Saturday, September 01, 2007

Catch up

Only 48 hours without an internet connection and it's like I've been lost up the Orinoco (or the Ouse in my case). So here's a catch up:

Claire Messud makes a surprise recommendation of The Loser by the "crabby, darkly witty, furiously bleak and utterly uncompromising Thomas Bernhard". (Dispatches from Zembla also picked up on this and links to my scan of Mr Claire Messud's review from 1992). The novel, she writes:
puts us inside the head of a coldly embittered man, who aspired to be a great pianist — until he heard Glenn Gould play, and realized he could never be as good. It is, you see, about being talented, and still being a loser.
Well, if I were being picky, I'd want to emphasise that the narrator's failure is apparent only in his success as the narrator, which gives hope to all us other losers. It's the way to go. (Link via the Bernhard site, which also offers a recent review of the novel by Gould expert Kevin Bazzana).

By the way, I say it's a surprise recommendation because, from reading about Messud's novels, I wouldn't imagine them influenced in any way by Bernhard. I had hoped if more English-speaking novelists "got" his work, they would never write such novels again. Hope?, Bernhard?!

Elsewhere, Charlotte Stretch reviews Benoît Duteurtre's The Little Girl and the Cigarette, which I know nothing more about except that he comes recommended by Milan Kundera and that the novel is translated by Charlotte Mandell, a recommendation in itself. The novel is published over here by Telegram Books "bringing new writing from around the world" and by Melville House in the US.

An apparently much smaller outfit, Inkermen Press, has recently published Daniel Watt's intriguing Fragmentary Futures: Blanchot, Beckett, Coetzee. I appreciate the way this book draws in a living writer to argue "the legacy of the fragment remains as much a responsibility for modern literature as for the event of the German Romantic fragment":
The work of Coetzee demonstrates the fragment's relation to Levinasian ethics, inviting a responsiveness to the 'other': a situation that maintains the singularity of the work without reducing it to particular critical positions.


  1. thanks for linking to the blog! Would you by any chance have the complete James Wood review? No need to trouble yourself if you don't have it. I was only curious.

    btw, you might have seen it already.

    The British do some things supremely well. Novels – the writing and making of them – is one such thing. If we did cars as well, we'd be Japan. If we did sport as well, we'd be the old communist German Democratic Republic with its drugs and all. If we did three-course meals as well, we'd be France.

    The long and short of it is, we're world-beaters when it comes to fiction. And McEwan is the best novelist we've got. Or have had for decades.


  2. Anonymous10:38 am

    Steve -- for your edification, I interviewed Dan from InkerMen Press over on The Book Depository a wee while ago (as "Publisher of the Week"):

  3. Here's that URL again:

    Dan Watt interview.

    And Alok: yes, I do have the full review. It's on a very awkwardly-shaped cut out from the old style broadsheet Guardian. Difficult to scan in full, hence the truncated version on the site.

  4. The world has surely been beaten if McEwan is by inference the best fiction writer for decades.



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