Prufrock's Page

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The British Funnybone

"[T]he strongest strain of British humour: a whimsicality that might strike the humourless as a pure waste of time, but helps give our humour its distinctiveness. It is wayward but as a nation we have faith in that waywardness. I prefer to think it could only have flourished in a nation that, for all its class war, is essentially stable, tolerant and tranquil, although of course it's very unfunny to say so."

That's Andrew Martin on British humour. No, he doesn't mention Wodehouse.

In Hot Blood

- "The greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make."

- "The test of whether or not a writer has divined the natural shape of his story is just this: after reading it, can you imagine it differently, or does it silence your imagination and seem to you absolute and final? As an orange is final. As an orange is something nature has made just right."

The Scotsman profiles Truman Capote

Friday, November 18, 2005

Auster In Autumn

Paul Auster's The Brooklyn Follies is getting glowing early reviews in the UK-- even though one personally finds his conceit of having the novel end on the morning of September 11, 2001 to be a bit twee.

The Brooklyn Follies is warmer than any of Auster’s previous novels, and is touched by an unmistakable air of nostalgia,” says The Times Literary Supplement. It continues: “(it) is a novel far more passionately American than Auster’s previous ones. It is also more abundantly furnished: its milieu is a Brooklyn of croissants and strollers, rather than, say, the inscrutable nighttown of Oracle Night.

And the New Statesman weighs in with: “…sweet and gentle might be watchwords for the entire book, which has a gloriously autumnal feel. Auster's meditation on happiness and encroaching age ripens each page into mellow fruitfulness. This superb novel about human folly turns out to be tremendously wise.”

Update: Siri Hustvedt, Auster's wife and fellow novelist, also has a new book out, one on "artists she is drawn to". You can read a profile here.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

2B Or Not 2B

A mobile phone company has announced a scheme to provide text message quotations and plot summaries of seven works -- from Hamlet to Paradise Lost to Lord of the Flies -- to act as an aide-memoire for undergraduates.

These will be devised by John Sutherland, emeritus professor of modern English literature at University College London, and chairman of this year's Booker jury. He says: "You could shrink the whole five-act text of Hamlet into a few thousand characters. And those syllables could serve as an aide- memoire, enabling you to back translate into the golden syllables of the original."

Ovr 2 u, Harold Bloom

Update: Meanwhile, Bookslut points to a version of Romeo And Juliet, told entirely in emoticons. Yes, it's one of those King Canute days...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

English, An African Tongue

The East African has an interesting interview with Helon Habila, Nigerian author and winner of the first Caine Prize for African writing. The answers he gives could well be those provided by any Indian author writing in English. Some excerpts:

Is English our language?

Ngugi wa Thiongo said you can't write in English; that you can't honestly express African experience in a foreign language. But we are still writing in English.

So time has answered his question. Nobody needs to go back and tell him he was wrong.

But how African is African literature when it is written in English?

English has gone beyond the English people. It is the language we use to communicate. No one novel or writer can give you all the answers.

Some non-African writers such as V.S. Naipaul have described African literature as thin. Do you agree?

J.M Coetzee is also on record as saying that African writers are merely interpreters of Africa to foreigners. My view is that we are interpreting because we were misrepresented. Colonialism is not an easy experience. People have to come out of it and begin to see the world afresh, which takes time.

What Naipaul implied was that African literature is not serious

He is a very cynical person. He has said the same about India, but it does not mean he is right. I don't think African literature is thin. Africans are looked down upon. The international media is very harsh on Africa. But African writers are trying to show a different picture.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Chicken Tikka = A Force of Assimilation

“[Homi] Bhabha began the discussion by asking Rushdie about his tendency to use nonrealistic forms such as fable and allegory in his fiction. ‘Well, you and I know that allegory is an Indian disease. In India everything is allegorical. Lunch is allegorical.’ ”

From a report on a recent Salman Rushdie reading in Cambridge.

How Liberated?

In the Washington Post, Megan Rosenfeld ends her joint review of Pornified by Pamela Paul and Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy with the following food-for-thought observation:

"Levy's catchphrase and title, Female Chauvinist Pigs, refers to what she says is the key to the success of raunch culture: Women have bought the idea that looking like bimbos, going to strip clubs, doing a pole dance, and getting or giving a lap dance is cool, not compliant.

"Levy's thesis was pretty much summed up by Erica Jong when Levy interviewed Jong on the 30th anniversary of the publication of her sexy novel Fear of Flying . 'Let's not kid ourselves that this is liberation,' Jong warned. 'The women who buy the idea that flaunting your breasts in sequins is power -- I mean, I'm for all that stuff -- but let's not get so into the [body parts] that we don't notice how far we haven't come. Let's not confuse that with real power. I don't like to see women fooled.' "

Writing, Narrating

"I'm very interested in exposing the works, as it were. When you pick up a book, everyone knows it's imaginary. You don't have to pretend it's not a book. We don't have to pretend that people don't write books. That omniscient third-person narration isn't the only way to do it. Once you're writing in the first person, then the narrator is a writer."

The Guardian interviews Paul Auster on the occasion of the publication of his 12th novel, The Brooklyn Follies.