I just bought László Krasznahorkai's Sátántango, mainly because it was translated and recommended by the insomniac Hungarian genius George Szirtes, whose Twitter stream is the most riveting literary experiment operating in this country. The cover tweaked a memory: I dragged this down from the shelf:
There are differences of detail, but in look and mood they're virtually indistinguishable. That was the paperback, from 2003, but here's Viking's original hardcover edition, from 2001:
At least there's a (human?) figure here, though hardly in the foreground. This is one of the odder pieces of stereotyping I've come across: those crazy Hungarians with their forests and their Garamond and their embossed gold titles and their overpowering air of melancholy, eh?
You may or may not be aware that a new Batman film is about to appear in cinemas [SPOILER ALERT: It's called The Dark Knight Rises].
Perhaps you feel that you don't understand enough about this "Batman" thing. Here is some help:
1) In a paper entitled "Trajectory of a falling Batman" graduate physicists at the University of Leicester ask whether the Batman's cape would, as depicted in Batman Begins, enable him to glide. [SPOILER ALERT: It wouldn't.]
2) The Finnish loss-making mobile-phone company Nokia has published a series of three-dimensional maps of Gotham City. [SPOILER ALERT: It's a bit like New York.] More Gotham topographical resources here.
3) Nice Catherine Shoard, of the Guardian, considers the politics of Batman [SPOILER ALERT: They're a bit right-wing.]
4) LogoDesignLove links to a video and some well-researched writing on the Batman logo. [SPOILER ALERT: Pointy ears.]
5) Batman is kind of gay, or at least fairly bi-curious. (One commenter points out: "... just because hew has no permanent relationship with a woman does not mean he's a homosexual,he can not put a woman in his life due to his oath in fighting crime" [sic, passim]. That's what they used to say about Edward Heath, too.)
Hope that all helps.
UPDATE: At the Telegraph, Robert Colvile agrees with Catherine Shoard but thinks Batman's right-wing views should be celebrated. (I thought conservatism was all about respecting social institutions: Batman uses his wealth to ignore them. Puzzling.)
Shaun Whiteside pointed me in the direction of this, after I had enthused about a radio programme on FredericRzewski. (The programme was an episode of Music by My Friends on Resonance FM.) The music is very good - echoes of Charles Ives and Bruce Hornby - but I was disturbed to see that it had been uploaded by someone called John11inch. The phallocentrism of the world of classical music is well known, but I didn't realize anybody took it quite that far. Apart from Pierre "Lick My" Boulez, obviously.
Being a complete list of all the secondhand books I bought during my summer holiday in Norfolk, with my "reasons" for buying them:
The Pattern of English by G. H. Vallins Pelican 1957 “The developments in the construction of the English prose sentence from the earliest times to the present day.” I’m unsure now why I thought this was worth buying, except to make up the numbers on a five-for-a-pound deal at a village fête.
Hear us O Lord from heaven thy dwelling place by Malcolm Lowry Penguin 1969 The cover has an attractive woodcut by George Tute; I like inscriptions: this one has the owner’s name, N. Ingpen, and the enigmatic note “(W.T.C. October 1970)”.
Common Sense by Thomas Paine, ed. with introduction by Isaac Kramnick Penguin American Library 1982 Nice cover: the Bennington Flag of 1776. You can’t have too many copies of Common Sense, and I only have two.
High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes, Panther 1979 I’m writing about Hughes for the LRB, and needed a reading copy. This is an ugly commercial paperback; the main feature of interest is the jacket copy, which consists mainly of endorsements from Hugh Walpole, Cyril Connolly and Arnold Bennett - who, in 1979, gave a fig for their opinions?
Mario and the Magician and Other Stories by Thomas Mann Penguin Modern Classics 1975 Cover badly creased but I wanted the opening story, “A Man and His Dog”, because I’m working with Tim Dee on a series for BBC Radio 4 about dogs in literature and life, to be broadcast late next year.
The Friendly Dog: An Anthology ed. J. Parson Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., Ltd. 1912 See above
The letterbox extrudes a new issue of the London Review of Books, which contains the following letter:
Much as I enjoyed John Burnside’s poem ‘Hyena’, I must point out that he has his hyenas crossed. The ‘giggle’ and pack behaviour referred to in the final stanza suggests the spotted (or ‘laughing’) hyena, but the first stanza (white mane, grey face, bat ears) describes the striped hyena, a solitary animal which does not ‘laugh’.
Mikita Brottman Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore
Which was the point that started me off on the poem, until I got distracted by falanoucs. Not much point doing zoology if you're not going to bother getting it right.
From the London Review of Books, 30 June, p. 16 - "Hyena", one of two poems by John Burnside
Like something out of Brueghel, maned in white and hungry like the dark, the bat ears pricked, the face a grey
velour, more cat than dog, less caracal than fanalouc or civet ...
Whoa! I don't want to give away the ending; besides, it's less the poem that interests me - sorry, John Burnside - than the zoology.
To begin with, what kind of hyena are we talking about? There are three species, the spotted, the brown, and the striped: on the basis of the details Burnside gives ("maned in white", "bat ears", "face a grey velour"), it can't mean the spotted, which barely has a mane at all; he might mean the somewhat scraggy-looking brown, though the mane is less striking than the white ruff under the chin; but taking it all in all, the spotted is the best fit:
And then come some interesting taxonomic details. "More cat than dog" seems counterintuitive, what with the long muzzle and the habit of hanging around in packs, but Burnside is perfectly correct. Hyenas and dogs are both members of the order Carnivora, but hyenas sit alongside your actual felids (cats, such as caracals) in the suborder Feliformia. "[L]ess / caracal / than fanalouc / or civet" seems to imply that, within the Feliformia, they sit nearer the viverrids (genets and civets) and the euplerids (an exclusively Madagascan bunch of mongoose-like animals, of which the best-known is the fossa): again, the consensus is that that's how it is.
That "fanalouc" is a puzzle, though. He seems to have confused two different animals: the falanouc and the fanaloka - both euplerids, and closely related. Which one does Burnside have in mind? Here's a falanouc:
And here's a fanaloka:
Of the two, the fanaloka is, to my eyes, more hyena-like in appearance, and arguably in lifestyle. While the hyena is famous for the bone-splitting strength of its jaws, the falanouc's teeth, set in a narrow, shrewish head, are adapted for soft-bodied creatures, for worms, frogs, slugs. At least the fanaloka (also known as the Malagasy or striped civet) hunts something crunchy, even if it's only small mammals, birds and lizards.
All of which leads me to conclude ... Well, nothing: I've been wasting your time here. If anybody can tell me what Brueghel Burnside had in mind, though, I'd be very grateful.
Over the years, many people whose opinions I respect have tried to convert me to the Dylan cause and Lord knows I've tried, but it just won't take. There are a number of individual songs I find perfectly tolerable; I can sit through Bringing It All Back Home or The Basement Tapes without chewing off my own tongue; Theme Time Radio Hour is a lark, even. Sometimes I'll read a Greil Marcus essay about how The Basement Tapes transformed human consciousness and I'll believe light is about to dawn; but in the end I'm stilling grub around in the dark for clues.
In last Friday's Independent, Andy Gill (a person whose opinions I certainly don't despise) listed "70 reasons why Bob Dylan is the most important figure in pop-culture history". A lot of these turn out to be restatements of the proposition rather than reasons for accepting it, and while No. 61 ("Because he created an entire industry of Dylanologist commentators and interpreters, way beyond the attention afforded any other songwriter or performer") is, I suppose, a reasonable supporting argument it makes me heavy with nausea.
But if you want a knock-down argument, take reason no. 60: "Because, if you turn the cover of John Wesley Harding upside-down and look at the bark of the tree, you'll see The Beatles (vinyl only) (drugs optional)." This sounds like one of those "I buried Paul"/"It's fun to smoke marijuana"-type myths, but further research suggests it may be true, and there is something odd going on at the top of that tree. Is the ability to have upside-down photographs of a well-known beat combo concealed on the covers of your records really a measure of cultural importance? If it is, I for one intend to give up on importance now: I will settle down in my rocking chair and dwindle out my days reading old paperback collections of Peanuts and listening to Val Doonican, as the light of poetry and imagination fades in the west. Please do not disturb this side of the Rapture.