Prufrock's Page

Friday, September 21, 2007

Why Arundhati Roy Hasn't Written Another Novel

"I found the [Man Booker] shortlist very strange and very surprising. I haven't read any of them apart from Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach and that was more of a novella than a novel. Perhaps the books they picked are actually very good so I'm trying to look on the bright side. Still, I think it's a big problem when they give the prize to a first-time novelist because it's such a prestigious prize to give away. Just look at Arundhati Roy and The God of Small Things - she hasn't written anything since she won the prize; it finished her."

- Mariella Frostrup, former Booker judge and BBC radio presenter.

Why One Bemoans The Lack Of A Proper Library In These Parts

In his review of Lewis Dabney's life of Edmund Wilson, Pankaj Mishra wrote: "With his vivid sense of the past, his active participation in the present, and his quest for a new order, Wilson not only managed, in the first half of his life, to create one of the most wide-ranging and clear-eyed records of this great American transformation—what makes many of his books likely to endure, and to be valued as both personal and social history." Now, Wilson's essays and reviews from the 1920s to the 1940s have been collected in two handsome volumes, leading Colin Wilson to rave, too: "He was a modern-day Theseus in the world of letters, the man who would lead you out of the labyrinth of what, exactly, to read next: not merely for your edification, but for the general good of your soul."

Two Bills

It's funny in parts, it's comprehensive, but, says Tom Payne of Bill Bryson's latest work, Shakespeare: The World as a Stage, "I'm afraid that there is almost nothing – barely a mote, let alone a scrap – that gives much insight into Bryson's feelings about Shakespeare. It's probably fair to say that he's a fan; he does concede that his subject is a genius. Damn right – and?"

The Christie Mystery And The Doyle Paradox

The Telegraph reviews well-received biographies of two of the most popular writers of detective fiction. In the "affectionate, admiring, perceptive and absolutely convincing" Agatha Christie: An English Mystery by Laura Thompson, the writer's famous disappearing act -- when she left her car beside a dangerous quarry and checked into a hotel in Harrogate using the name of the girl her husband was having an affair with -- is cleared up thus: "Agatha was in a fragile state, her mother having recently died and her husband being blatantly unfaithful. She wanted to frighten him into changing his behaviour." And in the "impeccably researched" Conan Doyle by Andrew Lycett, the biographer dwells on the writer's contradictions: "On one hand, he financed the proto-Fascist British Brothers League which, in the paranoid years before the First World War, lobbied to keep German Jews out of the East End. Yet he also fought fiercely on behalf of George Edalji, a Parsee Indian living in Staffordshire..." And again: "'Becoming a spiritualist so soon after creating the quintessentially rational Sherlock Holmes: that is the central paradox of Arthur's life."

Not So Secret Agents

"[T]he usually sedate, dignified, slow-moving world of books is in uproar, transfixed by one of the bitterest and most gripping feuds to have affected the literary world," says The Times' Stefanie Marsh breathlessly. It all started when Pat Kavanagh, venerable literary agent with Britain’s oldest literary agency, Peters Fraser & Dunlop -- who also happens to be Julian Barnes' wife -- resigned after negotiations for an attempted £4 million buy-out by the firm’s agents failed. Soon many othes followed suit, threatening the firm's future -- given that authors usually follow their agents. Moreover, with 's new managing director Caroline Michel's flair for PR, asks Ms Marsh in a rather unexpected segue, are "we on the brink of a literary future in which Tom Stoppard presents cookery programmes and Richard Harris appears in a new series of Rome, dressed for the part in a toga?"

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Enter Roth

Expect reams of newsprint to be devoted to Philip Roth and his new Exit Ghost very soon. These will range from the devoted to the contemptuous (did someone say Kakutani?) to the what's-all-the-fuss-about-anyway? Here, for a start, is Adam Kirsch: "Even if the a little wan, and the observations of contemporary life a little cranky (Mr. Roth has discovered the cell phone, and he is not pleased), this ruthless honesty makes it a vital book, and a worthy conclusion to the Zuckerman series."

Barnard Bar None

Zora Neale Hurston. Jhumpa Lahiri. Anna Quindlen. Edwidge Danticat. Erica Jong.Tama Janowitz. They've all studied at Barnard. How does the college turn young women into accomplished writers?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Great Scott

"A writer like me must have an utter confidence, an utter faith in his star. It's an almost mystical feeling, a feeling of nothing-can- happen-to-me, nothing-can-harm-me, nothing-can-touch-me. Thomas Wolfe has it. Ernest Hemingway has it. I once had it. But through a series of blows, many of them my own fault, something happened to that sense of immunity and I lost my grip."

- The Guardian reproduces an interview with F. Scott Fitzgerald that originally appeared in the New York Post of 25 September 1936.

Amis Admonished

"...if there's one thing worse than a rushed and superficial novel responding to 9/11, it's an over-ponderous polemic by a verbose novelist." Alex Stein tears into Martin Amis, dwelling on the issue of style versus substance.


"What contemporary readers don't seem to like are short stories that don't connect to each other. Why?" asks Julian Gough, worrying about the future form of the novel.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Joke About A Joke

"They're books about stories, books about books and writing, especially something like The Well of Lost Plots, which is all about the writing process. In some ways, they're a feedback loop on themselves. I make a joke about something and then make a joke about the joke."

- Jasper Fforde on his novels

No Nuisance Committed

Amrit Dhillon writes on "the rise of Indian English" with particular reference to Binoo K. John's just published Entry From Backside Only.