Robert McCrum (the Guardian) travels to New York and interviews American writer Don DeLillo. Ironically, for an article about ‘manipulating reality’, McCrum is vague and even mistaken when trying to summarize DeLillo’s career, but the article redeems itself when the conversation begins. DeLillo discusses the inspirations behind his work, the contemporary political landscape, and his place in American literature
DeLillo now lives in Westchester County in New York State with his wife, Barbara, a landscape designer, but he has not completely left his childhood neighbourhood, a place he insists still “looks the same, though the people are different”: an influx of new immigrants, Serbs, Croats and African-Caribbeans. Every year, he goes back to meet old school friends from the streets of his childhood. “We meet on a major street and have a meal together and a laugh,” he says. Inevitably, the conversation will turn to baseball, DeLillo’s first love – what he calls his “second language”. Baseball, he says, “was just so natural, because we all grew up with it. We played it; we listened to it on the radio, and then we went to Yankee stadium. It was a taken-for-granted pleasure”.

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Tilda Swinton in Orlando (dir. Sally Potter, 1992)
Tilda Swinton in Orlando (dir. Sally Potter, 1992)
In an article for The Telegraph, Tilda Swinton writes about Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, the impact the novel had on her personal life, and her experiences playing the title role in Sally Potter’s 1992 adaptation

I was at school near Sevenoaks, within a short walk of Knole, and one of my school chums was a Sackville-West. Like Orlando – like Vita – I had grown up in an old house and looked like the people in the paintings on the stairs, mainly ruffed, mustachioed, velvet-covered men. We all posed formally in front of bits of furniture, strung together on a high family tree like so many forgotten party balloons caught in the branches. Like Orlando, I wrote poetry. In my adolescent fantasy I read this book and believed it was a hallucinogenic, interactive biography of my own life and future. [Read More]

A new essay collection from Columbia University Press
Falsifying Beckett Essays on Archives, Philosophy, and Methodology in Beckett Studies, ed. Matthew Feldman (Columbia University Press)
Falsifying Beckett Essays on Archives, Philosophy, and Methodology in Beckett Studies, ed. Matthew Feldman (Columbia University Press)

The dozen essays brought together here, alongside a newly-written introduction, contextualize and exemplify the recent ’empirical turn’ in Beckett studies. Characterized, above all, by recourse to manuscript materials in constructing revisionist interpretations, this approach has helped to transform the study of Samuel Beckett over the past generation. In addition to focusing upon Beckett’s early immersion in philosophy and psychology, other chapters similarly analyze his later collaboration with the BBC through the lens of literary history. Falsifying Beckett thus offers new readings of Beckett by returning to his archive of notebooks, letters, and drafts. In reassessing key aspects of his development as one of the 20th century’s leading artists, this collection is of interest to all students of Beckett’s writing as well as ‘historicist’ scholars and critics of modernism more generally. [Read More]

A new title from Cork University Press:

Flann O’Brien: Contesting Legacies (Cork University Press)
Flann O’Brien: Contesting Legacies (Cork University Press)
Employing a wide range of critical perspectives and new comparative contexts, Flann O’Brien: Contesting Legacies breaks new ground in O’Brien scholarship by testing a number of popular commonplaces about this Irish (post-) Modernist author. Challenging the narrative that Flann O’Brien wrote two good novels and then retired to the inferior medium of journalism (as Myles na gCopaleen), the collection engages with overlooked shorter, theatrical, and non-fiction works and columns (‘John Duffy’s Brother’, ‘The Martyr’s Crown’, ‘Two in One’) alongside At Swim-Two-Birds, The Third Policeman, and An Béal Bocht. The depth and consistency of O’Nolan’s comic inspiration that emerges from this scholarly engagement with his broader body of work underlines both the imperative and opportunity of reassessing O’Brien’s literary legacy. (more…)

Why read a ‘difficult’ book?
Emily Temple (Flavorwire) has compiled a list of ’50 Incredibly Tough Books for Extreme Readers’. Their toughness varies from the sheer bulk of the volume (eg. Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Stein’s The Making of Americans), to their stylistic virtuosity (Finnegans Wake, anyone?). But despite their daunting reputations, there can be something special about reading a ‘difficult’ book.

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A collection of essays edited by Julian Murphet, Rónán McDonald, and Sascha Morrell (from Bloomsbury):
Flann O'Brien & Modernism (Bloomsbury)
Flann O’Brien & Modernism (Bloomsbury)

Flann O’Brien & Modernism brings a much-needed refreshment to the state of scholarship on this increasingly recognised but still widely misunderstood ‘second generation’ modernist. Rather than construe him as a postmodernist, it correctly locates O’Brien’s work as the product of a late modernist sensibility and cultural context. Similarly, while there should be no doubt of his Irishness, and his profound debts to Irish language, history and culture, this collection seeks to understand O’Brien’s nationally sensitive achievement as the work of an internationalist whose preoccupations reflect global modernist trends.

The distinct themes and concerns tracked in Flann O’Brien & Modernism include characterization in branching narrative forms; the ethics and paradoxes of naming; parody and homage; lies and deception; theatricality; sexuality; technology and transport; and the inevitable matter of drink and intoxication.

Taken together, these specific topics construct a mosaic image of O’Brien as an exemplary modernist auteur, abreast of all the most salient philosophical and technical concerns affecting literary production in the period immediately before and after World War Two. [Read More]

Aashish Kaul (3:AM Magazine) on Joseph Frank’s 1945 study

‘As Joseph Frank points out in his early study from 1945, Spatial Form in Modern Literature, Joyce, in Ulysses, works with the assumption that his readers are Dubliners, intimately acquainted with Dublin life and the personal history of his characters, thereby allowing him to refrain from giving any direct information about them; information that, contrary to his intentions, would have betrayed the presence of an omniscient author. What Joyce does, instead, is to present the elements of his narrative in fragments, as they are thrown out unexplained in the course of casual conversations, or as they lie embedded in the various strata of symbolic reference, allusions to Dublin life, history, and the external events of the twenty-four hours during which the novel takes place. The factual background, which otherwise is so conveniently summarized for the reader, must be reconstructed in this case from fragments, sometimes hundreds of pages apart, scattered through the book. As a result, Frank argues, the reader is forced to read Ulysses in the manner he reads modern poetry – continually fitting fragments together and keeping allusions in mind until, by reflexive reference, he can link them to their complements. Indeed Joyce himself, although his model was Aristotle, says as much of Ulysses in a letter to Ezra Pound of 9 April 1917: ‘I am doing it, as Aristotle would say – by different means in different parts.’ [Read More]

davidwinters_infinitefictionsA promising new title from Zero Books: ‘David Winters has quickly become a leading voice in the new landscape of online literary criticism. His widely-published work maps the furthest frontiers of contemporary fiction and theory. The essays in this book range from the American satirist Sam Lipsyte to the reclusive Australian genius Gerald Murnane; from the distant reading of Franco Moretti to the legacy of Gordon Lish. Meditations on style, form and fictional worlds sit side-by-side with overviews of the cult status of Oulipo, the aftermath of modernism, and the history of continental philosophy. Infinite Fictions is indispensable reading for anyone interested in the forefront of literary thought.’ [Read More]

For a taster of David Winters’ writing style, take a look at his website, http://davidwinters.uk