Prufrock's Page

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Immigrant Songs

"I think a lot of it is boringly down to the demographic. The great waves of immigrations happened only since the end of the Second World War, there were writers writing about their experience of coming from the Caribbean to Britain like George Lamming, V.S. Naipaul. It took time for the second generation - people like me - to grow up, become writers and then write a book. That's what we're beginning to see now, the children and indeed the children of the children of that immigration now finding their voice and starting to feel confidence to be able to put it out there."

- Andrea Levy on the second wave of 'multi-culti' novels in the UK.

Realism Rules

"Realism, seen broadly, cannot be a genre; instead, it makes other forms of fiction seem like subgenres. For realism teaches everyone else; it schools its own truants: it is what allows magical realism, hysterical realism, fantasy, science fiction, even thrillers, to exist."

In Prospect, the estimable James Wood makes another impassioned case for realism in the novel. Well worth reading.

Friday, March 10, 2006

"The Problem With Writers... that you have to be a bit of a manic-depressive in order to keep at it. Not literally a manic-depressive, mind, terrible thing, mania, depression - but metaphorically. You have to generate all of these ideas and all of these sentences and words and then you have to pick at them and sort them and criticise them and throw them away and start again, and I think it unbalances you in the end."

That's Ian Sansom letting fly in an interview with Bookmunch. In the same vein, he says:

"Would you want to spend even five minutes of your time with a writer? Thomas Mann, or James Joyce? E.B. White even, or Thurber? Elizabeth Bishop? You read the biographies and you think, Jesus, these people are the absolute pits; you'd avoid them like the plague in the school playground or at the shops."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Let's Go Babe, You And I

Let’s go babe, you and I,
When the night’s straddling the sky
Like a passed-out drunk guy.
Let’s walk down frat row.
Yeah, let’s go
And remember our night in the HiHo Motel
And that wack restaurant with bad oysters. Hell!
Frat row that flows like a stream of spilt beer
When the keg is empty
To point us to the question…
But don’t ask “Where’s the other keg?”
I’d rather sit here and fondle your leg.

That's from 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' for frat boys. The rest here.

(Link courtesy Bookslut.)

No Male Zadies

"Publishers have realised that new women writers are really where it's at it right now. They're prepared to offer huge advances because everyone wants the new Zadie Smith. I can't think offhand of a young male writer who has made a comparable splash."

On International Women's Day. a discussion on women writing today, with an analysis of those on the Orange Prize longlist.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

An Incendiary Book

Laila Lalami has an appreciative review of Amitav Ghosh's new essay collection, Incendiary Circumstances:

The unifying theme here is the question that looms over writers in this age, or any other age, for that matter: how to write about the world, about its turmoil and violence, without "allowing your work to become complicit with the subject." The only answer, Ghosh suggests, is for "those who deal in words [to] pay scrupulous attention to what they say." ...Once you've finished this book, you're very likely to press it into your friends' hands and beg them to read it as well.

(As far as one can tell, most of the essays in the above are already available in Ravi Dayal editions -- such as The Imam and the Indian and Countdown.)

What Money Can't Buy

"I have maxed out the Visa, moved on to the Citibank debit card, and am tapping the ATM like an Iraqi guerrilla pulling crude from the pipeline."

After that, writer Judith Levine decided to go a year without buying anything but essentials. Among other things, that meant no processed food, clothes, CDs or (gasp) books. An account of her withdrawal from the marketplace, Not Buying It, has just been published, and the Christian Science Monitor calls it an "engaging and thought-provoking chronicle"

Sadly, as the reviewer says, "Living without buying is hard, she confesses again and again, and not because she finds herself hungry, cold, or lacking any true essential. Rather, it's hard, she comes to realize because - like it or not - what we buy defines us. It gives us status, it creates a space for us, and it allows us to commune with others. To stop buying, Levine discovered, leaves one in a sometimes shadowy - and occasionally even boring - netherworld."

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

It recently and briefly outsold The Da Vinci Code on The next Dan Brown bestseller? No, Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman. Written in 1940, it's "a surreal adventure in which, among other things, people exchange atoms with their bicycles."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Raisin Hell

Rushdie of the [Danish] cartoons, the one in which Muhammad tells suicide bombers to stop because heaven is running out of virgins. "There's a theory," Rushdie noted, "that '72 virgins' is actually a mistranslation. It's actually '72 raisins.' That's a good reason to hope there's an afterlife. You want to see the faces of these people when they show up and are handed a bowl of raisins."