Reversing Kafka’s Metamorphosis
Haruki Murakami | New Yorker | 21 October 2013
Murakami revisits a theme by Kafka. “Samsa had no idea where he was, or what he should do. All he knew was that he was now a human whose name was Gregor Samsa. And how did he know that? Perhaps someone had whispered it in his ear while he lay sleeping? But who had he been before he became Gregor Samsa? What had he been?”    

Paul de Man: Betrayal after betrayal
Tom Bartlett | Chronicle Review | 21 October 2013
By Nazi standards, Paul de Man was only moderately anti-semitic, says Evelyn Barish in a new biography, The Double Life of Paul de Man. But she isn’t out to rescue his reputation. “The portrait that emerges from the book is of a deeply dishonest, bizarrely reckless man who manages to charm and bully his way to the pinnacle of intellectual life in the United States, all while covering up a shameful and even criminal past.”  

Kubrick’s little grey men
Simone Odino | 2001 Italia | 17 October 2013
Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke spent years agonising over how best to depict the aliens who astronaut David Bowman encounters at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, when he goes through the Star Gate. Would they be human-like or not? If not humans, then what special effects could be devised to make them adequately mind-boggling? It was Carl Sagan who came up with the answer: don’t represent them at all.

Game of Thrones: A feminist epic?
Daniel Mendelsohn | New York Review Of Books | 17 October 2013
For all the boy’s adventure stuff in Game Of Thrones, the more striking feature is the strength of the female characters: it is “a remarkable feminist epic.” And a gritty one: “The willingness to mete out harsh consequences, rather than dreaming up ways to keep its main characters alive for another season, feels more authentic than anything even the best series in this new golden age of television can provide.”   

Art prices: Why all the mystery?
Cristina Ruiz | Art Newspaper | 16th October 2013
Why are art dealers so reluctant to publicise their sale prices? Survey of 25 galleries finds only a handful willing even to discuss the issue. Findings: Secrecy gives dealers more room to negotiate, to steer works towards admired collectors; and it preserves the mystique of the market, which purports to be more about aesthetics than money. “Dealers feel that they are engaged in a cultural activity, as well as a commercial one”.    

Eleanor Catton: After Man Booker
Charlotte Higgins | The Guardian | 16 October 2013
Interview with Man Booker prize-winner. “In my experience, and that of a lot of other women writers, all of the questions coming at them from interviewers tend to be about how lucky they are to be where they are. The interviews much more seldom engage with the woman as a serious thinker, a philosopher, as a person with preoccupations that are going to sustain them for their lifetime.”    

How not to be a critic
David Wolf | Prospect | 15 October 2013
Interview with New York Times book critic, Dwight Garner. “When I was just starting out, one of the things I disliked most about journalists (and critics) is that you could learn more by talking to them for five minutes than you could by reading a year’s worth of their pieces. Their articles and essays seemed to me like masterpieces of indirection, of plausible deniability. I want to sound like I’m talking to a close, literate friend.”  

Basil Bunting: Poet, Prisoner, Modernist, Spy
Matthew Sperling | Literary Review | 14 October 2013
Review of A Strong Song Tows Us, by Richard Burton, on the extraordinary life of poet Basil Bunting. “He was bailed from prison by Ezra Pound after drunkenly assaulting a police officer, and worked as Ford Madox Ford’s secretary. He followed Pound to Rapallo, where he became friendly with Yeats and helped to discover lost works by Vivaldi and Scarlatti.” Later he became Britain’s top spy in the Middle East.

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