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Stuart Jeffries, Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School

So, it's superficial and incredibly repetitive. The same quotes re-appear within a few pages, and the first chapter is devoted to telling us twenty or thirty times that the Frankfurt School thinkers rejected their fathers' bourgeois values.

But you know what really makes me want to throw the book out of the window?

Throughout a chapter devoted to it, and elsewhere where it's cited in the book, the Brecht and Weill opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny is rendered Mahoganny [sic]. Page after page. EXCEPT IN THE INDEX where it's correctly spelled.

What kind of editing process allows that to happen? Whoever compiled the index must have seen it misspelled, and known that it was misspelled, throughout the text.

Well done, Verso.

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Just finished Ask the Dust by John Fante, a slim novel which didn't live up to the extravagant praise I've heard from Bukowski fans. Henry Miller and Hubert Selby did this kind of thing much better.

I'm currently reading Middlesex, has anyone else read it? I remember it being discussed elsewhere and people were criticizing the fact that it won the pulitzer prize. Maybe not Pulitzer Prize worthy

Several of the pieces in Paris to the Moon appeared earlier as Gopnik's monthly Letters from Paris to The New Yorker. His use of adjectives to describe the weather, the neighborhood, etc impressed me

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On 1/5/2021 at 4:49 PM, Behemoth said:

I picked up One on One by Craig Brown, after reading an interview with him. The Gurdjieff/Lloyd Wright meeting is so far my favourite. 

Found it in the library, thanks. Very amusing: can hardly believe a lot of these meetings happened. Lloyd Wright making sauerkraut from Gurdjieff's recipe. My favorite so far is Evelyn Waugh and Alec Guinness.

The George Brown stories brought back memories from my childhood: a key Cabinet figure who was permanently, visibly, disastrously drunk.


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1 hour ago, Wilfrid said:

Found it in the library, thanks. Very amusing: can hardly believe a lot of these meetings happened. Lloyd Wright making sauerkraut from Gurdjieff's recipe. My favorite so far is Evelyn Waugh and Alec Guinness.

Yes! The Harpo Marx/George Bernard Shaw one was also new to me. 

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Virginie Despentes, Vernon Subutex 3 (third and, I believe, last volume of the Paris punk romp)

Nicholas Berdyaev, The Russian Idea

James Merrill, The Country of a Thousand Years of Peace

I liked Merrill's huge epic The Changing Light at Sandover which I read during the lockdown last spring, but these early poems for the most part don't work for me at all. So precious and full of themselves.

In other poetry, I've loved a handful of Ernest Dowson's poems since I was in my teens. Picked up the collected works recently and found I could enjoy much more of his work: I now know how it's supposed to sound.

And J.H. Prynne dropped seven new books just before the holidays, making a total of 13 in 2020. I just received the bundle, so that should keep me busy. (A lot of these are short chap-books, but it's still around 175 poems published last year, which seems to me to be unprecedented for a poet in his 80s.)

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I'm currently reading John Birdsall’s new biography of James Beard, “The Man Who Ate Too Much.

In the time it will take me to complete the book (it has already once been returned (digitally) to the library, and then renewed (digitally) by the library after a gap of 3 weeks), @Wilfrid could probably read like two-to-three hundred books. If you've guessed I don't read (many books), you'd be right.

In any event, it's pretty good (I think). But how would I know? 

One thing I'm having fun doing while reading the book, is heading to my bookshelf to see if I have the books Beard wrote, as they are recounted in the bio. And I have a few (15-20), for sure.  Beard is credited with writing, or having participated in the writing of, at least 30 cook books; a few memoirs, shilling product stuff thrown in along the way.

Old (and first) editions are especially cool - the artwork in a few of them is just great, as they were sometimes done by artists and (obviously) not food stylists.






By no means Beard's first book on outdoor cookery (like his 3rd). 1955. This was groundbreaking shit.


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I love old cookbook illustrations. 

I'm currently reading two books simultaneously...House of Glass by Hadley Freeman (I love her Guardian columns) and Why the Germans do it Better by John Kampfner. Not sure I agree with the title of the second one, but it is a good run-through of recent German history, which so far I have only kind of picked up on the fly. 

Weird juxtaposition but the Kampfner book is a little easier going than the Freeman book, which can be emotionally rough to get through. 

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I'm reading Cool Town by Grace Elizabeth Hale (no relation) about the music scene that emerged in Athens, GA starting with the B-52s. The fact there was a strong Art School at the University of Georgia is one the reasons that such a strong music culture emerged. As a result I'm going down the rabbit hole of listening to Pylon, Love Tractor, Bar-B-Que Killers, and other early Athens bands. 

(fun fact - Curtis Crowe of Pylon is the brother of Rhett Crowe of Guadalcanal Diary - on of my favorite bands. And while people think of Guadalcanal as an Athens band, they're not. Although the title of their album In the Shadow of the Big Man is a reference to REM).

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Robert Pinget, That Voice

Luc Sante, Maybe the People Would Be the Times

The essay collection by Sante was surprisingly disappointing. He's a good writer, but this is a such a hodge podge. The first section -- essays on the music scene he found in New York in the 70s and 80s -- is great, and would have made a good standalone book (if it was a bit longer). Then there's a set of portraits, ranging from Simenon through Manny Farber to Wojnarowicz, none of which tell you anything new. And a series of very short essays on photography which, although some are recent, have nothing to say about how the internet has changed our relationship with images. 

Although I read 300 books every 3 weeks, as Joe pointed out, I am not even sure I finished this before I returned it to the library.

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J.H. Prynne, Aquatic Hocquets 

  "  "            , Kernels in Vernal Silence 

Peter Weiss, Aesthetics of Resistance (Volume 1)

Samuel Menashe, Collected Poems

Peter Trawny, Heidegger and the Myth of a Jewish World Conspiracy

The Weiss is volume one of a three volume novel (as may not be apparent from the title). It tracks some fictional characters  and a number of real people through the 1930s, and then the war years in Europe. The main characters are not only Communist militants; they are attempting to re-interpret bourgeois art from a Marxist perspective. It's surprising they have time. For example, trapped in Spain, where they had gone to join the International Brigade, with Franco triumphant and uncertainty about what happens next, they embark on a Marxist re-reading of the myths of Heracles. As you do.

Also, the book has no paragraph breaks. But I am sucker enough to read volume two (the third volume is not yet translated).

Samuel Menashe wasn't previously on my radar. I found this disappointingly uneven, especially in the large quantity of previously uncollected poems. Unfortunately, there's no explanation of the status of those poems. It seems implausible that all, or many, of them were published in magazines but not previously collected. Were many of them unpublished? Did Menashe deliberately withhold some of them? He should have, because by and large they aren't as good as what he published.

I see there's a more recently collection of all his published poetry, which might answer my question.


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