Prufrock's Page

Saturday, October 15, 2005

And The Booker Goes To...Philip Roth?

In The Times, former Booker judge David Baddiel revives an old argument -- that American novelists would win the Booker every time if they were allowed to enter:

"If you want genuinely great writing, read Updike; read Roth; read Franzen; read Delillo. Hear in their work many types of beauty, not only a kind of linguistic chamber music. See how they use actual comedy, words that make you laugh, not just that most dead literary trick, narrative irony. And, most importantly, discover how the mundane, the everyday, the unserious, the undignified, the low, the grubby, and the sleazy are where modern prose finds its real poetry."

In earlier years, one would have agreed wholeheartedly; but this time around, the Booker shortlist was so very strong that one isn't so sure. It's been a comparatively disappointing year for American fiction, with even highly-awaited works like Specimen Days and Extremely Loud
And Incredibly Close proving to be less than satisfying. Perhaps E.L. Doctorow's just-released The March would have been a Booker contender this year; offhand, nothing else really comes to mind. Next year may well be a different story: if nothing else, one is already looking forward to Philip Roth's Everyman, to be released in May 2006.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Smith And Wood Shake Hands

First, James Wood launched a diatribe against the genre of "hysterical realism" after 9/11, citing Zadie Smith's White Teeth as an example. Smith replied with a jab of her own, justifying her point of view. (She was later to call their spat "a bitchfight".)

Then, Wood criticised Smith's second novel, The Autograph Man on the same grounds. After which, the critic confessed in an interview with Robert Birnbaum: "I was very hard on Zadie Smith’s second novel. I knew when I was doing this year at Harvard that she would be here. I knew I had to meet her and I was very anxious about it...She was extraordinarily nice and generous to me. And we never talked about the review. Thinking through her maturity of response, I had various explanations. One of them was not that she bought my argument. Not that she said to herself, 'Oh ho, yeah he’s right I didn’t write a good second novel.' But more that she could see that what I wanted her to be doing was being better than herself."

Well, that meeting obviously cleared the air, for now, Wood has words of praise for On Beauty: ''What you see in this third book is that she wants to do something pleasingly old-fashioned, for a contemporary novel, which is to be a moralist and an aesthete. Besides the lovely polished style, she has this interest in what it means to create characters who are free agents and interact with one another."

So all's hunky-dory? Tch.Whatever happened to long-running literary feuds?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

In Which The Nobel Committee Attempts To Win Back Some Credibility After Last Year's Choice

British playwright Harold Pinter takes this year's Literature Nobel for work that uncovers "the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms."

Sounds most impressive. Wonder what it means.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

It Wasn't Like This In Cricklewood

Former Punch editor and Cricklewood chronicler Alan Coren writes alliteratively about the changes in his neighbourhood of London's Primrose Hill:

" had grown accustomed to preening itself for being an idyllic literary backwater where the blissful riparian peace was disturbed only by the plangent ping from a platen as Alan Bennett or Michael Frayn or Claire Tomalin or Martin Amis or Beryl Bainbridge or A. N. Wilson or Simon Jenkins reached the end of yet another immemorial line. The community even tolerated the odd arriviste wag, on the pitiably optimistic ground that he might one day come to his senses and try his hand at a novel.

"What, however, took us all horribly by surprise, a short while back, was the sudden headlong anabasis from West London of film folk: not only actors and directors and producers gobbling up big houses, but, gobbling up titchy flats, best boys and gaffers and grips. Primrose was the new Notting. Bang went the hood..."

Nobel Musing

While the world waits to discover who will win the Literature Nobel (to be revealed today), the good people of Korea ask themselves: if Jelinek can get it, why not Ko Un? Or even Hwang Suk-young?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Please do read about the aftermath of Rashmi Bansal's article and Gaurav Sabnis' post on Arindam Chaudhuri's IIPM here. And here.

All one can say is that what happened -- and what is continuing to happen -- is nothing short of appalling. Gaurav, Rashmi: know that your actions are worthy of praise; and help, encouragement and support are at hand.

Oh, and Arindam Chaudhuri's movie sucked, too. So sue me.

Welcome, Landmark

Just returned after another brief Delhi trip, during the course of which one visited -- but naturally -- many bookshops. (At Khan Market's The Book Shop, caressed their single copy of The Complete New Yorker, and then left it behind for Jabberwock to pick up).

Back home in muggy, traffic-choked Mumbai with an armful of books, one was about to launch into another jeremiad on the state of this city's bookshops when one received the news that Chennai's Landmark is about to open more than one store here. Thank goodness. It's not as good as having Lotus House Books back, but it's going to be better than the Crossword stores sprouting like rash all over the place.

Welcome, Landmark, and don't take too long.

That Ol' Man Roth Just Keeps Rolling Along

Philip Roth's next novel, Everyman, will be published in May by Houghton Mifflin, the company announced yesterday. Janet Silver, the publisher of the Houghton Mifflin division that will publish the book, called it "an elegant and deeply moving story of regret and loss in the shocking face of mortality."

Ladbrokes Is Very Upset, Too

John Banville's The Sea romps home with the Booker. And it's all because of chairman John Sutherland. Provoking Boyd Tonkin to retort that it was "possibly the worst, certainly the most perverse, and perhaps the most indefensible choice in the 36-year history of the contest."

Sunday, October 09, 2005

We're Awaiting The Vacuum-Sealed Issue On Best Young Swedish Novelists

Granta magazine has been sold to Swedish-born philanthropist Sigrid Rausing, reports The Guardian. The lady belongs to the family that made a fortune out of those clammy cartons we get our juice and milk in -- in other words, TetraPak.