Prufrock's Page

Friday, November 04, 2005

Advice To Writers: Hit The Treadmill

"First train your body. Then, your writing style will follow," says Haruki Murakami to the students of Tufts University, where he was a professor earlier. The man practices what he preaches: Murakami has run the Boston Marathon six times and will run his 34th marathon this weekend.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Indian Literary Empire Grows

French, German, Spanish, Italian. A new breed of Indian writers is finding markets in translation, says this Reuters report, going on to quote the wise words of Tarun Tejpal: "It's also a reflection of the increasing economic power of India. Culture rides on the coat-tails of economic efflorescence."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Virtues Of Forgetting

British psychoanalyst and writer Adam Philips has a provocative essay in Index On Censorship in which he says that remembering and commemorating the traumas of the past are over-rated activities; instead, we ought to learn to forget:

"To leave memory to itself, forgetting is required; the time-lag, the metabolism, the deferrals of forgetting. Forgetting has to be allowed for if memory – non-compliant, unmanufactured memory – is to have a chance. But giving memory a chance may not be the kind of thing we are willing to risk now. After so many memorials it may be worth wondering now what a Museum of Forgetting could be a museum of?"

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ms Kakutani At Sea

" [A] stilted, claustrophobic and numbingly pretentious tale about an aging widower revisiting his past."

That's Michiko Kakutani passing judgement on John Banville's The Sea. She finds fault with virtually every aspect of the novel, reserving some of her sharpest barbs for the prose: "...Max talks like someone with a thesaurus permanently implanted in his brain..Perhaps Max's grandiose language is meant to signify some sort of psychic defense mechanism on his part, but it's uncannily similar to the language employed by characters in Mr. Banville's earlier books. And together with his almost comical self-absorption, it makes Max sound like an annoying Peter Handke character on a bad day."

Finally, she dismisses it as "a chilly, dessicated and pompously written book that stands in sharp contrast to the vibrancy of many of this year's other Booker nominees."

Monday, October 31, 2005

India Awaiting

The New York Times reviews a new off-Broadway production of a play that deals with Indian assimilation in the United States. And no, it's not written by the prolific Chitra Banerjee-Divakaruni but, unusually, by an American playwright:

"The tensions of assimilation in the Indian diaspora have been at the center of numerous novels and films, by artists like Hanif Kureishi and Mira Nair. But the playwright Anne Marie Cummings is among the first to bring that experience to the American stage with 'India Awaiting,' an engaging if sometimes shallow variation on the theme of cross-cultural love."

One supposes the primary reason the word "shallow" is included in the above sentence is that the plot of the play is the usual one of Indian boy-meets-American-girl. Cliched it may be, but what better way of bringing out cultural and class differences? Jane Austen and Henry James, to take but two examples, built writing careers by doing just that.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Conan The Inspiration

In Scotland on Sunday, James W. Wood makes the interesting point that while last year, Henry James seemed to be the inspiration for contemporary novelists (Colm Toibin, David Lodge), this year, it's the turn of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Michael Chabon and Caleb Carr, among others, have recently written Holmes stories, and Doyle, of course, is the Arthur of Julian Barnes' Arthur & George. Now, there's also an "official" biography of the Baker Street sleuth by Nick Rennison:

"Rennison plays wonderfully with ideas based on Doyle's fiction: he imagines Sherlock Holmes quietly helping Scotland Yard with the Ripper murders, and assisting MI5 and MI6 with investigations into Irish terrorism. Holmes also fakes his own death (explaining the long periods during Doyle's career when he grew tired of writing Holmes stories) and retires to a cottage in Suffolk, where he eventually dies from cancer aged 75."