July 20, 2010

The News on Tues - Kafka in Tel Aviv

A deluge of work (the real kind, the kind I get paid for) has prevented me from posting anything new between the regular Tuesday news updates, which is rare, but will probably become more frequent, at least for a while. I'm still not sure how to incorporate this blog into my writing plans (or my writing plans into this blog) without it being a hindrance to both.

It seems the big story in the last few days (and I'm basing this simply on the fact that it has been forwarded to me by several people) is the opening of the vaults in Tel Aviv which contain Kafka's manuscripts. Though it's hard to find a bigger Kafka fan than me (see: Kafka's collected works), I'm finding it difficult to get excited. These papers were in Brod's possession for years, and he was notorious for obsessively publishing just about everything Kafka ever wrote, so there's virtually no chance that there's anything new there. The article claims that a never before seen short story is among the manuscripts but that does not seem likely. This is basically a fight over who has the right to the manuscripts, Brod's heirs (assuming Brod had the right to them to begin with) or the state of Israel, claiming the papers are "cultural assets belonging to the Jewish people." Anyone familiar with Kafka's works will recognize the irony of this situation. Maybe the most appropriate solution would be to finally respect Kafka's request and burn the papers.

July 13, 2010

The News on Tues

I don't want to jinx it, but I must admit the last couple of days have been great in terms of my writing (after two weeks of near inactivity I can think of a few inappropriate metaphors for what this burst of activity is like). It seems everyone else is returning to life as well (following the end of the World Cup?) and so this week there's more than a bit of stuff going on, starting with some friends' news:
  • Dave Kim, writing in The Brooklyn Rail, questions why the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn bridge is so neglected, while the Brooklyn line flourishes.
  • The very same Dave Kim, writing in the very same publication, reviews Brando Skyhorse's novel The Madonnas of Echo Park.
  • Lou Perez writes about the “blood artist” Jordan Eagles in BRM, and offers some expurgated lines on his blog.
And on with the rest:
  • Harvey Pekar, of American Splendor fame, has passed away.
  • Nicole Krauss gushes over the upcoming book by David Grossman, in a blurb which drew some ridicule and prompted Salon's Laura Miller to issue a blanket warning concerning blurbs.
  • Mark Twain's unexpurgated biography is finally published; Is anyone surprised to learn he's as petty as the rest of us?
  • Christopher Hitchens reviews Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.   
  • Possibly in honor of my favorite pastime while visiting Oxford, The Guardian offers a list of the top 10 pubs in literature.
  • And for those of you still stuck in the office through the long summer days, The Daily Beast presents 6 great business novels.
  • The chair of the Society of Authors protests that e-book deals as they currently stand are "not remotely fair" to authors.
  • Sophia Lear of The New Republic reviews James Shapiro's new book on Shakespeare, Contested Will, which tries to dispel the many conspiratorial theories regarding the bard's true identity. 
  • Not sure if you want to read Gary Shteyngart's new novel Super Sad True Love Story? Maybe this book trailer will convince you:
Personally, I was much more compelled to read his work after reading the comforting interview he gave the newish website The Days of Yore, as well as the New York Magazine profile.

July 12, 2010

Flaubert, Nietzsche, Dentists, and Lobsters - Woody Allen's Prose

I've recently read Woody Allen's 2007 collection of stories/ sketches/ articles Mere Anarchy, and while it is not as successful as his three earlier collections - Getting Even(1971), Without Feathers(1975) and Side Effects(1980), collected in a single volume under the title The Insanity Defense - I still have to wonder why Allen is often given the slightly dismissive title of "humor" writer, in the vein of Dave Barry, rather than simply a short story writer. While it's true that many of his pieces are not strictly stories, they all fall under the heading of "fiction," and are not much different in form than certain works by Donald Barthelme or Jorge Luis Borges. Many also have a decidedly literary pedigree, including the 1978 O. Henry Award winning story, "The Kugelmass Episode"(SE), Wherein a CCNY professor is magically injected into Madame Bovary to carry on an affair with Emma, much to the confusion of Flaubert scholars.

Other pieces which suggest Allen as a tongue-in-cheek Borges include "The Metterling Lists"(GE), a review of a book analyzing Hans Metterling's laundry lists, and "By Destiny Denied" (SE), containing notes towards the 800 page novel "they're all waiting for." Like Barthelme, Allen is also a fan of mixing high and low culture, as in "If the Impressionists Had Been Dentists"(WF), "Thus Ate Zarathustra"(MA), and "Notes from the Overfed"(GE), inspired by Dostoevsky and "a Weight Watchers magazine." Other pieces include comic variations on established genres like Hassidic tales, Detective fiction, Socratic dialogues, literary memoirs, and Kafkaesque parables and the plays "Death", "God" (both in WF), and "Death Knocks" (GE), which exhibit the familiar style and humor of Allen's early films.

You're bound to get some sense of repetitiveness if you read all four collections (perhaps even a certain motion sickness from too many one-liners, a sort of Schtick-nausea), but even the less successful pieces have at least a line or two of Woody Allenisms which make them worth reading, so if you find the following video enjoyable, I suggest you read them.

Some recent essays by Allen published in The New Yorker (where many of these collected pieces were originally published) are available online, including "Think Hard, It'll Come Back to You" and "Tails of Manhattan," which tells the story of two wealthy Manhattanites bilked by Madoff and reincarnated as lobsters.

Beckett on Screen V

Following my post about Beckett's complete works I've decided to occasionally post filmed adaptations of Beckett's work available online, trying to find the best and most loyal adaptation for each work.

From The Beckett on Film project;
performed by Harold Pinter, Rebecca Pidgeon and John Gielgud;
directed by David Mamet

Not the most loyal of adaptations (a couple of lines are altered and the applause at the end should be far off, not by the assistant) but who can resist Pinter, Gielgud (in his last screen appearance) and Mamet?

July 8, 2010

The (actual) News (but not) on Tues

My two week break from pretty much everything is over and it's time to do some serious work. While this means that I'll be updating my blog more regularly, what I really should be working on is my writing (is it possible that at some point I forgot this was supposed to be a writer's blog and not just a reader's blog?). Ideally, I'd like this blog to serve as an aid to my writing  rather than a distraction from it, but I'm still not sure how to accomplish that, so stay tuned. for now, here's some recent stuff published online by various sources (also known as "news"):
  • Chad W. Post offers a list of books for people who want to explore Latin American fiction "Beyond Bolaño" (a relatively old list but only recently discovered by me).
  • Tim Parks looks at Dalkey Archive's collection of Best European Fiction 2010 and finds they are not much different from recent American fiction and that "narrative experimentalism (which invariably undercuts certainties, rather than reinforcing them) has become a literary lingua franca, an international convention."

    Beckett on Screen IV

    Following my post about Beckett's complete works I've decided to occasionally post filmed adaptations of Beckett's work available online, trying to find the best and most loyal adaptation for each work.

    Act Without Words I (2 parts)

    From The Beckett on Film project; performed by Sean Foley and directed by Karel Reisz

    July 7, 2010

    The News on Tues

    Well, It must be Tuesday somewhere...

    My flight back to Israel was on Tuesday so I didn't have much time for updates, and the jet-lagged present moment (Wednesday) doesn't seem too promising either, but I promise I'll get to it soon (besides, most of you are probably still comatose from too many 4th of July hot dogs).

    For now here's The Huffington Post's Independence Day list of "15 Feisty Small Presses And The Books You're Going To Want From Them."