Monday, December 17, 2012

"Bülow, working under Wagner's instructions, needed to add more musicians to the orchestra; this, however, meant the removal of some thirty stalls for the public. When informed of his, Bülow cried 'What difference does that make, whether we have thirty schweinehunde [pigs] more or less in the place?' Bülow had spoken in a dark theatre, unaware that anyone might be listening to his devastating words. But a reporter from the Neuste Nachrichten, sitting unnoticed in the hall, quickly ran back to his paper, and Bülow's offhand remark became the following day's front-page headline. Deeply embarrassed, Bülow wrote a letter of apology, stating, not very convincingly, that he had not been referring to the 'cultured Munich public' but rather to the anti-Wagerian critics. The Neueste Nachrichten printed the letter and accepted the apology, but other papers were quick to seize any opportunity to humiliate Wagner and his supporters. The Neuer Bayerischer Kurier, for example, printed the same headline, 'Hans von Bülow is Still Here!' every day for a week, in increasingly large letters, in an attempt to drive the conductor from Munich and thus ruin the premiere of Tristan und Isolde."

from The Mad King by Greg King

Friday, December 14, 2012

"In one particularly successful exercise in Patriarch-baiting, Photius had even gone so far as to propound a new and deeply heretical theory that he had just thought up, according to which man possessed two separate souls, one liable to error, the other infallible. His own dazzling reputation as an intellectual ensured that he was taken seriously by many – including Ignatius – who should have known better; and after his doctrine had its desired effect, by making the Patriarch look thoroughly silly, he cheerfully withdrew it. It was perhaps the only completely satisfactory practical joke in the history of theology, and for that alone Photius deserves our gratitude."

from The Popes by John Julius Norwich

Saturday, December 01, 2012

"[Bernard] Williams suggests that loving a person is, basically, loving a particular body. But this kind of love, or lust, is at most extremely uncommon. What is more common is a purely physical or sexual obsession with a person’s body, an obsession that is not concerned with the psychology of this person. But this is not love of a particular body. As Quinton writes, in the case of such obsessions, ‘no particular human body is required, only one of a more or less precisely demarcated kind’. Suppose that I was physically obsessed with Mary Smith’s body. This obsession would transfer to Mary Smith’s Replica. This would be like a case in which the body with which I am obsessed is that of an identical twin. If this twin died, my obsession could be transferred to the body of the other twin. Ordinary love could not be so transferred. Such love is concerned with the psychology of the person loved, and with this person’s continuously changing mental life. And loving someone is a process, not a fixed state. Mutual love involves a shared history. This is why, if I have loved Mary Smith for many months or years, her place cannot be simply taken by her identical twin. Things are quite different with her Replica. If I have loved Mary Smith for months or years, her Replica will have full quasi-memories of our shared history. I have claimed that, if I do not love Mary Smith’s Replica, it is unlikely that the explanation is that I loved her particular body. It is doubtful that anyone has such love, or lust."

from Reasons and Persons by Derek Parfit

Thursday, November 01, 2012

"Let us imagine a man whose wealth is equalled only by his indifference to what wealth generally brings, a man of exceptional arrogance who wishes to fix, to describe, and to exhaust not the whole world – merely to state such an ambition is enough to invalidate it – but a constituted fragment of the world: in the face of the inextricable incoherence of things, he will set out to execute a (necessarily limited) programme right the way through, in all its irreducible, intact entirety."

from Life: A User's Manual by Georges Perec

"... haunting, cold, but wearing an entirely human expression that was practically aglow with the blinding certainty of its absolute power which promised new and supremely inventive forms of ruthlessness; that it was he who was directing each and every movement of this irresistible march, including Valuska's own trials and tribulations as he stumbled down the desperate stations of complete collapse, though something in his manner suggested that the brutally instructive drama he unfolded before Valuska, while dragging him along by the arm, was in some way intended to serve as a form of cure, a cure that entailed a certain amount of necesary suffering (no gain without pain), and that this was a situation he was clearly enjoying. Valuska stared at that face, and as he examined it he began to understand that the 'hauntingly cold' expression he found on it was growing ever less enigmatic, since the ruthless mask might only be the unforgiving mirror of something that he, in his thirty-five years of muddle and sickliness, had perhaps been incapable of seeing..."

from The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai

Friday, October 12, 2012

If you're attending Frieze Art Fair in London this week, you can hear me talking about some of the art as part of Cecile B Evans' audio guide installation. And if you pick up a copy of the magazine, you can find my satirical piece "Permissions". I have just moved to Istanbul for the autumn, although in a couple of weeks I will be appearing at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto.

Monday, September 24, 2012

'As a stepchild of the Factory, I am certain of one thing: images can change the world. I have seen it happen. I have experienced the "Before and After," as Andy might say, so I know that images can alter the visual construction of the reality that we all inhabit. They can revise the expectations we bring to that reality and the priorities we impose upon it. I know, further, that these alterations can entail profound social and political ramifications. So even though I am an art critic now and occupationally addicted to the anxiety of change, I cannot forget that there should be more to it than that. There is change, and there is change. When change takes on the innervating aspect of Brownian agitation nothing is really changing. When the "difficulty" of the images one writes about stops being an occasion to upgrade the efficacy of one's critical practice, when this difficulty becomes rote and repetitive, no more than a demand to practice criticism as preached, there are obviously forces in play that resist change and refinement. Under these conditions, one can become a bit contemplative about the business of connecting the dots with regard to art objects that present themselves as strategized invitations to cite the talismanic theoretical texts that inspired them in the first place.

'In fact, when change stops generating anxiety by challenging one's language of value, when works of art become simple occasions for fashionable écrits morts, one cannot suppress a growing sensitivity to those aspects of contemporary image-making that do not change and, by not changing, make substantial and more anxious change less likely. For myself, I have become increasingly amazed and dismayed at the persistence of dated modernist conventions concerning the canonical status of "flatness" and the inconsequences of "beauty" in twentieth-century painting. In my view, the linguistic properties implicit in the "negativity" of illusionistic space" – its metaphorical "absence" – and the rhetorical properties latent in our largely unarticulated concept of beauty should more than outweigh whatever academic reservations might still accrue to them.

'It was, after all, the invention of illusionistic space that bestowed upon the visual language of European culture the attributes of "negativity" and "remote tense," which are generally taken to distinguish human language from the languages of animals. These properties make it possible for us to lie, to imagine convincingly in our speech, to to assert what we are denying, and to construct narrative memory by displacing the locus of our assertions into a past or a future – into a conditional or subjunctive reality. For four centuries visual culture in the West possessed these options and exploited them. Today we are content to slither through the flatland of Baudelarian modernity, trapped like cocker spaniels in the eternal, positive presentness of a terrain so visually impoverished that we cannot even lie to an effect in its language of images – nor imagine with any authority – nor even remember.'

from The Invisible Dragon by Dave Hickey

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Under JFK's administration of the so-called 'best and the brightest', a number of academics and business directors were promoted to executive power. With [Robert] McNamara as secretary of defence, technocratic management theory became the ubiquitous language for all military matters in the Pentagon during the 1960s. Guided by theoretical 'models', systems analysis, operational research, 'game theory' and numbers-driven management, McNamara's group of 'whizz kids' believed war was a rational business of projected costs, benefits and kill-rations, and that if only these could be maximized, war could be won. Although the Pentagon under McNamara put much effort into modelling, and then fighting, according to these models, the Vietnamese guerrillas refused to act as 'efficient consumers' in the Pentagon's market economy, or as the 'rational opponents' in the 'game theories' of RAND - indeed, opinion has it that this approach led to the unnecessary prolongation of the Vietnam war."

from Hollow Land by Eyal Weizman

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

"Spying and writing have always gone together. In Britain, where the modern intelligence agency was born, intellectuals moved smoothly back and forth between secret government service and the literary life, some, like journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, even spending the morning at the typewriter before consulting with MI6 after lunch. Somerset Maugham, Compton Mackenzie, Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, John Le Carré: all placed their powers of observation and divination at the disposal of the British secret state while mining their experience of intelligence work in their fiction. It was not just a case of satisfying the reading public's apparently insatiable appetite for the espionage novel. There seemed to be some basic connection between the roles of writer and spy: both were iconic, even heroic, figures in modern culture, necessarily detached from ordinary society, yet gifted – cursed, perhaps – with unique insight into the darkest realms of human existence. 'I, from very early, lived a secret life, an inward life,' Le Carré once told an interviewer. 'I seemed to go about in disguise.'

"In this respect, the spies of the CIA were no different from their British counterparts. Indeed, the 'man of letters' was, if anything, even more conspicuous a figure in the upper echelons of the American secret service than in MI6. During World War II, Norman Holmes Pearson, a noted Yale professor of literature and editor, with WH Auden, of the five-volume Viking Poets of the English Language, ran 'X-2', the London-based counterespionage branch of the Office of Strategic Services. After the war, when the OSS was resurrected as the CIA, the task of counterintelligence – protecting one's secrets from the theft by rival agencies – was inherited by another 'Yalie', James Jesus Angleton, whose obsession with hunting for 'moles' later came to verge on paranoia. A founding editor of the influential 'little magazine' Furioso and friend of Ezra Pound, Angleton (who inspired the 'complex and convoluted' character of Hugh Montague in Norman Mailer's CIA novel Harlot's Ghost) was known, among his many other code- and nicknames, as 'the Poet'. One of Angleton's several protégés in the Agency, Cord Meyer, had edited the Yale Lit and published several short stories in the Atlantic Monthly before becoming a spy. He used his position as Deputy Chief, then Chief, of the International Organisations Division to recruit to the CIA a number of young critics and poets associated with John Crowe Ransom's Kenyon Review, house organ of the New Criticism, a rigorously formalistic method of reading literary texts."

from The Mighty Wurlitzer by Hugh Wilford

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The new issue of Cabinet magazine includes 'Law and Odour', my essay on the uses of synthetic bad smells in the security industries. I'm excited to be in the company of writers including Eyal Weizman, whose fascinating book Hollow Land I am reading at the moment.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Two observations on logical atomism and paranoia that I happened to come across today

From Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia:

"With scientific explanation of particular facts, the usual practice is to consider some conjunctions of explained facts as not requiring separate explanation, but as being explained by the conjunctions of the explanations of the conjuncts. (If E1 explains e1 and E2 explains e2 then E1E2 explains e1e2.) If we required that any two conjuncts and any n-place conjunction had to be explained in some unified fashion, and not merely by the conjunction of separate and disparate explanations, then we would be driven to reject most of the usual explanations and to search for an underlying pattern to explain what appear to be separate facts. (Scientists, of course, often do offer a unified explanation of apparently separate facts.) It would be well worth exploring the interesting consequences of refusing to treat, even in the first instance, any two facts as legitimately separable, as having separate explanations whose conjunction is all there is to the explanation of them. What would our theories of the world look like if we required unified explanations of all conjunctions? Perhaps an extrapolation of how the world looks to paranoid persons. Or, to put it undisparagingly, the way it appears to persons having certain sorts of dope experiences. (For example, the way it sometimes appears to me after smoking marijuana.) Such a vision of the world differs fundamentally from the way we normally look at it; it is surprising at first that a simple condition on the adequacy of explanations of conjunctions leads to it, until we realize that such a condition of adequacy must lead to a view of the world as deeply and wholly patterned."

From David Foster Wallace's review of David Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress:

"Now, technically, the Russellian logic that comprises language's Big Picture consists all & only of 3 things: simple logical connectives like 'and,' 'or' & 'not'; propositions or 'statements': & a view of these statements as 'atomic,' meaning that the truth or falsity of a complex statement like 'Ludwig is affable and Bertrand is well-dressed' depends entirely on the truth value of its constituent atomic propositions— the prenominate molecular proposition is true if & only if it is true that Ludwig is friendly and it is true that Bertrand is dapper. The atomic propositions that are language's building blocks are, for both Russell and Wittgenstein, 'logically independent' of one another: they do not affect one another's truth values, only the values of those logical molecules in which they're conjoined— eg, 'L is cheerful or B is well-heeled,' 'It is not the case that if B is wealthy then L is cheerful,' etc. Except here's the kicker: since language is the world's 'mirror,' the world is metaphysically composed only & entirely of those 'facts' that statements in the language stand for. In other words— the words of the Tractatus's first & foremost line— the world is everything that is the case; the world is nothing but a huge mass of data, of logically discrete facts that have no intrinsic connection to one another. Cf the Tractatus 1.2: 'The world falls apart into facts . . .' 1.2.1 'Any one [fact] can either be the case, or not be the case, and everything else remains the same.'

"T. Pynchon, who has done in literature for paranoia what Sächer-Masoch did for whips, argues in his Gravity's Rainbow for why the paranoid delusion of complete & malevolent connection, whacko & unpleasant though it be, is preferable at least to its opposite — the conviction that nothing is connected to anything else & that nothing has anything intrinsically to do with you. Please see that this Pynchonian contraparanoia would be the appropriate metaphysic for any resident of the sort of world the Tractatus describes. And Markson's Kate lives in just such a world, while her objectless epistle 'mirrors' it perfectly, manages to capture the psychic flavor both of solipsism and of Wittgenstein in the simple & affectless but surreal prose & short aphoristic paragraphs that are also so distinctive of the Tractatus. Kate's textual obsession is simply to find connections between things, any strands that bind the historical facts & empirical data that are all her world comprises."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"... over the next two years Irwin did nothing but paint the same painting over and over again. How Irwin arrived at this notion of continual repetition is not completely clear, although it is interesting that here again he mentions [Giorgio] Morandi as an example. 'One of the extraordinary things about Morandi's achievements,' he asserts, 'is precisely the spareness of his means. It's always those same bottles on that same table. On a conceptual level, the subject remains constant. One could, I suppose, insist upon interpreting the relationship between various sets of bottles. But what Morandi did there was to take the same subject to the point of total boredom, to the point where there was no way you could – or he could, anyway – seriously any longer be involved with them as ideas or topics. I mean, through sheer reptition he entirely drained them of that kind of meaning: they lost that kind of indentification and became open elements within the painting dialogue he was having. And the remarkable thing was that although the content of those paintings, in the literate sense, stayed exactly the same, the paintings changed radically. I mean, each painting became a whole new delving into and development of the physical, perceptual relationships within the painting."

from Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees by Lawrence Weschler

Friday, August 10, 2012

Five more events I'm doing

Thursday 23rd August
Whiskey and Words at Rough Trade East with John Niven

Friday 7th September
The White Review at Foyles with Sam Riviere

Monday 10th September
The Book Stops Here at The Alley Cat with Suzy Joinson, Cathi Unsworth and Lauren Elkin

Wednesday 26th September
Mr B's in Bath

the first week of October
Istanbul Tanpinar Literary Festival

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I find this fascinating:

"In chemistry, a racemic mixture, or racemate, is one that has equal amounts of left- and right-handed enantiomers of a chiral molecule... A racemate is optically inactive, meaning that there is no net rotation of plane-polarized light. Although the two enantiomers rotate plane-polarized light in opposite directions, the rotations cancel because they are present in equal amounts. In contrast to the two pure enantiomers, which have identical physical properties except for the direction of rotation of plane-polarized light, a racemate sometimes has different properties from either of the pure enantiomers. Different melting points are most common, but different solubilities and boiling points are also possible."

Monday, July 30, 2012

This is the post in which over the next few months I will compile some of the reviews of The Teleportation Accident


Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012

"Terrific... Brilliant... If there was ever any worry that he might have crammed all his ideas into his first book, the prize-winning Boxer, Beetle, this makes it clear he kept a secret bunker of his best ones aside." – Joe Dunthorne, The Guardian

"A hectic extravaganza... Pyrotechnical... violently clever... Impressive... funny... Frantically entertaining... Extraordinary ingenuity." – The Sunday Times

"Strange and brilliant... Blisteringly funny, witty and erudite... An excellent read." – Emma Hogan, The Daily Telegraph

"Hilarious... seriously intelligent and seriously funny at the same time." – Tim Martin, The Daily Telegraph

"A glorious, over-the-top production, crackling with inventive wit and seething with pitchy humour... A beguiling success... Ingenious... There is such an easy felicity in Beauman's writing and such a clever, engaging wit... that one feels he could write something as much fun every two years. The prospect of which makes me very, very happy indeed." - The Scotsman

"Just as crazily original [as Boxer, Beetle]... Beauman's writing is dazzlingly inventive; this has been longlisted for the Man Booker and I'd love it to win." – The Times

"Ingenious... Funny... Popping with ideas, fizzing with vitality, and great fun." – The Independent on Sunday

"Very clever and charming... Gloriously bizarre." – The Sunday Telegraph

"Funny and startlingly inventive... Beauman is undoubtedly a writer of prodigious talent, and there are enough ideas and allusions and comic set pieces in this work... to fill myriad lesser novels." – The Financial Times

"Very funny... Glorious." – The Independent

"Super." – The Observer

"Stylistically radical... Virtuosic... An unquestionably brilliant novel, ribald and wise in equal measure... Witty and sometimes deeply moving." – Times Literary Supplement

"I love Ned Beauman’s novels, especially The Teleportation Accident, which is wonderfully inventive and vivid." – Philip Hensher, The Spectator

"Beauman is a writer of unceasing invention." – Metro

"I hugely enjoyed [it]... Deft and witty." – The Evening Standard

"If you care about contemporary fiction, you must read this." - Tatler

"Less than two years after his multi-award-winning debut 'Boxer, Beetle' Ned Beauman returns with another fizzing firework of a caper, featuring as many cracking escapades as its predecessor.. . His prose is wonderfully discursive and buzzes with originality... his bold characterisations, slapstick humour, slick similes and tangential subplots are sublime. A strong, smart follow-up that proves Beauman is more than comfortable with the hype he's created for himself." – Time Out

"One of the freshest, most exciting and darkly comic novels written in recent years... The definitive historical novel for people that detest the genre." – Dazed & Confused

"He's done it again... The verve of a young Amis... A great romp of a novel, delightful in its inventiveness" - Prospect

"Beauman excels at both the grand, jostling structure and the individual sentence. His similes are often inspired, his dialogue is frequently hilarious, and his ability to keep all the plates spinning, as the story dashes between years and continents with a large supporting cast, is very impressive... His imaginative dexterity doesn't fail him... [His] comic craft squares up admirably with those of Waugh and Wodehouse." – Literary Review

"Funny and deliciously deviant." – The List

"Boxer, Beetle was a wonderful, exuberant tale... and this is even better... Hugely enjoyable." – Word

"Remarkably clever" – Tom Sutcliffe, Saturday Review (Radio 4)


"A noirish sci-fi comedic novel worth shouting about... pyrotechnic... an impressive leap forward... a high-wire act... frequently hilarious... astonishingly intricate and ultimately satisfying... explosive humour... a singular novel — singularly clever, singularly audacious, singularly strange — from a singular, and almost recklessly gifted, young writer. This is not fiction for everyone. But for those who stick with it, it’s a wild and wonderful ride." – Time

Grade A. "Wildly inventive... Fiendishly clever... This fizzy novel is a great time machine all its own... Every generation gets the hipster satire it deserves. But this one's for every generation." – Entertainment Weekly

"Endlessly witty and furiously inventive... Consolidates the 27-year-old Beauman’s stature as a formidably accomplished writer... Beauman flaunts an almost indecently pleasurable way with words... Dazzling entertainment... Brilliantly clever." – Washington Post

"Gobsmackingly clever." – Vanity Fair

"Uproarious." – The New Yorker

"Brilliantly written... Prose so odd and marvelous that every few pages I had to stop and reread a passage." – NPR

"Inspired... Beauman has an unflagging imagination and an indefatigable gift for comedy. His overstuffed (in a good way) novel comprises memorable comic dialogue and hilarious set pieces." – Publisher's Weekly

Starred review. "Brilliant." – Booklist

"A fast-paced, witty and refreshingly rich tale." – Philadelphia City Paper
I wrote this piece for The Awl about whether I'm too much of an elitist. Which is ridiculous, by the way. Just because I believe that any man, woman or child who can't give a detailed account of the central arguments of Heidegger's Being and Time should be herded into a fleet of oil tankers and sent off to live in camps in the Arctic... Does that make me an elitist?

Maybe in Cameron's Britain.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Some UK events I'm doing this summer
The first one is next Tuesday and you should definitely come!

Tuesday 3rd July

Monday 9th July
with Dave Gorman and Nat Luurtsema at the Latitude Book Club at the Century Club

Saturday 14th July

Saturday 21st July
at Port Eliot

Thursday 26th July
at Waterstones Covent Garden

Tuesday 14th August
with Nick Harkaway again at the Edinburgh Book Festival

Monday, June 25, 2012

Interesting autoantonym: according to the OED, bleach now means "a bleaching liquor or powder" but it once also meant "any substance used for blacking; e.g. ink, soot, lamp-black, and esp. shoemakers' or curriers' black used for leather."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Teleportation Accident: Readers' Guide

Since The Teleportation Accident has just received its very first print review*, and there are only a few weeks left until publication, I've decided it may be time to prepare for the possibility of real people finally reading my new book. To that end, I've compiled a short readers' guide. I'm certainly not suggesting you have to work your way through this to appreciate the novel, but it might be of interest if you're some sort of huge Beauman fan.

"he's done it again... the verve of a young Amis... a great romp of a novel, delightful in its inventiveness" - Prospect

Here, in no order, are a list of works that had some specific and notable impact on the conception of The Teleportation Accident. By 'specific', I mean there's a particular thing I could point out on the page: that's why e.g. Ulysses is on here – all modern fiction carries its genes, so normally its presence on a list like this would be redundant, but as much as I dislike Joyce's work it did shape this novel in certain direct ways – and that's also why e.g. Updike is not – although his influence on my style is pervasive and permanent, I don't think there are any discrete, tangible Updikean elements in the book.

The Shield (TV)
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Ulysses by James Joyce
Assassin's Creed 2 (Xbox 360)
V by Thomas Pynchon
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Seinfeld (TV)
"The Shadow Over Innsmouth" by HP Lovecraft
Planet of the Apes
The Drowned World by JG Ballard
The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain
Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann
The Return of Bruce Wayne by Grant Morrison
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Those last two are, of course, by far the most recent books on this list. Most of the time publishing feels very slow, but not always – it gives me a lot of pleasure that Egan can publish her wonderful novel in summer 2010 and only two years later I can bring out my own thing that bears its traces. Meanwhile, the graphic novel The Return of Bruce Wayne was coming out in individual issues while I was writing The Teleportation Accident, which meant it stayed with me for several months, like some sort of weird environment factor affecting a pregnancy.

Historical figures
As is addressed self-referentially in The Teleportation Accident, I've made a rule for myself that in my fiction no real historical figure will ever be seen 'on stage'. (So far the only exception to this has been LL Zamenhof, creator of Esperanto, in Boxer, Beetle, and in that instance all his lines are taken directly from his published writings, so I haven't had to make anything up. ) However, in the new book, there are dozens of real historical figures mentioned, and I think in some cases the reader might enjoy the book a bit more if he or she is able to pick them out. For instance, if I'd invented Serge Voronoff myself, his life story might seem gratuitously, tiresomely zany. But every detail about him is true. Here are links to the Wikipedia pages of a few of these real historical figures – appropriate, because I always begin my research on Wikipedia. (I'm not including very famous people like Hitler; arbitrarily, I have set the upper threshold for notoriety at Brecht.)

Sylvia Beach
Bertolt Brecht
Harry Chandler
Alfred Doblin
George Grosz
Cordell Hull
Fritz Kortner
HP Lovecraft
Titus Lucretius Carus
Robert Millikan
Willi Munzenberg
Nicolas Sauvage (no Wikipedia entry yet)
Henri Sauval
Giacomo Torelli
Jean-Jacques de Villayer

I haven't compiled a full bibliography this time but here are ten of the most enjoyable books that I encountered during my research – I would recommend all these to anyone.

Daily Life in Venice at the Time of Casanova by Maurice Andrieux (out of print)
Los Angeles by Reyner Banham
Exile's Return by Malcolm Cowley
City of Quartz by Mike Davis
Before the Deluge by Otto Friedrich 
Memoirs of Montparnasse by John Glassco
The Monkey Gland Affair by David Hamilton (out of print)
Raymond Chandler by Tom Hiney (out of print)
HP Lovecraft by Michael Houllebecq
The Crazy Years by William Wiser (out of print)

The title
Here is a list of incorrect renderings of the title of the book that are already proving popular.

The Teleportation Incident
The Transportation Accident

(This has been previously published on this blog.) Around the time that I was about to send the final proofs of The Teleportation Accident to Sceptre, I noticed that the selection of animals named in the text seems unusually diverse for a book that is not explicitly zoological in theme. Here are all 48.

bat, bison, blackbird, budgerigar, cat, chicken, chimpanzee, cockroach, cow, coyote, cricket, dog, duck, electric eel, elephant, fox, frog, goat, grizzly bear, horse, housefly, iguana, loris, mouse, mussel, ostrich, oyster, panda, peacock, penguin, pig, pigeon, rat, rooster, seagull, silkworm, skunk, sloth, sparrow, spider, stag, starling, stingray, tiger, trout, turtle, wolf, woodpigeon

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Edison G.E. attempted to prevent the development of alternating current by unscrupulous political action and by even less savoury promotional tactics. In both arenas Edison G.E. attempt to damn a.c. on the ground that its high voltage – wherein lay its technical superiority – was dangerous, a menace to public safety... The promotional activity was a series of spectacular stunts aimed at dramatising the deadliness of high voltage alternating current, the most sensational being the development and promotion of the electric chair as a means of executing criminals. The state of New York adopted this innovation in 1888 after a gruesome promotional campaign, conceived by Insull, Johnson, and Edison, and carried out by a German-American named Thurington and H.P. Brown, one of Edison's former lab assistants.

from Insull by Forrest MacDonald
Witness the anecdote concerning the magnifico who, for a variety of reasons, usually a failure to recognise him on the part of the green desk clerk but sometimes attributable to the malice of the manager, is unable to get a room or suite in his accustomed hotel. Outraged, he disappears briefly into the night and returns with a deed to the property, having purchased the establishment lock, stock, and barrel, and forthwith discharged the obnoxious flunkey and gets a good night's rest. Sometimes he makes a deserving bellman manager on the spot. In some version he goes off to build a rival hotel, which eventually puts the offending hostelry out of business. The episode, stylishly embellished, appears so frequently in the folklore of the old West as to assume the dignity of portions of the Icelandic sagas or the Arthurian legends. The wish-fulfillment hotel purchase, already well established in the national mythology, can factually be traced to at least three authentic episodes in Denver, Butte, and Colorado Springs, respectively, a circumstance which must be viewed by the social historian with much the same satisfaction as is activated in a student of the chansons de geste by supporting evidence that there was in fact a Roland who did indeed blow his fated horn at Roncesvalles.

from Big Spenders by Lucius Beebe

Had dinner by myself tonight. Worked in the Lee House office until dinner time. A butler came in very formally and said, 'Mr President, dinner is served.' I walked into the dining room in the Blair House. Barnett in tails and white tie pulls out my chair, pushes me up to the table. John in tails and white tie brings me a fruit cup, Barnett takes away the empty cup. John brings me a plate, Barnett brings me a tenderloin, John brings me asparagus, Barnett brings me carrots and beets. I have to eat alone and in silence in candle-lit room. I ring. Barnett takes the plate and butter plates. John comes in with a napkin and silver tray – there are no crumbs but John has to brush them off the table anyway. Barnett brings me a palte with a finger bowl and doily on it. I remove the finger bowl and oily and John puts a glass saucer and a little bowl on the plate. Barnett brings me some chocolate custard. John brings me a demitasse (at home a little cup of coffee – about two gulps) and my dinner is over. I take a hand bath in the finger bowl and go back to work. What a life!

from the diary of President Harry Truman, November 1st 1949

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In addition, Senator Bradley provided one bit of assistance that he was unusually (almost uniquely, in fact) qualified to give. Many of the men who had been present on the Senate floor during the 1950s had told me how Lyndon Johnson was so tall that he “towered” over senators in the well as he stood at his Majority Leader’s front-row desk one step above it, and how his eyes were almost at the level of the clerks and the presiding officer on the dais across the well. Bill Bradley, as I realized from perusing an old program I had kept from a Princeton University basketball game, was six feet four and a half inches tall, just slightly taller than Johnson. When, near the end of the wonderful day on the floor that he arranged for me, he asked if there was anything further he could do to be of assistance, I said there was. The then Majority Leader, Bob Dole, wasn’t at his desk. I asked Senator Bradley if he would mind going over and standing at it, so I could get a picture of precisely to what degree Johnson had in fact “towered” as he stood there. Bill was gracious enough to comply. Since this was an opportunity I was not likely to have again, I was determined to get the picture fixed firmly in my mind no matter how long that took. After a while, I realized that Bill had been standing there for quite some time, and that he was in fact looking at me as if to inquire if he had been there long enough. I said I would appreciate it if he would stand there a while longer, and he did, uncomplainingly—for as long as I needed.

from the notes to Master of the Senate by Robert Caro
There was a rumor among some officers that Fawcett used a Ouija board, a popular tool of mediums, to help make tactical decisions on the battlefield. “He and his intelligence officer . . . would retire to a darkened room and put their four hands, but not their elbows, on the board,” Henry Harold Hemming, who was then a captain in Fawcett’s corps, wrote in an unpublished memoir. “Fawcett would then ask the Ouija Board in a loud voice if this was a confirmed location [of the enemy’s position], and if the miserable board skidded over in the right direction; not merely would he include it in his list of confirmed locations, but often order 20 rounds of 9.2 howitzer to be fired at the place.”

from The Lost City of Z by David Grann

Monday, June 18, 2012

I wrote about going to see a few of the 2013 resort collections in New York for the AnOther website. Perhaps wisely, my editors cut the line in which I compared the presumption against straight men reviewing women's fashion to the ban on gay men serving in the army.
Silvershed, the apartment and exhibition space where I've been living in New York, is on the cover of the new issue of Art Review.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"The phenomenology of vision seems to present a world that is carved into objects at its joints. One does not simply perceive a distribution of mass and color. One perceives objects on top of other objects, each of which may be articulated into objectual parts. Depending on one’s metaphysical views, one may think that the world does not respect this articulation into objects. One might think that macroscopic objects do not exist in the world’s basic ontology, or one might give their existence some highly deflationary treatment on which their individuation is a matter of convention or conceptual scheme, or on which there is no deep fact of the matter about when there is an object or when there is not. But even if one’s metaphysics is deflationary about objects, one’s phenomenology is not. So perhaps, for our visual experiences to be perfectly veridical, there would have to be real, first-class, nonrelative objects in the world. One might say that in Eden, there are perfect objects." – The Character of Consciousness by David Chalmers

Monday, May 21, 2012

Friday, May 04, 2012

On Tuesday night I will be reading with Simon Critchley and Mark Doten as part of Unprintable at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village. Then I'm off for two weeks in the Hudson Valley at Writers Omi.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On Tuesday night I'm going to be talking about ephemeral kings as part of Moonlighter Presents at the Clocktower Gallery in Tribeca.
Onania by Jan Manski is opening tonight at the Rochelle School in Shoreditch and I have an essay in the catalogue.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

'During a hunting trip with several fellow legislators and a lobbyist, for example, a rancher, an old friend, called Stevenson aside and told him that in one of the back pastures where the men were to hunt was an aged horse—an old family pet—so infirm that it should be destroyed. The rancher asked Stevenson to do it for him. Stevenson agreed. As the hunters’ car was passing the horse, he asked the driver to stop, and got out. “I think I’ll just kill that ol’ horse,” he said, and, taking aim, shot it in the head. His companions, unaware of the rancher’s request, stared in amazement. “Why did you shoot that horse?” the lobbyist finally asked. “I just always wondered what it would feel like to shoot a horse,” Stevenson drawled. Pausing, he stared hard at the lobbyist. “Now I’m wondering what it would feel like to shoot a man.”'

from Means of Ascent by Robert Caro

Monday, April 09, 2012

"I hold no brief for the pre-war Spartan training of the English upper class – or middle class as it is now the fashion to call it, leaving the upper to the angels – since in the ordinary affairs of a conventional life it is not of the slightest value to anyone; but it is of use on the admittedly rare occasions when one needs a high degree of physical endurance. I have been through an initiation ceremony on the Rio Javary – the only way I could persuade them to teach me how their men can exercise a slight muscular control over haemorrhage – and I thought it more a disagreeable experience than any proof of maturity. It lasted only a day and a night, whereas the initiation ceremonies of the tribal English continue for the ten years of education. We torture a boy’s spirit rather than his body, but all torture is, in the end, directed at the spirit. I was conditioned to endure without making an ass of myself."

from Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household

"Education should be something of which a child can later say: if I survived that, I can survive anything."

from Never Mind by Edward St. Aubyn

Sunday, April 08, 2012

I'm reading Master of the Senate, the third volume of Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson. Early on, Caro gives a short history of the senatorial filibuster, and it reminded me of what an unsatisfying film Mr Smith Goes to Washington is. (I love Jimmy Stewart, but I hate Frank Capra, apart from It Happened One Night.) First of all, we're supposed to see Stewart's character as a benign political revolutionary, but in that case he shouldn't be blocking just one corrupt bill, he should be effecting some sort of structural change which will prevent corruption from happening in the future. And, more importantly, we're supposed to applaud his desperate use of the filibuster, but in 1939 the filibuster was best known as way for Southern senators to block civil rights legislation, including anti-lynching laws. There is nothing heroic about a filibuster.

Monday, March 12, 2012

"In anatomy, the term tubercle may describe a round nodule, small eminence, or warty outgrowth."

Monday, February 27, 2012

"I encountered an impressive contemporary example of detailed oral history in a PaO village two days' walk east of Kalaw in the Burmese Shan states. At the end of the evening meal, a few villagers asked an elderly man to chant the story of U Aung Tha, perhaps the most famous PaO politician after World War II. U Aung Tha was murdered near Taunggyi in 1948 by unknown assailants. The recitation, which I tape-recorded, lasted more than two hours. Far from being the heroic, swashbuckling epic that I had anticipated, it proved, on translation, to be a far more mundane and exceptionally detailed account of the last days of U Aung Tha. It resembled nothing so much as a meticulous police report detailing when Aung Tha arrived in the village, his companions and what they were wearing, the color of his jeep,  whom he spoke to, when he bathed, when several men arrived to ask where they could find him, how they were dressed, the jeep they drove, what they said to Aung Tha's wife, where Aung Tha's body was found, what he was wearing, the identifying ring on his finger, the autopsy findings, and so on. At the end of the recitation, the singer admonished his listeners 'to take the  example of this true story in order to prevent loss or defect in everything.' It was as if every effort had been made, by scrupulously careful oral transmission over half a century, to preserve all the evidence and material facts intact  in case a serious police investigation ever took place! I was also surprised to learn that this singer and others throughout PaO areas were paid to chant this story of U Aung Tha's murder at weddings and feasts. Despite being short on histrionics and long on factual detail, it was a popular and revered story."

from The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia by James C Scott
"In the late 1990s, a number of firms targeted the lucrative market of training young Muslims who were being recruited globally to join radical groups engaged in jihads, or “holy wars” in places such as Chechnya and Afghanistan. For example, Sakina Security Ltd. was a British firm that offered military training and weapons instruction to these recruits, as part of its “Jihad Challenge” package. The teaching included hand-to-hand combat techniques and how to “improvise explosive devices,” both of which had obvious utility in terrorist actions. Sakina was reported to have been affiliated with TransGlobal Security International. This was another British firm, which also reportedly ran military training camps (including teaching the use of machine guns) for radical Muslims. Similarly, Kelvin Smith, an American government employee, ran a side business (based in Western Pennsylvania) that provided military training to groups purporting to be headed to the fighting in Bosnia and Chechnya. The training even involved mock terrorist-type attacks on utilities plants. Smith also purchased assault rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition on behalf of the clients. Six members of the group trained by Smith later turned out to be members of al Qaeda, who were convicted in 1993 of planning a series of attacks around New York City. Smith, in turn, was sentenced to just two years for violating U.S. gun laws."

from Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry by PW Singer

Monday, February 20, 2012

On Sunday I'm doing an event at the KGB Bar in the East Village with Lars Iyer and Emily St. John Mandel.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

I wrote something about Beckett for The New Inquiry.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

On Friday 10th February I'm speaking at a White Review event about Nicholas Chauvin at the Cabinet space in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The website of The White Review have just published my essay on the philosophy of Quentin Meillassoux.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I'm pleased to announce that Boxer, Beetle has been awarded the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s Goldberg Prize for Outstanding Debut Fiction by the Jewish Book Council.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Just now I was on the OED website looking up 'sleep' in the sense of 'this house sleeps five' when I came across this menacing citation:

1848    J. R. Bartlett Dict. Americanisms (at cited word),   She could eat fifty people in her house, but could not sleep half the number.

And that led me to an old American usage of 'eat' with which I was previously unfamiliar and of which every single example made me laugh:

1837    Crockett Almanac 17   Well, Capting, do you ate us, or do we ate ourselves?
1842    Spirit of Times (Philadelphia4 Mar.,   [The Bay State Democrat says that Mr. Dickens] has declined the invitation of the Philadelphians to eat him.
1855    ‘Q. K. P. Doesticks’ Doesticks, what he Says vii. 53,   I resolved‥to quit the premises of the Emerald Islander who agreed to ‘lodge and eat’ us.
a1860    Pickings fr. Picayune 47,   I was told you'd give us two dollars a day and eat us.
1889    J. S. Farmer Americanisms (at cited word),   A steamer is alleged to be able to eat 400 passengers and sleep about half that number.
1928    S. V. Benét John Brown's Body 367   You ought to be et. We'll eat you up to the house when it's mealin' time.

Admittedly, the third of those is a deliberate pun, although not, as you might think, a pun about cannibals: Doesticks (the humorist Mortimer Thompson) was staying in an Irish boarding house so plagued with mosquitoes that his hostess had 'nearly fulfilled the latter clause [i.e. to "eat us"] by proxy'.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

"Experiments in reducing language to its barest elements have been the topic of countless studies of Samuel Beckett, which are all in their own ways right in pointing out his dearth or resources at this period and a kind of despair in the face of a language so tired that traditional metaphor, rhetoric, and even normal grammar cannot be effective any more... In Beckett criticism there is a tendency to admire experimentation and reduction for their own sake; but I think it is difficult to assent to the idea that Ping, for example, adequately rewards the labour needed to winkle out its withered kernels. In recogition of Beckett's minimalism, it is not enough to recall Shelley's words from 'On Life': 'How vain it is to think that words can penetrate the mystery of our being! Rightly used they can make evident our ignorance to ourselves, and this is much.'... Shelley and Beckett are both suggesting that language helps us to perceive what is true only by ruling out what is not... Modernist orthodoxy notwithstanding, it is by no means a gain for a work of art that it should trace the difficulty involved in making it... It is, in short, justifiable to the reader to react to the short texts in much the same way Beckett reacted as maker."

from The Ideal Real: Beckett's Fiction and Imagination by Paul Davies