Monday, July 30, 2007

Last Word: Ben MacIntyre

A short essay 'Philavery" - the use of idiosyncratic, obscure and uncommon words with impact from Times journalist Ben MacIntyre:

which gives me the pretext to link to two other sites I've intended to mention for a few weeks now:

Word Spy - Recently coined "new" words:

and the Elizabethan Curse Generator, providing (it claims) 388944 different insults, so if you have ever wished you could swear at someone with the inventiveness of Thomas Nashe cursing Gabriel Harvey, this is for you:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Summer of Hate 9: Tom Vague

3:AM Magazine's Buzzwords blog features an interview with Tom Vague - editor of the influential Vague magazine

Sunday, July 22, 2007

B Traven - A Mystery Solved

Will Wyatt's t.v. documentary about his search for the real identity of B. Traven is now available online. Traven was the author of some remarkable books including, Death Ship, Treasure of the Sierre Madre, The Cotton-Pickers, and Rebellion of the Hanged, and one of the few writers who has been able to effectively combine revolutionary politics with pulp fiction and ensure that the books are well-written and a gripping read.

Available online at brightcove:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

World Press Photo - Photo of the Year

Online gallery of winning photographs documenting the year 2006:

Small Press Publishing

Ian McMillan writes about the "true heroes of literature" of the "fringe presses" in The Times:

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Threat to Individuality

A short, thought-provoking piece by Sven Birkets on the Britannica Blog:

"Certainly within the scientific disciplines, and the other fact-driven disciplines, the prospect of collaborative intelligence seems likely. But in our zeal to take the part for the whole, we risk making a larger and entirely unwarranted assumption—that the other, the value-laden disciplines are likewise there to be collectively colonized. This misunderstands the essential nature of value-based intelligence, which is that it is subjective, informed by individual experience, and that its noblest end has always been individuation rather than the submergence of the self into a group-mind of any kind."

Birkets has published several books of literary essays, including An Artificial Wilderness: Essays on 20th-Century Literature and The Electric Life: Essays on Modern Poetry. His widely acclaimed Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age was a New York Times Notable Book. Other works include My Sky Blue Trades, and Reading Life: Books for the Ages.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Krazy Kat

Sarah Boxer writes on George Herriman and his comic strip creation Krazy Kat, in the Telegraph, and includes a great quote from ee cummings, who saw Krazy Kat as a “meteoric burlesk melodrama of democracy… a struggle between society (Offissa Pupp) and the individual (Ignatz Mouse) over an ideal (our heroine)”.

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The Ashes of History

Thomas de Waal writes about the destruction of Abkhazia's historical archive on Open Democracy:

British Literary Periodicals of World War II & Aftermath

This "critical history" written by professor A.T. Tolley, and published by Canada's Golden Dog Press, provides an essential introduction to the poorly documented literary magazines founded in the teeth of World War II. "Against all expectations of cultural collapse with the coming of the war in 1939, there emerged a great growth of serious interest in the arts accompanied by the appearance of a large number of literary periodicals, some of which attained an astounding circulation."

Some of these magazines are difficult to obtain now, and Tolley has provided his readers with a unique guide to the editors and contributors of a lost and almost forgotten culture. Compare the widespread awareness and understanding of the Beats with the almost total lack of recognition accorded our own literary heritage from this period.

Tolley is to be congratulated on the clarity of his presentation and his careful attention to detail, although I frequently found myself longing for more quotations from works by the contributors that do not directly relate to the production of the magazines. Henry Miller's "Reflections on Writing" in Horizon, or his "Obscenity and the Law of Reflection" , or Lawrence Durrell's "Elegy on the Closing of the French Brothels" both from Now, for example.

A particular strenth of British Literary Periodicals is that Tolley explores the interplay between the literary and radical political allegiances of the magazines, although it is a pity that he ignores the artistic contribution - magazines like Now featured illustrations by artists, like Georges Masson, Their avant garde interests complimenting and underpinning those of the literary contributors - Masson surrealism matched Andre Breton's text "The colours of Liberty" (an extract from Arcane 17 translated by Simon Watson Taylor).

Available in the UK from I.D. Iderich:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Anarchist Bookfair 2007

A new venue has been announced for London's foremost literary event, the annual Anarchist Bookfair. This year the Bookfair will be held at Queen Mary's College, (Mile End Road) on Saturday, 27th October. Details of meetings and events at the Bookfair will be announced nearer the date. If you have never been - put it in your diary now. If you have been before you won't need a further reminder.

"This year, due to circumstances beyond our control, we are moving venue again. This time the Bookfair will be held in the EastEnd of London. A place where anarchism first took root in Britain, emerging from the radical clubs and socialist groups that flourished in East London in the late 19th Century, coming out of the great poverty but also powerful solidarity and collective struggle that existed here; struggles that are still played out today as the Olympic dream is revealed as a nightmare of social exclusion and gentrification. This year's event could be a powerful link not only to our past but a different vision of the future."

Details of the programme will be posted on the Bookfair's website:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Elizabeth David: "she was heady fare for a young coal miner..."

I wasn't able to get to the recent exhibition on the life and work of Elizabeth David at Manchester's independent Portico Library, but was pleased to find out that two publications appeared at the same time - Elizabeth David: 26 December 1913 - 22 May 1992. Her Life, Work and Influence, is the title of a 40 page illustrated catalogue and the title of a lecture by Eddie Cass, that has been printed as a 22 page pamphlet:
"For me, Elizabeth David was always essentially a writer as well as a cook. I found her prose rich and evocative. She had the visual sense of an artist and a novelist's ability to conjure up a sense of place, of a meal, or a glass of wine. She was heady fare for a young coal miner from the terraced streets of Manchester whose only experience of 'abroad' was a two week package holiday in Tossa d Mar in 1958."

Well worth checking out the lists of available publications (Pdf downloads from their "Noticeboard" page):

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Exploring Photography

Based on a selection of photographs drawn primarily from the Victoria and Albert Museum's own collection this website features the work of more than seventy photographers ranging from Eadward Muybridge and Julia Margaret Cameron to Bill Brandt and Cecil Beaton.

Some of the photographers deserve to have more of their work featured than is included here - William Henry Fox Talbot for his pioneering work, and Edwin Smith whose architectural and landscape photographs captured the underlying romanticism of a way of life that was rapidly changing in the 1950s and early 1960s. There are short biographical profiles of the photographers, with explanations of some superb photographs - just check out the documentary street photographs by Roger Mayne. Many of them were taken during the 1950s when for five years he concentrated on photographing Southam Street in London's Notting Dale, the district in which Colin MacInness contemporary novel
Absolute Beginners was set.

Mayne explains his photography in this way: "There are two kinds of photographs. There's the decisive moment and there's the contrived photograph and I think contrived photography has come back rather. But the kind of photography I like is the decisive moment, and I think the power of photography is in this. I think - to paraphrase Susan Sontag - the fascination of photography is as a trace of an event that has actually happened."

There is also a good explanation of different photographic processes used.

Friday, July 06, 2007

In Print......

Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption by Laura Miller.
University of Chicago Press, 2007.
"Over the past half-century, bookselling, like many retail industries, has evolved from an arena dominated by independent bookstores to one in which chain stores have significant market share. And as in other areas of retail, this transformation has often been a less-than-smooth process." In Reluctant Capitalists, Miller demonstrates that the independent vs. chain store dynamic is not entirely new. "It began one hundred years ago when department stores began selling books, continued through the 1960s with the emergence of national chain stores, and exploded with the formation of “superstores” in the 1990s. The advent of the Internet has further spurred tremendous changes in how booksellers approach their business. All of these changes have met resistance from book professionals and readers who believe that the book business should somehow be “above” market forces and instead embrace more noble priorities."

Poetry and Commitment by Adrienne Rich
W.W. Norton, 2007
"I hope never to idealize poetry—it has suffered enough from that. Poetry is not a healing lotion, an emotional massage, a kind of linguistic aromatherapy. Neither is it a blueprint, nor an instruction manual, nor a billboard."

Revolutionary Letters by Diane di Prima
Last Gasp 2007
A new edition of Beat poet Diane di Prima's classic Revolutionary Letters, with some additional new works and some re-edited earlier works.

Anarchist Studies, Vol 15, 1 (May 2007)
This issue, "guest edited" by Ruth Kinna, includes Uri Gordon on Israeli Anarchism, Dana M. Williams with an anarchist evaluation on the use of Native Americans as sports nicknames, logos and mascots; Daniel Colson on Belief, anarchism and modernity and Pablo M. Perez, Juan Manuel and Hernan Villasenin on the Cultural practice of Argentinian anarchism.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Making History

Howard Zinn describes his concept of history in a short letter to the New York Times: