Prufrock's Page

Saturday, August 25, 2007

'Be Brutal Towards Ideas, Courteous Towards People Who Hold Them'

"I think comedy is the most serious thing in the world and consequently gets up people's noses the farthest. I've always made people mad."

"Nobody has ever asked me what kind of degree I got or even if I've got one at all. I'll have to tell you it's been useless."

"[Attending college in the mid-60s was] the best three or four years in the history of the world to go to college. So many of us inhaled, except for one American president."

"The thing I learned most at Cambridge was that you should be as brutal as possible toward ideas but as courteous as possible to the people who hold them. It is entirely proper that people not be discriminated against, whatever damn fool thing they believe. That doesn't mean we can't say what horseshit it is."

- From a "disarming, whimsical, sometimes profane and provocative encounter" with Sir Salman. (By the way, "Rushdie said he will deliver a new book to his publisher this fall for spring publication.The Enchantress of Florence is a historical novel about a 16th century Mogul Indian princess who finds herself in Renaissance Italy.")

Caribbean Voices

"I was overwhelmed. The poems I could enter most easily were the shorter poems in the collection. They were the ones whose argument I could manage. I lost my way in the longer poems; I thought what was being said prosy and difficult and I stumbled over the poetic diction. I left those poems to one side and concentrated on the ones I liked; the poet and his book, short as it was, did not suffer."

- From Sir Vidia's qualified paean to Derek Walcott.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Not Drowning But Waving

Eleven years after Drown, his heralded short story collection, Junot Diaz returns with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a novel that's made Time magazine exhaust superlatives: " astoundingly great that in a fall crowded with heavyweights--Richard Russo, Philip Roth--Díaz is a good bet to run away with the field."

(A short extract that appeared earlier in The New Yorker is reproduced here.)


Close on the heels of the poll results which indicated that most people in Britain would rather be writers than anything else, comes this dash of cold water from the man who writes The Guardian's delightful digested reads: "...while there are a small number of writers making a decent living, something like 80% of published authors earn less than £10,000 per year." So, inevitably: " all means, write, if you enjoy it. But, if you value your sanity - and that of any readers - keep it to yourself. Keep the dream; just don't give up the day job."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fall's Crop

Cancel your plans for the coming season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. And prepare to welcome new novels by Amy Bloom and Richard Russo, poetry by Margaret Atwood, a Capote essay collection and John Updike on "Ernest Hemingway, ignorance, JFK Jr., artist Chip Kidd, poet Philip Larkin, 'mind/body problems,' The New Yorker, orgasms, poker, quips, a response to the question, 'Why Do I Live In New England?’ sex and lots of it, James Thurber...verse, Walden, xenophobia, Chinese writer Mo Yan, and [the] almost Zen approach to filtering the wide world".

Terrible Indeed

From a post by Maud Newton: "Terrible news: The great Grace Paley, feminist, activist, and until today of our best living short story writers, has died." (Wikipedia, however, says the "news is unconfirmed".)

Here's a 1998 Salon interview: "You have to keep not giving a shit." And The King's English blog has an earlier post with an extract from an interview commenting upon the appeal of open-endedness in short stories.

Update: The NY Times obit: "For her, cadence and character went hand in hand: her stories are marked by their minute attention to language, with its tonal rise and fall, hairpin rhetorical reversals and capacity for delicious hyperbolic understatement."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

From Darkness, Light

"Animal's People is not a polemic. If it were, it would have no power as a novel. It is a story about people. The characters are everything and the plot evolves out of their desires, idiosyncrasies and failings. Despite the dark subject matter, it is quite a light-hearted book."

- Indra Sinha on his Booker-longlisted novel, his earlier work, his copywriting career, Indian politicians and, of course, Bhopal.

Well Travelled

Monica Ali, Vikram Chandra, Paul Theroux, Francine Prose, Gore Vidal and others choose the 86 greatest travel books of all time.

J.K. Rowling Not The Culprit

Ian Rankin's clarification on his comment that Ms Rowling was working on a detective thriller: "This is a joke that got out of hand. There were 600 people in the audience, and only one person didn't laugh."

Literary Economics

The task: Make literature universally available, combat literary elitism and bridge the polarised divide between 'high' and 'low' genres.

The solution: Affordable paperbacks.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Travelling On

Qurratulain Hyder died earlier today. A brief, recent assessment of her most notable book, Aag Ka Dariya, is here. (The TLS has been quoted as saying that the novel is "to Urdu fiction what One Hundred Years of Solitude is to Hispanic literature".) And here's a biography and an audio clip of Hyder reading from her work.

Five Books Every Reviewer Should Read...

...according to Colm Toibin:

The Collected Works of George Orwell.
Pieces of My Mind, by Frank Kermode.
The Letters of John Keats
Another Beauty or any other prose book by Adam Zagajewski.
Notebooks by Henry James.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Tony Or Not Tony?

Robert Harris, author most recently of the hugely enjoyable Imperium, has a new novel in the works. Titled The Ghost, it's a fictional account of a recently-retired British prime minister's literary self-justification for an unpopular Middle East war. Remind you of anyone?

Designed To Impress

His face on an egg, Hans Wegner 1950s dining chairs, a bill from a bar in Phnom Penh called the Heart of Darkness and a CD entitled Persian Surgery Dervishes. Get inside the world of Hari Kunzru.