Prufrock's Page

Friday, May 11, 2007

No New Roth

American Jewish fiction isn't what it used to be, says William Deresiewicz, using Michael Chabon and Nathan Englander's new novels as examples. (He prefers the former.)

Rushdie On Colbert

This week, Salman Rushdie appeared on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. You can watch the video here. (Scroll down in the videos section to find it.)

Delightfully Modest

“To no style am I a stranger...there is none which has not been adorned by the magic of my touch.”

- From a letter written by Henry James when he was 17

Does The GAN Exist?

"The only semi-mythical rationale for the Great American Novel’s continued existence — that it’s like the white buffalo: it rarely exists yet rumors abound of its once and future appearance..." Alan Simons has some harsh things to say about that mythical beast referred to as the Great American Novel.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


The Believer, the literary magazine edited by Vendela Vida, recently conducted a reader and writer survey to throw up the best books of 2006. Here are the results. The Road takes the No. 1 spot, unsurprisingly. (Oh, and in typical faux-naif style, we're told that "two spots on the following list, for books whose authors are associated with this magazine, have been intentionally left blank because it would look creepy to include them. Many additional books have been completely omitted because they weren’t published in 2006, weren’t works of fiction, or because they don’t exist." Gee, thanks for the information.)


God is a delusion, said Richard Dawkins. Religion is a spell we need to break, said Daniel Dennett. And now, Christopher Hitchens joins the crew by stating that "God isn't great and religion poisons everything". (One is with Larkin: "If I were called in/to construct a religion/I should make use of water".)

Getting The Willies

Time for a Maugham revival, says Tania Kindersley: "Maugham was blisteringly successful in his day and is now hardly read. If he is thought of at all, it is as a creaking reminder of distant colonial days - all those stories of the Orient, the smart ladies, the stiff upper lip. His reputation can hardly have been burnished when Jeffrey Archer blatantly lifted the short story, The Luncheon, for A Quiver Full of Arrows. Homage from Lord Archer? Instant literary death."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bolano And The Rest

With the English translation of Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives causing a stir in literary circles, Chloë Schama, assistant literary editor at The New Republic, weighs the pros and cons of his work. Going further, she provides a handy field guide to "a selection of foreign authors whose domestic reputation exceeds their standing in the United States". (Registration required? Go here.)

The Japanese Murakami

Haruki Murakami stayed away from Japan from 1987 to 1995. In many ways, argues Benjamin Lytal, his more recent fiction -- including his new After Dark -- can be seen as a process of "re-Japanisation".

New Zadie

Hanwell Snr was Hanwell’s father. Like Hanwell, he existed in a small way. Not in his person—he was a “big personality,” in that odious phrase—but in his history, which is partial, almost phantasmagoric. Thus starts a new short story by Zadie Smith in The New Yorker. Read on.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Writing About Working

Recently, debutant novelist Joshua Ferris wrote about his favourite novels of working life. Now, taking Ferris' own novel as starting point, D.J. Taylor explores work's puzzling absence from fiction. One would have written more about this, but one is too busy working.

The Structure Of Non-fiction

"Nonfiction writers have been out collecting material and now they're getting ready to write, and they've got a great mound of stuff on a table. What are they going to do with it? When I was young, I was so bewildered about how to cope with all that material. Leaning on structural planning is what got me out from under a 50-ton rock that was lying on my chest."

- For the legendary John McPhee, it's structure, structure, structure

Monday, May 07, 2007

So Many Books, Etc

"According to the Mexican critic Gabriel Zaid, writing in So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance, the human race publishes a book every 30 seconds. If current trends continue, by 2052 the number of people writing and publishing a book in a given year will exceed the number of people who will read one. Zaid sympathizes with the overwhelmed reader and points the finger at the inconsiderate author for whom, in extreme cases of verbosity, he recommends a 'chastity glove'."

- From an article by Alice Twemlow. (Here's an attempt to help.)

The Curse Of Topicality

"[Lionel Shriver] is pleased with the [new] book, really likes the last chapter and is nervous about how readers will take to it." But it's her first novel that's on most people's minds.


This is how a profile of the 38-year-old Arthur Philips begins: "In addition to being a husband, father, puppy-lover and five-time Jeopardy champion, Arthur Phillips is also the best-selling author of the novels Prague and The Egyptologist. He is now releasing his third novel, Angelica." Before you smoulder in the fires of envy, read on. He actually comes across as intelligent and self-deprecating. Which, of course, only makes it worse.

Never A Truer Word

"In the new book burning we don't burn books, we burn discussion of them instead."

- Art Winslow, literary editor at The Nation, quoted by Karen Long in a Cleveland Plain Dealer article on the importance of book review pages.

The Good Of Bad

"Bad books fall into three broad categories: the stupid, the meta-stupid and the immoral. Each has its own inimitable charms." Joe Queenan tells you why you ought to embrace bad books.