Friday, July 31, 2009

Pynchon's commercial venture!

Can you believe that Thomas Pynchon has written a thriller, and a commercial one at that? Much is being talked about his new novel Inherent Vice, which comes out on August 4.

As one of his fans, I'm rather surprised that Pynchon is finally surrendering to a genre (detective novel) that serious writers abhor. Is he tired of writing too complex books dealing with postmodern, heavier themes that today's readers are not fond of? Or, is he just in a relaxing mode to crank out a quick, popular novel while he's gearing himself up for another serious novel like Gravity's Rainbow?

What does Thomas Pynchon look like now?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2009 Man Booker Prize longlist announced

The judges of the Man Booker Prize, after having travelled through a "fertile landscape". settled on 13 books out of a total of 132. James Naughtie, the chair of judges claims it to be "one of strongest lists in recent memory." and "an outstandingly rich fictional mix."

The longlist has two former winners, four past-shortlisted authors and three first-time novelists. It is conspicuous by the absence of any Indian author this time.

Here's the longlist.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Alternative Sexuality latest literary subject?

Alternative sexuality is the latest literary subjct, says Neel Mukherjee, one of the recipients Of Crssword-Videophne Award. His winning novel Past Continuous is of course a saga of a lonely young gay who flees sexually-conservative Kolkata to the freedom of London.

Now, it seems like quit a bold statement. The savvy publishers and lit agents would definitely vote for Neel. A market has already been created in US and Britain with gay and lesbian literature. Now India is opening up. Nothing could be more welcome.

But economics apart, what do you read into this statement?

You see a self-indulgent solipsist, who is incapable of thinking outside of his own small, vacuous world.

Does sexuality, of whatever kind, count anymore in this digital age?

Literature is about an individual's perilous journey through life, and this is the literary subject of all times.

And there are far more important things in our planet than this alternative sexuality.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ali Sethi: another Pakistani writer

I haven't yet read Ali Sethi's The Wish Maker, but liked his interview in the Outlook.
Your favourite writers?
Faiz, Ghalib, Tolstoy, Arundhati Roy.
Roy’s fiction or non-fiction?
Both. To quote her, the two are like jam and jelly. Both can achieve great results.

Another interview, lengthier, is at I am SANE.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Blind Owl: An Iranian Classic

One of world's "most intense" books
Michael Dirda, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post Book World, reviews at length Sadeq P. Hedayat's classic novel The Blind Owl at Barnes & Noble Review.
Somewhere I must have read a little about Hedayat (1903–51), for I knew that he had committed suicide and that The Blind Owl was regarded as one of the great novels of 20th-century Iran. I knew, too, that it was phantasmagoric and macabre, somewhat in the manner of Poe, with a touch of The Arabian Nights, but also philosophical, indeed existential. Hedayat was said to have been a disciple of Sartre. Having now read the book, it does seem influenced by Sartre's Nausea, for its narrator finds existence dizzying, an Escher-like realm of repetition, shifting perspective, and illusion.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Vikram Seth Interview

Outlook India interviews Vikram Seth.
Q:You are the first writer from India who wrote literary fiction that sold like commercial fiction, blurring the distinction between the two. Do you deliberately aim to be readable?

A:I certainly aim to be readable because those are the kind (of books) I like to read. I like to make things as clear as possible within the limits of the complexities of human relations and the structure of language. I don’t try to make things simplistic, though. I do hope this distinction between the literary and the commercial is one that will be increasingly blurred. It never used to be like this in the 19th century. Writers like Dickens and Austen were read very widely. I don’t see why in the 20th century writers started writing in such an abstruse manner that unless you have a degree in English Literature—and perhaps not even then—you can’t read or enjoy their books. Critics say that the so-called airport novel is a kind of shlocky, formulary fiction. But for all its shlockiness, at least it is a page-turner, you want to know what’s happening. Basic issues of human interest—honour, ambition, love, enmity, family, money, intrigue, death—really matter, rather than the etiolated idea of writing some over-dense, over-referential literary construct.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Another Arundhati Roy Interview

Here comes another Arundhati Roy interview in the wake of publication of her new non-fiction title "Listening to Grasshoppers".
"Years of imprisoning and beheading writers never succeeded in shutting them out. However, placing them in the heart of a market and rewarding them with a lot of commercial success, has."

Friday, July 17, 2009

61 Essential Post-modern reads

I stumbled upon this list this morning at LAT home blog and had a curious look at it. Hey, many of my favourite books are here,like Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis", Haruki Murakami's "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle", Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five",Milan Kundera's "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting". A great list. But one thing I can't help wondering: are all real writers post-modernists?

Do we miss anyone? Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie? Are not they post-modernists?

Kathy Acker's "In Memorium to Identity"
Donald Antrim's "The Hundred Brothers"
Margaret Atwood's "The Blind Assassin"
Paul Auster's New York Trilogy
Nicholson Baker's "The Mezzanine"
J.G. Ballard's "The Atrocity Exhibition"
John Barth's "Giles Goat-Boy"
Donald Barthelme's "60 Stories"
John Berger's "G"
Thomas Bernhard's "The Loser"
Roberto Bolaño's "2666"
Jorge Luis Borges' "Labyrinths"
William S. Burroughs' "Naked Lunch"
Robert Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy"
Italo Calvino's "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler"
Julio Cortazar's "Hopscotch"
Robert Coover's "The Universal Baseball Association, Henry J. Waugh, Proprietor"
Stanley Crawford's "Log of the S.S. Mrs. Unguentine"
Mark Danielewski's "House of Leaves"
Don Delillo's "Great Jones Street"
Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle"
E.L. Doctorow's "City of God"
Geoff Dyer's "Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling With D. H. Lawrence"
Umberto Eco's "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana"
Dave Eggers' "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius"
Steve Erickson's "Tours of the Black Clock"
Percival Everett's "I Am Not Sidney Poitier"
William Faulkner's "Absalom! Absalom!"
Jonathan Safran Foer's "Everything Is Illuminated"
William Gaddis' "JR"
William Gass' "The Tunnel" John Hawkes' "The Lime Twig"
Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"
Aleksandar Hemon's "The Lazarus Project"
Michael Herr's "Dispatches"
Shelley Jackson's "Skin"
Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis"
Milan Kundera's "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting"
Jonathan Lethem's "Motherless Brooklyn"
Ben Marcus' "Notable American Women"
David Markson's "Wittgenstein's Mistress"
Tom McCarthy's "Remainder"
Joseph McElroy's "Women and Men"
Steven Millhauser's "Edwin Mullhouse"
Haruki Murakami's "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle"
Vladimir Nabokov's "Pale Fire"
Flann O'Brien's "At Swim-Two-Birds"
Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried"
Harvey Pekar's "American Splendor"
Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow"
Philip Roth's "The Counterlife"
W.G. Sebald's "The Rings of Saturn"
William Shakespeare's "Hamlet"
Gilbert Sorrentino's "Mulligan Stew"
Christopher Sorrentino's "Trance"
Art Spiegelman's Maus I & II
Laurence Stern's "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy"
Scarlett Thomas' "PopCo"
Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five"
David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Full-length literary novel on Twitter!

So, you've heard about(or, read) novel on your cell phone. Now you can read a full-length novel on Twitter.
"I didn't write The French Revolution in short, burstable, Twitterific sentences. I wrote this novel for lovers of literary fiction, with long and loving sentences, exploding with imaginative descriptions and inventive plot twists and characters I hope will stick with you for a while. Twitter is the delivery mechanism, not the defining structure. While I think my whiplash sentences will be compelling in 140-character bursts, it also may backfire.

I'm willing to take that chance. Publishing needs to change, and while I'm not going to revolutionize the industry on my own, I think I can help nudge it toward a more dynamic and customer-friendly future.

Congratulation, Matt. Like you experiment with the delivery of your novel, I'll also experiment with reading a novel this way.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is Wole Soyinka the best Nigerian writer ?

Dr.Olatunji Dare, the well-known journalist, describes Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, as the best Nigerian writer that ever lived.

I wonder what he thinks of Chinua Achebe.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Writing has become a weapon: Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy talks to Tim Adams in the Observer and says that she is writing bits of fiction, but gets derailed by something happening.
"The prize(Booker) was actually responsible in many ways for my political activism. I won this thing and I was suddenly the darling of the new emerging Indian middle class - they needed a princess. They had the wrong woman. I had this light shining on me at the time, and I knew that I had the stage to say something about what was happening in my country. What is exciting about what I have done since is that writing has become a weapon, some kind of ammunition."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Now, A Suitable Girl by Vikram Seth

Sequel to A Suitable Boy? Yes, it is. No joke. Vikram Seth has really started working on it. But he assures us it might not be as long as its 1400-page predecessor.

Q:Are you comfortable with the fanfare with which the impending arrival of A Suitable Girl has been announced? Doesn’t it remind you of the hype surrounding films these days?

A:I would be lying if I said I’m completely at home in it. But if you’re in the book business, the publishers are taking care of every little thing for you, and as a writer, the least you can do is handle these things with good grace. Do I like doing interviews? No, mostly, and there have been many where I’ve switched my mind off completely. But I don’t mind this one. It’s around noon here, and I’m lying on my bed, looking out at a pleasant view from my window, and I don’t mind answering your questions.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Language Thieves!

Just read an article (more appropriately, essay) by Arundhati Roy. She is as always brilliant with her unique observation of happenings around us, and offers her explanation in a cool and intrepid way.

Today, words like 'progress' and 'development' have become interchangeable with economic 'reforms', 'deregulation' and 'privatisation'. 'Freedom' has come to mean 'choice'. It has less to do with the human spirit than with different brands of deodorant. 'Market' no longer means a place where you go to buy provisions. The 'market' is a de-territorialised space where faceless corporations do business, including buying and selling 'futures'. 'Justice' has come to mean 'human rights' (and of those, as they say, 'a few will do'). This theft of language, this technique of usurping words and deploying them like weapons, of using them to mask intent and to mean exactly the opposite of what they have traditionally meant, has been one of the most brilliant strategic victories of the tsars of the new dispensation. It has allowed them to marginalise their detractors, deprive them of a language in which to voice their critique and dismiss them as being 'anti-progress', 'anti-development', 'anti-reform' and of course 'anti-national'—negativists of the worst sort. Talk about saving a river or protecting a forest and they say, 'Don't you believe in Progress?' To people whose land is being submerged by dam reservoirs and whose homes are being bulldozed they say, 'Do you have an alternative development model?' To those who believe that a government is duty-bound to provide people with basic education, healthcare and social security, they say, 'You're against the Market.' And who except a cretin could be against a Market?

Oh, I've also thought along these lines many a times, but never could express it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Waiting for 1Q84's English translation

No release date for English translation of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 has been set yet. But I wish I could get it right now. Yes, I'm hugely obsessed with Murakami's work. I like his passive, almost ignored protagonists, and his deft handling of contemporary themes with his sharp statement and humour. Murakami is no doubt a great thinking writer, and I take pleasure in noting that he has an ever-growing following of readers across the world.

Since I have to wait for a while for the book, I satisfy my appetite by reading all kinds of news and views about the novel.

According to informed critics, 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami's magnum opus.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Haruki Murakami on New Realism

"A common state of mind among people in the contemporary world is that they become unsure about whether the world they see is actually real. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center came crashing down during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York in scenes that seemed to be unreal. As video footage of the towers collapsing were shown over and over again, some people might unwittingly and momentarily have felt they were straying into an odd world where no such towering buildings existed. They possibly think there could be a world where U.S. President George W. Bush was not reelected and the Iraq war did not break out.

I think the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995 and the Aum sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March that year made many Japanese experience a sense of dissociation from reality before people of other countries. They asked themselves, "What we are here for?" My novels, except for "Norwegian Wood," do not represent what we call realism, but seem to have started being accepted the world over as works representing new realism--especially after 9/11.

At the same time, I like secular novels like those written by Honore de Balzac [1799-1850]. I wanted to write a "comprehensive novel" in my own style describing present-day social conditions from a three-dimensional standpoint. I tried to embed human life in the contemporary social climate by going beyond the genre of pure literature and by tapping various approaches that each offered something different.


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