Art Kavanagh

Talk about books: a fortnightly email about things I’ve read

Journalism is about asking questions and refusing to accept whatever the currently accepted narrative is, whether it’s about politics or celebrities. It is not about getting likes on Twitter.

Hadley Freeman is leaving the Guardian 🥲

This made me laugh: Morden You Know: jazz standards within the M25

For some, success is a billion-dollar exit, for others success is a profitable business which employs a dozen people. For some, failure is bankruptcy, for others failure is a profitable business which only employs a dozen people.

Terence Eden’s blog

Anne Enright pays tribute to Anthony Cronin in the Irish Times. Reading Dead as Doornails 📖 while I was living outside Ireland in the early 90s had a strong influence to my attitude to Dublin, and to writers like Brendan Behan and Brian Ó Nualláin. I’d love to read it again.

Now reading Wuthering Heights 📚 I’m rereading Emily Brontë’s only novel. Two years ago, in my third post in Talk about books, I wrote about reading it with aphantasia. Now I want to look at it again from a different point of view: broadly speaking, that of social class.

The toast alarm has been chirping at me all day: it seems that a battery needs to be replaced. But the alarm is mains powered; how can it need a battery as well? Just bad design?

I’ve just finished reading Robert Galbraith, Troubled Blood 📚 I often felt while in the middle of it that at 1000 pages it’s too long, with too many characters and red herrings. But the plot was resolved very satisfactorily and I’ll probably reread it … eventually.

More than 14 years (can it really be?) after his death, a previously unreleased solo piano album by Esbjörn Svensson has just come out! How Ted Gioia joined the Euro-Jazz cult 🎶 🎹

A few days ago I was thinking of changing the way I insert descriptons (for Twitter tags etc) into longer posts with titles. The way I’m doing it now is a bit of an unwieldy kludge but it works and the alternative I looked at isn’t any less clumsy, so I’m going to leave it.

I’ve been hand-grinding my coffee for the past 18 months or so. It’s a bit of a chore, with the result that I’ve increasingly been getting around to drinking my “morning” cuppa at around 5 pm. I suspect that my sharpness and productivity might benefit from my having it earlier 🤔

The first time I bought a HP LaserJet printer (July 2001) I had to call customer support because I was trying to put the toner cartridge in upside down. The second time (today) I had the devil’s own job trying to connect to it over wifi. Took about an hour but it’s done now 😎

My 52nd post in Talk about books, ending its second year, discusses a trilogy whose plot threads range from the implausible but entirely possible, through the all too likely, to the extremely fanciful. An almost insignificant figure: Jonathan Holt’s Carnivia trilogy 📖

An almost insignificant figure: Jonathan Holt’s Carnivia trilogy

Towards the end of the first book in Jonathan Holt’s Carnivia trilogy, a US mercenary who had fought in the Bosnian war of the 1990s whispers into the ear of Capitano Katarina Tapo of the carabinieri: “… It’s beautifully simple, really. There’s no sweeter feeling than having the power to do whatever you want to another human being.” He tucked a lock of her hair, almost tenderly, back behind one ear.

Can’t happen too soon: Musk testifies he will ‘reduce’ time at Twitter and eventually hand over reins

I’m thinking about changing the way I do the descriptions for my longer posts (the Talk about books “newsletter” ones). The description is used in the Twitter card for the post, the regular “description” meta tag, and on the archive page for the “newsletter” posts. I’ve been inserting them using a JSON data template. In future, I’d like to put the description in the first paragraph of the post, but hidden using a display: none; style. I’m not sure if that will work in the email. If not, I might have to do something else there, like style the description with small italic text to make it clear it’s not part of the post. I’ll probably experiment with that at the weekend.

OK, that makes it 2 days in a row I’ve missed doing my mbnov post. My internal clock, never a good timekeeper, seems to have gone haywire recently. I couldn’t believe it just now when I noticed it’s after midnight. I hope to get back on track tomorrow.

My first thought when I woke up this morning was that I hadn’t posted anything for mbnov yesterday. It’s one of several things I meant to do but let slide. I’m a bit annoyed with myself but I’ll get over it 🙃🤷‍♂️

Who could possibly have predicted this? Twitter blue check unavailable after impostor accounts erupt on platform

In this quirky and fascinating post about “xenoglossy”, Adam Roberts manages to display a cool-headed scepticism about some of the more outlandish suggested explanations of the phenomenon, particularly reincarnation.

When the Tim Westwood scandal broke, people in the book world that I follow on Twitter were asking how soon they could expect the similar truth about a successful author to come out. I wondered who they meant. Now we know.

Musk will almost certainly sell Twitter at an eye-watering loss — a tax loss for Tesla. In the best case, he’ll do it soon, giving someone else the opportunity to save the company. The sooner the better obviously. Read The Platformer’s reporting

Andrew Marvell’s father, also Andrew, was a minister of religion (officially “lecturer”) at Holy Trinity Church, Hull. The poet said his father had been “a Conformist to the established rites of the Church of England, though … none of the most overrunning or eager in them”.

In theory, this conversation could continue until the end of time.

Almost certainly it won’t, but it will feel like it is doing so. Infinite conversation between machine learning imitations of Werner Herzog and Slavoj Žižek, via Memex 1.1

I don’t wilfully take up contarian positions in opposition to the consensus view (on films, for example, such as The Matrix 🍿). It just seems to happen that way 🤷🏻‍♂️

In a series of 3 posts in Talk about books, under the umbrella heading “Empson’s insightful errors”, I argued that late in life critic William Empson expressed argumentative views which, though badly misleading, each offered a valuable insight into the work or issue he discussed.