Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Lotte Lenya

20 of Trakl's poems translated by James Wright & Robert Bly

3 of Walser's stories translated by Damion Searls (ht Wandering with Robert Walser)

Bildung Mendelssohn

Carolyn Kelly's article on Herta Müller

"Ernst Weiss ... was a physician and creative writer [who] found a way to integrate the disciplines. The best of his books concern medicine and medical workers .... Weiss was born in 1882 outside Brünn, Austro-Hungary, now Brno, Czech Republic, and grew up in towns throughout Moravia and, later, in Prague and Vienna, where he obtained his medical degree in 1908. After practicing in Berne, Berlin, and Vienna (in the last under Dr. Julius Schnitzler, Arthur’s brother), he contracted tuberculosis, and went to recover on voyages aboard the liner Austria to India and Japan."

Thomas McGonigle recommends works by Heimito von Doderer (and Peter Handke among others): "He is equal of Robert Musil and has the advantage of having completed his great books."

'The Dark Side of the Enlightenment' -- "Romantics, Expressionists and Existentialists have all claimed [Heinrich von Kleist] as an inspiration. Kafka called him a "blood-brother." But Kleist belongs to no literary school and remains, as Thomas Mann observed, in a class uniquely his own. Outside the German-speaking lands, he is all too little read." (ht Dave Lull via Books, Inq.)

Mr. Waggish on Musil and Kant

Dan O'Hara interviews the creators of Hochhaus, a radio adaptation of Ballard's High-Rise

Update (Dec. 29): George Steiner on Thomas Bernhard

A logophilist on Herta Müller's The Passport

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ads in old Penguins

This ad for Army Club Cigarettes adorned an old Penguin paperback. The bottom caption reads, "This is the cigarette for the fellow with a full-size man's job to do. When you're feeling all 'hit up,' it steadies the nerves."

Beginning in the late 1930's (but before WWII), Penguin's books contained ads for products other than the publisher's own books.

Here's another commercial, this time for Euthymol ('the refreshing antiseptic toothpaste'), which appeared in William Temple's Christianity and the Social Order:

This same Euthymol commercial adorns the inside of the back cover of Volume 1 of John Lehmann's justly celebrated series, The Penguin New Writing, a volume that includes Orwell's 'Shooting an Elephant', part of Isherwood's Berlin Diary and V. S. Pritchett's 'Sense of Humour'.

Getting back to William Temple, he was the Archbishop of Canterbury, as is indicated near the back of Christianity and the Social Order in his bio, which competes for attention with a Craven A commercial:

One of Penguin's more lucrative clients must have been Cadbury's (the company seems to have dropped the 's' from its name), which was marketing its chocolates as food:

That first Cadbury's ad was near the back of Penguin's Three Plays by Anton Tchehov (or Chekhov). The second one was near the back of Volume 2 of The Penguin New Writing.

Another reliable client was Pears, maker of soap (the "original transparent soap") and shaving accessories:

The shaving product commercial is on the back cover of Chekhov's Three Plays. I'm not sure where the soap ad ('Feel its tonic action') is from. I scanned that image last year when I posted some of this material on my old Chapters site (long since deleted), and -- here I will confess to an act that is unforgivable in the eyes of some -- I discarded that old Penguin. Yes, I sometimes chuck a particularly beat-up old Penguin into a recycling bin. I do so without remorse and occasionally with glee. Anyhow, a similar Pears soap ad is on the back of Volume 5 of The Penguin New Writing series. The crest at the top of the soap ad is the Royal coat of arms. The caption under it reads, "By Appointment to H. M. [His Majesty] The King."

That fifth volume has this next ad for Huntley & Palmers biscuits (a company with an interesting history) on the inside of its front cover:

Finally, on the back of Volume 6 we find this commercial for Norvic Shoes:

I don't know when Penguin stopped running commercials of this sort in its books. Those who wanted to purchase advertising space in a Penguin were advised to direct their enquiries to E. W. Player Ltd. at 61 Chandos Place in London. Unlike most of the above companies, Player seems not to exist any longer. (The most recent mention of them that I can find via Google is from 1980, when they were located at 30 Fleet Street.)

A nice touch in the wartime Penguins is this note (usually found near the backs of these books):

"For the Forces. Leave this book at a Post Office when you have read it, so that men and women in the services may enjoy it too."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Hedy Lamarr (image source)

Steven Nadler reviews a book on Spinoza and Maimonides.

'Anyone who enjoys the company of a provocative intelligence will want to pick up Night Music, a challenging collection of scattered Adorno essays. And pick a fight with it.'

Boyd Tonkin reviews Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind.

Cyril Connolly's '100 Key Books of the Modern Movement'

From the Guardian in 2002: '"We love only once," Connolly wrote, "and on how that first great love affair shapes itself depends the pattern of our lives." "Nonsense," Waugh mocked in the margin.'

Since kickstarting his career with his acclaimed travel bestseller, In Xanadu, at the age of 22, [William] Dalrymple has kept to writing about India and the Middle East consistently for 25 years. "Religion is a constant," he happily admits. "It seems to be something I can't quite escape."'

"On a steep slope overlooking Brno stands a modernist architectural masterpiece: the Tugendhat House. It is this remarkable building that provided Simon Mawer with inspiration for his most recent novel, The Glass Room."

More about Brno (which was the birthplace not only of Kundera but also of Kurt Godel, Adolf Loos, Erich Korngold, Pavel Tichy and Lorenz Eitner and in the environs of which were born Gregor Mendel, Ernst Weiss and Maurice Strakosch, AND which was the childhood home of Robert Musil) -- it has given Milan Kundera honorary citizenship.

David Sexton reviews The Letters of T. S. Eliot, and Josephine Hart reviews his tragic first marriage.

Amos Oz interviewed: “It's always a living miracle when I meet a reader. A reader is a co-producer of a book. I write the musical score, he plays it."

Footage of a John Nash interview.

Largehearted Boy and Fimoculous track the 'books of the year' lists.

More about the influence of Conan Doyle's medical background on his fiction ('more' in addition to this previously linked item).

Friday, December 4, 2009

German mystics, cigarettes, watermelon sugar, etc.

Anna Mahler: True art reflects 'the true essential reality - in the language of the medieval German Mystics - the Ground of all Being.' (1962)

Mike Wallace interviewing Bennett Cerf in 1957: 'Bennett, I shall confront you with the charge that book publishers are wantonly exposing young readers to obscene trash. My name is Mike Wallace, the cigarette is Philip Morris. ... today's Philip Morris has what I call a man's kind of mildness.'

John Madera has a blog post in which many authors list their favourite novellas. Certain titles and names recur in these lists, esp. that of Richard Brautigan. Sarah Hall wrote a note on Brautigan last June. All this has convinced me to read something by Brautigan. I've ordered a collection of three of his stories and will probably begin with In Watermelon Sugar.

A lengthy piece on Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's doctoral work gave him expert knowledge of 'neurosyphilis', knowledge which influenced at least three of his stories.

Another list of New Wave tunes. I guess the New Wave bands from my own humble shire (Canada) didn't get much exposure elsewhere, since none of them make this list. I made a short list of them several days ago.

This is not New Wave but I really like it: