Prufrock's Page

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Tingle Test

“We are liable to miss the best of life if we do not know how to tingle, if we do not learn to hoist ourselves just a little higher than we generally are in order to sample the rarest and ripest fruit of art which human thought has to offer.”

- From Nabokov's Lectures on LIterature, quoted in an appreciative essay by Steven Kellman

Deja Vu All Over Again

This is from a letter written by Salman Rushdie to Taslima Nasrin way back in 1994. It's time to read it again:

"Taslima, I know that there must be a storm inside you now. One minute you will feel weak and helpless, another strong and defiant. Now you will feel betrayed and alone, and now you will have the sense of standing for many who are standing silently with you. Perhaps in your darkest moments you will feel you did something wrong - that those demanding your death may have a point. This of all your goblins you must exorcise first. You have done nothing wrong. The wrong is committed by others against you. You have done nothing wrong, and I am sure that one day soon you will be free."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Come Back Malamud, All Is Forgiven

Even Richard Ford left him out of The New Granta Book of the American Short Story. Unfair. The time is ripe for a Malamud revival, and Joyce Carol Oates seems to agree: "Given the relative narrowness of Malamud’s subject matter, the more subdued range of his writerly voice, and an aesthetic puritanism temperamentally at odds with the flamboyant self-displays of Bellow (Herzog, Humboldt’s Gift) and Roth (Portnoy’s Complaint, etc), it seems inevitable, if unfortunate, that he should come to seem, in time, the least impressive of the four." (The fourth being Isaac Bashevis Singer.)

Turning The Ephemeral Solid

The role of a critic? "You have to learn to load solid matter into notices of ephemeral happenings," was Edmund Wilson's motto. A brief overview of the man and his work.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Somehow, One Missed That

"Professor Wendell, in an essay on the Salem Witches, lays down the hypothesis that all the phenomena of suggestion and hypnotism, of clairvoyance and mediumship, which science uses now to explain what was miraculous to our ancestors, may very plausibly be considered rudimentary vestiges of powers of perception and communication which belonged to what was man before he stood upright on his hind legs and knew how to use his tongue for speech. Such a doctrine finds much illumination in the Jungle Books."

- From a June 1898 review of Kipling's The Jungle Books in The Atlantic

Holiday Reading

All you wanted to know (and more) about the relationship between Raymond Carver and Gordon Lish. A Birkerts-like lament on the decline of reading. Fiction by (among others) Junot Diaz, Raymond Carver and Jhumpa Lahiri (this last not available online yet, alas). A stirring, informed piece on Led Zeppelin's return. James Wood on J.M. Coetzee. A history of American snapshots by John Updike. Poetry by Grace Paley. Reviews by Anthony Lane. Goodness, that's quite an issue.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Creative Writing In The British Classroom

From The Education Guardian, a thoughtful and well-considered piece on whether to take that creative writing class or not. Two comments stand out: the first, from Oxford's Clare Morgan: "...the romantic notion of the single artist struggling ... in a garret has been eroded", replaced by "the increasing acceptability of the notion of writing as a craft, the skills of which one can develop through apprenticeship". And the second, by Jon Elsom, a part-time student at Birkbeck: "Committing the time and ... money to study an MA gives me the structure, motivation and discipline I need to be able to tell my job to get back in its box when I need to."

The Centre Holds

Next year marks the 5oth publication anniversary of a novel by a Nigerian that is heralded as "an inspiration for writers and readers not only on the African continent but throughout the world". International events in about 15 countries are planned to commemorate the event -- including India. Get ready for the fanfare by reading -- or re-reading -- it at once.