Saturday, December 29, 2012

And now "Fifty Shades.." goes to university!

Sex educator and American University adjunct professor Stef Woods didn't see "mommy porn" when she first heard buzz about the E L James erotic romance bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey at a doctor's office, where the receptionists, nurse, and doctor were all reading the book. She saw a potential class topic. Having taught college classes on activism and social media and sexuality and social media, Woods found the combination of number of books sold, media hype, and issues related to female sexuality, fan fiction, and social media compelling enough to successfully propose “Contemporary American Culture: The 50 Shades Trilogy,” which she will teach to 25 students starting in January.

God help us all.




Friday, December 28, 2012

An end-of-year bonanza: English translation of Intizar Hussain's Urdu novel "Basti"

Anglophone fans of South Asian literature get an end-of-year bonanza this week when Intizar Husain's 1979 Urdu novel Basti, regarded as a contemporary classic among readers of Urdu, receives its belated first American publication

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mo Yan's writing is like a sharp needle ..

"Mo Yan’s writing is like a sharp needle that pierces the veins to draw blood. Like all great writers he has the ability of speaking in many different voices, often simultaneously. And his characters sometimes give the impression they are creating Mo Yan, not the other way around". 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Consuming fiction on Twitter

"Indeed, the working title of Egan’s story was “Lessons Learned,” and in virtually every tweet the text illustrates how thoroughly the protagonist has absorbed not only the practical wisdoms of her training as an undercover agent but also the ethos of her culture, the tenets of her tribe. This observation points to the most significant messages the story conveys: that our thoughts are not our thoughts (they are culture’s thoughts), and that even our intimate experiences are filtered through limited emotional constructs learned from society. Rather than despair at such apparently bleak conclusions, however, Egan’s story suggests we should approach them with an HTML-era mindset—one that accepts the limits of authenticity by embracing masquerade with a stoic playfulness and with a highly engaged intellect comfortable with irony and paradox."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rohinton Mistry in WLT | Deborah Levy on new thinkers

World Literature Today showcases Indian-Canadian novelist Rohinton Mistry in its January/February 2013 issue. A part of it is available online. Incidentally, Rohinton Mistry is 2012 Neustadt Prize laureate.Samrat Upadhyay has an interesting essay on Mistry's works.
Mistry is not a writer of linguistic riffs, he is not enamored by language for its own sake—and thank god for that. He’s a writer who’s interested in telling stories . . . stories about the human heart and the human mind and of how we all struggle in this world, whether we are migrants or bank workers, beggars or college students, tailors or pavement artists.

Deborah Levy on new thinkers
Every generation throws up its new thinkers and they tend to make a cultural revolution. They have energy and purpose and sometimes wear really nice shoes. They make everyone else look exhausted and clapped out. That is how it should be.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The books they loved and lost as publishers in 2012

I'm no fan of "Best books of the year" lists. Every list seems random or compiled without much thought or consideration. May be some of them have their own agenda. So I don't really follow them. What interests me is the publishers' take on the books they published or lost or wished they'd published.  It also offers a fascinating glimpse into the minds of today's big publishing personnel and their attitude about literature and quality of books.

I didn't get exactly elated to learn that Jamie Byng of Canongate, wished he had published Fifty Shades, but Philip Gwyn Jones of Portobollo Books made my day by saying," To see great literature triumphant is always energising. It proves again that publishing can be surprising, and the masterpieces can still sell to the many."

So take heart, not everything is lost in traditional publishing.. There are still some editors out there who care about good books and literature.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bolano condemned to suffer the fate of Jim Hendrix

Bolaño the literary rock star may be condemned to suffer the fate of Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison about whom Mr. Bolaño also wrote, in which every last scrap and fragment of the deceased’s creativity is marketed to his most ardent fans.        
In NewYork times, Larry Rohter reviews "Woes of the True Policemen" by the Chilean Master.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mikhail Shiskin interview/2

When I read I tell myself this: no compromises for the publisher, no compromises for the reader. I write for my ideal reader. This is the only condition that allows me to finish a book. Of course when you don’t compromise, at the end of the day you risk being left all alone with your ideal reader—just you and the guy in the mirror. But I’m lucky enough to have found my reader in reality. The reading process is like a blood transfusion. I am sharing the most important essence of life with my reader. But we need to have the same blood type.
Mikhail Shiskin is interviewed by Elizabeth Kiem in The Morning News
Also read an excerpt from the Maidenhair


Friday, December 14, 2012

Contra Mundum Press making waves with exceptional literature

 Many American artists continue to exist in an aesthetic vacuum and don’t create within a larger continuum and lineage. Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, and Salinger, all highly over-celebrated, rather average writers, are absolute oddities, though not in a positive way. That they wrote what they did post-Huysmans, post-Musil, or post-Hofmannsthal is baffling.
           - Rainer J. Hanshe, founder of Contra Mundum Press

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eduardo Halfon interview

"It’s a constant feeling of being outside, of wanting to be outside. It’s not a choice. I’ve just never felt that I belonged anywhere—not in Guatemala, not in the United States, not in Spain. I don’t know why that is, but it’s my reality. It’s a very fluid existence. I can pretend to be where I’m at: I’m very American if I’m in the U.S., and I’m very Guatemalan if I’m in Guatemala, and I’m very Spanish in Spain. I can modify my voice and my physical appearance and pretend to be from where I’m living at the moment. Yet I’m not really there."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Noémi Szécsi interview

I like being an outsider, because I want to keep the privilege of an observer, I want to keep the distance. I don’t like getting involved in causes, communities and movements, I don’t like building Hungarian or cosmopolitan identities for myself, because I insist on moving freely between categories, on keeping every door and window open. This is my notion of freedom as a writer.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Starting a bookstore in the age of Amazon

"Maybe it’s working because I’m an author, or maybe it’s working because Karen toils away like life depends on this bookstore, or because we have a particularly brilliant staff, or because Nashville is a city that is particularly sympathetic to all things independent. Maybe we just got lucky. But this luck makes me believe that changing the course of the corporate world is possible. Amazon doesn’t get to make all the decisions; the people can make them, by choosing how and where they spend their money.  If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read a book. This is how we change the world: We grab hold of it. We change ourselves."

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Mo Yan's Nobel lecture

"For a writer, the best way to speak is by writing. You will find everything I need to say in my works. Speech is carried off by the wind; the written word can never be obliterated. I would like you to find the patience to read my books. I cannot force you to do that, and even if you do, I do not expect your opinion of me to change. No writer has yet appeared, anywhere in the world, who is liked by all his readers; that is especially true during times like these."

I'm moved by Mo Yan's simple, honest and unpretentious autobiographical details in the lecture. Forget the controversies, he deserves to be read and tasted as a writer. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Censorship in China| Vikram Seth in vodka ad

Censorship in China: two views
Nobel Prize laureate Mo Yan, who has been criticized for his cozy relationship with China’s Communist Party, has compared censorship to security checks at airports, suggesting it is unpleasant but necessary.
But Han Han, China's most popular literary star, writes in This Generation, “My first book, Triple Door, for instance, took forever to be published because it was too downbeat. Downbeat is a fatal flaw, because you can always revise something that’s a bit sloppy or straighten out the kinks in a ropey argument.”

Vikram Seth in Absolut vodka ad
You can now call him Absolut Seth. Yes, it’s our own suitable boy, Vikram Seth, in the Absolut vodka ad, etching a blue bottle for the brand. via 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lydia Millet interview

We’re seeing a mass homogenization of culture right now through the loss of languages around the world, as smaller, more traditional cultures are subsumed by dominant cultures and the last speakers of native languages die off.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Guardian first book award 2012 | Thirty great one-liners

Guardian first book award
"While few will have expected the war in Iraq to bring forth a novel that can stand beside All Quiet on the Western Front or The Red Badge of Courage, The Yellow Birds does just that, for our time, 
as those books did for theirs."

Thirty great one-liners
I never forget a face, but in your case I'd be glad to make an exception - Groucho Marx
rest ones

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rescue Operation for Anthony Burgess| E. L James Publishers Weekly's "Person of the year'

Rescue Operation for Anthony Burgess| 
Open Letters Monthly brings out a special issue on Anthony Burgess. Of course, they have put in huge and sincere efforts and time in it. But I wonder if there is any audience for Burgess in this age. Editors agree, in their conversation (I enjoyed reading it), that Burgess is suitable neither for bestseller crowd nor for the Pynchon crowd ( I liked their using 'crowd' for 'fans'). So why do they bring a whole issue on Burgess? The trigger is the reprinting by Europa Editions of Anthony Burgess’ epic novel Earthly Powers. Editors hope that "this special issue of Open Letters, and this republication, can help get the rescue operation underway." Go read the issue. Read also Earthly Powers, if not any other book by Burgess, to have a taste of the earlier times.

Publishers Weekly honors "Fifty Shades of Grey" author
E.L James, author of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has been named Publishers Weekly's Publishing Person of the year
 Is it the nadir moment of our civilization?

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