He’ll probably spend it on drink

Right. Hands in pockets.

Maclaren-Ross is trying to touch us one last time. Something about needing a gravestone.

Fucking writers.

There’s an address for donations and details of the fundraiser at the Sohemians’ site. I keep meaning to make it to one of their events; I should manage this one.

Black Spring have been doing the good work to get him back in print over the last couple of years.

More scrounging: we’re trying to buy this for the nation. You might say that England already has one totally awesome representation of Donne:

It’s Donne in his funeral shroud! How can we possibly need another? But look:

It is also really cool in an entirely different way!

Greer argues that a bit more coherently over here.

God I love Donne. Poem time!

Let’s take a chunk of ‘The First Anniversary’. It’s written on the anniversary of the death of his patron’s daughter: it represents her as the force and virtue that held a decaying world together. It’s a very peculiar poem to say the least: it’s grotesque, hyperbolic and tangled; dazzling and despairing at once. We’re at line 201; find the rest of it here.

So did the world from the first houre decay,
That euening was beginning of the day,
And now the Springs and Sommers which we see,
Like sonnes of women after fifty bee.
And new Philosophy cals all in doubt,
The Element of fire is quite put out;
The Sunne is lost, and th’earth, and no mans wit
Can well direct him where to looke for it.
And freely men confesse that this world’s spent,
When in the Planets, and the Firmament
They seeke so many new; they see that this
Is crumbled out againe to his Atomis.
‘Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone;
All iust supply, and all Relation:
Prince, Subiect, Father, Sonne, are things forgot,
[F]or euery man alone thinkes he hath got
To be a Phoenix, and that then can be
None of that kinde, of which he is, but he.
This is the worlds condition now, and now
She that should all parts to reunion bow,
She that had all Magnetique force alone,
To draw, and fasten sundred parts in one;
She whom wise nature had in[u]ented then
When she obseru’d that euery sort of men
Did in their voyage in this worlds Sea stray,
And needed a new compasse for their way;
Shee that was best, and first originall
Of all faire copies and the generall
Steward to Fate; shee whose rich eyes, and brest:
Guilt the West-Indies, and perfum’d the East;
Whose hauing breath’d in this world, did bestow
Spice on those Isles, and bad them still smell so,
And that rich Indie which doth gold interre,
Is but as single money, coyn’d from her:
She to whom this world must it selfe refer,
As Suburbs, or the Microcosme of her,
Shee, shee is dead; shee’s dead: when thou knowest this,
Thou knowst how lame a cripple this world is.

‘if’. ooh. That’s a nice one.

Ah. Bad book articles. How I’ve missed you! I tried to ignore that side of things – keep a positive mental attitude, sunny view of life, all that stuff – but no, The Guardian have piqued my ire.

Daisy Goodwin, the TV presenter dubbed the Nigella Lawson of poetry, has warned that the art form of Shakespeare and Keats is dying and set to become as quaint as morris dancing.

I’m tired. Do I need to go through the multiple stupidities here? That poetry isn’t dying, since it can’t die. You may not recognise it, and a lot of people may not like it, but the lyric impulse and the will to make things out of words are persistent. It’s a various family and out at the edges things get odd but people won’t stop reading it and God knows they won’t stop writing it. We may not be in an age of great poetry (that seems about right, from what little I’ve read of the shortlist), but so be it. If the times can’t make a Keats, we may as well enjoy what we have.

(Incidentally, ‘dubbed’ by whom? When you’d see Goodwin on the telly, it’d be fairly obvious that you were watching someone trying slipstream Nigella; there was something kind of creepy about the whole thing – the bovine stolidity, the voice nasally mangling itself, the way she’d stroke and lengthen the wrong syllables – all v. disconcerting, like the kind of flirting that comes from someone who just smells desperate, a hearty girl deciding to undo a couple more buttons on her Rugby shirt, more manatee than mermaid. I just don’t think one should sustain the PR awfulness of ‘Nigella for poetry’. And why would anyone print this article? Who cares what Goodwin says? Why am I even bothering to post this?)

If you mean that people don’t make rhymed things that express feelings nicely, well, you’re wrong. They certainly try, and they’re mostly rubbish.

I mean what does it do, saying ‘poetry is dying’? It’s not like Prynne’s going to think “Fuck me! Fry and Goodwin are right”, burn his latest critique of the scientistic post-Humean ego-economy eroded by an autophagic inadequate language, then pick up the rhyming dictionary and get to work on his new sonnet “I love you because you’re nice”. Art carries on in dark places, and it ignores all this nonsense.

If you take the ‘poetry is dying’ attitude, you aren’t defending traditional values, you’re just upping sticks to a sucky little new-build suburb of post-modernity, right next to pastiche. William Morris hates you: you are Laura Ashley; you are Llewelyn-Bowen.

You’re demanding the quaint stuff. Here’s a curse: may you get what you want. May your bookshelves groan with a million million variants of Warning and High Flight. May your limits stay your limits. You’re dead.

The ending is funny though:

Debbie Williams, of Waterstone’s, admitted poetry sales were static. ‘It’s mostly older people who read poetry, which is a shame. There’s a lot of contemporary poetry which is relevant and exciting, with young people talking about the Iraq war.’

Hooray! Relevance!

At last! My Dylan/Ashbery/Dollar/Human League/Jackson Mash-Up can be finished!

I’ve never really had much access to broadband. That’s changed over the last little while, so it’s time I added my voice to the chorus of praise for Ubuweb. I don’t know if my French is up to the Lacan and Barthes lectures, but there’s plenty more.

As you might guess, I’m the bright-and-breezy playboy type with nary a care, whistling and winking while I walk the town. My one sorrow? I’ve never found the right soundtrack. What to put on one’s iPod while blowing kisses to giggling Krakowian waitresses on the King’s Road?

Ubuweb has the answer!

Music geeks should also take a look at this ILM thread. I spent much of last night shouting “MY GOD!”

The mash-up mentioned in the title of this post is of course called ‘Self-Portrait in a convex mirror mirror man in the mirror’.

Ah, But What if I tell it from the bum’s perspective?

Languagehat, which is more or less my favourite place, points at interview with Gilbert Sorrentino, about whom I know literally nothing. His name had not crossed my ears before today (Apparently in with that Black Mountain crowd (never really looked into them either. Maybe I’m too European.))

In any case he has this to say, which I feel is IMPORTANT.

What is most surprising to me is the number of–what can I call them?– “absent” books published. These are books that have no literary merit, no spirit of aesthetic adventure, no rough but interesting formal design, and–this is most important–no chance of commercial success! That’s what is so amazing to me–not the number of Judith Krantz-like novels published, nor the Calvin Trillin-Garrison Keillor warm and wise and witty and wonderful malarkey, but the novels that just lie there: life and love in a small town in Northern California, sexual awakening in a Baptist family in Pennsylvania–daughter flees to Greenwich Village, meets bum who makes her pregnant, discovers feminism–and on and on. Were I running these houses, I’d can all these editors in a minute. If they can’t make millions, would be my thinking, I’ll be God damned if they’re going to put out excrement that will only break even, i.e., if we want to break even, I’d say, let’s publish BOOKS. But, of course, the chances are that the people who own these houses would not know a book if it buggered them.

It does puzzle me – why put out the really, really nothing stuff? What does it do? Who does it make happy? Can’t you tell that these Laodicean mehs will lie there dead?

Languagehat got that via Wood s Lot, who also pointed to this Bernhard fun. It is clearly from a BOOK in the sense of the quotation above, and also an absolute bitch to read on the web.

By the way, I’ll always be printing the word IMPORTANT in pink Comic Sans. The caps I may not stick with.

Baked you a cake, but you were dead, so I ate it

I just cruised by This Day in Literature (I’d throw a link, but screw ’em – there’s some rubbish about Premium Subscribers.) I didn’t realise that it was Congreve’s Birthday! He’d be three hundred and thirty six today, a good innings by anyone’s standards. But of course he’s dead.

By the time Congreve was my age he’d written a couple of the best comedies in English (Love for Love at 25 and The Way of the World at around 29). As brilliant and sharp as anything’s been about the smart talk and fast ethics of the town.

He was winding down from about thirty onwards; mostly poetry and the revised versions of the plays for the 1710 edition. Everyone liked Congreve – Swift, Pope, Addison, Steele. Not a bad list of friends.

He died in 1729.

I’d sign off here with a cheap joke (I was sort of building up to a comparing-achievements-at-ages crack, somehow involving computer games), but some part of me rebels. Instead, my conscience tells me to go to Wikipedia and help with their patchy page on the man (incidentally, if anyone in academia is listening, I believe they should borrow this bit of vandalism from the Augustan Literature article for an exam essay title. Just put ‘discuss’ on the end.)

Hazlitt on Congreve:

His style is inimitable, nay perfect. It is the highest model of comic dialogue. Every sentence is replete with sense and satire, conveyed in the most polished and pointed terms. Every page presents a shower of brilliant conceits, is a tissue of epigrams in prose, is a new triumph of wit, a new conquest over dullness.

Conquests over dullness. That’s right. That’s what we’re after.

The Essential Dignity of Literature

Why have you defaced a picture of Thomas Mann?

Something to do.

Does it not strike you as crude?




What were your motivations?

It’s folk art. I’m a genius.

No it isn’t. You aren’t.

I prefer Hermann Broch. I wished to express my preference.

Have you read the book you just linked to?

In what sense read?

What if I were to tell you that picture was in fact of Heinrich Mann?

It would upset me.


Because I wanted to deface a picture of Thomas Mann.

The picture is not of Heinrich Mann.

I don’t care.

Why does Mann have ‘Mum’ written on his forehead?

It’s a tattoo. He had a tattoo done to show how much he loves his mum.

Why does he have both vampire teeth and a monster bolt? Is this not some kind of contradiction?

Because he’s a Dracula and a Frankenstein.

Isn’t one of the classic tropes of picture defacement the Hitler moustache? Were you not tempted…

That would have been an insult to Mann’s committed anti-fascism.

Were you tempted to use green for the bogies?

No. My art is pure.

Wait a minute…

Who’s this?

It’s Robert Lowell!

Updated Stories Number One – The Black’n’White Bird Did Well

I’ve sat around over the last few days getting this site into shape. Posting the archives has been a trip: I thought it would be “blah blah look what the Guardian said”; I was surprised by how decent some of it still seems.

This is a short entry just to say that this post was entirely answered by Penguin’s second selection of titles. Arendt, Kierkegaard, Hume, Confucius… It’s like they read my mind and/or blog.

Just a cheer for that really. I’ve been meaning to say it since the Summer. Thanks Penguin!

Now get Slaves of Solitude back in print.

Much Easier to find copies of The Bounder

Mr. Hamilton, thank you for the name. Now I feel I ought to do something for you.

How is this not in print?

slaves of solitude cover

To be a little vulgar: as of Tuesday 17 January 2006, a copy of the paperback above would cost £30 second-hand, Amazon or ABE.

I’ve written to Penguin about its absence. Here’s the response:

I have just been informed that we are not reissuing The Slaves of Solitude in the forseeable future.


Particularly hurtful is the fact that you know copies of this are floating around for £1.50 in provincial second-hand shops. You’ll find it in the revolving white wire rack, just behind Thelwell’s Gymkhana


Hamilton, here and elsewhere.