Prufrock's Page

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Best Magazines

Here's the Chicago Tribune's annual round-up of the 50 best magazines in America today. Naturally, The Atlantic and the New Yorker make the cut; but then, so do Men's Vogue and Cottage Living.

Happy Bloomsday, Anyway

The actions of Stephen Joyce notwithstanding, Joyce fans in Toronto, Chicago, New York, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and elsewhere gear up to celebrate the day on which the events of Ulysses transpired. Unfortunately, festivities in Dublin have been cancelled because of the demise of former Prime Minister Charles Haughey. Oh, and Ellen Kanner from Miami urges you to to desist from non-vegetarianism at least for today by quoting a line from the book itself: "Don't eat a beefsteak. If you do the eyes of that cow will pursue you through all eternity.''

Oh, Stop Showing Off

Farrukh Dhondy begins a recent column with the sentence: "I visit VS Naipaul in his cottage in Wiltshire now and then." The rest of the column is about UK examination results and admission policies, and the one other reference to Sir Vidia is: "The liberal stance, which seeks to offend none, is to pump money and resources into the secondary education of the working classes and make them as competitive as the ‘haves’. VS, ever the elitist, will have none of it. Standards have become so debased he says, that if this government wants everyone to have University degrees they should simply sell them at the Post Office. I get the drift of his argument and it stops me telling him that my son Danyal, in his second year at Cambridge, has just phoned to say he got a First and is going out to have a drink or two with friends."

Ooh, one is so impressed.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Banville On Ireland

The latest instalment in Salon's literary guide to the world: John Banville on his "native place", as they'd call it here.

"The first thing the visitor must understand about Ireland is that there are two Irelands: There is Dublin, and then there is all that is not Dublin...Before any guidebook, then, rough or smooth, the essential volume the first-time visitor must pack, whether in a Louis Vuitton valise or one of Mr. Kipling's exceedingly fine knapsacks, is James Joyce's Dubliners..."

Quite delightful.

Lost Over The Atlantic

They say England and America are two countries divided by the same language. This amusing piece in The Telegraph delves into how writers have attempted to bridge the divide, and the consequences thereof:

"Ever since Henry James, in The Portrait of a Lady, thought it advisable to explain old Touchett's line, 'I guess I will wait and see' with the comment 'He had, in speaking, the American tone', American and English novelists have been trying to 'do' characters from the opposite side of the Atlantic. It shouldn't, on the surface, be as hard as all that - but the results are rarely a pretty sight."

One writer, however, who's got it right according to the article: Philip Roth.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Immigrant Voices

Tanuja Desai Hidier -- from whose young-adult book Born Confused the hapless Ms Vishwanathan is also alleged to have lifted passages -- ridicules notions that there are only a limited number of ways of talking and writing about immigrant culture:

"Some...people - hopefully a minority - seem to suggest there are only a handful of key ‘ethnic’ words or phrases (and ordering of these!) to use in describing important aspects of South Asian culture, such as food, dress, locales, etc.The implied conclusion being that the lack of originality in these instances in the Opal Mehta book is somehow less egregious, or at least more understandable, as a result."

In an intriguing aside, she adds: "I wonder sometimes about those lost pages: the story Ms. Viswanathan was originally writing before she joined forces with the publishing/packaging industry, the story that was a little too dark for their needs. What if those pages contained a truly fresh and honest voice? What if, had her pages fallen into different hands, they might have blossomed into a truly compelling tale, written by someone with significant literary potential?"

Outsider, Insider

A report on a meeting between writers Nathan Englander and Etgar Keret throws up an interesting twist: both are Jewish authors, but one feels like an outsider in his own land, while the other, after shifting back to the US from Jerusalem, says, "I became Israeli. So I left for New York."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

On Blogging

Good morning. Here's an extract from Stanley Bing's 100 Bullshit Jobs...and How to Get Them:

"Blogger: Bad money, but if you're nasty enough, lots of power. Try to establish yourself as someone qualified to rattle on for screen after screen with no reporting involved. Several years ago, when I was writing for Esquire, I determined very early on that those who had to report on their subject 1) took a long time to do it, 2) had to talk to a lot of people they wouldn't normally be interested in, and 3) worked too hard for their money. Consequently, I determined pretty much from the get-go to do nothing but spin out a fine blend of hostility, speculation and wind as long as a publisher would let me. I'd like to think that was an early adopter of the zeitgeist that now runs much of the Internet that matters."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Product Placement In The Canon

"[P]roduct placement in books is still relatively rare. The use of even the subtlest of sales pitches...could raise questions about the vulnerability of the readers....But such deals are not unprecedented."

- From an article in the New York Times

After reading the above, one came up with an idea sure to warm the cockles of every marketer's heart. (Note to self: look up meaning of word 'cockles'). Why commission novelists to actually write works when you can insert the names of brands into existing works of literature? Saves time, saves money -- and hey, if the authors are dead and famous, they can't be maligned by the press, either. Here goes:

- "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. Such men register on"

- "Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice `without pictures or conversation? If only I had thought to bring my clever little Nokia N70 with me, I wouldn't be so bored'."

- "Midway in our life's journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood. Then, I switched on my Eveready and knew which way to go."

- "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, and all of this was reported in the Times of India."

- "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. Then, his family sprayed some Baygon on him."

- "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. Lo-lee-ta: Must remember to take the Pep-to-Bis-mol."

Exorbitant Magazines

Why are magazines imported into India are so expensive? The US editions of GQ and Esquire, to name just two at random, are between Rs 400 and 500, and even Scientific American is similarly priced. Given that the cover price of all these publications is $3 to $5, why should we have to pay so much more than the exchange rate? In the case of books, one either pays the cover price or the special Indian price. Why, then, this discrimination when it comes to magazines? Would the worthy folk at India Book House/Distributors care to elucidate?

NB. And since one is in rant mode, why is it that publications here can't think beyond Bollywood when it comes to putting people on the cover? Man's World has Esha Deol; Maxim has Amrita Arora; Marie Claire has Preity Zinta; why, even Good Housekeeping has Hrithik and Rakesh Roshan. What next, Rakhi Sawant on the cover of India Today? Not so unthinkable, actually...

Not Resisting Temptation

"[T]his subtle, vivid and inexhaustibly thought-provoking book is as much about the illusions that rule the west as it is about lands that lie beyond its frontiers," says no less a personage than John Gray about Pankaj Mishra's Temptations of the West. Yes, all very well, but can someone provide the bookshops here with a copy so we can make up our own minds?