Prufrock's Page

Friday, March 17, 2006

What Ho, Sahib

The Times' Stephen McClarence travels to Delhi to discover the roots of Indian readers' continuing love affair with P.G. Wodehouse: "Nearly 60 years after the nation’s British rulers packed their bags and legged it home, his books are on sale in most bookshops, sometimes nestling nervously between Jeanette Winterson and Virginia Woolf. Wodehouse never wrote about India, but sells better on the subcontinent than in Britain, with pirated copies in common circulation."

Grenville's Commonwealth

Australia again. The 2006 Commonwealth Writer's Prize has been won by Kate Grenville for her The Secret River, a novel about a convict's struggle to build a life for his family after being shipped to a 19th-century Australian penal colony.

"This is a huge honour in part because this book started as such a personal story about my great-great-great grandfather who arrived as a convict in 1806," said Grenville, whose grandfather was sent to Australia with his wife and children after stealing lumber in London.

Seth's Gout

Shortly after arriving in Australia to promote Two Lives, Vikram Seth was diagnosed with gout. His stoic response: "Gout is a patrician disease. I am suffering in a patrician way." On the brighter side: "I've discovered," says Seth, "that alcohol may actually be very helpful in the treatment of gout." And as for what he's working on at present, "I'm bookless," he says. "Free but puzzled. I'm not an intrinsically industrious or disciplined person. But luckily I am an obsessive person, which is good for writing."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Not A Free Kick

So what if Martin Amis didn't score a goal with his panned Yellow Dog? He has another chance -- this time, on the football field. According to this report, the author has signed to play for Manchester United, and will earn a reported £5 million after agreeing to appear in five different spells for the club over the next 12 years.

An anonymous club spokesman says: “Martin is in his mid-50s, barely knows the meaning of the terms free kick and offside and has the ball skills of an uncoordinated toddler, but that should not prevent him becoming the most successful player ever."

Mohun Bagan, here I come.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Moralist In Disguise

Pankaj Mishra reviews David Foster Wallace's applauded collection of essays, Consider The Lobster, and, interestingly enough, discovers that the author is "an old-fashioned moralist in postmodern disguise." This duality, according to the reviewer, is both a strength and a weakness:

"...few of his young peers have spoken as eloquently and feelingly as he has about the hard tasks of the moral imagination that contemporary American life imposes on them. Yet he often appears to belong too much to his own times — the endless postmodern present — to persuasively explain his quarrel with them."

Good Bad Books

One is again at Mumbai airport, gazing at ghastly pulp fiction at the bookshop. How appropriate, then, to chance upon Stephen Bayley's engaging piece on the merits of bad writing:

Alberto Manguel, Jorge Luis Borges's amanuensis, explained how the writer used to treasure terrible lines from literature. One was a character in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi who says, "We are merely the stars' tennis balls." Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights contains this shocker: "I had no desire to aggravate his impatience, previous to inspecting his penetralium."

Bad, it turns out, can be better than good and is always better than bad good, but good bad is perhaps the best of all (certainly the most entertaining). Beowulf has many qualities, but it is not a page-turner to rival The Da Vinci Code. This delicious confusion makes me feel, in Mark Twain's execrable expression, "as sweet and contented as an angel half-full of pie". By any test that can be devised, that's a really bad line.