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Archive for February, 2009

February 28th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Weinstein on Kafka and Doctors’ rape Fantasy

W. Eugene Smith, Country Doctor, 1948 from the superb Isola di Rifiuti

A friend of mine recently told me of an uncomfortable experience she’d had with a medical intern who’d been tasked with checking out a rash she’d developed on the upper part of her stomach. He wanted her to remove her brassier. She refused.

This mentioned, because of this just read in Arnold Weinstein’s impressive A Scream goes through the House:

"One need not be a licensed psychoanalyst to feel that something strange is on show here (in Kafka’s The Country Doctor’). Is this wound real? If so, how could the doctor not have seen it at once? If it is not "real" what is it? The persistent notations of "rose-red" pint us clearly in the direction of Rosa, the maid now (probably) being raped by the groom, an event pulsating in teh doctor;’s mind. On this reading the worm-filled hole in the boy’s side could be a displaced vagina, and indeed the groom hismelf may be a displaced version of the doctor, doing what the doctor has always wanted to do. Yet, whereever the doctor may be in his fantasy, he is physically in the sickroom, confronting a parient and a wound. Is thjis wound of his own imagination? One this is certian: he can do nothing to assuage it….

Kafka’s rendition of doctoring as subjective, oneiric carnaval hints at unspeakable motives getting the upper hand, at the absolute failure of compartmentalizing (after all one could be thinking about a rape and still do one’s job; not so here). There does not appear to be much uplift in "A Country Doctor," but there is at least a warning that doctors are no freer of fantasies and obsessions than the rest of us, even when (especially when?) it comes to bedside encounters."

February 28th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

A First Kindle reading experience Described

Stephanie left a comment on the last post, so I ventured over to her So Many Books site to find this small step for woman, giant leap for womankind moment:

"Now for the reading. I read for an hour and my eyes did not get tired at all. In fact, after a little while I forgot I was holding a Kindle and not a book. The only thing that takes getting used to is the way the pages “turn.” It doesn’t scroll or instantly change like a computer screen. The e-ink has to re-form itself into the new letters so you get a sort of “flash” effect and the page appears in negative and then the new page is on the screen. It is weird and freaked out my eyes the first couple of times but after a few pages I didn’t notice it as much.
I tried out the highlighting feature and love it. When you highlight something in a book, Kindle saves it to a special folder called “My Clips” with a sort of annotation so you know where it came from. So, for instance, I highlighted two things in the Emerson letters. If I want to see what they are I can page through the book but that is not really convenient. If I remember enough keywords I can do a search. Or, even better, I can go to the clips folder and there they are. Once I get lots of clips in there though I am not sure that it will be any more efficient than the other two methods. There must be some way to sort them or something. At least I hope there is.
I have yet to try out bookmarking or writing marginalia. I haven’t tried having a PDF or other document converted for reading on Kindle either. I’ll get to those eventually. But so far, so good on the Kindle experience."

February 28th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Sarvas gives us James Wood’s favourite Books List

Mark Sarvas does a public service by offering us a reading list compiled by James Wood in 1994 for The Guardian, in which Wood sought to "avoid the ‘representative’, ‘important’ or ‘influential’ and chosen, instead, books which I like, which seemed to me deep and beautiful, which aerate the soul and abrase the conscience … "

Mark posts the list "as a corrective of its own to some of the foolishness that has cropped up around Wood of late.  He certainly doesn’t need me to defend him but this list should give the lie to the popular cliche of Wood as the hidebound dean of realism who thinks fiction stopped with Flaubert." (It also undermines an extremely distasteful insinuation of racism put forward recently over at foolishness central: Contra James Wood).

JG Farrell: The Siege of Krishnapur
Jane Bowles:Collected Works
LP Hartley: The Go-Between
Norman Mailer: The Naked and the Dead; Armies of the Night
Walter Abish: How German Is It
Harold Brodkey: Stories in an Almost Classical Mode
Cynthia Ozick: The Messiah of Stockholm; Art and Ardour
William Burroughs: The Naked Lunch
Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse 5
Elizabeth Bishop:The Complete Poems
John Cheever: Collected Stories; Falconer
Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man
Angus Wilson: The Wrong Set; Hemlock and After; Anglo-Saxon Attitudes
Fred Exley: A Fan’s Notes
Randall Jarrell: Poetry and the Age
Robert Lowell: Life Studies; For the Union Dead; Near the Ocean
Bernard Malamud: The Assistant; The Stories of Bernard Malamud
William Trevor: Collected Stories
James Baldwin: The Fire Next Time; Giovanni’s Room
Toni Morrison: Sula; Beloved
Henry Green: Loving; Concluding; Nothing
Howard Nemerov: Collected Poems
AS Byatt: Still Life
VS Naipaul: A House for Mr. Biswas; In a Free State; The Enigma of Arrival
Tim O’Brien: If I Die In A Combat Zone
Kazuo Ishiguro: The Remains of the Day
Flannery O’Connor: A Good Man Is Hard To Find
Frank O’Hara: Selected Poems
Sylvia Plath: Collected Poems
Ezra Pound: Pisan Cantos
John Barth: The Sotweed Factor
Saul Bellow:  The Adventures of Augie March; Seize the Day; Herzog; Humboldt’s Gift
John Berryman: The Dream Songs; The Freedom of the Poet and Other Essays
Thomas Pynchon: The Crying of Lot 49; V
Philip Roth: Goodbye, Columbus; The Counterlife; Reading Myself and Others
JD Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye
Donald Barthelme: Sixty Stories
Susan Sontag: Styles of Radical Will
Wallace Stevens: Collected Poems
Robert Penn Warren: All The King’s Men
Eudora Welty: Collected Stories
William Carlos Williams: Paterson
Edmund White: A Boy’s Own Story
Amy Clampitt: The Kingfisher
Don DeLillo: White Noise
WH Auden: The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays; Collected Poems
Paul Bailey: Gabriel’s Lament
Angela Carter: The Magic Toyshop; Nights at the Circus
Bruce Chatwin: On The Black Hill
James Fenton: The Memory of War
William Golding: Lord of the Flies; The Spire
WS Graham: Collected Poems
Raymond Carver: The Stories of Raymond Carver
Martin Amis: Money; The Moronic Inferno
Jean Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea
Graham Greene: The Heart of the Matter
Jonh Ashbery: Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror; Selected Poems
Geoffrey Hill: Collected Poems
Doris Lessing: The Golden Notebook
Ivy Compton-Burnett: A Heritage and its History
Muriel Spark: Memento Mori; The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Malcolm Lowry: Under the Volcano
Walker Percy: The Moviegoer
Phillip Larkin: Collected Poems
Ian McEwan: First Love Last Rites; The Cement Garden
Andrew Motion: Secret Narratives
Iris Murdoch: Under the Net; The Bell; The Nice and the Good
George Orwell: 1984; Collected Essay and Journalism (4 vols)
Carson McCullers: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe
JG Ballard: Concrete Island
Anthony Powell: A Dance of the Music of Time
John Updike: Of the Farm; The Centaur; The Rabbit Quartet; Hugging the Shore
Jeanette Winterson: Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
Ted Hughes: Selected Poems 1957-81
VS Pritchett: Complete Stories; Complete Essays
Craig Raine: A Martian Sends A Postcard Home
Marianne Moore: Complete Poems
Elizabeth Taylor: The Wedding Group
Salman Rushdie: Midnight’s Children; The Satanic Verses
Tom Paulin: Fivemiletown
Joseph Heller: Catch 22
Christine Brook-Rose: The Christine Brook-Rose Reader
Anthony Burgess: Earthly Powers
Alan Sillitoe: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Graham Swift: Waterland
Iain Sinclair: Downriver
Evelyn Waugh: Brideshead Revisited; The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold; Through a Cloud
Jack Kerouac: On the Road
Denton Welch: A Voice Through a Cloud

February 27th, 2009 • Posted in On Politics

How you can help support Canada’s Literary Magazines

Hon. James Moore.

Proposed changes to the federal government‘s magazine funding policy could threaten the future existence of many, if not all, Canadian literary journals. How can you help ensure that cuts do not occur? By emailing your local MP (here’s a link to a list of email addresses for all Canadian MPs) and Canadian Heritage Minister the Hon. James Moore at and telling them that literary magazines constitute an important part of Canadian culture, and as such, deserve significantly more funding than they currently receive….in fact…I think I might just have to draft up a sample letter and post it here for your entertainment…pls. stay tuned. 

In the meantime, another thing you can do is join The Coalition to Keep Canadian Heritage Support for Literary and Arts Magazine Facebook group administered by, among others, John Barton and Anita Lahey.

February 27th, 2009 • Posted in On Politics

Rights and Wrongs of the Federal Government’s proposed new Canada Periodical Fund

Further to my recent post on proposed changes to magazine funding by Canada’s federal government, in addition to possibly withdrawing funds for magazines with paid annual circulation of under 5,000 (i.e. most Canadian literary journals), here’s what the proposed new Canada Periodical Fund plans to do:

1. Tie support to the reading choices of Canadians;

2.  Build on previous programs to maintain support for the industry and thus help maintain jobs in an industry affected by the current economic slowdown;

3.  Reallocate funding to small and mid-sized titles to support a diversity of Canadian magazines and newspapers throughout the country;

4.  Provide greater flexibility so that publishers can manage funds strategically, including the flexibility to enrich their Web content; and

5. Contribute to the Government’s commitment to reduce paper burden for business.

Here’s what’s right and wrong with these objectives:

1. The minister of Canadian Heritage theoretically represents at the Cabinet table, the interests of those who work in and live with/for the Arts. Points one and two have little to do with this mandate. In fact to some extent they contradict it. Support, one would think, is what should be given to worthy publications that, just like works of art themselves, don’t necessarily cater to the masses; are not viable in the marketplace.  Tying support to readership is simply another way of rewarding popularity; of rewarding magazines that would exist without government funding because the market supports them. Their audience attracts advertising dollars. They don’t require support.

On the other hand, because of their limited circulation, and their readership not necessarily possessing desirable consumption patterns, literary magazines don’t generate much ad revenue. Marketability should not be a prerequiste for funding. Quite the contrary. Government is supposed to step in where and when the marketplace fails to provide products and services that enrich society. Advertisers clearly doesn’t value literary magazines, or at leasts their limited readerships; they value big, high spending target audiences (readers of Chatelaine, Maclean’s, Canadian Living). How inappropriate then that some of Canada’s most prominent, successful corporations should receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in public support they don’t need, when struggling literary journals, those most in need, those most important to the development of Canadian literary culture, receive a pittance, or nothing.

2. Admirable though  this may be, make-work and economic development programs surely belong in other departments, Industry Canada and SHRDC for instance. Funding, at least from Heritage, should have everything to do with the creation and preservation of the arts and culture…and little to do with job creation.

3. If the government is indeed serious about a ‘diversity’ of voices then this could turn out to be very positive for literary magazines; could even result in an increase in funding for the sector.

4. Again, as with #2, this may be seen by the ‘suits’ in Canada’s magazine publishing industry as positive, but does it really help those who are responsible for creating literature and literary criticism? I think not. Far better to put in place rules which require that a large percentage of the funding go directly to the procurement of content. i.e. to the creators/writers themselves.

5. Could bode well for this proposal that government  fund literary bloggers and online literary ‘entities‘ directly, instead of stapling all of their funding to the printed word.

February 27th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Yours for 20Gs

 David et Absolom.

Original lithograph in colours. 1956. Signed in ink. Numbered (29) in ink from the edition of 75. From the first edition, before the issue for the album. Drawn in 1956 for Chagall’s first series of ‘The Bible’. Drawn and printed at the Atelier Mourlot, Paris 1956. Issued by Teriade in the series ‘Verve’, Paris 1956.
Ref: Mourlot – Chagall Lithographs no 133. Hatje – Chagall The Lithographs no 133.

Excellent impression with brilliant strong colours. On pale cream wove Arches paper without margins, as issued. Excellent condition; slightest traces of old mounting on the reverse. Sheet: 357x264mm. 14 x 10 1/2ins.

Price: £ 13000 ($20000)
Click here to enquire about this item.

(Am I the only one noticing a rather blatant, shocking, shall we say sacrilegious, depiction of something akin to oral sex here? Or is this just a proclivity to pervertedness exercising itself?)

February 27th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Charles Dickens as Movie Director: Novels into Film: ‘Overtly Compatible, Secretly Hostile’

George Bluestone from ‘Novels into Film’ in Film: A Montage of Theories:

"Sergei Eisenstein’s essay ‘Dickens, Griffith, and the Film Today’ demonstrates how [D.W.] Griffith found in Dickens hints for almost every one of his major innovations. Particular passages are cited to illustrate the dissolve, the superimposed shot, the close-up, the pan, indicating that Griffith’s interest in literary forms and his roots in Victorian idealism provided at least part of the impulse for technical and moral content…"


"In the last analysis, each [films and novels] is automonous, and each is characterized by unique and specific properties…

Where the moving picture comes to us directly through perception, language must be filtered through the screen of conceptual apprehension. And the conceptual process, though allied to and often taking its point of departure from the percept, represents a different mode of experience, a different way of apprehending the universe.

The distinction is a crucial one, for it generates differences which run all the way down the line from the media’s ability to handle tropes, affect beholders, render states of consciousness (including dreams, memories, feelings and imagination), to their respective methods of handling conventions, time and space."

And apropos of the imaginative ‘space’ that novels provide their readers, that movies don’t their viewers, here’s Bluestone quoting Virginia Woolf from her 1926 piece in the New Republic entitled ‘Movies and Reality’:

"Virginia Woolf, contrasting the novel and film, is especially sensitive to the unique power of the figure of speech. The images of a poet, she tells us, are compact of a thousand suggestions, of which the visual is only the most obvious:

Photo: NB flowers.

" Even the simplest image: "my love’s like a red, red rose, that’s newly sprung in June." presents us with impressions of moisture and warmth and the flow of crimson and the softness of petals inextricably mixed and strung upon the lift of a rhythm which is itelsef the voice of the passion and the hesitation of the love. All this, which is accessible to words, and to words alone, the cinema must avoid. " "

February 26th, 2009 • Posted in Literary Criticism

Two Works of Canadian Literary Criticism

When I met Michael Lista in Montreal for our exhilarating conversation about his forthcoming book of poetry Bloom, he singled out for praise a work of Canadian criticism called A Lover’s Quarrel, Essays and Reviews by Carmine Starnino. I’ve just received my copy from Porcupine’s Quill, along with Director’s Cut by David Solway (please listen to our interview here). Both (books) sit on my desk. I’m itching to read them. (as I write this, I notice that the former’s cover sports taut fingers on a pair of hands digging into what I assume is a man’s back).

Funny, when I first opened David’s book, it fell to an essay which starts with this "Peter van Toorn is the most unjustly neglected poet of our time, a poet whose genius in the language may well be unparalleled among his contemporaries." Funny, because I hadn’t heard of van Toorn before Michael had mentioned him to me, in the same glowing terms he’d favoured Starnino, back on that sunny Montreal morning late last year in his cozy, book laden, bright yellow walled apartment. I’m hoping that the praised live up to their billing. 

February 26th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Saturday Night Live: The New, The Old and The Older

The more


things change

Please click here for Jim Carey and What is Love.

the more

Here for Jizz in my Pants.

they stay the same.

February 26th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Good Morning, Good Morning.

Roni Horn at the Tate Modern.  (via Jafurtado on Twitter) "Horn is interested in the idea of pairing and doubling. Many of her intricately constructed drawings feature paired clusters of cut-up lines. She often uses two identical photographs in a single work, breaking up the images to give the viewer a sense of déjà vu…"