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Friday, February 02, 2007

Masterly But One-Dimensional

Chandak Sengoopta begins his review of Sujit Saraf's The Peacock Throne with a peroration designed to warm the hearts of the likes of Pankaj Mishra: "It's great that the West is finally trying to overcome its near-pornographic fixation on India's poverty and destitution, but the shiny new India that we are being urged to drool over is almost as fictitious, alas, as the dying lepers that journalists and missionary-types used to find so regularly on the pavements of Indian cities." Sengoopta goes on to praise the novel, calling it a "masterly work in its own way and a terrific read", but finds it in the final analysis "a little too one-dimensional to be a real masterpiece".

(Note to The Independent sub-editing team: It's 'Sujit', not 'Sukit'.)

Wiki Wiki Bang Bang

Penguin UK, in collaboration with De Montfort University, is planning a 'wikinovel': "Based on the principles of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, the novel, called A Million Penguins, is open to anyone to join in, write and edit. None of the words, characters or plot twists will be attributed to any individual and - and this is the element of the project most likely to bruise delicate egos - participants are free to edit, chop and change other writers' work."

Sounds a lot like Exquisite Corpse, doesn't it?

Update: Amit's post points one to the wikinovel in action as well as the blog on the exercise.

Awards Go Pop

The underbelly of Christian rock. The state of music writing today. Twenty-five years of MTV. Why vinyl still appeals. These and more subjects are presented for your perusal in this collection of links to the "superscribing awards", namely, the best music writing of 2006 selected by the editors of

Skeletons In The Publishing Closet

Dan Brown's dating tips. Annie Proulx's advice on making cider. Susan Orlean's weight-loss plan. Thanks to the Net, says Radar magazine, "literary fiascos may never again slip softly into the safety of oblivion. 'Out of print' no longer means not available", not only because of Amazon but also used bookstores and blogs. So if you've indulged in hack work before attaining popular credibility, beware. (Come to think of it, one wonders whether one can get one's hands on the book on Mumbai's nightlife, including the salacious bits, supposedly authored by one Vinod Mehta in his salad days.)

The Crossword Book Awards

Interested in attending the final ceremony of the Hutch Crossword Book Awards in Mumbai on February 21? One has been forwarded an email which asserts that if this is the case, all you need to do is mail your name and address to for an invitation. Details of the awards can be found here.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

How Smut Becomes Art

Reviewing Dirt for Art's Sake: Books on Trial From Madame Bovary to Lolita by Elisabeth Ladenson, the prolific John Sutherland writes: "The condition of pure enlightenment, in which the oppression of moral censorship will be lifted, is a chimera. Looking forward, we can never see censorship's end. But looking backward, we can be amused and instructed by its foolishness. That, at least, is something."

One Isn't Planning To Read It

Author Sonia Singh on the inspiration for her new book, Ghost, Interrupted: "It started with the female protagonist in the book, Anjali Kumar. I sort of based Anjali on the character, Carrie, from the Stephen King novel. I wondered what would happen if Carrie, instead of setting fire to her high school gym and dying at the end of the film, ended up going to work for a ghost-hunting agency."

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Kundera On The Novel, Again

Despite being distressed by a bias that "discloses an apparently robust remnant of European elitist contempt for the orderly, sober, middle-brow middle class", one that blinds Milan Kundera to the "desire to hear a coherent story, told from beginning to end and illuminating the human predicament", Alec Solomita finds himself appreciative of Kundera's The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts -- which can be seen, as he points out, as a worthy successor to his earlier The Art of the Novel.

Legitimising Fanfic

Cathy Young tries to drag the phenomenon known as fan fiction into the mainstream: "What are Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead or John Updike’s Gertrude and Claudius but Hamlet fanfics?"

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Age Ain't Nuthin But A Number

Forget all those teenage wunderkinds and their record-breaking fantasy novels; in the LA Times, David W. Galenson and Joshua Kotin offer solace to the rest of us: "Don't give up. There's time to do game-changing work after 30. Great innovators bloom in their 30s (Jackson Pollock), 40s (Virginia Woolf), 50s (Fyodor Dostoevsky), 60s (Cézanne), 70s (Eastwood) and 80s (Bourgeois)." To which list one could add Annie Proulx (whose first novel appeared when she was all of 53) and Daniel Defoe (who wrote Robinson Crusoe at a hoary 62). Keep on keeping on.

No Favourites

The widely-prevalent practice of asking people about their favourite book/song/movie/cultural artefact is one that annoys Ezra Glinter: "It has never really occurred to me to choose a favourite book or favourite author, simply because there are so many good ones. Trying to rate the seeming infinitude of literary talent according to some scale of relative merit seems like an absurd undertaking. The same principle applies even when it comes to works under whose influence I have unquestionably fallen." He concludes, somewhat snappishly: "I suppose that identifying oneself with the works of certain artists provides some existential meaning or satisfaction. Personally, whenever I encounter some work whose artistic power is of great magnitude, my goal is not to subsume myself under its banner, but to suck from it whatever insight or perspective it may have to offer in order to enrich my own experience of life."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Scribble, Scribble, Scribble

The true writer is one who can't help but write, suggestsAustralian author Jenny Sinclair: "Magazine editors, publishers and writing competitions are groaning under the output of all those writing courses and I want to say stop. Stop if you can. And if you can't stop, write." For good measure, she adds: "It's not writing that should be encouraged but reading, widely and voraciously, reading the classics, reading the modern masters." For the rest of us, says Stuart McGurk in The Times, there's "a computer program called NewNovelist that claims to 'break down the novel-writing process into small, manageable tasks so even the most inexperienced writers can write a novel'." His conclusion, after trying it out for himself: "98 per cent crap, 2 per cent sense. Bit like the idea that most people have a novel in them, really."

Canada Discovers Roth

The Penguin Group (Canada) has announced that it will bring out Exit Ghost, the next novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. author Philip Roth, in September. Penguin's move ends a bizarre situation in which the man considered America's greatest living writer has been without a Canadian publisher.

Underworld, Overlong

According to a new poll commissioned by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council in the UK, one in five people pretends to have read certain books in order to sound more intelligent. To avoid being exposed, here's a tip from Victoria Coren: "...always name-drop Don DeLillo's Underworld. You won't get caught out, because nobody else has managed to read it either."

Collect Award. Repair Car. Pay Rent.

Mark McNay, a former chicken factory worker, has won the Arts Foundation's £10,000 prize for his debut novel, Fresh, to be published by Canongate in April. (One is happy for the man, but this business of giving awards to books that haven't yet been published has to stop.) Reacting to the news, the Norwich-based author said: "I'm best pleased. Now I can repair my car and write without having to worry about paying the rent."