I enjoyed reading David Herd’s Through (Carcanet Press 2016), a collection of poetry assembled from some events and other publications and put under one cover. That gives an opportunity to appreciate their shared themes and concerns, despite their diverse provenances. “Who Leaves the Language”, the opening sequence, refers constantly to an issue that Herd has made
Søren Kierkegaard has been a figure that I have felt, since first encountering his work during a year trying to study philosophy at Cambridge in the mid-1980s, I should have liked more. The themes, the literary treatment, the playful use of pseudonyms, and the relentless focus on humanity's religious fate, were all powerful and appealing themes.
Aged about 19, I spent part of one summer reading the Penguin translations of the novels and short stories of Ivan Turgenev. That sits a bit stark in the memory now, because despite the exquisite impression they made, with their delicate descriptions of gentle disappointment and bitter sweet love, I never went back and reread them
The music critic Norman Lebrecht’s title to his study, Why Mahler? How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed the World (Faber and Faber 2010) has the sort of in-your-face tone that characterises the rest of the book. He makes the sort of claims about Gustav Mahler that the literary critic Harold Bloom in his dotage made
Eliot Weinberger has produced essays and translations ranging across cultures and languages. In a hybrid age, he is truly representative of a hybrid intellectual posture and approach. This short series of essays written over the last two decades, The Ghosts of Birds (New Directions Press 2016) exemplifies this, with pieces which are in the form of
Diplomacy and international relations are clearly a complex area. This is logical enough. Relations between two single people are enough to have inspired a large swathe of diverse literature. Magnify that by hundreds of thousands into the millions and you get the picture. It’s complicated. This is an Amazon affiliate link for your convenience. We
Almost exactly two decades ago when I began my somewhat short-lived (eight years) stint as a member of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I had an encounter with my first boss – a much stressed out mandarin, who made the comment one day that he had “no idea what most people did during their working day”.
B.S. Johnson was an alumni of King’s College London. I wasn’t aware of this before I looked up something about his background after rereading Albert Angelo (Picador 2013, originally published by Constable & Robinson 1964). Until a decade ago he was largely forgotten, before the novelist Jonathan Coe (2004) did a long and well-received biography of
Filling the hours of torpor and inertia brought on by a mild but debilitating cold by reading the final volume of Samuel Beckett’s Letters 1966-1989 (Cambridge University Press 2016) was perhaps not the most straightforward way to maintain good spirits. But in the end, this monumental, scrupulously edited final volume (three have appeared before) worked well.
Some little-known China books recommended at China Beat: 1) Jay Denby, (1910) Letters of a Shanghai Griffin, Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh – China books are all so horrendously serious and self-important these days – Denby just made fun of taipans, pompous Shanghailanders and stupid diplomats, venal businessmen, etc. – we need a bit more of that.