“She has said that she learned to write during the years she spent at home raising her children, working at it every day and publishing nothing. That long apprenticeship has paid off; M Train is certainly literature rather than a celebrity memoir. There is no conventional storyline, but the narrative is subtly controlled and compelling. Motifs bubble up – the detective shows, objects getting lost, dreams, a black coat – then disappear and resurface, to mesmerising effect.”

— Alice O’Keeffe, The Guardian

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“Vintage’s 40th anniversary edition of In Patagonia is an invitation to look again at one of the most vivid but elusive writers of the late 20th century. Chatwin’s first book, it helped to change the idea of what travel writing could be. It appeared at a rich literary moment, when both reportage and the novel were beginning to fly high in new directions. […] In Patagonia was in a category of its own. It was clearly not a novel, but it flirted with fiction. A collage of histories, sketches, myths and memories, with short scenes glinting towards each other, without judgment, conclusion or, often, links. Chatwin said he was trying to make a cubist portrait. It is paradoxical, in content and in style. The syntax is snappy but the vocabulary is orchidaceous. It holds back from intimate revelation – ‘I don’t believe in becoming clean,’ Chatwin announced – but is fuelled by autobiography, lit up by personal obsessions.”

— Susannah Clapp, The Guardian

“… I have been through the letters and diaries. What Coetzee writes there cannot be trusted, not as a factual record – not because he was a liar but because he was a fictioneer”

— J. M. Coetzee, Summertime

An upcoming international conference is offering scholars and enthusiasts a chance to engage with J.M. Coetzee’s work in new and interesting ways. Over the course of three days, the event will include a single day CHASE funded archival training workshop, and will feature a host of leading scholars in the field. Significantly, the Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee will be appearing in person to give a reading. (more…)

“In his fresh account of four modernists, Bill Goldstein, a former editor of the books section of this newspaper’s website and an interviewer for NBC New York, does not tell this story. Instead The World Broke in Two chronicles Morgan (Forster), David (Lawrence), Tom (Eliot) and Virginia (Woolf) as they wage personal battle in tremendous earnest against blank sheets of paper to create important new works from the inner recesses of their genius. Goldstein offers a snapshot history of their careers in deference to the American now, embracing not only the chatty familiarity of first names but also, and more significant, the biographical details of authorship that most 21st-century interest in literature seems to depend upon.”

— Eric Bennett, The New York Times

I see that Sony Classical has released an impressive new box set of Glenn Gould‘s unreleased 1955 renditions of Bach‘s Goldberg Variations. Andrew Clements weighs in on the exhaustive 8-disc collection:

“It constitutes detailed documentation of Gould’s quest for his ideal Bach performance – his obsession with every detail, his insistence on getting the articulation of every semiquaver in every bar exactly as he imagined it, sometimes to the audible exasperation of the producer, Howard Scott. There are multiple takes of every variation, each subtly distinct in tempo and nuance, from which the definitive performance as it eventually appeared on LP was later spliced together. Taken together they also demonstrate the unwavering virtuosity of Gould’s playing, and the startling clarity he seemed effortlessly able to bring to the densest contrapuntal textures.”

— Andrew Clements, The Guardian