Philip Roth (1933-2018)

May 23, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Fiction, WRITING & LITERATURE |

Life, at least in his books, was a grim farce. Everything in life was stupid, wrong, meaningless. Even his writing was a deliberately destructive, nihilistic act; preparing one piece, he thought of a critic, saying “I think, “How (s)he is going to hate this!” That can be just the encouragement I need.” We’ll leave to others the parlour game, played from time to time by the author himself, which of his characters he most resembles (though a case could be made, of late, for Mickey Sabbath: “You have the body of an old man, the life of an old man,…

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American Pharaoh

The Mayor at the opening of the Lake Front Festival, 1973, showing his sartorial flair

Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation (by Adam Cohen & Elizabeth Taylor) (2000) What other book to buy in the south side of Chicago? TVC was only a few blocks from Bridgeport, where Richard J Daley lived and died, with his wife of five or so decades and 7 children, bog Irish and loyal to their neighbourhood to an insane degree, so loyal that they looked down on Irish families that moved to the suburbs, the ones so pretentious that they “had fruit in the house when nobody was sick,”  Having selected this and one other book, TVC…

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Butterfly on a Pin by Alannah Hill

It is wrong to judge an autobiography on the character of its subject.  It’s apparent from Australian fashion designer Alannah Hill’s memoir, Butterfly on a Pin, that she is melodramatic, rude, narcissistic, deliberately ignorant and Difficult to Get On With.  Hill says that she was molested no fewer than 4 times her in her youth.  She does not mention eating anything other than junk food and lollies. In her younger days she lied, forged and stole (“the next day I shoplifted a hammer”). She is obsessed with her son* and her dead mother (whom she spends much of her book demeaning).  She had an undoubtedly rotten childhood, has pulled-herself-up by her pretty bootstraps…

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Christopher Priest – “Indoctrinaire” and “Inverted World”

Indoctrinaire Many years ago I was given the Pan Science Fiction copy of Christopher Priest’s novel Indoctrinaire (1971).  The ghastly cover, hinting at lurid prose in aid of a ridiculously stupid plot ensured that I would not read the book, although it moved interstate and from house to house with me – for decades. Then recently I came across Andrew McKie’s revie in The Spectator of Priest’s 2016 novel, The Gradual (“a resounding success”). He says that Priest’s prose is “apparently prosaic – provided, that is, one means unshowy straightforward and devoid of ostentation. For the cumulative effect of his plain sentences,…

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…And the Winner is…

May 8, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | LIFE, POLITICS, Ulalume, WRITING & LITERATURE |

When the Nobel made some sense...Selma Lagerlof is honoured

…Nobody! Gerald Murnane must be spitting chips. The Nobel Prize for Literature won’t be handed out this year. Not because the prize has become a global joke (recipients of the recent past: Mo Yan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Bob Dylan); not because there’s no-one worthy (now that should be a reason), but because the Committee may be under legal interdict. The criteria for inclusion in the Academy, and its selections, are obscure. Academicians must be blonde, of course. They gather at a secret location, parking their Volvos underground. Then, over herring eaten-off recyclable plates, the sound of “Fernando” tinkling gently in the background,…

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