Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ukranian Pen Club's call for support for Ukranian writers

During the less than four years of its rule, Viktor Yanukovych's regime has brought the country and its society to the utter limit of tensions. Even worse, it has boxed itself into a situation without an exit, where it must hold on to power by any means necessary. Failing which, it would have to face criminal justice in its full severity. The scale of what has been stolen and usurped, of the human avarice involved, is beyond imagination.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How to tell the truth in literature

Salon has an interesting excerpt from "Why I Read: The Serious Pleasures of Books" by Wendy Lesser

To tell the truth in literature, each era, perhaps even each new writer, requires a new set of authorial skills with which to rivet the reader’s attention. We are so good at lying to ourselves, at lapsing into passive acceptance, that mere transparency of meaning is insufficient. To absorb new and difficult truths, we need the jolt offered by a fresh style. Yet what is startling at first eventually hardens into either a mannerism or a tradition. Even Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” if read too early and too often (in a classroom setting, say), can come to seem a mere example of Satire. So every writer—every good writer, every writer who really has something to say—must figure out for herself a new form in which to say it. The figuring need not be conscious, and the innovation need not be dramatic or obvious; we can be affected by style without necessarily perceiving the sources of the effects. But if we do perceive them, they cannot detract from our sense of the writer’s seriousness (a seriousness that, in the case of an innovator like Mark Twain, may partake of a great deal of humor). The structural and stylistic eccentricities must seem—and be— essential, not merely ornamental.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Anita Desai Interview

"I’ve often written about people who don’t go along with the mainstream, who go against the current, who live outside of the current, or are stranded whilst everyone else just flows along. I think I’m drawn to such characters. Even in the last three novellas that I wrote, that same type of character surfaces again and again. I’m interested in people who live in a kind of exile; it may not be political exile, but in some sense it’s exile from the rest of society. It may have something to do with my upbringing and my parents. My mother, having been German, lived most of her life in India and never felt able to return to Germany. After the war, we would sometimes suggest, “Why don’t you go back and visit your country? See who is still alive, who survived.” It would bring her to tears, and she’d say, “Don’t make me do that.” To have lost your country, your family, your society, so wholly, must have been a devastating experience. Somehow she survived it. My father was, in a sense, in exile too. He was from East Bengal, which then became East Pakistan. So his family lost their land and everything else they had there. Then he came to Bangladesh, which was another loss, another change. He didn’t feel at home there either and lived in North India, which was a foreign country to him. They were outsiders, and while there’s no reason why I should be that too—I was born there—I was brought up with the same sense of being an outsider. I certainly absorbed it from them."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Does literary misery follow poor economy?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson interview

I don’t like literature that pretends realism is possible and luckily there is so much writing that is going on today that challenges the concept of realism and brings into play different elements. These could be mythical elements or strands of thought that survive outside the culture or society that we’re living in. So it’s not that I don’t like contemporary fiction, I think great things are happening in the novel today, but they are only happening for people who have realized that it’s not possible to photocopy reality onto the page. It’s always a reconstruction and into a reconstruction you always bring an element of a very ancient thought, the storyteller’s mind. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Philip Roth turns into a monument!

Adam Kirsch has an interesting article on Philip Roth, the great American novelist, in The Republic.
A writer who, in the first part of his career, seemed defined by transgression—against Jewish self-esteem, against sexual decency, against the conventions of fiction—has been transformed, over the last fifteen years, into an official American classic. The fate that Zuckerman mocked has befallen his creator: Roth, the rebellious son, the fleshliest of writers, is turning into a monument before our eyes.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tournament of Books is back

The legacy media virtually ignores literature. Not too long ago, daily newspapers considered it an important part of their public trust to review books as part of their arts coverage. With a few exceptions—and let us note some of the truly excellent criticism and features provided by the The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row Journal—that is no longer the case. Commercial magazines rarely print fiction, or discuss it. For years, Oprah carried the torch in front of the television masses, and her devotion was noble and sincere, but even Oprah is doing something else now.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Do you need a theory to write your next novel?

"Do I need a theory to write my next novel? I only know that literary theories do not upset me. At the end of the day, my journey through theory left a mark that time has not altered. The experimental novels of my generation in the Seventies, for example, are now widely reviled. Nevertheless I think they have left us with a residual theoretical knowledge that can do us no harm, and which it might have been important not to forget and which, in any case, luckily for us, has survived into the present and which, owing to the reflective varnish they add to our writing, prevents us from straying too far from the problems of the contemporary novel. ‘Everything,’ Marguerite Duras wrote, ‘belongs to literature.’ Let us take charge of some old theories, which might end up being very useful to us in the present. Let us make them ours, make them belong to us; let us not renounce them. Modern creators who flee from theory will find in this stance their first Achilles’ heel."

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