Prufrock's Page

Friday, May 06, 2005

Clowning Around

Readers of this blog may have discerned a certain, um, predilection for Salman Rushdie and his doings. Keeping up the tradition, here's a link to another interview with the man, during the course of which he speaks of his forthcoming Shalimar The Clown:

"The simplest way to describe it, which is, of course, not necessarily the best way to describe it, is it's a murder story. I decided to murder an American ambassador (laughs)...The novel actually begins in California. He's a retired, very elderly, very distinguished gentleman who suddenly, out of the blue, gets knifed to death by his Indian-Kashmiri chauffeur on the doorstep of his grown-up illegitimate daughter. And the novel becomes the story of those three people, the story of the murderer, the man and his daughter."

One hopes -- sincerely, truly, deeply -- that the book is better than Mr Rushdie's past few efforts, which have left one somewhat underwhelmed.

Oh, and here's his advice to would-be novelists:

"I guess the best advice I can give has to do with perseverance. You know, my writing career did not begin easily. I graduated from college in 1968. The first time I really had any success as a writer was "Midnight's Children," which was in 1981. So there was like 12½ years of paying my dues. Some writers are lucky that they get there right away with their first book, like Joe Heller with "Catch-22" or whatever. But one of the things that I found was essential to the business of becoming a writer was to have that determination and perseverance to keep trying in the face of failure and without any guarantee of success. And if I look back at my young self, battling away for a dozen years, I'm very proud of that. And I'm not sure now, if somebody asked me would I start work in some field where it would take you 12½ years without any guarantee at the end of it that you would be any good at it, I mean I would not do that....You'd be crazy to do it. But I think writers, when starting out, are crazy in exactly that way (laughs)."

Sigh. I guess one has to hold on to one's day job, after all.

The Right Lane

There will be two completely separate and, I might add, mutually hostile audiences for the resulting film. One will be composed of “Hitchhiker” fans, millions strong, who will interpret every minute discrepancy between what they are watching onscreen and what they once read on the page as a heresy punishable by law or, where possible, stoning. These people are lunatics, and I am one of them. Opposing us will be hordes of decent, ungeeky humans who will be bewildered and patchily amused by the tale of Arthur Dent and his voyage among the stars. Arthur (Martin Freeman) is an Englishman whose concern for his house, which is about to be demolished to make way for a bypass, is overtaken by his concern for the earth, which is about to be demolished by alien busybodies to make way for a hyperspatial express route.

Reviews such as these are why you ought to read Anthony Lane. Why you ought to go to a bookstore at once to pick up his Nobody's Perfect. And why you ought to shake your head over the state of film reviewing in India today.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Butcher's Point Of View

Nicholas Fearn re-opens an old colonial wound with his book on Reginald Dyer: "I thought I would be doing a jolly lot of good and (the Indians) would realise that they were not to be wicked."

Whichever way you look at it, the man was "pugnacious, stupid and dishonest." Not to mention a few more adjectives that one will refrain from adding for fear of upsetting readers of a sensitive ilk.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Starring Keanu Reeves as a Bunsen burner

First, one reads that Ian McEwan's Saturday, a book that employs stream-of-consciousness throughout, is to be made into a Hollywood film.

Now, one gets the news that Bill Bryson's A Walk In The Woods, which depends on a droll tone of voice for its readability, is also Hollywood-bound, with Robert Redford and Paul Newman in lead roles.

Given that such unlikely material is being snapped up by producers, one is holding on to one's Class IX chemistry notes. Just in case the Brothers Weinstein come calling.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Since I've Been Lavanya*

Beggars. Billionaires. India's own Silicon Valley. Quentin Tarantino. And a miniskirt lifestyle.

Oh, the things publishers say to peddle their wares.

Which, of course, leads one to the irresponsible conspiracy theory of the week.

* with apologies to Plant and Page

"Hi, I'm Salman, the writer." "Yawn."

Salman Rushdie re-introduced himself as a writer - not the onetime global target of Muslim hit men - Thursday evening at the University at Buffalo.

But, "Salman Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet was a dull read,’’ says author Arun Prakash.

Coming Soon

Alpana Lath Sawai lists books to watch out for in an article in Sunday Mid-day.

Top of the heap is Vikram Seth's Two Lives, a non-fiction account of the author's great-uncle and aunt, and their sojourns in Berlin and London. Since the book will only be released in September this year, there's a long wait ahead.

Surprisingly, Salman Rushdie's Shalimar The Clown (also coming in September) doesn't find a place on Ms Sawai's list. However, she goes on to mention some other titles that one is already clearing shelf space for -- including Amartya Sen's The Argumentative Indian and Yashodhara Dalmia's biography of Amrita Shergill.

Mark Haddon, author of the charming and deft The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, also has a book on the way. It's titled The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea, and it's described thus: "Here are bittersweet love lyrics, lucid and bold new versions of Horace, comic set-pieces, lullabies, wry postmodern shenanigans and an entire John Buchanan novel condensed to five pages."

Oh, dear.Why not just call it The Curious Incident of the Author's Random Jottings in the Night-time?

Keeping You, Um, Posted

One doesn't know if it's simply the company one keeps, but the word "post" suddenly seems to be the word du jour.

This, mind you, isn't in the sense of a blog or newsgroup entry, or even that thing you do in front of a letterbox. Instead, it's a word that seems to have replaced the perfectly servicable "after".

"I'll see you post lunch.". I'll e-mail you post the meeting." "Why don't we chat post the conference?" Such are some of the statements being uttered in public and without remorse.

Please stop it. Post-haste.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Browsing At Manneys

One of the pleasures of visiting Pune is the chance to drop by at Manneys Booksellers (despite the missing apostrophe).

There's a strong and wonderful aroma of books that greets one at the entrance, and though one is by no means a regular, one imagines that little has changed in the more than half century that the bookshop has been in business.

It's gratifying to see just how well-represented almost every section is: from fiction to film; from children's books to computers; from design to philosophy. Though the shop is spacious, on two levels, the tall, cramped shelves and long wooden tables almost beg you to stay for longer than the time you'd allotted.

One toyed with a dust-stained copy of Bernard Malamud's The People And Uncollected Stories before putting it down and deciding to feed one's inferiority complex by purchasing The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory as well as The Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide. Oh, and also the promising-looking Fearless Nadia: The True Story of Bollywood's Original Stunt Queen by Dorothee Wenner.

Then, it was time to sample another of Pune's pleasures: Shrewsbury biscuits from Kyani's. Mens sana, though not quite corpore sano.