Prufrock's Page

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Call Their Bluff

Too busy or lazy to read The Catcher in the Rye, Anna Karenina, Daniel Deronda, Le Grand Meaulnes or Things Fall Apart? Well, go here to find a handy bluffer's guide to the "five books you must read" and blow them away the next time the conversation turns to matters literary.

Writing Well Is The Best Revenge

The easiest way to appear as a character in a novel? Offend the novelist. Michael Crichton, for one, was so incensed by the criticism of reviewer Mike Crowley, that he named a character after him in his new book, Next. The fictional Mike Crowley is a "wealthy, spoiled Yale graduate" on trial for the rape of his two-year-old nephew. Now that's hitting below the belt. This article points out other such examples -- including the famous Graham Greene-J.B. Priestley spat over Stamboul Train.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Monica In Uganda

On the last day I return to Amida camp to see Geoffrey [Oxfam's public health facilitator]. The camp is in festive spirit. There has been a peace march that day and now there is dancing and drumming, a certain amount of home brew and a great deal of singing. Geoffrey has arranged a special song for us with his child-to-child public health crew. 'We welcome you dear visitors,' they sing, 'in Jesus’ name.' They sing with harmonies, and beautifully.

Geoffrey walks me to the car. 'Enjoy your evening,'

I say. 'Enjoy the party.' 'Tell the world about us,' says Geoffrey. 'Tell them what you saw.'

I say that I will; that I'll try. And then he says something I haven't heard for a long time. It's something I used to hear when I was young, but which has fallen out of favour now that we've become so anxious to 'respect' or guard our differences. 'Speak for us,' says Geoffrey, staking a claim for our common humanity. 'We are different colours, but we are just the same.'

- From Monica Ali's "letter" from the refugee camps of northern Uganda, where she travelled at Oxfam's invitation.

Twice-told Tales

Joyce's Ulysses. Updike's Gertrude And Claudius. Smith's On Beauty....all so derivative.

Adam Seizes The Day

Publisher and editor Adam Bellow -- son of Saul -- wants to "reinvent the book for the 21st century" by creating "a series of 4-by-6 inch, $4 booklets with an average of 60 to 80 pages each", as a new, affordable forum for presenting ideas. Blogger alert: "It is...[by]...reprinting digests of blog posts or letting individual bloggers pull together collections of their writing that he hopes to harvest most of his material."

Gordimer Lashes Out

Nadine Gordimer has had a bitter falling out with Ronald Suresh Roberts, the young biographer to whom she had granted extraordinary access during his five years of research, because of his "unvarnished, at times hostile portrait".

Thursday, December 21, 2006

More Recommendations

Julian Barnes, Louise Erdich, Ian McEwan and Paul Theroux reveal to The New Yorker the names of the books they particularly enjoyed in 2006.

Writer Woody

On the occasion of Essentially Woody, a a 28-film retrospective of the work of Woody Allen, George Robinson makes the case that the man will be remembered as a writer, not director: "As a writer he is an original and unique voice, family resemblances aside. As a director, he remains a shaky amalgam of incompatible influences, a filmmaker who has never found an entirely congenial visual style and whose best work often succeeds despite, rather than because of, his choices of camera angle, blocking and mise-en-scene." Either way, as the man said, he'd rather not achieve immortality through his work -- he'd like to achieve it through not dying.

A Wealth Of Short Stories

Her chances of staying on in the USA may still be discussed, but what's not in question is the size of her bank balance. As this report has it, Yiyun Li's A Thousand Years of Good Prayers has so far won the $40,000 Whiting Award, the €50,000 Frank O'Connor Short Story Award, and more recently, the $10,000 Guardian First Book Prize. She also has a $200,000 book deal. Hmmm...almost enough to be able to afford a flat in Mumbai.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cunningham Stretches Himself

On a recent visit to Prague, Michael (The Hours) Cunningham disclosed that he's currently working on a film based on the life of Freddie Mercury, another film on a female traveller (to be played by Nicole Kidman) and a new novel with 11 plots, each with its own hero and writing style. (Er, hasn't David Mitchell done that already?)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Books Bloom In Kashmir

Kashmir's bookshops are opening again, and among the titles on offer are "the works of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy [which] jostle for space with Salman Rushdie and Dan Brown bestsellers," says this heartening report. Even better: "A small publishing industry is churning out English-language histories of Kashmir, its Sufi traditions and politics."

Letting The Silence Stand

"Actually, I began this book as non-fiction but then found I wanted to add more layers. For a long time, while rewriting the book, I thought fiction meant that one needed to add dramatic details to what had already been collected through travel and research. What I learnt, however, is that writing fiction is more about taking things away and letting the silence stand."

- Business Standard interviews Amitava Kumar on the eve of the publication of his first novel.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Brad And Keira Rescue The Classics

The Siena Research Institute tells us, for the third time, that literary classics are declining in popularity. As for those that show an increase in readership, you can thank Hollywood: "The Odyssey and The Iliad rose from 43 percent to 59 percent readership from 1985 to 2006. That follows the 2004 release of Troy, a film adaptation of Homer's epic stories, starring Brad Pitt.
Readership of Pride and Prejudice increased from 14 percent (1985) to 26 percent (2006). Keira Knightley starred in the 2006 film version of Jane Austen's story."

(Link courtesy The Literary Saloon.)

Naipaul's Regret

"I have often wished that I could have three lives: one to read, one to write, and one to experience."

- Sir V.S. Naipaul, during his address to the Royal Society of Literature

Birkerts On Chandra

"I opened to the inside cover, where I saw printed in giant caps 'AN EPIC NOVEL OF CRIME, FAITH, FAMILY, AND DESTINY,' a tag so basic as to be invisible. But then, just below, in slightly smaller caps: '$300,000 MARKETING CAMPAIGN.'

- Veteran critic Sven Birkerts reacts to Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games

Murakami's Translations

His novels and short stories apart, Haruki Murakami has also made a name for himself as an accomplished translator, having taken on John Irving, Truman Capote, Tim O'Brien and J.D. Salinger as well as the complete works of Raymond Carver. His latest translation is that of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby which, in this interview, he calls "the most important novel in my life".