Daniel Mendelsohn’s introduction to the NYRB Classics’ reissue of Augustus is now available online as part of the Aug 14 issue of the New York Review.
If you’re a fan of Williams, this book will seem different in some interesting ways. It’s much more obviously postmodern, in the sense that it’s a bit of a fantasia constructed on the life of a historical figure, and it takes place completely via fake historical documents (letters, diaries, etc) that Williams creates entirely. The preoccupations are the same, however, except perhaps that this book is much more interested in . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I don’t expect The New York Times to have mastered the minutia of every single topic on earth, but it would be nice if the paper of record managed to correct the most glaring errors in this profile.
Here’s a hint of where to start:
That is not to say that Mr. Krasznahorkai is an easy read. He writes sentences that can go on for pages and pages: “The Melancholy of Resistance,” in which a bizarre circus wanders into yet another small town in the dead of winter, toting a gigantic stuffed whale, consists of a . . . continue reading, and add your comments
A nice review at Music & Literature of the latest book from Gerald Murnane, A Million Windows. For those of you who have been enjoying Murnane’s late style, as seen in Barley Patch and A History of Reading, this is very much of a piece with that project. Although it’s also its own book, not simply a retread of what Murnane has done in those titles.
Interestingly, Murnane’s 40-year-old title A Lifetime on Clouds was recently re-released, and it’s very pertinent to A Million Windows. Murnane revisits (at length) one of the key . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Writer Pierre Ryckmans, aka Simon Leys, died earlier this week. So, perhaps the kind memorial messages that are appearing will induce you to pick up some of his work. He was an extraordinary (and often combative) literary critic, as well as someone who wrote eloquently on translation. You can find all of that in his collected essays, The Hall of Uselessness, released last year by NYRB Classics.
Ian Buruma’s NYRB piece on said book is available here. And NYRB Classics has made one essay from the collection available on their Tumblr. And the Sydney . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Stuart Jeffries reviews the new biography of Walter Benjamin, Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life, in The Guardian.
In the summer of 1932, Benjamin was very nearly at the end of his rope. Professionally, his dreams of academic tenure had been crushed and he was struggling to make a living as a writer at the moment when opportunities for a Jew publishing in Germany were, thanks to Hitler’s poisoning of intellectual life, about to dwindle almost to nothing.
His personal life, too, was in tatters. Acrimoniously divorced from his wife Dora, all but estranged from his only . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Fans of Stoner-author John Williams (or just fans of great literature), NYRB Classics is soon releasing Williams’s final novel, Augustus. I’ve about 2/3 of the way through and it’s excellent.
Oulipian reviewing Oulipo-friendly, at Music & Literature:
Works was Édouard Levé’s first book—of text, anyway—but by the time he arrived at literature he already had the aura of one who had alighted there out of some combination of happenstance and vagabond fascination, as though it were a medium he would flirt with briefly before moving back to photography, or forward to film or sculpture or, say, clothing design or applied animal husbandry. Structurally and generically, Works has little in common with the three texts that would follow: Journal (Newspaper, 2004), which takes the form of a single . . . continue reading, and add your comments
A little on why Beckett chose to write in French.
But then, why was English unequal to Beckett’s aims? Part of the answer may lie in his relationship to James Joyce. Critics have cited their close friendship and Beckett’s perception of Joyce’s unparalleled achievements as the source of his need to escape English — to emerge from beneath Joyce’s shadow. There’s little doubt that Joyce’s legacy haunted; Beckett’s early work reveals an apish simulation of his mentor. A 1934 review of More Pricks than Kicks maintained, for instance, that Beckett “imitated everything in James Joyce — except . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Things are going to be sporadic around here for a bit. Enjoy the sun, a good book, etc.
The writing on this can get pretty annoying at times, but there are some interesting findings in Tom Bissell’s profile of William T. Vollmann. For instance: apparently, Viking is getting a little too tired of Vollmann’s doorstoppers. (And after Last Stories, who can blame them?)
Vollmann told me that Viking, which has been publishing his Dreams for decades, was currently “sadly contemplating” the publication of The Dying Grass, volume five, about the Plains Indian wars of the late nineteenth century. For the first time in Vollmann’s career, Viking had begun to impose page limits in his contracts. . . . continue reading, and add your comments