A woman would have told her where to stick him. But Jones had no female friends.

Review of John Sutherland’s biography of Monica Jones, whose student he was at Leicester 📖

I started to read Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown (2005) last night, and immediately realized that I’ve started to read it before, probably about 12 years ago. I don’t think I got very far into it then but I’ll be more persistent this time 📖

Ha! I got 8 out of 10 in this Game of Thrones quiz and I never read any of the books or saw a single episode of the tv show. (That’s what I do: I ignore hit tv series and I know things.) 📺

I just came across this 4-year-old post on Scott Turow’s previous novel, Testimony. (Reading current one, The Last Trial, now.) I don’t know enough about international law to have spotted the errors in Testimony, but I thought it felt rushed and slapdash, unusually for Turow 📖

I finally got around to ordering this, two years after publication. The price put me off for a while, but in the end curiosity won out. The first editor was my thesis supervisor for a long time, though I had to be passed to someone else at the end.

While I was writing yesterday’s issue of the newsletter, about Ian McEwan’s Saturday, it was brought home to me how distorting the book reviews had been, and how much (temporal) distance from them I needed, to get a clear view of the novel 📚

Apparently, the Charlie Jazz festival at Vitrolles is expected to go ahead this year. I saw the Brad Mehldau trio there 6 years ago. Tinny piano, superb performance, virulent mosquitos. Wish I were going again. Next year, maybe 🎶 🎹

Here’s Richard Williams’s favourable review of the new trio album from Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh and Tyshawn Sorey, Uneasy. That’s the album that @mjkaul mentioned yesterday 🎶 🎹

The latest issue of my Substack newsletter, Talk about books, has just gone out. It’s titled On ‘Dover Beach’: Ian McEwan’s Saturday. Next issue, in 2 weeks, will likely be about Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children 📚

Instead of reacting to the disaster of the 2008 property crash by resetting national policy to make housing affordable and available, the system did everything it could to reflate property prices …

As Rahm Emanuel’s might say, making sure a crisis went to waste. Fintan O’Toole

Whatever happened to “don’t break the Back button?” I’ve noticed several times on The Irish Times recently that hitting Back brings you back to … the page you’re already on.

I missed the fact that Tavernier died a few weeks ago. Here’s a superb reminder of what a great film ’Round Midnight was. I didn’t get to see it till several years later, but I remember when it came out my then wife’s music student friends were highly impressed 🎶 🍿

A few weeks ago, I bought a CD player, the first I’ve owned for about 12 years. And yesterday I ordered on CD an album that I’d already bought as an iTunes download two years ago.

Medium gives you no control over what appears in your blogroll, but setting it up is as easy as checking a box. Substack’s homepage links are more versatile, and provide much more opportunity for procrastination.

Hemingway feels increasingly irrelevant today, his influence diminished to a vanishing point, his reputation corroded by a dated personal mythos.

So says Laura Miller. And there I was, thinking it was just me.

I’ve just moved a dozen or so miscellaneous blog-type posts from Medium to artkavanagh.ie. I’d already moved nearly all my fiction and all book discussion/lit-crit posts. Once I’ve moved the aphantasia series, I can delete my Medium profile.

Last night I finished watching the 2018 tv adaptation of Le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl, one ep a night for 6 nights. I’m wondering if it’s much different from the book. Having read everything up to Smiley’s People (except one), I’ve ignored everything since, till now 📺

I don’t write this in defence of the manifest and ugly inequalities in my country today. But I’m not sure exaggeration to the point of actual mendacity is the best way—even in satirical venting—to marshall the forces necessary for change.

Adam Roberts: inequality then and now

I’ve moved some more posts from Medium to artkavanagh.ie, so that I can eventually delete my Medium profile. Today’s moves:

Gillian Flynn, Dark Places
Kate Atkinson, Behind the Scenes at the Museum
Robert Galbraith, Cormoran Strike series
Nelson DeMille, The General’s Daughter

I will say to this day, the way I made it is an interesting movie that I like. It is not Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. The problem is that everyone that wrote about the movie, read the book.”

That’s always a risk. Brian De Palma on Bonfire of the Vanities. 🍿

I have to admit that I usually don’t make it all the way through Matt Stoller’s antimonopoly newsletter, BIG. Today’s issue, though, was on a subject that’s dear to my heart: the high cost of razors and razor blades.

That last post was partly an experiment in posting straight HTML to Micro.blog — HTML is valid Markdown by definition, but I don’t think that all HTML tags are supported. I’ve discovered that pasting a HTML snippet into Tot will turn HTML anchor tags into Markdown-style links 😎

PDF is still preferable to ePub

But maybe the optimal page size is larger than I thought

I’m probably going to move the posts I’ve left on Medium to other places. Most will go to artkavanagh.ie but this one fits better here on Micro.blog, I think.

Last summer, I wrote a post claiming that PDF is better than ePub, even on small screens. I argued that, though screen sizes vary widely, from 5” phone screens (or smaller) to 27” desktop monitors and above, most people don’t want to read a book or long document in a window that’s much different in size or shape from a typical book. I had been looking for the optimal, one-size-fits-all dimensions that would be readable on any sized screen, and I concluded that 4” by 6” was probably the best fit. But a few days ago, I was converting some HTML documents to PDF for the first time in a few months, and I noticed that I was finding that page size a bit too small.

At the same time, I had been thinking that anything that requires deep concentration — like reading a book or other long, complex document — was something that had probably best not be done on a phone. I’d recently been reading The Margin’s Ranjan Roy on the subject of Robinhood, the app that had been at the centre of the market turmoil over the short squeeze on GameStop stock. I was struck by this paragraph:

I opened up a Robinhood account very early on, but for me, the mobile-only functionality was a dealbreaker. I didn’t want to be trading “on-the-go”. If I wasn’t sitting at a desk, in front of a large screen, fully at attention, it was best not to trade. Sitting at a desktop is a different mindset, and that’s where I wanted to be if I was transacting.

I hadn’t given enough weight to the idea that reading something on a phone is a qualitatively different experience from reading the same thing on a tablet or larger screen. This was brought home to me more forcefully when I realized that Clubhouse, the newest app that’s supposed to revolutionize everything, is available on iPhone only. A babble of voices in a labyrinth of (who knows how many?) “rooms”, none of which can be recorded. Navigating that on a phone would be a real challenge to anyone’s concentration. How are you supposed to take notes?

What I’m trying to say is that, most of the time, people do different things on their phones than they do on larger-screened devices; and one of the things they’re unlikely to be doing on their phones is immersing themselves in your book, story or essay. So you don’t really need a version that can be read on a 5” screen.

To test this out, I redid two of the PDFs that are available for download on my website. Instead of 4” by 6”, the page size is now 5” by 7.5”. I doubled the margins from 18pt to 36pt. At first, I made them wider but I think that ½” is wide enough. Here are the two PDFs that I’ve republished with larger pages:

Protected” (PDF): a longish short story (about 9,500 words) about a man who has been in witness protection since he gave evidence against his former friend and boss, a major VAT fraudster. Our narrator is back in Dublin after many years away, determined to tell the truth and nothing but. There’s a web version (in five parts) here.

Sally Rooney: short story writer” (PDF): a discussion of three of Rooney’s short stories that can be read online (including “Mr Salary”). Here’s the web version.

Originally posted on Medium, 20 February 2021

Exported from Medium 30 March 2021

It’s 40 years since The Long Good Friday came out. It towers over most of the London gangster films that came later.

As it’s the 400th anniversary of Andrew Marvell’s birth, here are links to some things I’ve written about him:

Andrew Marvell’s Gender (paywall)
The paradoxical ambition of Third Advice to a Painter
Religion and divine justice
Prelate of the Grove”: ambition and preferment