Prufrock's Page

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Witching Hours

Murakami fans rejoice: his new work, set in Tokyo during the witching hours between midnight and dawn, is almost here. And in a quote that could be applied to almost any well-written novel, The Daily Californian calls it "a book that rewards rereading and further contemplation, ultimately finding its redemption in the warmth that lingers in the absence of human contact". (And you can verify the truth of that by reading this excerpt.)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Something We Have In Common

The word "I" does not come natural to her--she shoehorns her sentences around it, stuffing "you" and "one" and anything else in its place if she has to.

- from a profile of Nell 'Lucky Girl' Freudenberger

The Writing Life

"I like to be there at my desk by 9 or 9:30 either at home (in London) or there are one or two places that I rent. There are certain things I have to black out. One is not to look at the newspapers -- I'm a newspaper junkie and I like reading them in hard copy and not online -- disabling the email program so it doesn't pop with messages, because I can't overcome my curiosity, and turn off the phone. That's the only way I can do things. When it's going well I'd work until about 1 p.m., eat a sandwich, start again around 2 p.m. If I'm going well I'll continue, if not I try and set aside a chunk of the afternoon for reading, otherwise no reading ever gets done except last thing at night before falling asleep which is never really satisfactory."

- Ian McEwan on his working day

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Putting Critics Out Of Business

M.J. Iles doesn't read book reviews or follow award shortlists. Which hasn't stopped him from discovering wonderful new writers.

The Lost Art Of Browsing

At the London Book Fair, Kazuo Ishiguro and Margaret Atwood recently spoke of how buying books online may be convenient and fun, but precludes the joys of browsing and serendipity. Ishiguro, however, warned against sentimentalising the independent bookshop: “I’m not really nostalgic for them. Those tiny independent bookshops with some dragon behind the desk on the phone to her daughter, or the politically committed bookshops with tons of stuff about Chairman Mao.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Independence And Survival

Despite some reservations, Amit Chaudhuri finds much to like in Ramachandra Guha's India After Gandhi: "Guha tells us what happened elegantly, sometimes doggedly: but it's by constantly implying what might have, while disavowing it with the professional historian's gesture, that he brings his copious material to life. Guha's book reminds us of what some other recent studies of India have been getting at, but without this civilised single-mindedness: that it's not just the story of independence that's worthy of being counted as one of the great triumphal stories of 20th-century world history; that the survival and perhaps the flourishing of free India counts legitimately as another."

Writing 9 To 5

Considering that most of us spend most of our time at work, it's curious that there are so few novels of office life. Now, Joshua Ferris, debutant author of the acclaimed Then We Came to the End (DeLillo-influenced, set in an advertising agency and narrated entirely in third person like Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides) highlights some such classics: "...there have been few singular achievements in literature more noteworthy, more time worthy, more universal despite their otherness, than "Bartleby" and The Metamorphosis. Reasons for their lasting literary merit are easy enough: invention and comedy, pathos and command of craft combine in a perfect mix in both novellas, as well as in the contemporary short stories of [George] Saunders. But another thing all three have in common, which recommends them to a special place on the office worker's bookshelf, is this: they concern themselves with the trial and toil of work itself."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Literature? Useless

"What is the use of Alice in Wonderland?...Literature is beautiful by being, by uselessly being. It is an inert, beautiful thing worth preserving and clinging to...Books we love become part of the way we see the world. We see through the eyes the book has given us. That is how books change the world, one reader at a time."

- Salman Rushdie in Arkansas

Amis & Amis

Question: Compare and contrast the careers of Kingsley and Martin Amis, with particular reference to the ways in which the father influenced the son.

Charles McGrath answers.

Not Dead Or Dying

Hermoine Lee, masterful biographer of Virginia Woolf and, more recently, Edith Wharton, reads a bunch of books on the novel and comes to some conclusions: "...2006 seemed, to me at least, to be a year when the novel's survival and significance were not in question. To read over a hundred novels last year, as chair of the Man Booker Prize judges, was to step into a fabulous trove of linguistic inventiveness, passion, originality, and energy—as well as on occasion to be irritated, unconvinced, and bored to tears. Our judges' discussions kept returning to those centuries-old debates, where praise for seriousness, social responsibility, and moral meaning jostled against aesthetic pleasure in a high style or a well-played game. But in all our arguments we had no doubts that we were dealing with objects of value."

(Meanwhile, the British Stuart Kelly reads some literary fiction from the other side of the Atlantic and comes to a conclusion of his own: "The Americans are kicking our asses".)

'His Novels Are A War On Terror By Other Means'

A respectful profile of Don DeLillo on the eve of the publication of his new novel, Falling Man.

Speaking Up

"Guns kept in the home for self-protection are 43 times more likely to kill a family member, friend or acquaintance than to kill an intruder, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Guns on the street make us less safe. For every justifiable handgun homicide, there are more than 50 handgun murders, according to the FBI. The expanding right to carry concealed guns make us even less safe. So what right is being protected if it is not the right to be safe? The right to feel safe, at the expense of actual safety?"

- Jonathan Safran Foer in The Washington Post