Prufrock's Page

Friday, February 23, 2007

Who Is Britain's Greatest Living Author?

In a report on Martin Amis, The Guardian mentioned that he was often described as "Britain's greatest living author". Well, this sparked off an unseemly debate and, in an effort to call in the experts, the paper asked Andrew Motion, A.S. Byatt, Philip Hensher, J.G. Ballard and many others for their opinion. Most sidestepped the issue. (Bookseller Hazel Broadfoot's choice? Vikram Seth.)

Food Fight

What would you do if your restaurant was given a zero-star review in the New York Times, containing sentences such as: "Too many insipid or insulting dishes at prices that draw blood from anyone without a trust fund or an expense account"?

Well, Jeffrey Chodorow of the Kobe Club decided to retaliate by spending more than $80,000 for a full-page advertisement in the paper stating that that it been lacking a "real food critic" since Ruth Reichl left for Gourmet magazine and that he was the victim of a personal attack.

Reviewer Frank Bruni's response: "I completely understand his being disappointed in the Kobe Club review, but all those things I've written are completely honest, if inevitably subjective. None of them had any personal grudge. The next time he opens a restaurant that seems to be the kind that warrants a look and a review, it will get the same open-minded reaction that any new place gets."

Yes, But Can Writing Be Taught?

Harvard's newspaper on Harvard's creative writing program: "Much of what makes the...program a vital fixture at the University is that it offers students... an opportunity to thrive and develop as writers that can’t be replicated elsewhere in the curriculum. From its intensive workshops to its coveted creative theses, the program is the most formative element of their four years at Harvard for students...who 'live and breathe writing.' "

Let's Censor Censorship

The Independent's Boyd Tonkin quotes Bernard Shaw -- assassination is the ultimate form of censorship -- and goes on to provide an overview of the price people have paid over the years for speaking of and writing about what's on their minds.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Heard The One About New Yorkers And The New Yorker?

The New Yorker magazine is catching flak for publishing a cartoon that angry New Yorkers are calling a Polish joke.

Hello, Sam

Sam Leith, literary editor of The Telegraph (UK) -- and among those who will be attending the Kitab Festival in Mumbai later this week -- has a debut blog. He promises to say "interesting things" about "Anglo-Indian literature" and, while discussing The Great Indian Novel, asks: "When, those of us with weak wrists, empty purses and short attention spans want to know, is someone going to write the Great Indian Novella?"

Men Writing As Women

We've heard of women writers adopting male pseudonyms -- does the name Mary Ann Evans ring a bell? -- but the opposite is more rare. In an interesting letter to the TLS, Adrian Room shares information about men who've written as women, including Voltaire, John Creasey and L. Frank Baum.

Sorry, No Change, But Would You Fancy Some Verse, Guv?

In readiness for an expected flurry of visitors to York for the centenary celebrations of Auden's birth, local cab drivers have been trained to recite his poems to their unsuspecting passengers.

(The Auden Society has more on the centenary here.)

Shorter, Not Necessarily Sweeter

Been putting off reading Tolstoy's War and Peace because of its bulk? Well, the enterprising folk at Harper Collins have a solution. They're set to release "a slimmed down version of the literary classic with a happier conclusion". Moreover, "in the new book, taken from one of Tolstoy's earlier drafts, two of the main characters, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky and Petya Rostov, who die in the original, survive."

What next, a simplified version of King Lear which ends with Lear and his daughters sitting down to a family dinner and then living happily ever after?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

As James Wood Rubs His Hands Together And Says, 'I Told You So'

"I've never been interested in characters in books, human beings don't interest me very much, but I'm experiencing a sudden interest in characters and their stories. I'm taking a childish schoolboy enjoyment in doing something I never thought I would do."

- John Banville, on writing as Benjamin Black

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Perils Of Writing

It seems to be a sort of tradition for authors to advise those starting out on a writing career to stop it at once and do something sensible instead. Richard Ford, among others, was the most recent to say it; now, there's Philip Pullman in this interview:

What good advice was given to you when you were starting out? "Don't. You'll never make it. You'll never earn a living. Get a decent job and forget all about it. It's a silly idea. There's no future in it."

What advice would you give to new writers? "Don't. You'll never make it. You'll never earn a living. Get a decent job and forget all about it. It's a silly idea. There's no future in it."

The Artiste's Artist

"...the figure that, so to speak, 'gave me permission' to imagine her personality, to invent a woman painter at the very heart of modern art in India - to believe in the possibility of such a woman - was an artist I never met, who died tragically young, and whom I first encountered in a luminous painting by Vivan Sundaram, her nephew. That artist was Amrita Sher-Gil."

- Salman Rushdie on the artist who provided inspiration for the heroine of The Moor's Last Sigh.

Brave New World

Do visit the new India Uncut.