calvino’s short story The Adventure of a Photographer [PDF]. This is from Calvino’s Difficult Loves collection.

Italo Calvino’s Borgesian, enchanting collection of stories Cosmicomics [PDF].

Mary Ruefle’s essay On Fear captures perfectly the distinction between feeling and emotion.

Jonathan Culler’s Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction [PDF] is one of the best of the VSI series, and a rock-solid theory primer.

The highly recommended Companion to Philosophy and Film [PDF] embraces “both the philosophical study of cinema and the investigations of films’ philosophical dimensions, implications, and pedagogical value”. If nothing else read Kovác’s Andrei Tarkovsky (p. 581).

Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Antichrist [PDF], (the title might be better translated as The Anti-Christian), is Nietzche’s onslaught on the decadence of Western Christianity.

Anton Chekhov’s Letters to His Family and Friends (trans. Constance Garnett) [PDF]. These are beautiful.

Franco Moretti’s The Slaughterhouse of Literature [PDF].

Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter. Some of the links to PDFs change or disappear, so if something interests you download it quickly.

Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salò, or 120 Days of Sodom, 1975, still from a color film in 35 mm, 145 minutes.

Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salò, or 120 Days of Sodom, 1975, still from a color film in 35 mm, 145 minutes.

Adam Shatz’s LRB review (free) of Benoît Peeters’ Derrida: A Biography which, as a philosopher’s biography, is second only to Ray Monk’s Ludwig Wittgenstein:The Duty of Genius.

Pierre Bourdieu’s The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field [PDF] is often captivating, particularly his unique analysis of my favourite Flaubert novel, Sentimental Education. Bourdieu’s sociological approach offers an alternative framework for literary criticism.

Is Antonin Artaud in danger of being forgotten? Jacques Derrida’s The Secret Art of Antonin Artaud [PDF] is an important study of his theory that theatre should have a visceral affect on the audience. It is clearly a work written with love.

This Critical Thinkers guide to Antonio Gramsci [PDF] is a solid introduction to power structures and the rise of new media.

Gordon Graham’s Philosophy of the Arts [PDF] is a superb aesthetics primer that covers discusses the theories of Aristotle, Hume, Hegel, Nietzsche, Croce, Collingwood, Gadamer and Derrida.

There is nothing like the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom [PDF], described by its noble author as “the most impure tale that has ever been told since our world began.” After reading Sade’s text, watch Pier Paolo Pasolini’s oft-banned film, provided in full below.

Howard Bloom’s controversial The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry [PDF]. It is either a little nuts or quite brilliant. Feel free to voice your opinion in comments.

There isn’t much that I’d disagree with on Paul Schrader’s list of cinematic masterworks Canon Fodder [PDF]. I’ve filled in the gaps in my viewing history over the last 15 months.

Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter. Some of the links to PDFs change or disappear, so if something interests you download it quickly.

Kathy Acker

Kathy Acker

I came across Kathy Acker’s work while pursuing my passion for all things Patti Smith. Smith and Acker (and Mapplethorpe) were close friends. The Language of The Body is central to Acker’s extraordinary body of work.

Djuna Barnes chapbook The Book of Repulsive Women [PDF] collects eight poems and five drawings. It is more a curiosity than one of Barnes’s finest works, she came to view it as an embarrassment.

I’ve not deeply read Giorgio Agamben’s work yet, but from my first study expect to find his work in accord with philosophy as a form of life. The Man Without Content [PDF] looks difficult, but as far as I can tell contends that before the 20th century art was more essential to people than it is today.

Written by David Miller, this Very Short Introduction to Political Philosophy [PDF] successfully summarise the main arguments of a huge subject. As Miller writes, political philosophy is “an investigation into the nature, causes, and effects of good and bad government.” As always with this series, the Further Reading section is invaluable.

Colin Ward was Britain’s greatest contributor to the much misunderstood political philosophy of anarchism. I consider his Very Short Introduction to Anarchism [PDF] required reading for anyone that realises no government is ever going to offer tolerable administration.

Nicholas Royle, co-writer of my favourite theory primer: An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory, wrote What is Deconstruction? [PDF] as a letter to the editors of the Chambers Dictionary in disgust at its treatment, in 1998, of the word ‘deconstruction.’ The letter is not only funny but gets close to a working definition.

Derrida’s Letter to a Japanese Friend [PDF] is the closest that Derrida got to providing a comprehensible definition of the word ‘deconstruction.’

Though Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is not one of my favourite Derrida disciples, her treatment of post-colonialism is exceptional, particularly her development of the concept of subaltern. The Critical Thinkers guide [PDF] is a superb introduction to Spivak’s interests.

Late Lyotard [PDF] presents Derridean scholar Geoffery Bennington’s presentation of Jean-Francois Lyotard’s late themes.

Crass, formed by Penny Rimbaud and Steve Ignorant, were my band, my introduction into the circle of South London punks who adopted me in the early eighties.

Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter. Some of the links to PDFs change or disappear, so if something interests you download it quickly.

Gravelly voiced William Burroughs reads from Naked Lunch: The Rube (22 minutes).

Critical Thinkers guide to Maurice Blanchot [PDF]. Blanchot’s own texts should come first, but can be a little opaque. Ullrich Haase and William Large’s introductory book is the finest secondary initiation to Blanchot. The Further Reading section is particularly superb.

Critical Thinkers Guide to Gilles Deleuze [PDF]. Clare Colebrooke is the definitive Deleuzean scholar, with at least six books devoted to Deleuze. This introductory book is the ideal introduction to Deleuzean vocabulary and concepts. As always with these little guides the Further Reading section is invaluable.

Alma Mahler

Alma Mahler

Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters [PDF] by Alma Mahler, who wrote two books. The second And the Bridge Is Love about the later years in her life is also worth seeking out. Neither are known for their accuracy, and Basil Creighton’s translation is notably idiosyncratic. They nevertheless are fascinating, but read as fiction.

Hal Foster’s (Foster edited the seminal The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture) review of Correspondence: The Foundation of the Situationist International (June 1957-60) by Guy Debord.

Margaret Atwood’s The Female Body confronts how women and men perceive the female body [PDF].

Studying the work of controversial Derrida disciple, Paul de Man, is another way to think about deconstruction and critical misreading. Literary theorist Martin McQuillan’s Critical Thinkers guide to Paul de Man [PDF] is lucid and honest. McQuillan’s Paul de Man Notebooks, an anthology from the de Man archive is due out early next year.

Plato and Aristotle, a fragment from Raphael's The School of Athens

Plato and Aristotle, a fragment from Raphael’s The School of Athens

These days I consider myself more Aristotelian than Platonist, but I’ve read Plato’s dialogues with huge interest for years, and it still stuns me how close we are to the ancients. Socrates was in many ways truly the first modern man. Trying to get hold of all Plato’s dialogues online is tedious, so this collection of all Plato’s works in a single volume [PDF] is immensely convenient.

Psychoanalytic Filiations, an essay by Austrian psychologist Ernst Falzeder reviews the psychoanalytic family tree, and traces back the leading concepts to the Hungarian Sándor Ferenczi and the Viennese Otto Rosenfeld (Rank).

Towards the end of this piece of film, Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller are together on screen, a rare occasion:

Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter. Some of the links to PDFs disappear quickly so download them promptly.

Naked Lunch Screenshot

Naked Lunch Screenshot

William Burrough’s seminal Naked Lunch [PDF], a great book to dip into, to read in any order. Great stuff, as is Cronenberg’s film interpretation.

I’ve read Rilke since adolescence and, in a sense, cannot imagine how differently I would view art and beauty without his influence. The ten letters in Letters to a Young Poet [PDF] have enriched me immeasurably since first reading the lines, “Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody. There is only one way. Go into yourself.”

In The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow) [PDF] Derrida looks at the animal in Western Culture.

Derrida’s Writing and Difference [PDF] collects many of his early essays and lectures. Derrida’s writing at this stage is vibrant and, by Derridean standards, approachable. Included in this book is Cogito and the History of Madness, in which Derrida notably takes on Foucault’s concept of madness.

In this last Derrida link {PDF], he interviews jazz saxophonist/composer Ornette Coleman, revealing on both sides.

Deborah Parsons’ Theorist of the Modernist Novel [PDF] traces modernism through the texts of James Joyce, Dorothy Richardson and Virginia Woolf.

Maurice Blanchot’s short, dreamlike novel, The Last Man [PDF].

William Gass’s short essay on language in fiction, The Medium of Fiction [PDF].

everything lost is a curiosity, an obscure, early notebook written by William Burroughs in Latin America during 1953, provided in handwritten and transcribed form.

Sometimes I think that Vladimir Nabokov’s lectures are better than his fiction. Lectures on Russian Literature [PDF] is brilliant. You won’t agree with Nabby on everything but you can’t fail to be stimulated by his arguments.

A brief, worthwhile essay on trauma narratives: Mending to Live: Memory, Trauma and Narration in The Writings Of Kazuo Ishiguro, Herta Müller and W. G. Sebald [PDF].

Raoul Vanigem’s The Revolution of Everyday Life is a key text of the Situationists, covering broadly similar ground as Adorno, the ways that late capitalist society can pervert communication and depersonalise “subjects”.

Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter. Some of the links to PDFs disappear quickly so download them promptly.

Gerhard Richter - 'The Reader.'

Gerhard Richter – ‘The Reader.’

Gerhard Richter is the top-selling living artist. This thrilling lecture/essay [PDF] takes two of Richter’s paintings (including The Reader) and examines them using as a framework Heidegger’s thesis that art should be understood as a discovery and disclosure of truth. “Things, scenes and persons depicted do not act for the spectator; rather, they act as if the spectator is not present.”

Chris Kraus’s intelligent, controversial I Love Dick narrates an infatuation with a fictional media theorist based, allegedly, on Dick Hebdige, whose 1979 Subculture: The Meaning of Style , [PDF]influenced by Julia Kristeva’s work, provides a semiotic reading of punk.

Reading Jacques Lacan can be worthwhile but hard work. This guide to Lacan is very useful, as is this Cambridge Companion [PDF] (Alenka Zupančič’s essay is particularly good).

In The Art of Fiction Henry James provides a practical, radical definition of the novel, arguing that the craft of writing cannot be taught and pouncing on the failings of philistine readers. Surprisingly relevant and amusing to read.

Do you know Borges’s short story, Of Exactitude in Science? It is a favourite, and short enough to quote:

In that Empire, the craft of Cartography attained such Perfection that the Map of a Single province covered the space of an entire City, and the Map of the Empire itself an entire Province. In the course of Time, these Extensive maps were found somehow wanting, and so the College of Cartographers evolved a Map of the Empire that was of the same Scale as the Empire and that coincided with it point for point. Less attentive to the Study of Cartography, succeeding Generations came to judge a map of such Magnitude cumbersome, and, not without Irreverence, they abandoned it to the Rigours of sun and Rain. In the western Deserts, tattered Fragments of the Map are still to be found, Sheltering an occasional Beast or beggar; in the whole Nation, no other relic is left of the Discipline of Geography.

I mention Borges’s story because I am always reminded of it by Jean Baudrillard’s Simulcra and Simulation [PDF] in which he argues that our models and maps have distanced us from the real world that preceded the models and maps:

It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real, that is to say of an operation of deterring every real process via its operational double, a programmatic, metastable, perfectly descriptive machine that offers all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes.

Paul Virilio’s The Information Bomb [PDF] packs a lot of power into less than 150 pages, a deeply pessimistic analysis of humanity’s relation to technology.


The legendary 1978 samizdat recording of Audience, starring Václav Havel (1936-2011) as Vanek and Pavel Landovský as Sládek.

The only way I can take Georges Bataille’s work seriously is to read it ironically. Like Björk, I read his Story of the Eye [PDF] when I was 17 years old.

I read Adorno’s Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life much more recently, and it is rare a day goes by that I don’t dip into the copy I keep on my desk.

Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter. Some of the links to PDFs disappear quickly so download them promptly.

Bridget Riley in her Studio, 1960's

Bridget Riley in her Studio, 1960′s

Dodie Bellamy’s passionate, polemical Barf Manifesto is one of the most intriguing texts I’ve read this year. Spew Forth [PDF] is a good taster of her aesthetic.

Seamus Heaney’s The Art of Poetry interview. “I mean, who wouldn’t like to write Mozartian poetry?”

“Man is free; but he finds his law in his very freedom.” Any long time reader of this blog knows I’m very interested in the work, thought and person of Simone de Beauvoir. The Ethics of Ambiguity was, in part, her response to Sartre’s Being and Nothingness.

Franz Kafka’s Complete Short Stories [PDF]: if I were allowed to keep only a single book it would be this one. I could read these stories alone for the rest of my life and never tire of them.

Franz Kafka’s The Trial [PDF]: a more modern translation of The Trial.

David Winter’s superb review of Christine Schutt’s Prosperous Friends, “proves Schutt to be of the finest stylists alive”.

“What can we say we really understand about our personal experience with colour?” Bridget Riley’s Introduction to Colour: Art and Science [PDF] addresses colour in art.

Pierre Bourdieu’s The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. [PDF]

JG Ballard’s The Complete Short Stories [PDF]: though I agree with Germaine Greer’s comment that Ballard is “a great writer who hasn’t written a great novel,” I enjoy reading his short stories and longer pieces. It is his autobiographical books that get closest to greatness.

Ray Brassier’s dense but tantalising Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction [PDF].

Michel Houellebecq’s The Art of Fiction interview. “Iggy Pop wrote some songs based on my novel The Possibility of an Island.”

Luce Irigaray’s brilliant This Sex Which is Not One [PDF], in which she argues that our society is predicated on the exchange of women.

Pierre Bourdieu’s essay on The Forms of Capital [PDF] outlines the distinctions between economic, social and cultural capital.

Mahmoud Darwish’s breathtakingly beautiful poem Tuesday And The Weather Is Clear [PDF].

Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter. Some of the links to PDFs disappear quickly so download them promptly.

'The Reader' - G. Richter

‘The Reader’ – G. Richter

Dr. B or : How I learned to stop worrying and love cinema post: The Gaze and its psychoanalytical implications in Richter, Graham and Beckett’s art.

Faust Series Opus 9 post: 13 Tips for a Writing Friend (After Benjamin, Baudelaire etc.)

Judith Butler’s Undoing Gender (2004) [Full- PDF] -”recent reflections on gender and sexuality, focusing on new kinship, psychoanalysis and the incest taboo, transgender, intersex, diagnostic categories, social violence, and the tasks of social transformation.”

This is treasure for me, discovering a trove of Guy Debord’s letters. “Although I have read a lot, I have drunk even more.”

Bookslut reviews Viktor Shklovsky’s A Hunt for Optimism:

It lacks so much that readers generally gravitate to that even Shklovsky’s clinical prose can seem like an obstruction. But those that can tolerate the writer’s embracing of polyphony and multiplicity will undoubtedly see that there is a very serious mind at work.

These three interpretations of Charles Bukowski’s Melancholy are intriguing. My preference is for the first performance.

Salon’s review of James Wood’s The Fun Stuff. Enjoyed the review though I’ve no urge, presently, to buy the book despite enjoying much of Wood’s writing.

Full Stop’s review of Suzanne Scanlon’s Promising Young Women, which I expect to read some day:

This is the brilliance of Suzanne Scanlon’s debut: by casting Lizzie as a self-aware cipher in conflict with the critical reader, Scanlon refuses the same act of diagnosis that her novel critiques.

A collection of films inspired by Angela Carter, exploring the gothic, mysterious and magical themes of her work.

Three-part documentary about Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesian writer of the staggeringly good The Buru Quartet.

Green and yellow: the colours of Brazilian Modernism.

Twenty years on, Elaine Showalter’s revised introduction to A Literature of Their Own. [PDF]

Leszek Kolakowski’s The Death of Utopia Revisited (1982).[PDF]

JM Coetzee on the novels of Saul Bellow.

Women on the market by Luce Irigaray (“applies Marx’s analysis of the commodity to the status of women – objects circulated by men to reproduce a male-dominated society.”)

Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter.

This Japanese Modernist reading list is intriguing, and I must make time to investigate more closely some of these titles.

Jhumpa Lahiri on the craft of writing: My Life’s Sentences.

Gatsby, 35 Years Later (1960).

Michiko Kakutani’s review of Zelda Fitzgerald The Collected Writings Edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli.

Conversations with iconic people: interview with Chris Kraus.

The complete audio recordings of Jean Cocteau, recorded between 1929 and 1955.

A complete digital edition of Thomas More’s Utopia.

Review of Franz Schulze’s superb, updated Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography.

A punk rock vision quest told in the tradition of the anarchist travel story. Hib and Kika’s Off the Map.

Why isn’t his greatness acknowledged? Review of Arun Kolatkar’s Jejuri.

Referred to as China’s first modern short story, Lu Xun’s A Madman’s Diary.

Angela Carter’s literary executor explores the enduring influence of her reimagined fairy tales.