Whateveristan

Someone I haven’t seen for a while stopped me in the street the other day and asked ‘how was Kazakhstan?’ I didn’t correct him, even though it was actually ten days in Uzbekistan. Before I left someone wished me luck in Azerbaijan with a worried look, as though I was actually heading to Afghan(…). I…

Bookshop bonanza

I was in my local Oxfam bookshop today – ‘just to have a look’ – and had the most unbelievable luck in terms of finds. I got Karel Capek’s Rossum’s Universal Robots (the play which introduced the word and concept of a robot to the world), a book about the fraudulent Holocaust memoirist Binjamin Wilkomirski,…

A quick note on galloping Great Game narratives

The firmly-stated plan to read only new books by new authors has been shelved, as I’ve just finished Peter Hopkirk’s brilliant The Great Game, and now I want to go off and read all the memoirs of all the people who charged up and down Central Asia in those years. I had an odd moment…

Broken promise

I have something to confess: I announced that I was going to read new books by emerging authors but I’ve failed right out of the gate. I did dutifully check the London Review Bookshop site for inspiration, but I didn’t find anything that grabbed me so I ended up reading Philip Hensher’s ‘The Mulberry Empire’….

National Novel Writing Month

It turns out that November is National Novel Writing Month in America. Unfortunately I’ve only just stumbled upon this information, so it’s now down to National Novel Writing Couple Of Weeks. I like the concept, I think: National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The…

The death of the literary novel?

As I was away this weekend I’m a little behind in my newspaper-reading. I’ve been cherrypicking the weekend papers and only got round to reading yesterday’s news last thing yesterday evening, which means I’m up to date now but it was too late to post about this article when it was still possible to read it…

Spare nose

Gogol’s short story The Nose is one of my favourites – not quite as favourite as The Overcoat but a close enough second. I was thinking about it today as I came across this useless fact: Admiral Nelson of Trafalgar Square has a spare nose lodging up the side of Admiralty Arch. This is what I…

Arcadesproject.com

I think I’m still partly reading Aragon as an insight into Walter Benjamin, although last night, in the vicinity of page 137, I really began to enjoy it. There are some wonderfully phrases: “who will reveal to me the secret of the iron hoops which line the paths along the lawn’s borders […]?” (p144 pub….

Isherwood and Berlin

I’ve received this email: There was a shoddy BBC4 documentary on this the other night, concentrating on the film of Cabaret. Isherwood like  the film, but pointed out that most of the cabarets in Weimar Berlin weren’t nearly so glamorous  and Broadway professional as the Bob Fosse musical.   The documentary made only a brief…

Paris Peasant (ii)

I’m still working on Aragon. It’s something best read in small bits. What has been puzzling me so far is the extent to which it is a surrealist work – it certainly feels surrealist, but why? The weird thing about it is that it’s not weirder. It’s not what I was expecting. The most interesting…