Lately …

Lately I’ve listened to a lot of music, intensely, for two to three hours a day. My musical taste is shaped by the punk era, though by the time I discovered punk, it was all over. I’m a child of the post-punk period. Those are my formative musical years – about the only time I wish I was ten, even five years older is when I dream of being present for the early years of the Sex Pistols and the Bromley contingent. But it is post-punk that I still turn to: bands like Joy Division, The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs, Killing Joke, Echo and the Bunnymen, it has survived a lot better than most of the earlier punk stuff, which sounds crusty.

I’ve also been playing a fair amount of classical music, Schubert, Sibelius, Pärt, Ligeti and, of course, Beethoven whose late music is rough, abstract, beautiful and I’m kidnapping him as protopunk. The whole 60s-70s musical thing bores me to tears, with the exception of 70s Bowie (and from time to time, Dylan). I’m glad that I’m far too young to not remember the sixties. Jazz, which mostly I don’t get and what I do like is inextricably caught up with context, mostly from reading Geoff Dyer’s But Beautiful and The Colour of Memory, hence Mingus, Monk, Chet Baker, but dominated by Miles Davis, mostly because he so fucking cool.

Lately I’ve been to the cinema at least once a week, mainstream films like American Hustle (intelligently written, captivating), Wolf of Wall Street (usual bloated Scorcese male-ego study), and Gravity (silly but technologically fascinating). Despite twice lapping up all fifteen hours of Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film, my film tastes feel uncultured. I’ll watch Jean-Luc Godard, Éric Rohmer and Yasujirō Ozu films with great pleasure, but also with the sense that I am missing a lot of depth and meaning. Watching Room 237 (after reading Molly Laich’s top 2013 films list) showed me depths to my favourite horror film The Shining that I hadn’t even considered after watching it at least a dozen times.

Lately, surprise, surprise, I’ve also been reading a lot. Grace Dane Mazur’s Hinges: Meditations on the Portals of the Imagination is one of the most intelligent, sensitive readings of art and literature that I’ve read, ever. Both Carole Maso books were worthwhile but I preferred Defiance to Ava. Defiance succeeded in making a female psychopath multi-layered and sympathetic. It is also deeply upsetting. There were many beautiful moments in Ava but for me its fragmentary form never quite cohered into a sustained narrative, and I’m ambivalent about the literary romanticising of cancer and death. I had a fascinating debate on Twitter with @DeathZen about Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment. In a moment of afterglow I compared it to Greek tragedy, a bit silly, but its portrayal of mental collapse and fury is reminiscent of the aftermath of Jason’s desertion of Medea. Ferrante is no Euripides but she can write with great potency, and to borrow a phrase from James Woods, is able to rip ‘the skin off the habitual’. I’m reading Alix Cléo Roubaud’s Alix’s Journal, which is quietly devastating, immensely personal, and also the best book I’ve read so far this year.

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 disappear quickly so download them promptly.

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges

The Signifying Corpse: Re-Reading Kristeva on Marguerite Duras by Karen Piper [PDF]: “Moderato cantabile, far from the sweet and melodious story the title suggests, is centred around the sound of a scream.”

A Dictionary of Borges [PDF] by Evelyn Fishburn and Psiche Hughes (Forewords by Mario Vargas Llosa and Anthony Burgess).

One of my favourite of JG Ballard’s short stories: The Concentration City [PDF].

Jonathan McCalmont’s perceptive analysis of the ambiguities of the brilliant film Fish Tank.

Sex and Gender in Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex [PDF] by Judith Butler. “In fact, we can see in The Second Sex an effort to radicalize the Sartrian program to establish an embodied notion of freedom.”

A Writer from Chicago [PDF] by Saul Bellow. “Neither in brash, and now demoralised, Chicago nor in New York, the capital of victorious mass culture (American culture is the culture of the TV networks), will any writer try to live like an artist. If he is a person of any degree of seriousness, why would he want to?”

James Joyce’s sublime A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man [PDF-Full].

Complete Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy in PDF – 3 books. This is Longfellow’s translation.

The Library of Babel [PDF] by Jorge Luis Borges.

A wonderful Anne Carson essay, Contempts [PDF] .

Patrick Leigh Fermor: We May Just Forget to Die [PDF] by Margot Demopoulos.

Gabriel Josipovici’s brilliant Kafka essay: Why we don’t understand Kafka.

James Joyce’s essential Ulysses [PDF-Full].

Two by Friedrich Nietzsche: my favourite Ecce Homo (How One Becomes What One Is) and The Antichrist (A Curse on Christianity) [PDF]. A new translation by Thomas Wayne.

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.

Boyd Tonkin Indy piece: Curator of miracles in Milan: How Roberto Calasso mastered the art of publishing.

Whatever his blind spots about soulful crooners of the Sixties, how many other free-range intellectuals can match Calasso for the breadth of his erudition and his boldness in bringing it to new audiences? In Britain, George Steiner; in this city of Milan, Umberto Eco. Arguably, with his immersion in Indian as well as European art and belief, Calasso spans more ground than either. Remarkably, he has also spent half a century not in academe but as a busy publisher.

The Lost Pasolini Interview.

Fascinating interview with Djibril Diop Mamberty, “The most paradoxical filmmaker in the history of African cinema.”

A Cixous Tribute: “Hélène’s metaphor of the reader setting light to her words all over again.”

The Reception of Clarice Lispector via Hélène Cixous: Reading from the Whale’s Belly.

An introduction to Speculative RealismSeminar with Robin Mackay on Vimeo.

“Nothing will have taken place…”: Meillassoux and the Repetition of Failure.

Conceptual writing and Notes on Conceptualisms by Vanessa Place and Robert Fitterman.

How to Read Lacan‘ by Slavoj Žižek (‘the return to Freud’).

Full text of Hélène Cixous’ brilliant The Laugh of the Medusa.

Larval Subjects’ post: Intellectual Love of God and Commodity Fetishism.

Debating Lenin and Philosophy -
Q and A after Louis Althusser’s presentation of his important 1968 lecture Lenin and Philosophy.

A short account of obsessional neurosis in Freud/Lacan (inc. the ‘Rat Man’ case).

“I read out of obsession with writing.” Cynthia Ozick’s Paris Review interview.

Surrealism and Automatic Writing: The politics of destroying language.

Salman Rushdie’s (1992) tribute to Angela Carter: Angela Carter, 1940-92: A Very Good Wizard, a Very Dear Friend.

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.

From the Gallery of Lost Art, Lucian Freud's painting (stolen) of Francis Bacon.

From the Gallery of Lost Art, Lucian Freud’s painting (stolen) of Francis Bacon.

The Tate’s Lost Art Blog.

The Society of Authors list 50 outstanding translations from the last 50 years.

Marjorie Perloff’s essay Hugh Kenner and the Invention of Modernism.

In this scheme of things, Kenner’s bête noire was, not surprisingly, Bloomsbury. For him, the Bloomsburies were not Modernists but late or post-Victorians whose innovations—including the rejection of conventional plot and characterization—masked perfectly traditional English values.

A Guardian guide to Arvo Pärt’s (one of my favourite composers) music.

From Love Dog, Masha Tupitsyn’s superb film blog: Faces #3 (Charlotte Rampling). “Charlotte Rampling’s face did not express or show anything until it had lived through at least 50 years”.

Courtesy of Biblioklept, Guide for New Readers of Stendhal’s Charterhouse by Italo Calvino (Collected in Why Read the Classics?).

Brief reviews of Chantal Akerman’s films.

AV Club interview with Chantal Akerman.

Spectacularly intimate: a MUBI Notebook interview with Claire Denis.

From the Bookslut archives: A Soul Turned Inside Out: Clarice Lispector, Hélène Cixous, and L’Écriture Féminine.

Adam Palay: An Interview with Richard Powers.



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.

Diane Ackerman on the natural world, the world of human endeavor and connections between the two: A Little Night Music.

Paul Valéry, The Position of Baudelaire (1924). La Situation de Baudelaire was translated by William Aspenwall Bradley and excerpted from the book Variety: Second Series, New York: HBJ, 1938.

The Dream of the Audience – Artist’s Books by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.

Solid Quarter – Narcissism, Madness & Alters: Nicki Minaj and Unica Zürn (Part 1).

Virginia Woolf – Monk’s House photograph album.

Reach back, even prior to the modernism of Pound, to Yeats again and discover the poetry of Madeline Gleason.

Bringing Back Mina Loy.

Mapping the Lost Paris of Anaïs Nin.

Nightwood, A Hymn To The Dispossessed by Siri Hustvedt (on Djuna Barnes).

Walter Kaufmann’s brilliant lectures on Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre (1960).

The Object is Always Magic: Narrative as Collection – delightful essay by Gregory Howard.

Thea Lenarduzzi’s TLS review of the Stories and Essays of Mina Loy.

Anne Carson’s devastating, glorious The Glass Essay.

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.

Still not available on Lovefilm, but I am so very eager to watch Tom and Viv, which highly questionably “pins the Eliots’ train wreck of a marriage almost entirely on Viv’s hormones and drug use”.

Spotlight on Jane Bowles’ Plain Pleasures (1966): outstanding post on writer Dennis Cooper’s blog – “her small oeuvre is distinguished by its quality and innovation.”

Yet another wonderful Paris Review interview, this time with Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz.

Close-Up on Eric Rohmer’s The Green Ray: An interview with French actress and filmmaker Marie Rivière.

The Most Beautiful Perhaps - review of Quentin Meillassoux’s The Number and the Siren: A Decipherment of Mallarmé’s Coup De Dés.

From Monoskop, a download of Sherry Turkle’s highly absorbing Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, an old favourite.

From Michelle, one of my favourite reviewers, a review of Doris Lessing’s The Fifth Child.

A wonderful, informative post about American poet Tina Darragh.

I’m looking forward to Simon Critchley’s new book, co-authored with his wife, the psychoanalyst Jamieson Webster, The Hamlet Doctrine. This brilliant interview from The White Review discusses The Tragic and its Limits.

From HTMLGiant, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s great essay on the long take.

Katie Roiphe’s column on Ian McEwan is arguably better than reading her subject’s novels. “Want To Understand Sexual Politics? Read This Novel. Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth reveals the deepest ways in which men misunderstand women.”

Open Culture offers up Nirvana’s Home Videos: An Intimate Look at the Band’s Life Away From the Spotlight.

Richard Kovitch’s review of Extreme Metaphors – Interviews with J.G Ballard 1967 – 2008. Richard quotes Germaine Greer’s so very accurate pronouncement that, “JG Ballard is a great writer who has never written a great novel.”

How about going on a chronological journey through every Woody Allen film?

A short story: The Confessions of Helen Westley by Djuna Barnes.

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.

Kathy Acker Interviews William Burroughs.

“What is most true is poetic.” Leora Skolkin-Smith post about Hélène Cixous’ So Close.

Helene Cixous’ Stigmata – With Jacques Derrida introduction.

Senses of Cinema profile of Robert Bresson’s work.

“The meditative essay hinges on stillness ..” Thoughts on the Meditative Essay by Robert Vivian.

British Sounds (aka See You at Mao) by Jean-Luc Godard.

Writing the Biography of a Genius: An extract from Joseph Brodsky, A Literary Life by Lev Loseff.

Return of the Vanishing Spectacular Landscape – Fatigues, 2012, by British artist Tacita Dean.

Iain Sinclair review of Londoners by Craig Taylor.

The Natural Way of Things. A short story by Peter Stamm.

Vladimir Nabokov’s brilliant lecture on The Metamorphosis.

Wonderful interview with Kate Zambreno.

Carlos Atane’s controversial film adaptation of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.

Strangely compelling photographic journeys of Franz Kafka.

Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor animation with English subtitles.

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.

Translations of works by Augusto Monterroso (by Adam Thirlwell).

Andrei Konchalovsky’s enjoyable, if not entirely accurate The Odyssey (complete film).

The first ten Penguin books – Treasures of the Bodleian.

New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies.

John Newman on Architecture and Aging.

An interview with Blake Butler (2012).

Angela Carter’s Gothic Bride and subversion of the white wedding dress trope.

Interview with Helen DeWitt including discussion about the brilliant Lightning Rods.

Now interconnected and fully searchable, the virtual digital Loeb Classical library.

Addicted to Chekhov – Lloyd Evans on why we’ve all become hooked on the Russian playwright.

Review of the terrific Madness, Rack, and Honey essay collection by Mary Ruefle.

The Precession of Simulacra by Jean Baudrillard.

Remembering Baudrillard: Wither Baudrillard’s World?

Static Mass’ take on Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse, an examination of nihilism and the death of God.

HTMLGiant’s review of Mathematics: (a novel) by Jacques Roubaud.

Michelle’s excellent review of Clarice Lispector’s Água Viva.