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Louis Greenberg

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category


I weeded the pavement in front of my house on Saturday for the first time since John died. I watched the earthworms, spiders and geckos wriggling back into the dark, painted my hands with the wet earth. I felt good to be at one with nature, notwithstanding the condoms, smeared toliet paper and sundered bottles I picked up and threw away along with the weeds.

Young people walking by regarded me with sullen suspicion, or stifled sarcastic chortling to their mates. It was the older people – the people who’d been through much worse than this, whatever ‘this’ the younger people believed they were suffering through – who shared a smile and a greeting and a comment on the weather. I thought this was a revealing fact, but I’m not sure what it reveals. (more…)

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My Holiday (Part 2)

One of my new year’s resolutions is to kindle and nurture a positive attitude, so My Holiday (Part 1) will have to wait until I am back at work and grumpy again.

This holiday I saw two films, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and American Gangster. Both were long, the sort of leisurely time-outs that I could only achieve during the holidays, and they are interesting to compare. (more…)

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My wife and I moved out of a warm and peri-urban Parktown flat and into our Kensington house a few years ago. Suddenly we were faced with suburban life: the barking dogs cruising around in packs, plants that grew on the house, neighbours tuning cars and hosting discos in the street. And then there was John.

It must have been in the first couple of weeks when we were woken on a Sunday morning by a hoarse, repeated “missus! missus!” called from the gate. Those were the days when we liked to sleep until 10 or 11; we thought if we ignored him he’d just go away, but John was persistent. We peered out of the window to see a bent and shambling old man, wearing a filthy overcoat in the muggy heat, his aged face folded in on itself, carrying his possessions in a plastic bag. (more…)

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Comfort for the starvelings

Look at these statistics from the Guardian‘s piece on this year’s Booker Prize:

Ian McEwan may not have won the prize but can take comfort from his healthy sales. On Chesil Beach is far outselling all other short-listed books put together (not to mention the surge of sales for Atonement in the wake of Joe Wright’s film). Sales figures of the other books, by contrast, exemplify the tough climate for literary fiction in the marketplace; Enright’s book has so far shifted just 3,253 copies.

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Useless and arcane trivia

A large part of my day job involves updating and maintaining the content on a bookseller’s website. The 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature will be awarded on Thursday so a few minutes ago, giving that web page the once-over, I corrected the spelling of Elfriede Jelinek, the 2004 laureate. Then I moved straight on to editing the blurbs of some books that will be featured on the site, including one called The Reverend Guppy’s Aquarium by Philip Dodd, a light-trivia book which discusses the people behind the names behind certain everyday words. In these five minutes I came across the most remarkable connection: (more…)

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Bloggers’ remorse and MOOs

I’m suffering a case of bloggers’ remorse. I feel a bit like I feel after I guzzle an eisbein with three pints of imported weissbier. A bit. Sharing ill-considered and knee-jerk opinions is a guilty indulgence I know I’ll feel the worse for afterwards, and I know too will line my arteries.

Isn’t it an odd thing to gather a group of strangers who most probably have never met, call them a community and get them to talk with each other, and then keep a record of the dialogue? Particularly a group of readers and writers, who are especially fastidious about what goes on record.

But I remember that I’ve been online-opinionating since before most people knew what online was, apart from a thing the bank’s “computers” never were.

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Portnoy’s Complaint: help me please

I’ve just finished reading Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth. Some decades late, it seems. When I was at school, my friends encouraged me to read it, and regaled each other with convivial break-time rehashings the oft-thumbed dirty bits. There are a lot of those. Quite saucy, too, not all darkened by clouds of politics or violence as most dirty bits tend to be. Alex Portnoy seems to have no superego controlling his desire to copulate with his schlubby sister’s underclothes or with the family dinner. There are so many synonyms offered for whacking off that I can see why my pubescent friends so highly recommended it. Back then, during high school, I was entering a self-repressive phase which is another story, but am glad I finally experienced those scenes for myself.

But the book is one of two halves: (more…)

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That’s brun-koosh, you pleb

Paul Bailey (writer) writes about Constantin Brancusi (sculptor), “How pleasing it is for me to write of an artist who loved his work, and working, above every other distraction or temptation. The loss of integrity, the desire for praise or fame, were matters for lesser spirits to cope with or combat.”

Sometimes my wife says to me, “You’ve woken up in a mood today,” and I reply, “I am a struggling artist, and have weighty matters with which to grapple.” I shouldn’t really. I don’t really have a right. I have no integrity; my spirit is low and sullied.


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Star signs and book reviews and how they contort us

I’m a Scorpio, so ever since I was a few years old and could read the comics in the paper and their periphery, I’ve been conscientiously cultivating my determined, forceful, intuitive, magnetic, jealous, passionate, mysterious, quick-to-anger, slow-to-warm, occult-obsessed, creative and supersexy persona. I wasn’t sure if it was a fit, but that’s when I was born, so that’s who I was, surely? I would become.

In the same way, I’ve been reading book reviews all my life, so ever since I was a child I wanted to be a writer who could (more…)

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I’m for dogs

I don’t think it was that long ago when the general image of a contemporary writer was must and tweed, Sharpei faces and old cardigans, unapproachability, yellowed bookshelves and fingers, cynicism. Curmudgeonly writers so immersed in their studies they forgot how to talk to real humans. Hard or scary to interview, behind-the-camera, behind-the-page sort of writers. Writers whose paragraphs made you ache, whose words made you stop. Whose books bent your brain.

It was clear: if you had to choose, you’d rather bring White Noise to Mauritius than Don DeLillo.


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