Prufrock's Page

Thursday, November 23, 2006

And It's Not Even December Yet

The New Statesman asks writers -- from William Dalrymple to Hanif Kurieshi to Kamila Shamsie -- to choose their Books of the Year.

Update: Oh, and the New York Times Book Review's 100 Notable Books of the Year is out, too.

The Short Story Cometh

Tennessee Williams' short stories won as many fans as his plays. Now, a short story by Eugene O'Neill, that other great American playright, has just been 'discovered': bearing the odd title of 'The Screenews of War', it seems set to cause a "literary frenzy", according to this report.

Plagiarists, Beware

Google Book Search is gonna get ya.

'The Oscars Of The Book World'

Angela Garbes went to the National Book Awards Dinner and found "a mini red carpet, mediocre hors d'oeuvres, old white men in tuxedos, and a vague, unrelenting sense of sanctimony."

Write On

In his review of David Remnick's Reporting, speaking of the writers that the New Yorker editor has profiled (Roth, deLillo, Solzhenitsyn) Neal Ascherson expresses a contrary view: "One thought that emerges from the finely done portraits of writers in Reporting is that exertion—notoriously —does not guarantee literary brilliance, and brilliance—unfairly—can flower without exertion. Marvelous literature can arrive in disconcerting ways. Idleness, a taste for drinking and laughing in pubs with hangers-on and pretty women, even the loss of keyboard time wasted by appearing on TV chat shows or becoming the president of a small republic, do not disqualify a writer. They merely mean that fewer books get written."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Rereading Faulkner

"Faulkner has often been described as a 'difficult' author. His answer to that charge was to suggest reading his work again.There is no better advice to be had.What certain reviewers decried as chaotic was in fact writing of exquisite order and perception. Faulkner is fathomable, but you need to take the time to take him at his word. "

- from a review of a new biography pf William Faulkner

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Foer Container

“As a writer, you collect things ... Before I was a writer, I passed through the world like a sieve ... Being a writer is like making yourself into a container … When you write, you rearrange all of the sounds and images you have created.”

- Jonathan Safran Foer, at Cornell

(He also said, and we have no way of knowing how serious he was, that to prime himself to write, he used to “listen to Dolly Parton’s 'I Will Always Love You'… It put me in the place.”)

Pynchon Punctured

With all the buzz over the new Pynchon novel, trust Ms Kakutani to give a few sharp jabs to puncture the balloon: "[It] reads like the sort of imitation of a Thomas Pynchon novel that a dogged but ungainly fan of this author’s might have written on quaaludes. It is a humongous, bloated jigsaw puzzle of a story, pretentious without being provocative, elliptical without being illuminating, complicated without being rewardingly complex."

Update: She isn't the only one. Louis Menand writes: "Of course, all of Pynchon’s novels...are long, rambling, multilayered, underplotted, quasi-unfinished monsters. But with this one there is the feeling that the magician has fallen in love with his own stunts, as though Pynchon were composing a pastiche of a Pynchon novel."

'The Most Malicious Writer Of Them All'

That's what Hector Hugh Munro – aka Saki -- is known as. But, finds Neil Clark, he could be quite moving, too.

(In passing, two pieces of trivia: Saki's last words were, "Put out that bloody cigarette", uttered in a trench just before being struck by a German sniper's bullet in the muddy battlefields of northern France. And the second: "The name Saki is commonly thought to have been taken by Munro from the final stanza of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam; others believe he was inspired by the 'small, long-tailed monkey from the western hemisphere' who appears as a central character in 'The Remoulding of Groby Lington'. ")

Between The Lines

Given that it took one-and-a-half hours to reach work this morning because of an unaccountable traffic jam, one empathised with this piece by Robert Klose on the books he chooses to "read in line": "These are volumes that contain material designed for being read in snippets, so there is no extended story line to lose track of. Another requirement is that they be small enough to slip neatly into my back pocket, so that at a moment's notice - when confronted with a long line at the bank, for instance - I can, with the practiced ease of a gunslinger, whip out my book and go to work."

Drunkenness, Promiscuity, Cross-dressing. Oh, Those Novelists

Literary biography is one of the dominant forms of our time, says Brian Appleyard -- but does it have to descend to the level of Page 3?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ali Vs Amis

An essay on the paucity of literary feuds in the New York Times quotes the still acerbic Fran Leibowitz: “It’s not because we no longer have feuds. It’s because we no longer have literature.” Well, here's a new one come to light -- Tariq Ali, in this interview on his Islam Quintet, says of Martin Amis: "Almost everywhere these days you can read nutty right wing novelists like Martin Amis talking about Islam as an 'evil religion'. To fight against that is an uphill struggle."

Perhaps It's Time To Actually Read It

Today, a California bookstore celebrates JestFest -- a "wild and crazy"commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the publication of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. For those unable to get past the first few footnoted chapters, there will be reviving refreshments, one presumes.