Prufrock's Page

Friday, August 04, 2006

99 Ways

Man gets up from desk, goes downstairs, his girlfriend asks what time it is, he opens the fridge only to realise he's forgotten what he was looking for.

That's the subject of Matt Madden's new graphic novel. Unexciting, you may think -- but wait. Madden tells the same story in 99 different ways, taking his cue from Raymond Queneau's 1947 book Exercices de style. The New Statesman calls it "a fascinating and funny exposé of the techniques of visual storytelling."

One's previous experience with graphic novels has been limited to Maus, Persepolis and Embroideries. But this one certainly seems worth a look.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

On The Phone With Banville

Now that his Booker-winning The Sea has been translated into Hebrew, Israeli daily Haaretz interviews John Banville over the phone:

On his refusal to read reviews of his work: "I spent years writing my book. Why should I want to read someone who spent half a week finding something to say about the book? It doesn't interest me. And if we're being honest - it's self-defense. I prefer to read nothing - not the good critique or the bad - to avoid being influenced by the opinions of others. I am the only individual who knows what the book should be, for good or bad, success or failure. I am the worst judge of my books."

On identity: "We all imagine that we are absolute individuals. But when we begin to look for where this individuality resides, it's very difficult to find. There's no specific person inside me who is the absolute John Banville. There are serial selves we present to the world. We all have the experience of waking up in the morning and meeting a man who is our worst enemy - presenting one aspect of oneself to him and then going to meeting one's lover and presenting an entirely different aspect. When you look closely at your life, you realize that you're doing this with everybody that you meet in every situation: You present a different self. If that's the case, where is the essential self? Where is the common denominator of all this? I don't think there is one...I am probably something of a Buddhist. I think we are a collection of selves, a collection of attitudes - of emotions. They are all aspects - not essence."

On Irish and English: "We lost the Irish language about 150 years ago. We turned from the Irish language to English. The Irish language is a completely different language. It is very indirect, very evasive. You cannot simply say, 'I am a man.' You must say, 'I am in my manhood.' English is the opposite of that. It is a language of declarations, of narrative, designed like Latin, a language of commands. And when the two languages met, the sensitivity of the Irish language with basic English, the result was a clash of languages that continues to the present day...I do not feel at home in English. Even though my parents did not speak the Irish language, I still have that sensitivity of the Irish language. We approached English with a certain sense of foreignness. We diluted it and designed it and created an amazing literary tool. Irish writers like double-meaning. British writers try to be as clear as possible. And I admire British writers - Graham Greene, for example. The English language is certainly the biggest language in the world. I like it, I like to remember the right word to describe a specific thing. There is a special word in English which describes the situation in which you wake up in the morning and stretch your arms. Isn't it amazing that the language has a word to describe a thing like that? I do not try to impress people with big words. I merely try to be precise."

Fascinating stuff. Wonder what that "special word", above, is.

It's, Like, Preferred

James Kilpatrick excoriates The New York Times for using "like" over the preferred "such as". (Trivia: the usage actually became popular after R.J. Reynolds used it in an advertising slogan in the 1950s: "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should". Bad grammar then; bad grammar now.)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

'A Worldwide Publishing Event'. No-one Knows Who's Written It

Galleycat informs us of the text of a Harper Collins press release:

Just Announced from William Morrow - On-sale September 12, 2006
Title and Author to be Revealed Upon Publication

A world wide publishing event, this book will make headlines around the world. A shattering, provocative and mesmerizing true story, it will receive major national media attention here in the U.S. in addition to making news around the globe.

This will be the must-read-tell-all book for Fall!
Title to be Revealed by Author to be Revealed is scheduled for a One-day Laydown on Tuesday, September

12thKey selling points:
* The subject matter of this book will make news all over the world - with details and information never-before-revealed from a proven author who will the story everyone wants to hear. This is the book everyone will be talking about!
* Major national publicity will be confirmed - and as soon as the details of this sensational story are officially released, there will be much more to follow!
Title to be RevealedBy Author
ISBN: 0-06-113895-9Price: $25.95 ($31.95 Can.)320 pages; 6 x 93 8-page color inserts

One-Day Laydown September 12, 2006

Intriguing. One wonders who it is. (Not Jaswant Singh, surely.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

More Proof, Please

When it comes to the Best American Short Stories series, there's a guest editor chosen for every edition, and the stories short-listed are among those that have appeared in literary and other magazines in the past year. In the case of the British Council's annual New Writing Anthology (now published by Granta), requests for submissions are made early on, and again, there are eminent guest editors who select the pieces. These steps go a long way in establishing the credentials of such anthologies, and the introductions by the editors comment on the quality of the work and explain why certain stories have been chosen over others.

The seeming absence of such parameters is what bothers one about Penguin India's First Proof: New Writing from India , the second volume of which has just been published. How have these pieces been chosen? Who has chosen them? The cursory Publisher's Note prefacing the volume mentions only "the Penguin India editorial team" -- surely, this isn't enough.

Moreover, there's the knotty problem of defining what "writing from India" actually is. Is being of Indian origin a qualification? Well, as the Contributor's Notes reveal, one of the contributors was born in Singapore and is currently in Yale; another is "British-born" and "brought up in England". (For an interesting exploration of the subject, see Nilanjana Roy's piece on those eligible for the Hutch-Crossword awards.)

At least the "new writing" bit is explained, however sketchily: the aforementioned note says; "...we've included works by unpublished or relatively new authors, and the few established names are represented by writing in a genre that is new to them". (How would one define "established", by the way?)

None of this is meant to cast aspersions on the quality of the included pieces: far from it. One has just had time for a cursory dip, but it's already clear that some of the pieces are of a very high order indeed. It's just that some more rigour in the publication process would have made the anthology that much more credible and satisfying.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Blog As Marketing Tool

And now, Penguin Books plans to launch its own blog.

Who Do You Write For?

Orhan Pamuk writes on how globalisation seems to have affected readers and writers:

"Today's literary readers await a new book by Gabriel García Márquez, J.M. Coetzee or Paul Auster the same way their predecessors awaited the new Dickens novel - as the latest news. The world readership for literary novelists such as these is far larger than the readership their books reach in their countries of origin.

"Writers write for their ideal reader, for their loved ones, for themselves or for no one. All this is true. But it is also true that today's literary writers also write for those who read them. From this we might infer that today's literary writers are gradually writing less for their own national majorities (who do not read them) than for the small minority of literary readers in the world who do."