Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, a memoir of his earlier life in Paris, was actually pieced together after his suicide by his then-wife Mary, and as Christopher Hitchens points out in a review of the newly published “restored” version, what was eventually redacted or included presumably had a lot to do with what his final wife thought about what he had written about his earlier spouses (which was quite a lot). So there’s something attractive in the prospect of a new version with all the stuff that was cut out put back in, even if it isn’t clear how different the book is; Hitchens seems to imply that it’s basically the same book, except perhaps even more so.Despite all the ironies [...]
In the Guardian, Martin Amis remembers J.G. Ballard, musing on how so orderly a life could produce work so unpredictable, savage, and sinister. In the New Statesman, John Gray writes that these two sides of the author were not unrelated, that “after experiencing the sudden disappearance of conventional existence he was never able to take the pretensions of civilised humanity terribly seriously,” but that his work’s exultant lyricism and macabre comedy represented “the transmutation of senseless dross into visions of beauty.” Ballard passed away April 19th, best known for his fictional autobiographies, Empire of the Sun and The Kindness of Women.A new anthology of Graham Greene’s letters has been published, including a trove of family correspondance that had hitherto not [...]
John Pipkin’s first novel Woodsburner brings to life an incident that Henry David Thoreau, America’s greatest transcendentalist philospher/arsonist, left out of Walden, the time he accidentally burned down 300 acres of Maine birch and pine forest and earned the enmity of the locals. As Ron Charles writes in his review: “Over the course of this momentous day, Pipkin moves back in time and across the Atlantic, describing several other characters whose lives are lit by their own fires and altered by Thoreau’s conflagration.”
Thatcher’s Britain through the eyes of the generation of 1979; Philip Hensher for The Guardian reads Durrell, Golding, Lessing, Greene, Pym, and Ballard.
Two hundred years after the birth of Edgar Allen Poe, Jill Lepore reflects on the economy [...]
I had forgotten that The Atlantic had been around long enough to have reviewed books like Great Expectations, Adam Bede, and Vanity Fair when they were freshly published but they have. A selection of “classic” book reviews are re-printed here, and they’re worth flipping through. My favorite was the blistering review of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which hopefully predicted that the book would sell badly, such that “the chief damage done will be to the author himself, who thus dishonors his own physical nature; for imperfect though the race is, it still remains so much purer than the stained and distorted reflection of its animalism in Leaves of Grass.“
As of April 16th, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style [...]
Relations between Russia and Ukraine have deteriorated in recent years, but now we know the real root cause: on the 200th anniversary of literary giant Nikolai Gogol’s birth, both countries are attempting to claim him. As Tom Parfitt reports in the London Guardian, “While the two countries sprang from a common east Slavic civilisation centred around the proto-state of Kievan Rus, Gogol’s identity is contentious because he lived in a period when Ukrainian national consciousness was awakening. Vladimir Yavorivsky, a Ukrainian novelist and MP, said that if Gogol was a tree, “the crown was in Russia but the roots were in Ukraine”.
From the London Times, the story of TS Eliot’s “snort” of rejection for George Orwell’s Animal Farm,which he turned [...]
The first volume of The Letters of Samuel Beckett has been published, and it was no small accomplishment. As Nicholas Lezard at the Guardian notes, “the breadth of allusion, and the allusive and elusive wordplay you might have expected between intimate and highly educated correspondents (“‘nastorquemada nyles’ has not been identified with certainty,” say the editors, and I can’t say I blame them)” made transforming the corpus of correspondence into something readable a daunting task. Apparently he even had terrible handwriting, which he called his “foul fist.” But since the writer’s famous privacy didn’t stop him from writing a staggering number of letters, the idea of “the authentic early Beckettian tang, straight from the source, unmediated by artifice,” is a [...]
Everyone is excited that we have a new picture of the Bard. And isn’t he a looker! As reported in the NYT:
“His face is open and alive, with a rosy, rather sweet expression, perhaps suggestive of modesty…There is nothing superior or haughty in the subject, which one might well expect to find in a face set off by such rich clothing. It is the face of a good listener, as well as of someone who exercised a natural restraint.”
While the LA Times cheered that we are now blessed with a “hot young Shakespeare,” the Irish Times and Irish independent are quick to point out that the portrait hung for years winking at an Irish house in an Irish family.
Verlyn Klinkenborg [...]
In a TLS review, Jonathan Bate suggests that Milton has been a mirror which each era’s biographers have used to reflect their professional self-image. “For Masson,” he writes “it was sufficient to be clubbable around the Athenaeum. For William Empson in the following century, the professor of literature could be the naughty schoolboy throwing paper darts from the back row of the classroom (the Christian-baiting of Milton’s God).” In reviewing Gordon Campbell and Thomas N. Corns’ new biography, then, Bate notes that we see, in turn, “a Milton who would have been at home in the corridors of New Labour power or in the managerialized modern university. He is a nimble committee man, like some wily pro-vice-chancellor who proudly wears [...]
Every Wednesday, we’ll post a round-up of links which may be of interest to the larger Berkeley English community. Let us know if you see anything you think we should pass along!
The great Sudanese writer, Tayeb Salih, passed away late last Tuesday. He’s best known for his 1966 novel Season of Migration to the North, which Edward Said called “among the six finest novels to be written in modern Arabic literature.” I want to know what the other five on that list were; it’s a remarkable novel, and one that only gets better and more interesting with re-readings. Obituaries in the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Sudan Tribune. And Mustapha Marrouchi writes a more personal remembrance in [...]