Prufrock's Page

Friday, March 31, 2006

Nothing Is Illuminated

Jonathan Safran Foer is one of the two authors who makes it to the list of the New York Press' "50 most loathsome New Yorkers":

"Only after a textbook publisher picked up his debut novel in 2002 was Everything Is Illuminated marked not so much an auspicious debut, but the new messiah. Everyone from John Updike to Salman Rushdie sang his praises—until the 2005 9/11-Holden Caulfield follow-up, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close...Everything but the box office was illuminated for the big-screen bomb of his first book. Both 2005 efforts came crashing down like the towers he writes so badly about. But as loathsome as exploiting 9/11 for bad magic-fiction might be, pity the poor producer in charge of translating his red-inked, blurry typefaces and flipbook cartoon—not to mention that entire page taken up by just the word 'purple'—into the audio version."

The other one? James Frey, everyone's favourite whipping boy at present.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

John McGahern, whose quiet, unfussy and deceptively simple prose captured the spirit of an Irish people finding their own place in the world, is no more. The Guardian calls him "arguably the most important Irish novelist since Samuel Beckett", and the New York Times quotes John Banville as saying: "Amongst Women, which was his masterpiece -- if there was any justice at all, it should have won the Booker Prize. It would have given him the international recognition that he didn't have. The literary world we live in now is so glittery. His novels were so quiet, perhaps they didn't travel well. But they will."

In McGahern's own words: "[I attempted] to take plot and everything else out of the novel and see what was left...In fiction, the most powerful weapon the writer has is suggestion. I think that nearly all good writing is suggestion, and all bad writing is statement. Statement kills off the reader's imagination. With suggestion, the reader takes up from where the writer leaves off."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Take Cover, Boys

Thomas Hardy? "Unbearable."

Ernest Hemingway? "Too busy being an American."

Charles Dickens? "Repetitive."

Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey? "[A book about] this terrible vapid woman and her so-called love life."

Once again, Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul spews vitriol.

Name Dropping

Richard Bachman. Jack Harvey. Eric Blair. May Ann Evans. David Cornwell. PrufrockTwo. Why do writers adopt pseudonyms? The Guardian's Jonathan Freedman explains.

So Many Blogs, So Little Quality

There's Julie And Julia, there's the Lulu Blooker Prize, and now, as has been widely reported, Riverbend's Baghdad Burning has been shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Award. So, are blogs the new happy hunting ground of publishers? Not yet, according to Little, Brown's Judie Clain: "I don't think a blog is a great place to look for new writers, because there are so many, and so many aren't very good."

Monday, March 27, 2006

Ishiguro's Cheerful Novel

In The Guardian, Kazuo Ushiguro writes that it was tuning in to a radio programme on biotechnology that first alerted him to the theme of Never Let Me Go. That apart, he offers interesting insights into his craft:

I could finally see the story I'd been looking for: something simple, but very fundamental, about the sadness of the human condition. After that, I worked pretty steadily, averaging about 30 hours a week, for three years, until my book was finished.

I remember reading it back for the first time and concluding this was my most cheerful novel to date.

When I write about children, I do much the same as when I write about elderly people, or any other character who's different from me in culture or experience. I try my best to think and feel as they would, then see where that takes me.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pirates! Filibusters! Bashi-Bazouks!

“At the end of the day, people still prefer to read the original work, however difficult that may be for them. But we still bring out translations for the few who want them. People want to read a Harold Robbins in Bengali so we have to translate it, yet poor translation is hampering the market. [And between Amartya Sen and Herge’s Tintin] Tintin is much more popular.”

- Ranjan Sarkar of the Bengali imprint, Ananda Publishers

Malamud Redux

Though Janna Malamud Smith's book on her father has received decidedly mixed reviews, at least it's refocused attention on a writer who doesn't deserve to be neglected. Here, for example, is Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post:

"Not all of Malamud's work achieves the heights of The Assistant and The Magic Barrel , but it ranks with the best of his time, and far above what passes for the best of our own. Its most persistent themes -- the search for a new life and the struggle to achieve moral rectitude -- have lasting pertinence and have rarely been explored so subtly and perceptively in literature. His prose, at times melancholy and at others jaunty, achieves a near-perfect fusion of American and Jewish-American rhythms. He was as much fabulist as novelist, with the happy result that almost all of his fiction transcends time."