About Adam Roberts
Posts by Adam Roberts
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Mercury Music Prize 2009
• 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
• Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy
• Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men
• The Horrors – Primary Colours
• The Invisible – The Invisible
Thursday, July 30, 2009
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, according to Sir Joshua’s account, about four feet six high; very humpbacked and deformed; he wore a black coat; and according to the fashion of that time, had on a little sword. Sir Joshua adds that he had a large and very fine eye, and a long handsome nose; his mouth had those peculiar marks which always are found in the mouths of crooked persons; and the muscles which run across the cheek were so strongly marked as to appear like small cords.” [Edward Malone (1791); in Prior’s Life of Malone (1860), 428-9]
This is a oddly striking, and vivid, piece of descriptive writing; largely because of the focus it brings to its dominant image: the narrow line or cord: the ‘lane formed to let him pass’; the pinched dimensions; the ‘little sword’; the ‘long handsome nose’; the creases at the corners of his mouth; and finally ‘the muscles which run across the cheek ... so strongly marked as to appear like small cords’. As if Pope were a knotted tangle of whips; speaking both to his reputation as a satiristic (that is to say, a social scourge) and, of course, to the logic of his achievement: the physical embodiment of his textuality. He is, like his verse, almost literally made out of tight lines ...
Friday, July 17, 2009
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 Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Scriabin, in their spectral conservatoire-in-the-sky, having to accept that, after all, Robert Johnson was the guy who cast the longest shadow over twentieth-century music.
Friday, July 03, 2009
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?
Sunday, June 28, 2009
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 what he has said. What he has said invites the reply: ‘so form ... is a prop, is it?’
“The point of poetry is to be acutely discomforting, to prod and provoke, to poke us in the eye, to punch us in the nose, to knock us off our feet, to take our breath away” [Princeton University Library Chronicle, Spring 1998]. I assume he means that poetry should fuck with our heads, which is quite right; but this emphasis on the unpleasantry of poetry looks lopsided to the point of masochism. Why would I want to hang out with a bully?
“Words want to find chimes with each other, things want to connect” [Interviewed in Thumbscrew, Spring 1996]. Paul? Meet Entropy. Entropy, Paul. I’ll leave you two together.
Or ... or ... maybe I’m just a sad little pedant? Could that be the truth of it?
Friday, June 26, 2009
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 227.30
I’ve not got a first edition, mind; I have it as part of a multi-volume Landorian Collected Works, which I’m reading in train of writing something on his whole body of work. And I’ll say this: though he’s neglected now there’s an enormous amount to love about Landor’s poetry and his prose. Even some of his plays aren’t bad: Count Julian: a Tragedy (1812), say, though wayward, has powerful moments and a weird cumulative potency. And (this is the last of my mealymouthed caveats, I promise) the whole subgenre of 19th-century unacted pastiche-Elizabethan blank-verse, static-literary tragic dramas is a little literary phenomenon in its own right, with its own aesthetic parameters; and a reader prepared to suspend her usual criteria of judgement for a while can find numerous interesting and beautiful things therein.
But, that said, Andrea of Hungary is more than bad; it’s so bad it’s almost as if Landor were specifically trying to write a sort of Acorn Antiques of the c19th-dramatic-poetic world.Continue reading "O Zinga! Klapwrath! Psein!"
Saturday, June 13, 2009
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.Continue reading "Hobbit-holey-space"
Sunday, June 07, 2009
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 embedded ‘where are the guitars?’ dislike of Wagner, and have put a good many hours into listening to the Ring operas. And under the fold are some thoughts on Siegfried.Continue reading "Wagner’s Siegfried"
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
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, action-y, yes, clumsy religious typography (crucifixion,* atonement, sacred heart) yes. This movie is just what you expect it to be, which may not be wholly a bad thing.
What’s wrong with the picture? Not that it’s particularly badly rendered, except in one central way; but that one way happens to ruin the whole. It misconstrues the symbolic logic of its franchise.Continue reading "Terminator Salvation"
Friday, May 22, 2009
‘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;
whom God built to trawl
endless cathedrals of darkness,
their bland eyes gaping like wounds;
who would choke down hunger itself,
had it pith and gristle enough;
who carry on their foreheads
the trembling light of the world.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
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 things in promotion criteria such as blogs and being part of an online community. We’re trying to encourage that, particularly for the OU,” he says. “TV defined us previously and digital is going to define us now."
Universities recognising digital scholarship as a valid form of academic activity? Counting blogs etc in promotion criteria? I have my doubts.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
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 our money.
I suggest we start by coming up with two new versions of Beckett’s most famous play. I’ll make a start on Whilst Awaiting Godot (from the French) if someone with better French than I could pitch into Attente de Godot (from the English). And remember to make it fresh: new translations for a new century, guys!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
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 and incest. The novel is broadly about the Haussmann redevelopment of Paris, or more particularly about the enormous financial bubble, greed and dishonesty this redevelopment entailed. Saccard is the property developer, wheeler-deelering in the multimillions; Renée is his bored, rather neurotic and oversexed young wife; Maxime is his grown-up son from his first marriage. Maxime and Renée have an affair; Saccard finds out about it and isn’t too bothered because all he cares about is money-money-money. It is, in other words, a rather obviously inverted retelling of Euripides Hippolytus (or Racine’s Phèdre); in the original myth, and despite Phaedra’s claims otherwise, mother and stepson don’t have an affair, and the (misinformed) father Theseus does care. But rather than go into a detailed critical reading, I’ll note three things that, in particular, struck me.
1. Though his translation throughout is excellent, I don’t see why Brian Nelson has rendered the title as The Kill. ‘La Curée’ means (I open my Collins-Robert) ‘the scramble for the spoils’, which is what the developers are doing with Paris in the book, and how Renée feels she is being treated. What’s wrong with The Scramble for the Spoils as a title? Or if Nelson doesn’t like translating a two word title with five, why not The Spoils?
2. More interestingly, I love that the novel contains two splendidly early mentions (possibly first ever mentions) of things. Here’s Saccard drooling over the money to be made redeveloping Paris: ‘His brain teemed with extravagant ideas. He would have proposed in all seriousness to put Paris under an immense bell-glass, so as to transform it into a hothouse for forcing pineapples and sugar-cane.’  The idea of a city underneath an enormous dome is, of course, a standard trope for twentieth-century science fiction. Zola’s novel appeared in 1872. Is this the earliest mention of this notion? Can anybody think of an earlier one?
3. Probably not the earliest mention for this, but again a little startling in a novel published in 1872. Our three main characters are at a society ball: ‘under the electric light ... the guaze, the lace, all those light, diaphanous materials mingled so well with the shoulders and tights that the soft pinks seemed alive.’ 
Monday, April 13, 2009
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 was Richard Amerike, or Ameryk, pronounced ‘America’ (c. 1445–1503), whose surname was in turn an Anglicisation of ap Meuric or ap Meurig, “son of Meurig”. Meurig is the Welsh equivalent of Maurice; and Maurice is ’derived from the Roman Mauricius. It is of Latin origin, and its meaning is “dark-skinned, Moorish".’ By this logic, America means ‘Land of Dark-skinned Sons’. Which I like a lot.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
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) discussion is posted below the fold.Continue reading "A Discussion About The Kindly Ones"