2019: Articles about books, authors and publishing

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2019: Articles about books, authors and publishing

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Jan 2, 2019, 12:17pm

Sherron forwarded me this in-depth piece on Jonathan Franzen:


Jan 2, 2019, 5:46pm

Good lord. I skimmed it because I so abhor these long uninformative pieces loosely called 'journalism' and because I so loathe that idiotic self-indulgent sort of prose but now I absolutely must take another look & try again: Early on I suspected that Franzen had given the writer the best blow job/cunnilingus (with a name like 'Taffy', who knows) in all of history but late on, about when the freely-employed exclamation points appear, I began to suspect that instead it this was a contemptuous & very amusing hatchet job.--But then again, when I saw 'Triumph of the Will' I thought it was a subversive anti-Nazi work, so I'm not the best judge of intent.

Jan 2, 2019, 6:49pm

I started skimming it and was sort of bored right away - but seems like everything I've ever read about Franzen has sounded really boring. To be honest, I've never read one of his books, but he comes across as a very rich person with a bunch of hobbies and well, that's just not interesting, at all.

Jan 2, 2019, 6:56pm

Franzen, as is apparent, can be a divisive figure.

But I've admired nearly every word he's committed to paper. His essays and novels show an enormous amount of skill, artfulness and insight into the human condition, though his personality, it seems, can be a big turn-off.

L.F. Celine wasn't a nice guy either and Philip Roth could be a bastard and Shakespeare was an anti-Semite and...

I didn't find the article a puff-piece but, again, my view of Franzen differs from yours.

Nuff said.

Jan 2, 2019, 7:03pm

>4 CliffBurns: I am reading Fussell's Class right now and boy is he - well - I guess "bitchy" is the best term for the tone. It is highly entertaining, though. I doubt he would have been very likeable if I had ever met him in person...

Jan 2, 2019, 7:12pm

I have two or three of Fussell's books: he had a first rate mind.

He appears in Ken Burns' "Second World War" docu-series, reminiscing about his experiences on the front line and at one point he breaks down--a powerful and very human moment for a notoriously tough S.O.B.

Jan 3, 2019, 4:55am

>4 CliffBurns: Just to clariify, I wasn't deprecating Franzen--it was the OTT fawning tone (& wordiness) of article that struck me and then aroused my curiosity about whether that was tongue in cheek. I wholly agree that an author's personality & life are irrelevant to quality of their writing; in fact I discovered after the fact that 2 or 3 of my books were by convicted paedophiles. Spoiler: I didn't burn the books and in fact may well read them again.

>5 anna_in_pdx: Oh! oh! oh! Read Jilly Cooper's book on class next. Wonderful companion piece doing same for UK classes, only much more amusingly. (As for his being likeable I've read a book by his son--Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder and the son certainly didn't find him so.)

Jan 3, 2019, 12:48pm

>7 bluepiano: Fussell mentions Jilly Cooper several times. Piqued my interest! I love it when my books are judgmental enough that I can vicariously be the snob I am always trying not to be.

Jan 4, 2019, 10:30pm

Jan 20, 2019, 11:07am

A question I struggle with daily--how to derive any kind of decent income from my work:


Jan 30, 2019, 9:38am

>13 CliffBurns: I was at a poetry reading recently. One reading was given by a NY poet and Plath lover who received a lock of Plath's baby hair from a researcher with access to the Plath library collection (I forget where, maybe Smith?). Apparently Sylvia's mother kept masses of her hair, which was in the collection. He in turn gave a few strands to another Plath lover. One could see this process endlessly repeating itself until all Plath lovers have at least a strand taped to the inside cover of Ariel or The Bell Jar.

Jan 30, 2019, 5:54pm

>14 justifiedsinner: Wow. That there are Sylvia Plath relics is even more fascinating than bizarre. Your post made me think of E: Reflections on the Elvis Faith, a study of a quasi-religion built on worship of another popular modern figure. Made me think of a Dr Hook song as well, but never mind that.

Jan 30, 2019, 7:03pm

Sylvia Plath fans are also more apt than most to find owning a memento mori appealing...

Feb 3, 2019, 5:30pm

The singular and astonishing Charles Portis:


(Another good one from Gord)

May 6, 2019, 5:17pm

Well, it's not an article but I think a previously unseen Shakespeare text merits a post.

Am reading book about annual awards from ICAD--Irish assocation of designers-- and came upon this quite endearing submission: https://chemistry.ie/meteor-romeo-juliet/.

May 17, 2019, 9:46pm

Eclectic, arbitrary, missing some classics, but interesting nonetheless:


Jun 8, 2019, 4:17pm

Edited: Jul 20, 2019, 12:00pm

Not an article--sorry, CliffBurns, can't remember which thread you occasionally post notices of publisher sales on--? At any rate, Manchester University Press has many books knocked down by 70% and everything on Reaktion is half price, with shipping to the US reduced by 30% for duration of sale (code: SALE19).

Jul 20, 2019, 12:08pm

I think the thread you're seeking is "How/Where do you buy books".

I believe I shall check out those sales...

Jul 20, 2019, 12:58pm

Jul 20, 2019, 12:59pm

The great Colson Whitehead has a new book out--read about it here:


Jul 21, 2019, 7:14am

>25 CliffBurns: Put in my Reaktion order yesterday & to my surprise postage to Ireland was half the usual, so perhaps rates to Canada also reduced.

Jul 23, 2019, 3:25pm

Ian Fleming in conversation with Raymond Chandler: https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/07/23/raymond-chandler-ian-fleming-bbc/. (Introduction ends just before 6:00)

The content isn't of great interest to me--I wonder has anyone ever suggested that pulp counterpart of the question, Beatles or Stones? is, Cain or Chandler?--but I certainly enjoyed listening to the presenter; that BBC/RP accent is so seldom heard these days. Hope it might be of interest to someone else, though.

Jul 25, 2019, 4:13pm

Jul 28, 2019, 5:56pm

>32 CliffBurns: Marian Keyes' remark is altogether gas--'Sez the lad who wrote a Maeve Binchy pastiche and managed to persuade people it was literary fiction'. Going by wiki outline of Brooklyn's plot, it sounds likely to be accurate as well.

(Maeve Binchy wrote relentlessly middle-brow feelgood books for people who'd moved beyond chick-lit & romance but who were nervous about trying Booker/National Book Award winners ever since they'd read one that they didn't really get. Mind you, her books were well-written & intelligent.)

Edited: Aug 5, 2019, 1:51pm

>32 CliffBurns:
When he says "I just get bored" he's merely quoting bob Dylan...

Aug 5, 2019, 1:28pm

Craig Davidson recommends 8 paranormal/dark fantasy reads of note:


Aug 6, 2019, 11:38am

Aug 6, 2019, 6:53pm

>37 CliffBurns: I've recently benefitted from a digital service called Pixsy which does the webcrawling and legal legwork for unauthorised use of pictures and photographs. On a sample of some 1000 pictures from my Flickr account, Pixsy discovered 96 unauthorised uses.

Some of these were just internal reuses within Flickr Groups. Some were authorised or approved re-uses that I knew about. Some were from a particular image that I allowed to go onto Wikipedia - before I read their t&cs, which allow commercial re-use by third parties (so I won't be making that mistake again).

Some were re-used in jurisdictions where Pixsy has no legal representation. Some were re-used by clickbait sites which are almost impossible to track back to their originators without a deeper level of forensic detective work than i can manage. Some were innocent re-uses by amateur sites which I would usually give permission for re-use in return for a credit - these got letters from me which basically said "You might have asked first - as it's you, I would allow re-use" but which got a little harsher each time I wrote; so far, I've not had to go beyond a second level of harshness which hints that I might just send the matter to my legal representatives, and you don't want that.

And I've had two images tracked back to commercial users who have paid up a total of nearly £400 for the privilege.

Something similar for text might be helpful.

Aug 7, 2019, 3:12am

Good for you for being so scrupulous about protecting your work, Robert.

We should all be so vigilant.

Aug 7, 2019, 7:43am

I took advantage of the service because Pixsy entered into an agreement with Flickr to provide basic free coverage. I have about 3000 images up on Flickr, but their agreement only covers 1000 images, so there could still be unauthorised use that I don't know about. To extend the Pixsy service to all those, I'd have to sign up to their monthly subscription service. (I am contemplating this.)

I have recommended others to take advantage of this offer, even if they've licenced their Flickr images with a Creative Commons licence, because it's interesting to see who uses your images and where. In two cases, one of my images had been reused and mis-identified; it was a landscape with a flat horizon and a lot of sky, which gave no clue that it was actually taken at the top of a hill about 350 feet above sea level. Two sites independently looked at it and ignored the captioning which gave its location, and applied it to website pages about the Fens, which are flat lands roughly at sea level.

Aug 11, 2019, 7:40am

"My Life in Books: A Meditation on the Writer’s Library"


Aug 11, 2019, 11:20am

Lovely Blaylock piece, thanks for posting it.

Aug 19, 2019, 11:00am

Aug 22, 2019, 9:48am

>43 CliffBurns:

Superman the first superhero? really? a catalyst or game-changer maybe...

What about Robin Hood, The Scarlet Pimpernell, Zorro, Mandrake the Magician, the Phantom?

Sep 11, 2019, 12:40pm

Sep 11, 2019, 4:30pm

>46 CliffBurns: God how I despise this sort of backlash. If a black person uses the word that's his--& only a black person's--privilege no matter how 'uncomfortable' it ostensibly makes white tumblrinas feel, just as a gay person may refer to 'queers' offense-free and for that matter an Irish person may call herself 'a Paddy'. What's particularly ridiculous about this example is that Mosely was simply repeating the word as used by someone else.

Unfortunately this didn't surprise me; what did was that I'd thought Mosley would already have appeared in your Obits & Memorials thread--for whatever reason, I assumed he was long dead.

Sep 12, 2019, 8:03am

>46 CliffBurns:, >48 bluepiano: Agree with bluepiano. All I'd add would be that perhaps, on reflection, Mosley might conclude that he was better off out of that sort of controlling environment.

Sep 12, 2019, 11:38am

Sep 12, 2019, 10:31pm

> 44

And I thought it was Gilgamesh...

Edited: Sep 13, 2019, 7:55am

>51 Sandydog1:, whew. I think that's what the kids call a mic drop.

Sep 14, 2019, 11:55am

Remembering John Kennedy Toole, 50 years after his tragic death:


Sep 16, 2019, 5:57pm

>51 Sandydog1:

Well, but Gilgamesh didn't have a Secret Identity or a Special Costume. He was just a demi-god, like Hercules or a culture hero like Arthur

Sep 17, 2019, 7:57pm

>48 bluepiano:

makes white tumblrinas feel,

This is not the first time you randomly express your contempt for "tumblrinas". I don't see why you're attacking a demographic (mostly teenage girls, last I looked, mostly trying to be kind in a world filled with people who a priori hate and despise them) who have nothing whatsoever to do with this incident (or the one before). It was a white man who precipitated it, citing his personal feelings of discomfort. Unreasonable or not, it's something to be debated with him.

>49 RobertDay:

The man was stupid to complain about it behind Mosley's back--assuming his discomfort was real, the only person he should have talked about it should have been Mosley. But there really was something to talk about. It's not difficult to see that various kinds of awkwardness and misunderstandings might arise in a group of people, not bosom friends or long-standing acquaintances, who have different "rights" to expression of racial slurs. There are unspoken assumptions of all sorts--but what do you do when you don't even know what half of the assumptions are? When people are older than you, younger than you, senior or junior in function? When you know them slightly or not at all? When you suspect or wonder if someone else might be chafing, perhaps even less in a position to respond than you might be? I mean, these situations can be super complicated.

The guy was stupid in how he handled his discomfort but I'm not going to blame him for feeling it in the first place. No, you don't have to be a hypersensitive sixteen year old vegan girl on Tumblr to cringe when "nigger" starts flying around.

Sep 18, 2019, 3:05pm

>59 LolaWalser:, "you don't have to be a hypersensitive sixteen year old vegan girl on Tumblr": I have to concur, as I found myself cringing just by reading Flannery O'Connor, and what I wouldn't give to be 16 again. Then I might actually know what a Tumblr is.

Edited: Sep 18, 2019, 7:27pm

>60 Cecrow:

In the parlance of a certain type of (predominantly) white dudebro, Tumblr is the hellhole where teenage girls run amok, dispensing makeup advice, hugs, trigger warnings and other "PC" atrocities. Apparently the world is being run and ruined by these contemptible underage ditzes who half the time don't even know which gender they are or sexually prefer. They ruined Star Wars, Doctor Who, the superheroes, college dating, straight man's porn (does any other even count), and leftist politics in toto.

I first visited Tumblr after oodles of posts on a Doctor Who site, similar in tenor to the ones in this group (and elsewhere where white men commiserate with each other over the horrors inflicted on them by "SJW"s), made me aware of its existence--if someone was making those dickheads mad, they were doing something right.

Tumblr turned out to be a vast universe where anyone with any interests whatsoever, from aardvark erotica to zulu furniture, could find like-minded people to follow. This creates your Tumblr feed, from which you can re-post items you like, thus creating a blog of your own. No-hands blogging as it were.

For the short time I was on Tumblr I had a wonderful network of interesting blogs, artistic to lyrical to political to charmingly personal, smart, funny, endlessly thought-provoking. It was eye-opening and heart-warming. I came away with great respect and love for these (in my selection) mostly girls and young women. They were smart, they were creative, funny, kind, compassionate and tolerant beyond belief (and my own capacity a hundred times over), they were good people. And they fought monsters. I followed girls who couldn't afford to go to school but wanted to be educated and educated each other, others with disabilities that didn't stop them caring for others even if more fortunate, some who worked multiple shitty jobs but organised benefits for disaster victims. I followed good people.

The place does skew young. I knew I wouldn't stay because the young, especially young women, need somewhere to call their own. A few years later I was glad of that especially because my niece, currently 17, joined Tumblr.

In her short life in a pigsty of a nasty little fascist country, my niece faced, beginning with first grade, ostracism that came from being the only kid in her class not to take catechism ("voluntary" in public schools, but parked invariably in the middle of the school day) and the sacrament of the first communion (in Croatia whole classes of schoolchildren are roped into this ritual together), or any of the following. She had to have physical therapy for years for a foot that was hurt during her birth, causing her a lot of sensitivity over her physical capabilities as well as pain. When she was 9, she experienced her mother, 39 at the time, battle breast cancer. My SIL survived but was, perhaps needlessly, subjected to a double mastectomy and suffers to this day from problems created by side effects of therapy.

When my niece was 13, she posted on Facebook a picture and a poem calling for tolerance toward the LGBTQ. Three shit boys from her school decided to hound her for this. They bullied her so much she had to change schools.

I don't even like to imagine what she experiences every day. Some of it I know, most of it I have no strength to acknowledge. Since then she has become only more active politically. She organised the synchronised climate change protests in her school. She writes a newsletter for young progressives. She joins her maternal grandmother, a lifelong Communist and activist who survived two assassination attempts (including one by bomb that could have taken an entire street with her) and half a dozen beatings, some by police, in helping refugees at the border of Bosnia and Croatia--a place where wolves should avoid to tread, let alone teenage girls with a slight limp (when tired).

So that girl's on Tumblr, trading memes and tips on inclusive language and calls for action on climate.

What does all that amount to, when she's not a swaggering white dick asshole, nor catering to them.

Sep 18, 2019, 8:02pm

More power to her...

Sep 19, 2019, 10:46am

>61 LolaWalser:, that does not sound at all like the sheltered, white-male-privileged teenage years I was wistfully recalling. Something much nobler. As Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki has said about Ms. Thunberg, there are many young folks to admire for what they are doing. The tragedy is that in many cases they practically have to.

Sep 19, 2019, 1:31pm

>62 Crypto-Willobie:

Thanks, I can only hope...

>63 Cecrow:

The tragedy is only just unfolding. We'll be checking out while the young ones and their progeny will be dealing with problems we can barely imagine.

I should emphasise that I wrote about my niece not because I think she's exceptional (although of course she is that to her biased aunt), but because she isn't. Not on Tumblr, and not even, as miraculous as it seems to me after my experiences, in her cohort back home. So when people slam those kids I feel not just personally aggrieved for her sake but by the sheer injustice and the lie of it.

Sep 20, 2019, 12:11pm

Sep 20, 2019, 6:27pm

>63 Cecrow:

Sorry to go on but I forgot that I meant to address also your mention of privilege. No doubt many of those people lack privilege in some way, but may also have it in other. (Certainly my niece, at least, is very privileged in many aspects.) In any case, I didn't mean to appeal for pity on anyone's behalf, but only to remind us that being young doesn't mean one can't be acquainted with trauma, or have reasons and the will for political action. Anyone who remembers teenage years as a time of unmitigated frivolity and immaturity reveals more about their own limits than today's kids.

Today of all days it should be crystal clear that the youth are fighting for the best reasons possible. Whether they also love rainbow ponies and communicate in Spongebob Squarepants shorthand or whatnot is utterly unimportant. Only those of us who refuse to join them are ridiculous losers. And worse...

Sep 20, 2019, 6:44pm

>63 Cecrow:

And to that, there is but one reply, as Scarlett O'Hara famously put it, "Well, fiddle dee-dee!"

Sep 23, 2019, 11:56am

Sep 24, 2019, 8:34pm

>68 CliffBurns:
Interesting list. I've only read 15 of the books (I abandonded White Teeth halfway through, so 15.5). I disagree with many of the rankings but absolutely agree with Second-hand Time being up there among the very best. What a book.

Edited: Sep 25, 2019, 2:57am

>68 CliffBurns: >69 mejix: I've read 19 of them, and I have a couple on the TBR (including Second-hand Time, although it's now in storage, of course).

Sep 25, 2019, 10:20am

>68 CliffBurns: et al. I've read 25 with 12 on my TBR, possibly more but I can't always tell with authors I haven't read. A pretty mixed bag. For anyone who hasn't read it Crace's Harvest is both unique and wonderful.

Oct 4, 2019, 12:02pm

Oct 5, 2019, 11:27am

Oct 5, 2019, 12:32pm

Great timing!

Oct 6, 2019, 11:27am

>75 CliffBurns: Finished. Not as creepy as We Have Always Lived in the Castle but pretty creepy all the same.

Edited: Oct 6, 2019, 2:36pm

>68 CliffBurns:
I think I need to step up my game. I’ve only read 7 with 3 on the TBR.

Oct 12, 2019, 12:25pm

Oct 14, 2019, 12:55pm

John Le Carre has a new book out--showing us younger pups how to stay fiery and creative into old age:


Oct 16, 2019, 11:50am

Better late than never--Joyce's remains to be repatriated:


Oct 17, 2019, 10:23am

>81 CliffBurns: Will it be subjected to WTO tariffs?

Oct 20, 2019, 12:48pm

Oct 21, 2019, 6:04pm

Ginsberg, reflecting on the death of his friend, Jack Kerouac:


Those killer last lines:

"Well, while I’m here I’ll
do the work—
and what’s the work?
To ease the pain of living.
Everything else, drunken

Oct 26, 2019, 2:44pm

Oct 29, 2019, 2:10pm

Great stuff available on the London Review of Books YouTube page:


Oct 30, 2019, 8:20pm

Good exhibition--and book--for die hard Moonies, like yours truly:


Nov 2, 2019, 3:53pm

Late to the Guardian list. I’ve only read 13 of those. I need to read more modern books. Actually to be honest, I’ve only read 12 1/2 because I have not finished Surveillance Capitalism. There it sits on my table, a daily reminder that the corporate world tracks our every move, but it’s very long and my energy level has decreased for those kinds of tomes. (Why wasn’t Graeber’s Debt on the list? I finished that!)

Nov 7, 2019, 5:16pm

An article about an early specialist collector:


Nov 17, 2019, 11:50am

Michael Chabon reflects on Spock, the original "Star Trek" series and the death of his father:


Nov 23, 2019, 12:09pm

Everything you wanted to know about Louis L'Amour:


Nov 23, 2019, 2:02pm

>98 CliffBurns: I read about a dozen Louis books in 1976. They weren't half bad...

Nov 25, 2019, 9:12am

>96 CliffBurns:, doesn't look like that article mentioned it, but Chabon is showrunner for the new CBS series "Picard": https://www.tor.com/2019/06/27/michael-chabon-will-be-the-showrunner-of-star-tre...

Nov 25, 2019, 10:42am

Chabon is an old Trekkie--but he was always more interested in the original series than any of the followups.

I have little interest in "Picard" or any of Abrams' "Trek" stuff.

I'll stick with the first 79 episodes and two of the six films with Shatner et al.

Nov 26, 2019, 11:01am

Dec 13, 2019, 5:18pm

Will Self on the U.K. election:


Dec 19, 2019, 1:22pm

>107 CliffBurns:, I can't read the article; was it politically motivated or a longer-term desire?

Dec 19, 2019, 1:24pm

Irving has a Canadian wife and a long history with our country.

He's keeping his U.S. citizenship as well so his decision can't be TOO political...