Prufrock's Page

Saturday, December 10, 2005

In Praise Of Journalists

Now that we're all set to welcome Playboy, as well as an Indian version of Maxim, it's time to hear Stuff Magazine's editor Jimmy Jellinek let fly: "This business attracts assholes like flies flock to poop. Most of us are just frustrated high school newspaper geeks who spent our teen years rubbing our hands, going, 'I'll show you.' So when it comes time to actually show somebody something you have to wring the most you can from the sponge. So you have all these dickheads whose sense of purpose and power derives from where they sit on a masthead. What else you going to brag about, the pay? Hell no, a first year analyst at Goldman Sachs with a coke problem makes more than most of us do."

Friday, December 09, 2005

So That Rules Us Out, Then

Syndicated columnist, author and radio show host Arianna Huffington says: "The qualities I look for in a man are the qualities I look for in a blogger: passion, relentlessness, risk-taking and a light touch."

That's Our Favourite Excuse, Too

To write fiction, you need both time and a space inside your head, one in which you can create an alternative universe, populated by characters who are as real to you as those you meet in your daily life. Alas, my life has not permitted that.

- Shashi Tharoor in The Kanpur Times

Creating Original Patterns

"At some point in the semester I'll get the question, 'Why does every story have to have a conflict? Can't we just write something different?' And my answer is, 'Yes you can, but will it work? Will anybody want to read it?'" He elaborated: humans are organisms evolutionarily designed over millions of years to look for certain patterns that are pleasing or that work for us by teaching us how to interpret heartbreak over lost love, or over an absent father.

"The worst aspect of that — and this is what the kids dislike, I think — is whether we're really just talking about formula," Chandra said. "And yes, to a certain extent you are. The challenge is to do something within that pattern that's original, that's pleasing, and has a sense of the expected — but that blows our mind with the surprise that it holds within itself."

- From an interview with UC Berkeley professor Vikram Chandra

So This Is The Future Of Blogs

A report on the activities of Delhi-based impresario Ajay Jain says he plans to set up “India’s first blog portal to be funded by investors.” It goes on: “Jain wants to use the blog as a revenue generating model and is also setting up blogs for corporates and NGOs, among them one for Plan International, a Britain-based international development organisation that works with 1.3 million children in developing countries. Jain will focus on the NGO’s India operations. His charges for a blog start-up is anywhere between Rs 50,000-2 lakh. ‘It is a great PR activity for companies. We will assimilate relevant information and spruce up the interest factor among people for the NGO,’ says Jain. The blog is proving to be a PR tool in the US and Europe, a model Jain wants ‘to replicate in India’.”

Sounds nothing like a blog to us, but then, you can always try to fool all of the people all of the time.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Touching Post

Even without the centrefolds, and with a different name, the very idea of an Indian edition of Playboy has led to many salivating reports. For those who want more, however, one couldn't do better than to point to this piece which talks of a Braille version of the magazine. You did want to read it for the articles, didn't you?

Does This Mean That Naipaul Was Right?

"If there's any theme to the year," said David Rosenthal, the publisher of Simon & Schuster's flagship imprint, "it's that people only want to read the truth." So while nonfiction sales are generally good, he said, fiction sales are best defined, in Mr. Rosenthal's usual plain-spoken manner, by an expletive.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Short Story Machines

Comparing them to the short story machine in R.K. Narayan's The Vendor of Sweets, Sam Sacks disses MFA programs in a long, considered and pointedly opinionated article: "...we can only wonder what is being lost amidst an institution that, unintentionally but inexorably, conspires to discourage daring greatly as both irregular and impractical."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


In a review of The Letters of Lytton Strachey that seems too obviously designed to provoke, novelist Lucy Ellmann writes: "What is it about the Bloomsbury crowd - a few talented types who had the sense to sit on the floor a lot, paint their furniture, sleep with anyone they wanted and commit suicide whenever necessary - that so beguiles their adherents?"

She goes on to call Strachey "the biggest time-waster of the bunch", continuing to excoriate the man for the rest of the piece.

A few questions arise. Why have the esteemed editors of the New York Times assigned this book to a reviewer who has scant knowledge of the Bloomsbury set? Has Ms Ellman even read Eminent Victorians? And could all this muck-raking be something to do with the fact that her own book, Doctors And Nurses, is to be released soon?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Trying Really Hard To Like India

In the New York Times' round-up of the best travel books of the season, one comes across this paragraph, discussing a piece in The Best American Travel Writing 2005:

[In] Seth Stevenson's 'Trying Really Hard to Like India,'...he makes the affliction known as "Delhi belly" sound kind of fun: "I find myself playing a game I call, 'Could I Vomit in This?' The idea is to pick a nearby object and then decide if, in the event of an emergency, it could be puked into. For example, potted plant: Certainly. Water bottle: Sure. Magazine: Iffy but worth a try.

Actually, one thinks it all depends on the magazine in question.

Update: The full piece, originally a series of blog posts hosted by Slate, can be found here. More comments as and when one meets an urgent review deadline and then gets down to reading the full thing.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Shared Secret Of A Book

In The Times' Christmas Books Special, Jeanette Winterson waxes eloquent on reading:

"The shared secret of a book that you both adore is like nothing else. Even though thousands of others have read it, it is still a private world. Certain cities, such as Venice, have this quality: that is because such a city is essentially an invention and a continual reinvention; the outline is always there but we make up the meaning as we go along.

"This is not to say that the great books we love are wax tablets where we impress our own image. Rather, they have such power of purpose, revealed in form and language, that they interpret us much better than we interpret them."

The Magic Is Gone

A report suggests that a new breed of Latin American writers -- such as Jorge Franco and Ebrahim Medina -- is emerging from the shadow of magic realism and instead focusing on what can be called "urban realism". The title of a recent Medina novel, however, shows that quirkiness still lingers: it's called Batman And Robin's Mutual Masturbation Techniques. (No, one is not making this up.)