Hey, guys, I'm about to renew my subscription to the LRB and I get 2 free 6-month subscriptions to give to friends. As all my friends are philistines, are any of you interested. First come, first served, I guess.
― ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Sunday, 22 December 2013 22:46 (five years ago) Permalink
I'd definitely be interested if nobody else is but I would be obliged to send you a couple of books in return.
― Ramnaresh Samhain (ShariVari), Sunday, 22 December 2013 22:59 (five years ago) Permalink
That's awfully kind, but I'm in Australia and it might bankrupt you!
― ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Sunday, 22 December 2013 23:01 (five years ago) Permalink
Rats! Well if you'd like a book token or something. I was just about to take out a subscription so I'd be very happy to compensate you.
― Ramnaresh Samhain (ShariVari), Sunday, 22 December 2013 23:19 (five years ago) Permalink
my friend gave me his gift subscrip for the second year in a row so i'm good. pretty great read
― flopson, Sunday, 22 December 2013 23:50 (five years ago) Permalink
I let my subscription lapse about a year ago but I'd be up for another six months of it. Let me know and I'll send my address.
― xyzzzz__, Monday, 23 December 2013 01:00 (five years ago) Permalink
Cool. ShariVari and xyzzzz, if you want to send your names and postal addresses to me at my email (click my name below) I'll put you in for the subs.
― ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Monday, 23 December 2013 01:34 (five years ago) Permalink
James - email sent, let me know if you haven't got it and I'll try again.
― xyzzzz__, Monday, 23 December 2013 09:24 (five years ago) Permalink
Just got it--cheers!
― ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Monday, 23 December 2013 09:27 (five years ago) Permalink
I've also sent my details. Thank you so much.
― Ramnaresh Samhain (ShariVari), Monday, 23 December 2013 09:29 (five years ago) Permalink
No worries--I'll put in my sub today with both your details.
― ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Tuesday, 24 December 2013 00:30 (five years ago) Permalink
Subscribed a year back since it seemed a great magazine and I wanted to try to engage a bit with international literary criticism instead of only reading Danish literary reviews. Unsubscribing now since I can't make through these articles - not totally unlike when I first stumbled upon ilx, I find it very difficult to understand the position of the "sender". I recognize names of famous writers/philosophers/journalists, some of them I know well enough to get where they're coming from, but most of the writers I don't know, and I feel there's a lot of irony and implicit assumptions that are lost on me.
Maybe if I kept reading, I'd become a genius on every subject imaginable, maybe I'd have to be a genius to read it in the first place.
The subscription was very cheap, could easily afford another year, but it's hard on my literary conscience when unread magazines stack up, and when I skim a ten page article on Isis.
Uhm, so, any experience, advice?
― niels, Thursday, 20 August 2015 19:41 (three years ago) Permalink
I think you'd eventually get their position after a few years..its not about becoming an expert.
I let that subscription I gained from James lapse. I was fine with it and read almost all of the issues however I just want to read more novels + poetry. The free stuff they have on their site tends to cover a big piece on Syria/ISIS/Eurozone/ and further on or further in (LOL Labour leadership). Plus I find v little in the LRB's take on fiction as I have different tastes (although Jenny Dinski's stuff on Lessing is p/good).
I'll ocasionally buy it. Amd Funnily enough I have bought the last two issues to specifically read one piece each, altogether 20K+ words, on Dmitri Furman. LOL me.
― xyzzzz__, Thursday, 20 August 2015 22:11 (three years ago) Permalink
my friend gave me free subscrips for a few years but i let it lapse as well
i know what you mean niels, i sometimes felt like it was pitched at an unreasonably high level of familiarity with the subject matter
read some great stuff in the lrb though. keeping abreast of new books was great for my reading list, too
― flopson, Thursday, 20 August 2015 22:34 (three years ago) Permalink
I'm a lifer w/ it, I'd say. I usually run about 2-3 issues behind and catch up in bursts.
ime there's a 'I definitely should read this important-looking article' thing to overcome - I stall on issues when I fall into that. Skim and skip when you want - you can usually decide whether you're in or out after 2-3 columns of an article, and when you get to know its patterns and regulars it gets easier.
― woof, Friday, 21 August 2015 00:03 (three years ago) Permalink
Cool, maybe I'll have at it again at some point - or I'll pick it up in airports when travelling, a lot of disposable quality reading material for the price.
― niels, Friday, 21 August 2015 07:50 (three years ago) Permalink
I'd never read it till last christmas when I got a subscription, was immediately smitten with the naked political bias, the petty infighting of the letters page, and the 'reviews' where the reviewer spends the majority of the time demonstrating their superiority in the subject, barely mentioning the book in question. I'm a born dilettante so will happily read scholarly pieces on subjects I could never sustain interest in for a whole book. I don't kid myself that I'm learning anything, it's purely a transitory pleasure. Diski's stuff - on her cancer as well as on Lessing - is worth the entry price alone imo.
― ledge, Friday, 21 August 2015 08:02 (three years ago) Permalink
haha, that's a p great take, maybe I should revel more in the fun of it instead of being offended at not "getting it".
― niels, Friday, 21 August 2015 08:04 (three years ago) Permalink
Just got round to Diski's last piece (vol 37/ no.24), she's finally revealed with a dramatic flourish the end game of her grand scheme - singlehandedly demolishing Doris Lessing's entire reputation.
― ledge, Saturday, 26 December 2015 11:09 (three years ago) Permalink
Is that why non-subscribers can't read that installment? ;-)
(can you paste it somewhere?)
― xyzzzz__, Saturday, 26 December 2015 11:51 (three years ago) Permalink
For a limited time only:http://pastebin.com/EWaNJ3bL
― ledge, Saturday, 26 December 2015 12:06 (three years ago) Permalink
― xyzzzz__, Saturday, 26 December 2015 12:40 (three years ago) Permalink
― things that are jokes pretty much (nakhchivan), Saturday, 26 December 2015 13:16 (three years ago) Permalink
I had, and I think she had, a sense that she knew it all. She had been pals with R.D. Laing and lived some crazed years with Clancy Sigal. She had read a bunch of Pelican books on the sociology and psychology of behaviour. We all did then, they sat on bookshop shelves like a university course: Laing, David Stafford-Clark, Erving Goffman, Vance Packard, Michael Argyle, C.J. Adcock, Viktor Frankl. And more and more. They were all over the house, on tables, on the floor. She bought them, I bought them, Peter and his friends bought them. Somehow they were cheap enough for the smallest allowance. All these were read and taken in. How could you not cope with a difficult adolescent with all that under your belt?
― xyzzzz__, Saturday, 26 December 2015 15:22 (three years ago) Permalink
This was so good - and makes me want to read more Lessing next year. I must be attracted to people with shitty reputations.
― xyzzzz__, Saturday, 26 December 2015 16:10 (three years ago) Permalink
I've only read The Grass is Singing, about which I have little to say, and Shikasta, which I found unpleasant and gave me a picture of its author (personal interpretation obv) which has correlated remarkably strongly with the one built up slowly and carefully by Diski.
― ledge, Saturday, 26 December 2015 17:15 (three years ago) Permalink
i don't know much about lessing and haven't read any of her stuff, but i love when LRB gets scurrilous. one of the best and strangest stories i ever read was Andrew O'Hagan on abandoning a job ghostwriting an autobiography of Julian Assange
― flopson, Sunday, 27 December 2015 01:41 (three years ago) Permalink
Weirdly that article is being made into a movie
― as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Sunday, 27 December 2015 10:06 (three years ago) Permalink
― flopson, Sunday, 27 December 2015 17:27 (three years ago) Permalink
Sufism lasted, as far as I can tell, for the rest of Doris’s conscious life. In later years she never spoke to me about ‘the work’, as it was called. I wasn’t sure whether this was from disappointment about the teaching or from her understanding that I was a failure and therefore to be kept in the dark. She told me when Shah died of heart failure in 1996, but only for my information. No questions allowed. No weeping, no distress. After all, we were all here on borrowed time, waiting for the penny to drop. Shah set up groups and organisations and Roger, our small daughter and I often spent a Saturday or Sunday first in his house in a leafy village not too far from London and then at Langton House near Tunbridge Wells, another suburb of perfect respectability. The house was, I suppose, formerly the old landowner’s house, large and walled, with outbuildings and a huge garden. Things were various. People in groups went at weekends to manicure the gardens and on Saturday night to have a group meal and listen to Shah’s table talk, which was, if you listened properly, Doris said, his real teaching. There were public lectures, generally on historical or philosophical topics. The lecturers were academics or highly regarded journalists and writers, who, as far as I know, had nothing to do with the Sufis, or even knew that they were speaking under their aegis, but were paid to lecture by the Institute for Cultural Research, set up by Shah.
Thomas M. Disch reviewing a book by Peter Washington:
Shah managed to connect with one of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky's most devoted disciples, Captain J. G. Bennett. Now an old man and a spiritual orphan, Bennett was persuaded in the 1960s to turn over a valuable English estate at Coombe Springs, which had served for many years as a Gurdjieff-style Prieure. When the other trustees of the estate balked, Shah was adamant: there must be an outright gift or nothing at all. Bennett tried to negotiate, but the more conciliatory his behavior, the more outrageous Shah's demands became. The new teacher wanted to know how Bennett could have the nerve to negotiate with the Absolute. Once the Absolute had got his way, "Shah's first act was to eject Bennett and the old pupils from their own house, banning them from the place except by his specific permission. His second act was to sell the property to developers for £100,000 in the following year, buying a manor house at Langton Green near Tunbridge Wells in Kent with the proceeds."
― alimosina, Wednesday, 30 December 2015 00:13 (three years ago) Permalink
Real estate -- secret key to the Universe
― alimosina, Wednesday, 30 December 2015 00:14 (three years ago) Permalink
27 June. Shortly after the East Coast franchise has been sold off to a tie-up between Virgin and Stagecoach I am sitting at Leeds station when a notice is flashed up on the Sky screen: 'Hello Leeds. Meet Virgin trains. We've just arrived and we can't wait to get to know you.'And take you for every penny we can.
And take you for every penny we can.
You couldn't make it up.
― lem kip öbit (wins), Thursday, 31 December 2015 15:05 (three years ago) Permalink
It strikes me these days how much the LRB carries about the classical world. Can feel like 1-2 articles about Ancient Rome per issue.
I don't read Diski but did you notice that the short cuts piece on the Piers Gaveston Society was taken down from the website? Possibly for legal reasons. (I hated the article.)
― the pinefox, Wednesday, 6 January 2016 11:35 (three years ago) Permalink
Still there for me:
Basically written by hedonismbot, demystifying to the point of mundanity.
― ledge, Wednesday, 6 January 2016 12:36 (three years ago) Permalink
I'm ambivalent about Lessing but I can recommend the Golden Notebook. I also liked her short essayistic collection Prisons We Choose to Live Inside.
I don't know how many people remember, but Lessing went to Afghanistan in the 80s and wrote a book celebrating he Mujahideen. I remember seeing it on remainder tables (late 80s or early 90s) and I wish I had bought a copy. I would like to read that some day. I'd be surprised if she didn't have some contact with the CIA.
I think I was reading LRB a lot about ten years back. I appreciated their coverage of Israel's aggression against Lebanon in 2006. I do feel a bit lost at times, in LRB. It all seems terribly British, though I guess I find the flavor a little more palatable than TLS. (I like that end of the year issue of TLS though, where lots of writers talk about what they have been reading in the past year.) I still glance at it from time to time and I think I like its reviews of philosophy, history and social science works best. Often it's choice of what literature to cover bores me, but then I hardly do any literary reading, so my opinion is pretty useless on that.
― _Rudipherous_, Friday, 22 January 2016 19:11 (three years ago) Permalink
(Since I haven't read her Mujahideen book I probably shouldn't be saying it was a celebration of them, but that's the impression I remember getting from glancing at it.)
― _Rudipherous_, Friday, 22 January 2016 19:27 (three years ago) Permalink
i can recommend the golden notebook (incidentally my wife was less complementary, enigmatically remarking while reading it that "you might as well be reading something written by a man", whatever she meant by that) but the overall oeuvre of lessing im not so sure about. some clunkers for sure. there's a book of hers called the fifth child which is basically "we need to talk about kevin" ten years earlier and without the massacre dénouement. it's just as poor as the shriver book.
we started to read it in high school - it was part of the syllabus - but the book was so universally disliked, including by the teacher that we changed to a different book. I had already finished it by that stage, unfortunately.
― Cornelius Pardew (jim in glasgow), Friday, 22 January 2016 20:30 (three years ago) Permalink
Every female friend I've ever mentioned Lessing to has either had no opinion or a negative opinion. On the other hand, my mother was a Lessing enthusiast though, at least up to the science fiction phase, though I think at that point she still respected her for doing what she wanted with her work.
I had a professor in college who said that Lessing could not "write an English sentence" (if I remember the phrase correctly).
― _Rudipherous_, Friday, 22 January 2016 20:45 (three years ago) Permalink
Another thing about LRB: a lot of times the article titles are as obscure to me as a goon crew or lex thread title on ILM.
"What Lord Essington Didn't Find in the Forest"
And I am left wondering if I should be interested in this or not.
― _Rudipherous_, Friday, 22 January 2016 20:49 (three years ago) Permalink
When I worked in a bookshop Lessing was highly thought of by a lot of women who would have thought of themselves as 2nd-gen feminists. Not that they bought anything new by her, but they looked back fondly on her heyday.
I've liked a few of her books, and some of her stories, but she's very hit and miss for me.
― like Uber, but for underpants (James Morrison), Friday, 22 January 2016 22:54 (three years ago) Permalink
(I like that end of the year issue of TLS though, where lots of writers talk about what they have been reading in the past year.)
I like that as well. TLS' coverage of translated literature is far, far better than the LRB.
― xyzzzz__, Friday, 22 January 2016 23:00 (three years ago) Permalink
As for Lessing The Golden Notebook is all-time and that piece of Diski's points to The Children of Violence series so that's where I'll go next.
― xyzzzz__, Friday, 22 January 2016 23:05 (three years ago) Permalink
Diski died this morning, sadly. Ominously, no pieces by her had appeared recently.
― 🐸 a hairy, howling toad torments a man whose wife is deathly i (James Morrison), Thursday, 28 April 2016 23:28 (two years ago) Permalink
Nifty thing of 100 de-paywalled 'diary' articles from various places/events around the world: http://www.lrb.co.uk/archive/100-diaries
― James Morrison, Friday, 19 August 2016 00:49 (two years ago) Permalink
definitely one of those times when i regret not having a subscription to the lrb: vaneigem on bosch
― no lime tangier, Thursday, 1 September 2016 08:55 (two years ago) Permalink
word can someone pastebin that
― r|t|c, Thursday, 1 September 2016 10:34 (two years ago) Permalink
― I hear from this arsehole again, he's going in the river (James Morrison), Thursday, 1 September 2016 10:41 (two years ago) Permalink
may the almighty lord's blessing rain on you vigorously
― r|t|c, Thursday, 1 September 2016 10:55 (two years ago) Permalink
― no lime tangier, Thursday, 1 September 2016 11:39 (two years ago) Permalink
― xyzzzz__, Thursday, 1 September 2016 20:32 (two years ago) Permalink
"in a sense there is nothing that is not a pie" — william empson
― mark s, Friday, 8 March 2019 10:22 (one month ago) Permalink
I have owned SOME VERSIONS OF PASTORAL for years but I have never really been able to make sense of Empson's idea of pastoral. It does not seem to have anything to do with pastoral literature and art as I have experienced it.
― Fizzles, Friday, 8 March 2019 11:47 (one month ago) Permalink
THIS IS THE CORRECT WAY TO DO WRITING in my extremely under-commissioned opinion
― mark s, Friday, 8 March 2019 11:51 (one month ago) Permalink
The line about writers looking like murderers I find quite a good example of something that is bad and irritating about her.
Isn't it self-evident that most writers are kinda unhinged in some way - she is just taking it one level up with that remark.
And on twitter one of the memes that takes off is the "please run me over" one. Readers are begging to be killed by writers. Its cool.
― xyzzzz__, Saturday, 9 March 2019 13:21 (one month ago) Permalink
I finally received the new issue.
David Bromwich seems less bad than usual.
― the pinefox, Saturday, 9 March 2019 14:45 (one month ago) Permalink
thanks for explaining it, it still isn't good
― jolene club remix (BradNelson), Saturday, 9 March 2019 14:46 (one month ago) Permalink
it made me laugh \o/
― flopson, Saturday, 9 March 2019 21:07 (one month ago) Permalink
i really liked Christopher Clark's recent piece on the revolutions of 1848. it probably falls into Fizzles' "August structural rightness but so what" mode but still
― illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Thursday, 14 March 2019 13:38 (one month ago) Permalink
il liked discovering that the a in a.r.ammons stands for archie :)
― mark s, Thursday, 14 March 2019 14:07 (one month ago) Permalink
1: I was wrong to say that Bromwich was OK. The article turned into a combination of dull personal anecdote and nasty, unfounded attack on people he perceives as less sensibly centrist than himself. If it was a UK article it would probably be telling us that Tom Watson or Jess Phillips was the Labour Party's best hope.
2: Clark on 1848 OK - informative maybe about something I really know little about. The one memorable aspect of it I suppose was its tendency to make things contemporary by comparing 1848 to Arab Spring, newspapers to social media, etc.
3: Still reading Ammons article, don't like it at all - the bit I had got up to was the worst kind of indulgence that the LRB (and others) gives to aimless writing. I don't know Ammons himself at all and don't comment on him.
― the pinefox, Thursday, 14 March 2019 15:29 (one month ago) Permalink
when does the aimless writing begin in the ammons piece? (i too am only a short way into it, i haven't taken against it yet)
― mark s, Thursday, 14 March 2019 15:46 (one month ago) Permalink
For me, the worst bit yet is the para starting 'In the past' on the 2nd page.
'I write this to be writing' - good for him, maybe, but not necessarily worthwhile to anyone else.
― the pinefox, Thursday, 14 March 2019 15:53 (one month ago) Permalink
maybe ilx shd do a podcast abt what's bad in the new lrb each time it comes out
tom ewing pointed out on facebook that the cover looks like a buttplug: https://cdn.lrb.co.uk/assets/covers/m/cov4105.jpg
tho that is (a) not very podcast-y content (visual) and (b) not very pinefox-y content (mildly dirty joke)
― mark s, Thursday, 14 March 2019 15:59 (one month ago) Permalink
― the pinefox, Thursday, 14 March 2019 16:47 (one month ago) Permalink
Given that I have never heard of Ammons before, the Ammons article to me is like a parody - 'what if the LRB invented a poet and reviewed his Selected Poems'? Very generic. Would be good as a parody.
Colin Burrow on Propertius also bad in a different way - blokeish familiarity and joshing sexual innuendo, from an unwelcome source.
Started David Thomson who has the virtue of being David Thomson.
― the pinefox, Friday, 15 March 2019 10:40 (one month ago) Permalink
once registered lrlrb (london review of london review of books) on twitter to use as a lrb grousing account. Never got round to doing anything with it.
― woof, Friday, 15 March 2019 11:15 (one month ago) Permalink
ammons’ sphere is one of the best poems i’ve ever read
― jolene club remix (BradNelson), Friday, 15 March 2019 12:40 (one month ago) Permalink
i haven’t read the piece but figured i should comment on ammons
― jolene club remix (BradNelson), Friday, 15 March 2019 12:41 (one month ago) Permalink
David Thomson is embarrassing, and nobody should ever let him write about Nicole Kidman ever again
― Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Friday, 15 March 2019 22:37 (one month ago) Permalink
Are you content for him to write about other people?
― the pinefox, Saturday, 16 March 2019 10:54 (one month ago) Permalink
Burrow on Propertius was really, really good in the sense that he took care to review it in the context of what a reader might think of it today. I certainly would pick up a translattion.
The Ammons review was fine from what I read of it. There isn't anything aimless about it - starts of with a 'this is a poet that matters' which is the opposite of aimless, in fact - which is probably why I didn't finish it (although I would've done if I wasn't so tired). Tries to build a lot of enthusiasm.
Looking at the current LRB issue and Michael Wood on Brecht was an OK discussion, still mulling it over.
On the poetry corner I liked Lieke Marsman a lot - https://www.lrb.co.uk/v41/n06/lieke-marsman/three-poems
― xyzzzz__, Saturday, 16 March 2019 19:57 (one month ago) Permalink
A small clarification: I didn't say that the review of Ammons was aimless, but that Ammons' own poetry appeared, at least at one point, to be aimless - which the poetry virtually acknowledges: 'I write this to be writing' - and that the review was too indulgent of this.
In this and in other ways, I found the review very generically LRB, which curiously connects to what others have (negatively) said about LRB house style, though they don't seem bothered by this particular review.
― the pinefox, Sunday, 17 March 2019 11:46 (one month ago) Permalink
The Propertius review was founded in an extensive knowledge of the history of translations and editions, and was quite informative for those of us who don't know the material.
Unfortunately I also found its tone often misjudged.
― the pinefox, Sunday, 17 March 2019 11:48 (one month ago) Permalink
re Thomson, he is 78 and one could well suspect that he is past it. Perhaps he is.
Yet, oddly, this particular recent review (Who is Michael Ovitz?) doesn't give any hint of that.
Except - I have just remembered his curious parenthetical reference to agents' fees, where he insists that LRB readers need to know the diffeerence between film and literature in this regard. Unsure whether that's a tonal veering.
He has only ever written 9 pieces for the LRB, some of them short:https://www.lrb.co.uk/contributors/david-thomson
― the pinefox, Sunday, 17 March 2019 11:51 (one month ago) Permalink
The new edition arrived yesterday. I'm not near to opening it yet.
― the pinefox, Sunday, 17 March 2019 12:02 (one month ago) Permalink
(Edition? -- I mean: issue, of the LRB.)
PS: self-critical note re Ammons discussion: my original comment on Ammons was not very clear and inaccurately said that I had nothing to say about Ammons (in general I don't - had never heard of him before) where in fact I had just complained about his aimless poetry as quoted by the LRB, which counts as saying something about him.
― the pinefox, Sunday, 17 March 2019 18:40 (one month ago) Permalink
Regarding this issue, we never discussed 'Adam Phillips on Misogyny'.
Probably a good thing. I finally attempted it again yesterday and gave up. It didn't really seem to be talking about anything I could recognize as misogyny.
― the pinefox, Tuesday, 19 March 2019 08:41 (one month ago) Permalink
Well it's a review of a book about misogyny understood as a structural/political phenomenon - or so I understand from the review, which admittedly does go on in typical LRB fashion for six paragraphs about his own experiences as a psychotherapist before informing us the book is "usefully and tellingly sceptical of all such ‘psychological’ explanations".
― what if bod was one of us (ledge), Tuesday, 19 March 2019 10:19 (one month ago) Permalink
yes i saw a *lot* of eyerolling on twitter when ppl there saw who was writing the misogyny review
― mark s, Tuesday, 19 March 2019 10:59 (one month ago) Permalink
Some writers bring a personal energy that is a relief from the house style: Ian Penman, Terry Castle off the top of my head, neither appears very often (altho TC used to). Lockwood maybe too much so.
― fetter, Tuesday, 19 March 2019 15:52 (one month ago) Permalink
Ledge: yes, precisely, the review seemed to spend most of the time at cross purposes to the book. I gave up. It didn't make me feel positive about Freudian thought.
A fairly distinctive and also entertaining writer who used to be in the LRB a lot, now isn't: Ian Sansom.
The current LRB, in terms of number of named contributors, appears to be 50/50 male / female. I wonder if this is the first time that has happened.
― the pinefox, Thursday, 21 March 2019 08:06 (one month ago) Permalink
To add a little to the Ammons and Sextus discussion: in both cases — I think this is also more or less what PF is saying — I think the issue is that the topic at issue is potentially interesting, but that neither reviewer really makes the case well. But in both cases, I don’t quite agree with pf’s diagnosis.
I had heard off Ammons, and even read a little — though I’d forgotten this. I’m no kind of an expert in recent US poetry — but I have read several of Harold Bloom’s tracts on poetry as whole, in particular his wild-style psychokabbalistic trilogy, The Anxiety of Influence, A Map of Misreading, and Agon. Ammons features in all three, as the most recent in the specific line of strong poets that Bloom is establishing, a figure (he proposes in the early 70s) who will still being read, and still be inspiring and troubling poets in 20 or 40 or 100 years, casting the kind of spell that these future poets will be fighting their way out of, their first the poetry they are then making. A fragment from ‘The City Limits’ (“the guiltiest / swervings of the weaving heart”) form the epigraph to Anxiety of Influence, in fact, which is surely an indication what high regard Bloom holds him in.
And Matthew Bevis mentions this regard — and remarks on how astonishing Bloom’s essays on him are — but then says nothing more about them. And he starts his review (fatally, really, in terms of contentful critique) with a justification that amounts to “Ammons is important because important people say he’s important”, before veering off into a readable but (in terms of justification) irrelevant column of backstory. Biography may well illuminate the poems, but it isn’t what makes them any good.
Then Bevis quotes Helen Vendler, saying Ammons is “the first American poet to whom the discourse of the basic sciences was entirely natural” — which seems a promising enough line of potential justification, except it’s instantly abandoned and never returned to. And by column three we’re off into a welter of ways to associate the poetry with uncertainty, indifference, reserve, a mannerist will to a seeming ordinariness. And we speed past Bloom’s claims to arrive at the long reaches of makeweight stuff that apparently fill this Complete Poems. Which I guess as a reviewer he does have to tackle, except he (a) wants to place them at the centre and (b) doesn’t then seem to want to counterpose them with or work them into Bloom’s arguments about strong poets and strong poetry (or Vendler’s about science). To me, better editing would dig right into this apparent clash, because I think it’s the core of this review — Ammons’ own swerve away from the strong poetry of Bloom’s strong claims for Ammons as strong poet. As it is, all this is just skated over.
So when PF says aimlessness, I don’t quite agree: indeed the quoted line he used to exemplify this specifically contains an aim: writing just to be writing is an aim. Just not one that readers will necessarily have any patience with, if the work produced isn’t good (which Bevis seems to think — at this point — it isn’t). And yet when he gets down the the work of close-reading actual poems (three limpidly close observations of nature on the move: two about snails, a longer one about eagles and — I guess, given its title, ‘Easter Morning’ and final lines — Christian faith), the review does finally clarify into something that isn’t one writer’s pathless evasion passing under and around another’s ditto. It takes way too long to get there: the snail stuff should open the piece, with the tunnelling into Bloom right and wrong next.
The Sextus review too suffers a bit from inadequate editing — though more from the writer’s style. Which I think is a problem even when he isn’t writing about sex: I was already sighing in para 2, when he says “where both the literal and cultural wonga was”. A couple of columns on he totally bludges the jokey reference and transition pun to asterisks, obelisks, Asterix and Dogmatix (which depends on the notion that no book is more full of asterisks or obelisks than Asterix the Gaul… which isn’t even true of comic books when he’s referring to grawlices and the like). And he gets Housman wrong also, I think, for the sake of a formalist gag about his sexuality: “so aware of the follies of mankind that he didn’t much like men either”…
I mean there’s something genuinely interesting to me about a classical poet so veiled in poorly transmitted versions of actual real and deliberate masked games-play that a genuinely high-end and world-class classical scholar like Housman chooses to lollop over out of his comfort zone towards straight-up Botticellian invention, to fill in some lost lines (if that’s what Burrows is actually claiming, which isn’t altogether clear). This is where this piece should start — except if it did, I think the glibness count would be way worse. Anyway, what I’d like to see more of in this essay is the connections between contested translations of corrupted manuscripts, projection from the present into ambiguous classical texts, and transformative moments in poetry and culture (Petrarch and Renaissance humanism; Pound and literary modernism). And also (in re these same issues) the question of poets who change with the political wind, as Propertius and Pound both did. The pun we want centred is “corruption”, not asterisk — and the ways corruptions at either end pull towards one another, for ill or good.
― mark s, Thursday, 21 March 2019 15:35 (one month ago) Permalink
lol speaking of editing: "I think the issue is that the topic at issue"
― mark s, Thursday, 21 March 2019 15:38 (one month ago) Permalink
oh ffs: "their first the poetry they are then making" = "their fight the poetry they are then making" sorry i am tired from book launching and etc
― mark s, Thursday, 21 March 2019 15:39 (one month ago) Permalink
I like Mark S's post. It's generous of him to refer to me and not to be too unfavourable, in such a substantial contribution of his own.
One obvious feature of his post is that it comes across as an editor's comments, writing about what contributors should do. I don't really know whether Mark S's past work as an editor has involved this kind of work with people's writing, but his post gives the impression that it has.
Some time, maybe the next ILB FAP, I would like to hear about the Cambridge HIDDEN LANDSCAPE tour.
― the pinefox, Thursday, 21 March 2019 20:29 (one month ago) Permalink
I had indeed forgotten how much the Ammons review talks about Harold Bloom. I found this very odd. I didn't know the details of Bloom's treatment of Ammons as Mark did.
I'd also forgotten about Vendler's comment, but actually it was one that annoyed me in the review. It doesn't feel true enough to be worth saying as such a big declaration, as lots of US poets had surely been interested in science in its different forms. William Carlos Williams would seem the most obvious as he was a kind of scientist in his practical way. Eliot uses scientific language in his most famous works (a patient etherized, a catalyst ...). Pound liked to invoke science too, and I have a feeling (from a 2nd-hand recollection) that Marianne Moore was quite big on science. I suspect you could go back through the 19th century and find earlier versions. My listing these obvious names isn't impressive, others could list other names, but I think it hints that Vendler may have been misleading. And I don't recall most of the Ammons quoted in the review being very scientific anyway!
― the pinefox, Thursday, 21 March 2019 20:35 (one month ago) Permalink
one thing i can say about my booktour to cambridge (and nowhere else yet) is that i realised it was the first time i had set foot in the town for FORTY YEARS*
*or possibly 39 but 40 sounds better and i actually genuinely can't remember or calculate
― mark s, Thursday, 21 March 2019 20:37 (one month ago) Permalink
It's slightly odd that Mark S says he doesn't agree with me about Burrow on Propertius, as he seems to have very much the same kind of problem with it as me: the reviewer, who must be a middle-aged Oxford don, comes across like a guffawing public schoolboy. The lines Mark quotes show this painfully. I didn't like or trust this, but I do feel that such a problem becomes even worse when the same writer addresses sex - which happens to be a major topic of this review.
Though, again, the basic history of missing and fragmented texts, unreliable translations, etc, remains a substantial one, and Burrow knows enough about it to show us something despite his misjudgments as a writer.
― the pinefox, Thursday, 21 March 2019 20:40 (one month ago) Permalink
I had forgotten that Cambridge was a return for you.
re burrow: you said "joshing sexual innuendo", but i think the problem is larger than that and doesn't in fact just apply to sex -- so it's only a minor disagreement, of precision of focus really
re vendler: she says discourse rather than language, which i assume is a difference with a significance, and of course she's a world-class authority on poetry so i imagine she isn't just making a silly blunder about priority here, but has a genuine point in mind, right or wrong -- however as bevis fails to expand or her explain argument, and no subsequent quotes seem to exemplify it, who knows? this is indeed something a good editor should be saying: "explain this better or leave it out"
― mark s, Thursday, 21 March 2019 20:48 (one month ago) Permalink
here's a long piece by vendler on ammons: https://harpers.org/archive/2017/08/american-expansion/
it's where the vendler line is from ("Nonetheless, he was the first American poet for whom the discourse of the basic sciences was entirely natural", on p.3) and it beds the point in much better with examples. it's just much better generally, really -- and looks to me (on a v quick read) like the source of a bit too much of the (non-critical) shaping of this LRB piece :( :(
― mark s, Thursday, 21 March 2019 20:59 (one month ago) Permalink
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― the pinefox, Friday, 22 March 2019 12:36 (four weeks ago) Permalink
This is the only time I have ever seen the LRB joke about the fact that Perry Anderson writes for it at unusual length.
It was a short article (by LRB standards) and perhaps that's why it flew under the radar, but I'm pretty shocked by Edward Luttwak's thing on Japan.
I do appreciate his stance of trying to go beyond lazy political equivalences with the West, but he treats Japan's disarmament with such contempt - seeing it as purely US imperialism or Japan deciding to be lead as opposed to leading, with no reference to how much it reflected a genuine pacifist feeling amongst the population in the post-war era. He then complains that its critics, who actually belong in three distinct groups - fascists, gangsters, tories - get lumped into the same category (within the context of defending Shinzo Abe); surely in 2019 it's not hard to see how tories strenghten fascists?
He then goes on to chide South Korea for not forgiving Japan "like France forgave Germany". Seems to me you have to apologise before being forgiven - something which Germany, for all its faults, has done quite comprehensively, and something which it has been pointed out again and again Japan has never done. Even pacifist/leftist narratives about the war tend to centre on the lives lost in Japan, not the countries invaded (cf: US movies on Vietnam, natch). Instead he suggests the reason is South Korea wanting to distract from the fact that most people collaborated (as if ppl in France didn't?).
China gets in for similar treatment, with "scaremongering" tactics being used to prevent "mass tourism to Japan", which could interfere with ideological conditioning. Seems a pretty shaky statement to me, considering Chinese tourism around the world, but anyway how can you go into Sino-Japanese relations and not even mention Nanjing?
Like I'm not averse to the idea that South Korea and China might be using anti-Japanese sentiment for their own purposes, but to write an article in a Western paper that doesn't even namecheck the very real historical reasons for these sentiments is pretty galling.
― Daniel_Rf, Saturday, 13 April 2019 12:20 (one week ago) Permalink
Yeah, the way japanese leaders keep celebrating the lives and graves of horrendous war criminals is pretty orovocative for Koreans, Manchurians, etc.
― And according to some websites, there were “sexcapades.” (James Morrison), Saturday, 13 April 2019 23:28 (one week ago) Permalink
Just noticed it's the same guy who keeps insisting Reagan would have never pushed the button in the letters section so I guess there's not much to expect.
― Daniel_Rf, Sunday, 14 April 2019 16:53 (one week ago) Permalink
The Colm Toibin cancer piece is genuinely terrifying and starts with the wonderfully memorable sentence: “It all started with my balls.”
― o. nate, Thursday, 18 April 2019 16:38 (three days ago) Permalink
Terrifying indeed, and written beautifully.
For a few days I comforted myself by pretending that, because of my abiding interest in the mysteries and niceties of Being, I had to see an ontologist. Nobody except one of my fellow Irish novelists thought this was funny.
― Uptown VONC (Le Bateau Ivre), Friday, 19 April 2019 09:23 (two days ago) Permalink
Yeah, I loved that piece. Am planning to ask people if there was a big crowd there whenever they tell me they went to something now.
― Daniel_Rf, Friday, 19 April 2019 10:41 (two days ago) Permalink