Prufrock's Page

Friday, August 03, 2007

'Late September'

The mail truck goes down the coast
Carrying a single letter.
At the end of a long pier
The bored seagull lifts a leg now and then
And forgets to put it down.
There is a menace in the air
Of tragedies in the making.

Last night you thought you heard television
In the house next door.
You were sure it was some new
Horror they were reporting,
So you went out to find out.
Barefoot, wearing just shorts.
It was only the sea sounding weary
After so many lifetimes
Of pretending to be rushing off somewhere
And never getting anywhere.

This morning, it felt like Sunday.
The heavens did their part
By casting no shadow along the boardwalk
Or the row of vacant cottages,
Among them a small church
With a dozen gray tombstones huddled close
As if they, too, had the shivers.

- By Charles Simic, new poet laureate of the United States

Play-Doh: An Enemy Of Promise

Andrew Holmes, writer and father, hasn't let Cyril Connolly's famous "pram in the hallway" argument deter him. As he says: "For my part, I have had to adapt. Not only with weird wife-operated early-warning alarm systems, but also by carting around a laptop and learning to snatch 15 minutes on trains here and there. A kind of guerrilla writing. See? I've romanticised it already." (Athough he also points out: "...novelists of a nervous disposition shouldn't have children. Quite apart from startling you into an early grave by launching Fisher-Price missiles at your head, or shoving Play-Doh into your disk drive, children, bless their doe eyes, simply do not respect the creative process.")

Publishing Tactics

The front cover of the Penguin paperback edition of John Updike's Terrorist, published this week, says on the cover: ' "Brilliant" Sunday Telegraph'.

The review in question, however, also had this to say: 'oddly dated and out of touch', 'thoroughly creaky plotting', 'tired melodrama' and 'very shoddy'.

As the newspaper says: "In other words we did not recommend this novel. If West End theatres have had the gumption to refrain from this outdated, immoral practice, West End publishers should follow suit."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Secrets Of Deathless Prose

“It’s like you take two thoughts that are not anything like each other and you cram them together by any means necessary."

That's Jim Gleeson of Madison, winner of the 2007 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. His winning entry: "Gerald began — but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them 'permanently' meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash — to pee."

(More extracts here.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

There Goes Your Last Excuse

Of course you have that brilliant novel in you, and of course you're dying to write it, but...the pressures of work, long commuting hours, the absence of space, yada yada yada. Well, Robert Bernocco, an Italian IT professional, put the time he spent traveling each day to good use: in 17 weeks, he composed a 384-page science fiction novel entirely on his mobile phone. He then downloaded the manuscript and split it into smaller paragraphs on his computer. The book was published through, though it is not yet known what salve Mr Bernocco applied to his sore thumbs.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Another Gutenberg Elegy

" exciting as the blogosphere is as a supplement, as a place of provocation and response, it is too fluid in its nature ever to focus our widely diverging cultural energies. A hopscotch through the referential enormity of argument and opinion cannot settle the ground under our feet."

- Sven Birkerts is yet to be convinced of the worth of literary blogs. (Via the always-excellent The Literary Saloon.)

Meanwhile, Everyone's Forgotten About Mumbai's Pavement Booksellers

"If you want a copy of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale (slightly scuffed) for about 20p, or Increase Your Height – Well Tried Methods for Wonderful Results (80p), or a clutch of Danielle Steels at 65p each, this is the place to come. There are tales of first editions of A Passage to India changing hands for 60p."

- Stephen McClarence on the "world's biggest weekly book market" in Daryaganj

Your Good Name?

Aspiring writers ought to have been following Louise Doughty's diverting column in The Telegraph. (If not, there's a book, too.) Now, here's your chance to name a character in her next book.

And You Thought Writing Was The Hard Part

In Australia these days, it is not enough to write like an angel. You have to be able to do a devil of a tap dance as well.

From Two Sides Of The Globe

An interesting interview with Harry Mulisch, Holland's leading post-war writer, who recently turned 80: "I didn't so much 'experience' the war; I am the Second World War." And here's one with Yan Lianke, one of China's most feted living writers: "China is in chaos, politically, economically, medically, morally and some people are the beneficiaries of this chaos, including intellectuals. Those at the grassroots, the masses, are the ones suffering, but in facing this kind of situation Chinese intellectuals can't see clearly."