Thursday, October 30, 2008

George Saunders' Jon now on stage

Heard of George Saunders, the short-story madman, recently? He has been frequenting Chicago in the past few months to help develop the first stage adaptation of his work in his hometown.

Opening Thursday, October 30 running until December 14 Collaboraction Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Jon (originally published 2003 in the New Yorker).

"The basis for literature is the fact that all of our brains are essentially, structurally, identical. First love in 1830, in Russia, beneath swaying pines, is neurologically identical to first love in 1975, back of a Camaro, Foghat blaring. That’s why that wonderful cross-firing occurs when we read."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mobylives, new version!

The future arrived yesterday
Mobylives is back with its great fare of news and views about real writers and real writing.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Die Box: Part 2 Of Gunter Grass autobiography

Real writing:"Best by Grass in a long time"

"It's autobiographical writing, but in the way I can do it - telling stories. The first one, Peeling the Onion, was about my youth when I was an unknown author, then it finished with the year 1959 when The Tin Drum came out. Now I start with the year 1960. I didn't like to write about my own writing, but I was interested in how my children - I have many children, eight children - how they saw their father with his typewriter, an old-fashioned typewriter. When they asked questions I would give an answer, but my head was still going on with what was in my head. From this point of view I've collected all my children, and they are speaking about that time in connection with me."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Le Clezio story in New Yorker

The boy who had never seen the sea

"We thought lots of people would be very interested to see what his work was like," said New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman.
"We also wanted to move fast and publish it while people still remember his name.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Writer News: Gommorrha writer faces direct life threat

Roberto Saviano, the Italian writer who has been living under state protection for the past two years after writing "Gommorrha", a best-selling book about the shady business practices of the Camorra, the organized crime group that operates in his home region around Naples, faces a direct threat to his life.

The Camorra’s threats against Mr. Saviano’s life are reportedly worse than the fatwa against Mr. Rushdie following the publication in 1988 of his novel, “The Satanic Verses.”

Rober Saviano was at the ongoing Frankfurt fair to receive an award for the Oscar-nominated movie that was based on his book, “Gomorrah.”

Saturday, October 18, 2008

50 most "worth talking about" books.

A list of 50 books touted as the "most worth talking about" was announced on Friday ahead of World Book Day 2009.

The organisation behind World Book Day published the list to launch its new Spread the Word website designed to encourage reading.

On the site readers are invited to vote for "the best book to talk about".

The winning book will be announced on World Book Day, Thursday 5 March 2009.

The panel that selected the 50 books consisted of major and independent booksellers and representatives of reading groups, as well as World Book Day organisers, the spokesman added.

The winning author will receive a £5,000 prize.

Now, check out how many books in the list you've read, whether they are real writing, or by real writers, or doubt the list being a subtle marketing ploy to promote some titles..

The list:

Imagine This, by Sade Adenirai, (SW Books)

Catch a Fish from the Sea (Using the Internet), by Nasreen Akhtar, (Greenbirds Publishing)

The Blood of Flowers, by Anita Amirrezvani, (Headline Review)

A Golden Age, by Tahmima Anam, (John Murray)

Joe The Only Boy in the World, by Michael Blastland, (Profile)

Away, by Amy Bloom, (Granta)

The Opposite of Love, by Julie Bluxbaum, (Bantam)

The Song Before It Is Sung, by Justin Cartwright, (Bloomsbury)

Broken, by Daniel Clay, (Harper Perennial)

Random Deaths and Custard, by Catrin Dafydd, (Gomer)

The Solitude of Emperors, by David Davidar, (Orion)

Maynard and Jennica, by Rudolph Denson, (Harper Perennial)

Fup, by Jim Dodge, (Canongate)

Zoology, by Ben Dolnick, (Harper Perennial)

The Vitamin Murders, by James Fergusson, (Portobello)

The Glassblower of Murano, by Marina Fiorato, (Burning House)

Ancestor House, by Aminatta Forna, (Bloomsbury)

Love Falls, by Esther Freud, (Bloomsbury)

Atmospheric Disturbances, by Rivka Galchen, (Harper Perennial)

Tao: On the Road and On the Run in Outlaw China, by Aya Goda, (Portobello)

Now You See Him, by Eli Gottlieb, (Serpent's Tail)

Wild, by Jay Griffiths, (Hamish Hamilton)

The Condition, by Jennifer Haigh, (Harper)

The Fantastic Book of Everyone's Secrets, by Sophie Hannah, (Sort of Books)

The Archivist's Story, by Travis Holland, (Bloomsbury)

The Mistress's Daughter, by A.M. Homes, (Granta)

Blood Tender, by Rachel Ingrams, (Tindal Street)

When We Were Romans, by Mathew Kneale, (Picador)

The Children of Freedom, by Marc Levy, (Harper)

Bad Traffic, by Simon Lewis, (Sort of Books)

Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction, by Alison MacLeod, (Hamish Hamilton)

Remedy, by Anne Marsella, (Portobello)

The Family That Couldn't Sleep, by D.T. Max, (Portobello)

The Bloomsday Dead, by Adrian McKinty, (Serpent's Tail)

Feather Man, by Rhyll McMaster, (Marion Boyars)

Queuing for Beginners, by Joe Moran, (Profile)

Season of the Witch, by Natasha Mostert, (Bantam)

Twenty Eight: Stories of AIDS in Africa, by Stephanie Nolen, (Portobello)

Serious Things, by Gregory Norminton, (Sceptre)

Chinese Whispers, by Hsiao-Hung Pai, (Figtree)

Train to Trieste, by Domnica Radulescu, (Doubleday)

Gold, by Dan Rhodes, (Canongate)

The Good Plain Cook, by Bethan Roberts, (Serpent's Tail)

Vicky Had One Eye Open, by Darryl Samaraweera, (Burning House)

The Forger, by Cioma Schönhaus, (Granta)

Absurdistan, by Gary Shteyngart, (Granta)

Do Good Lives Have to Cost the Earth?, by Andrew Sims & Joe Smith, (Constable & Robinson)

I Think There's Something Wrong With Me, by Nigel Smith, (Black Swan)

Rainbow's End, by Lauren St.John, (Hamish Hamilton)

The Abyssinian Proof, by Jenny White, (Orion)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

West stooge or real chronicler?


In India, no one talks about poverty now-a-days. Not even the leftists. What you hear instead is that India is shining, a super-power, and most of its people are getting rich every day. It's of course a myth that the country's politicians, most being neocon converts, and industrial biggies have been assiduously building for the past few years.

It's interesting that Aravind Adiga has attacked this myth hard and laid the country bare, warts and all, through his Booker-winning novel The White Tiger. "so where is shining India everyone's talking about? It was time someone broke the myth," said Adiga in an interview just after the announcement of the award.

In a report titled Western stooge or true chronicler of India? The Times of India writes: But opinion among Adiga's countrymen was divided, with many seeing the young man, partly brought up in Australia, as a story-teller stooge of the West for laying India bare...

I scanned some other newspapers for reactions, but nowhere it was so harsh and savage. Clearly, it reflects the newsgroup's own point of view.

The Hindu, a respected daily from Chennai, has an editorial on Adiga's success.

"The debutant’s novel beat the odds with its unusual voice and its unsparing vision of an India that many may prefer not to see. The White Tiger is a stunningly brave narrative of our times and its triumph is well deserved."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Aravind Adiga wins the Man Booker Prize 2008

The 33 year-old Adiga took home the £50,000 prize for his debut novel The White Tiger. He is only the third debut novelist to claim the award in Booker Prize history, and, according to the Guardian, is the second-youngest Booker winner ever

Aravind Adiga was born in Madras on 23rd October 1974 and studied at Columbia and Oxford Universities. He is a former correspondent for TIME magazine in India. He currently lives in Mumbai.

The Booker judges said, "In the end, The White Tiger prevailed because the judges felt that it shocked and entertained in equal measure. The novel undertakes the extraordinarily difficult task of gaining and holding the reader's sympathy for a thoroughgoing villain. The book gains from dealing with pressing social issues and significant global developments with astonishing humour.
Feel interested in The White Tiger: A Novel?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Possessed by Shadows/ Donigan Merritt

I don’t usually review books in this blog, but this is an important novel, and I want to share my reading experience. The novel is Possessed by Shadows by Donigan Merritt (Other Press, New York).

PBS is about a woman climber Molly – a terminal brain tumour patient – and her husband Tom, also a climber, taking a trip to the mountains to fulfill her desire to die in the mountains, her passion for the better part of her 34 years of life. It’s epic material, and Donigan handles it with just as deftness and restraint as it demands.

You find two voices in the novel: Tom’s sophisticated, savvy, occasionally morose voice, and Molly’s unfettered, jovial and confessional one. Together they create their individual and collective stories, and form a unique narrative that is fascinating and irresistible. But the novel’s main strength is its humanity quotient. The novel is full of guileless but believable characters all belonging to the community of climbers. Their actions and talks seem to be brimming with humanity, in a land not really famous for it, and never for once flag and suck.

Towards the end of 239-page book, you see Tom carrying Molly on his back strapped in a rescue chair up the slope braving the odd weather. Stefan, his friend, another climber accompanies him. “She did not speak, but Sefran told me that from time to time her eyes were open and she seemed to be trying to focus.” Then Molly dies in the circumstances she craved for, but she had already been in a coma. “I saw blood trickling from her ear. She struggled for air less than 10 seconds and then stopped. Everything stopped and there was only the wind buffeting the tent walls…I ran my fingers through her fine long hair. She was dead.” Great depiction, without being banal or stereotype.

But PBS is as much about death as about life. Or rather, it’s a riveting narrative about a circle we call human life.

I think Donigan Merritt is a brilliant and real writer. I recommend this novel to all readers of literary fiction.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Le Clezio interview

Q : Your novels also have an autobiographical side. Do you get the impression of being the archivist of your own history, of your own experience of life?

LC : My favourite novelists are Stevenson and Joyce. They drew their inspiration from their first years of life. Through writing they relived their past and tried to understand the "whys" and "hows" of it. When you read Joyce’s Ulysses, you truly have the impression that Joyce was not aiming to relate the story of the present moment, but to express everything that was in him, everything that made him what he was. He resurrected the slightest sounds of the street, snippets of conversations, the corporal punishment suffered at school and which still haunted him like an obsession. Naipaul too, returns in his imagination to his first years of education. Literature is only strong when it manages to express the first sensations, the first experiences, the first ideas, the first disappointments.

Read the full interview.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

French writer wins the Nobel in literature 2008

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2008 is awarded to the French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio

"author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization".

Nobel Prize for Literature 2008: Press Release
About Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio

(updated Oct 10) Le Clezio is largely unknown outside of his own country France where he has long been known and respected as an anti-establishment figure. He has been writing for about four decades, but just a few of his translated works are now available, and those too in not so new and tidy condition.

An interesting thing about Le Clezio is that all of his works have been published so far by independent and university-affiliated publishers(real writers take heart!). Now it would be far more interesting to watch how the publishing behemoths, some of whom must have rejected his works earlier, deal with this new Nobel Laureate.

Le Clezio was initially an experimentalist, but later switched to traditional form. His reaction to the Nobel Prize is worth a mention."I am very happy, and I am also very moved because I wasn't expecting this at all. Many other names were mentioned, names of people for whom I have a lot of esteem. I was in good company. Luck, or destiny, or maybe other reasons, other motives, had it so that I got it. But it could have been someone else."

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My favourite Bengali writers are all dead and dying

Dearth of real writers in current Bengali literature

It’s autumn festival time in India, and you get some days off your work -medical practice, in my case. For years on end, I’ve used this "puja" time reading new works of Bengali literature, which have a way of landing in the market by way of special editions of almost every Bengali daily and periodical. These are really tomes, and you’ll get in each of them several novels (5 to 8 on an average), and more than a dozen stories by established and upcoming authors among other things. It’s practically impossible to read all of them, - it doesn’t make sense also – but you can choose your picks.

Until last year, I was a sucker for this Puja literature, and geekily bought and read quite a number of mags. This year I’ve not bought a single mag and ai’nt reading any work at all - decidedly of course. Though I wish to read a long essay by Taslima Nasreen published in Bangla Statesman. In it Taslima has written about her nightmarish brush with the Marxist Government during her last Kolkata sojourn.

Puja tomes have changed hugely from what they were in the past. Once these were focused on literature, now the shift is towards entertainment, following in the current trend of the market. So, what you find in them are all kinds of schlock things, and writers who can write them.

For the past few years I had pared down my reading list to just these writers: Shyamal Gangopadhyay, Sandipan Chattopadhyay, Debesh Roy, Mahasweta Devi( a contender for the Nobel), Udayan Ghosh, Subimal Mishra. Shyamal Gangopadhyay, Bengal’s Marquez, died a few years ago. Sandipan is also dead. Udayan died last year. Mahasweta, being engaged now with her activist work most of the time, is not writing much fiction these days.

So, I’m left with Debesh Roy. Now, here was a writer who had life-experiences, knowledge, and writing prowess to write big novels which I’ve always enjoyed, and spoken highly of. He has steadfastly written quality fiction in spite of poor response from readers and publishers.

But strangely for me, when the Singur mass-movement started last year against the Marxist government's forced acquisition of farmers’ land for SEZ, Debesh Roy actively took side with the government. This was a stand against the underdogs whom he has championed for all of his life! It was painful for me. i let him die in my consciousness as a writer. Now I'm no longer interested in his work.

Subimal Mishra is another of my favourite authors. He’s anti-establishment, and like Udayan Ghosh, never wrote for any commercial mag. Yesterday I called him to learn where I could find his new writing. His phone rang, but there was none to pick up the receiver. For a while, he had been keeping in bad health – complications of his long-standing diabetes actually. I was worried. So I dashed an e-mail to his translatorV.Ramaswamy(Harper Collins’ India would publish Subimal's selected stories next year)enquiring about his whereabouts. Ramaswamy's e-mail reply: “I tried to contact him too. No idea. Might be shifted to hospital.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dumb down your work, or...

Real Writers be damned!

"I have had a weird feeling that I'm being dumbed down by my publishers and it's interesting there's an agenda of how it should be in the marketplace.I'm amazed they are even trying it on"

--Dame Margaret, British novelist who takes over as chair of The Society of Authors.

Top novelist feels pressure..

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Nobel Prize for Literature 2008

Is it Haruki Murakami this year?
Once again, the Nobel Prize season is here. The prize announcements will start next week with medicine, and end as always with literature. In all probablity the Nobel Prize for literature will be announced on Oct 16 this year.

The punters have been already at it. Their hot favourites this time are:
Claudio Magris at 3/1
Adonis at 4/1
Amos Oz at 5/1
Joyce Carol Oates at 7/1
Philip Roth at 7/1
Don DeLillo at 10/1
Haruki Murakami at 10/1
Les Murray at 10/1
Yves Bonnefoy at 10/1
Arnošt Lustig at 14/1

Horace Engdahl, Swedish Academy's permanent Secretary, has already frustrated the American authors and their fans with his statement,
"The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature."Full Report here

Murakami, Murray and Bonnefoy are three big contenders this year. All of them are winners of Franz Kafka Prize, regarded by many as a precursor to the Nobel. Murakami, of course, has the best chance but the Nobel jury has a healthy aversion to the bestselling authors.

Have you read Claudio Magris , the topper of the list? Do you know which language he represents? No prize for guessing.

Last word: the 18-member Nobel award jury is quite unpredictable, and is used to spring a surprise. Think it selected Elfriede Jelinek, though for good reason, whom nobody ever thought to be a winner!

(updated -5 october) Adam Kirsch responds to Horace Engdahl's remark on American writers in Nobel Gas in Slate.

(updated -6 October) Another good but more balanced response to Horace Engdahl's remark in the New York Times
Lost in Translation? A Swede's Snub of US Lit.

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