Monthly Archives: July 2018

Svend Brinkmann: Stand Firm – Resisting The Self-Improvement Craze


I haven’t been able to get hold of Barbara Held’s “self-help book for curmudgeons”  Stop Smiling, Start Kvetching, but I enjoyed Svend Brinkman’s description of it in his own anti self-help book  Stand Firm – Resisting The Self-Improvement Craze.   This is from a chapter that starts, “It’s much more fun to be a sourpuss than a happy-clappy type”:

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Tatyana Tolstaya: White Walls



And others survived, preserved themselves, guarded against changes, laid low behind the strips of unglued wall paper, behind the loosened doorframes, under the tattered felt, and now they emerged, honest and old-fashioned, redolent of ancient virtues and devalued sins… They came out, carrying under their arms valuables safeguarded in their lethargic sleep: decayed novelties, frayed audacities, mouldy discoveries, expired insights, amen; squinting, strange, rare and useless, they came out the way an antiquarian, albino cockroach might emerge from a pile of old newspapers…. 329

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Olivia Manning: School For Love

This article in the Paris Review sent me back to Olivia Manning, a writer I haven’t thought about for years. Remember her Balkan Trilogy, which was made into a 7-part TV adaptation by the BBC?  That wasn’t until after her death, unfortunately – Manning was bitter about her lack of recognition, and particularly peeved about Iris Murdoch’s fame. I love her riposte when A.S. Byatt said The Rain Forest, the only one of her books ever listed for the Booker, was “slow”:

I wouldn’t call La Byatt exactly a sprinter.

So true. And I must say I share her exasperation at the canonisation of Iris.

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