Prufrock's Page

Friday, September 14, 2007

East, West

In the late 1990s, a young American woman arrives in Bangkok to teach children English. And a young Thai man moves from Bangkok to Ithaca to study English literature. Today, they're among the most promising young American writers.

The Next Sunrise

Those of you who marvelled at Chimamanda Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun and are anticipating her next, hold on. “I’m waiting,” she says, “for the spirits to call me.”

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Simple War And Peace Won't Do Nowadays

A Short History of Tractors in Ukraine. Everyman's Guide to Scientific Living. Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Just when you thought novel titles couldn't get quirkier, along comes The Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England (which, says Ron Charles, is "a mixture of Mark Twain and Jasper Fforde").

An Artist Of The Songwriting World

Some people want to quit whatever it is that they're doing at present to become writers. Well, Kazuo Ishiguro quit writing (for the moment only, one hopes) to try his hand at an earlier obsession: songwriting. He's just written the lyrics for four songs on Breakfast on the Morning Tram, the seventh solo album by the London-based jazz singer Stacey Kent. And how was the experience? "I'm used to writing novels," he admits. "I sat down and wrote what I thought was a normal-length song. It's only when they sang a rough version of what they had that I realized, 'My God, this is an awful lot of lyrics!' "

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pamuk's Colours

Orhan Pamuk's new book of essays, Other Colours, is out. Here's Matthew Peters' appreciative review: "These essays are always lucid, sometimes melancholic, but never resigned. They deserve the wide readership that they will doubtless find."

The Art Of Magical Compression

David Foster Wallace explains what he values in his introduction to The Best American Essays 2007: "I tend, as a reader, to prize and admire clarity, precision, plainness, lucidity, and the sort of magical compression that enriches instead of vitiates. Someone’s ability to write this way, especially in nonfiction, fills me with envy and awe. That might help explain why a fair number of BAE ’07’s pieces tend to be short, terse, and informal in usage/syntax. Readers who enjoy noodling about genre might welcome the news that several of this year’s Best Essays are arguably more like causeries or propos than like essays per se, although one could counterargue that these pieces tend, in their essential pithiness, to be closer to what’s historically been meant by ‘essay.’ "

(Yes, there are footnotes here, too. Much as one admire's the man's work, one wishes he would do away with this affectation.)

Why There Will Always Be Litblogs

The New York Post follows in the footsteps of The Times of India, according to this report: "...we hear the tabloid has given in completely, and editors have decided to stop running book reviews. Their last, according to their Website, was printed in late July."

Magazine, Yes, Festival, No

In The Village Voice, Rose Jacobs says she's a fan of The New Yorker, but not of its annual literary festival: "An editorial vision—or event-planning vision—that is self-satisfied, that fails to seek out new voices and new ideas, does its fans and its subjects a disservice."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Need For Speed

From about the end of March, the five Booker prize judges have to make their way through 110 books in not much more than four months -- a little less than a book a day. John Sutherland and Tony Buzan tell you how to do it.

Distributing Dirt

“Writers are like scavengers. We collect the dirt, grimness of life, misery, happiness, feelings of despair and elation, of hope and frustrations of the real people."

- The Booker-shortlisted Indra Sinha holds forth.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Good Old Days

Rainstorms, personal attacks, marriage proposals and abuse. Andrew O'Hagan on book festivals he has known.


"The Solitude of Emperors, while a lucid history lesson and a useful summary of a simmering dynamic whose lingering implications threaten to undermine a rising superpower, never quite takes on a life of its own as a novel."

- The Gazette's Ian McGillis isn't too impressed with David Davidar's second effort.

Spotting A Ghost

First Exit Ghost assessment: "My great pleasure is that I have a proof copy of Philip Roth's new novel, Exit Ghost. It's the latest from Roth's fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. And surprise, surprise, it's about sex, death and writing fiction. It's funny, wise and irresistible - Roth just gets better and better."

- Alan Yentob in The Observer

(In The Atlantic, however, Christopher Hitchens seems very annoyed with the novel. The full piece isn't online, alas.)