Friday, May 29, 2009

Murakami's new novel after five years

An exciting news for literary tasters: Haruki Murakami, one of the greatest living novelists, has published this morning a new novel titled 1Q84 after five years. The book - Japanese version, no translation yet -is so much in demand that its publisher Shinchosh was forced to increase its first print run by 100,000 to 480,000 copies amid a flood of advance orders.

The novel has 1066 pages, and is published in two volumes.

..1Q84 is classic Murakami, It is described as a "complex and surreal narrative" that "shifts back and forth between tales of two characters, a man and a woman, who are searching for each other".

The novel "explores social and emotional issues such as cult religions, violence, family ties and love."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award goes to James King

James King has won the second annual Amazon contest in search of next popular novel and will receive a publishing contract worth $25,000 from Penguin Group (USA)for his novel Bill Warrington's Last Chance.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Anointed First-time Authors!

Lakshmi Chaudhry has an interesting column at about the current publishing's feast-or-famine approach to first novels.

Then there are the chosen few, an elite group of first-time authors anointed as potential geniuses and showered with gargantuan advances by the literary powers-that-be. Gautam Malkani, for example, received £380,000 (around Rs80 lakh) for Londonstani, which was over-hyped and then resoundingly panned by critics. As of last November, it had sold an underwhelming 15,000 copies.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gabriel Garcia Marquez interview

It's actually an old interview, but since a new bio of the great author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life by Gerald Martin is out, you may like to take a look at it before you read the book.

Q:You usually attach a lot of importance to the first sentence of a book. You told me once that at times it has taken you longer to write the first sentence than all the rest of the book together. Why?

A:Because the first sentence can be the laboratory for testing the style, the structure and even the length of the book.

Q:Does it take you long to write a novel?

A:Not to actually write it. That's quite a rapid process. I wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude in less than two years. But I spent fifteen or sixteen years thinking about that book before I sat down at the typewriter.

Q:And it took The Autumn of the Patriarch that long to mature. How long did you wait before writing Chronicle of a Death Foretold?

A:Thirty years.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Salman Rushdie Story review

I've read most of Salman Rushdie's novels, but never a story. In fact, I always file him under Novelist, not short-story writer. So I read through his recently published New Yorker story with a lot of interest.

In the South is about old age and its attendant downside set in Bombay, Rushdie’s favourite city. Two characters emerge, V. Senior and V.Junior, two adjacent neighbours in an apartment building, both 81-year-old, but with entirely different background, Senior having a successful past and Junior just an ordinary clerk in his working life. Obviously, circumstances put them together, but Senior hates Junior in every conceivable way.

Senior is actually the protagonist of the story. He’s cynical, cold, mean, heartless, and hates practically everybody including his second wife “with a wooded leg”. When Junior falls down in an accident while on their afternoon walk together, Senior slips away, and he is not really shocked by Junior’s death.

Curiously, Senior is much too obsessive about death. We see more of his instincts in his living than any other thing, and at times he seems like a monster weakened by age. In many ways, he represents an average man of this time, but it is hard to believe that he has not a little redemptive side to his character.

Does this story, otherwise well-crafted and a great read, reflect Rushhdie’s current insights into today’s man and life? What however elevates the story is the final part when a big calamity appears,(note such calamities frequently happen in Rushdie's works) and after many, many deaths Senior sees Junior again before him. That cliche magic realism, brand Rushdie!

I'm not sure I liked the story.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Imre Kertesz on his concenration camp experience

Nobel Laureate Imre Kertesz recounts in an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur his experience in concentration camp.
As a child I knew nothing outside the totalitarian regime. When I returned to Hungary, I didn't find it too hard to understand what was going on there. I saw how people were turned into cogs in the machine. The signs were identical. In 1956 I saw the Uprising in Budapest. You don't intellectualise this sort of thing, you just live it. Everything was a lie, the whole world was a lie. But most of the time you were clear-headed in the midst of absurdity. I felt as if my identity was deformed, as if I'd lost my normality. But I was never able to explain it. I asked myself if my 'anomaly' had become normal. Or whether I had become someone else."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kamila Shamsie reads Michael Ondaatje

A writer's review of In the Skin of a Lion
"There are certain books that I claim to love and that I recommend to many of my friends, but it's not really love, it's just appreciation.

I know this because there are other books that I do truly deeply love. I love them so much that I can't risk giving them to friends who might not adore them as well — how could I be sure the friendship will survive such a blow? In the end, it seems safer to keep those books for myself.

And yet, it is also a quality of love to want to announce it from the rooftops. So here I am, telling anyone who will listen, of my love for Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion."


Monday, May 11, 2009

Advantage Western writers: Tash Aw

The Australian has an interview-based profile of Tash Aw, the Malayasian author of hugely successful debut novel The Harmony Silk Factory.

There is an imbalance in the system which hugely favours Western writers and assumes certain hierarchies. The publishing world assumes that Southeast Asians don't read and aren't going to spend money on books. This might historically be true, but I think things are changing. There are some very fine writers from the region now. If I can in some way influence the way publishers regard us, that will be a small but very valuable thing accomplished.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Italo Calvino: The extreme other

In the Times, Jeanette Winterson reviews Italo Calvino's The Complete Cosmicomics

Cosmicomics, with its ancient Big Bang dwarf Qfwfq as the narrator, unravels the beginning of life and fuses Sixties sci-fi with the extravagant atomics of a much more ancient Italian writer, Lucretius. The reader does not need to know that Calvino is using De Rerum Natura, and its glorious conceit of life's beginnings as a series of ideas randomly colliding with each other, causing a cascade of creativity and chaos, where a cauliflower might just as easily have become the dominant life form on Earth. If the reader does pick up Lucretius, the pleasure is multiplied - pretty much like the cauliflowers.

That's the kind of writer Calvino is - yet his multilayered narratives are never showy in that dismal post-modern way of meta-text verbiage, rather they are winged. As a reader you can choose in which direction you want to fly.

Writers are Birds!

"The secret connection, I think, is that I sometimes feel like an endangered little bird – a species whose days on this earth are numbered. I like quiet, old-fashioned places. In Poland the farming industry is much less developed, and because it's poor, the landscape is full of birds. Flannery O'Connor once said that writers are unfortunately cheered by the fact that poverty will always exist because it means their kind won't die out. You don't get poorer than birds. Birds are so poor, they eat beetles."
Jonathan Franzen is now currently working on his new novel in Brandenburg near to the border to Poland. He tells Wieland Freund why he is both writer and ornithologist

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cormac McCarthy among recipients of PEN Literary Awards

Cormac McCarthy wins the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction this year.

McCarthy’s fiction parallels his movement from the Southeast to the West—the first four novels being set in Tennessee, the last three in the Southwest and Mexico. The Orchard Keeper (1965) won the Faulkner Award for a first novel; it was followed by Outer Dark (1968), Child of God (1973), Suttree (1979), and Blood Meridian (1985). All the Pretty Horses, which won the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1992, is the first volume in McCarthy’s acclaimed Border Trilogy, and was followed by The Crossing (1994) and Cities of the Plain(1998)

McCarthy received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. He is also the author of The Stone Mason: A Play in Five Acts.

PEN Literary Award 2009 recipients

Sunday, May 3, 2009

He has a literary quote on his wall

"I have a quote here on my wall by Henry James in which he says, 'We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.'

"It's a wonderful quote. You kind of struggle along and hope for the best. If something works, you have no idea why. And you have no idea if it does work anyway. Honestly, no one's going to have a clue if this book is worth reading or not in 75 years. Literary history is littered with books that were huge successes when they came out and got completely forgotten in five years, and also with books that were completely ignored when they came out and are now the greatest classics of literature. Like Moby-Dick. So who knows?"

Seems like a real writer is talking. Can you guess who it's?

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