Sunday, September 24, 2023

time out

 Looked at my website, designed in 2007 or 2008 with a few later changes, and it's pretty much unreadable on my phone. (I only got a smartphone a couple of years ago, when you had to have one to show vaccination status in Germany, so the website has probably been unreadable for a long time.)

Will probably move to Squarespace, but I'm dreading it.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Clearing out books (last chance before they go to bookstore or Lesekiosk)

[All books now gone or spoken for - thanks to everyone who helped clear my shelves!]

I probably can't stay in Berlin, so trying to get collection of books down to what I can afford to put in storage.  I've been drawing up a list for a secondhand bookstore that stocks foreign-language books. I'll send the link to a few friends first in case anyone sees something they want. All free to good home.

I live in Kreuzberg, about 5-minute walk from Mehringdamm U-Bahn.

* = now spoken for




Mille et cent ans poésie française*

Simone de Beauvoir, Mémoires d'une jeune fille rangée*

Millet, La vie sexuelle de Catherine M.*

Artaud, Van Gogh: Le suicide de la société*

Francis Bacon: Entretiens avic Michel Archimbaud*

Marie Cardinal, Comme sie de rien n'était

Alain Damasio, La Horde du Contrevent

Philippe Djian, Ardoise

Giraudoux, La guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu (édition annotée)*

Michaka, Stéphane: Ciseaux (novel based on Gordon Lish and Raymond Carver)*

Rodin: Éclairs de pensée

Stendhal, La Chartreuse de Parme*

Zola, Au Bonheur des Dames*




Pierre Lusson, Georges Perec, Jacques Roubaud: Petit traité invitant à la découverte de l'art subtil du go*

Roubaud: La licorne*

Roubaud: la dernière balle perdue*

Queneau, Zazie dans le métro (2 copies)

Queneau, Entretiens avec Georges Charbonnier, 2 CDs (fabulous)*



Philosophy, sociology, literary theory & criticism


Raymond Aron, L'opium des intellectuels*

Georges Bataille, La part maudite*


Le sens pratique

La reproduction: éléments pour une théorie du système d'enseignement*

L'amour de l'art: les musées d'art européens et leur public*

Contre-feux (et al.): Penser l'art à l'école*

Ce que parler veut dire: L'économie des échanges linguistiques

Choses dites*

La noblesse d'état: grandes écoles et esprit de corps*

Les règles de l'art*

The Rules of Art (tr. Susan Emanuel)

Les structures sociales de l'économie

The Logic of Practice


Monique de Saint Martin: Les fonctions sociales de l'enseignement scientifique*


Bergson, Le rire*

Barthes, Leçon*


Barthes et al.: Poétique du récit*

Deleuze: Foucault*

Foucault, Les mots et les choses*

Jappé, Anselm: Les Aventures de la marchandise: Pour une nouvelle critique de la valeur*

Simon Leys, Le Studio de l'inutilité*




AFL Beeston, Written Arabic*



Henrik Pontoppidan, Lykke-Per 1 & 2



Sándor Márai, Föld, föld!...



Orhan Pamuk, Kara Kitap

Orhan Pamuk, Öteki Renkler



The Penguin Book of Irish Verse*



Berlitz Spanish Verb Handbook


Saturday, March 11, 2023

More on Cormac McCarthy

 Aaron Gwyn, Twitter, images of Cormac McCarthy's letter to his editor Albert Erskine about stylistic nuances of colons, commas, hyphens in his his first novel, The Orchard Keeper.  (Gwyn describes these as stylistic quirks, which seems odd to me given the substantive arguments given for his choices.)  Doesn't seem kosher to help myself to these images and post them here, but you can see what McCarthy had to say here

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

mute inglorious Nabokovs

[This was originally posted back in 2009, I think, but was depublished by Blogger for violating Community Guidelines. Not sure what was wrong, but went in and cleaned up a few things, now it has been reinstated as a recent post.]

Went to a meeting / dinner at Golden Parachutes, a gallery in Kreuzberg run by Jesi Khadivi and Paul Tyree-Francis. Paul and Jesi are planning to open the space to anyone who is interested in offering a course, seminar or other event; the idea was to talk about some possibilities. 

 This coincided, as it happens, with Obama's speech on education and also with a piece in the Guardian on the severe decline in British universities of degrees in modern languages, following the removal of the language requirement at GCSE. I write in that context. 

One of my ideas is to offer a two-hour (well, maybe three) class called Mute Inglorious Nabokovs. Nabokov was taught English and French from an early age; this early exposure to languages other than his mother tongue seems to have been important in his formation as a writer. In Speak, Memory he talks about the entertainment offered by working through a little grammar book, in which the student started on simple sentences, could look forward to ever more exciting grammatical features, and at the end was able to read a simple story. He remembers sitting inside while a servant swept the gravel walk outside; he wonders whether she might not have been happier sweeping the walk than driving a tractor in later years under the Soviets. 

This passage always makes me think: But perhaps she was a mute inglorious Nabokov. Perhaps the servant, too, had gifts which would have benefited from reading an introduction to English culminating in an adventure for little Ned. One thing that's certain, anyway, is that most schoolchildren do not get this kind of chance at an early age. More generally, it seems to me, there is never a point at which people are encouraged to try a range of languages, and in particular to see what it is like to read a short passage in each by a great writer. It seemed to me that one could try something like this: introduce three languages of increasing difficulty,* beginning with the simple challenges presented by reading, then working through a short text. 

So, for instance, one might start with 1. Italian. (A good starting point for the many people whose first second language was Spanish or French.) One introduces the principles of Italian orthography, so that the reader, looking at a text, knows how it shd be pronounced; one then goes through a short passage from Calvino's Invisible Cities, providing relevant grammar and vocabulary. 

One would then go on to 2. Ancient Greek. Alphabet not dissimilar to ours; the student still starts with a big advantage. The object is to work through the first 7 lines of the Iliad. One points out that the Greek alphabet can be divided into true friends, false friends and aliens. There are letters that look familiar and do, in fact, represent roughly the sounds represented by their modern lookalikes (α β δ ε ι κ ο τ υ ς Α Β Ε Ι Κ Μ Ν Ο Τ Ζ); letters that look familiar but represent different sounds (γ η ν ρ χ ω Η Ρ Χ Υ); exciting letters no longer in use outside mathematics (ζ θ λ μ π σ φ ψ ξ Γ Δ Θ Λ Π Ξ Φ Ψ Ω). One starts the student off with exercises spelling English words in Greek letters, moves on to introduce Greek pronunciation and some Greek words, and then goes through the first 7 lines of the Iliad. (One does not need all these letters for Iliad 1-7.) (Sceptics may think starting with Homeric Greek is really jumping in at the deep end, but it is only 7 lines. ) 

One would then go on to, as it might be 3. Arabic. Totally different script, with many letters representing sounds not found in English. Also, a Semitic language! (How lovely!) But this, too, is less difficult than it looks; one starts on the script, using a version of the method described above, introduces the new sounds, and then works through a short passage - I was thinking, maybe, a few lines from Ibn Rushd on tragedy. On reflection 2 hours seems wildly optimistic and even 3 somewhat optimistic. Seems as though explaining how a Semitic language works would not be the work of a couple of minutes. 

Luckily, though, I can now use Jesi as a guinea pig and try to achieve a more realistic sense of how it is all to be done. Once the materials have been properly worked out they can be posted online and also, I suppose, published in book form (though it wd need an accompanying CD). Just the sort of book one wants on a long flight. The sort of book one could give to a child who has been dragged to the beach on vacation because younger siblings are not too old for the beach.  I'm thinking primarily, obviously, of anglophone readers, also German readers since we are sending up a trial balloon in Berlin. PS Hello visitors from Guardian Books Blog! If you'd like to be sent pages from the beta release as they're developed, do drop me a line!


Update (2023): I'm sorry to say that this project has made virtually no progress (there have been many, many disruptions), and Jesi has long since closed her place in Berlin and moved on to other things. Meanwhile Blogger has flagged the post for violating community guidelines; not sure what the problem was, but since I'm revisiting I've tried to clean it up a bit.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Undervaluation of women artists

 BBC radio segment on undervaluation of women artists (roughly, selling at 10% of what male artists sell for) here

For those who recoil from audio, as I normally do, there's also a summary in the Guardian here

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Berlin (notes for writers)

 How to get a Kitagutschein on All About Berlin blog

Randall Collins has a blog, how could I not know

 Collins published The Credential Society in 1979, when his publishers took so tepid an interest in the book they refused to publish a paperback edition.  It's now a classic, took on new life with increased concern over escalating costs of university education and student debt in the US.

Turns out, he has a blog, The Sociological Eye - a blog I know I will never find again if I bookmark it.  So I link to it here.