Prufrock's Page

Friday, June 02, 2006

Kraussing Boundaries

She's well-educated, erudite, wealthy and married to a precocious literary talent. If you still want to read on, here's a profile of Nicole Krauss, significant other of Jonathan Safran Foer, whose The History of Love has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize. (One would pick Olga Grushin any day.)

Roth, The Pig

Chicago Tribune cultural critic Julia Teller revives an old grouse: that Philip Roth is a sexist, misogynist pig. While praising his writing skills and novelistic talents, she points out -- and there's more than a grain of truth in this -- that "the distance between Roth's treatment of women and, given his immense talent, what it could be -- as funny and quirky and scandalously revealing and incisively profane as his rendering of men -- is cause for profound disenchantment." She still has hope, however: "He can surely do better by his women. He can come around. We'll be waiting."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Urbs Prima In Indis

Now that the very first day of the monsoon has made Mumbai stumble, here's a cheerful little quote from Edward Gibbons' The Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire:

"It is scarcely possible that the eyes of contemporaries should discover in the public felicity the latent causes of decay and corruption. This long peace, and the uniform government of the Romans, introduced a slow and secret poison into the vitals of the empire. The minds of men were gradually reduced to the same level, the fire of genius was extinguished, and even the military spirit evaporated."

Gore! Glory! Greeks!

That's on the cover of the pulp version of the Iliad, in Slate's extremely amusing series of pulp fiction covers for classic works, from Animal Farm to Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps they ought to have one for The Ramayana: "Half King. Half Husband. All Man."

Inauthentic Rudeboys

One has rarely been able to complete books written in dialect or some form of patois -- be it Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang or James Kelman's How Late It Was How Late. Which is why one picked up Gautam Malkani's Londonstani with more than a little trepidation. However, one is already halfway though the book and, so far, enjoying it tremendously. Yes, some of the techniques are a bit obvious, but it does possess a great energy that's compelling. And there clearly are similarities to the first half of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange. One hasn't finished it yet, so final judgement is reserved (you can read an interesting review here), but meanwhile, here's an interesting comment by the author defending the book against charges of inauthenticity:

"Everyone in the book is a middle class boy pretending to be street. Many of the characters in the book are intentionally unauthentic - they're two-dimensional screens onto which their 'selves' are projected by Bollywood, Hollywood, MTV Base and ads for designer fashion brands. I think people have seen the dialect, not quite got it, and thought well it's a tale about hard men from the ghetto. Well, it's not."

Rushdie And Brown

"It's a book so bad, it makes bad books look good," says Salman Rushdie about Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Well said. But alas, in other quarters, The Satanic Verses is being termed "the nearest Muslim equivalent to Brown's book."

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Whatever Happened To...

...Manil Suri's follow-up to The Death of Vishnu?

...Sunil Khilnani's biography of Nehru?

...Anjana Appachana?

Oh, Stop Whining

"[I write] at least 1,000 words for publication every day. I'm incontinent about it. Of course, it's all exquisitely crafted. Hmmm. Who was it who said of Jack Kerouac, 'he doesn't write, he types'? That's what I worry about too. But I work at it. I work at my typing."

- Will Self

A few years ago I let it be known that I would publish no more books. Everyone scoffed - ha, ha, you know what writers are, they said - but I meant it, and I have kept my word. Well, sort of....So what I have done is this: I have not written a new book at all. I have written a long addendum to an old one, and my obliging publishers have bound the two parts in one and called it simply Hav...It really will be my last book. Well, sort of...."

- Jan Morris

Indian Cooking In English

This is how the DNA correspondent in Sydney opens her piece on the Sydney Writers' Festival:

"The just concluded Ninth Sydney Writers’ Festival had a marked absence of Indian authors in as many years. However, there was Indian flavour aplenty. Australian writer Christopher Kremmer’s Inhaling the Mahatma, published by Harper Collins, was launched to a packed audience, enjoying the delights of Indian savouries and Bollywood dance at Walsh Bay, overlooking the famous Sydney Harbour."

Glad to see she has her priorities right. Skim over the authors and their writing, and get straight to food and Bollywood.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


In an otherwise well-considered review of John Updike's new novel, Terrorist, by John Leonard in New York magazine, one came across these sentences:

"Unlike every other novelist looking over his shoulder at 9/11—an Ian McEwan, a Reynolds Price, a Jay McInerney, a Jonathan Safran Foer—Updike isn’t writing from the victim’s point of view. He guesses instead at unhinging excruciations."

"Unhinging excruciations"? Anyone care to explain what that means?

Is Michael Cunningham Behind This?

Two Virginia Woolf novels have been auctioned for record prices in Norfolk: The Years, published in 1937, made £14,000, while Three Guineas, published a year later, sold for £10,000. The buyers' names aren't mentioned in the report.

Monday, May 29, 2006


One has, on occasion, used the phrase, "the mind boggles" -- and it struck one the other day that one wasn't exactly sure what the word "boggle" meant. So, one looked it up and in essence it means: to be overcome, whether by fright, doubt or amazement. Just another one of the little services this blog periodically provides.

The Lady Naipaul Was Unavailable For Comment

BBC correspondent Nick Bryant recalls a mis-step during his South Asia posting: "I would also rather forget the Delhi cocktail party when I came perilously close to asking a rather pompous sounding old gentleman what he did for a living, only to realise later I had been talking to the Nobel prize-winning author VS Naipaul."

The Review As Literature

In an interesting and thought-provoking article in The Oregonian, Brian Doyle urges us to look upon the book review as a genre of literature itself: " one really thinks of the book review as a genre itself, a shapely form, a unique and peculiar corner of literature; but maybe we should. "

He goes on: "Consider the difficulty of composing a brief piece, both graceful and pointed, that must juggle many tasks: assess the feats and flaws of the book at hand, its place in the works of that writer, its place in books on that subject, its general substance or silliness, and -- most of all -- whether the book is worth cold cash. Additionally, a good review should sketch the subject of the book itself in such a way that the reader gets a quick lesson in Antarctic exploration, beekeeping, Guy Fawkes, Tom McCall's fishing waders, etc.; one subtle kick of a book section in a newspaper is that it is fully as informative and stimulating as the rest of the paper (indeed usually more so), whether or not you immediately shuffle to the bookstore to lay your money down."

How nice. One can think of so many reviewers in this country who ought to be sent this piece at once.

Nothing New Under The Sun

"Several magazines rejected it on the grounds of its sexual frankness and religious impiety. When it was finally accepted, it was only on condition that certain scenes were removed or modified."

Something by Rushdie? Taslima Nasrin? A Danish cartoonist? No, it's Thomas Hardy.

Writers On Writing

"I don't have this notion of being a writer, and I never have. I just want to write, but the idea of that entailing a persona or a job description fills me with horror."

- Monica Ali, in The Telegraph

"I hate them all,"

- John Banville on his novels, in Stuff NZ.

My Preciousss Novel

Literary festivals, highly-publicised awards, large advances...all these can only be good for writing and writers, right? Not so, says Robert McCrum, along the way employing a memorable metaphor: "Out of a swamp of greed, ambition and creative writing crawled a new Gollum, the 'Booker novel', trailing the slime of self-promotion. This, typically, was a scarcely readable work of the imagination, devoid of narrative, character, plausible landscape or moral purpose, whose sole motivation was the desire to get on to that fabled shortlist."

And as if this wasn't depressing enough, Bloomsbury publishing director-turned-novelist Michael Fishwick calls the business "a refined exercise in S&M": "Hardback literary fiction was viewed as next to impossible when I entered publishing more than 20 years ago and it hasn’t got any easier. I know publicity - good reviews, some articles to write, some radio to do - is going to be what it needs. I know it won’t get a huge marketing spend and that success, if it comes, will be slow and a bit of a surprise. I know that, essentially, publishing success derives from authorial talent. And that, ultimately, is down to me."