Prufrock's Page

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Naguib Mahfouz Departs

The Egyptian novelist and 1988 Nobel Prize-winner is no more. Appreciations are pouring in -- here are reports from the Washington Post, The Scotsman, and The Jerusalem Post.

The Shadow Of The Great Game

The Telegraph (UK) reviews what sound like a most interesting, though partisan non-fiction account of the causes of India's partition: The Shadow of the Great Game, by Narendra Singh Sarila, former ADC to Lord Mountbatten:

"This story has been told as a tale of heroes (Nehru and Gandhi) and villains (Jinnah and Churchill), but Sarila presents it as a series of blunders: by Nehru and the Congress Party, mainly, for relinquishing their political control over the majority of the country in a petulant refusal to join with the British in the war effort in 1939; and for their rejection of the British offer of eventual self-government in 1942"

Congress-bashing apart, Sarila's intention is to put the events of the period in perspective, as the title itself suggests: "Sarila's contribution to scholarship is to emphasise the role of British strategic interests in the region; a continuation of the 'Great Game' of keeping Russia out of the subcontinent, in order to safeguard the oil fields of the Middle East, the 'wells of power'."

One can only hope that it's available here soon, before some political nit-wit begins raising objections.

Kakutani Strikes Again

From Slate's round-up of news coverage in the American media:

...NYT book critic Michiko Kakutani's review of Jonathan Franzen's new memoir, The Discomfort Zone, is really worth a look. A sampling of the adjectives employed: "odious," "petulant," "pompous," "overwhelmingly self-absorbed," "incredibly annoying," "mean-spirited," "self-important and self-promoting," "solipsistic," and "doomed."

This is from the second paragraph of the review: "...Mr. Franzen turns his unforgiving eye on himself and succeeds in giving us an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass..."

Oh, boy.

Once More, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

A profile of Jeanette Winterson that takes as its touchpoints the author's unabashed lesbianism and Verde's, her organic grocery store.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

'Terror Is Glamour'

...says Salman Rushdie, in an interview with Der Spiegel, during which he reiterates some of the points he earlier made in his PBS interview with Bill Moyers.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Our Reviews, Their Reviews

"To write a 'review' at this length or even at 500 words is an exercise in parody; you can barely summarise the plot, let alone say anything of any significance about the book, the author, the genre." So says Nilanjana Roy in this piece on the decline of the book review in India, and as one who's been called upon to do a few of those 500-word reviews oneself, one couldn't agree more.

In Oz, meanwhile, Peter Craven -- while reviewing critic Angela Bennie's collection, Creme de la Phlegm -- wonders whether the book critic's role extends to something other than writing the Dale Peck-like Bad Review: "Is it because...every critic is at her most sparkling in the negative mode? Or is it that, as a nation, we're a bit unsure of the critic's right to say where something falls down, almost as if we feared that we wouldn't have a culture at all if we subjected it to sufficient scrutiny?"

Books To Fall For

The new Munro, the new Atwood, the new Pynchon...fall previews are beginning to make an appearance. Here's one by the Washington Post, another by the San Francisco Chronicle and another by The Sunday Times. Goodbye, shelf space.

Forget The Blank Page, Let's Cook And Tango

"Never rush the simmering stew, nor over-stir the subtle sauce. And take dancing lessons: someday, somewhere, when you least expect it, you may get the urge to trip the light fantastic."

- Rohinton Mistry, in Writing Life, a collection of pieces by 50 authors, 45 of them Canadian, on the nature of writing and being a writer. A review here.