Prufrock's Page

Friday, April 06, 2007

Made-Up Novels

John Freeman, president of the National Book Critics Circle, recently interviewed Akhil Sharma and Dara Horn, both anointed by Granta as among the 20 most promising young American novelists. Here's a comment by Sharma on how his novel was received in India, which comes across to one as more than just a little disingenuous: "My relatives in India were very angry. I was surprised. I mean, the book says on the cover these things aren't true. That these events are made up, and they were. None of that happened. I borrowed some of the places, and the stuff about the man's job is true. But the rest is made-up. But they kept thinking it was true. You have to remember, though, India is largely a shame-based culture, not a guilt-based culture. So a confessional narrative doesn't go over very well--not only does the man in my book do a horrible thing, he doesn't have the goodness to keep quiet about it."

See, that's the defence Joyce, Lawrence, Nabokov and all the others whose books were proscribed should have used: "It never happened! It's made up! Says so on the cover!"

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Salman Rushdie's books? "The literary equivalent of cartoons." A.S. Byatt's characters? "Calculated and arid." David Lodge and Malcolm Bradbury's campus romps? "Perversely unreal." Julian Barnes? "Self-consciously innovative." Richard Bradford has a bone or two to pick with contemporary British fiction.

McEwan Does A Garbo

"I feel a period of obscurity would be very good for me...It certainly isn't pleasant. The world sort of shrinks, but it doesn't last for long. It's that restlessness of the press which on the one hand can be bewildering, but is also the thing that saves you because the monster needs to be fed. It will spew you out having chomped on you a bit."

- From a Reuters interview

The IMPAC Shortlist

Rushdie, McEwan, McCarthy, Coetzee, Barry, Safran Foer, Barnes. And Patterson and Hobbs.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

DeLillo Returns

Lots of good advance buzz about Don DeLillo's new novel, Falling Man. The man who drew memorable connections between the terrorist and the writer in Mao II and whose last two volumes -- The Body Artist and Cosmopolis -- were subpar, has now come up with a 9/11 novel that, in the breathless words of Kirkus Reviews, "is arguably the crowning work of DeLillo's estimable career: a compassionate and despairing dramatization of current events that shows how inextricably the political and the personal worlds are fatefully entwined." If this New Yorker extract is anything to go by, it's a welcome return to form.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

True Fiction

Nadine Gordimer has been awarded the French Legion of Honour. In the words of the French ambassador to South Africa: "We also wish to pay tribute to a symbolic figure of the fight against apartheid, that absurd and terrible system that sought, unrealistically to separate races." And this is from a 2004 interview with the author: "There is more truth in my fiction than in nonfiction. I think, subconsciously, [if] I am writing an article or talking to you, there is a certain amount of self-censorship going on. But in my fiction I am writing as if I were dead. I want to say it all. I want to say everything I know."

Monday, April 02, 2007


"He does? He can't be stopped."

- Ian McEwan, upon hearing that Philip Roth has a new novel in the works. (The latter has just, by the way, won the first PEN/Saul Bellow award.)

Server Busy

"Whether in China or Chicago, we're now living in a world where access to information is partly controlled by private corporations, whose wish to 'comply with local regulation' may involve many layers of hidden decision-making about what we can see, read and hear. Lack of transparency in the process by which search results are produced means that we don't tend to see messages saying 'You have been banned by the government from visiting this site', or 'Someone will sue us if we let you see this.' Instead we get 'host not found' or no error message at all, just a timed-out connection or a crash we might attribute to some other cause. This is invisible censorship, hard to detect, hard to prove."

- Hari Kunzru, who's earlier written about the repressive regime in the Maldives, turns his sights on Internet censorship