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Parting This, the control panel tells me, is my 199th post to The Valve.  It will also be my last, and rather than simply drift into silence I thought I’d mark the fact by saying goodbye.  Like Rohan, I’ve decided it’s time for me to move on.  I began a contributor here… Adam Roberts 11/10/10 7 11/23/10
I cough like Horace In the ‘Epistle to Arbuthnot’, Pope says of himself: ‘There are, who to my Person pay their court/I cough, like Horace, and, tho’ lean, am short.’ Kenneth Haynes (in his excellent 2003 study of English Literature and Ancient Languages) has this to say about the couplet: Pope presumes the reader’s acceptance… Adam Roberts 06/22/10 0
Anthony Burgess’s Moses I was pleased to pick this up, for next-to-nothing, in a second-hand bookstore. Hard to come by, never-reprinted, minor Burgessiana. But, my, what an eccentric performance it is! An 18-book epic poem on Moses’s life, written in more-or-less undisciplined, sprawly, four- or five-beat variable lines. This is what Burgess says in… Adam Roberts 06/09/10 11 06/11/10
Iron Man Two years late on this, I know. I mentioned to a friend that I’d never seen it, and his bug-eyed astonishment persuaded me I ought to give it a go. I’ve seen it now. Verdict: fairly jolly. Longer verdict: for much of its length, this almost lives up to the ideal;… Adam Roberts 06/01/10 3 06/12/10
The Shakespeare-didn’t-write-Shakespeare crowd I put up a brief post on this topic in another place, making one rather simple point: that however much fun there is to be had at the expense of daft theories that Bacon, Oxford, Dr Who or Queen Elizabeth herself wrote Shakespeare (and there is lots) it’s worth at least… Adam Roberts 05/10/10 41 04/26/11
Solar Second Opinion [A pendant to Rohan’s review of McEwan’s latest novel, here’s mine, hoiked over from Punkadiddle] Not at all a bad novel, this. I’d go so far as to call it really quite a good novel. Densely rendered in a way that builds its world and, above all, conjures its clunky central… Adam Roberts 05/05/10 4 05/09/10
Fictional Characters Anthony Everett is a philosopher at the University of Bristol who, in ‘Against Fictional Realism’ [The Journal of Philosophy, 102:12 (2005), 624-49], makes the argument that fictional character’s aren’t ‘real’ in the way actual characters are real. What interests me about his case is not that I tend to disagree—for, after… Adam Roberts 04/19/10 15 04/28/10
Podvig Filling in one of the holes in my Nabakovoid backlist; I know the English-language novels pretty well, but one or two of the Russian-language ones have so-far slipped my net. In fact I had previously been put off reading this one by Julian Symons’ strangely simpering blurb-quotation on the back cover… Adam Roberts 03/30/10 0
Bad Books My favourite line from this American Book Review piece: Michael Berubé on Lawrence’s Women In Love. ‘It’s like someone put a gun to Nietzsche’s head and made him write a Harlequin romance.’ Adam Roberts 03/13/10 5 03/16/10
Martin Amis’s Pregnant Widow This novel is not as bad as I expected it to be. It’s bad, certainly; but not that bad. I’d say ‘it’s not as bad as Yellow Dog’, but that would be redundant. Nothing could be as bad as Yellow Dog. Having Amis personally come to my house to administer a… Adam Roberts 03/10/10 5 06/02/10
Wellsian Swearword Question I’m still thinking about 2666; when my thoughts have mulched down a little more I’ll post an overview.  But in the interim I’m puzzling over this: the opening paragraph of H G Wells’s Food of the Gods (1904).In the middle years of the nineteenth century there first became abundant in this… Adam Roberts 03/01/10 8 03/11/10
2666 Part 5: Archimboldi [Previously: one, two, three and four].  It ends with the fifth section: ‘the Part About Archimboldi’.  And, apart from being (obviously) about Archimboldi, the reclusive German novelist who so obsessed the Critics in part one—this section not only ends the novel but is about endings, I think, although in a rather… Adam Roberts 02/20/10 7 02/22/10
2666 Part 4: Crimes [Previously: part 1; part 2; part 3] And so we come to it, the notorious fourth section: ‘The Part About the Crimes’.  It is, as people warned, a thoroughly grueling read: 300 pages mostly filled with detailed quasi-forensic descriptions of the bodies of many many raped and murdered women. Adam Roberts 02/16/10 13 02/25/10
2666 Part 3: Fate [Part 1 here; Part 2 here]. Part 3, ‘The Part About Fate’, is not, despite its title, about destiny in the abstract, but rather about its main character.  His name is Quincy Williams, but ‘everybody at work called him Oscar Fate’, and that’s what Bolaño calls him too.  Fate is a… Adam Roberts 02/13/10 7 02/16/10
2666 Part 2: Amalfitano [Part 1 here] ‘The Part About Amalfitano’ is a little over a third the length of ‘The Part About the Critics’, and it picks up one of the characters from the first section: the academic philosopher at the Mexican University of Santa Teresa, Amalfitano.  It is one undivided piece of prose,… Adam Roberts 02/12/10 8 02/16/10
2666 Part 1: Critics The first part of Bolaño’s leviathanic 2666 is named, after the logic of a Friends episode, ‘The Part About The Critics’.  It’s a novel-sized chunk of text in its own right—something like 70,000 words—and it is indeed about critics, four in number: Jean-Claude Pelletier, from France; Piero Morini, from Italy; Manuel… Adam Roberts 02/10/10 7 02/12/10
Tonight we’re gonna blog it like it’s 2666 Not tonight, actually: but sometime this week.  I got Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 for Christmas, and now I’m finally getting around to reading it.  As I’m sure you know, Bolaño wanted this huge novel published as five separate books—here’s the ‘Note From The Author’s Heirs’ with which the book opens:Realizing that death… Adam Roberts 02/07/10 2 02/07/10
Behold The Man II I’m thinking of writing a variant of this famous novel, with the following premise: a time traveller (an American) returns to the Holy Land c.AD33 with the following macabre mission: to shoot Jesus with a high-power, 21st-century rifle, after he has been crucified and resurrected but before he ascends to heaven.… Adam Roberts 01/24/10 20 02/03/10
Wyndham’s Chrysalid Puritans I’m writing an introduction for John Wyndham’s excellent 1955 novel The Chrysalids, and as part of that I’ve been thinking about the representation of Puritans in mid-20th-century literature.  Because, although they’re not identified as such, Wyndham’s fundmentalist-religious rural Waknuk dwellers, persecuting all genetic mutants in God’s name (’KEEP PURE THE STOCK… Adam Roberts 01/09/10 6 01/13/10
Difficulty Over on my review blog, and by way of reviewing to a bound proof of a Rollicking Big Fantasy Adventure due out in March 2010, I quote a John Lanchester article on video games.About a year ago John Lanchester published ‘Is It Art?’, an essay in the London Review of Books… Adam Roberts 01/01/10 21 01/15/10
Potter, Harry Below the fold, brief thoughts on each of the seven Harry Potter novels in turn.  As I was typing this out, the theme to Rawhide kept trundling through my head: ‘keep Rowling, Rowling, Rowling ...’ Adam Roberts 12/13/09 2 12/13/09
Friday Instant Quiz The rules: identify the author of the following complete poem. No googling (google will turn this up pretty quickly, I think; and where would the fun be in that?).  If you happen to know the answer for sure (because, let’s say, you have studied this author) you may keep it to… Adam Roberts 11/27/09 2 11/28/09
The Original of Laura This month’s big book—it would have been nice to say ‘this year’s’, but having got hold of a copy I discover it more curio than cry-it-from-the-rooftops—is Nabokov’s last, unfinished novel: The Original of Laura. Three things: :I: This is a large, thick-paper, orgulous and ultimately self-regarding exercise in the material business… Adam Roberts 11/20/09 5 11/22/09
Fairy Tales and Adolescence I was teaching Dickens (Davd Copperfield, since you ask) to a seminar of unusually bright third-years yesterday—we were talking about Dickens’ fondness for fairy tale tropes and figures.  In part this involved us simply in identifying fairy tale tropes in the novel, which is fun, though rather limited: Copperfield is a… Adam Roberts 10/27/09 6 11/04/09
Booker IV: Coetzee’s Summertime 7th October 2009. Yesterday the Man Booker Prize winner was announced: Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. The bookies had shortened the odds on Mantel to 11/5, the shortest ever laid against a Booker shortlisted title; and the reviewers and critics were behind the title, so it was hardly a surprise. This morning’s… Adam Roberts 10/09/09 0
Byatt’s Children’s Book [Note The winner of this year’s Man Booker prize is announced tomorrow.  The date has crept up on me a little, caught me on the hop even—I have only three of the titles read-and-reviewed (half way through the Coetzee right now). But I persevere.] So, A S Byatt’s The Children’s Book. … Adam Roberts 10/05/09 1 10/16/09
Man Booker Prize II: Mantel’s Wolf Hall Wolf Hall is the family home of the Seymours, but they, and their house, appear only on the peripheries of this accomplished and much-praised novel. Centre stage is Thomas Cromwell, his rise: from bashed-about blacksmith’s son and vagrant to Henry VIII’s most powerful and trusted counselor. Mantel treads lightly, and with… Adam Roberts 09/26/09 2 10/06/09
Man Booker Prize 2009, I: Foulds’ Quickening Maze [Scott’s kindly post prompts me to realise a plan that had been half-heartedly floating around my brain, viz.: blogging reviews of this year’s actual Booker Prize shortlist as I make my way through them.  To that end, some thoughts on Adam Foulds’ The Quickening Maze. Like Rohan said, it’s been a… Adam Roberts 09/22/09 4 09/24/09
Good Dog These beautiful lines from Australian poet Stephen Edgar’s ‘Dreaming at the Speed of Light’ (History of the Day, Blackpepper 2009) see the world from the perspective of a ray of light: The falling autumn leaves would stall Above the lawn, their futile red A stationary fire; The dog erupting from the… Adam Roberts 09/12/09 0
Nixon on the $20 bill Inherent Vice is a deceptively ordinary gumshoe tale set in 1960s California. The deception is of a meta sort, because whilst this novel indulges in lots of familiar, even (now) over-familiar Pynchoniana—the daft names, the terrible made-up pop lyrics, the oversalted stretches of dialogue breaking, suddenly, into long, gnarled ropes of… Adam Roberts 09/03/09 8 09/19/09
Mercury Music Prize 2009 Shortlist: • Bat For Lashes – Two Suns • Florence and the Machine – Lungs • Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires • Glasvegas – Glasvegas • Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum • La Roux – La Roux • Led Bib – Sensible Shoes • Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew… Adam Roberts 08/13/09 5 11/26/09
Alexander Pope So, Pope: “Sir Joshua Reynolds once saw Pope. It was about the year 1740, at an auction of books or pictures. He remembers that there was a lane formed to let him pass freely through the assemblage, and he proceeded along bowing to those who were on each side. He was,… Adam Roberts 07/30/09 1 07/30/09
Twenty-twelve I watch this.  Then I think: ‘ain’t it reminiscent of the work of this fellow, though?’ I suppose I think it would be interesting if, of all nineteenth-century artistic figures, it’s John Martin who turns out to have been the most influential in the world’s currently dominant visual art-form.  Rather like… Adam Roberts 07/17/09 1 07/23/09
Public Enemies I don’t ask this out of envy, or because I’m jealous my wife has such a crush on the actor; I ask in the disinterested service of cinema criticism.  Is Johnny Depp just too handsome to play Dillinger? Adam Roberts 07/03/09 6 07/06/09
Muldoonery A better poet than interviewee, I think. “Form is a straitjacket in the way that a straitjacket was a straitjacket for Houdini” [The Irish Times, April 19, 2003]. I guess he means that poetry achieves a kind of marvellous escape act from the apparent restrictions of its form, but that’s not… Adam Roberts 06/28/09 2 06/29/09
O Zinga! Klapwrath! Psein! Moderately rare as a first edition: Landor, Walter Savage. ANDREA OF HUNGARY AND GIOVANNA OF NAPLES. London, Richard Bentley, 1839. 1st edition. Bound in publisher’s original paper boards, rebacked in new paper with a new paper spine label. Unopened. Worn at the extremities, otherwise very good condition. USD 227.30I’ve not got… Adam Roberts 06/26/09 4 06/27/09
Hobbit-holey-space Below the fold is a paper on The Hobbit written by Stefan Ekman, Joerg Hartmann, Agnieszka Jedrzejczyk-Drenda, Paul Kincaid, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Sandor Klapcsik, Tuomas Kuusiniemi, Chris Pak, Adam Roberts, Andy Sawyer and Douglas Texter. Adam Roberts 06/13/09 25 07/02/09
Wagner’s Siegfried I’ve been thinking about the Volsung saga recently, in part because I’ve had this posthumous Tolkienian retelling of precisely that myth to review, but in part just because its such a strange, intriguingly disorderly body of myth and story.  So, as part of this, I’ve been trying—with some success—to overcome my… Adam Roberts 06/07/09 7 07/01/09
Terminator Salvation [I’ve pulled this review from its decent obscurity, taking Bill’s earlier hint about the Valve being a place where love of SF dare, indeed, speak its name.] Well, yes, good, fine, bang-bang, yes, visual effects, splendid (actually, and in many ways, it’s a rather desolately beautiful dystopian visual text), broody, yes,… Adam Roberts 06/03/09 10 06/04/09
‘The Ugly’ by John Glenday I love you as I love the Hatchetfish, the Allmouth, the Angler, the Sawbelly and Wolf-eel, the Stoplight Loosejaw, the Fangtooth; all our sweet bathypelagic ones, and especially those too terrible or sly even for Latin names; who saddle their menfolk to the vagina’s hide like scorched purses, stiff with seed;… Adam Roberts 05/22/09 1 08/21/09
Blogging in the academy I wonder if this is true: Martin Weller (professor of educational technology at the Open University) in today’s Guardian: “People like me try to encourage people to blog,” he says. “Universities as a whole are moving to recognise digital scholarship as a valid form of academic activity, and starting to recognise… Adam Roberts 05/12/09 18 05/19/09
Translations Isn’t it time to break the stranglehold certain translations exert over certain texts simply because the translation in question was undertaken by the author?  There’s a sort of textual tyranny in that, and tyranny ought to be fought.  Best of all, this project will give us double the translation fun for… Adam Roberts 05/05/09 4 05/05/09
Zola’s La Curée I’ve been reading through a stack of Zola’s Rougon-Macquarts recently (for an academic project about representations of Napoleon III) and I have just finished La Curée: the second in the sequence (I’m not reading them in order).  A thoroughly good read it is too: dripping with vividly rendered decadance, financial corruption… Adam Roberts 04/21/09 13 02/22/10
The meaning of America I’ll say it again, at the risk of coming over all Bradshaw-of-the-Future on you.  (Excellent site, that).  Let’s say America was not named after the Vespucci guy.  Let’s say it is so called because a Welshman, my countryman, sponsored fishing voyages to Newfoundland in the fifteenth-century. The name of this gentleman… Adam Roberts 04/13/09 0
A Discussion About The Kindly Ones Valvers Andrew Seal and Adam Roberts have been swapping emails for a couple of weeks discussing Jonathan Littell’s big novel The Kindly Ones.  The dialogue, which is spoiler-laden, takes off from Andrew’s Blographia posts on the book and the Valve pieces Adam posted as he was reading the thing.  Their (our)… Adam Roberts 04/08/09 2 06/09/09
Paul Simon’s Personal Life God bless Wikipedia.  Looking up the Paul Simon entry, I chanced upon this account of his private life (these things do get corrected, so click soon and often): His second marriage was to actress and author Carrie Fisher to whom he proposed after a New York Yankees game.[12] (The song “Hearts… Adam Roberts 03/30/09 5 03/30/09
Littell’s Kindly Ones: 6 & 7 The end at last.  And here I’ll say what I should have said at the head of all these posts: there are spoilers. Adam Roberts 03/24/09 7 09/13/09
Littell’s Kindly Ones: 5 Onward.  Kindly Ones fifth section ‘Menuet (en Rondeaux)’ is the longest of all: pp.535-863, and now that I’ve polished it off (or now that I’ve trudged, with increasing sense of weariness, through its snow wastes) only two brief sections stand between me and finishing this big book.  I don’t feel I… Adam Roberts 03/22/09 2 03/23/09
Littell’s Kindly Ones: 4 Kindly Ones part 4 ‘Sarabande’ (pages 431-534) has the feel of marking time; a pause in the narration during which, at least until the end, little happens.  Our man’s skull was wholly bisected by a Russian bullet, a wound which, perhaps surprisingly, failed to kill him.  Evacuated from Stalingrad, he wakes… Adam Roberts 03/19/09 4 03/20/09
Littell’s Kindly Ones: 3 After Toccata and Allemandes we get Courante, running (ha!) from p.339 to p.427: the Stalingrad chapter.  For most of its length this is pretty impressively done: lots of evocative, vividly horrible details about the winter 1942-3 horrors, the cold, the lice, the danger, mutilation, cannibalism and despair.  Some of this was… Adam Roberts 03/18/09 4 03/18/09
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