Prufrock's Page

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lucky Martin

Salman Rushdie's joined Emory, and now it's Martin Amis' turn: he's agreed to take up his first teaching role as professor of creative writing at Manchester University. And his advice on writing as a career? "Well, it is a sort of sedentary, carpet slippers, self-inspecting, nose-picking, arse-scratching kind of job, just you in your study and there is absolutely no way round that. So, anyone who is in it for worldly gains and razzmatazz I don't think will get very far at all."

Somewhat more to the point, he adds: "I may be acerbic in how I write but I'm not how I live. And I would find it very difficult to say cruel things to people in such a vulnerable position. I imagine I'll be surprisingly sweet and gentle with them. One of the things I've learned about fiction - you really do lay yourself open in a way that no other so-called creative artist does. Most other art you're just exhibiting a particular talent, even poetry up to a point, but by writing fiction you expose not only your talent but your whole being, your social, sexual and psychological being and you're never more vulnerable than when you do that, and I'm well aware of that fact and will take it into account."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Publishers, Place Your Bids

Arundhati Roy announces her return to fiction in words that show that her rhetorical skills remain undiminished: "As a writer I have to go to a different place now. As a person... I want to step off whatever this stage is that I have been given. The argument has been made, the battle remains to be fought -- and that requires a different set of skills...I am very conscious that, from the time of The God of Small Things was published 10 years ago, we are in a different world, a different place now, which needs to be written about differently, and I really very much want to do that."

Farewell, Zuckerman

Oliver Mosier laments the passing of famed Jewish novelist Nathan Zuckerman, author of Carnovsky, after Philip Roth announced his demise. Henry Bech's reaction is still awaited.

How Times Change

Eighteen years ago today, he was forced into seclusion because of a fatwa. Yesterday, he joined Emory University for a five-year stint to teach world literature to graduate students. And even though the fatwa isn't officially rescinded, he says "It's reached the point where it's a piece of rhetoric rather than a real threat". Once again, Valentine's Day is happy for Salman Rushdie.

War And Peace And Recording

"Fifty-one CDs, roughly 70 hours of death, drama, history and philosophy. It took 23 days in the studio to record. " And that's not counting the hours of reading and enunciation that 72-year old Neville Jason took to record the audiobook of LeoTolstoy's opus.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Grace Under Pressure

Okay, one confesses that one's head must be buried in the sand, for it was only ten minutes ago that one realised that one's blog had been nominated for the Best Humanities Indiblog at the Indibloggies. (This business of writing about oneself in second person is becoming increasingly affected, and must cease.)

Now, while one would like to express gratitude to those responsible -- thank you, guys, thank you -- the fact is that this collection of links to articles, reviews and interviews isn't really a good choice, nor is it representative of what a good humanities "Indiblog" ought to be.

Without any false modesty, then, one exhorts you to go forth and vote for the others in contention: Will it be this one? This one? Or this one?

Indian Ink

Reversing William Dalrymple's theory, Kathleen McCaul writes that India's writers -- by whom she means those who live and work in India -- are set to redefine the literary landscape. (Yes, that's a cliche, but one is too lazy/rushed/incorrigible -- pick one -- to change it). She quotes, among others, the New York-returned poet and writer Jeet Thayil: "There is no difference between non-resident and resident writers now. I see it as one body of work. If you are a 21-year-old writer living in some little town in India and you read everything you can get your hands on and really learn your craft you have every chance of being published in New York."

Play It Again, Louis

Sherlock Holmes never said “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Neither Ingrid Bergman nor anyone else in “Casablanca” says “Play it again, Sam”; Leo Durocher did not say “Nice guys finish last”; Vince Lombardi did say “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” quite often, but he got the line from someone else. Patrick Henry almost certainly did not say “Give me liberty, or give me death!”; William Tecumseh Sherman never wrote the words “War is hell”; and there is no evidence that Horace Greeley said “Go west, young man.”

- Louis Menand on the art of quotations

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Influence Of Art

In an essay replete with examples from literature, photography and the blues (among others), Jonathan Lethem meditates on originality in art: "Any text is woven entirely with citations, references, echoes, cultural languages, which cut across it through and through in a vast stereophony."

Rival Friends

Benjamin Markowits on Larkin and Amis, Coleridge and Wordsworth, Byron and Shelley and other literary relationships: "All professions produce their friendly rivalries; but in most of them, the friends who come off second best can at least console themselves with the parts of their personality untested by the competition: their human qualities, their loves and pleasures; or the depth of their relation to the world. What's terrible about literary competition is the fact that it puts just that relation to the test; it's unsurprising that so many of these friendships fail on literary grounds."

Monday Morning Rant

"...while we have developed a fair degree of confidence in matters like IT and other areas...we have consistently shown a total lack of introspection and self-esteem in the field of literature....We take all our cues from our notion of the West....We know that a book is good only when Western publishers buy it. We also know that a book that gets 500,000 dollars is only half as good as one that gets one million dollars. Why then should we attempt to cultivate our own critical faculties and rigorous standards?"

- Kiran Nagarkar