Friday, April 24, 2009

In print....

Mary Beard examines the ancient Roman book trade and finds some surpising parallels in an essay entitled "Scrolling Down the Ages" in the New York Times Sunday Book Review:

"We usually assume that there is not much in common between the ancient Roman book trade and our own. Roman books, after all, were produced in a world that was not just pre-Internet but pre-Gutenberg. All reading material was laboriously copied out by hand. The ancient equivalent of the printing press was a battalion of slaves, whose job it was to transcribe one by one as many copies of Virgil, Horace or Ovid as the Roman market would buy."

In The Guardian, Iain Sinclair looks at the way different films have worked to construct a mythical East End in "Tales From Mean Streets":

"London cinema is a force that defies its apparent boundaries, leaking from screen into street and back again. A pre-forgotten literature of urban working lives, by such as James Curtis, Robert Westerby and Gerald Kersh, slips unmolested into cinematic adaptations. The faces of certain performers - Jack Warner, Jimmy Hanley, Alfie Bass, Sydney Tafler - are ever present, sometimes villains, sometimes regular family men."

Meanwhile, writer Ken Worpole reviews The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard as his "Book of a Lifetime" in The Independent:

"Bachelard was a phenomenologist, holding the view that there was a dynamic interplay between an active mind and its surroundings. The house was a theatre, something most people realise when travelling by train through the city at night, seeing lighted interiors. A candlelight in a window was enough to bring a street to life, he wrote."

Also in The Independent Natural History writer, Peter Marren, reviews two new books about summer migrants - the swallow and the cuckoo:

"If migrant birds could talk, what tales they could tell - though the late Miriam Rothschild insisted they would only complain about their parasites. Cuckoos and swallows are the true heralds of summer. The swallow arrives, scything through the air, belly-dipping over the grass, often during the first truly warm days of the year. The cuckoo is more of a "wandering voice", often heard, less often seen; its appearance used to be announced on The Times letters page. Both birds excite and uplift us with their promise of easy-living summer days."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Vanity of the Bonfires

Times journalist Richard Morrison examines some of the books consigned to the flames by the Nazis after their rise to power, and discusses the personal and political rivalries behind the selection of the books that were burnt :

"Astonishingly, there was virtually no opposition either from booksellers or university professors. Far from defending free expression, many academics seemed as enthusiastic about the book burning as their students. Cologne University announced that 'the Senate and Rector have decided to attend the occasion. Dress: dark suit'."

Read the full article here:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stuck in the Past: Why is modern literature obsessed with history?

Novelist Amanda Craig, author of Hearts and Minds, explores the lack of contemporary relevance in British fiction, in the Independent:

"The way the world works does not change, no matter how much scientific knowledge we have acquired since Tudor times. But by failing to notice or celebrate our own age, with all its eccentricities and agonies, and by sticking our collective heads into bonnets, we fail also to understand what is special about the way we live now. This is the Victorian's legacy to us, and this, I believe, is what we have to rediscover."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

William Blake

Peter Marshall's short book William Blake: Visionary Anarchist is back in print. "...a lively and perceptive account of his thought, ranging from his philosophy, his critique of existing society and culture, to his vision of a free world." Available from the publishers & revamped Whitechapel bookshop Freedom books.

Also worth reading are Christine Gallant's article in the Summer 2008 issue of the Wordsworth Circle: "Blake's antislavery designs for Songs of Innocence and Experience" and the recently published Walking round Cambridge with William Blake: Auguries of Innocence illustrated by Rose Harries:

"William Blake's Auguries of Innocence is not an easy text, for despite the nursery-rhyme simplicity of couplets like

'A robin red breast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage',
the moral world he created is a difficult place to try to inhabit, even if only while reading. Like Shakespeare or Homer, though, each reading reveals new shades of meaning.

Rose Harries was a stranger to Blake's couplets until last year when she spent some time with them, then, wandering the streets of Cambridge, fitting her impressions of the poem with the modern scenes of street-life. Not surprisingly, her line drawings open the text in a new way, prompting the reader to a fresh view of a complex masterpiece."

Published in a small hand-printed edition by Incline Press:

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Anarchist Conference - London Saturday 6 & 7 June 2009

"The Anarchist Movement Conference is a chance to put our ideas on the table and rebuild ourselves. The barriers that exist need to be broken down, the experiences and ideas of those involved in anarchist politics need to be shared, discussed, critiqued and debated. The task is urgent, practical and necessary - are we as a movement mature enough to face the challenge?

How and where should we organise? Who are we are speaking to? How do we relate to the wider world as anarchists? These are some of the discussions that might happen during the course of the weekend. We want this conference to be a historical turning point, a point where we manage collectively to come together to look at the problems and work towards the solutions. Anarchists from every federation, network and local group, those involved in diverse struggles from environmental direct-action to community work, trade unionism to DIY projects - we invite you and encourage you: Claim your place at the table and help make a movement!

If we truly aim to be part of making history we need to remake ourselves as an organised, pragmatic movement to become an effective part of revolutionary change. If we do not learn from the mistakes of the past we are doomed to repeat them. The anarchist ideals of mutual aid, solidarity and the desire to live as equals have been echoed throughout our history, in every country, by women and men, regardless of race or ethnicity. We have a proud history, this conference is both about recognizing where we have come from and organizing where we want to go."

further details and registration form available from