Prufrock's Page

Friday, September 22, 2006

Booker Bashing

"Grenville revisits, with tedium, colonial history where Hyland's book is about a tall child...Should Grenville or Hyland win the Booker, it will only confirm that the prize is hardly one to be taken seriously."

- Melbourne-based writer Christopher Bantick takes umbrage at the Booker shortlist.

And You Thought The Times Of India Had A Monopoly On Such Activities

Yesterday's edition of The Independent had a special guest editor: Giorgio Armani. (About three months ago, Bono had been roped in as guest editor, for the first time.) Half of the revenues from the edition will go to The Global Fund to Fight Aids. According to this report, "in his editorial column, the designer talked of the empathy he felt with those children in the world whose innocence has been torn away because of conflict, famine or poverty." And to demonstrate just how strongly he feels about such issues, the paper came with a free poster of Kate Moss.

On the other side of the pond, a "nasty succession battle is now heating up" at the right-wing The Washington Times. So, where's journalism headed? Check this out.

Beat The Ban

Tomorrow marks the start of Banned Books Week, a yearly event since 1982 sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, Association of American Publishers, American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores.

As this report says:

"Who has not encountered Ulysses by James Joyce or Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird at some point in his or her educational career? The Grapes of Wrath by John Updike, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and The Color Purple by Alice Walker have all landed on the banned book list at some point, as have Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, and ironically, Fahrenheit 451, a fictional account of a futuristic society in which books are burned, by Ray Bradbury. Mark Twain's look at late 19th Century life on the Mississippi, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, has found itself on and off the list of banned books for many years, as has John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men."

Go get your hands on them. And remember, The Grapes of Wrath is by Steinbeck, not Updike.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hear, Hear

Critical Mass speaks to novelist and Time book critic Lev Grossman and what he says in response to one of their questions has such acute relevance to India that one can't help but reproduce it here:

"Q: After a decade or so of covering books, how would like to see book pages change in the coming years?

A: At the risk -- nay, certainty -- of sounding kind of snobbish, I wish book sections in general would leave book-reviewing to the pros. There's a pervasive notion that anybody who can read can write a book review. Not so. Good god, there is nothing so boring, so dank and unappealing on the page, as a bad book review.

And at the risk of sounding reverse-snobbish, I'd like to see more serious review attention go to genre fiction. It is, after all, what most people read. The worst of it is very bad, and the best of it is very very good. Why not help potential book-buyers divide the one from 'tother?"

New Yorker Haikus

Drunken Volcano's performing a sterling service by transforming the contents of The New Yorker into haikus for those too rushed -- or too penurious -- to read the whole, packed magazine each week. Some examples

Books: Hugger-Mugger By John Updike

Congo schemes,
despairFrom le Carre.
No closure
In Ward Just's dark tale.

Books: Bob on Bob By Louis Menand

Dylan interviews
Like a songbird asked to talk;
Should just let him sing.

(Link via Gawker.)

Thanks, Harry

Look at it this way: the success of Master Potter boosted his publisher Bloomsbury's fortunes so much that they were able to concentrate on expanding their list and putting out other notable works. Thus it is that chairman Nigel Newton announced "the strongest autumn programme in our 20-year history", with "books as diverse as David Blunkett's political memoirs, the latest from William Dalrymple and Margaret Atwood, Schott's Almanac and even the collected speeches of Gordon Brown."

Safran Foer Pushes Boundaries

"I'm not that interested in plot, not that interested in character, just in telling the story. There's no point, there's no moral to what I write. I wanted to become a writer when I first encountered the works of Joseph Cornell. It was a sublime kind of feeling. He used lots of thoughts, lots of feelings that transcend language. Whatever can get me to that is what I'll do. The photographs and pictures (in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) point out the boundaries of language. I don't write my books as critics would read them. I write as I want to be experienced. I would assume what does it for me would do it for others ... or at least for one or some."

- Jonathan Safran Foer, in an interview with The Brown Daily Herald. Despite these justifications, and despite his obviously huge talent, large chunks of the book in question came across as...sophomoric.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Too True

"Advertising. An exciting vocation for any person who yearns to have their creativity ignored by thousands, maybe even millions of people."

- Part of a McCann "internal spoof contest". Link via Maud Newton.

Now Why Can't One Just Give Up Everything Else And Do This?

A literary pub-crawl through dear, dirty Dublin.

Jon McGregor's Difficulties

While one waits for Jon McGregor's new novel to make its way into one's hands, here's a terse, ironic interview with the author:

"As a writer, what would you say are the biggest challenges that you face?

Being original -- being worth reading. Keeping the same burning drive and ambition which I had before anyone had bought any of my books. Mastering the semi-colon.

Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult?

The writing."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


These are the adjectives that appear in just the first sentence of an India Today review of Sagarika Ghose's Blind Faith:

- "engrossing-enough"

- "now-mythic"

- "state-of-the-art"

- "great"

- "allegorical"

- "ominously"

- "simple"

- "right"

- "manifold"

- "blinding"

One stopped reading at this point.

Back To The Master

"[Gore Vidal] has complete sets of those writers who have influenced him deeply, such as Henry James, who dominates his study in the sumptuous New York Edition, with prefaces to each volume by the author. 'You don't need a creative-writing degree,' Vidal once said to me. 'You need to study those prefaces. Everything a novelist must know is there.' "

- Jay Parini, in an interesting essay on his fascination with other people's bookshelves. (Link courtesy Critical Mass.)

Tyrewala Strikes A Pose

"It shouldn’t matter really whether or not our writing gets noticed outside our country. We may or may not be the flavour of the month in literary circles. What matters to me is whether I am able to create a shift in my own society with my writing, more than anything else.’’

- Altaf Tyrewala in The Indian Express

Monday, September 18, 2006


"As someone who combines travel writing with critical reflection, his work could be seen as occupying the safe middle ground between the authentic whiff of sulphur that trails a Pico Iyer and the bracingly profane, unbuttoned meditations of a Jonathan Franzen."

- From a review of Pankaj Mishra's Temptations of the West in Sunday's DNA.


Canadian Darryl Whetter takes the bold step of publicly confessing that he doesn't care much for Alice Munro's new collection, The View from Castle Rock, "a kind of memoir divided into short stories".

Alive, If Not Kicking

Is the literary novel dead? Not if you consider Siri Hustvedt's What I Loved and Haruki Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart, says Stephen Matchett.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

You Can Keep Your Horrorism

"We could go on debating forever whether the terrorist acts of British Muslims are directly linked to British policy in the Middle East. But a more urgent question is: where will all this rage and distrust end? Are we hurtling towards the kind of wars that made the previous century so uniquely bloody? How can we change policies that have so comprehensively failed?"

- Pankaj Mishra takes on Martin Amis and brings in Vietnam to bolster his argument.