Art Kavanagh

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

Maria Bustillos in The Nation:

The breakneck deployment of half-baked AI, and its unthinking adoption by a load of credulous writers, means that Google — where, admittedly, I’ve found the quality of search results to be steadily deteriorating for years — is no longer a reliable starting point for research.

Scarily true. (The main thrust of Bustillos’s piece, though, is a specious attack on publishers’ legal action against Internet Archive.)

I enjoy Noah Smith’s Substack, Noahpinion, but I wish he’d occasionally get off the fence and let us know what he really thinks. Yes, of course we should ban TikTok

my uber-Tigger-Pollyanna personality

High Court judge Sir Nicholas Mostyn on working with Parkinson’s disease

Enrico Pieranunzi was supposed to be playing in the Sunside (rue des Lombards, Paris) tonight but had to cancel “pour des raisons personnelles”. I really hope it’s not something serious 🎶 🎹

I don’t usually listen to or recommend podcasts from the Economist but this one has Sebastian Scotney (starting at 19:40) talking about the first part of Brad Mehldau’s 🎹 autobiography, which has just been published. I’m looking forward to reading that.

It’s just two months short of three years since I bought a refurb MacBook Air with an Intel chip and a butterfly keyboard. The keyboard has generally been trouble-free — sometimes the “i” repeats, but I’ve managed to live with that. But now the up-arrow key has stopped working: time to change.

Electric Literature has a list of new Irish novels due out this year. Sarah Gilmartin’s Service 📚 sounds as if it covers some of the same ground as her prize-winning short story, “The Wife

TIL that the toast alarm in this apartment isn’t able to tell the difference between smoke (from a hypothetical fire) and steam (from an actual shower) when I forget to close the bathroom door fully.

You need a special degree of ineptness to write From the number of corpses, as vast as they had been …: Goodkind must have meant ‘vast’ to modify ‘number’, but the plural means that it can only modify ‘corpses’. Big old corpses. Some several miles long.

Adam Roberts is very unimpressed by the novels of Terry Goodkind

I sometimes buy secondhand books from and they usually include a surprise free book. Today’s freebie is Liz Nugent, Lying in Wait📖, which I’ve already read. The copy I had is a trade paperback, which I’ll return to the charity shop whence it came; I’m glad to have the smaller format.

A much better than usual haul from the charity shop on Friday. I’ve read all of these already but want to read them again; I’ve known for ages that I’d soon need my own copies of The Testaments and That Old Country Music 📖, and the Susie Steiner (RIP) was only 50 cents.

I’d like to be able to block replies (by people on to people I’m not following on Mastodon, while still seeing replies to people I’m following on I suppose that’s too complicated. So, instead I’ll unfollow a small number of people on MB who often reply to Mastodon threads 😎

The latest Talk about books post is a look at Alice Munro’s 2004 collection of short stories, Runaway📖, which includes the three stories that Pedro Almodóvar adapted for his film, Julieta (2016). It’s my first sustained attempt to engage with Munro’s stories.

“Just a way that she has found to manage her life”: Alice Munro, Runaway (2004)

I feel particularly unqualified to write about Alice Munro’s short stories. She has written a lot of them in a career that began more than 50 years ago, and so far I’ve read just one collection (of 8 stories), Runaway (2004). It’s hard to know where to start with a short story writer who has been so prolific over a longish period. I bookmarked this page on LitHub in 2019 and, noting that many of the stories it links to were published in The New Yorker, I took out a cheap, year-long introductory subscription to that publication, intending to read as many of the stories listed on the bookmarked page as I could get free access to.

Here’s a short story by Maria Farrell, Burning Men, published appropriately on International Women’s Day. I haven’t had time to read it yet so this isn’t exactly a recommendation but on past performance the story is likely to be worth your while. And here is the author’s own comment.

I noticed on Friday that Substack’s RSS feeds are leaving out some links, just leaving a gap in the text. I’m not able to tell which links it’s not displaying, as it’s clearly showing some. I hope they fix it soon.

I just noticed that 4 out of the last 7 books I’ve read have been collections of short stories. That’s unusual for me, and I have a few more collections lined up to read (in some cases reread) soon.

How great it is to have fast internet. I just started to transfer a file of 413 MB at 20 KB a second. This may take some time 😜

From The Guardian: Wayne Shorter, icon of jazz saxophone, dies aged 89 🎶

Joshua Rozenberg explains how the Stormont brake is supposed to work.

The tv dramatization of MacLaverty’s story “My Dear Palestrina” was the first thing I ever saw Liam Neeson in, and I was impressed by acting and story alike. But it’s taken me 40 years to get around to reading a collection of his stories: finished Bernard MacLaverty, Blank Pages and Other Stories 📚

A few days late — writing about poetry slows me down — Sunday’s post from Talk about books takes a look at William Empson’s poetry from the decade leading up to the Second World War: “Not human to feel safely placed”: Further reflections on the poetry of William Empson

“Not human to feel safely placed”: Further reflections on the poetry of William Empson

Late again, sorry. I know I write more slowly about poetry but I tend to forget how much more slowly. My previous post, about The Satanic Verses, turned out to be more of a handful than I had allowed time for, so I finished it in a rush. Last week I made a few small corrections to the web version and tidied up some minor infelicities (leaving the larger ones untouched, naturally).

I might reread Samantha Downing’s My Lovely Wife 📚, though I disliked the serial-killer-tortures-young-women plot. The husband narrator is obviously unreliable but something I just read made me wonder if he’s even less truthful than I’d thought. Is he lying about everything?

TIL that Text Fragments are a thing. Ingenious and potentially helpful but I’m not sure I’d actually use them. After all, if the person citing a reference can find the first occurrence of a particular phrase in the cited text … so can the person reading!