Prufrock's Page

Friday, November 03, 2006

On The Art Of Writing The Short Story

Chilean author Roberto Bolano offers 12 pieces of advice. (#6: "It is best to write short stories three or five at a time. If one has the energy, write them nine or fifteen at a time.")

I'll Take The Couch, The Vase And The Mitch Albom

Books are turning up in the oddest places these days, says The New York Times.

William Styron, R.I.P.

William Styron, one of the postwar generation of American authors who took up the cudgels after Faulkner and Hemingway, is no more. His Pulitzer-winning The Confessions of Nat Turner raised a ruckus for his decision to portray a Black character; his moving Sophie's Choice is remembered more for Meryl Streep's role in the film; and his affecting memoir of depression, Darkness Visible, was one of the last things he wrote. Excerpts from his work are here and there's an online guest book here.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The MFA Toolkit

Can creative writing be taught? Lots of ink has been spilled in trying to answer that question. "What I'm trying to teach my students then are ways of thinking, which for want of a better word I might call a sensibility," says Peter Ho Davis. And in The Atlantic's 2006 fiction issue, Francine Prose says that "some aspects of writing, such as judicious editing of one’s own work, can be cultivated. But others, particularly the 'gift for storytelling,' cannot be learned. She invites the reader to imagine Milton or Kafka enrolling in a graduate writing program, seeking faculty guidance for Paradise Lost or taking advice from classmates who nix the idea of a man turning into a giant bug."

While the debate over whether MFA programs encourage bland standardisation at the cost of everything else rages on, those of you who're deciding to pursue an MFA anytime soon couldn't do better than go through this toolkit by Poets & Writers, which includes how to decide where to apply, an inside look at the process, a talk with the new director of the acclaimed Iowa program and an up-to-date list by region.

Crimson Faces At The Crimson

The magazine that rained on Kaavya Vishwanathan's parade faces the plagiarists within: "The Harvard Crimson on Sunday suspended an undergraduate cartoonist after finding that at least four of her cartoons resembled work previously published elsewhere. The decision comes the week after it suspended a columnist for failing to properly cite material drawn from an online magazine."

The Fabulous Foers

One brother is hailed as a literary wunderkind. Another is editor of The New Republic. And now, get ready for the youngest sibling to hog the literary headlines: Joshua Foer has just inked a book deal with Penguin.

Sex In Fiction

"There’s less sex I think maybe in literary fiction than there was 30 years ago. Freud says very wisely that the tide of libido—I’m misquoting—libido needs some obstacle for it to rise to its fullest height. In a purely non-puritan world, a world without sexual obstructions—in the 60s we were pretty close to it—but paradoxically, the more easily sex can be had the less desire there is. The less potency there seems to be. Society itself, to conserve its potency, imposes certain taboos. We’re in a phase at the moment where we don’t really want to hear much more about sex. It’s amazing the way the ads, for whatever the product—beer or perfume or cars—they all are verging on pornography now."

- From a long, interesting interview with John Updike

The Patron Saint Of Bloggers

"Bloggers have eclectic tastes. It seems that few, if any, have an orderly reading plan. Is that a bad thing? Maybe even evidence of a disordered, undisciplined mind?

I hope not. It reflects my reading habits. In fact, I think it reflects the reading habits of most people. Fortunately, the historian John Lukacs once pointed out that there are 'no rules about reading, no rules about what should — or will — interest you. What you must do is follow and feed your own interests.'

It’s one of my favorite quotes. I think it should be the anthem of the blogosphere — an arena of unconventional writing where there are no rules, where bloggers follow their own interests, each one doing a little bit to further the great written conversation of Western civilization that has been taking place since a clever fellow in Syria scratched a sheep and goat onto some clay tablets.

St. Augustine, pray for bloggers. "

- Eric Sheske in the National Catholic Register


And now, the Modern Library brings you the best novels of the century. Heading the list: what else but Joyce's Ulysses.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Delightful Way To Waste Time

Browse through the top 1,000 lists of works of fiction, banned books, biographies, reference works and more, according to libraries worldwide.

Unpublished Plath

The online Blackbird journal is to shortly feature a just-discovered sonnet by Sylvia Plath. Says this report: "The ironic poem pokes fun at people who consult tea leaves or psychics, hoping they will foretell impending disasters, but says that real life is seldom as dramatic or romantic as a fairy tale, said Gregory Donovan, a VCU English professor and Blackbird co-editor." It's entitled 'Ennui', and was written "while pondering themes in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Art Vs Life

"I've never said that the poems don't draw on personal experience, but I've never said that they do. The dialogue that I'm comfortable having about them is one to the side of that actual subject. Art is so different from life. It's just so different."

- From a recent profile of Sharon Olds

Found In Translation

On an airsickness bag on a Spanish aeroplane
Bags to be used in case of sickness or to gather remains.

Zurich, Switzerland
We have nice bath and are very good in bed.

You may choose between a room with a view on the sea or the backside of the country.

Bucharest, Romania
The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

Leh, India
The Old Ladakh Guest House (hospitalizing since 1974).

In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery
You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists and writers are buried daily except Thursdays.

In an Italian hotel, signs by the bell
It is kindly requested from our guests that they avoid dirting and doing rumours in the rooms.

Hot and cold water running up and down the stairs.

Measles not included in room charge.

Tel Aviv, Israel
If you wish breakfast, lift the telephone and our waitress will arrive. This will be enough to bring up your food.

Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.

Moscow, Russia
If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.

Acapulco, Mexico
The manager has personally passed all the water served here.

The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid. Turn to her straightaway.

Please do not bring solicitors into your room.

You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

No smoking in bed. If it's on fire the guests should be disperse according to the safety way.

In case of earthquake, use the torch to pass yourself out.

Our wine list leaves you nothing to hope for.

Nairobi, Kenya
Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.

You are invite to visit our restaurant where you can eat the Middle East Foods in a European ambulance.

Notice in sleeping carriage on Indian train
Do not invite thieves to sleep in the floor.

On a Soviet ship in the Black Sea
Helpsavering apparata in emergings behold many whistles! Associate the stringing apparata about the bosoms and meet behind. Flee then to the indifferent lifesavering shippen obediencing the instructs of the vessel chef.

On a ferry in San Juan, Puerto Rico
In case of emergency, the lifeguards are under the seat in the center of the vessel.

- From Charlie Croker's 'Lost in Translation: Misadventures in English Abroad', reviewed by The Telegraph

How To Win The Nobel

"For 30 years I've spent an average of 10 hours a day alone in a room, sitting at my desk. If you count only the work that is good enough to be published, my daily average is a good deal less than half a page a day. Most of what I write does not meet my own standards of 'goodness'. These are two large sources of misery. "

- Orhan Pamuk on writing novels

Writing Novel, Lah

Ling Dingzi calls for the Great Singapore Novel: "It has long been a dream of our tiny island-state to create a vibrant regional literary hub for writers and their works. After all, Singapore in its early days had played host to renowned writers such as Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham."

Sunday, October 29, 2006


"I would sooner pull my own toenails out than turn the corner of a page."

- Sue Townsend, when asked whether she preferred bookmarks or page folds.

Further Proof That The Age Of Being Politically Correct Has Vanished

"It is extremely important for Indian writers to spread across the world. Fine tales are popular everywhere, but that said, there is a certain curiosity, an exotic charm that intrigues the West. We are still fascinated by Indian stories and their touch of the orient, even when it is writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, who is fairly assimilated. And we are looking for more such authors!"

- Jane Friedman, Harper Collins President & CEO