Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Best of W G Sebald

Robert MacFarlane argues the case for The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz by W G Sebald to be considered as among the Guardian's "1,000 Novels Everyone Must Read":

"The Rings of Saturn describes a summer walking tour down the Suffolk coast, made by a narrator figure who resembles, but is not quite, Sebald himself. Along the way, he tells apparently disconnected stories about the deforestation of Britain, the drowned town of Dunwich, the herring trade and Bergen-Belsen. Gradually, the reader realises that this almost folksy travelogue is in fact a vastly complex rumination on ruination and transience. And that the apparently crabwise motion of the narrative - its near-refusal to proceed - is in fact Sebald's way of sidling up to some of the most significant questions of modern history: trauma, the Holocaust, repression."

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

You can't beat "El Sistema"

Richard Morrison writes about the lessons we can learn from the example of José Antonio Abreu, and his Venezualan musical project - "El Sistema": in The Times:

"The secret of the Simón Bolívar Orchestra's appeal doesn't lie in the deprived backgrounds of its members, or the Latinate exuberance of the playing. It lies in the fact that its players, and thousands of other kids back in Venezuela, voluntarily practise their instruments for 20 hours each week. And that's on top of their regular schooling."

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Gazza - News from the Israeli Resistance

You won't hear about the Israeli resistance to the Israeli War machine on the BBC despite its pretence of objectivity - but it is happening and there are daily demonstrations against the war. The only way to stop the bloodshed and bombing is to support the emerging anti-war movement inside Israel - small demonstrations will grow into larger protests as news gets around. The first step is to break the censorship that hides the protests behind a wall of silence. The best site for reports on the opposition are: Ilan Against the Wall, Anarchists Against the Wall, Israel Indymedia (which has photos and some articles in English) and Gush Shalom.

John Clare and the Gypsies

The V & A website is currently hosting some stunning contemporary nature writing on Essex, including an essay by Ronald Blythe on John Clare and gypsies:
"Sometimes I watch a film or read a book, come-to and tell myself, 'But I was there! I heard it, I saw it.' It is a not uncommon experience. It occurs when I read John Clare on the gypsies. He both hobnobbed with them and was fastidious where they were concerned, was prejudiced and unprejudiced at the same time. He wrote many poems about them which envied their lot, their freedom, their women, and one poem which envied them nothing. "Vagabondage in a native Place: John Clare and the Gypsies".

Also available on site are Robert Macfarlane on "Elm", Ken Worpole on "Estuary Lines: An Essay on the Essex Coastline", "Mud Language" by Michele Roberts, and "The Edge of the Orison: In the Traces of John Clare's 'Journey Out of Essex'" by Ian Sinclair.