Thursday, July 14, 2005

Meme sent by Jai Clare

(1) Imagine it's 2015. You are visiting the library at a major research university. You go over to a computer terminal (or whatever it is they use in 2015) that gives you immediate access to any book or journal article on any topic you want. What do you look up? In other words, what do you hope somebody will have written in the meantime?

Well not written but discovered and published...the last diary of Sylvia Plath. The one that Ted Hughes is said to have destroyed.

(2) What is the strangest thing you've ever heard or seen at a conference? No names, please. Refer to "Professor X" or "Ms. Y" if you must. Double credit if you were directly affected. Triple if you then said or did something equally weird.

Well not a book conference but a gathering in Athens, Greece, where Jacques Derrida was due to speak. Amphitheatre, lecture hall, he walks on stage and no one notices, so he's standing there for seconds, minutes (?) and everyone in the theatre is still chatting away as if he isn't there at all... After that, if I remember correctly, possibly the next day, he was due to receive an honorary degree from Panteion University, which I thought was so silly. After the award and speeches, he's walking down the aisle and this crazy press photographer (I was there on a journo's assignment for a daily English-language paper) grabs me and pulls me up and takes a photo of me next to Derrida. So then I follow Derrida into the reception area and speak to him about academic hypocrisy and he actually listens and responds.

Well, it was weird for me.

(3) Name a writer, scholar, or otherwise worthy person you admire so much that meeting him or her would probably reduce you to awestruck silence.

J.M. Coetzee.

(4) What are two or three blogs or other Web sites you often read that don't seem to be on many people's radar?

Oh, well, I basically stop my Maud's blog and Mark Sarvas's blog, but they are very hot blogs. Others? I've recently stopped by Book Coolie, Language Hat, Blogographos, The Hellenophile, The Return of the Reluctant and What Strange Place is This? and Steve Kane's Non Sequitur.

OK, so my turn to call out people and I'm calling out:--
1. Tom Saunders
2. Steve Kane.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Brother, what strange place is this?

This is a great collection of short stories by Tom Saunders available at and

My Amazon review:

Tom Saunders has tuned into the deep dark secrets of our world, of happiness and sadness, and has articulated them in the stories collected in "Brother, what strange place is this?".

The title story with the brother Griffin jumping out of a window only to survive and end up in an institution for the insane addresses the title question in an emotional and philosophical way, but really, all the stories in this collection are studies of the same question.

"Aerobatics" is the one that most got to me, the one I can't forget: A father tells his daughter about the time, when he was a boy, that he came home from school to see to his mother crying, "breaking her heart". He explains that up until that moment he was happy and then "suddenly I was landed with this knowledge about my mother...I wasn't prepared for what I saw...I wasn't prepared for a world where that sort of sadness was possible."

You have to be prepared to read this collection. You won't be, of course. Like the little boy who is suddenly faced with the shock of his mother in tears, one can never be prepared to face the depth of the world's sadness (for the boy) or strangeness (for the brother, Griffin).

Yes, I recommend this collection of stories. Tom Saunders is a sensitive and intelligent writer who is concerned with the truth of the human condition.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Interview with Christos Tsiolkas

Christos Tsiolkas speaks with Richard Watts.