Monthly Archives: May 2012

Robert Walser’s The Walk

In his revisions, Bernofsky suggests, Walser “minimiz[ed] the divide between the writing protagonist and the walking protagonist.” But the divide remains, at least at the beginning, and throughout the novel, though the two personalities merge, a metaphysical struggle persists between them. The two roles are introduced separately in the opening pages, as the narrator refers to himself in the third person as first one—“With a kind face, a bicycling town chemist cycles close by the walker”; and then the other—“The writer is nonetheless very humbly asked to be a bit careful to avoid jokes as well as other superfluousnesses.” (Happily, as the latter example shows, Walser didn’t leave all of his thickly layered ironies behind when he left Berlin. The Walk might be read, I think, as a tragicomedy of the tension between irony and sincerity as played out by the contenders, walker and writer.)

[Full review via Three Percent]

I just received this book today, but have been hyped for ages and can’t wait to get to it. For the uninitiated, Robert Walser is definitely required reading.

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Absolutely nuts?

Ridley Scott’s latest, Prometheus, in pictures, over at the Telegraph. [via The Telegraph]

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On Susan’s notebooks.

There is nothing wrong with changing one’s mind. And who can blame Sontag for coming to the conclusion—if indeed this is what happened—that an evening of Verdi is preferable to an evening of Cage? The trouble with Sontag is that all too often her voice, however distinctive its intonations, sounds an awful lot like a sophisticated version of what other people were saying. Sometimes what we are hearing is little more than the chatter of the bohemian crowd she hung out with in New York or Paris. And isn’t that just another variation on the mass mind? Pauline Kael once said to me, about “Notes on Camp,” that most everybody in Sontag’s immediate circle would have known all about camp long before she wrote the essay, so that the essay amounted to little more than reportage. Perhaps there is a sense in which Sontag was always more of a reporter—an intellectual scout—than a critic.

More from Jed Perl’s review of Susan Sontag’s As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964–1980 in the link.  [via The New Republic]

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New Bob Dylan album incoming.

Consequence of Sound reports that Bob Dylan should be releasing a new album this year. [via Consequence of Sound]

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Amour wins.

Michael Haneke’s Amour, a film about an elderly couple trying to cope with the wife’s deteriorating health, wins the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. [via The Telegraph]

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WKLC’s Summer List 2012

Yeah, it’s that time again where I offer a summer reading list of sorts, but also some bonus material in music and movies. Some suggestions for the sweltering months of the year.

In lieu of that crappy title I used last year, I’ve decided to just condense title to “Summer List”, which sounds slightly ridiculous, but who cares. Again, we’ll be having a mix of old and new. Okay, here we go in no particular order:

Books

The Hour of the Star
Clarice Lispector
Trans. Benjamin Moser
New Directions

This year, New Directions are releasing four new Clarice Lispector books, one of which has never been translated into English before. This makes it an especially great time to revisit what has commonly been called her masterpiece. As if there was ever a not-great time to do so.

Satantango
László Krasznahorkai
Trans. George Szirtes
New Directions

Probably one of the biggest releases of the year, László Krasznahorkai’s first novel has just been translated into English by George Szirtes. A strange, intoxicating blend of dark humour, flashes of the apocalyptic, and dizzying displays of literary genius.

Antigonick
Sophokles’s Antigone as translated by Anne Carson
Illustrated by Bianca Stone
New Directions (US), Bloodaxe Books (UK)

I’m midway through Anne Carson’s reimagining of Sophocles’s Antigone as I write this. It is a startling sort of thing, thrusting the canonical text into a decidedly less-than-conservative frame through Carson’s fascinating translation and the use of Stone’s illustrations. I am also struck by the physical nature of the text/book (which should not be surprising, given the nature of Carson’s preceding work Nox), especially in terms of the tactility of the pages; the translucent sheets on which the illustrations are printed; the hand-lettered, almost comic-book text; the deliberate arrangement of the words; and so on, particularly as it is juxtaposed against the text’s basic nature as performance.

Oops, my comments have run pretty long so I’m stopping here.

Mourning Diary
Roland Barthes
Trans. Richard Howard
Hill and Wang

Yes, more death in summer. Mourning Diary is somewhat a strange book, even for Barthes readers. A collection of short notes written after the death of his mother, it is an assemblage of Barthes’s thought on death, mourning, and grief. It is also the portrait of a man coming to terms with loss without the hope of succeeding. A staggering book.

Scars
Juan José Saer
Trans. Steve Dolph
Open Letter

Sometimes people ask: Daryl, what sort of stuff excites you? Well, they don’t really ask that. I was lying. I just wish they would. Then I would have a reason to pull books like these out of my pocket. And I’ve lied again. I don’t keep books in my pocket. But everything else is true.

All-Star Superman
Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Frank Quitely
DC Comics

There are basically two kinds of Grant Morrison-as-writer. In one sort, he goes all-out down the histrionics path. Sometimes this results in a real mess. And sometimes this results in a real fine mess. I love that Grant Morrison. I also love the Grant Morrison that does stuff like All-Star Superman, the one that puts together a classically incredible comic book while also hanging onto his own thematic concerns, but in a subtler fashion. Whenever I’m trying to convince someone how great superhero comics can get, All-Star Superman springs to mind.

Guadalajara
Quim Monzó
Trans. Peter Bush
Open Letter

The simple fact is that more people have to read Quim Monzó. Thankfully, there seems to be a move to translate more of his work into English of late, so that non-Catalan English-language readers (like yours truly) get more and more to cheer about. And for those who have no idea who he is, start here.

Pandora in the Congo
Albert Sánchez Piñol
Trans. Mara Faye Lethem
Canongate

Are you in the mood for some adventure? Well, even if you aren’t, you have to check out  Albert Sánchez Piñol’s wildly imaginative, superbly entertaining, and genre-defying book. It’s a fairly long book, but I remember breezing through the pages because it was all just so entertaining.

The Drop Edge of Yonder
Rudolph Wurlitzer
Two Dollar Radio

The Drop Edge of Yonder is the trippiest Western I have ever read. Funny and dark in turns, and sometimes both in the same instant, it exudes a deep absurdity and also betrays a rich imagination. Zebulon lives.

Music

Bloom
Beach House
2012

My favourite album thus far this year is by the good people who were responsible for my favourite album of 2010. Beach House’s Bloom is deeply rooted in their preceding work, but somehow manages to take it into new territory, and the result is a quite sublime new album.

Strange Mercy
St. Vincent
2011

Some things take you a bit of time. Last year, I was having difficulty deciding on my favourite album of 2011, but it’s become a lot clearer half a year removed from then. That album is St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy, and there’s never a bad time to revisit this remarkable effort.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
David Bowie
1972

Ziggy Stardust is 40 years old. There is an anniversary edition of the record if you’re thus inclined, one in a series of what feels like several anniversary releases, but I suppose it is in a way a testament to the continued relevance of the album. Even to this day, the album thrills and enchants quite like no other.

The Eraser
Thom Yorke
2006

This is not the best loved of Radiohead-related music. I remember the reviews being somewhat middling when it first came out. Today I’m here to say, who cares about those reviews. This album is great. It’s certainly grown on me since its release, especially in the last couple of years.

Pet Sounds
The Beach Boys
1966

I don’t think I need to say anything about this. I’m including this especially for the folks who are catching them when they make their trip to Singapore in August. And for those who won’t be able to, because you should treat yourself to some Beach Boys in case you feel left out.

Film

Lost Highway
Directed by David Lynch
1997

Of Lynch’s loose trilogy (it is one in my mind) of Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire, Lost Highway has always received the least amount of love from me. I don’t know why that is. I really love the film, but I suspect the later two pictures just became a lot more important to me due to a series of coincidences and so on. That’s why I’m watching it again this summer, and you might feel like doing so too.

Sud Pralad, or Tropical Malady
Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
2004 

Tigers, shamans, romance, what’s not to like?

I had Apichatpong on the list last year, but you can probably never have too much of Apichatpong anyway.

The Illusionist
Directed by Sylvain Chomet
2010

I have probably recommended this a few billion times. I don’t even remember if I did so last year in the same feature. Directed by Sylvain Chomet, this delightfully animated film features a script by the late, great Jacques Tati.

Marnie
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
1964

Hitchcock’s arguably underappreciated film stars Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery was recently mentioned in somebody’s “top 10” list on the New Yorker. (I really have a bad memory, especially for things like these.) It made me want to watch it again, so, here it is.

Pierrot le Fou
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
1965

Ah yes, let us remember a time when Jean-Luc Godard was not making beautifully-filmed but extremely slow feature films; when the director did not adopt the perfume name of JLG; and when we could still see Anna Karina in the theatres. Man, I wasn’t even born then.

And that’s it. I hope this helps with the summer boredom!

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Sontag and the movies.

Her opposition to interpretation locked criticism into a self-abnegating passivity, abstemiousness, and austerity (as if borrowed from a work by one of her heroes and models, Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist”: “I always wanted you to admire my fasting”). The “erotics of art” that she endorsed in the last line of “Against Interpretation” wasn’t a lust for the work of art itself but, rather, signified the critic’s own erotic aura. Instead of “interpreting” a work, it would suffice for her to anoint it with her approval, and thereby elevate it to her canon of contemporary cynosures. She turned criticism into a performative gesture, a stylization of desire akin to that of Garbo or Dietrich.

Richard Brody on Susan Sontag and the movies. [via The Book Bench]

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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

In the interest of getting my hype on, here is the trailer for Stephen Earnhart’s multimedia adaptation of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. [via YouTube]

I am not the biggest Murakami fan (though I certainly don’t mind him) but this really fascinates me. I’m watching it on Friday.

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Evelyn Glennie x Singapore Chinese Orchestra

Evelyn Glennie will be playing with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra on 1 and 2 June. The concert is titled 《击鼓东西》 or “Drumming from East to West” and will take place at the SCO Concert Hall. Get your tickets in the link. [via SISTIC]

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New Sigur Rós video.

There is a new Sigur Rós video to be found in the link. [via Pitchfork]

Titled “Ég Anda”, the track is the opener for their forthcoming album Valtari.

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