Agreeable eye.

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Archive for 2013

A view (35)

Frostbound at home.

a definite achievement

Wittgenstein on organizing one’s library

hours of indolence

…and of course one begins the year with the best of intentions, sweeping through books at a gallant pace, which one’s attempts at scribbling cannot match.

on biography (3)

Karl Popper & Michel Foucault looking suitably philosophical. After reading Didier Eribon’s biography of Foucault, I turned with some relief to Karl Popper’s memoir Unended Quest. The biography of Foucault was maddening because it did what good biographies should do, and didn’t speculate, especially where speculation was warranted. Popper, meanwhile, positively disinvites speculation. There’s nothing […]

terra incognita

Charles Reade, under the banner of imagination, departs from everyday life to parts unknown. Charles Reade shows up in Jean Strouse’s biography of Alice James: Her improving health allowed Alice to enjoy a greater range of intellectual life than before. She went to the theater […] and she was reading a great deal, particularly the […]

Crambe repetita (27)

Olivia Manning, The Balkan Trilogy

pseudaphoristica (17)

shapeliness.

The Balkan Trilogy

From a series of postcards of Bucharest in the 1940s. Olivia Manning. Fortunes of War: The Balkan Trilogy. New York: NYRB Classics, 2010 (1960 – 1965). This is an odd way to start a consideration of Olivia Manning’s Balkan Trilogy, but I want to take a moment to think about Graham Greene. His novels inhabit […]

Citation (49)

melodramatic laocoon attitudes…

remarks on teaching

Students in the English club. After five years of teaching and team-teaching and teacher-training and observing lessons, I look at this picture and still cringe that one of the students is texting. It’s a club, sure, but do me the favor of paying attention. Students paying attention isn’t the point of English classes or clubs, […]

A view (36)

out and about

2666

‘Ejemplar Acontecimiento! Un Espiritu maligno en figura de mujer bonita’ (cf.) The style was strange. The writing was clear and sometimes even transparent, but the way the stories followed on after another didn’t lead anywhere: all that was left were the children, their parents, the animals, some neighbors, and in the end, all that was […]

Crambe repetita (28)

Fanny Burney, Journals and Letters.

the dim view

By sacrificing thought, which in its reified form as mathematics, machinery, organization, avenges itself on a humanity forgetful of it, enlightenment forfeited its own realization. By subjecting everything particular to its discipline, it left the uncomprehended whole free to rebound as mastery over things against the life and consciousness of human beings. But a true […]

Old Books and New Histories

Leslie Howsam. Old Books and New Histories. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006. This is an introductory ‘state of the discipline’ textbook suitable for undergraduates or first-year graduate students. It gives a brief overview of what is involved in studying ‘book history’, as well as current theories and controversies. From the preface: These approaches are […]

the arrow of time

An enlightened voyage: ‘The Vessel of the Constitution steered clear of the Rock of Democracy, and the Whirlpool of Arbitrary Power’ From antiquity to fascism, Homer has been criticised for garrulousness – both in the hero and in the narrator. – Theodor Adorno (Dialectic of Englightenment: ‘Excursus 1: Odysseus or Myth and Enlightenment’, p. 53) […]

An Undisciplined Discipline?

Cyndia Clegg, Renaissance Quarterly (2001): A dispassionate, professional review article on a selection of books relating to books, literacy, and print culture in the Renaissance…

repetitio principii

…life’s earnestness is in no way to sit on the sofa and pick one’s teeth… – Søren Kierkegaard (Repetition, p.4) In Repetition Kierkegaard tells the story of two trips to Berlin – one of his attempts to prove the theory of repetition. On the first trip he had a grand time, stayed in a fine […]

Crambe repetita (29)

Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary.

The Gutenberg Elegies

Sven Birkerts. The Gutenberg Elegies. New York: faber & faber, 2006 (1994). Dean Blobaum’s review cogently summarizes many of the problems with Birkerts’ book, most notably: Birkerts’s musings on reading were quite different; they were apparently the product of intense introspection, vibrant with experience and reflection. He got at what he wanted to get at […]

Curio (4)

‘Plate 28: two figures, one composed with a bell the other with a knife-grinder’ by Giovanni Battista Bracelli, in Bizzarie di varie figure … 1624

adventures and misadventures

Like everything that had to do with him, the narration of his past depended on a complex alchemy of humors, climates, and correspondences, and only when it had been fully achieved would the floodgates of his memory open, launching him into long recollections that did not take into account either time or the disposition of […]

The Printing Revolution

Elizabeth L. Eisenstein. The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: CUP, 1983. This is an abridgment – intended for the general reader – of Eisenstein’s longer monograph The Printing Press as an Agent of Change; it suffers from some of the faults of ‘popular’ history: no footnotes, inadequate references, and a certain condescension on […]

A view (37)

the open road

Crambe repetita (30)

Roberto Bolaño, 2666.

on cleverness

William Hazlitt on cleverness.

The Business of Books

André Schiffrin. The Business of Books. London: Verso, 2000. Schiffrin’s book is both memoir and anecdotal criticism of the publishing industry. Starting at the New American Library of World Literature (a Penguin clone) in the 1950s, he moved on to Pantheon which was then acquired by Random House, then S.I. Newhouse, and finally Bertelsmann. He […]

it would do beautifully

The inconstant reader. … I reminded him how often we had talked about my travels on the five continents and sixteen seas, and my inability to stay very long in one place. Although I was living peacefully in Pollensa, there was not guarantee it would be permanent. – Álvaro Mutis (Triptych on Sea and Land, […]

disorientation

An excursion.

A view (38)

sunset, Portland.

Crambe repetita (31)

Gyula Krúdy, The Adventures of Sindbad.

open rejection

Your novel has been read by several of us, and we are very sorry that we have had to conclude that we cannot make an offer of publication. It is quite readable and has vitality, but, in general, it is our impression that you have not yet sufficiently mastered the technique which is necessary to […]

machinations

From Darley’s Bookbinding Then and Now (1959; printed opposite p. 85).

portrait of a bookbinder

Roger Payne, 1739–1797

by heart

Having got to know Liska the way a man gets to know a woman only if he lives with her for years, sleeping with her all that time – well, he’s got not to know her again. It’s like reading a wonderful poem, and learning it off by heart because you like it so much […]

mulch

No snow, sadly. And of course expected – hoped for – snow at the mountain for Christmas; I’m sure there is, too, another few hundred feet further up. The only thing for it is to skate Skarphedin-like across the hardwood floors in stocking’d feet for another cup of tea.

The Book: The Life Story of a Technology

Nicole Howard. The Book: The Life Story of a Technology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2009 (2005). This is a solid introductory text about book history, primarily from a technological standpoint, including some information on supporting technologies such as paper. It divides book history into six periods, centering on the development of print. The chapters are […]

sketchy

Richard Kennedy’s sketch of the Hogarth Press; there is also a larger version

of use

The typewriter has found a new home. Well, I found a new home for it some months ago – hopefully with someone who will it give it some use. I don’t hold out much hope for it, though. One acquires things like this, of dubious beauty and doubtful utility, either as a pose or because […]

fructification

The reproductive instinct urges the poet to scatter his seeds beyond his boundaries. I repeat it: poorly transmitted, they fructify. Certain species (Pushkin) refuse transmission. But this does not prevent them from scattering at large and even when reduced to insignificance, from fructifying. Shakespeare remains the model of the explosive plant. His seeds have taken […]

stagnation

The path thither. There has been a stagnant air warning for the area during the past couple of days – extending through the middle of the next week (and into the new year, I suppose). Smoke from the local stoves collects in any open space, and probably mingles with the exhaust from day-trippers going up […]

A view (39)

sunrise, Portland

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