"And sport no more seen / On the darkening green" -- What are you reading SPRING 2020?

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Actually the author's note is available online if anyone's interested: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/01/07/civilwarland-in-bad-decline-preface/

o. nate, Thursday, 2 April 2020 02:29 (two months ago) link

Good posting, Chinaski, thanks.

the pinefox, Thursday, 2 April 2020 12:54 (two months ago) link

Juan Benet - A Meditation.

There were times when I was reading this 365 page one paragraph monster that I felt like it was consuming me rather than the other way around.* Maybe one day -- whenever I've dared to re-read this? -- I will put up a thread called crappily titled "Undercover Canon" where we could talk about novels like this**, just bizarro examples of the written word, that have been consigned to the dustbin (this was the cheapest novel, £2 quid on amazon). In one way it isn't at all that weird, this is a post-Faulkner -- Region is modelled on Yoknapatawpha County -- post-Proust world where people interact and reminisce about relationships, war, exile and whatever the fuck else, coming in and out of Region's geography. The narrator recounts in a series of episodes of narrative that switch to meditations on all manner of abstractions -- and back again.

A Meditation is probably coming from the greatest Spanish modernist writer. But its a very lonely voice. In the main Spanish writers like to do other things altogether, more into a sense of play (thinking of Vila-Matas) (if not fun) with er stuff, or they were into their dictators (Inclan's Tyrant Banderas however Benet isn't one for doing the obvious -- you couldn't get a digestible line out of him about the Spanish civil war or on anything else for that matter). What you do get is what I can only describe as these rational hallucinations (something very calculated, but you feel the mind that is writing these sections is seeking to expand but not quite explode your undertanding of the world and people in it, maybe like a bomb that goes off now and then, then has its mechanism put back together again to only go off again later, on and on till the end)

* I spent a month with it, even though I read about a quarter of it in a day. The horror of covid-19 'got in the way', and then other distractions. Even so its a novel that can be very exhausting and yet just drags you down to a hole. Thomas Bernhard (its not at all like him btw) is actually really easy to read, and he makes it so. This lacks a music that Bernhard has, but makes it up by willing a sense of forward motion (that's my way of saying that I think the guy could write). I couldn't put it down for long strecthes of time, but when I did put it down it would stay down for days, and I couldn't pick up anything else as nothing would or could equal it. I was stuck but it didn't feel like it, because it was so enjoyable.

** So I think Carlo Emilio Gadda's The Experience of Pain is possibly most like it (both this and Benet share a pain, both also happened to be engineers too), Saer's La Grande, Broch's The Death of Virgil, to name a few other forgotten ones that draw on the same models form the 20s and 30s.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 3 April 2020 23:02 (one month ago) link

That sounds both exhausting and weirdly intriguing.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Saturday, 4 April 2020 10:20 (one month ago) link

Finished At Dusk, and yeah, it got really good. I was quite astonished at how much space there was for different voices in such a little book. At one point one of the main characters is telling a story she heard from a friend, that the friend heard from a colleague, that the colleague heard from a former cellmate. The plot really is nearly nothing, it's just voices and stories from the fringes, and from the past, which the architect has tried to pave over and leave behind. Very touching.

Capital and Ideology is also really good. I'm still just at how the French Revolutionaries dealt with ancient unequal privileges, but it's so interesting.

Frederik B, Sunday, 5 April 2020 15:37 (one month ago) link

What should I read by her?

How preposterous is it that Vita Sackville-West, the best-selling bisexual baroness who wrote over thirty-five books that made an ingenious mockery of twenties societal norms, should be remembered today merely as a smoocher of Virginia Woolf? The reductive canonization of her affair with Woolf has elbowed out a more luxurious, strange story: Vita loved several women with exceptional ardor; simultaneously adored her also-bisexual husband, Harold; ultimately came to prefer the company of flora over fauna of any gender; and committed herself to a life of prolific creation (written and planted) that redefined passion itself.
https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2020/03/31/the-fabulous-forgotten-life-of-vita-sackville-west

dow, Monday, 6 April 2020 01:23 (one month ago) link

Been reading a bit of this and a bit of that: poems by Tagore, one of the vocation lectures by Max Weber (in the new NYRB translation), I finished One Lark, One Horse by Michael Hofmann (having been looping back and rereading a bunch - I may post one in the poetry thread). Not sure what to read next.

o. nate, Monday, 6 April 2020 01:35 (one month ago) link

I'm halfway through Parting the Waters. 1961. The sit-in movement is sweeping the Jim Crow south. It pries loose some minor concessions against strict segregation. Those little successes are spark off a wave of murderous Klan retaliatory violence, with bombings, beatings and lynching. I know this trend will get much worse before it gets any better.

The biggest surprise to me so far is how tiny the organizations of SCLC and SNCC were, compared to the breadth of the movement, which is being driven almost entirely by spontaneous local (mostly student-led) protests. Almost everything that happens occurs via loose informal networking, usually centered around black churches and colleges, with hardly any central planning or training. The movement is spreading and growing itself rapidly and King is somehow at the very core of everything, while having almost no power to steer anything.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 6 April 2020 01:51 (one month ago) link

Finished A Place of Greater Safety, that French Revolution was a doozy and a half huh

silby, Monday, 6 April 2020 03:43 (one month ago) link

To paraphrase Tom Lehrer, when Saint-Just was my age, he had been dead for four years.

silby, Monday, 6 April 2020 04:40 (one month ago) link

In on the The Mirror And The Light reading club too. Previously my reading was done almost exclusively on public transport, so I'm using the shutdown to tackle some hardcover doorstops that would be a pain to lug around.

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 6 April 2020 09:27 (one month ago) link

a collection of rober walser's short stories including, and titled after, the walk. my first time reading walser despite him being an influence on several of my favourite writers. most of the 'stories' are two page sketches and ideas than conventional short stories, have found these more interesting than enjoyable. the walk itself is magnificent; a bipolar odyssey of the magic and mundanity of living.

devvvine, Monday, 6 April 2020 09:44 (one month ago) link

I finished War and Peace. Good novel imo.

About to start a Metternich bio published last year.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 6 April 2020 10:18 (one month ago) link

I overcame my reader's block, to a degree, by reading Alan Sillitoe.

I'd had a copy of THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE RUNNER on the shelf for years. I finally got round to reading the title story. It's told by a criminal, and he's thus unpleasant. Yet the actual writing is strong, bold. I've read about 3 other stories that follow it, and again what strikes me is that Sillitoe isn't really quite what people might imagine - Ecky Thump tough brassy Northerner or something (well, he was from Nottingham anyway, but it seems all to have been conflated into the North) - but bolder, darker, more exploratory. A relevant period term is 'Existentialism'. The stories can be a bit disturbing. But they're easy enough to read, for me to get back into reading a bit.

the pinefox, Monday, 6 April 2020 11:00 (one month ago) link

I've been looking for a copy of Travels in Nihilon forever

Οὖτις, Monday, 6 April 2020 14:57 (one month ago) link

just finished Helen Eustis's The Horizontal Man. Patton Oswalt recommended it alongside Tey's the daughter of time (which I love) in one of his books. it's a rare mystery novel that gets inside the head of many different characters, where they all have different ways of thinking. Too bad the mystery solution becomes obvious to modern readers as soon as the first clue come up. I bet Alfred Hitchcock read it.

halfway through Elizabeth Kolbert - The Sixth Extinction
https://i.imgur.com/m5FOWxJ.png
should have been 100 pages max. she needs to go on a travel adventure for each chapter, describing what the lab looks like where they study coral reefs, etc. so much filler for such a big topic.

wasdnuos (abanana), Wednesday, 8 April 2020 18:09 (one month ago) link

I finished Sillitoe. 177 pages, a way out of my Reader's Block.

Then back to Jennifer Egan, LOOK AT ME - now page 50, a long way to go, but a lot more user-friendly than Conrad was. I think I'll keep at this and finish it.

the pinefox, Thursday, 9 April 2020 18:18 (one month ago) link

I paused that to begin, at last, Michael White: POPKISS: THE LIFE & AFTERLIFE OF SARAH RECORDS, as a Good Friday treat.

Happily easy to read. 80 pages or so in a day: a relief to be finding a way to read again.

the pinefox, Saturday, 11 April 2020 09:08 (one month ago) link

JUst had It Was a New Day Yesterday arrive yesterday.
So have read the first chapter of that.
So may not get to finish Adventures in The Screen Trade quite so fast.

Still readeing the Philosopher's Stone book on Alchemy through various cultures which si very interesting. Gone from China into India and possibly onto another Asian tradition

Stevolende, Saturday, 11 April 2020 10:18 (one month ago) link

mark haber's reinhardt's garden, really fun sort of anglo take on bernhard and the zeal which certain writers find in 'melancholia' as a theme.

that benet sounds fantastic xyzzzz__. i keep meaning to read gadda too.

vivian dark, Sunday, 12 April 2020 03:31 (one month ago) link

I'm Afraid That's All We've Got Time For by Jen Calleja, collection of short stories just issued by prototype publishing. really interesting, by which i probably mean i'm not entirely sure what to make of it, of them. for some subterranean reason throughout reading the word algebra,al-jabra kept springing to mind, along with the image of bones poorly set or deliberately dislocated or asunder. that was the feeling of the prose.

using that as a key gets you somewhere with these stories: their parts are not connected. a story starts with a flood coming into a girl's school, moves through an incipient sexual relationship between a male teacher and a student, and vatic advice by dead and decaying farm animals.

it may take place in France. there is here a sense of dislocation as well. a story about crab fishermen *felt* like it took place in the states, but on going back i realised this may just have been projection on my part. some stories *seem* to take place in the future, without quite specifying it; they could just be taking place in a slightly de-ranged mentality.

i think this is all managed through a mixture of exclusion and breaking language slightly. In A Town Called Distraction tenses and sentence structure are maimed:

I loosely calculated faint figures in my hand. The bridge to the east side of town would be down and crossable for a quarter of an hour from quarter past twelve, and for ten minutes at twelve forty-five. Even if I were to make the close of the first window, I would still be fifteen minutes late, yet the second window glowed in pink neon next to the faded twelve-fifteen. I knew I would be distracted by the world. The world requests time. I'd been listening to the news on the radio before leaving and had to spring back upstairs to note down names mentioned in the broadcast to look up later on. The bus pulled in while I was scanning the headlines in the newsagent's in front of the bus stop and I rushed out to meet it. I had been the wrong bus, so i waited and wondered how long ago the council had had the bus shelter repaired, if ever.

Causation and the connective conventional glue that holds together a lot of 'realism' is excluded. This produces a not-quite dream logic, but it is not delivered in any sort of dreamy way - the short directness of the sentences means that causation is, tonally, very much conveyed - ah there it is again, as I write, the sound or image in my head of bones being forcibly dislocated... the point is that this isn't quite dream logic. it's real world logic deprived of that set of social causative glue with which so much writing and visual media is conventionally held together.

Exclusion of this sort allows the reader to project into a very deep conceptual space, which I think gives an awful lot of the substance of feeling to reading these stories.

I guess I may need to unpack that a little. On twitter recently, I said the impact of Covid felt like it might be best understood by looking at one of those historical graphs, which takes a sudden and spectacular dip, or spikes suddenly, like in the 1530s with western European prices, or the consequences of the black death or the 30 years war, and then a hundred years later you see the consequences. i said i could imagine in 2134 'The Sack of Singapore' being the symbolic event of the fall of capitalism. Ignoring the whimsical analysis and looking only at the imaginative construction, for science-fiction purposes, I should probably have said something less obvious - so it couldn't be European cities ('sack' having very much that connotation of classical history) and Singapore was too obviously connected with capitalism. It needed to be something like Brazilia, or maybe Chandigarh. Making it obvious (Singapore) is very much the Black Mirror error (imv), what you want to do from an imaginative pov is produce a gap between what seems likely now, and the event itself, for the reader to project into.

It feels like Calleja is doing something like this at a conceptual, causation and sentence by sentence level. It is I think quite deliberately jarring <- that could almost be the aesthetic of the stories. It's hard to find similarities and I think this may be because they are each experiments at the level I just described.

In some of the stories separate events are tied together only by their proximity, so that you go searching for the other things that might be there - again that projection into an excluded middle.

this makes it very surprising when you come across a story like The Amnesty, a sort of gender monde renversé. It feels very direct on the basis of the previous stories - women occupy the hegemonic position in society and clearly have done historically. The directness means that Calleja can drive through with force beyond the obvious low-hanging fruit of such an idea, and treat the concepts at play quite violently. So another thing I would say characterises her writing is 'violence done to concepts'.

It's all quite off-putting and it's extremely welcome to be being 'put off' at this level, 'off-putting' as an aesthetic, again. 'what is this taste? why? i don't like it or do i?' etc.

Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 09:48 (one month ago) link

Local Knowledge by Clifford Geertz. A re-read this - I go to Geertz when I want a cooling breeze of sanity in my mind. I feel, and I really want to explore this properly, that there is a deep reductiveness currently at work in how many people want to see the world. To throw a few things together to generate a congeries of what i mean: dominic cummings, thinking fast and slow, tim harford and 'economics', data science, the sort of watershed oppositional world that engenders culture wars, brexit, Trump.

What i get from Geertz is clear exploration of the spaces which are not only interpreted via their extreme point of conclusion; he can be intelligent about lines that are uncertain. In another of his collections he points out why he is 'anti-anti-relativist'. it's a very clear explanation why people who are anti-relativist are more of a problem than relativism is itself. I feel that needs to remembered as an important point, not at all difficult to understand with a little effort, in the state of things today.

the opening sentence of the first essay here – Blurred Genes: The Refrigeration of Social Thought – is a very good example of the tone: A number of things, I think, are true.

In fact I've just found a paragraph at the end of that essay, which states very clearly what I was trying to say at the beginning of this post (by 'refiguration' Geertz means use of theatre, play, symbolism, and other traditional terms of the humanities to explore the social so-called 'sciences', a move he welcomes):

One thing it means is that, however raggedly, a challenge is being mounted to some of the central assumptions of mainstream social science. The strict separation of theory and data, the "brute fact" idea; the effort to create a formal vocabulary of analysis purged of all subjective reference, the "ideal language" idea; and the claim to moral neutrality and the Olympian view, the "God's truth" idea – none of these can prosper when explanation comes to be regarded as a matter of connecting action to its sense rather than behavior to its determinants. The refiguration of social theory represents, or will if it continues, a sea change in our notion not so much of what knowledge is but of what it is we want to know. Social events do have causes and social institutions effects; but it just may be that the road to discovering what we assert in asserting this lies less through postulating forces and measuring them than through noting expressions and inspecting them.

I think (perhaps a use of being a white middle class male is that you can sense inside you some of the worst impulses at play in the hegemonic situation) that the appeal of the "brute fact" is very great to the commentariat, and to many other people besides, who want very much to be shown to be *right*. It is i think to a degree sometimes difficult to understand an overriding impulse. They have even created their own ersatz "formal vocabulary of analysis" (call it "Sensiblese") to examine their own rightness.

To use a phrase he uses in another essay, with Geertz the appeal is that he explores clearly a world where "the matter is one of degree, not polar opposition" and just as importantly shows how you can still make working and workable observations and conclusions in such a world.

One challenge, politically, I think, is how in our abrasive and oppositional cultural world you ensure languages of degree do not, Laodicean like, backslide or get luke-warmed into radical centrism, but retain their necessary capacity for progressive action.

Anyway, regardless of the wider political challenges, reading Geertz is a great way of maintaining a certain intellectual freshness and elasticity. The fault is clearly mine that each time I read him I think 'ah yes, *this* is how it should be done'!

Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:14 (one month ago) link

i've got The Wheels of Commerce by Fernand Braudel on the bookstand where I tend to eat, which means I will read a few paras every week. it's hardly a study but it's very pleasant reading about the development of markets in Europe, say. Despite the fact as a member of the Annales school of history he did exceptional work drawing together complicated statitistics into a coherent picture of European history, he is also a remarkably and pleasingly picturesque writer. So, for instance of how livestock and foodstuffs were got to the major markets of European capitals:

Thus Madrid in the eighteenth century drew to excess on the means of transport of Castile, to the point of disrupting the country's entire economy. In Lisbon, if one is to believe Tirso de Molina (1625) everything was simplicity itself: fruit, snow from the Serra d'Estrela, and food arrived by the all-providing sea: 'The inhabitants, as they sit eating at tale, can see the fishermen's nets fill with fish ... caught on their doorsteps.' It is a pleasure to the eyes, says an account of July-August 1633, to see the hundreds and thousand of fishermen's barks on the Tagus. Lazy, greedy, perhaps indifferent, the city seems from these accounts to be swallowing the sea. But the picture is too good too be true: in fact Lisbon and to labour endlessly to find enough grain for her daily bread. And the larger the population, the higher the degree of risk to supplies. Venice was already having to buy cattle for consumption from Hungary in the fifteenth century. Istanbul, which had a population in the sixteenth century of perhaps 700,000, at flocks of sheep from the Balkans, and grain from the Black Sea and Egypt.

Incidentally, I see someone has posted some reading notes from the wonderful Structures of Everyday Life (the first volume of Civilisation and Capitalism, of which The Wheels of Commerce is the second). Haven't been through them yet, and the name Tyler Cowen brings me out in authentic plague, but may well be worth a dip.

Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:30 (one month ago) link

The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem - great christmas present from house mate.

SO MUCH to disagree with in the introduction as the editor (Jeremy Noel-Todd) tries to get to grips with defining rules for inclusion and exclusion for prose poems. But what made me extremely argumentative in the introduction makes for a superb collection of anything that slips between prose and poetry (you will, as surely as i did, disagree with many entries – oh come ON, that's just PROSE – but this is just part of the fun). It allows for a diverse collection continually working in peripheral spaces and so increasing one's range of imaginative perception.

it is, for reasons i cbf'd to go into, arranged in reverse chronological order. as yet another exercise in defamiliarisation it works well enough.

Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:36 (one month ago) link

let's have some Peter Reading, from C (you know what C stands for):

The brass plate polished wordless. Stone steps hollowed by the frightened hopeful ascending, the terrified despairing descending. (Probably between three and four months, perhaps one hundred days.) Out of the surgeries in this Georgian street, and similar streets in similar cities, some of us issue daily, bearing the ghastly prognostications. How we hate you, busy, ordinary, undying – taxi-drive, purveyor of the Evening Star, secretary bouncing puddings of malleable flesh. Incongruously I plan 100 100-word unites. What do you expect me to do – break into bloody haiku?

Verse is for healthy
arty-parties. The dying
and surgeons use prose.

Peter Reading (1984)

Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:40 (one month ago) link

*taxi-driver - should have proof read and in case it wasn't obvious that's one of the pieces collected in the prose poem book.

Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:41 (one month ago) link

great post on reading Benet, xyzzzz__ - will have to give it a go.

Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:42 (one month ago) link

FUCK macOS autocorrect in the Geertz post - the essay is the 'Refiguration of Social Thought' not refrigeration lol.

Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 10:44 (one month ago) link

Antonio Tabucchi - The Woman of Porto Pim
Ciaran Carson - In the Light of
Colette - Cheri
Marina Tsvetaeva - Selected
Pushkin - The Tales of Belkin

The Tabucchi basically mines literatures on the sea and the whale (the title is a short story at the end of the book), anything from Melville to stuff that reminds me of old Portuguese travelogues I have read about but never actually looked at (according to this account of Portuguese lit that book was some of Portugal's first writing of note. The Colette is a marvel of a novella, exploring relationships and forbidden desires with an ending that could be devastating depending on your mood. Pushkin you can just go in my veins: duels, marriage schemes, lives turned upside down and up again in a blink of an eye, the going-ons of small towns, all told colourfully in a way that just isn't quite done, almost as if pages are too well-written now to go to the mess of it.

Poetry-wise I am engaging with Ciaran Carson re-tellings of Rimbaud, and another Tsvetaeva collection where it takes off on the uncollected section. A lot of her poetry (her way of seeing things) just barely leaves the desk its been written on, or so it seems.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 12 April 2020 14:33 (one month ago) link

re: Benet -- good luck to all those who were interested :) I first came across him when reading about The Construction fo the Tower of Babel which I never got hold of and could be a better starting point.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 12 April 2020 14:48 (one month ago) link

i’ll be fine, just prepping for it by binge reading miss marples.

Fizzles, Sunday, 12 April 2020 15:56 (one month ago) link

👍👍👍

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 12 April 2020 16:27 (one month ago) link

First thing that has truly struck me about the new Mantel: how easily she gets you on Cromwell's side - why must all these people be so difficult, man's tired - even though if you think about it for a few seconds there's no earthly reason why you should be.

Daniel_Rf, Sunday, 12 April 2020 17:21 (one month ago) link

Causation and the connective conventional glue that holds together a lot of 'realism' is excluded...the short directness of the sentences means that causation is, tonally, very much conveyed Got this from your quotations, will have to read these stories, thanks!

The Refrigeration of Social Thought efficiently maintains and contains their own ersatz "formal vocabulary of analysis" (call it "Sensiblese") to examine their own rightness.

dow, Sunday, 12 April 2020 17:33 (one month ago) link

Braudel reminds of how much is required to maintain refrigeration, and get it all to the fridge.

dow, Sunday, 12 April 2020 17:36 (one month ago) link

Excited and daunted by the prospect of reading the latest dispatch from Fizzles, let alone books the books themselves.

Someone mentioned Two Serious Ladies in the last thread, so I bought it, just read it, what a weird and troublesome thing this book is, straightforwardly concerned with the abject complexities of desire.

silby, Sunday, 12 April 2020 23:56 (one month ago) link

Also reread The Great Gatsby, 15 years later, FScott writes the good sentences, inarguably

silby, Monday, 13 April 2020 00:01 (one month ago) link

You might also enjoy the short stories, play (In The Summer House, which got a rave from Tennessee Williams), letters, hell you might well check around for a nicely priced copy of this collection, the most complete I know of (still not that long, alas), put together by Bowles biographer Millicent Dillon: https://www.loa.org/books/531-collected-writings

dow, Monday, 13 April 2020 01:52 (one month ago) link

Reread Colm Toibin's The Empty Family, who understands characters alienated from but still drawn to their families, especially if they're queer.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 13 April 2020 01:53 (one month ago) link

I read Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking so you don't have to.

Now reading my first Iris Murdoch - The Bell. It's set in a lay community, attached to an abbey housing an order of Benedectine nuns, which of course it is, and it has this odd tonal mix of vast existential crises and an episode of Midsomer Murders. I'm in.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Monday, 13 April 2020 10:11 (one month ago) link

I made POPKISS my Easter reading and I finished it in the middle of last night. Reflections:

I welcome a breezy, readable book (after my failure with NOSTROMO etc) and this does fly by fine. But it also contains many infelicities - emphatic or colourful adjectives that are wrong, as in many music writers (Simon Goddard's Smiths book the classic example), and any number of dangling modifiers. This is a Bloomsbury book. Why isn't it edited?

I look at the C87, C88 etc CD compilations and notice how few among the 60+ tracks are from Sarah bands. In other words there were actually *lots* of other indiepop labels at the same time. How did they compare? Was Sarah different from them, or were they copying its methods? I realize this is a book about one label, but something more on that ecology of indie labels would be relevant to a real understanding here.

Sarah as a business. I puzzled over this at times, sometimes bemused by how the emphasis was on saving money (buying the cheapest parcel tape, etc) while also charging as little as possible ... I had to remind myself that what it sounded like was doing things for a hobby: like when Pamela Berry and I, 20 years ago, recorded our first single and sent a cassette of the tracks to a bunch of indie labels around the world. We probably wanted to save money, and certainly weren't looking to make money. Lots of the Sarah activities make sense if you see them as someone not running a business, but just doing something they liked do, for their friends.

But then ... they also keep giving a band, say, £400 to go and make a record - which was even more money then (in fact it's apparently £900 now). So they *were* a business, and that money presumably came from sales. There's a slight tension, or at least relation, between these two things, that isn't fully explored.

The author says it won't be obsessively completist - fair enough - but some omissions are still notable. What's the greatest Sarah track of all? I think to me it's Secret Shine's 'Loveblind' - which isn't even mentioned in 250 pages! Still, the MBV context for that band is quite well introduced.

The chapter on Heavenly, Riot Grrrl, feminism gets dreary for me I'm afraid - in that I've reached a point where most claims about the gender politics of indiepop look overplayed, and too often they're pitching at straw targets.* Example: the band name Heavenly is described as 'A word *real* men are never heard to say'. Irony, of some kind, but not managing to make a very substantial point. The truth is, Heavenly is a much less 'fey' band name than Gentle Despite or The Sweetest Ache, if that's the competition you're in. The claim that Heavenly sounded like the Dixie Cups or Shangri-Las also seems like wishful thinking.

[* The exception to this is the much simpler and more direct fact, cited here p.172, that the label didn't put pictures of women on record covers.]

Certain rather significant things are picked up oddly in passing.

Example 1: a one-line footnote on page 203 (!) states that 'Sarah had no contracts and didn't demand exclusivity from any of its bands'. Maybe this fact, its significance and whether it was distinctive should have been discussed in, say ... the first 50 pages?

Example 2: the whole thing rests on Haynes and Wadd's relationship, sharing a flat and working from it, etc, and on p.243, in about 1995, they break up, and it's explained that it was a natural progression. Fine. But meanwhile, on p.109, we suddenly learn that half the Field Mice songs in one period were about Clare Wadd, with whom the songwriter had been involved - 'the by-product of an agreement between her and Haynes to see other people while remaining a couple'. Crikey !! Again, maybe this might have been worth mentioning ... a bit sooner?

That said, the Field Mice chapter is actually one of the strongest. Harvey Williams, Hit Parade are well enough covered, though the Orchids chapter confirms my sense that this is the most overrated band on the label - I can just never hear what everyone else can in them.

Glad to have read the book. May yet refer to it in future.

the pinefox, Monday, 13 April 2020 10:38 (one month ago) link

I'm dipping back into my William James biography and a few things spring to mind: how easy it was for James to get his medical degree from Harvard (it took, basically, a year, at the end of which he had an MD and a license to practise. Christ alone knows what kind of stuff was going on behind surgery doors); the opportunities open to James: he travels, incessantly, including an amazing trip with Louis Aggasiz to the Amazon basin to collect specimens with the notion of disproving Darwin's theory of transmutation; how mad his dad is: a self-published writer on religion and philosophy who no-one read; how ILL everyone is - always: Henry's constipation, William's back, various friends and relatives dropping like flies (I know it's the 1860s but it's still shocking).

That's a lot of punctuation.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Tuesday, 14 April 2020 09:39 (one month ago) link

Interesting thoughts about Popkiss, PF - I like Michael a lot, and I think there are interesting discussions to be had about Sarah records, particularly its politics and its business model but I couldn't face reading the book. Mostly that was because I have my own more-or-less functional memories of how it was when it was, and I don't particularly feel the need for reminders (or contradictions).

Tim, Tuesday, 14 April 2020 09:55 (one month ago) link

I was hoping you'd see my post, Tim, as possibly the only ILB person who knew that stuff. I'm not surprised you wouldn't read the book.

I met the author once and he was friendly. He has constructed a readable and quite well-structured book, but one could wish for fewer basic errors in the writing.

It did make me dig out 'I'm in love with a girl who doesn't know I exist' on 7-inch.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 14 April 2020 11:40 (one month ago) link

how ILL everyone is - always: Henry's constipation, William's back, various friends and relatives dropping like flies (I know it's the 1860s but it's still shocking).

and poor Alice

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 14 April 2020 11:43 (one month ago) link

about halfway through the bostonians, absolutely loving it

devvvine, Tuesday, 14 April 2020 13:37 (one month ago) link

Wide-ranging, in-depth profile here: https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2018/winter/feature/the-thinker-who-believed-in-doing-0

dow, Tuesday, 14 April 2020 17:29 (one month ago) link

I'm dipping back into my William James biography and a few things spring to mind: how easy it was for James to get his medical degree from Harvard (it took, basically, a year, at the end of which he had an MD and a license to practise. Christ alone knows what kind of stuff was going on behind surgery doors); the opportunities open to James: he travels, incessantly, including an amazing trip with Louis Aggasiz to the Amazon basin to collect specimens with the notion of disproving Darwin's theory of transmutation; how mad his dad is: a self-published writer on religion and philosophy who no-one read; how ILL everyone is - always: Henry's constipation, William's back, various friends and relatives dropping like flies (I know it's the 1860s but it's still shocking).

That's a lot of punctuation.

― Vanishing Point (Chinaski),Tuesday, April 14, 2020 10:39 AM (thirteen hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

I listened to a Podcast earlier thsi week that said that up to a certain point US medical schools were all about making money and little to do with real accreditation and doctors with real integrity tended to go to Europe to get anything worthwhil ei terms of tuition/accreditation.
Now forgetting which one it was , possibly Ologies or Stuff you missed in History.

Stevolende, Tuesday, 14 April 2020 22:53 (one month ago) link

I've been reading Max Havelaar by Multatuli, in the recent NYRB translation. It's kind of an odd, but amusing, 19th century novel, apparently considered a classic in the Netherlands. It's set in the Dutch colonies of (what is now) Indonesia, and apparently prompted a political conversation that led to some reforms in the administration of the colonies. Since I spent a couple of years in that part of the world, I was kind of interested to learn more about that period of history.

o. nate, Wednesday, 15 April 2020 01:22 (one month ago) link

Oh it's a classic. A lock for top three Dutch books ever in the canon etc. It was a never before seen or heard indictment against (inequality in/because of) the colonial system. He longed for a new position as a clerk in the very same colonial system after he got fired. And he was offered a high position, coming with wealth and influence, on the condition he'd never publish his book. He turned down the offer.

I'm curious how they translated it into English now!

Just before bed on Sunday, I cracked open the new translation of Michael Kohlhaas that New Directions brought out this year, which has become unexpectedly timely.

I don't have my copy of the Penguin Kleist volume handy to compare the translations, but there were several baffling choices just in the first few pages (including a confusing mixing of direct speech in quotation marks and narrated speech without quotes in the span of a single paragraph). No introduction or other editorial content, so no way to know whether there was, e.g., a deliberate choice to use awkward English in places for faithfulness to un-idiomatic German... These are just minor annoyances, they don't detract much from such an obviously great work, and I look forward to flying through the remaining ~100 pages once my boss stops asking me to work late.

handsome boy modelling software (bernard snowy), Tuesday, 2 June 2020 15:31 (four hours ago) link

Read some nice pieces on Kleist as a result of that new volume even though I'm not getting it (v happy with the edition on Archipelago)

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 2 June 2020 15:33 (four hours ago) link


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