Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts

Archive for April, 2007

April 30th, 2007 • Posted in Authors and Books

Delightfully Bookish Blogs

Just came across Amy Palko’s delightfully bookish blog…which contains among other interesting things, a photo of a book vending machine and links to a sweet little film entitled Rare Books and Manuscripts . As for the future of the book, you may wish to check this blog out. I’m planning to attend BookExpo America in New York this year, May 31-June 2; might well have to slink over to Brooklyn to Biblio File this Institute for the Future of the Book. And if you’re looking for a biblionovelic read…check this list out. Finally if these titles : BIBLIOBIMBO: Depraved by an Unbridled Lust for Rare Books “Every Bookseller in Town has been in Her Library”; BOOKBAIT: Modern Youth on a Rampage of Delinquency, Dope and Dustjackets “Teenage Bibliophiles on the Loose” titilate, then visit here

April 26th, 2007 • Posted in Authors and Books

Black Books

This courtesy of Black Books is a second-hand bookshop in London run by an Irishman named Bernard Black. He is probably the planet’s worst-suited person to run such an establishment: he makes no effort to sell, closes at strange hours on a whim, is in a perpetual alcoholic stupor, abhors his customers (sometimes physically abusing them) and is often comatose at his desk. Help comes in the lumpy shape of Manny Bianco, a hairy, bumbling individual who (almost by osmosis) becomes Bernard’s assistant. Manny is not exactly great at the job either but he is a million times better than Bernard. Next door is Fran, an anxious, frustrated woman who (in the first series) runs a sort of new-age shop selling the most unlikely bits of arty junk. (In the second, her shop was neither seen nor mentioned.) Fran is friends with Bernard and, through him, with Manny; together the trio become embroiled in escapades that are sometimes extreme or violent or fantastically ludicrous, and always bizarre. You can view clips from various episodes on You tube.

April 26th, 2007 • Posted in Authors and Books

Keeping Murray in Scotland

For more than 230 years, seven generations of the publishing firm John Murray kept almost every scrap of paper relevant to their roster of clients, including Jane Austen, Charles Darwin, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, David Livingstone, Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth. Last year the seventh John Murray offered the firm’s entire collection of papers to the National Library of Scotland at the knockdown price of £33m. None of the money will go directly to the family, but will instead go towards education projects and making the archive available and accessible to the public. However, the last £5m of the asking price still needs to be raised and this week crime writer Ian Rankin will launch a fundraising campaign to keep the archive in the UK. More from The Guardian here.

April 24th, 2007 • Posted in Authors and Books

Richardson, Pearson, Penguin Book Design

Award winning Canadian book designer C.S. Richardson mentioned his love of Penguin’s David Pearson in our recent interview. Check out David’s site, and this one if you are into book design, this one if you’re into Penguins.

April 24th, 2007 • Posted in Authors and Books

Bloomsbury looking at Literary YouTube

This from The Independent: Bloomsbury, the publisher ravaged by a profit warning last December, yesterday revealed it is seeking to fill the void left by Harry Potter by creating ‘the MySpace of the books world.’The company, which saw its profits crash 75 per cent last year, will publish its seventh and final Harry Potter title on 21 July, leaving it with a giant hole to fill. It intends to step up the pace – and size – of its acquisitions and is looking for companies that will take it into new media markets.Nigel Newton, the chairman and chief executive, said he was looking for deals in its core markets of the UK, Germany and the US. “We are now actively seeking larger acquisitions and looking at companies that not only complement existing activities but broaden our media involvement,” he said.

He said the company was seeking funding from a third party to help it launch a literary alternative to the likes of online communities such as YouTube and Bebo.

While they have grabbed the digital headlines in the music and video online community space, Mr Newton said “no one has yet done the same for books, especially in a way which will benefit all the main players in the book business”.

April 23rd, 2007 • Posted in Authors and Books, Wicked Quotes

Wilde about Poetry

“In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.” Oscar Wilde

And apropos of this, here again is what W.H. Auden had to say:

“The ideal audience the poet imagines consists of the beautiful who go to bed with him, the powerful who invite him to dinner and tell him secrets of state, and his fellow-poets. The actual audience he gets consists of myopic schoolteachers, pimply young men who eat in cafeterias, and his fellow poets. This means that, in fact, he writes for his fellow-poets.” (Squares and Oblongs, Poets at Work, introduced by Charles D. Abbott, 1948, p.176)

April 22nd, 2007 • Posted in Authors and Books

Unacknowledged Legislators Leonard, Bono and Shelley

(That’s not Shelley in the photo…it’s Martha)

Apropos of our Heaney Hazlitt riff on the dreams of alternative worlds enabling…empowering might be a better word… governments and revolutionaries, Leonard Cohen in the film I just saw, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, quotes Shelley’s famous line found at the end of Defence of Poetry: Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

The film features performances and commentary by Nick Cave, the great Rufus Wainwright, and U2 among others, along with Leonard waxing poetic…I shouldn’t say this in such a cliched way…because he does offer some truly beautiful, albeit slightly new agey wisdom…about finding life easier when you abandon your masterpiece…about doing this, and discovering the real masterpiece…about overcoming the guilt of betraying the mission you believe you are mandated to fulfill, and using the deeper courage required to stand guiltless in your predicament…about understanding that you aren’t meant to accomplish this mission, and accepting and embracing and standing up to the fact that you’ll never untangle the circumstances that brought you to this moment.

Leonard also admits something that we’ve been going on about here, among other places, for much of the past year: that he started writing poetry to try to get girls interested in his mind.

April 22nd, 2007 • Posted in Authors and Books

Passionate About Spring

Last summer I bought a tee shirt from the Museum of Nature in Ottawa. It has a two panel cartoon on it called Canadian Seasons. Panel one is entitled Winter and sports a bunch of funky looking circular snowflakes. Panel two shows a mosquito with a large pointed proboscis and is entitled Bugs.

Certainly over the past several years our climate has tended toward extremes, hot to cold and vice versa, eliminating the shoulder seasons.

It seems to have happened again this year. So, in the absence of one of my favourite times of year: here’s a little Spring something by Christopher Marlowe from The Passionate Shepherd to his Love:

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That valleys, groves, hills and fields,
Woods or steepie mountains yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses,
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;
A gown made of the finest wool,
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair-lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;
A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs;
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning;
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

April 22nd, 2007 • Posted in Authors and Books

Simon Armitage on Knitting and Poetry

Writing on one of my favourite websites, Peter Forbes says that North Yorkshire poet Simon Armitage‘s first book Zoom (1989) ‘had the freshness of pub talk, a comedian’s sense of timing, but more than that, a brilliant use of poetic rhythm, piling up effects towards comic climax or dramatic denouement. Armitage is aware of the parallel with stand-up comedy and even has a poem ‘I Say I Say’, which is a bleak parody of a stand-up routine ‘I say, I say, has anyone ever topped themselves for a laugh…” Forbes goes on: ‘He can cut it with stand-up performance poets, is good on pop radio chat shows and has a laddish persona that the urban young instinctively recognise as one of their own. But he is also a subtle stylist and an ambitious, serious artist.’

All of this was on display Friday night at the Ottawa International Writers Festival, where Armitage started his section of the evening with a deadpan reading of a very amusing poem about a whale, and ended it, during the Q and As, using the word ‘luxury’ to define how he produces poetry: and here I paraphrase: the luxury of following through on daydreams, of thinking consciously, and not, about ideas until words show up and once they do, of early drafts, and how initially many words simply serve a sacrificial, space/rhythm filling purpose until the right ones arrive, twenty drafts along, and how often, none from draft one appear in draft twenty.

Speaking of the luxury of translating Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Faber 2007, Anansi in Canada), Armitage referred to the poet’s trinity of anxieties: 1)the title, 2) the first and 3) the last lines, and how, being already told in this poem, he could concentrate worry-free on the moment to moment poetics required to do justice to the narrative. He said he was seized with the notion, and then conviction, that he had to do this project, and spoke beautifully of how working on it was like picking up an unfinished scarf, knitting a few lines, then putting it back down again, and of how he missed doing this now that the job was complete. Other lines/items worth mentioning: good poetry: ‘when you know you’ve outreached yourself; when you produce something you didn’t think you were able to produce; when you make something that wasn’t conceived of originally.’ Armitage is currently working with one of my favourite artists, Andy Goldworthy, on a project in Yorkshire. ‘I come from the generation (Thatcher years) that voted on the losing side the first three times.’

April 21st, 2007 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio-Video Interview with author Benoit Duteurtre

‘An anarchic and controversial figure’ in France, Benoit Duteurtre became a writer after Samuel Beckett praised his early work. He has written ten novels and has won the coveted Prix Médicis. The great-grandson of French President René Coty, Duteurtre is the host of his own radio talk show, “Astonish Me, Benoit.”

We talk here about The Little Girl and the Cigarette, the first of his novels to be translated into English (March 2007, Melville House), the French and Cigarettes, Canadians and dullness, George Orwell and Franz Kafka and the fact that they needed exaggeration and fantasy to argue against fascism and absurd state behaviour whereas today little at all is required, American Idol, terrorism, the media, pedophilia and irony.

Copyright © 2007 by Nigel Beale