Prufrock's Page

Saturday, July 09, 2005

How To Write About Rushdie

Begin with uncredited sentences describing his new book (“Rushdie draws on Indian mythology, LA fakery, Hindu culture and the limits of the English language to capture it all.”) taken from other newspaper reports such as this one in The Weekend Australian.

For good measure, throw in a quote from the author taken from the same source (without mentioning the source, natch): "One of my good fortunes as a writer is to have access to a lot of traditions -- and not just inside western culture, high or low."

Have five-minute conversations with the likes of Ruchir Joshi, Githa Hariharan, Amit Chaudhuri, Harish Trivedi and Rukmini Bhaya Nayar, hoping that they’ll say something controversial. Add a sentence such as: “Critics hate Rushdie's genre of 'magical realism' devoid of emotion" -- without mentioning which critics, what they’ve said and in what context.

To make Bachi Karkaria happy, add some puns such as “Sheikhspeer” and "Da Salman Rushdie Code”.

Top it off with a box containing a précis of Shalimar The Clown taken (again, without credit) from The Book Standard.

And voila: your piece is ready for The Delhi Times.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Something To Make Rana Dasgupta Happy

Amherst College professor Ilan Stavans writes an appreciative review of Morris Dickstein's A Mirror In The Roadway, but differs with him on the function of literary criticism:

" 'Critics write about literature,' [Dickstein] argues, 'for the same reasons writers write about anything: for the pleasure of forming graceful sentences that sort out their own reactions to books, or simply to be part of a conversation about the human dilemma that goes back to the beginning of culture.' "

Stavans' point of view:

"It's a good answer, but I have another: One writes about literature because literature without criticism doesn't have a solid place in society. The critic is a map-maker, one in charge of surveying our intellectual landscape, of offering context, of offering judgment on what's beautiful. Unfortunately, 'beauty' is a word out of fashion. Still, the critic invites us to make aesthetic validations. This is true in any time and place, especially in an open-market democracy such as ours, in which ideas are showcased like merchandise."

Liked The Movie? Ignore The Book

New York Times critic Caryn James has an article on movies that outshine the books they were based on -- ranging from Jules Et Jim to War Of The Worlds to Jaws. Oddly enough, she leaves out perhaps one of the best examples: Coppola's The Godfather, which completely trumped Mario Puzo's enjoyable though badly-written book.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London, 1666: Oh The Miserable And Calamitous Spectacle!

"The conflagration was so universal, and the people so astonished, that from the beginning, I know not by what despondency or fate, but crying out and lamentation, running about like distracted creatures without at all attempting to save even their goods; such a strange consternation there was among them….Oh the miserable and calamitous spectacle!"

- From the diary of John Evelyn, recording impressions of the Great Fire of London .

Want To Be The First To Read Shalimar The Clown? Learn Portuguese

British-Indian author Salman Rushdie will hold the global launch of his latest book, Shalimar the Clown, this week at a fast-growing literary festival in Brazil....Rushdie's book is being made available in Portuguese before going on sale some weeks later in English.

All Diana's Fault

Glowing reviews of Julian Barnes' Arthur & George are sprouting up faster than fungus in the Mumbai monsoon. Here's a delightful quote by the man, from an interview in The Guardian:

"There is a tradition of English emotional reticence which can easily fall away into emotional inexpressiveness and frigidity...I prefer that to the Oprahfication of the emotions which is what has happened. People talking about their emotional lives in staggering detail on Celebrity Love Island is so banal. It's Princess Diana's fault. When things are wrong in England, it's always her fault, or Mrs Thatcher's, isn't it?"

The Stage Is Set For Donna Summer's Triumphant Comeback

Now that the retro wave has peaked, this was an idea waiting to be published. The New Yorker briefly notes the emergence of a book entitled Turn The Beat Around by Peter Shapiro, subtitled The Secret History of Disco:

"Shapiro’s history emphasizes its roots in nineteen-seventies New York, where hippie idealism had given way to stagflation and gang warfare. While the city decayed, marginal communities—gays, blacks, Latinos—congregated in abandoned warehouses to commune on makeshift dance floors. Shapiro argues that disco was 'glamour as defiance,' a movement that promoted racial integration and aided the mainstreaming of homosexuality. His book ranges widely, from Nazi Germany, where Swing Jugend (proto-discogoers, in Shapiro’s view) met covertly to dance to 'degenerate' jazz, to the rooftops of the Bronx, where Latino gangs did the hustle."

A review in the Village Voice goes on to say: "Shapiro [has] rapturous passages describing the way songs feel, including a dazzling reading of 'I Feel Love.' That particular tidbit, which takes up almost an entire chapter, is worth the asking price alone."

And this is from The New York Times: "...Shapiro's no-rhinestone-unturned approach makes for highly entertaining reading, including short profiles of such dance floor icons as Chic and Giorgio Moroder and an exploration into the origins of disco's ubiquitous ''whoop! whoop!' sound effect...Try to resist the temptation to turn directly to the book's discography to see how many of the albums it cites are in your own collection."

All together now: "D.I.S.C.O.!"

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Dr Seth, I Presume

Noted Indian author Vikram Seth, is among the 13 luminaries to be conferred with honorary degrees by Britain's prestigious University of Leicester next week, it was officially announced on Monday.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Marquez's Memories

Memories Of My Melancholy Whores, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s first work of fiction in a decade, deals with a 90-year-old’s attempt to sleep with a 14-year-old virgin. It sounds creepy. And, despite putting up a brave front, The Book Standard doesn’t quite know what to make of it:

“[T]he scenario is disturbing. There is no indication—unless it is the word 'melancholy' in the title—that García Márquez means his tale to be the parody of macho idiocy it appears to be. His hero ends revitalized and radiantly optimistic, while readers are left wondering, ‘Can he be serious?’ ”

Not Quite A Dog's Life

"I was always a dog person and I found it so much easier writing from the point of view of the dog." So says Matt Haig of his first novel, The Last Family in England. (Er...didn't Paul Auster do the same thing in Timbuktu?)

But he went further: the book is loosely based on Shakespeare's Henry V Part 1, and the dog in question is called Falstaff.

Not surprisingly, he found few takers for his manuscript. So he approached Jeannette Winterson: "I contacted her cold. I pasted at the bottom of the email the first 1,000 words. I'd done it to a lot of authors and most of them completely blanked me – well, didn't get back to me. But she looked at it and liked it and told me who to contact in terms of the publisher and gave me a quote I could use." That quote was: "I love this book. It's fabulous and moving and funny and strange. It will go down among the great animal books."

The happy ending, according to The Yorkshire Post: "And so it was that The Last Family in England was published by Jonathan Cape to rave reviews – 'multi-faceted', 'clearly destined to become a cult hit', 'a carefully plotted maze of tragi-comedy' – with Matt hailed as a rising young star in the literary galaxy. The hardback made it on to the bestseller lists, the paperback has just come out, and Matt Haig is now very much in demand."

Monday, July 04, 2005

Singing The Body Electric, 150 Years On

"[Walt] Whitman called Leaves of Grass 'the new Bible'. He had a messianic view of himself as poetic Answerer come to heal American society. By absorbing and magnifying his culture's best aspects, he believed his poetry could help unify a nation fractured by class conflicts, shady politics, and racial tensions. The poet, he wrote in his preface, ''is the equalizer of his age and land. . . he supplies what wants supplying and checks what wants checking.' He offered a recipe for healing: ''This is what you shall do . . . read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life.' "

An op-ed piece in The Boston Globe sings a paean
to Walt Whitman on the 150th anniversary of Leaves of Grass. Though it must be said that the poet's homeland seems to be taking its cues nowadays from the work of another Walt -- the guy who gave us Mickey and Donald.

Rushdie The Rude

“Intelligent design, an idea designed backward so as to force the antique idea of a Creator upon the beauty of creation, is so thoroughly rooted in pseudoscience, so full of false logic, so easy to attack that a little rudeness seems called for…If religion were a private matter, one could more easily respect its believers’ right to seek its comforts and nourishments. But religion today is big public business, using efficient political organization and cutting-edge information technology to advance its ends. Religions play bare-knuckle rough all the time, while demanding kid-glove treatment in return.”

- Salman Rushdie, deriding the arguments of scientist Dylan Evans and philosopher Michael Ruse proposing a “new, modern atheism”, in an article in The New York Times. Reproduced in The Telegraph. (Link via Amit.)

Got A Little Shelf Space And Some Extra Money?

"Laid down page by page and end to end, the Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection would stretch about 84 kilometres...And it can all be yours — all half a million pages of it — for the low price of $7,989.99 (all figures U.S.)."

Think that's too high a price? Hey, it's already been discounted:

According to, the exclusive seller of the collection, the list price for the whole thing is $13,314.74. The online seller proudly states: 'You save: $5,324.75.' " Oh, and the shipping is free.

(Link courtesy Arts Journal)