Prufrock's Page

Friday, December 15, 2006

New Year, New Books

An entertaining saga of the Hitlers at home, a young man pursued by a shark and the relationship between a pair of urchins and William Blake. That, according to the New Statesman's Rachel Aspden, is a selection from what we'll be reading about in the coming year. Doesn't sound too promising.

How To Begin A Book Review

David Goldblatt on Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day: "I looked in vain for the kitchen sink in this book. It really ought to have been there, for Thomas Pynchon has thrown everything else at this novel."

Reporting, Recycling

On Wednesday, the LA Times carried an interview with director Martin Scorcese by reporter Paul Lieberman that raised eyebrows. No, it wasn't invented, nor was it merely lifted from another source. As this report says, since the director was unavailable for interviews, the intrepid reporter merely recycled quotes from his earlier interview with Scorsese that ran in February, when The Aviator was nominated for Best Picture. A search for the interview on the site proved unfruitful; perhaps the editors have decided to shun recycling as a policy.

A Moment For Literature

"I do think that what's happening is that people are looking for books that explain the world. It actually is a moment for literature. A moment when storytellers, by making you care about people, can take you into worlds which otherwise you would have no interest in."

- Salman Rushdie to Diane Sawyer

Thursday, December 14, 2006


"Sometimes I wonder just how I would have got through childhood without Tintin - or that other great Francophone creation, Asterix," writes The Guardian's Nicholas Lezard, on the occasion of the Pompidou Centre's exhibit devoted to the work of Herge.

Reviewing A Book Against God

"I have not believed in God since I was fifteen, and now, at forty, I suspect that I am too late to change." Thus begins James Wood's review of atheist Sam Harris' Letters to a Christian Nation. It's perhaps the most personal review Wood has written, exploring themes and arguments that he tried to fictionalise in his own The Book Against God. As an unbeliever searching for answers, he disapproves of the "jauntily unphilosophical way" in which questions of spirituality are treated by Harris and Dawkins (in his The God Delusion). And he ends on a decidedly agnostic note: "...about the very moment before this first expansion [the Big Bang] , and the conditions that made it possible, there is only speculation. About this moment, we are all in the dark, and silence calls to silence. " Necessary reading.

An Extreme Form Of Criticism

The Petra Festival, the inaugural British-Arab fiesta of literature, media and culture, has been shifted to Dubai for fear that Germaine Greer and Martin Amis would be kidnapped or shot, says this report. (Others in attendance will include Vikram Seth and Sir V.S. Naipaul. Ah, the writer's life.)

Literature And Imagination

"I used to think of fiction as being able to effect change immediately. I still believe that fiction in the larger context of literature does intervene in social struggles but I take a larger view. Literature as art, a product of imagination, is also more essentially food for the imagination. Imagination is an integral art of the human. Imagination needs art to keep it alive. "

- Ngugi Wa Thiong'o talks to Salon about Wizard of the Crow and his experience with dictatorships

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It's A Foercracy

"The eldest Foer, Franklin, 31, is the editor of The New Republic; Jonathan Safran Foer, 29, is the author of the literary novels Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; and Joshua, after interning at Slate and dabbling in freelance journalism, is at work on his book, titled Moonwalking with Einstein, about his descent into the world of memory competitions (the book was already optioned for film)."

- Sheelah (with an 'h') Kolhatkar profiles the Foer family.

A Different Books Of The Year List

Prospect magazine asks writers and critics to pick the most overrated and underrated books of the year. The top three overrated turn out to be: The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins; The Blunkett Tapes, David Blunkett; and Everyman, Philip Roth. And the top three underrated are: Why Truth Matters, Ophelia Benson & Jeremy Stangroom; Alentejo Blue, Monica Ali; and The Human Touch, Michael Frayn

A Supposedly Fun Thing

What effect could a fatwa imposed on one's parent have on a 9-year-old? In the case of Zafar Rushdie, he thought it "fun" and "cool". This is his reminiscence: "The fatwa was fun for me at first. I was nine, and I came home one day to find police in the house. It was really cool to be around these big guys with guns. But I soon found out enough to realise there was a big deal going on, and it wasn't good. "I'd answer the phone and this voice would say: 'We've got your number. We know where you are and we're going to come and kill you' I lost my childhood innocence early."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Where's The Magic?

Bloomsbury, the publisher, revealed last night that it had been hit hard by the absence of a new Harry Potter title, when it admitted that its 2006 profits could be 75 per cent lower than expected.

Further Proof that Advertising Messes With Your Mind

"Over the years, he would apologise for his silly habit of collecting books with the word Christmas in the title. Then, in his 70s, he revealed his 3,000 strong collection in exhibitions at Harvard and New York. In 2001, he produced a book about the festival, Inventing Christmas, and concluded the dedication to his wife by wishing her a Merry Christmas."

- From the obituary of Jock Elliot, senior Ogilvy executive

Monday, December 11, 2006

Exit Zuckerman

Philip Roth’s fictional alter ego, a famous Jewish novelist featured in such novels as The Ghost Writer and the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Pastoral, will appear for the last time in Roth’s Exit Ghost, coming out next fall.

After Plimpton

"I love what the Paris Review was, its traditions, what it stands for; but I didn't feel that I was being hired to act as the curator of a museum piece. Rather, that I should treat it as a living thing, with its own new form. It's a sign of my respect for Plimpton that I'm not trying to be him."

- An interview with Philip Gourevitch on his reporting and his plans for 'the biggest little magazine in history'.

Update: Another interview here, specifically on The Paris Review Interviews, Vol 1

Oh, No

"...I've become a coward in old age I don't see myself as that girl who crossed the desert," says Robyn Davidson (Tracks, Desert Places) in this fascinating profile which discusses, among other things, how she felt about being the original for mountain climber Alleluia Cone in Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

Banville's Recommendations

John Banville's swipe at McEwan's Saturday is still recalled; this year, however, either the quality of literature has risen dramatically, or the man has mellowed. Here he is on recent books that he's liked: "The finest novel I read this year is Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land...Ford has invented a new narrative style: allusive, funny, deceptively discursive. This is high art masquerading as middle-brow fiction; as such it is something entirely new...Martin Amis's House of Meetings is the best thing he has done yet, a harrowing tale that is also a moving story of love and loss."