Innovative arts journal promotes the work of Welsh-born writer, critic, and librettist
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Music & Literature (No.7): Paul Griffiths, Ann Quin, Lera Auerbach

Today’s artistic landscape can often feel like a busy marketplace, where voices compete for attention and creative validation. And, as a result, some voices do not get heard. Since its launch in 2012, Music & Literature has been a torchbearer for writers and artists that are often neglected by the mainstream: its first issue was notable for its discussion of avant-garde composer Arvo Pärt, offering an unprecedented glimpse into his life, work, and motivations. Scott Esposito points out that the journal offers ‘the kind of thing that’s unavailable anywhere else’, and he’s right. Music & Literature is a fascinating read for enthusiasts, and a valuable cultural resource for scholars.

Now publishing its seventh volume, Music & Literature is celebrating the work of Welsh-born writer, critic, and accomplished librettist Paul Griffiths. His first novel, Myself and Marco Polo: A Novel of Changes (1989), is a work of speculative fiction that reimagines the life of the world traveller through his memoirs. More recently, Griffiths translated eleven Japanese noh plays, published as The Tilted Cup: Noh Stories (2014) in a beautifully illustrated volume. Paul Griffiths has written five librettos, and is an insightful commentator on modern classic music; he is the author of a number of critical works on topics ranging from electronic music to the history of the string quartet, and was a music critic for both The New Yorker (1992-96) and The New York Times (1997-2005). As if that wasn’t enough, Griffiths is also the biographer of a number of modern composers, from György Ligeti and Bela Bartók to John Cage and Igor Stravinsky. (more…)

The writer and journalist talks about This Is the Place to Be, and the influences that motivate her
This month brings the release of Lara Pawson’s new memoir, This Is the Place to Be, published by CB editions. Written in a fragmentary form, the book deals with Pawson’s experiences as a witness of war in Angola and Ivory Coast. The writer Joanna Walsh praises it for the way it ‘unpicks the spirals of memory, politics, violence, to trace the boundaries and crossing points of gender and race identity.’ I caught up with Pawson to ask her about This Is the Place to Be, and to find out more about her motivations and influences.

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samuelbeckett-walking“As a literary structure, the recounted walk encourages digression and association, in contrast to the stricter form of a discourse or the chronological progression of a biographical or historical narrative. A century and a half later, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf would, in trying to descrive the workings of the mind, develop the style called stream of consciousness. In their novels Ulysses and Mrs. Dalloway, the jumble of thoughts and recollections of their protagonists unfolds best during walks. This kind of unstructured, associative thinking is the kind most often connected to walking, and it suggests walking as not an analytical but an improvisational act. Rousseau’s Reveries [of the Solitary Walker] are one of the first portraits of this relationship between thinking and walking.”

— From Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Simon Critchley’s philosophical antidote to the self-help manual

Since when did happiness, wisdom and contentment become the cornerstones of a fulfilling life? Whatever happened to doubt? Instability? Melancholia? In 2010, Polity Press published How to Stop Living and Start Worrying, a collection of interviews with Simon Critchley which playfully parodies the conventional self-help manual. Through a series of conversations with Carl Cedeström, Critchley sketches an alternative view of the role philosophy plays in our lives today, covering an ambitious range of topics: from science and religion, to poetry and politics, love and humour, life and death.

Critchley, a philosophy professor who teaches in New York, takes us step-by-step through the major themes of his work in an entertaining and accessible way. Each interview takes the form of an informal, improvised chat on a theoretical topic, elucidating terms and concepts with helpful metaphors and memorable anecdotes. Jokes also play a key role in the overall tone of the book, illuminating central ideas with a lightness of touch. (more…)

An exclusive glimpse inside a new online archive, cataloguing the Nobel laureate’s personal reading habits and artistic influences
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Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon, Samuel Beckett’s Library

The Beckett Digital Library (BDL) is a digital reconstruction of Samuel Beckett’s personal library, based on the volumes preserved at his apartment in Paris, in archives (Beckett International Foundation) and private collections (James and Elizabeth Knowlson Collection, Anne Atik, Noga Arikha, Terrence Killeen,…). It currently houses 757 extant volumes, as well as 248 virtual entries for which no physical copy has been retrieved.

The BDL module is a part of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project and contains scans of book covers, title pages, all pages with reading traces, flyleaves, colophons, tables of contents, indexes and inserts of various kinds. In addition to facsimiles, the BDL also offers transcriptions of readings traces and links to Beckett’s manuscripts.

The BDL is accompanied by a monograph (Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon, Samuel Beckett’s Library, Cambridge UP, 2013)

What follows is an exclusive preview of the Beckett Digital Library (BDL), with quotations excerpted from Van Hulle’s and Nixon’s companion book. Each image presents an actual edition owned by the writer himself. (more…)

Through exclusive interviews and previously unseen photographs, a new documentary offers an intimate portrait of the relationship between translator Barbara Bray and Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett

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