Prufrock's Page

Friday, October 20, 2006

A Short Break

Away for four days, fleeing the noise and the pollution. Normal service will resume upon return.

Certainly Worth Waiting For

The Penguin Group plans to publish Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's memoirs in the United Kingdom next year in what it is billing as "the autobiography of 2007."

Hardy Fans

In a case of carrying literary adulation a bit too far, Britain's National Trust plans to allow visitors to stay at the the Dorset cottage where Thomas Hardy grew up -- and experience for themselves what it would feel like to live in the 1840s.

The Times report continues: "Paying guests will have to cook on an ancient stove and do their laundry by hand. But they won’t have to endure all the hardships of Hardy’s childhood. Modern health and safety rules mean that the candles will be battery-powered and the water will come from a tap rather than a well. There will also be a flushing lavatory and an electric kettle.
The guests will be given points for how authentically they manage to live there, and each year a prize will be given to the most 'hardy' visitor."

What next, a stint at Rushdie's ancestral house in Solan? (With perhaps an inspiring trip to the brewery thrown in.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sleeping With Fiction

What literary character would you like to sleep with, asks NOW magazine. Blazes Boylan (because he's a redhead), says Nell Freudenberger. Aragorn (because that's quite a sword he's got) says Ami McKay.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

'Make It Rare': Modernists Write About Steak

‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Pig’

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo....

He was baby tuckoo. And he was hungry. The moocow came down the road where he lived: he waited.

O, the rare side of beef.

On the little green plate.

He ate that moocow. That was his steak.

O, the brown steak.

When you eat the steak first it is warm then it gets cold. His mother put on the fish. That had the queer smell.

His steak had a nicer smell than his fish. He played with the food and later, he threw up.

Whoosh la la la
Whoosh tralaladdy
Whoosh lala.

‘Burnt Angus’

Dinner present and dinner past
Are both perhaps present in dinner future,
And dinner future contained in dinner past.
If all dinner is eternally present
All dinners are unredeemable.
What might have been is an apertif
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of steak.
What might have been medium and what has been medium rare.
Point to one end, which is always rump.
Forkfuls fall in the memory
Down the mouthfuls which we did not chew
Towards the piece we never sliced
Into the hindquarters.
My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dressing on a bowl of salad
I do not know. be continued

More Foreign Correspondent Than Poet

In The New York Sun, Adam Kirsch profiles James Fenton, "a Kipling for the post-imperial age, a vendor of the exotic whose politics are reassuringly unimpeachable."

Quite Dashing

In Emdashes, contributor Michael Lewis sums up opinions on a burning issue: should one use spaces before and after em dashes or not?

AP style is to “put a space on both sides of a dash in all uses except the start of a paragraph [their version of a bulleted list] and sports agate summaries.” See “Punctuation” chapter.

Chicago style is not as explicit, but all the examples in the 15th ed. do not contain preceding or following spaces (e.g.: “It was a revival of the most potent image in modern democracy—the revolutionary idea.”). See sec. 6.87ff.

Strunk & White are not explicit either, but also do not include spaces (e.g.: “The rear axle began to make a noise—a grinding, chattering, teeth-gritting rasp.”). See sec. I.8.

Bringhurst recommends using en dashes set off with spaces: “Used as a phrase marker – thus – the en dash is set with a normal word space either side.” See sec. 5.2ff.

One has unknowingly followed AP and Bringhurst -- thanks, Michael! -- and will continue to do so.

The Worst Poem Ever?

"A Tragedy"

The barges down in the river flop.
Flop, plop.

I can dare, I can dare!
And let myself all run away with my head,
And stop.
Plop, flop.

Christopher Rouse resurrects the career of Victorian eccentric Theo Marzials, author of the above, reputedly "the worst poem ever written".

A Selfless Action In The Cause Of Literature

"Even with [Kiran Desai's] first novel, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, I clearly saw her talent and wrote a comment for her book jacket."

- Chitra Banerjee-Divakaruni

The Tuba Tree

"There is a metaphor I like very much in the Koran: it's a tree called Tuba that's supposed to have roots up in the air. Sometimes when my nationalist critics accuse me of having no roots, I say I feel like the Tuba tree ... My roots are in the air, not in the ground, and when your roots are in the air you can feel connected to more than one country, culture, and identity. I like that flexibility. "

- From an interview with Turkish author Elif Shafak who, like Pamuk, was charged with "public denigration of Turkishness" under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ah, Someone Else Without Shelf Space

"New books – like modern proles fed on junk food – are twice the size of their forebears....The old Penguin Don Quixote, translated by J. M. Cohen, fits into the pocket; the new family bible-sized translation would not fit anywhere."

- A.N. Wilson on "ugly books".

Outsider, Insider

“One has to spend one’s childhood in one’s own country...I see India with my mother’s eyes – as an outsider – but with my father’s heart.”

- From a profile of the current Booker prizewinner's mother.