Prufrock's Page

Saturday, January 05, 2008

'Where's Malcolm Lowry? I Hear You Cry. Graham Swift? Zadie Smith? Byatt But No Drabble?'

Erica Wagner anticipates criticism and debate in introducing The Times' list of the Greatest British Writers Since 1945. (No Peter Ackroyd, no P.D. James, no William Trevor -- but you'll find J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkein.)

Taking His Time

He's written just two books in the last 15 years, once entertained notions of becoming a Trappist monk and returned to the US recently after years in Berlin. The Telegraph profiles the incomparable Jeffrey Eugenides: "...I think the only thing I've ever had on my side, more than a flashing ability or a talent or anything like that, was a determination not to quit. Tenaciousness is what got me to publish a couple of books, I think."

Audacious Highwire Act

"...the most fundamental character trait of short stories, other than their shortness, would seem to be audacity. More than even the sestina, short stories are the highwire act of literature, the man keeping all those pretty plates up and spinning on skinny sticks."

- An extract from Richard Ford's introduction to The New Granta Book of the American Short Story. (What still rankles is that there isn't a single story by Malamud in the volume.)

Friday, January 04, 2008

New Voices

An earlier report on debutant authors in The Guardian, that one overlooked, is fascinating in that it makes those rarefied creatures come across as so...regular. Nick Harkaway (The Gone Away World), son of John Le Carre, says anxiously, "Can you make me look cool? In family photographs, I'm always standing at the edge looking like the country cousin." Mohammed Hanif (A Case of Exploding Mangoes) reveals, "My son would try to read bits over my shoulder while I was writing the book. I think he got bored because it took me two years. He would say, 'Are you still writing that mangoes book?' " Joe Dunthorne (Submarine) says, "Saying I'm a writer is one of the most uncomfortable things. You can't help but feel you are showing off." And, in a confession sure to gladden the hearts of Mumbai's commuters with literary aspirations, Lucie Whitehouse (The House at Midnight) says that her novel was written over six years, mainly on the train to work. Come on now, all of you who're reading this: you can do it, too.

Plus Ca Change...

Those in the book business look back on 2007 as yet another year of uncertainty and possible decline, mediated by hyped new titles and technology, finds Scott Timberg: "'s hard to reconcile the unease people feel about the business with the excitement they feel about the books themselves."

Striking Novelists

The Hollywood screenwriters' protest shows no signs of abating. And now, literary lions are taking a leaf from their book: " 'I want more than two free copies of the literary journal where I have been published," said a woman who would only give the name 'Virginia Woolf.' As she spoke she clutched copies of the literary journals White Chocolate and the University of Southern Kansas-North Campus Review. 'I would also like to demand fifteen cents per page.' 'It's just pennies,' said Leo Tolstoy. 'But it adds up.' " Read all about it.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

100 Grantas

How did a "tiny Cambridge journal rise to conquer the literary world"? On the occasion of Granta's 100th issue, Simon Garfield tells us.