The Spectator now apparently requires registration to view and read all articles -- another pointless disservice complicating the Internet-using experience.
You can guess how thrilled we are.
Registration takes a moment and gives you access to deeper levels of spectator.co.uk content.
We benefit from registration because we get a clearer view of our readership.
You benefit because that view helps us to improve the site.
Registration takes a moment ?
We tried it several times (admittedly with completely inaccurate information --- except the required real e-mail address) -- and had no success.
The Spectator benefits because they "get a clearer view of our readership" ?
Since no sane person would provide any accurate information on their ridiculous registration form they actually get a more skewed view of their readership.
(Do they really think they have so many readers in Burkina Faso ?)
Users benefit because "that view helps us to improve the site" ?
What improvements were they thinking of ?
More articles tailored to that huge Internet readership from Burkina Faso ?
Come on !
The only "benefit" is targeted marketing -- and you know where they can stuff that.
Registration is free, so we won't counsel too strongly against doing it -- but we do strongly suggest you not provide any accurate information.
No good can ever come of that.
(Updated - 12 April):But now they've (temporarily ?) made everything accessible even to non-registrants again; see also above.
Yasmina Reza's Life x 3 (see our review) is enjoying considerable success on Broadway -- at least of the financial sort.
The star vehicle was the highest grossing play in New York last week (see this AP report by Michael Kuchwara in the 8 April Boston Globe), taking in almost $ 300,000 -- enough for the producers to extend the run by a week, until 6 July now (see this Playbillarticle).
Meanwhile, the New York critics -- almost across the board -- have been ripping the play apart (in contrast to the European critics, who were far more enthusiastic about it).
John Heilpern's review in this week's issue of The New York Observer is pretty typical (link good only until 16 April, after which it will lead to a new review); see also our review for links to other reviews.
As we mentioned yesterday, the 2003 Pulitzers were handed out (see also A look at the Pulitzer winners in today's Christian Science Monitor) and we had a couple of the arts-winners under review.
Astonishing, in part, the increased interest in our reviews -- due, apparently, solely to the prizes.
Paul Muldoon's Moy Sand and Gravel benefited most -- it was already the second most popular review at the complete review on Monday, and then number one on Tuesday -- a rare achievement for a poetry-volume.
It's especially impressive when one considers that the review wasn't among the 300 most popular for the month of March; in fact, it was accessed more often (by a ratio of more than two to one) on Tuesday than in the entire month of March.
Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex also got a nice bounce: it was only the 60th most popular review in March, but number four on Tuesday.
The most deserving of the lot, Samantha Power's "A Problem from Hell", was least affected -- 43rd most popular in March, it only just cracked the top ten on Tuesday.
(Note that our Eugenides-review is just one among many reviews of that book that any search engine query leads users to (though, of course, with it's many links it is among the most useful); our Muldoon and Power coverage is harder to miss.)
The Pulitzer Prizes were announced Monday, and we actually have a number of the arts-winners under review.
As we reported about two weeks ago, Samantha Power picked up the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for "A Problem from Hell" (see our review).
Now she's picked up the Pulitzer too, in the general non-fiction category -- for those works of non-fiction "not eligible for consideration in any other category".
It doesn't pay as much as the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize (7500 dollars for the Pulitzer v. 10,000 for the other one), but is perhaps considered more prestigious.
So maybe the book will do well in the paperback edition (which is scheduled for release at the end of the month); it is certainly deserving.
The weakest of the winners is fiction-winner, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (see our review).
Of course, that's the one arts-prize where the specifications are a bit more specific, as it's awarded: "For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life".
For what it's worth (not much, except to the Pulitzer judges) Eugenides does do that.
And it's certainly not a bad book.
You'd think Paul Muldoon was Irish, but in the bizarre world of literary honours it is often the passport that counts, and Muldoon is a naturalized American citizen, making him eligible for the Pulitzer -- which he has won this year (in the poetry category) for Moy Sand and Gravel (see also our review).
Italo Calvino's very posthumous collection, Hermit in Paris, (translated by Martin McLaughlin) is now also available in the US.
We're not sure we'll get around to reviewing this title anytime soon, so here some links and reactions:
There's also a review in the 6 April issue of The New York Times Book Review by Richard Eder (of the pieces he writes: "with two or three exceptions, they are the palest in the ever more diluted succession of Calvino's posthumously issued books").
Per Olov Enquist's The Visit of the Royal Physician (or The Royal Physician's Visit, as the American title would have it) won this year's The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize; see Boyd Tonkin's report in today's issue of The Independent.
Certainly a worthy winning title: see our review.
And perhaps the very deserving Enquist will attract a bit more notice in the English-speaking world now; there's a lot of his work that's still untranslated.
(See also our reviews of a few of his other titles that actually have been translated: Captain Nemo's Library, Downfall, and The Night of the Tribades.)
Danuta Kean offers a depressing article in yesterday's Evening Standard: Writing on the breadline.
Apparently British authors (and, presumably, their counterparts elsewhere too) earn a "pitiful return" on:
hardbacks that had been sold through burgeoning book clubs and high street outlets like The Book People, a firm that specialises in selling books in industrial quantities to people in large workplaces.
A real problem for some authors -- but then there are the confused whiners with whom it is hard to sympathize:
Those who buy a book club edition buy it because it is cheap, not because they are Bordersphobic.
"I do not see how, if someone buys a book and I only get 40p from it, I am better off than if they bought the book in a bookshop," grumbles the award-laden children's writer, Philip Pullman.
Pullman is stating the obvious: of course he's better off (getting a higher royalty-payment) if someone buys it in a bookshop.
But the operative (and ignored) word is if.
Price does make a difference, and the person buying it in a bookclub at the much-reduced price might opt not to purchase it at the higher retail bookshop price -- in which case Pullman is actually worse off if the bookclub-alternative does not exist.
It is reminiscent of (though even more ridiculous than) Tim Parks' complaint last year about library-borrowing cutting into his royalty check (see our cr Quarterly article, Borrower Economics: A Response to Tim Parks' Lender Politics).
We previously mentioned the appearance of James Wood's debut-novel, The Book Against God, (and the first review, William Skidelsky's in the New Statesman).
Another review can now be found, in yesterday's issue of The Observer: Adam Mars-Jones'.
He, too, isn't very enthusiastic -- and he does offer worrisome quotes:
Above all, it is hard to be engaged by a novelist so awkward with figurative language: 'the air slowly labelled her white cheeks with two pink dots', 'all our textures were strained through the sieve of their finances', 'the countryside was voyaging into its green abroad' -- these formulations require unpacking, but offer a poor return on effort.
The new novel by Daniel Kehlmann, Ich und Kaminski, has been out for a few weeks now, and our review is now available too.
It has gotten a lot of serious attention in the German-language press.
We're curious to see whether the first Kehlmann-translation appears in English before the young author hits 30 (that would be in 2005).
The BBC launches it's Big Read today.
Check out the programmes ("The Big Read commences on Saturday 5 April with a series of programmes designed to get the whole nation reading") !
Fill out the Nomination Form ("Choose an adjective to describe this book") !
Tonight’s extravaganza kicks off with a bunch of celebrities chatting about their favourite books for an hour and 20 minutes.
This is the Posh ‘n’ Becks approach to culture: big names and small talk.
Think how much you could read in 80 minutes.
Sadly, the Big Read is not about reading, it’s a frantic exercise in popularity television
We've previously mentioned the auction of André Breton's estate; it's going on right now -- see the official site.
We're most interested in Breton's library.
Auctioneer CalmelsCohen chose not to provide us with a catalogue (and we certainly couldn't afford one), but they actually offer an impressive online catalogue of everything that's up for sale -- see, for example, the library index.
The bound copy would be a bit easier to leaf through, but the site offers an incredible number of pictures, as well as descriptions of all the items that are for sale.
So this is how we will be spending the weekend: making our way through this catalogue.
For anyone who generously wants to get us a little Breton-memento, here are some of the items that we lust for:
- Amos Tutuola's L'ivrogne dans la brousse, in the translation (and signed) by Raymond Queneau.
Estimate: 750 € -- whereby this is the estimate for the lot, which consists of three other Queneau items, two of them signed.
(Keep three and just give us the Tutuola !)
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Antonio Vignali's 16th century text, La cazzaria: The Book of the Prick, just out in English translation (and published by Routledge).
A curiosity, if nothing else.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Julian Barnes' Something to Declare, his essays on France.
The sub-title is a bit misleading: French though the emphasis is, it's Flaubert that dominates this volume, with Barnes reviewing god know how many works by and about his favourite author.
It is a collection of book reviews and magazine-essays, making for a less-than-ideal collection -- but the man does write well (and he knows his Flaubert).
The review reactions -- especially the fairly consistent Barnes-fiction-trashing -- were also interesting.
Practically everyone acknowledges that he writes tremendously well, and yet many still fairly easily find fault.
He does write well, however, with a much finer touch than Martin Amis, for example.
Barnes, too, is sharp, but not uncomfortably prickly like Amis (and not as wild (though Amis' intemperancy is, of course, part of the fun)).
And his sense of language seems stronger than Amis' too: there are simply no missteps here, whereas Amis occasionally does fall (or jump) astray.
The book does not appear to have been widely reviewed in the US.
It's not an important one -- and sympathetic (or rather: "sympa") essays on France are probably the last thing Americans want to read right now -- , but we would have thought the Barnes-name would have sufficed to attract more review-attention.
This month's issue of the Washington Monthly offers an amusing article by Brent Kendall: Bragging Writes, on How presidential candidates try to impress reporters with their reading lists (link first seen at Arts & Letters Daily).
It may be insincere and manipulative -- but at least there's talk of reading going on !
Paul Brunton will closely examine the only existing literary manuscript of Patrick White.
Are White's corrections of his immaculate work designed to mislead critics and textual analysts ?
Are his clever jottings in the margin an elaborate final joke on aspiring intellectuals ?
Cosmopolis is not one of DeLillo's best novels, but it is one of his best intentioned and should be widely read, probably twice or more by those who enjoy contemplating life's enigmas.
(Oh, how we have to hold ourselves back from commenting on judgements like that .....)
And there's the Kakutani's (previously mentioned) review, now also available on the IHT site (i.e. not requiring user-registration to visit, as the obnoxious The New York Times site does).
(Updated - 5 April): And now Laura Miller's fun review from the 31 March issue of The New York Observer has a permanent link.
She was also a bit confused:
Is the book supposed to be serious ?
A parody of Mr. DeLillo’s own writing, with its pompous pronouncements ("Money has lost its narrative quality the way painting did .... Money is talking to itself"), the apocalyptic posturing, surreal crowd scenes and brainy, numbed-out yet studly protagonist ?
It’s distressingly hard to tell.
Nevertheless, this is a deeply silly book, and it’s hard to imagine that that could be intentional.
(Updated - 9 April): And see also Gail Caldwell's review in the Boston Globe (6 April) -- "Instead of unfolding as either dirge or lamentation, it has all the cautionary timbre of an anonymous car alarm."
We've mentioned Dannie Abse's Booker-longlisted novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Simmonds and Dr. Glas several times on these pages.
American publisher Carroll & Graf is brining it out stateside in May, and we have now had opportunity to review it.
It's a curious (and very strong) twist on Hjalmar Söderberg's Doctor Glas -- which we also have under review -- and a remarkable piece of work in its own right.
Among the points of interest about critical reactions to the Abse book: almost all the reviewers ignored the framing device (the present day discovery of the journal of Dr. Simmonds, and the attempt to get it published).
Only limited notice is also taken of the odd anachronism that Söderberg's book only appeared in English translation in 1963, while Dr.Simmonds reads it in 1950.
Abse's novel alludes to the discrepancy in dates -- and does so, we thought, in a way that suggests an entirely different reading than most reviewers allowed for: the present-day scenes and situations, we suggest, can't be as completely ignored as they are.
The book isn't entirely a success, and some of it is not very pleasant, but it still is quite remarkable.
We're curious to see what American reactions will be (if there are any).
We'll keep you posted.
Incidentally: this is the second title that cleverly uses other titles that we've come across in recent weeks: Abse's title alludes both to R.L.Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde story and the Söderberg novel; a few weeks ago we reviewed Magnus Mills' All Quiet on the Orient Express, with its suggestion of 'Murder on the Western Front'.
Judy Stoffman reports in yesterday's Toronto Star that Dwindling book reviews hurting publishers (link first seen at Arts Journal).
CamWest publications, in particular, have reduced review coverage in their pages (though others have increased their coverage -- with the Halifax Chronicle Herald tripling "its reviews from 19 to 57" over the past five years).
Not surprisingly: small presses suffered most, getting a lower percentage of the fewer reviews .....
Dan Rhodes, recently named one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists 2003, has found a creative way of separating himself from the rest of the BYBN-pack: by maintaining he's no longer a novelist.
There's his 10 January report in The Guardian, where his announcement that: "I'm planning to leave the country and learn Vietnamese after the novel is published" still sounds like something of a joke, but he's become ever more insistent that he's not really that interested in writing anything any more.
In a recent bookmunch interview he admits: "I’m really loving not writing anything at the moment."
Now there's a Telegraph-article by Lloyd Evans available online, in which he's quoted as saying:
"I'd be frightened of writing another book because it would probably mean my life was deeply unsatisfactory.
I'm content now.
And contentment isn't a good breeding ground for interesting writing."
"I wouldn't want to write anything lukewarm," he says of his refusal to clatter out another book.
"I don't want to write just because I'm defined as an author."
Fundamentally, we approve of this attitude -- there are too many people who have published books who then feel obligated to churn out more stuff just because people call them "authors".
Still, one can't help suspect that it's merely an (effective) publicity stunt -- an attitude that sells for this week or month (and gets him the media mentions, and conveniently doesn't distract from the current book with talk of any future projects) but is also one he can easily drop when the media and the public tire of it (when -- surprise -- he'll find inspiration again).
While the Granta list effectively draws attention to often worthy young authors, it still seems to us that far too much attention is put on the personalities rather than the works themselves.
But that's the way things are: people aren't that much interested in books, after all.
So while Rhodes can't make his work stand out easily, he's certainly found one of the more effective methods of standing out in that particular Granta-crowd.
Nobel laureate Günter Grass' recent novel, Im Krebsgang, is now available in English translation as Crabwalk (question: where did the titular "Im" disappear to in translation ?) and a fair number of reviews have appeared.
While we'd like to tackle Grass at some point we're not sure if/when we'll get around to it, so here some recent review-impressions and links:
The book, about the worst maritime disaster in history, the sinking of the German ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff, at the end of World War II, was much-discussed and read in Germany.
As Uwe Wittstock reported in Die Welt (15 February 2002), a quarter of a million copies were delivered to booksellers in Germany in the first two weeks after publication, and orders were coming in at the rate of 50,000 a day -- fantastic sales figures for any book.
By now a film of the book is also planned, to be directed by Agnieszka Holland (see this interview, also in Die Welt of 15 February 2002).
For German reviews of the book, see those by Roman Bucheli (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 9 February 2002), Rolf Schneider (Die Welt, 5 February 2002), and Günter Franzen (Die Zeit, (7/2002)).
Impressively, both the London Review of Books (David Blackbourn, 27 June 2002) and the Times Literary Supplement (Michael Butler, 7 June 2002) offered their readers reviews of the German-language edition last summer.
Blackbourn found it to be a "brave, absorbing and honest book", and Butler -- despite finding the novella's denouement "surprisingly melodramatic" -- is also impressed.
Now that it is available in English more reviews are out:
Andrew Gimson isn't much impressed, writing in the 29 March issue of The Spectator:
The advantage of Crabwalk is that it is only a third as long as Günter Grass’s previous novel.
In every other respect it is a disappointment.
Adam Mars-Jones writes (The Observer, 23 March) about this "rather bleak new novel", finding:
Elegance is not part of Grass's remit as a writer, as he shows clearly enough when he compares German history to a backed-up lavatory ('We flush and flush, but the shit keeps rising').
Still, he deserves a more expert translator than Krishna Winston, who comes up with any number of sentences which have left German without arriving at English.
We've been following the progress of the RSC's theatrical adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children as it's made its way from London to Michigan (see our previous mention, etc.).
Now it has reached New York.
Reviewers haven't had too many good things to say about it.
In The New York Times (25 March) Ben Brantley thought it:
feels not so much bloated as thin to the point of transparency.
Rushing through its involved narrative paces like a coked-up contestant in a Gilbert and Sullivan patter contest, the show somehow manages to seem stillborn.
At moments you have the feeling that if you looked away from the stage it might just disappear altogether.
In the New York Post (26 March), Donald Lyons wrote that it was:
a puzzling pageant of the history of the subcontinent, enlivened only by the appealing energy of the actors
And in this week's issue of New York (scroll down for review) John Simon at least finds one benefit of seeing this spectacle:
I once tried unsuccessfully to read Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children; seeing its dramatization has inspired me never to try again.
Meanwhile the students at Columbia University (which invested heavily in the show) were apparently more impressed by the events held in conjunction with the play than the play itself (the performances apparently did not sell out) -- and were particularly pleased that much took place while they were away on spring break (good scheduling !): see Jesse Scott's 31 March article in the Columbia Spectator.
See also Rachael Scarborough King's Columbia Spectatorarticle about the obligatory Rushdie-event to go with the play.
The April issue of The New Criterion is now available, with much of the poetry-heavy contents available online.
There's Roger Kimball offering Lessons from Juvenal, David Yezzi considering The place of poetry, and Eric Ormsby discussing Shadow language (including quite some discussion of Geoffrey Hill).
There are a few actual poems available too.
(Not available online: Poetry: a prognosis by Dick Davis and Winters's curse by Adam Kirsch.)
Yasmina Reza's Life x 3 (see our review) has finally made it to Broadway -- and early reactions are mixed.
Linda Winer's review in today's Newsday is fairly enthusiastic, but Ben Brantley calls it "awkward" in a decidedly less than impressed review in today's issue of The New York Times.
(Updated - 2 April): And Clive Barnes, in the 1 April New York Postthought:
her four sophisticated combatants seem more like puppets than people.
That's certainly not the fault of the splendid acting.
(Updated - 3 April): Michael Feingold, in this week's issue of The Village Voice, is similarly dismissive.