Monday, August 15, 2016

What I’m reading #136

Danyl McLauchlan reports for the Listener on New Zealand’s literary magazines, having read all the current issues. He finds:
The poets seem especially promiscuous.
No surprises there.

Jason Guriel complains about excessive personal content in literary and other reviews/essays. Quote unquote:
There were always alternatives, of course, running parallel to the more imperious critics. Dorothy Parker deployed a chatty, engaging avatar in her book and theatre pieces. Randall Jarrell’s poetry criticism, Pauline Kael’s film reviews, and Lester Bangs’s music writing all seemed fired by irrefutable furnaces: living, breathing personalities.
Although many of these critics weren’t strangers to the first-person pronoun, they often only appeared to write in a personal voice; their reviews and critical essays revealed little about themselves. If anything, they tended to favor a hollow I, a handy prop like the cardboard tube that girds a few yards of giftwrap. It’s the sort of pronoun I’ve employed here, meant to give voice to an argument as opposed to a person. An I that’s a close, less clinical cousin of “one.” A convention, a convenience.
Thinking of selling your new book at a farmer’s market? Alex Marsh, who tried it with his excellent in every way novel The Resurrection of Frédéric Bebreu, has some tips. Quote unquote:
Giving away a sausage roll with every book will eat into your margins.
And these words of hard-won wisdom:
Appreciate that – far more so than in bookshops – people will pick up and examine your book even if they have no intention of purchasing. It is a curiosity: a book! They are just being polite, in the way that you say nice things about the house that the Estate Agents are showing you round, despite the fact that the bathroom is avocado and the M6 runs through the front garden. Put an already-thumbed book right at the front. This is your sacrificial book.
Sarah Forster interviews three people who know about Yeah Noir, aka New Zealand crime fiction, for Booksellers NZ. (Trigger warning: contains a photo of me.)

Chad Taylor ponders the eternal dilemma: does digital beat paper? Does paper beat digital? Quote unquote:
I wanted to find a passage I remembered from a novel I’d read in 1993. I had…
You won’t believe what happened next.

Crimsoning the Eagle’s Claw is a new collection of Viking poems translated by Ian Crockatt. The poems are all by Rögnvald Kali Kolsson, Earl of Orkney from 1129 to 1158. A sample:
How our blood-stained standards
stream! Erlingr – extreme
in terror, blade bristler –
bombards the doomed dromond.
Our spears cause suffering,
spread Saracen-gore. Red-
drenched blades clinch bone boldly.
We stack slain black sailors.
Much as I admire the work of Ashleigh Young and Jenny Bornholdt, this has perhaps a little more vigour.

So here is the first part of Peter Maxwell Davies’ opera The Lighthouse, which was written in the Orkneys and first performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1980. It is a cracker – and a kind of Marie Celeste story:
In December 1900 the lighthouse and harbour supply ship Hesperus based in Stromness, Orkney, went on its routine tour of duty to the Flannan Isles light in the Outer Hebrides. The lighthouse was empty – all three beds and the table looked as if they had been left in a hurry, and the lamp, though out, was in perfect working order, but the men had disappeared into thin air.

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