Thursday, June 11, 2015

What I’m reading #127

Australian novelist Gerald Murnane is interviewed (written questions, typewritten answers) by Tristan Foster for 3:AM Magazine. Quote unquote:
You mention the craftsmanship of my writing. I wouldn’t dare give myself a ranking among my contemporaries in any field other than craftsmanship. And in that field I’d rank myself first. My sentences are the best-shaped of any sentences written by any writer of fiction in the English language during my lifetime. The previous sentence is a fair average sample of my prose.

Alex Tabarrok, an economist,. takes apart Ursula K Le Guin’s recent tirade against Amazon (“Every book purchase made from Amazon is a vote for a culture without content and without contentment”) and suggests that it is “more about her hatred of capitalism than about Amazon’s actual effect on the market for books”. Quote unquote:
Today, Amazon sells more Le Guin books than any independent ever did. But Bezos doesn’t revere Le Guin, he treats her books as a commodity. That may distress Le Guin but for readers, book capitalism is a wonder, books and books and books available on our devices within seconds, more books than we could ever read; a veritable fountain, no a firehose, no an Amazon of books.

Rachel Laudan writes “A Plea for Culinary Modernism” in praise of processed food and dispraise of “the tyranny of the local” (monitor: Lauraine Jacobs). Quote unquote:
Eating fresh, natural food was regarded with suspicion verging on horror, something to which only the uncivilized, the poor, and the starving resorted. When the compiler of the Confucian classic, the Book of Rites (ca. 2oo BC), distinguished the first humans — people who had no alternative to wild, uncooked foods – from civilized peoples who took “advantage of the benefits of fire . . . [who] toasted, grilled, boiled, and roasted,” he was only repeating a commonplace.
When the ancient Greeks took it as a sign of bad times if people were driven to eat greens and root vegetables, they too were rehearsing common wisdom. Happiness was not a verdant Garden of Eden abounding in fresh fruits, but a securely locked storehouse jammed with preserved, processed foods.

Bianca Zander gets naked for the launch of her terrific second novel, The Predictions. I had two books published last year and kept my clothes on throughout. Call me old-fashioned.

A terrific piece by Robbie Burton of publishers Potton & Burton in defence of self-publishing. Quote unquote:
Its dodgy reputation is often deserved however, and booksellers especially, dread the approach from an author peddling a badly written and produced book who also has completely unrealistic sales expectations.
It’s not accurate however, to tar all self-publishing with this brush, as many fine books get published by their authors, and clearly it is becoming a far more significant part of New Zealand publishing, as the traditional options for getting books into the hands of readers continues to shrink. […]
There has never been a correlation between high book sales and quality. Self-publishing, if done properly, offers a legitimate and important way of getting books published, books that contribute enormously to the diversity of publishing in New Zealand.

Playwright Arthur Meek in the comments on Rosabel Tan’s essay “The Critic in New Zealand”:
Whether reviews of my work are good or bad, I often feel that they’re written with as much distance between me and the critic as if I were from a foreign country or dead. At its best, I’m attributed with succeeding in something I didn’t realise I’d attempted, and at worst I read that I “seem to be trying to…” and have fallen short. I’m always astonished by these suppositions, because I’m only ever a phone call or an email away. In fact, given the size of our community I’m often in the same room. Why don’t practitioners and critics hang out and talk more about what we’re trying to do and how it’s coming across, so we can both gain a better perspective as to whether it’s translating into performance?

Vincent O’Sullivan has ended his term as Poet Laureate. I haven’t linked to his laureate blog as often as I should have but here it is so you can read all the entries. Generous as ever, he devoted his monthly posts to other poets, introducing them and quoting substantial chunks of their work, some of it unpublished elsewhere: for example, John Dennison in February and Emma Neale last December. His final blogpost is about Iain Lonie, whose collected poems, A Place To Go On From, were recently published by Otago University Press, thanks to David Howard’s long and patient work. I was a big fan of Lonie’s and never understood why he wasn’t famous. Quote unquote from Vincent’s note in the book:
He brought to his poetry the precision and clarity and intellectual force of a gifted classical scholar. He was patiently indifferent to passing fashions, with his own more enduring touchstones. And in a remarkable fidelity to the tides of his productive but troubled life, he wrote a body of poems on love and grief and the searing currents of remembrance that, in New Zealand writing, stands alone.

Nominations for Vincent’s successor as Poet Laureate are open now and close on 6 July: details here


Michelle said...

Not sure I agree with Mr Meek. Ain't it the author's job to steer/manipulate the receiver's impressions down the right road? If a work is seen, falsely, to be "succeeding in something" or to “seem to be trying to…” then perhaps the author fucked up. Didn't see the ambiguity. Or perhaps that's just the chancey essence of art - the receiver adds themselves to it, like it or not.

Stephen Stratford said...

Indeed - but isn't it good to see a serious art person engage in debate with a critic this way? It's a shame no other writer/musician/whatever weighed in.