Art Kavanagh

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

I reread Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye 📖 a few months ago, having previously read it in the early 90s and remembered only the theme — and that vaguely. It’s just occurred to me that the novel, which is quite long, might have worked a lot better as a short story by Alice Munro!

My sister was driving from France and brought the rest of the books I’d left behind there years ago. I was hoping to be reunited with Wilkie Collins, No Name; Scott Turow, Ordinary Heroes and A S Byatt, The Biographer’s Tale. Instead got Babel Tower ☹️ and a lot of “New Historicism” about Marvell.

I think it’s time I gave up trying to crosspost to BlueSky and just posted there manually instead. It’s a pity because I like being able to include real links in my BlueSky posts. I’ll disable crossposting for now (though that’s hardly necessary) and maybe try again in a few weeks.

I unexpectedly came across my old copies of The Invention of Solitude and Moon Palace just now. When Auster died recently, I thought I’d like to read Moon Palace again but assumed I’d left my copy behind somewhere, possibly decades ago. I hadn’t even been looking for it 📚

Front covers of two books by Paul Auster, The Invention of Solitude and Moon Palace Back covers of two Faber paperbacks of books by Paul Auster, The Invention of Solitude and Moon Palace. The description of the latter reads: Moon Palace is the story of Marco Stanley Fogg — a novel that spans three generations, from the early years of this [the twentieth] century to the first lunar landings; and that moves from the canyons of Manhattan to the cruelly beautiful landscape of the American West.

Apple, why is my “Recents” folder completely empty? And why has a photo I just saved to the “Preview” folder on iCloud not shown up there, or anywhere else that I can see? (That’s why I was looking in the “Recents” folder in the first place.)

What blasted idiot thought touchscreens were a good idea? I just wiped some dirt off the screen of my iPad and jumped at least one screen back in the browser history, losing my place in a “long read” 😡

Two contrasting reviews of Caoilinn Hughes’s third novel 📖, at Bookmunch and the Irish Times. The Irish Times one is subscriber only, I’m afraid.

I should have known there’d be a word for it: matriphagy. Perfect! Sarah Ditum on form, as usual

The latest post from Talk about books is Nothing to be afraid of: Seamus Heaney on the last things of Yeats and Larkin, about Heaney’s 1990 lecture as Oxford Professor of Poetry, in which he compared Larkin’s “Aubade” to two poems by Yeats 📖

Nothing to be afraid of: Seamus Heaney on the last things of Yeats and Larkin

This is the 90th post from Talk about books; the next one, due in two weeks’ time, will make it 3½ years since I began sending these out, at first as a Substack newsletter. Broadly speaking, when I think of these posts collectively as a body of writing, I’m more or less happy with them; it’s only when I look at individual posts that I’m forced to notice their faults: the gaps in the argument, the important points that I meant to include but forgot, the recurring rush to finish.

Brad Mehldau has been playing in a trio with Jorge Rossy again, this time with a bassist who is unfamiliar to me (but Danish!!) Later this month, he’s playing at the Village Vanguard with Marcus Gilmore and Vicente Archer. I really hope that lineup will make a recording 🎹 🎶

There are so many reasons why Amazon should be broken up, but this look at its absolutely atrocious business culture and ethics just adds to the pile.

says Ian Betteridge.

I enjoyed this evisceration of Stanley Kubrick. To be fair to Kubrick, I haven’t seen very many of his films. I remember reading a (favourable) review of Barry Lyndon in the 70s and thinking “No way in the world I’m going to see that”, and I haven’t.

I love the Brad Mehldau Trio’s version of “Day Is Done” (which I’m listening to at the moment). I wonder what Nick Drake would have made of it 🎶 🎹

You have a choice between somebody who without a doubt, and has said so, will impose a vengeful tyranny, and another person who wouldn’t …

says Margaret Atwood. Tough decision.

Doctor Who actors ranked. I can’t believe Matt Smith came … um, where he did. Before Capaldi. And Eccleston. Preposterous.

Contingency, as an aesthetic given, tends to undermine meaning from the ground up. Where meaning is absent, dead language creeps in.

Kevin Power has reservations about Paul Auster 📖

Goodbye Blackberry Way … 🎶 🎹Richard Tandy, ELO keyboardist, dies aged 76

Four years ago, I said I wanted to read Rachel Donohue’s The Temple House Vanishing 📚, on the basis of a piece by her in the Irish Times, evoking 1990s Dublin. A few weeks ago I found a secondhand copy in a charity shop and … it’s too gothic for my taste, and some of the writing could be tighter.

Sorry, it’s my fault again. I was just thinking about Auster this morning (which is not something I do very often). I’ll try to be more careful from now on.

One of the things that irritates me about Substack is that their RSS feeds don’t include links to other Substack users’ profiles, leaving gaps in the text instead. In this case the name “Anna McCullough” is missing.

Screenshot of an item in the RSS feed for The Common Reader Substack, with link to profile of guest author omitted

‘Anxiety is the price we pay for the ability to imagine the future.’

— NYU neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux

Quoted by John Naughton. Hmm. I can’t imagine the future (except in very abstract, general terms). So maybe I need a better name for the feeling I’ve been thinking of as anxiety.

Just posted on my personal site, “Nothing human”: A recent article in Vox argues that the Netflix adaptation of Liu’s The Three-Body Problem poses three contrasting approaches to the survival of humankind. We need (and fortunately have) a fourth option.

Having raved about Caoilinn Hughes’s short stories, I found her first two novels less satisfying. This third one sounds more like it — I hope 📖

Helen Mirren is great, of course, but really unimaginative casting for The Thursday Murder Club 🍿 Oh well, I probably wouldn’t have watched it anyway.