Prufrock's Page

Friday, June 22, 2007

For All Time, Or Until ThePaperback, Whichever Comes First

Tim Dowling thought long and hard about the perfect dedication for his book. Then, he came up with: "For Sophie, for all time", and underneath, in square brackets, "Dedication applies to hardback only". What went wrong?

(More on dedications here.)

The Perils Of Independents

Dave Eggers' McSweeney's is offering subscriptions, new books and their backlist at upto 30% off. It's just one of the many independent publications hard hit by the bankruptcy of Advanced Marketing Services, the parent company of Publishers Group West, which distributed books for more than 130 independent book publishers. Is the Internet one way out for them, wonders Priya Jain.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Kunzru Speaks Up

"The idea that it is some kind of calculated insult is an absurdity. The real insult - to the intelligence and decency of 'the world's 1.5 billion Muslims', for whom people such as Mohammed Ejaz ul-Haq presume to speak - comes from the ignorance and paranoia of leaders who feel so threatened by a novelist that they'll call for him to be killed."

- Hari Kunzru, on the protests against Rushdie's knighthood

Update: In Index on Censorship, Jo Glanville writes: "Let’s get one thing straight. This is not about Islam – it’s a recognition of the achievements of one of Britain’s finest writers, a writer who led a solitary, persecuted life for many years because of death threats against him. No novelist sets out on their career aiming for a knighthood. It is in fact ironic that Rushdie – an iconoclast and outsider as most artists are – should be embraced by the establishment."

Suketu Mehta Had The Same Problem

"...the point is that not only do they know what I am doing, but they suspect - with good reason - that I'm doing it about them. In fact, I'm beginning to get the feeling that some of them are posing for my writing, are expanding their characters, or assuming new ones, in order to be caught and recorded on my pad."

- Simon Grey on how the people at his favourite Barbados bar realised he was writing about them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

That Annoying Writer

...Kingsley Amis and his work are unquestionably "full of fun" (his own favorite phrase). They are reliably amusing, usefully provocative ("If you can't annoy somebody," he once said, "there's little point in writing"), and never a waste of time.

- Michael Dirda introduces Kingsley Amis to America. (Link courtesy The Elegant Variation.)

Thrice Exhumed

Christopher Benfey evaluates a new biography of Ralph Ellison -- who struggled all his life to come up with a novel as great as his first -- with this fine opening paragraph: "It is a ritual of American publishing that the distinguished literary dead are exhumed three times. First, unfinished drafts, long buried in the drawer or the hard drive, are rushed into print. Second, an official biography exposes the remaining secrets of the great writer's life. And third, intimate letters are collected and offered to a curious public."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Achebe's Heir

"I realize now what an interesting coincidence it is that I grew up in a house previously occupied by the writer whose work is most important to me. There must have been literary spirits in the bathroom upstairs, which was larger and airier than the one downstairs, with a stately white tub that my mother complained was never cleaned well enough; I often got story ideas after taking bucket baths in it. But the only manifest Achebe legacy was on a window ledge in the dining room, scratch-written in the childish hand of his daughter: 'Nwando Achebe.'

- Orange Prize-winner Chimamanda Adichie, on living in the house that Chinua Achebe used to occupy, in The Washington Post. (The paper's profile of the writer is here.)

Stop The Presses

"...each book squats on a different corner of the ideological triangle that has defined the debate over the future of news. Keen takes one side, angrily lambasting today's online 'citizen journalists'; Gant takes the opposite corner, extolling these amateurs; and Henry takes the middle corner floating gracefully above the two others, and not just because he has staked out the middle ground."

- Todd Oppenheimer considers three books that discuss the future of journalism in the age of the Internet. (They are American Carnival: Journalism Under Siege in an Age of New Media by Neil Henry; We're All Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age by Scott Gant; and The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture by Andrew Keen.)

Theek Hai, Jeeves

"In my opinion the best Indian writer writing in English is Upamanyu Chatterjee. His novel, English August, is now available in the US through the New York Review of Books and is the comic story of a lazy junior civil servant who spends his time masturbating, smoking pot and wondering how he ended up with his job. The book is a stylistic masterpiece in the spirit of the Jeeves novels in that very little is made to go a long way."

- Akhil Sharma

(Courtesy Critical Mass.)

The ABCs of MFAs

Planning to venture to the United States to attend a creative writing program? Author and creative writing teacher Josh Henkin has some words of advice.

Life In Baghdad

Rajiv Chandrasekharan's account of life in Baghdad's Green Zone, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, has just been awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize. An overview and extract from the former Washington Post Baghdad bureau chief's work is here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Plus Ca Change, Plus C'est La Meme Chose, Alas

June 17, 2006 "An Iranian Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) announced that it would pay a $150,000 prize to anyone who could put into effect a death sentence decree issued by the Late Founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, against Salman Rushdie for blasphemy."

March 12, 1989 Umberto Eco, to Rushdie: "Nobody can ignore your ordeal, for at least three reasons.

"First (and once again), a man is being persecuted for having written a book.

"Second, for the first time in the history of this century the death penalty is extended beyond the borders of a single country, in spite of the laws of other countries. Exile, the last resort of free men, does not work any longer.

"Third, your potential killers are summoned through the media; ironically, any medium covering the event contributes to inform and mobilize new potential killers."


Shorn of its Chursch of England associations, it's a word that could be used to describe Sir Salman's decline as a writer, says Priyamvada Gopal, in this thoughtful piece. (No, she doesn't use the word itself; instead, here's an example of the prose: "The mutation of this relevant and stentorian writer into a pallid chorister is a tragic allegory of our benighted times, of the kind he once narrated so vividly".)

* considered the longest accepted word in the English language

The New Achebe?

Having just completed the remarkable and moving Half of a Yellow Sun, one read with relish this piece that asked leading Nigerian writers: Is Chimamanda Adichie the new Chinua Achebe? (Short answer: No.)

What About The Monsoon, Then?

"A good book returns from a good holiday battered and discoloured, with sand in odd crevices, with mysterious stains and pages missing, with mild spinal injuries and a new lover or two. Just like its owner."

- Sam Leith on the joys of reading on summer vacations.