Prufrock's Page

Friday, September 29, 2006

Forgotten Poems Unearthed

Robert Frost.

Bob Dylan.

Pay Attention, Would-be Writers

"I believe in the primacy of the sentence as the unit of composition. The sentence is the one thing that prose fiction can give you that a movie, say, or a painting simply cannot. I seem to see quite a bit of flimsiness and ungivingness in the contemporary literary sentence, a lot of underconsideration and artlessness. I see a lot of fiction with the brightly impermanent surfaces of feature journalism. The sort of sentence I tend to fall for has both an instancy and an ultimacy about it—a lone, grave yelp preserved in a kind of epigrammatic casing."

- Gary Lutz

Oscar Wilde, Agony Uncle

From Mr T Blair of Downing Street, London SW1

Dear Uncle Oscar
I have had a long off-on relationship with a man called Peter. It always ends traumatically when he misbehaves, but a few months later I find I have taken him back. He is in Brussels at the minute. How can I break my cycle of dependency?

My dear Tony
To forgive is human, but to err divine. For myself, I make a habit of never making promises that I can keep; it renders one predictable, and predictability is the godfather of tedium. By the way, Brussels is all very well, but not for a whole weekend.

(An extract from Sebastian Faulk's new book of parodies. Delicious.)

No Guarantees

"Nothing that one writes yesterday is any stronghold or support to what one writes today. A good sentence, a good paragraph, a good drama is no guarantee that you're going to write another one."

- The Independent profiles Edna O'Brien, once dubbed by The New York Times "one of the greatest writers in the English-speaking world".

Indian Writing, Ver. 2

Remember William Dalrymple's Guardian piece about how the better novels by Indians writing in English will come from abroad and not from those based in India? Well, on the eve of the Frankfurt Book Fair, here's a piece that looks at both sides, asserting that "a new generation of Indian authors, some of them still resident in India, are making an impact at home and abroad."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Vikram Chandra, Are You Listening?

The hardback edition of Paul Anderson's Hunger's Brides was a whopping 1,376 pages long, weighing in at four pounds nine ounces. For the just-released paperback version, however, the author whittled it down to 768 pages, dropping one of the plotlines. It's now subtitled, The Essential Story from the Epic Hunger's Brides.

Several questions arise: what were the book's editors doing to begin with? Are the dropped pages to reappear in another paperback? And is the world of publishing becoming even more schizophrenic?

(Report courtesy The New York Times.)

Foiled Again

Says a report in The Boston Herald: "Bloggers, buoyed by site meter numbers and Internet buzz, were the darling of the publishing world about two years ago. But when books hit the shelves, sales fizzled, and now it takes a lot more than a laptop and a blogspot account to make it onto Amazon’s top 100."

It goes on to quote literary agent Jill Kneerim: “A book has to be bigger and last longer than a blog. It has to be more than gossiping or talking about yourself.”


Been There, Done That

"I'm in the unusual position of feeling sorry for the Pope. It's a first for me. I just think people should calm down a bit. This immediate, manufactured outrage that takes place is getting to be excessive. Look at the things that are not being protested about. In Darfur [Sudan] you've got a Muslim massacre of other Muslims. Why aren't there demonstrations about that in the Muslim world?"

- Salman Rushdie

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Ford Dictum

On the eve of the publication of his new, much-awaited book, The Guardian profiles Richard Ford. When asked whether he still enjoys writing, the man replies: "The standard answer is, 'No I don't like doing this, but it feels so good when I stop.' But over the course of my life, I've tried to make sure that whatever I was doing, I knew why I was doing it. So it wasn't just a matter of getting to the end of it. And I've always thought of writing books in terms of will I write one more? I don't think to myself, 'I'm a professional writer, therefore I'm going to go on writing books till I heave forward on my desk.' I just think, OK, I did this; this is over. Then maybe I'll write one more book after that. That's a fairly liveable way to carry on."

Can Men Write Romantic Novels?

Yes: "It seems to me that we're all romantics, and the idea that one sex is simply emotionally incapable of understanding the way the other thinks is to deny everything men and women share – and, worryingly from a creative point of view, to deny all authors the possibility of understanding anyone of the opposite sex. And I can't believe that."

No: "I would argue that only a woman can truly capture these emotions in a credible way, because she has experienced them or can imagine experiencing them in a way that a man simply cannot."

For Those Who Think Short Stories Don't Pay

In Cork last night, Japanese author Haruki Murakami was presented with the 2006 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award for his recently published collection, 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman'.

Murakami was chosen as winner of the €35,000 literary prize by a five-member jury chaired by Cork-based writer Tom McCarthy, who was programme director of Cork 2005.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Gee, That's How One Feels, Too

In a forthright interview with The Toronto Star, Kiran Desai speaks of growing up in Delhi:

"There was the feeling that books were the only thing that led you to the world. You read really hard; that was the only thing you could do."

(And here's another blunt comment: "Who is going to write an honest book? To look at something straight takes a lot of work. So who is going to do it? It's much more fun to go to a literary festival and drink champagne or whatever, attend a conference and have a fantastic time. There's no better time to be a writer in that sense. You get so many goodies thrown at your head. You are writing for Travel & Leisure and eating sushi for breakfast.")

The Writer's Sliver

"Graham Greene made that remark that at the heart of every writer there needs to be a sliver of ice, and I sometimes think that ice - that splinter - is a terrific consolation: the thing outside yourself that measures the worst possible experience; and think 'what kind of simile springs to mind here?' "

The Guardian profiles Jonathan Raban, excellent travel writer and not-so-bad novelist.

Fundamentalists, For Example

"The stuff that is outside your control, there's a lot of it and it is important. Character is not the only determinant."

- Salman Rushdie at UMass

Upper Quartile? Must Be Good

“Freudenberger . . . leaps into the upper quartile of American novelists,” says an ad for her new book, The Dissident. The New York Times' Dwight Garner wonders what that means.

Examining Barnes' Navel

"Julian Barnes is much the hardest to pin down. Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan – you know where you are with them, and have done for years. But the unifying theme of Barnes's work? The through line? If there is such a thing, it's an elegant unknowability, a distaste for the business of sifting through the contents of his own navel."

- The Telegraph profiles Julian Barnes, calling him inscrutable simply because his books don't conform to a single, recognisable pattern. (Recall that Vikram Seth faces the same problem.)