Thursday, July 31, 2008

If You Were A Horse

If you were a horse, my what a horse you would be! Hocks and fetlocks to take one's breath away, and cannon that just wouldn't quit. Your gaskin would be among the great wonders of the world, although I confess I am more of a pastern man myself. Out in the fields, I would stroke your flexor tendons, tickle your stifle, run my fingers lightly along your beautiful withers, slowly, one perfect vertebrae at a time. You would whinny and take some feed, and I would laugh merrily, my lips at your throat latch, my hand upon your poll. What a pair we would make, you and I, if you were a horse.

____

Almost forgot to do a repost this month. This was originally presented to an uncaring world on June 15, 2005.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Contenders

The 2008 Booker longlist:

Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger
Gaynor Arnold, Girl in a Blue Dress
Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture
John Berger, From A to X
Michelle de Kretser, The Lost Dog
Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies
Linda Grant, The Clothes on Their Backs
Mohammed Hanif, A Case of Exploding Mangoes
Philip Hensher, The Northern Clemency
Joseph O'Neill, Netherland
Salman Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence
Tom Rob Smith, Child 44
Steve Toltz, A Fraction of the Whole

Not a bad list, although hardly thrilling. (But then this is the Booker...) I experienced a moment of shock when I saw the name Mohammed Hanif, until I remembered that the bloke our government locked up for no good reason was Mohammed Haneef. I know Damien Leith parlayed his Australian Idol win into a publishing deal, but terrorism suspect to Booker contender would be another thing altogether.

I happened to read Netherland last weekend so I should have a review up soon. It's been favourably compared to The Great Gatsby and Joseph O'Connor calls it "a great American novel" (although O'Neill is Irish, hence his Booker eligibility) but the reason I read it is because it was said to be that rare beast, a good novel about cricket. It turned out to be a reasonably good novel that had cricket in it. I wouldn't be surprised to see it win.

Other than that I'll be reading and reviewing what I can of the list. As is traditional with my Booker reading, the snark will be brought when warranted.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I now pronounce you incorrectly

I bought a book by Andre Dubus on the weekend and spent the train trip home wondering how to pronounce his name. "Dub-us"? "Do-boos"? Turns out it's "Duh-byoose" (thanks, Google). Armed with this information I can now wade into any conversations about Andre Dubus that might crop up at dinner parties or on the bus, confident that I'll at least get his name right. Now all I have to do is find somebody who wants to have a conversation about Andre Dubus.

Whilst searching for Dubus-pronunciation assistance I came across a post at The Millions which features a fairly comprehensive list of hard-to-pronounce literary names. The only revelatory pronunciation listed is that of Donald (and, presumably, Frederick) Barthelme, which is apparently "BAR-tuhl-mee" rather than the more prosaic (and sensible) "BAR-thelm". Other than that I appear to be pronouncing most of the listed writers' names correctly, or close enough. (I'm still not sure if it's "kut-see" or "curt-see".) I was also pleased to see that mispronunciations I once employed are apparently common. For years I said "woad-house" rather than "wood-house", "thuh-row" when it's actually "thuh-roo", and "bore-jez" when it is, of course, "bore-has". I still don't know how to pronounce "Goethe", but neither does anybody else. "Goat" seems to get the point across.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fw: Please pass this on...

---- Original Message -----
From: ********
To: ***********
Sent: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 9:48 AM
Subject: Fw: Please pass this on, it has been confirmed by the Australian Police and the Australian Carpenters & Joiners Union

I got a call last night from an individual who identified himself as a Doors Plus Front Door Technician. He said that he was standing on my front doorstep and asked me to open the door so that he could check that it was functioning correctly. I was a little suspicious – there have recently been a number of attempted regicides and chicken bonings in our area – but I eventually decided to do as I was asked rather than make a fuss.

Big mistake! After checking that my front door’s hinges were operating according to Commonwealth standards (or so he claimed!) the so-called Front Door Technician asked if he could check the rest of my doors. I hesitated, but he said that he was entitled by Australian law to access my doors. I felt I had no choice and allowed him to go around my house checking the doors. After this I thought he would leave but he then demanded to be allowed to check my drawers. I let him rummage around in my drawers but after a while I started to feel uncomfortable and asked him to leave as I had to go and pick up my children from World Youth Day.

The man then said that he wanted to check any cash I had on me to ensure that it was functioning correctly. I was suspicious but he told me that owing to departmental downsizing Doors Plus was now subcontracted to evaluate Australia’s circulating currency at street level. I gave the man all the cash I had – several thousand dollars in mixed denominations – and was informed that it was faulty and would have to be taken in for repairs. I felt uncomfortable and suggested the man come back later when my husband would be home. The man said that he was on a tight schedule so would have to take the money now. He assured me that the money would be returned in good working order and made out a receipt which I later noticed was actually just a piece of paper torn out of a Coles catalogue.

By this time I was getting very suspicious but the man showed me his ID. I probably should have twigged at this point – the ID was a video library card in the name of Esther Jones – but I am a trusting person (too trusting!) and I wanted to do the right thing.

The man finally left having convinced me to give him a spare set of keys, my credit card, bank account and tax file details, my daughter’s piggy bank, my husband’s anal intruder, the plasma tv, and my collection of rare 19th century Scottish shipbuilding erotica – all to be "taken in for repairs", or so the man claimed! I was suspicious but he seemed like an honest, decent man. Before he left he told me that amongst his people – he was from Bendigo – the handjob was a sign of trust and he would be greatly relieved if I would show my trust by giving him one. I was suspicious but didn’t want to seem rude, so I gave him a brief and explosive tug by the front door, after which he left.

A few days later I called Doors Plus to enquire about when I might expect my money and other goods to be returned. They told me they had never heard of me and that it sounded like I had been the victim of a scam! I was shocked and called my local police station. The sergeant I spoke to told me that he had heard of similar scams originating from many gaols and prisons and said that I ought to pass my story along to others using email so as to reach the maximum number of people using a trusted medium that can never be exploited or used to propagate rumours and urban legends. So that is what I have done and I thank you for reading. If you are approached by any suspicious men claiming to be Front Door technicians, call the police!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"Do you have a nose?"

asks a classified ad in my local paper. If the answer is affirmative, you - yes, you, the one with the nose - can earn "$20 per hour as an 'Odour Sniffer'".

That they use the word "odour" rather than "scent" would seem to indicate that your $20 per hour will be hard-earned.

...and hold the placenta...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Shame

What is wrong with the English? Why are they so obsessed with not having finished certain books or not having started other books or not having taken books of appropriate cultural cachet to the beach? (Do they even have beaches?) There's one of these self-conscious whinges every second week in the Guardian, always couched in confessional tones - the shame of not starting/finishing Proust or whomever, the shame of taking the latest Ian Rankin to the beach instead of something translated from Norweigan with no paragraphs or proper nouns. Then, perversely, there's the shame of looking like a show-off if you opt for the allegedly pretentious tome over the bestseller. It's clearly impossible for the average Englisher to make a reading selection without being crippled by doubt.

Perhaps it's a consequence of growing up in egalitarian Australian - egalitarian to the extent that lack of interest in arts and literature knows no class boundaries - but I'm surprised anybody gives a frying frock what anybody else is or isn't reading. On the train the other day I sat between a businessman who was reading Robin Hobb and a Surrey Hills matron who was engrossed by The Bostonians, while opposite me a uni student was bending back the dusty spine of something horrible by Dennis Wheatley. (I had forgotten my book - Proust, obviously, in the original French - and was entertaining myself by trying to read bits of everybody else's.) These people weren't at all self-conscious, neither trying to display nor hide their reading matter. If a tyrannical cultural elite exists it failed to materialise on the 11:45 to Flinders St for a spot-check of commuters' books. ("High fantasy? 'Fraid that'll be a fifty dollar on-the-spot fine, sir. Madam, I'd like to see something from James's late period next time, if you don't mind. Sir, put the The Devil Rides Out down slowly and come with me. That's right, easy now. We'll get you all the help you need...")

The only person who regularly asks me what I'm reading is my dad, and he's never heard of any of the writers I like anyway and in any case is hardly seeking to make value judgments about my choice of literary diversion. I doubt if anybody else cares either. Or do they? Do I? Perhaps I'm just feigning nonchalance when really I'm a snob of the first water, peering down my nose at the philistines reading Wilbur Smith on the train, and then getting all worked up inside about my hypocritical snobbishness, remembering all those Dostoyevsky novels I haven't finished translating from the Russian, despite countless NYE resolutions to do so, so who am I to judge, but then, really, Wilbur Smith?

Dear Guardian. I have an idea for a blog post. I was on the train the other day when I was crippled by anxiety and shame...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just so you know

I'm bored with the internet right now. Too much blather. Also, it's so cold in my study I can barely hear my inane thoughts over the chattering of my teeth.

My study. Or my teeth.

It's interesting, the too much blather thing. Sometimes the web provides me with an escape precisely because it is so heavy with random information, lies, opinions, gossip, images, in-fights, outrages, lists, star ratings, and so on. Other times, like now, all that stuff makes me sleepy and annoyed, and I want to escape from it and go and read Richard Yates by the heater and drink Coopers Pale Ale and later watch the Tour de France. So, goodnight.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ozzy

One day in Year 12 a classmate brought to school a very small very furry kitten that she had found hanging around the back door of the bakery where she worked. My family's cat had been put down earlier in the year, so I volunteered to give the little guy a home. Twelve years later Ozzy (as I named him) is still a fixture at my parent's house, dividing his time between snoozing in front of the heater and shedding huge dusty chunks of fur on the soft furnishings. I was around there last night and he looked at me with his big yellow eyes, purred at the sight of his true owner and master, then coughed up a particularly revolting hairball.

About two seconds after I took this photo my dad trod on Ozzy's tail. This is an inevitable consequence of having a cat that is the same colour as the carpet.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hammer Time

Did you know that Peter Cushing played Darcy in a 1952 BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice? Well now you do.

As a teenager I was a big fan of Peter Cushing, whom I had seen in various Hammer flicks and of course in Star Wars as Grand Moff Tarkin, who really was so much grander than all those other, regular, moffs. I was probably the only teenager in Australia who owned a copy of Cushing's charming, sad autobiography. I say sad because Cushing lived out the final decades of his life mourning his wife Helen, who died in 1971, and from what I can remember the autobiography is permeated by a strong sense of loss. I don't think Cushing mentions this in his book, but apparently on the night his wife died he tried to commit suicide using the somewhat unorthodox method of running up and down a flight of stairs in order to bring on a heart attack. It didn't work.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to direct your attention to Shadowplay's excellent series of posts on Hammer's Frankenstein movies, in which Cushing played the eponymous Baron.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

1914

2 August. Germany has declared war on Russia - Swimming in the afternoon.
Kafka, Diaries, p. 301

That mad game the world so loves to play

In an attempt to ward off or at least mitigate depression I have been avoiding horror movies, sad songs, news reports of suffering and murder, and anything else that couldn't conceivably be turned into a cheerful Gene Kelly song-and-dance number. All was going reasonably well until today when I made the mistake of visiting the exhibition of Otto Dix's Der Krieg [War] etchings at the NGV.

Who's laughing now?

I'm actually glad I went because it is an enormously powerful exhibition. There is quite a lot of variety amongst the fifty-one prints, in style and focus, which is presumably the consequence not only of Dix's roving eye but also a conscious effort not to routinise the manifold nastiness of war. For the spectator this has the effect of precluding numbness - at every turn there is fresh horror to absorb. It's not all gory battle scenes either - one of the most shocking prints depicts a soldier raping a nun. It's horrific stuff, but that's the point. I found some of the prints difficult to look at, although Dix's skill - obvious even to your know-nothing correspondent - provides enough abstract fascination to counteract at least some of the physical revulsion one experiences.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Where no Russian has gone before

Who is the greatest Russian of all time?

I think the answer is obvious:

"Is that a nuclear wessel in your pocket or are you
just happy to see me?"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Last train to tramcentral

One drizzly winter evening in the mid-nineties, a friend and I were waiting for a tram at the Acland St. stop on Fitzroy Rd. As the old rattler pulled up, the driver poked his head out of the window and, in a voice apparently on loan from the late Vincent Price, announced: "Everybody must die!"

Being young, foolish and cold we decided not to interpret this as the ominous warning it so obviously was and boarded the tram. Inside, a musical trio (violin, acoustic guitar, bongo) had occupied the tram's aft and were energetically running the melody-free voodoo down. A small, clearly drunk/stoned audience of hippies danced around and applauded the band's more outrageous psychedelic noodling, while in the corner a dwarf in a top hat played Snap with a winged donkey on stilts. (That last detail might be a trick of memory: it may have been Old Maid rather than Snap and the donkey could have been on a unicycle.)

Presiding over this bacchanalia-on-wheels was an almost spherical middle-aged man sporting a cowboy hat, Harley Davidson belt buckle, leather pants, a handlebar moustache - and the badge and other accoutrements of an official Met tram conductor. He sold us our tickets, made some vaguely menacing remarks that involved referring to us as "boys", then wandered back to rejoin the frivolity. Twenty somewhat fraught minutes later - the conductor kept smiling at us - the tram arrived at Flinders St., we got out, and the merry band of psychopaths rattled off to strange, unknown realms, maybe even Brunswick.

This anecdote has no real ending - we just caught a train and were probably disappointed that it too wasn't overrun by crazies - but I was reminded of it by Catherine Deveny's column about the prospect of reinstating tram conductors not only as a practical solution to various public transport issues but also as a kind of spiritual panacea for our "tragic and disconnected" society. How romantic, how Leunigian!

I'm no fan of the present gumby gestapo, and I don't doubt there would be benefits to bringing conductors back, but surely in Deveny's haste to don her rose-coloured tram-riding goggles she is forgetting one thing: some conductors were insane. Or, if not insane, then rude, surly, and completely unhelpful. (Several commenters on this LP post make the same point.) Has Deveny caught a bus lately? Most of the drivers are fine, and I'd hate to see them replaced by bus-driving robots or a species of sentient heavy vehicle licence-carrying plants, but the public/driver interface is rarely spiritually uplifting. I've seen some appalling behaviour from drivers, ranging from impatience and unhelpfulness through to outright bigotry and threats of violence. (The behaviour of passengers is another issue altogether.)

Given this - that is, given the reality that any profession or social grouping will contain its share of pricks, psychos and nasty cowboy-hat-wearing pederast bikies - is there any reason to believe that conductors were, or would be, lovable saints to a (wo)man?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Use a cork, maybe?

The whole "check out the weird Google searches that lead people to my blog" thing is so 2006, however it's probably worth mentioning that somebody landed on Sterne today after Googling "how not to get water up your bum waterskiing".

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

You throw me the idol, I throw you the whip

Have you seen the new ad for Australian Idol? It is focking hilarious.



The best bit is when the red-haired kid sings "All the colours of the world..." and the line is finished by the guy who is apparently receiving an off-camera testicle squeeze from Kyle Sandilands. Also, the fist-pumping, totally right-on, totally premeditated ad-lib "Can you see what's going down?". And all the shoulder-dancing and soulful clapping. Aren't young people just great?

If they asked me, I could write a book

I had an idea for a novel this morning. I was catching the bus when I felt "the first little throb" (to quote VN). By the time I reached my destination (library) I had a protagonist, various sidekicks/friends/nemeses, and at least half the storyline scrawled on the whiteboard in my brain. The return journey filled in the gaps and when I sat down in front of the computer to jot it all down in virtual ink I managed to improve on what I'd already come up with. (It has been my experience that ideas generated while walking/commuting/showering usually turn to mush when assembled on the page.) The way it all came together, almost without conscious thought, was thrilling. Now all I have to do is write the thing. Maybe I can do that without conscious thought too.

Of course, I'm not going to reveal here what my idea is. That would ruin everything. You'll just have to wait a couple of years and buy the book. Or wait for the movie adaptation.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Booker 2008: Sucking and Blowing

Michael Portillo, Chair of this year's Booker Prize, has a blog. Make that "blog" - surely it doesn't count as a real blog if you've only posted to it twice in six months. Portillo's latest entry - posted on May 15 - documents the extraordinary diversity of this year's nominated titles:
At first it seemed that almost every book was going to be written from the point of view of a child.
And were those children disturbed and/or able to see things convention-bound adults can't and/or capable of revealing through their naivety the hypocrisies and cruelties of this crazy modern world in which we live? I'd wager real money that they were, if I had any.
Another big topic this year is Islam, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan feature quite a bit too. Novels set in the UK often have middle-class characters who reveal their disappointment with Tony Blair.
I expect next year there'll be a slew of novels "tackling" climate change.

Portillo also reports that auto-erotic asphyxiation is apparently the literary fetish du jour: "Three novels that I've read so far have featured it." There's a joke waiting to be made here but I'm too tired and anyway Rockwiz is about to start.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Blogroll

Sterne has been blogroll-free for about six months, a situation that would constitute a dereliction of blogging duty, if blogging entailed duties. Anyway, I've created a new blogroll that contains all seventy-odd of my favourite blogs. I'm keen on reciprocating links when possible, so if you link to Sterne and I don't link to you please let me know and I will (most likely, unless you're a nut) add your blog.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Nabokov Reanimated

One of the half-arsed book ideas I have floating around in my head is for a half-arsed book on Nabokov. Needless to say, the book would not be an academic study - or even a study - but, like "the piano book" I am writing (and to which I have referred darkly on this blog) it would be a kind of exploratory, desultory, Geoff Dyer-esque book, angle(s) of approach yet to be determined. Whatever the book turns out to be, if it indeed turns out to be anything, I'm fairly certain that it will not involve a scene like the one in Nina Khrushcheva's Imagining Nabokov in which - I'm not making this up - "Khrushcheva converses with the statue of Nabokov in Montreux, Switzerland. He comes alive and responds, citing passages from his works."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Recent Reads: One Star Amazon Customer Reviews Edition

Poor Things, Alasdair Gray:
1.0 out of 5 stars Yuck!, 28 April 2000
By A Customer
Highly pretentious! A ridiculously stupid main character set within an even stupider plot! This novel takes itself too seriously from cover to cover (and, indeed, even the cover illustration is ludicrous). Its would-be originality is overshadowed by the fact that the plot and the meaning are in their hundreth reincarnation. Its sinister carefreeness and disturbing images all attempt and fail what Huxley so elegantly communicated to us the good part of a century ago. Save your time -- it is a big book!
What Was Lost, Catherine O'Flynn:
1.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing, 2 Jul 2008
Having read so many good reviews I looked forward to reading this book. It started off well, but introduced characters I did not care about, and I actually could not finish the book, try as I might. I find it hard to understand what most of the other readers got so excited about. Perhaps it appeals to youngsters who spend their lives in shopping malls. I couldn't relate to the book at all.
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov:
1.0 out of 5 stars ugh.., June 16, 2005
By selffate "critical wunderkid"

[...]

Nabokov's novel 'Lolita' about an old man who lusts (that's right not loves LUSTS) after a pre-pubescent girl, is the most banal boring prose I've ever come across. Nabokov's narration while sometimes creative just goes on... and on... and on.. plus he gives no insight into his characters at all most simply because they have no dialogue what so ever. Perhaps the only dialogue I seem to remember from this book, was the words "you rapped me". So how can I feel for any of the characters in this book after that? huh? Would I want to identify with the main protoganist who just can't stop thinking of his sick ways? I don't think so.

I suppose many decades ago you could write a book like this and get noticed with the shock value, but if this book was released now, no-one would even pay attention to it, it would be passed off for what it is, toilet literature, and then be relegated to the garbage can.
The Emigrants, W.G. Sebald:
1.0 out of 5 stars An European point of view..., August 20, 2002
By santiago

[...]

This way of writing, VERY fashionable these days here in Europe, gets me quite nervous. And the main reason is that I cannot sympathise with the people described in the book. Most of them are SO boring and have so little interesting things to say... at least, they take little time to do it, since the book is short and has many photos inside.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Ailing

Classic British comedy – it’s not actually funny, is it? I don’t just mean the acknowledged pap like Carry On and Benny Hill; the alleged good stuff is often pretty shoddy too. I just watched the “classic” 1955 Ealing comedy The Ladykillers and laughed approximately once and that was at something the cat did. Now I’m even more baffled than I was at the time by the invective directed towards the Coens' remake a few years ago. It was hardly the brothers’ best work, but it was amusing enough – I saw it at a preview screening and the audience were pishing themselves throughout. I guess it crossed a lot of critics because not only was it a remake but it was a remake of a forrin film and therefore hateful in a way that even the Coen factor couldn’t mitigate.

Compare The Ladykillers to an actual comedy classic of the era (one that is funny and well-made, Some Like It Hot, say) and it’s like comparing the episode of Neighbours in which Madge died to Hamlet. Of course one must allow for the proverbial subjective nature of humour, especially when viewing the comedy product of another era, but still there’s obviously something wrong with people who rave about The Ladykillers. Oh look, Obi Wan Kenobi with funny dentures! How sophisticated and quintessentially British! (Fortunately The Ladykillers isn't French because then critics would have to pretend it is funny and meaningful.)

In short, I'm right and everybody else is wrong. Amazing how often that happens.

RIP Thomas Disch

Thomas M. Disch, New Worlds alumnus, author of two bona fide New Wave classics, Camp Concentration and 334, as well as dozens of other novels, stories, essays and poems, committed suicide on July 4.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sunday Birthday Blogging

Today is my eldest daughter Asala's tenth birthday. I still remember how significant it felt to tick over into double figures - you don't get another digit for ninety years! - and we have endeavored to make Asala's big day as enjoyable as possible on our limited budget. After presents and bacon and eggs for breakfast we went into the city, had a picnic lunch in the parkland near the Shrine, then wandered through the Botanic Gardens, something the kids always enjoy, especially when there are swans to chase. Then we paid a visit to the NGV where half of Melbourne was queuing for the Art Deco show. We headed straight for the modern galleries on the second floor which are generally colourful and weird enough to keep children interested. Charlotte tried to knock a Rothko off the wall, nudes were snickered at, Rodin's and Barye's lions were marveled at, and Anguish, as usual, provoked difficult questions. Tonight we're going out for dinner with the rest of the family and that should wrap up what has been a very pleasant day.

Happy Birthday, Asala!

Me, in the Botanic Gardens, with limpets.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Saturday Salmon

An open thread, where at your weekend leisure, you can discuss anything you like, as long as it's to do with salmon.

Austen Rethunk

Laura posts news of an intriguing initiative:
This coming semester, in collaboration with a certain Land Baron around here, I will be trying out the use of group course blogs in teaching English. Not so novel perhaps, course blogs have been done before, but it's new for us and (we think) for our faculty, and we're planning to use the blogs in ways that have integrity - ie not using them as just another new-fangled place to park some text...This semester it is an experiment, and participation in it is voluntary and not assessed. I'm doing all I can think of to make sure it's taken up and is a worthwhile exercise. Next year I plan to make it mandatory.

The blog topic is non-academic appropriations of and responses to Jane Austen - Jane Austen in 'popular culture', the Austen industry, fandoms, mailing lists, LJ communities Austen spinoffs and sequels, fanfic, Austen coopted into marketing irrelevant products, Austen memes, Austen tourism - anything of that nature. I want students to find themselves things to write about and to write about them interestingly, knowledgeably, critically, and fairly.
The blog, Rethinking Jane Austen, is here.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Meet Market

When Joyce met Proust they exchanged a mere few sentences. When Celan visited Heidegger they spoke about - well, nobody knows, but it probably wasn't the weather. What did Borges and Ballard discuss during their epochal encounter in the late 1960s? (Simon Sellars, that scurrilous paparazzo, has the shocking photo!) Best guesses on the back of an envelope to the usual address.

I'm a big fan of "when such-and-such met so-and-so" stories, especially when the details are vague, possibly apocryphal. What really happened is impossible to pin down, so you get speculation, or a Rashomon-esque kaleidescope of viewpoints. (eg. Did William Burroughs once tell Ian Curtis to "fuck off"? Mr Sellars once again has the story.) Literary gangs (Bloomsbury, the Lost Generation, etc.) are interesting in their way but it's the run-ins between incongruous (or even incompatible) individuals that are especially tantalising.

It's harder to get worked up about encounters between contemporary writers, most of whom are distinctly unmysterious and relatively accessible. I saw Ian McEwan, Peter Carey and Paul Auster yacking with Jennifer Burne a couple of months ago on ABC and it had all the intensity, conflict and significance of an informal Rotary Club meeting. Writers are too present these days, always shilling their wares or appearing at festivals or worrying away in public at the gnawed and marrowless femurs of their political obsessions. You can watch them chat to one another on tv, you can read their blogs and newspaper columns, you can see them live at book signings and literary festivals and dispensing advice in creative writing classes. Honestly, you get sick of the sight of them - and then they want you to care about their bloody books!

I prefer shadowy figures, your Pynchons and DeLillos who hide out in bunkers for decades at a time before emerging (in Pynchon's case in cartoon form) to hand over their latest work before disappearing once more from sight. I also prefer dead figures, who are by definition shadowy (no: shady) and unknowable and whose interactions took place in that dim, inadequately documented time known as "the past". Am I saying dead authors are more interesting than live ones? Possibly. All I know is that I'll take Dear Bunny, Dear Volodya: The Nabokov-Wilson letters over Dear Four-Eyes, Dear Plummy Git: The McEwan-Amis Emails any day.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

You used to be all right - what happened?

I sometimes feel bad about how Sterne has changed from being a mostly creative enterprise with the occasional personal rumination thrown in when times were tough/good to being more or less an intermittent personal status update with the odd slice of hilarity/oddness posted (or reposted) for old time's sake. In the dead of night I do sometimes pine for the blog's golden days (roughly: October 2005) but then I remind myself that life changes and if I was still in the same headspace as I was three fairly eventful years ago then I'd be either an idiot or a fraud. I also remind myself that it's my blog: I built it up and I can run it into the ground by posting naught but inconsequential crapola if I want to.

Anyway, Pav's going to post every day of July and I've decided to join her. That's right, a whole month of inconsequential crapola! Strap yourselves in/on...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Recent Acquisitions #3

Now with floral doona cover background.




















That's not my bed, btw.

I'm mostly a library man these days, what with the whole not having any money thing, but I did recently buy two books I've wanted for ages. Motherfuckers was a bargain at around $40 (incl. postage from the UK) from eBay. I have a post coming up looking at this novel, as well as Keith Seward's recent monograph on the whole Lord Horror/Savoy multimedia mind-fuck of which it is a part, so I won't say any more here. I also want to write something about B.S. Johnson's The Unfortunates, which is the famous "book-in-a-box" that's been OOP for yonks but is now BIP and looking very spiffy.

The other book is The Pages by Murray Bail which I got for nothing.