:: Buzzwords Archive: April 2010. Click here for the latest posts.

fragmenta: litterary [sic] feuds (published 26/04/2010)


Have you been following the Orlando Figes affair? The Guardian offer a digest of the saga:

The story began when historians began to notice a series of reviews on [Amazon] which praised Figes’s own books and attacked those of his colleagues. Comments posted under the alias “orlando-birkbeck” and “Historian” called Rachel Polonsky’s book Molotov’s Magic Lantern “hard to follow” and Robert Service’s history of communism, Comrades, “awful”, while praising Figes’s study of Soviet family life, The Whisperers as “a fascinating book … [that] leaves the reader awed, humbled, yet uplifted”.

Writers trash-talking fellow writers is nothing new: Wyndham Lewis, the “scourge of mediocrity”, took a pop at Ernest Hemingway in an essay ‘The Dumb Ox’, attacking his imitation of the “Gertrude Stein stutter” and his anti-intellectual cult of action in which characters are without will and intelligence. Retaliating 30 years later (!), Hemingway writes in A Moveable Feast that Lewis was a nasty-looking man with the face of a frog and the eyes of an “unsuccessful rapist”.

Reading the 50 best author put-downs of all-time, and recalling Alain de Botton‘s flame-war with a critic last year, fights between critics, by comparison, seem so tame:

Macaulay and Isherwood ended their dispute in the way such disputes always seem to end: by convivially inviting each other out for drinks in a show of collegiality that seemed, frankly, a bit forced—a Broadway beer summit. Granted, the stakes weren’t that high: they disagreed over a show that combined the rumba with “My Way.” But a taste judgment, after all, is a kind of value judgment, even if we can’t always articulate those values exactly. What we like reveals something about the sort of person we are. And a serious critic takes his judgments seriously, as Macaulay’s side of the discussion demonstrates particularly well. Different works require different kinds of judgments, he allows, but “there are larger criteria—truth, beauty, humanity—that we do apply all the time, even though … we may use them or recognize them differently.” A critic whom I know and respect, avowing his admiration for a particular author, once told me that a person who couldn’t appreciate this man’s work was a person he wouldn’t want to have as his friend. Just to be on the safe side – I admire this man, but our opinions of books rarely match – I never read the book he was so passionately recommending.


Why translators deserve credit (via @seanjcostello) / Tom Wolfe on the Great American Novel & the Wily Ol’ Roughneck Philosopher of the Wild West (via @GrantaMag) / The Samuel Beckett Seminar Series / A video interview with Joe Meno / The late Peter Porter on the poetry & music of Lawrence Durrell‘s Alexandria Quartet (via @seventydys)

ampere’s and (published )


This week’s visuals:

The outsider art of bad sci-fi covers [via]

& Book cover designs for The Wizard of Oz [via]

& The allure of pop-up books [via]

& The development of the title page [via]

& Jonathan Jones on the BL’s Magnificent Maps

& One of William Blake‘s notebooks [via]

& The Random House logo & Voltaire [via]

& Archigram Archival Project [via]

& Uber-Deco covers by Frank McIntosh for Asia magazine [via]

& P.J. Harvey is designing an upcoming issue of Zoetrope: All Story [via]

[Image: The Uselessness of Everything “by” Tove Jansson / via @roundmyskull]

The Missing Links (published 25/04/2010)


An interview with William T. Vollmann. * Is Martin Amis the saviour of modern literature? * Yoko Ono collects rare books. * Trick with a Knife on Darran Anderson‘s Tesla’s Ghost. * Cormac McCarthy doesn’t know the American South. * “Imaginary Cormac” * John Kennedy O’Toole & Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, the the unknown unknowns. * The Memorious blog. * The best author vs. author put-downs of all time. * Ether Mobile Books. * Paxman Stuckism video Youtube “arts gem”. * Masturbation: literature’s last taboo. * What William S. Burroughs has in common with Mad Men‘s Don Draper (via) * William Burroughs & firends smoke weed * Ben Myers pays tribute to Carol Clark. * Jonathan Lethem hired as Pomona writing professor, a position unfilled since David Foster Wallace‘s death (via) * Scarlett Thomas has a new website (look out for a review of Our Tragic Universe on 3:AM soon, meantime read our 2005 & 2007 interviews with Scarlett) * W.G. Sebald, Alain de Botton & Harold Pinter all feature in Craig Brown’s 15 minute literary festival. * Prefaces to Shakespeare (via) * 135 phrases coined by Shakespeare (via) * Twitter, a book addict’s paradise (via) * Albert Mobilio on François-Marie Banier’s Beckett [registration / free] * F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, the musical. * The Cult interview Chris Cleave. * George Saunders recommends Chekov for kids (via) * “Being in other peoples’ bathrooms is like being in a novel,” an interview with Jean-Philippe Toussaint (via) * Abandoned books & marginalia. * Wilde‘s novel mirrors the times we live in,” Joseph O’Connor on Dorian Gray. * Richard Nash on publishing past, present & future. * Idler 43: Back to the Land. * The School of Life’s secular Sunday sermons. * José Saramago‘s sudden clarity. * Terry Gilliam to direct Faust opera. * Poem, ‘Untitled (impressions from set)’, by Rutger Hauer. * Jewcy interview Michael Muhammad Knight. * Guernica interview David Byrne. * Walter Benjamin in Extremis at n+1.

3:AM Reloaded (published )


What you (may have) missed on 3:AM recently:

Poetry: Poetry: In the tenth of his Maintenant series, SJ Fowler interviews the Lithuanian poet Donatas Petrošius; ‘Three Poems’ by Donatas Petrošius

Fiction: ‘Enlightenment’ by Alan McCormick & Jonny Voss

Non-fiction: In his Japananerica column for 3:AM Asia, Roland Kelts looks at manga on the iPad; Julian Maclaren-Ross is 3:AM‘s Cult Hero

Interviewed: Ben Pleasants presents the John Fante Tapes, part three; Gregory Fry talks to graphic novelist Mike Carey

Reviewed: Karl Whitney on Peter Richardson’s A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America:

Gonzo and spendthrift it may have been, but Ramparts also found a mass audience. By March 1967, circulation stood at 229,000, and it eventually reached around 300,000. The countercultural magazine was now encroaching on the mainstream, and at least one bastion of American journalism was displeased. An amusing thread in Richardson’s book is his tracing of Time magazine’s strange obsession with its radical counterpart: to a Time journalist writing shortly after Ramparts’ exposé of the National Student Association’s connections with the CIA, the magazine was ‘the sensation-seeking New Left-leaning monthly’ that hyped up the story.

After Ramparts ran a photo-essay in January 1967 about the effects of the Vietnam War on the civilian population of the country, Time alleged that the magazine had attempted to portray ‘flimflam as fact’, and that the story was ‘a mere juggling of highly dubious statistics and a collection of very touching pictures, some of which could have been taken in any distressed country.’ The Ramparts story directly influenced Dr Martin Luther King to come out forcefully against the war, which underlines the magazine’s importance at the time.

The Funnies (published 23/04/2010)


The unfinished & unpublished Alan Moore + Coming soon, Alan Moore‘s Dodgem Logic 3 [via] + Tom Gauld at the Stockholm Central Library + Chris Ware‘s rejected Fortune 500 cover [via] + On Luc Besson‘s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, based on Jacques Tardi‘s graphic novel series + Rhys Tranter‘s Coffee Breakdown + Forbidden Planet on Chris Browning‘s The Common Swings + Tom Spurgeon on Sam Hiti‘s “stand-alone riffs on everything from Charles Addams to Frida Kahlo to Toshio Mifune” + Dirk Deppey posts from Garo + Jaime Hernandez‘s cover for Village Voice [via] + Drawn! on Daniel ClowesWilson + Comic Book Cartography [pictured / via]

(A) Morally bankrupt evening (published )


Pulp Press announce their annual charity book launch and burlesque show on April 24th (tomorrow), at the Horse Hospital:

Independent publishers Pulp Press celebrate the launch of four new modern pulp fiction novellas; Charlie McQuaker’s Die Hard Mod, 3:AM‘s Alan Kelly‘s Let Me Die a Woman, Dominic Milne’s My Bloody Alibi, and the eagerly awaited The Windowlicker Maker by Danny Hogan. So turn off your TV and discover fiction like it used to be as we provide no-holds-barred tales of debauchery , horror and revenge with a group of hard-as-nails ladies and deeply troubled geezers. We guarantee justice for our heroes and an almighty comeuppance for the bad guys.

Pulp Press @ the Horse Hospital,
w/ burlesque & music,
24 April 2010, 6.30pm – 11.00pm, £8 (proceeds to Combat Stress)