26 January 2009
Quick lit [and alt.cult] links from around the web.
[Missed this] John Banville's lengthy piece on Georges Simenon: "Most crime fiction, no matter how "hard-boiled" or bloodily forensic, is essentially sentimental, for most crime writers are disappointed romantics. William T. Vollmann, in an afterword to the NYRB edition of Simenon's greatest masterpiece, Dirty Snow, contrasts him with Raymond Chandler, whose Philip Marlowe novels, despite their elegance, wit and polished metaphors, seem now distinctly soft-boiled. "Chandler's novels," Vollmann writes, "are noir shot through with wistful luminescence; Simenon has concentrated noir into a darkness as solid and heavy as the interior of a dwarf star." Only Patricia Highsmith approaches Simenon's ability — indeed, his compulsion — to show the world as it really is, in all its squalor, excitement and contingent cruelty, yet Highsmith's characters are paper-thin compared to the French master's vividly multidimensional men and women. Newcomers to this existentialist Simenon — the Maigret books, while entertaining, are often formulaic and even slapdash — might do well to begin with The Strangers in the House, for it is the quintessential roman dur: direct, spare, sensuously atmospheric, hypnotic in its realism, and honest in a way that few novelists would dare to be. What is written of the events of the narrative might be said of the book itself: "It was because it had all begun with such violence — in mud, blood and vomit — that everything had rushed to a climax." / Ernest Hemingway's Cuban archives / Adam O'Riordan wonders if we'll be reading Selected E-mails some time soon: "Byron said, 'Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.' My gut feeling is that the epistolary arts still exist electronically (especially with the price of stamps these days) but there is much more background noise to be cut through. When they do arrive, they Selected Emails might best be thought of as providing access to the rehearsals, the corpsing, the fluffed lines and the bum notes: by all means read them, just don't read too much into them." Rachel Donadio asked this very question back in 2005, plus hasn't he heard of Tao Lin's Gmail chats? / The British Library's head says that deleting websites will make job of historians harder. / Steve Finbow on the translated novels of Jean-Philippe Toussaint: "Toussaint's signature literary dish is the paragraph. His sentences – short in the early works, more intricate, serpentine, and poetic in the later – create blocks of prose that, rather than dense and impenetrable, are light but rich, airy but flavoursome – a soufflé of introspection, reflection, and observation. Rather like Ponge's prose poems, Toussaint's paragraphs are responsive to the process of their own presence." /Vice talk to legendary publisher John Calder: "I knew that they were controversial but the important thing was whether they were any good or not. Henry Miller was published in almost every other country, but it was still under ban here. I wrote to a number of people, such as Graham Greene and Bertrand Russell asking them if they would appear in court to defend it if I were prosecuted for publishing it and they all agreed. This was two years after the Lady Chatterley trial so obscenity was fresh in people's minds. I wrote to the Director of Publishers, telling him that I was going to publish it and that if they wished to uphold the ban then here's a list of people that were in favour of it and would speak to it. They decided not to proceed with any action, but people rushed to the bookshops to get a copy thinking that it would fall victim to the ban." [via Bookslut] / The Times read HarperPerennial's Forbidden Classics, which Straight From the Fridge's Adelle Stripe had a hand in bringing together: "Of the ten books in Forbidden Classics only four - Cleland, de Sade, Sader-Masoch and Arsan - have any literary merit. Otherwise, if you really want something for Valentine's Day, I'd go for Catullus, John Donne, Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, Jeanette Winterson's The Passion or just about anything by Anaïs Nin. Not all of them have a lot of sex, but they are all truly sexy." / Danuta Kean goes between the covers of taboo-breaking novels: "Marrying the book to female emancipation also takes these titles out of the erotica sections and into the respectable front at WH Smith and Waterstone's, as Millet's British paperback publisher Patrick Janson-Smith, now at HarperCollins, explains: 'The people walking into shops to buy a book like Catherine M feel a bit less concerned about being seen buying an explicit book if it has literary cachet.'"
The List meet Chris Killen: "The Bird Room consists of two distinct narrative threads, the first an out-of-sequence account of a young couple's relationship and how, from the boyfriend's first-person perspective, 'it's destroyed through irrational jealousy and paranoia'. Elsewhere, a young woman called Claire reinvents herself as Helen, having dyed her hair and 'started telling herself she's an actress – even though the work she's getting involves answering ads on adult contact sites and meeting men who film her doing seedy things for not very much money.' Killen happily says he's used that first novel method of drawing heavily on his own experiences and emotions within the book, although taken to extremes in places." / Rarely agree with Robert McCrum but he's right, Zadie Smith is a good writer & though it's not cool to say this, I have said it before / The meaning of modern poetry / Are Mark Twain & John Steinbeck now irrelevant? / The Royal Art Lodge / There's a new Henry Baum novel to look forward to, plus Henry has founded the Self-Publishing Review / interview Joshua Cohen: "I prefer the term 'living.' I am a living writer. That said, the rest is not commentary, as Rabbi Hillel would have it - no; the rest - 'the experimental,' 'the innovative' - is marketing. And pisspoor marketing, too!" / Terry Gilliam is revisiting Don Quixote / Packing to die for: Brian Eno & David Byrne's Everything That Happens Will Happen Today / The Guardian's 1000 novels everyone should read [you do realise if you only read one a year, you'll be at this least for almost 20 years, don't you?] / A good interview with poet Ciaran Carson: "'The big influence, I always felt,' says [Paul] Muldoon, "was Calvino. He somehow managed to superimpose Calvino on the oddly Calvinistic brand of Catholicism under which we laboured." This is particularly evident, perhaps, in The Star Factory, which Craig argues is "probably the best book that's ever been written about Belfast. If you think of TS Eliot's unreal city - Ciaran makes Belfast into an unreal city, which is at the same time strikingly real, with every detail in place." One reviewer wrote of the "novel" Shamrock Tea (2001) that its "very beauty and subtlety frequently betray it"; Carson's prose, the writer Ian Sansom once noted, "slips down as easily as a prairie oyster: you'll either love it or it'll give you stomach contractions". I wonder if Carson ever thinks of actively entertaining an audience. "No," he says. "If there is an audience it's my wife. It's enough for me." / John Self puts some questions to Richard Price: "Are you happy for your novels to be filed under the Crime genre?" "I hate it. Is Cormac McCarthy a "Western" writer? / An interview with Irvine Welsh: "'I was offered Celebrity Big Brother, the one that Bez won. Never watched a bit of it. And I was asked to do that celebrity one in the jungle as well,' he reveals, referring to I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, hosted by cheery chaps Ant and Dec. 'I was actually tempted. The wife thought it might be quite nice to spend a few weeks put up in a six-star hotel in Australia, but the show itself, naw, she was very against it as well. These aren't the kinds of things I'd think about doing. If ever I did, it would be because I was desperate for money. But then I see Iggy Pop on TV selling insurance,' he continues, 'and Johnny Rotten's head on a cow advertising butter and think 'you can't be that skint'." / Score a role in Irvine Welsh's Skagboys, the prequel to Trainspotting / The Nation on Derek Raymond: "Reading the book made me nauseous. Rereading it for this piece, I found it necessary to restrict my time with it to daylight hours. Reading it after dark gave me nightmares. Nor do I want to play at listing the specifics of the book, thereby feeding the kind of interest that will send people to it for a kick, the way they go see the latest piece of horror-movie torture porn. I don't know if I Was Dora Suarez can be called literature at all. If it's possible for a book to be utterly repugnant and deeply compassionate at the same time, then I Was Dora Suarez is." / Beat to a Pulp, hardboiled fiction once a week.
Poe!, Poe!, Poe! / LitKicks go look at Jack Kerouac's scroll / The Quarterly Conversation on Charles Bukowski'a Post Office / Payseur & Schmidt, "fine publishers since 1912"; coming soon, Jim Woodring & Paul DiFlippo's Cosmocopia / To be bookmarked: past Dogmatika contributor Richard Kovitch's The Drift / Shaun Tan in Dazed & Confused; an excerpt from Tales From Outer Suburbia in NY Mag [via Bookslut] / The Telegraph profile publishing's "wild child" Jamie Byng / FaceOut Books, a book design weblog / Penguin's three-volume set of The Arabian Nights is wonderful; from Malcolm C Lyons' translation to Coralie Bickford-Smith's design / Jeff VanderMeer is just over halfway through his 60-in-60, his project where he's been reading a Penguin Great Idea[/url] a day. On Orwell's Why I write: "Unlike many, Orwell doesn't squirm while discussing egoism, or try to pass judgment on this driving force. Instead, he regards it as largely inherent to 'the minority of gifted, wilful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end,' as opposed to some who 'abandon the sense of being individuals at all' by the age of thirty or 'are simply smothered by drudgery.'" / A profile of the great Jan Tschicold / In Art Review, David Heatley's 'Comic's History' / GUSTAF, a literary magazine "made byunpaid, unmarried students living in oslo" / The Rumpus.net, "books, music, art, media, film, poltics, sex, other"; contributors include Rick Moody , Jerry Stahl & Michelle Tea, while editor Stephen Elliott tells Flavorwire what they're all about: "The reality is that there's a lot of literary writers..but there isn't really a good web magazine for us. The Internet was supposed to diversify content. And it has as far as the proliferation of blogs. But as far as full magazines it hasn't at all. It's actually intensified the echo chamber. For example, there's very little review coverage for books that have been out six months and didn't make a huge splash. We consider any book out less than a year to be a new book, and review it accordingly. People are so concerned with driving traffic to their pages, they focus on the popular stories, and 'creating' breaking news. They forget all about the writing and the importance of introducing people to artists they haven't heard of yet." / n+1 launches a new reviews section: "In n+1, we never wanted to run book reviews. Our purpose was to print the long arguments—unexpected flashes—wild visions that mattered to us, but that no one else would publish, naked as they came. "You need a peg to hang that on. How about a new book on Daniel Bell?" A generation hid its real ideas in book reviews, the way previous generations, wary of the Inquisition, hid theirs in arcane tracts." / Literary Bohemian, words & wanderlust / Monoscope, a (vintage/retro) design blog / [Just came across this & think they're lovely] Classic music cover art / You have been reading the last dogsbody; we're off to get some absinthe lollipops down us [as seen on David Thompson], so long.
[images: details from vintage sci-fi posters; / Martin Klasch]