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

Archive for February, 2010

February 28th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Avatar: A Colossally…


overrated, overacted, caricature-ridden, cynically titillating, bellicose piece of shit; a poor man's Fantasia, with a finish Jean Claude Van Damme would be proud of that comes about two and a half hours too late. To be missed.

February 28th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

March 6, 2010: Book Auction

This received from Jan Carver of the Ammonoosuc River Auction Company 3247 Route 302 Lisbon, NH  03585. 603-444-1136:

"Saturday, March 6 at 10am, we'll sell 200+ old books, including very many antique books in excellent condition.  All books are being sold for a local North Country family…liquidating a parent's home and family collection, which spans 100+ years. We'll also sell a large collection of old White Mountains, NH postcards, including one lot with approximately 175 unique cards.
Special note:  the sale will also include an 1872 autograph book of the 42nd Congress of the U.S., with 70+ signatures including President Ulysses S. Grant, later president James Garfield, and many NH and New England representatives.  A printable list of all signatures and titles that we could identify is available at www.amriverauction. We've only posted pictures of a few of the books, but are happy to photograph any for review of condition, by request.

February 26th, 2010 • Posted in On Book Collecting

List of the most collectible recent books

Robert Morse's excellent (and free) Book Collecting Tips Newsletter recommends Model Home by Eric Puchner as the February 2010 Collectible Book of the Month. As Robert puts it: "This is Eric Puchner's first novel. He did get a collection of short stories published last year. The US publisher is Scribner Books. It will be released on Feb. 9th. The book is about a family that moves to California in the 1980s and then their lives and fortunes start to deteriorate. Mr. Puchner teaches at Stanford University, where he was a Wallace Stegner Fellow. His award winning short stories have appeared several journals and anthologies. He will be appearing at Powell's Book Store in Portland in mid March to sign books. This will be one place to get a signed copy.

Collectible books recommended by Morse during the course of the past year include:

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Servant of A Dark God by John Brown
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato
John The Revelator by Peter Murphy
The Sweetness At The Bottom of The Pie by Alan Bradley
Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larens
The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V. S. Redick
A Beautiful Place To Die by Malla Nunn


February 25th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Great Shakespearean one-liners

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
Hell is empty and all the devils are here.
He that loves to be flattered is worthy o' the flatterer.
' Tis best to weigh the enemy more mighty than he seems.
They do not love that do not show their love.
There is no darkness but ignorance.
The object of art is to give life a shape
So foul and fair a day I have not seen.
Poor and content is rich, and rich enough.
No legacy is so rich as honesty.
O, had I but followed the arts!
Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise.
February 24th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview with Canadian Journalist Robert Fulford: On Reviewing Books

Photo: Nigel Beale.

" Robert Fulford is a Toronto author, journalist, broadcaster, and editor. He writes a weekly column for The National Post and is a frequent contributor to Toronto Life, Canadian Art, and CBC radio and television. His books include Best Seat in the House: Memoirs of a Lucky Man (1988), Accidental City: The Transformation of Toronto (1995), and Toronto Discovered (1998)." This is how the man describes himself on his website. I’d only add that I think he is the best of his kind.

I sat down with him recently at his home in Toronto to talk about his long, distinguished career as a Canadian critic/journalist, and about evaluative criticism and what matters most in a book. Here’s our conversation:

Subscribe to the Biblio File Podcast here

Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale.

February 24th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Rape, Revenge, Genitals and Diseases…

From here.

Susan Mansfield in Scotland on Sunday on poet Robin Robertson:

Robertson's poetry is dark, strange, shot through with moments of illumination and savage clarity: a beheaded goat, its tongue and eyes still moving; a dying cat "leaking thinly/ into a grim towel". Kazuo Ishiguro has described his poems as "darkly chiselled… haunted by mortality and the fragility of life's pleasures". It's all there in the title of the new volume: illumination and destruction.

The Wrecking Light is also, Robertson says, "a very watery book", punctuated by streams, oceans and islands, and steeped in myths, from Ovid to the folklore of Scotland. Robertson "draws a lot of sustenance" from myths, primal universal stories, versions of which appear in cultures throughout the world. He also writes his own, "trying to give something back to such a nourishing tradition. I take some of the imagery and vocabulary from that mythic word-hoard of Celtic stories. The themes are the usual cheery ones: murder, rape, revenge, a kick in the genitals, diseases, witchcraft…"

Here's Adam Newey's review in The Guardian. 

February 23rd, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Back by Popular Demand: Is Advertising Art, by Nigel Beale.

Some years ago I was on a TV panel with a self proclaimed 'advertising guru.' His all-knowing aura gave rise to my subsequently writing this:

Oh Grand and Glorious Southern Guru, I am perplexed.

What ails thee, my peabrained little grasshopper?

My sleep has been short, my walls have been climbed, my hair has been pulled. I must know the difference between advertising and high art. Oh Great Creator, please give me the answer.

Stir no longer little vacuous one. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and yes, advertising can be high art.

But Holiest of the Holy, whilst I acknowledge there is a role for subjectivity in the appreciation of art, and that art and advertising similarly use form, colour and symbol to convey messages, and that both can be aesthetically pleasing and accessible, and that both share the goal of changing behaviour and attitudes, and that both often highlight the tension between reality and ideals and can shape aesthetic tastes, does not an adequate answer to my question depend upon a precise definition of the term art? Are there not different degrees of creativity and originality? Are there not different types of art? Surely Majestic One, advertising is not "high" art, but rather popular, propagandistic art?

Not so, little inchworm. Art is a function of apprehension, ergo, there is no difference between "high" and "low" art.

But Mighty Aphrodite, do not ads see the world only through a blinkered lens: as products and services, as target markets and audiences? Do they not promote only consumerism and uphold only the status quo? Are not their motives restricted by budgets and deadlines, and by the necessity of pushing product? How can ads experiment with ideas for their own sake when fettered by this capitalist manacle? Do ads not craft specific messages for specific audiences at specific times? Is not their goal to elicit singular responses? Do they not aim to please, to arrest the intelligence and to allay our fears with easy solutions, and are they not primarily concerned with positive reactions? And does not the prerequisite of mass appeal demand mediocrity? Does not art allow for a delight in, and the free play of, ideas for their own sake? Truly outstanding art rarely secures immediate popularity, n'est-ce pas Mon Dieu Seigneur? Does not art frequently encourage many ways of looking at the world? Is it not often purposefully ambiguous and open to conflicting interpretation? Surely, oh Towering One, artists do not worship audiences in the way advertisers do? Do they not intentionally break boundaries, counter the status quo, and question accepted beliefs? Many spend decades deconstructing society, transcending political, economical and religious systems, do they not? You listen not, my pint-sized parvenu. Art is in the eye of the beholder. Hence an advertisement, even if it's only one in a million, can be high art. But Lord of the Rings, is it not the sale that motivates the creation of advertisements. Does this not put advertising solely in the realm of the shallow and material? And thusly, are not ads only original in the context of commerce? And furthermore, did not that great Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye suggest that ads are farcical, ironic, and trivial (and that their prodigious power rests here precisely because we view them as a joke, without analyzing their bountiful effects)? In short, Monsieur Le President, are not advertisements viewed primarily with scorn? And does not true art inspire awe? And does it not create new ways of looking at the world and increase our depth of understanding about the meaning of life? And as such does it not reside squarely in the realm of the deep and spiritual? And does not great art burst forth with such stunning originality that it changes the way we see the world and ourselves? And are great artists, those rare geniuses, not moved by more than the simple desire for coin, and do they not dwell deeply on the profound questions of man's universal condition? And is not the equating of "high" art with advertising symptomatic of decadent, hollow, bankrupt, violent societies, which value material goods and facile solutions above all else? And as such All Knowing One, is this not an equation we should actively oppose?

Get not thy knickers in a knot wee Gordian. Your philosophizing incites me to slumber.

February 21st, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Bed o’ Books

Still Lives #3, 2005. Photography by Maria Friberg.

February 21st, 2010 • Posted in Nigel Beale Bookstore Photos

Bookstore Photo of the Week

February 19th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Knocking Wood

From here.

If faux erudition and willful misreading set your pants on fire, go have a bonfire with this lengthy eructation of ill conceived, frequently picayune argument contra James Wood’s How Fiction Works.

The piece is far too cluttered with shoddy, farcical reasoning to warrant serious – make that any – response. The best I can suggest is to read through the smoke of it  - assuming you have the stomach for rich tripe – and then go back to Wood’s work. If nothing else the clean-aired contrast will be refreshing.

Far from all the claimed ‘instructing’, ‘dismissing’, ‘whittling’, ‘eliminating’ and ‘ignoring of lessons postmodern that the pseudo-intellectuals at Big Other accuse Wood of inflicting upon us,  How Fiction Works argues, practically and cogently, that ‘fiction is both artifice and verisimilitude, and that there is nothing difficult in holding together these two possibilities’