Prufrock's Page

Friday, December 01, 2006

Feeling Inadequate Yet?

"The most remarkable book I’ve read this year was recommended to me by Cees Nooteboom: a fifty-page-long essay by the Hungarian scholar László Földényi, Dosztojevszkij Szibérában Hegelt Olvassa, és sírva fakad (Dostoevsky reads Hegel in Siberia and weeps). I have no Hungarian, so I read it in a Spanish translation. Földényi suggests (quite plausibly) that Dostoevsky may have read Hegel’s Lessons in the Philosophy of World History in his Siberian prison, and that he deduced from Hegel’s philosophical methods the miseries of our present self-defeating society."

- Alberto Manguel, on his books of the year.

Defining The Travel Writer

"I think really the definition of a travel writer is someone who would never think of himself as or call herself a travel writer, partly because he or she doesn’t want to live in boxes and partly because what is bringing the energy and life to the work is what each of them is bringing from other fields."

- From a long, fascinating interview with Pico Iyer

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Getting Hold Of Judas

James Wood gives C.K. Stead's My Name Was Judas an unusually glowing review: "Written with glowing simplicity and rich in delicate humour, My Name Was Judas balances the attractions of empirical scepticism with our desire to believe in God and an afterlife...Stead's deft marshalling of the language, the way he gets words to do his bidding throughout without ever being obvious or showing off, only adds to the pleasure of reading this thought-provoking, witty and highly topical novel."

Reason enough to get hold of it. (How odd that lists it as being "currently unavailable" at present.)

Their 10 Best

Here's the New York Times' selection of the 10 Best Books of 2006. How do they decide these things?

We'll Still Respect You In The Morning

Iain Hollingshead discusses his deep emotions at being presented with this year's Bad Sex Award.

Sue Townsend Afflicted

The creator of Adrian Mole is now what they call 'registered blind', says this report: "Yes, it was a cruel blow, she agrees, without a hint of self-pity, for a writer, a woman who has read obsessively all her life (even while giving birth to her children), to wake from a nap one afternoon to find that all she could see was brown haze. 'It was as if the room were filled with brown smoke. I thought the house must be on fire,' she recalls. 'But it seemed weird because I couldn't smell smoke or hear any flames crackling. I groped my way from room to room, up and downstairs, only to discover there was no fire.'

Answer: Yes

Now that the first volume of the Library of America edition of Philip Roth's complete works is out, Tim Rutten asks: "Does Roth, good writer though he may be, really rate this kind of attention in this sort of company?"

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

More Best Books

The Times

The Christian Science Monitor

The Return Of The Great Canadian Literary Quiz

Which Francine is aptly named?

What novelist is also a greengrocer?

What epochal event recently occurred at The New York Review of Books?

What real-life figure is at the heart of these novels? a) The Forest Lover; b) The Communist's Daughter; c) The Master.

If you know the answers to these, go here to answer more questions and try your hand at the Great Canadian Literary Quiz. ("Cryptic twists" have been added, in an attempt to outwit "Googleability".)

Inspiration And Dogs

"...when I look at writing I don’t look at other writers. I look toward visual artists or musicians. When you read a writer for inspiration it’s hard not to imitate them, but when you see something visual that inspires it’s easier to imitate because you can make it something your own. Also, I just get more inspiration from the visual arts than I do from writing."

- from an interview with Jonathan Safran Foer, who's also recently written a thought-provoking essay about his life as a dog: "Just about every children’s book in my local bookstore has an animal for its hero. But then, only a few feet away in the cookbook section, just about every cookbook includes recipes for cooking animals. Is there a more illuminating illustration of our paradoxical relationship with the nonhuman world?"

More Picks of '06

What books have Hari Kunzru, Kiran Desai, Monica Ali, Dave Eggers, Alan Hollinghurst, John le Carre and many more been impressed by last year? Find out.

Removing Stones

"The father and son writers Kingsley and Martin Amis once had a good row about the word 'dilapidated'. Kingsley said you should use the word however you wanted. His son insisted on sticking to its exact sense: from lapis, meaning 'stone', dilapidatus means 'having stones removed'. According to Martin, you should really only use it strictly - in the sense that a part has been taken away from the whole. So Martin Amis acknowledged that you could say that the Parthenon was dilapidated, because the ancient Greek temple had lost lots of its stones in the last 2,500 years. But he wouldn't call, say, the Royle family's sitting room dilapidated because, although run down, it remains structurally sound."

- From an interesting article on the continuing influence of Latin

McEwan, Plagiarist?

In response to allegations that he used parts of the late Lucilla Andrews' 1977 autobiography No Time for Romance -- which told stories of Andrews' time working in a British hospital that treated Dunkirk's wounded -- in his Atonement, Ian McEwan says in the Guardian: "I drew on the scenes she described. Again, it was important to me that these events actually occurred. For certain long-outdated medical practices, she was my sole source and I have always been grateful to her. I have openly acknowledged my debt..."