Art Kavanagh

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Talk about books

A new newsletter

This site has just passed its second birthday: last week I renewed the domain name registration for a third year. I started the site in December 2018 as somewhere to put the kind of writing that I had previously been posting on Medium.

And now I’ve just started a fortnightly newsletter on Substack. It’s called Talk about books. In it, I’m aiming at a discussion of books, stories and other writing (mainly fiction) that goes into a bit more depth than the average book review. Ideally, the works I’ll be discussing will be ones that the reader, too, has read, so there’ll be no avoidance of so-called spoilers. If you’d like an idea of the kind of thing I intend to include, take a look at the book discussion that I’ve previously posted on this site.

I’m at the halfway point between the second issue (about female characters in two crime novels by Dervla McTiernan) and the third (which, unless something unexpected happens in the next week, will be about reading Wuthering Heights as an aphantasic.

My posts about aphantasia

Apart from fiction and criticism, I’ve written an accidental series on the subject of aphantasia, since recognizing in March or April 2018 that I have that condition. (I’m using “condition” in the a wide sense, as equivalent to “state”, and not to imply that aphantasia is a medical condition or impairment.) Up to January 2019, I published those posts on Medium, More recent posts are on this site. Here is the list of posts so far — I'll update it if and when I add more.

My fiction on Medium

I’ve made a list of my own stories. These were all previously posted on Medium but with one remaining exception can now be read on this site. The list includes several short stories, a novella and a novel, all of which are free to read. As a bonus, here is the shortest story I've written so far, “Closure”. It comes in at about 750 words. I originally posted it on Medium but deleted it last year and now I've reposted it here.

Former Mix collections

There were two Mix collections that I was quite sorry to leave behind when I deactivated my Mix account, so I decided to recreate them here, in so far as I could. I’ll update them as the mood takes me and/or I find more short stories online, or posts about writing by writers.

Writers on writing
A list of pieces available to read on the web in which writers discuss aspects of the craft, process or experience of writing.

Short stories on the web
A list of short stories that you can read online. I previously maintained the list as Pinterest board as well as as a Mix collection. It should work just as well as a regular web page.

Recent posts

Printed books and ebooks: another small reason to prefer the former
Here’s another small way in which ebooks provide an inferior experience to that provided by ebooks.

Citing book and journal titles when posting on Medium and Substack
Substack and Medium treat all inline italic text as emphasis. So, how are you to cite a book or periodical title?

The judgment of critics
For most of my life I’ve believed that the paramount function of the critic was judgment. Then John Naughton (Memex 1.1) quoted a short, simple epigram from Robert Musil that changed my mind.

Who needs independent booksellers?
It’s not easy to be consistent in one’s attitude to booksellers, whether independent or part of a chain, particularly when one thinks about how Amazon has changed the market for books in the past 15 years.

The books I left behind — and some I didn’t
Nine years ago, I left most of my books, as well as a substantial portion of my other possessions, in the attic of my sister’s house near Toulouse. I’ve just been back to sort out which of the books I want to keep.

Where to now for RSS?
It’s nice to be using RSS again but I still have some reservations about it. Here are my suggestions for incorporating its most essential features into HTML and the browser.

Even plainer text
A suggestion for writing a basically structured document in plain (i.e. UTF-8) text without reference to an external style sheet and with as little markup as possible.

The body in The Matrix
I watched The Matrix only once, and didn’t like it, to the extent that I didn’t bother to watch the sequels. A piece in Vox by Emily VanDerWerff about the film as an allegory of gender transition has made me realize why I’ve been refusing the red pill. It has to do with transcending the body’s limitations.

Older posts.

Criticism and book discussion

This section is for links to my writing about other writing — in particular fiction, poetry and (conceivably, eventually) drama. At the moment, I’m for the most part alternating between two projects. The first is to turn my doctoral thesis (“Andrew Marvell’s ambivalence about justice”) into something more widely accessible; the second to examine how some authors have been able to maintain interest in the same or connected characters over a series of crime fiction novels.

“Prelate of the grove”: A note on ambition and preferment in Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House”
The treatment of ambition and preferment in Andrew Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House” indicates the need to develop an acutely discriminating conscience.

“Oh my god, shut up”: Sally Rooney, short story writer
Before she was an acclaimed novelist, Sally Rooney was already a very impressive short story writer. Here, I discuss three of her stories which can be read on the web.

“What course and opinion he thinks the safest”: Religion and divine justice in the work of Andrew Marvell
A by-product of my thesis, which was about justice as a theme in Marvell’s works. That topic was suggested to me by a book about his treatment of divine justice but I found that Marvell’s writings about divine justice engaged with theodicy only incidentally.

Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
Restrained and understated it may be. but when you look closely Kazuo Ishiguro’s sixth novel is a horror story.

Robert Galbraith, Lethal White
Nearly 18 months ago, I wrote a post on Medium in which I argued that each of the first three Cormoran Strike novels explores a different trope or sub-genre of crime fiction. Now, at long last, I’ve added my thoughts on the fourth novel in Robert Galbraith’s series.

Liz Nugent, Skin Deep
I previously wrote a mini-review of Liz Nugent’s Lying in Wait which you can find on the book reviews page. Here‘s a slightly more substantial discussion of her more recent novel.

Gillian Flynn's plotting in Dark Places: The deceptive attraction of overkill
My discussion of the plot of Gillian Flynn's second novel, Dark Places (2009).

Rereading Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum
Kate Atkinson’s first novel has a narrator who falls into three different types, each pulling in different directions. This results in a “teeming”, overstuffed tale whose profusion of detail tends to compensate for or distract from a glaring gap in the narrator’s memory. It’s a novel that requires to be reread.

Finite though unbounded: the abolition of infinity in the poetry of William Empson
A long essay (originally 5,000 words, but it seems to have stretched a bit over the years) about a theme in the early poetry of William Empson, which I wrote in 1996 and now think is worth resurrecting in a very slightly revised form.

The paradoxical ambition of Andrew Marvell’s Third Advice to a Painter
This is an argument (really a by-product of my thesis) about one of Marvell’s satires.

Who really killed The General’s Daughter?
A discussion of the resolution of the plot of Nelson DeMille’s 1992 novel The General’s Daughter.

Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike books
This post deals with tropes and subgenres in the first three Cormoran Strike books. For Lethal White, see above.

Book reviews

Most of the book reviews from Goodreads that I think are worth keeping have now been moved to this site.

I use mainly as an alternative to Twitter but from time to time I post longer pieces there. Here is a list of some of my longer posts which I don’t necessarily want to see buried in the timeline.