Taking Sides: the TLS v. the LRB

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which is the greatest book-review-tastic magazine?

DV (dirtyvicar), Tuesday, 18 May 2004 12:46 (seventeen years ago) link

When the LRB is good, it's very good. But I find the TLS's range much better.

Jonathan Z. (Joanthan Z.), Tuesday, 18 May 2004 13:07 (seventeen years ago) link

This *again*, Vicar? Didn't you ask it on ILE?

I am not saying you should not ask it again, though.

the bellefox, Tuesday, 18 May 2004 13:12 (seventeen years ago) link

Okalright TLS but, well i didn't take it too far but somehow decided NYRB is in fact best....i also rate bookforum this much

Scott & Anya (thoia), Tuesday, 18 May 2004 13:14 (seventeen years ago) link

The LRB out of your question, the Vicar.

I very much enjoyed reading the book reviews in the CULTURE section of the Guardian though - but think they could have been far more bilious wrt BERGDORF BLONDES. I admit I didn't read any reviews which took up a whole page ftb I was very very hungover and the print was jumping about in front of my eyes (not in a good way).

Sarah (starry), Tuesday, 18 May 2004 13:16 (seventeen years ago) link

The LRB has slipped right down my list now that they've cut their free year's subscription down to four free issues only.

I like the LRB
Because if you're me
The LRB's free

Because some bloke I live with is always subscribed to it. It is the real reason I don't live alone.

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Tuesday, 18 May 2004 14:44 (seventeen years ago) link


kenchen, Wednesday, 19 May 2004 13:06 (seventeen years ago) link

"Because some bloke I live with is always subscribed to it. It is the real reason I don't live alone."

ha ha! that is perfect. My bloke bought me a Granta subscription several years ago, and that always keeps him in my good graces.
TLS or LRB - in America, it's hard to find either. I haven't tried, but are they available on line? I read the NYT book review and shall be receiving the NYRB soon.
I find it amazing that all you/us posters have time to read reviews as well as books. Sometimes I get completely befuddled by reading a review of a book by an author of a book that I wanted to read. Does that make sense?

aimurchie, Wednesday, 19 May 2004 13:54 (seventeen years ago) link

I did work experience at the TLS. They were kinda mean.

Gregory Henry (Gregory Henry), Wednesday, 19 May 2004 17:24 (seventeen years ago) link

For prim, pedantic dowdiness, the TLS can't be beat; I especially like the way they (used to?) cite the full publication information for illustration captions--including the page count. Sweet.

Is the LRB's bookshop still in business?

Stephen X (Stephen X), Friday, 21 May 2004 16:57 (seventeen years ago) link

They do still advertise their bookshop, so I assume it is still open. And aimurchie, if you are a subscriber to the LRB you can access their online archives. Or if you're friends with a subscriber you can get them to access them for you.

Most people I know get their LRB in the post, so availability isn't really an issue.

Gregory, dish!

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Friday, 21 May 2004 19:18 (seventeen years ago) link

I hate to show my ignorance, but what are LRB & TLS?

Carol, Friday, 21 May 2004 20:51 (seventeen years ago) link

Which do you think would be more quixotic these days--opening a new bookshop or a CD store?

Can you name any other independent bookstores that've opened in the past 3-4 years? God bless 'em, but I'm not sure how they do it.

Stephen X (Stephen X), Saturday, 22 May 2004 01:31 (seventeen years ago) link

I think the LRB (London Review of Books) gets some kind of Arts grant to keep it going, so maybe its bookshop does too.

The TLS is the Times Literary Supplement, Carol.

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Saturday, 22 May 2004 22:05 (seventeen years ago) link

three weeks pass...

There's free stuff to read on both of 'em, and it's often really good.
I'm just glad they're both there, but major props to whichever one had James Wood review Elizabeth Costello; I haven't even read it yet, but that article has been one of the highlights of my year.
Um, yeah. Must get out of the library more often...

Margo, Thursday, 17 June 2004 04:00 (seventeen years ago) link

The LRB's recent review of John Fowles' Journals was a great scathing review. It must be so satisfying to get your teeth into a really rotten book every so often.

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Friday, 18 June 2004 12:05 (seventeen years ago) link

one year passes...
Hey! Has anyone filled in their LRB QUESTIONNAIRE yet?

I have!

I want to know what you said, eg about underrated and overrated writers!

the bellefox, Thursday, 2 March 2006 13:12 (fifteen years ago) link

what survey is this, dude?

DV (dirtyvicar), Friday, 3 March 2006 11:01 (fifteen years ago) link

What survey do you think? The one that I mentioned, in my post! It came in an envelope of its own, last week.

Maybe it is not available in the Republic of Letters, I mean, Ireland.

the finefox, Monday, 6 March 2006 14:24 (fifteen years ago) link

I filled this in on behalf of the missus (who is the subscriber) the other day.

Underrated: Norman Rush.
Overrated: Ian McEwan.

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Monday, 6 March 2006 15:03 (fifteen years ago) link

I never got this survey in the mail, but I'm a US subscrib er.

kenchen, Monday, 6 March 2006 19:25 (fifteen years ago) link

twelve years pass...

Given how critical I've been of Colm Toibin, it is fair to say: his recent LRB review of Thom Gunn is one of the better critical pieces I can ever remember reading from him. He knows the poetry, compares collections, makes it personal without being too self-indulgent.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 23 October 2018 09:28 (two years ago) link

one year passes...

Very good:


xyzzzz__, Monday, 22 June 2020 16:15 (one year ago) link

It is.

Future England Captain (Tom D.), Monday, 22 June 2020 17:21 (one year ago) link

Another wonderful Katherine Rundell

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Thursday, 25 June 2020 02:09 (one year ago) link

"And it highlighted the fact that over the 10-year period, the London Review of Books did not publish a single review of a non-white poetry book, or the writing of a single non-white poetry critic. A total of 105 poetry articles by 39 poetry critics were published by the LRB over this period.

“All 39 were white. Those 105 articles reviewed 127 different books and all were by white poets,” says the report. “No other magazine in the UK has published more articles without a single non-white critic. It is the only magazine in our data set to have never published a review of a non-white poet.”

The Ledbury analysis points out that since 2009, eight non-white poets have won the UK’s major poetry awards, the TS Eliot and the Forward prize, including Derek Walcott, Claudia Rankine and Ocean Vuong. “The LRB has reviewed none of these,” it says."


xyzzzz__, Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:54 (one year ago) link

As July begins, I have reached the first LRB of May.

Still reading articles about the pandemic from the beginnings or first half of its duration thus far. It felt more dramatic then.

the pinefox, Thursday, 2 July 2020 09:01 (one year ago) link

The poetry that gets printed by the lrb is generally from a very small number of poets (Anne Carson, John Ashbery (rip) August klienzahler, Rae armantrout) some I love (eg the first two) some I quite dislike (the second two). But like the rest of what they publish its for the mostpart from within a very narrowly defined cultural milieu. Hard to even imagine them going as off-piste to include more experimental contemporaries of armantrout (Susan howe say). In part the narrowness of the lrb is part of what can make it good. The article they published about Theresa may is one of my favourite and it's insights only make sense from within the same parochial 'i went to Oxford' perspective that unites their core staff. Patricia Lockwood is a real oddity and her regular articles delight in contrasting with a house style that can feel oppressively uniform in its tics. It says something of what is so simultaneously monstrous and refreshing about the lrb that its obvious that reflecting greater 'diversity' wouldn't even occur to them.

plax (ico), Thursday, 2 July 2020 10:49 (one year ago) link

I think I'll never catch up.

But then I think: I won't bother reading Jacqueline Rose. And I don't need to bother with this preposterously long, utterly typical Colm Toibin article about letters that Robert Lowell wrote about having an affair.

the pinefox, Thursday, 2 July 2020 14:14 (one year ago) link

Lol I remember that one. I couldn't help thinking that I would love to read an article of similar length about someone in another profession's utter shit-headedness towards an ex. A profession like hairdressing or database management. I don't know why writers' private lives are supposed to be particularly interesting. I know the justification is that Lowell wrote a book of poems about it, and that it was supposed to be a particularly scandalous conflation of the private and the public etc but frankly the length of the article and the detail therein just felt like wallowing in exactly the worst parts of the whole affair.

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Thursday, 2 July 2020 15:02 (one year ago) link

Lowell is boring but toibins writing on him is appalling drivel

plax (ico), Thursday, 2 July 2020 15:44 (one year ago) link

Haven't read the particular article you're referencing

plax (ico), Thursday, 2 July 2020 15:44 (one year ago) link

And I don't need to bother with this preposterously long, utterly typical Colm Toibin article about letters that Robert Lowell wrote about having an affair.

lol that is a pretty fair summation

I don't know why writers' private lives are supposed to be particularly interesting.

Everyone loves gossip + parasocial relations with celebs.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 2 July 2020 15:47 (one year ago) link

I read that Tobin piece and concur, but for the bits on Hardwick, whose writing I've been getting to know more in the last year or so.

The piece by Rose on Camus is really fine and you all should read it. The way it integrates covid with a novel that has had a bizarre re-discovery.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 2 July 2020 15:51 (one year ago) link

Tracer Hand's post above is my favourite on ILX for some time.

the pinefox, Friday, 3 July 2020 08:41 (one year ago) link

LRB used to (might still do) advertise internships only in its own classifieds. I guess it saves money, but doesn't do much for diversity.

fetter, Friday, 3 July 2020 09:31 (one year ago) link

Thank you pinefox! :)

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Friday, 3 July 2020 09:38 (one year ago) link

I don't know why writers' private lives are supposed to be particularly interesting.

They are to other writers it would appear. Especially Phil Space.

Future England Captain (Tom D.), Friday, 3 July 2020 10:41 (one year ago) link

i think LRB's been quite meaty recently but but my reason for reading tends towards "odd perhaps useful fact i was till now unaware of" rather than "deeper understanding of specific topic or person close to my heart" -- and on the whole i prefer the fact to be historical rather than personal these days

i vaguely had an urge to write a letter abt runciman's whitewashy takedown of rahm emmanuel (but i was too busy writing abt adam ant) (who still doesn't feature often enough in this so-called magazine)

(i sent them an actual pitch a couple of months back but got no reply) (i am very very bad at pitches)

mark s, Friday, 3 July 2020 10:54 (one year ago) link

i like jacqueline rose but also tend to leave her big long pieces to "read later" as i assume they will be intellectually demanding -- and then entirely forget to read them

mark s, Friday, 3 July 2020 10:55 (one year ago) link

adam ant) (who still doesn't feature often enough in this so-called magazine)


the pinefox, Friday, 3 July 2020 11:04 (one year ago) link

it reads like the pitch i sent was abt adam ant but it wasn't (one of several problems with it)

mark s, Friday, 3 July 2020 11:06 (one year ago) link

"The poetry that gets printed by the lrb is generally from a very small number of poets (Anne Carson, John Ashbery (rip) August klienzahler, Rae armantrout) some I love (eg the first two) some I quite dislike (the second two)."

Btw I have noticed more people whose poetry I've heard of on twitter being published in the lrb in the last year or so.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 3 July 2020 11:21 (one year ago) link

"i will never log off"

mark s, Friday, 3 July 2020 12:03 (one year ago) link

I came across this piece from Al Alavarez's (someone I hear about now and then but never in an interesting enough way to actually read up on) ex-wife today, reviewing Al's account of their marriage:


It has that tediousness of the literary brand of gossip, but its a one of a kind too.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 5 July 2020 22:02 (one year ago) link

two weeks pass...

enjoying the big piece on robert louis stephenson and henry james in bournemouth -- which i think does the spadework to establish how a long gaze at entwined biographies can in fact be illuminating

(if only bcz it notes -- claims? -- that henry jekyll of jekyll and hyde fame is in fact a. based on his close friend james ftb same initials and b. kind of a critique of james' attitudes to the world and to writing?)

(also bcz fucksake it's fascinating that these two writers were so close)

mark s, Wednesday, 22 July 2020 11:26 (one year ago) link

i thought the hardwick reaches of the lowell-affair essay were also interesting, tho very VERY buried in much too much material abt lowell, who always elicits a massive #whocare from me -- not that i give much of a fuck abt poetry at all but with him it's like "what if beat poetry but dully posh?"

mark s, Wednesday, 22 July 2020 11:28 (one year ago) link

Might fuck about with the Christopher Rick's archive:


(Read the piece on Empson's Using Biography last week, which I did enjoy. I finished Gulliver's Travels recently so his piece on Swift is just in time)

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 July 2020 11:39 (one year ago) link

A lot of swearing going on here.

I very much agree with Mark S's post except his spelling of RLS's name.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 July 2020 11:43 (one year ago) link

Is RLS in the TLS or the LRB?

Sonny Shamrock (Tom D.), Wednesday, 22 July 2020 11:50 (one year ago) link

Did a lot of finding myself there. 🤔

Piedie Gimbel, Wednesday, 15 September 2021 09:44 (one month ago) link

It's a good case. This LRB vs TLS ILB thread has long been dominated by the LRB. I'd like to hear more about the TLS, and to read it more often too. I don't know the editors, but this Hofmann review sounds excellent.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 15 September 2021 09:54 (one month ago) link

Presumably it's still the case that a TLS book review will normally ... review the book, to a degree that the LRB often won't.

There can be gains to that rangy, digressive LRB approach, but I suppose it has also led to me reading many thousands of words that were pretty superfluous, often featuring tedious anecdotes from the reviewers' lives. I suspect that the TLS doesn't print those.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 15 September 2021 09:58 (one month ago) link

Daniel Soar on 'the sixth taste': I couldn't follow this or tell what it was about - a taste that 'we now know as umami'. I don't - I've never heard the word before. Something else 'was, of course, monosodium glutamate'. I don't know what that is either. Rather than explaining, the article veers off into many other things about food corporations and Chinese restaurants in the 1960s. I gave up.

I have heard of umami and monosodium glutamate/msg, as the article says they are often mentioned in 'the popular press', though if you never read about food you might not have come across them. Anyway given that knowledge I thought the article did a good job of covering the whole history of msg including 'chinese restaurant syndrome', i was intrigued that the letter that started all that was a hoax and wanted to read more, and discovered that the story of the hoax is probably itself a hoax:


ledge, Wednesday, 15 September 2021 11:16 (one month ago) link

Was the article actually about monosodium glutamate, then? (Not that I know what it is. At first I thought it might mean salt.) I couldn't tell what it was mainly supposed to be about.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 15 September 2021 19:08 (one month ago) link

Yes it was about msg and how it became a pariah ingredient and how 'umami' rescued it.

I went on a ramen making course a little while ago, the instructor had prepared a huge pot of broth and he poured what seemed like a staggering amount of salt it and asked us to taste it, we all thought 'hmm needs more salt'. Instead he added what seemed like a staggering amount of msg, after that it tasted saltier but also more rounded and pleasant than it would have if he'd just added more salt.

ledge, Thursday, 16 September 2021 08:07 (one month ago) link

"The five basic tastes are detected by specialized taste receptors on the tongue and palate epithelium.[56] The number of taste categories humans have is still widely debated, with umami being the most recently accepted fifth category, or sixth, if looked at with the Chinese addition of the spicy/pungent category.[57] Ancient Taoists debated there were no taste categories"

ancient taoists hurtling in with the best challops here

mark s, Thursday, 16 September 2021 14:13 (one month ago) link

fabled tastes
tastes belonging to the emperor
tastes included in this classification

ledge, Thursday, 16 September 2021 14:16 (one month ago) link

Thinking again of TE's disappointing review of FJ, I wonder if part (yet not all) of the reason might be that FJ actually doesn't make a coherent or useful argument in this book.


Its premise is that Benjamin was an anti-philosophical, anti-systematic thinker whose conceptual interests also felt the gravitational pull of his vocation as a writer. What resulted was a coexistence or variety of language fields and thematic codes which overlapped and often seemed to contradict each other: a view which will allow us to clarify the much-debated tension in his works between the mystical or theological side of Benjamin and his political or historical inclination. The three-way tug of war over his heritage between adherents of his friends Scholem, Adorno and Brecht can also be better grasped from this position, which gives the Brechtian standpoint more due than most influential academic studies. Benjamin’s corpus is an anticipation of contemporary theory in the priority it gives language and representation over philosophical or conceptual unity; and its political motivations are clarified by attention to the omnipresence of history throughout his writing, from the shortest articles to the most ambitious projects. His explicit programme – “to transfer the crisis into the heart of language” or, in other words, to detect class struggle at work in the most minute literary phenomena – requires the reader to translate the linguistic or representational literary issues that concerned him back into the omnipresent but often only implicitly political ones. But the latter are those of another era, to which we must gain access, to use one of Benjamin’s favorite expressions.

I don't really see much of interest in these statements.

"premise is that Benjamin was an anti-philosophical, anti-systematic thinker whose conceptual interests also felt the gravitational pull of his vocation as a writer" -- is almost the most obvious premise you could have about WB.

"Benjamin’s corpus is an anticipation of contemporary theory in the priority it gives language and representation over philosophical or conceptual unity" -- this surely is the kind of thing people were saying by, say, the late 1970s; it's a premise of TE's 1981 book on WB!

Still, it's possible that another reviewer, more energised than TE, might somewhere actually find something to argue with in the book.

the pinefox, Friday, 17 September 2021 10:38 (one month ago) link

i've been taking notes on this review all morning: i agree w/pf that this is very poor work from TE and then disagree on a number of points

sadly i have work to do before i write it up

mark s, Friday, 17 September 2021 11:43 (one month ago) link

unrelated work i mean (actual work)

mark s, Friday, 17 September 2021 11:44 (one month ago) link

here we go foax

1: my first issue with this review is that I am not at all convinced eagleton has done more than skim this book. His entire argument is a kind of eagletonian fantasia on the verso blurb pf linked above, drawing attention mainly to those issues of form that he can take in via skimming (constellated form, lots of lists).

2: now a “proper” review would set out the books argument and then dissect it. For good or evil, LRB allows some latitude here. And terry is also making a kind of argument about the ”politics” of the ”proper” — indeed it’s possible (tho hard to prove w/o a snitch among the LTB subs) that this piece was conceived as constellated itself and handed in this way, per Theses on History or the Arcade Project or Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. Definitely it reads this way: as a succession of thought-dots that the reader (or perhaps the messiah) is to supply the joins for. Bcz that’s modernism and we’re all modernists now, and here’s why. Except as a succession it’s pretty feeble, and the sub editors have anyway run all the dots together — so it no longer looks constellated — and besides terry is in no way cut out for such formal experiments or for modernism as he chooses to define it: thickened texture, scrambled syntax, not slipping down too easy like some kind of COMMODITY ugh ugh vomit vomit.

3: … tho of course the thing eagleton is most (and justly) admired for is the lucidity of his prose. He has made a tidy career (or as he would call it a ”commodity”) of ensuring that a wide range of thinkers “slip down easily”…

4: the first page is largely classic terry — a couple of minor observations abt the topic (wally b) are ceded to FJ, before we proceed to a whole raft of claims, without any clartify which are TE’s judgments and which are fred’s (and which are simply well recognised positions that all critics agree on). Eagleton has form for this slippage — or shall we say appropriation: once when he gave a book by gayatri chakravorti spivak a dusty review, the LRB received a tart letter from a reader pointing out all the stuff he’d co-opted into his position that was straight-up derived from hers.

5: This is one exception, which is curious and potentially fascinating and I wish he’d taken it somewhere of made more of it: anything you try to make of it is just guesswork — and the guesswork begins almost immediately). It’s the digression about Wittgenstein and the parallels TE claims to be drawing (tho they’re not in my view actually parallels, since they mostly locate the two writers as moving in different directions on the larger map that TE is vaguely handwaving towards )(which at a minimum has on it modernism and postmodernism, theory and criticism, history and religion, philosophy and marxism).

6: Anyway this digression is NOT derived sneakily from fred’s book — which we know because terry says so. As comparative speculation it is in fact entirely an Eagleton joint, TE riffing to himself (Ludwig is a long-time Eagleton enthusiasm: he wrote the screenplay for Jarman’s film abt him) (and may have explored thses topics elsewhere — eagle-heads let me know)

7: … and FJ says never a word about wittgenstein! A silence that TE calls “eloquent” — an odd word to use that I’m going to return to, bcz it might be sly critique or else a coded kind of praise.

8: round here he also begins to elaborate a two-fold hint at a point never properly enlarged on (bcz constellated!): which is that benjamin’s line on the advance of history (and apparently terry’s own) precisely opposes that of ordinary marxism, which we might (and I think this is his unstated claim) also term “modernist” marxism: the — the “myth of perpetual progress”, as terry call it at one point. Terry: “progress and continuity are fictions of the ruling class” — and yet Marx says that the underlying forces will destroy the oppressors? Benjamin says (in TE’s ever-deft rephrase): “revolution isn’t a runaway train but the application of the emergency brake. History is hurtling out of control, and revolution is necessary if we are to get a decent night’s sleep.”

9: Then there’s Wittgenstein digression, and then terry calls walt is a “modernist theorist” (for formal reasons: constellated prose! doesn’t write proper books!) rather than a “theorist of modernism”. But of course WB’s not a “theorist of modernism” at all — better IMO to call him a “theorist of modernity”, better still a “diagnostician of modernity” (viz look what mass reproduction does to the aura, plus all the recording angel stuff that terry is busily rephrasing at several points.

(9a: nicest rephrase of benjamin’s understanding of revolution btw: “the meaning of… events is in the custodianship of the living… it is up to us to decide whether, say, a Neolithic child belonged to a species that ended up destroying itself” — this is vivid and eloquent and well done TE)

10: then a discursus on modernism as a description of WB (and of the anti-philosopher Wittgenstein), particularly that approach to writing that frees one from the tyranny of the “coherent whole”. This he pretty much flubs. First he makes a grand and sweeping claim (“everyone from Aristotle to I. A Richards” believe art must be a whole — which for example entirely sidesteps the very aphoristic Nietzsche, who also didn’t write ”proper” book) and also weirdly crashes into the claim that this is merely an “arbitrary diktat”. It might be wrong even if everyone does it, but it’s not arbitrary dude. Get a grip.

11: then his somewhat comical mixing of metaphors to summarise the degradation of the ability of language to express the world — apparently is it has become “stale” and also “threadbare”. Are there things in the world that can be both stale and threadbare? Maybe a very old but not-quite-fully-eaten spaghetti bolognese? None more commodified.

12: now comes the ur-language, this being a belief of benjamin’s that he shares with e.g. heidegger and tolkien (neither of whom are modernists in my opinion), but TE sets it up — via images and surrealism somehow — as an element in the truer modernism that benjamin cleaves to, which is that it is a doomed attempt to rescue itself from a degraded ordinary language (which has lost touch with the pure tongue of god) by refusing to speak anything like an ordinary language. This argument is also a bit of a mess I think but constellation works for him here bcz the reader (me) (or possibly the messiah) spent some time trying to untangle it for him. Anyway there’s a whole bunch of topsyturvy contrarian stuff going on here, channeled thru a rewording of the Recording Angel image — which jameson as a mere normie marxist doesn’t get — and the theses of history and the redemption of nostalgia. Anti-modernism as the true modernism because the homesickness “for a time when… there absolute and infinite existed” — modernism (per terry here) is not as an escape from god, but a botched way to see god (in the eloquent silences if you like lol)

13: unlike e.g. that shallow bullshit POSTMODERNISM ugh ugh vomit vomit, which says there is “no haunting absence in the world” and look you shouldn’t scratch where it doesn’t itch (R. Rorty).

14: ok, so go back to Wittgenstein and Jameson’s “eloquent” silence. My first read of the word “eloquent” was that terry was saying lol, this omission is an eloquent tell of how much smarter I terry am than he fred lol lol. My second is a bit more complicated and kinder — though it also makes less sense (sorry, I’m just trying to unravel the constellated form here…): Jameson’s “eloquent” silence is bcz he — who of course wrote the book on postmodernism (a point not made out loud but maybe it doesn’t have to be) — deliberately omits mention of wittgenstein bcz his latter-day (post-tractatus/anti-tractatus) anti-philosophy is much closer to rorty than to benjamin. Tractatus kinda sets logic up as the tongue of god. A whole slooch of philosophers veered off in pursuit of this silly idea for a while, until wittgentsein pointed — ver much not in book form — that this isn’t at all how ordinary languages work, and this means something important (about god and tongues and itches etc). So TE is in fact recruiting FJ, botchedly gazing at an absent mourned god via his silence, which is “eloquent” bcz it can somehow thus be jimmied into terry’s own never-ending rarely fair or honest religion-based shadow-war on pomo .

15: Is Wittgenstein postmodern, with his non-book books and such? Well Lyotard deploys LW’s concept of “language games” at length in The Postmodern Condition: which is not dispositive, but Eagleton absolutely knows this. Even if he doesn’t tell us this. His silence, you might, say, is “eloquent” (viz you can project any old bullshit onto it, positive or negative, depending on how you feel towards terry) (I usually feel bad)

(15a: anyway the botched modernist gaze that TE allows us via his constellated text of a non-normie god-spying benjaminian marx would very much be worth reading about all spelled out — as it’s just a monster of a claim — but terry is a coward and keeps it all on the hinted downlow)

16: And now, in I guess the last fifth of the essay, we finally reach jameson at length. A bit of sucking up (“ the finest cultural critic in the world”) to leaven an attack: FJ doesn’t understand that perpetual progress is a myth, he knows nothing of theology or ethics, his sentences are all far too long, an exhaustingly prolix writer whose prose could every time be cut by a third and still mean the same thing (this is my sharper redraft of something TE fawningly pretends is all “writerly” virtue, which it isn’t). Fred has “none of Benjamin’s misgivings about writing books”, except wait, is he not perhaps “wondering rather late in the day where books ate really possible”? (subs totally snoozing on this little clash, the second bit only 20 lines after the first)

(16a: digression on cowboy movies. I’m glad to say it’s been a long long while since TE was routinely rolled out as the designated commentator on matters pop cultural, here to make a sweeping comment abt something he knew very little about: viz hammer horror and the gothic, vernacular depictions of aliens, what have you). It’s good that the LRB has grown beyond this kneejerk (and now employs many writers who reliably know much more), bcz this is the kind of noise he tended to say: “It is an American puritan view of morality, later to be transplanted into cowboy movies.” First: later than what? Jameson was born in 1934, but even so cowboy movies predate him. Second: lol whut, wtf is this very extremely dumb and ignorant claim abt morality in cowboy movies?)

17: and finally the bit where fred is praised for going constellated in s section where TE is summarising at such high and compressed speed that it reads like that exam essay you have suddenly to finish up because you should you had 40 minutes left and you only have five. Last paragraph, about literary theorists and close reading, is a strawman contradiction — actually we know these folks all read closely, who the hell says otherwise? — masking the fact that (a) TE didn’t leave himself proper time to read this book, or (b) leave himself proper time to write this piece.

mark s, Saturday, 18 September 2021 13:52 (one month ago) link

Read the piece by Adam Mars-Jones piece on William Gaddis (online) a couple of days ago. While I do like this rubbing up of attentiveness to past novelistic technique that M-J can bring to anything there is also a feeling that he is inadequate to tackle what deviates in a significant way. A lot of the points are about organisation, or lucidity of sentence - he mystifies a "feeling for the medium" when comparisons to novels that apparently make points better and have been forgotten are run through, just in case they fall flat (which they often do, I like half of the sentences M-J says are bad, and sometimes he will miss the point of them). Goes without saying that a lot of this could be written about Ulysses, but which he'd never get past an editor at the LRB today. So he needs to be careful, M-J needs to give his due to modernist-era writers who are already in the canon. so, 'Pierre Menard' has vast interior spaces. That's just the natural order of things. But Gaddis? He can't write 'literary prose', which appears to mean M-J has to read a sentence more than once to parse some meaning.

He likes JR more, but he starts his discussion of this book with a comment on Joy Williams' intro. So it seems that one woman has taken interest in Gaddis!!! Its one of the most disgusting things I have ever read in a book review in this paper and they should be ashamed to pusblish it.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 18 September 2021 14:11 (one month ago) link

JR fails the bechdel test

flopson, Saturday, 18 September 2021 21:49 (one month ago) link

Say what?

I, the Jukebox Jury (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 18 September 2021 22:28 (one month ago) link

joke: the novel JR by william Gaddis consists exclusively of dialogue from crank phone calls made by a boy, therefore it trivially fails the Bechtel test as there is no scene where where two women talk about something other than a man—because there is no scene where two women talk (actually i forget if there is even one woman in the novel). xyz is offended that adam Mars-Jones’ review (allegedly) implies that zero women like the writing of william gaddis, contrary to the evidence that at least one woman (joy Williams) claims to like it. the fact that JR fails the bechdel test, a minimal (yet clearly superficial and inadequate) test of a works’ feminism, is offered tongue-in-cheek as a reason why women don’t like gaddis

flopson, Saturday, 18 September 2021 23:47 (one month ago) link

here’s the passage in question

Joy​ williams’s name on the cover of JR (she wrote the new introduction) is proof that an almost caricaturally male enterprise, and the challenge of yomping across vast inhospitable tracts of literary terrain, has appealed to at least one female sensibility in the 45 years since the book’s publication.

flopson, Saturday, 18 September 2021 23:50 (one month ago) link

I've finally picked up a copy of the BRIXTON REVIEW OF BOOKS.

It's free!

I will read at least part of it with interest.

the pinefox, Sunday, 19 September 2021 15:16 (one month ago) link

the novel JR by william Gaddis consists exclusively of dialogue from crank phone calls made by a boy

Er, no it doesn’t

It does have at least one woman character, a love interest, who is not well drawn iirc - it’s not a novel of rich characters tbf

siffleur’s mom (wins), Sunday, 19 September 2021 15:51 (one month ago) link

i see that terry e gets schooled on matters wittgenstein on the letters page of the newest LRB so maybe i went overboard assuming he actually has knowledgeable interest in him (but he did write the screenplay for the jarman film)

mark s, Sunday, 19 September 2021 16:09 (one month ago) link

can it be Mark S of this parish writing in the LRB blog?

Neil S, Thursday, 23 September 2021 08:56 (three weeks ago) link


mark s, Thursday, 23 September 2021 09:00 (three weeks ago) link

I've probably said it a few times: writing on the blog is probably the best way in to writing in the paper.

(Apart from other measures like having affairs with the editors, doing a postdoc at All Souls College, etc.)

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 September 2021 09:33 (three weeks ago) link

I have read Mark S's post.

I don't know the music he mentions. It's impressive that he knows so much about this.

I find this comment quite shrew and convincing:

But Bartók is no more a Classic FM regular than Hendrix is, and Kennedy is fighting on this noisy battlefield too far away from two rather different fronts. Inviting black musicians and then having them play black music risks affirming precisely the divisions to be challenged (as Chineke! were perhaps hinting to the Guardian). You can expand the repertoire or you can tackle the lack of diversity in professional orchestras but it’s hard to do both at once, even when the issues are so intimately related. People love to insist that such stunt projects are breaking down barriers – but as popularity often also makes for unfashionability, they may just be moving them instead.

I quite like it when he talks about people on TV in the 1970s.

The one part I can't quite make sense of is this formulation:

"aggressively unrespectable spectacle, the opposite of counter-revolutionary string-driven gentrification"

as being respectable and being counter-revolutionary and gentrifying sound like part of the same thing, rather than opposites.

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 September 2021 09:41 (three weeks ago) link

*SHREWD, of Shrewsbury

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 September 2021 09:41 (three weeks ago) link

It does have at least one woman character, a love interest, who is not well drawn iirc - it’s not a novel of rich characters tbf

― siffleur’s mom (wins), Sunday, 19 September 2021 bookmarkflaglink

JR is a satire, strong characters is not a thing that it does (MJ compared it to a comedy, which seemed like a basic error to me)

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 23 September 2021 09:51 (three weeks ago) link

LRB 9.9.2021.

Rosemary Hill on Constance Spry's flower arranging at the garden museum: quite good to see this covered. Notable that ms Spry had a complete career teaching health to women in Ireland, before this artistic and horticultural turn.

Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite on the coal industry and deindustrialisation: one of the best things of its kind in the LRB in ages. I like the way this essay builds up from basic facts, including the nature of coal itself, and tells a chronological history of the industry. It explains why working in it was tough; why nationalisation was good; why things changed c.1970s-1980s. It carefully insists on distinctions and precision. It makes clear statements. It's just what such an article should be like.

Blake Morrison on Simon Okotie's detective novels: I'm quite surprised that old stager BM still does so much for the LRB, and quite touched. He can still do a good job. His description of these novels is very fine, and conveys much. Where I'm sceptical is that he doesn't indicate that the humour of this concept or conceit wears thin after a while, whereas for me it had done so by the end of his review.

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 September 2021 10:22 (three weeks ago) link

pleased to see that comments on my blog are all abt resale prices of an old ELP record

mark s, Friday, 24 September 2021 09:56 (three weeks ago) link

Really great -- and much better than the LRB's -- review of Said's biography. It gives so much space to the intellectuals in the global south he argued with.


xyzzzz__, Sunday, 26 September 2021 08:52 (three weeks ago) link

yes it's very good indeed

mark s, Sunday, 26 September 2021 11:55 (three weeks ago) link

LRB 23.9.2021.

Christian Lorentzen on Sally Rooney, whom I haven't read, but I watched all of the terrible TV version of her novel. I think it's good that they gave this to CL (someone now more distant, in the US), and respect the fact that he has expressed scepticism. Broadly most of what he says sounds accurate to what I know about this writer whom I haven't yet read. He conveys a sense of boredom and blandness that corresponds well with the TV version.

I don't think that CL quite nails down his critical response to SR's seemingly quite bad and bland political critique of consumerism. CL goes into emotional extrapolation here but doesn't really explain why what SR's character says is wrong. I suspect it's not really wrong, more that it's quite bad writing.

I like CL's review, but I think that he could say more about SR's writing, as writing, and why it's bland, as it seems to be. He doesn't really nail that down either; he's fairly fixated here on characters and what they do.

It's noteworthy that SR has written for the LRB, but has here received a bad review. Even if you like SR and think CL is wrong, this is a rarity. The LRB is full of pals' puffs and log-rolling. It's good that for once they broke that cycle.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 29 September 2021 08:51 (three weeks ago) link

i think this is a good counter (it's something i've seen irish readers say about reviews of rooney by ppl who aren't a bit irish): https://www.gawker.com/culture/sally-rooney-is-irish

caveat: i am not irish, i haven't read her books, i quite liked the TV show mainly for its feel and pace, and for its sense of a place i don't know and am not competent to judge a portrait of

as for PF's second point, now that i'm "in" the LRB, they shd hire me to TAKE DOWN LANCHESTER (who is apparently a director of the parent company lol so this wd be a wise and hilarious move on my part)

mark s, Wednesday, 29 September 2021 09:38 (three weeks ago) link

I have seen, online, the claim that "we need to reassert that Sally Rooney is Irish".

I think everyone knows very well that she is Irish.

It's practically the most obvious thing about her.

Yes, Mark, I would enjoy seeing you do that. :D

the pinefox, Wednesday, 29 September 2021 09:55 (three weeks ago) link

Let's not forget that Dion Boucicault, author of THE SHAUGHRAUN and THE COLLEEN BAWN, was actually Irish.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 29 September 2021 09:56 (three weeks ago) link

i mean the burden of the gawker counterargument does go beyond the four words contained in the URL -- and definitely gets at something absent from christian lorentzen's review which lorentzen isn't even aware is missing? but as i say i haven't read the novels and am therefore leaning on the positions of others who have (whose opinion in this regard i very much trust, but i can only ventriloquise so far)

mark s, Wednesday, 29 September 2021 10:41 (three weeks ago) link

It's noteworthy that SR has written for the LRB, but has here received a bad review. Even if you like SR and think CL is wrong, this is a rarity. The LRB is full of pals' puffs and log-rolling. It's good that for once they broke that cycle.

― the pinefox, Wednesday, 29 September 2021 bookmarkflaglink

This is not the case. She has two articles, both published in 2018. It's clear both of them have moved on. She is a high selling author - she'll never write for the LRB again so there is just no way this was part of the calculation.

Meanwhile the TLS actually got Michael Hofmann to bulldoze Colm O'Toibin's latest book. That would never get published in the LRB.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 29 September 2021 11:16 (three weeks ago) link

"the book is provocatively underedited"

i only met dave keenan once that i know of, and i don't know remember where it was

mark s, Sunday, 3 October 2021 16:51 (two weeks ago) link

sorry: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v43/n19/paul-mendez/screwdriver-in-the-eye

mark s, Sunday, 3 October 2021 16:51 (two weeks ago) link

Pleasingly scabrous review that. Who's got the time to read 808 pages of David K33nan? The only review I've read of this was Andy Mi11er's, which was so ecstatic in its register, it wasn't really a review at all.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Sunday, 3 October 2021 17:16 (two weeks ago) link

"stiff little fingers – post-punk chroniclers of the Troubles"

dude they are NOT post-punk, get a grip

mark s, Sunday, 3 October 2021 17:50 (two weeks ago) link

they are new wave

mark s, Sunday, 3 October 2021 17:50 (two weeks ago) link

I remember reading in some music paper decades ago that the earliest version of SLF were a "cabaret metal band". NOT REAL PUNK! A metalhead I worked with used to play their cds in the van, but I stopped complaining because it was that or Chris Moyles.

calzino, Sunday, 3 October 2021 19:18 (two weeks ago) link

my dead father haunted my dreams – until I drowned his caul


Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 6 October 2021 14:53 (two weeks ago) link

gotta respect the grift

mark s, Wednesday, 6 October 2021 18:16 (two weeks ago) link

Started that bestiality article in the LRB and I feel like I'm back in high school and some kid is trying to show me shit on rotten.com

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 7 October 2021 10:36 (one week ago) link

I've only read "Normal People" but it seems Lorentzen's view of that book at least is a bit uncharitable, or at least it didn't give me a very good sense of why people might like it. I guess her new book is supposed to be more political, but I'm not sure she's trying to convey a coherent and specific political theory of the world in the way Lorentzen seems to want her to.

o. nate, Monday, 18 October 2021 18:36 (two days ago) link

The best review of Sally's latest was in The Nation.

I really enjoyed this piece on Uwe Johnson. It's where LRB writes about a book years after it was released really pays off though in this case it's a book about the writer who wrote the book (Anniversaries, which is nearly 2000 pages and got some panicky reviews at the time the translation came out).

It also writes nicely about 'Real England'. Lots of little things in it.


xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 19 October 2021 10:33 (yesterday) link

Yes that was a very good piece, it made me want to investigate both Johnson himself and the book's author, Patrick Wright.

Critique of the Goth Programme (Neil S), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 10:45 (yesterday) link

Highly recommend Wright's On Living in an Old Country, which also writes nicely about real and unreal England.

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 19 October 2021 13:21 (yesterday) link

The Village that Died for England is also very good.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Tuesday, 19 October 2021 13:24 (yesterday) link

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