* Paul Verhaughen, whom you’ll all remember as the author of the Pynchonesque work-in-translation Omega Minor, has a blog. I find it amazing that a guy capable of writing this on his blog didn’t get better publicity in the States:
I shoot an email back
asking if I can have the money (4,950 euros, or about $7,500) donated
to Human Rights Watch. Usual pattern: Let me ask, says the lady. It
takes a few months, including a vote, apparently, in some local
parliament, for this to clear. But it does. I’m happy. In the meantime,
I am waiting for the press release – again, I live abroad, so I don’t
get my face on TV, I have no weekly column in De Standaard, I do not do fashion photo shoots for Dag Allemaal or semi-nude lay-outs for Flair,
I am, in other words, not really part of the daily fabric of life of
most Flemings — let’s just say I imagine I could use the publicity.
Nothing happens, so I reckon there must be a reason for this. Then, in
November 2007, and did I mention we are talking the 2006 Prijs voor Letterkunde van de Vlaamse Provincies,
not the 2007 one?, some dude from the province of Oost-Vlaanderen where
I am allegedly born, contacts me about having an actual ceremony. That
must be the reason! It’s a secret! There’s an envelope to be opened
while a drumroll rolls and a fat opera singer belts from the top of her
mighty lungs! Sweet, I say, and can I assume you do pay for an airplane
ticket? Merry laughter bounces off the return email. No, no, no travel
money, what am I thinking?, but, know what?, they’ll hand “it” to me
‘next time I’m back home’. I try to quietly explain that I go back only
rarely, and that shelling out $1,500 dollars for a ticket for me and
sultry S. just to pick up a mysterious “it” isn’t something I can
easily afford, but then Dude says don’t worry just keep me posted.
Which I do. Then it turns out that the weekend when I did go back –
because I was in London anyway – didn’t work and was too short notice
and so sayonara and catch you perhaps next time, compadre? Which, I
quietly explain to aforementioned Dude, is not likely to be anytime
this year? This pisses Dude off, alas; he never bothers to answer that
* The LAT is laying off 150 employees
* The Economist on the winner of the so-called African Booker. Sounds fun:
In Ms Rose-Innesâs prize-winning âPoisonâ, it is not blood that fills
the atmosphere but a toxic black gritâfallout from an explosion at a
chemical factory that has emptied Cape Town of its inhabitants.
Reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic work of an earlier generation, Nevil
Shuteâs âOn the Beachâ (1957), âPoisonâ explores a city where there is
no power and no petrol; only birds falling dead âlike lumps of some
tarry black precipitateâ from a sky thick with âbloody lightâ.
* The Observer Translation Project. Looks like a promising source for reading works-in-translation on the Web.
* Aleksander Solzhenitsynâs The First Circle is finally getting published in English
* The August Harper’s has William H. Gass on Henry James. You wanna read, you gotta pay, although I’d recommend against doing so unless you’re interested in hearing Gass comment on the possibility of James being homosexual and the number of British clubs he was a member of. Why Gass wastes his and our time with this nonsense, I have no clue.
Erdrich’s novels are marked not only by their lucid, lyrical prose (she
is a fine stylist, and her sentences are a joy to read), but also by
the digressive complexity of their unfolding, by their refusal to
relinquish the mystery, the oddity, and the idiosyncratic significance
of even apparently minor objects and happenings. Her characters inhabit
a world in which, through storytelling, myth is made not only of grand
tragedyâa family murder and an unjustified lynching, for example, in The Plague of Dovesâbut
also of an eleven-year-old’s infatuation, or of a courting couple’s
fishing date. No strand is too slight, or proves too colorless, to
leave out of the grand tapestry.
If the action sounds picaresque, that’s because it is. The 450 middle pages of
Mason & Dixon most resemble the great picaresque novels of Fielding
or the metaphysical comedy of Voltaire’s Candide. What makes M&D
modern (besides uncanny similarities between the Enlightenment and the
millennium, besides sly references to contemporary culture — to dope
smoking, to popular music: "’Is it not the very Rhythm of the Engines,
… the Rock of the Oceans, the Roll of the drums in the Night’") is
the tremendous intellection spun into its episodic action: Charles Mason’s
ambition (which is matched only by Dixon’s refusal to be ambitious at all,
except in womanizing, drinking, and fishing) is to understand the invisible
forces behind the physical laws that make up his work during the
Vineland, in which scarcely a character escapes without being described
as a ghost, and like GR, with its cast of revenants, Mason &
Dixon dwells frequently on what is hidden.
* The Poetry Postcard Fest. You too can be a part:
Get yourself at least 31 postcards. These can be found at book stores,
thrift shops, online, drug stores, antique shops, museums, gift shops.
(You’ll be amazed at how quickly you become a postcard whore.)
or about July 27th, write an original poem right on a postcard and mail
it to the person on the list below your name. (If you are at the very
bottom, send a card to the name at the top.) For crying out loud WRITE
Starting on August 1st, ideally in response to a card
YOU receive, keep writing a poem a day on a postcard and mailing it to
successive folks on the list until you’ve sent out 31 postcards. . . .
* The Expresso Book Machine: backlist savior or vanity press on the cheap (and right in in your hometown bookstore)?
But the vision of a bookstore as a sort of Kinkoâs, or a
bricks-and-mortar version of iUniverse sends shivers down my spine. I
think of bookstores as one of the gatekeepers of culture, not as a
one-stop shop where you can buy Ulysses and print that collection of poems youâve been putting together.
* Blogs are being used to teach literature in the classroom
More from Conversational Reading:
- Good Against the Day Review Christopher Sorrentino in the LA Times shows what a good Against the Day review looks like. (John Freeman take note.) This, to me, is the...
- LINKS * The Millions has a lengthy rundown of some anticipated books for 2008 * Once again, New York City fails to crack the top ten...
- LINKS * Other folks begin hauling in those 2666 ARCs * And some are still waiting (well actually, not any more) * And we all may...
- Pynchon Release Moved Up Get that shit 2 weeks earlier. Interesting to see them jockeying Pynchon up a little bit. Mason & Dixon did about 300,000 in hardcover, truly...
- LINKS * No Caption Needed: In short, the appeal of the cover image appears to be altogether innocuous. And given U.S. contributions to the problem of...
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