For The Snark Was A Boojum, You See:* “When you say a man writes badly, you are trying to hurt him. When you say it in words better than his, you have succeeded. It would be better to admit this fact, and admit that all adverse reviews are snarks to some degree, than to indulge the sentimental wish that malice might be debarred from the literary world.” Clive James in the New York Times.

The Babu hereby wishes to define “boojum” as “an author rendered unable to accept even legitimate criticism because he or she now sees all criticism as an unwarranted personal attack by a sea of killer snark reviewers”. (Alternative definitions for “boojum” more than welcome!)

* Speaking of personal attacks, this piece in Salon went to the other extreme. Page One is all about why everyone should hate Nell Freudenberger (“too young, too pretty, too successful”); Page Two is where the writer Sees The Light; Page Three sings hosannas to Little Nell. Nice review; too much back story.

“By being one step removed from violence in books in a setting where the violence is mostly framed by a moral context, violence in literature generally has much less of a negative impact on children than disturbingly explicit, more mirror-like images on TV.” This essay from The Hindu on violence in children’s literature finds the Babu in profound disagreement. No offence meant to the (well-intentioned) author, but to aim this discussion at the gatekeepers–parents, teachers, librarians–rather than the readers themselves seems a trifle limiting; nor is the Babu at all convinced by the thesis that books are less unsettling than television. There’s a simple, and classic, rebuttal of this argument–try reading Richard Hughes’ High Wind in Jamaica.

MobyLives is back. (Check out the guest column by Steve Almond on how to be a good blurbee and why not to be a blurb whore.) Praise de Lawd and steal the links: they posted the Guardian’s story on Lorca way before the Babu had a chance to reach for the ‘BlogThis’ button. Proof that Lorca was buried in a mass grave at Viznar may be round the corner.

Years ago, Amit Chaudhuri, his wife and Sunetra Gupta were offloaded in Dhaka–an unsatisfactory start for a pilgrimage of any kind, even for those who had their “ancestral antecedents” in that part of the world. He returns, to find that: “Contemporary Dhaka confirms within me something else; a current exploration. As if I’d confronted a twin who’d grown up separately and become somebody else, it provides me with a different notion of identity.”

“I had been startled by the smallness of that work, and its lucidity, while handling questions of pain and professional failure.” Susan Visvanathan on Penelope Fitzgerald.

Take Harry Potter, marijuana and Indian hemp. Trust me, there’s a connection.

“I envision an attractive, gray-haired litteratrice in residence at, say, Bard College. The ultimate acolyte in her youth, now she would be a patient mentor to young writers, with a Pulitzer Prize, two ex-husbands, and a poet laureateship behind her.” Alex Beam on what Sylvia Plath might have been at the age of 71.

“In Craceland, the ancient deity he calls “the goblin of storytelling” holds sway, not the blander modern angels of autobiography and confession.” The Independent meets Jim Crace.

Mark Holcomb faces every reviewer’s worst nightmare: “Can we soon expect someone to write a book about someone writing a book about someone writing a book?”

The Washington Post invokes the author’s nightmare, on the other hand, with its Fall Review: “The task of culling the books and selecting those we think merit interest is the hardest thing we do: For every book we review, 99 others will have passed through our hands.”

“It turned out that Lang, the grandson of a Jewish convict who’d been banished Down Under on the charge of stealing eight silver spoons, and whose father, a Scottish sea captain who’d inexplicably died nine months before his birth in December 1816, was Australia’s first novelist with a gift for languages (later in life, he was to translate Persian poetry), who earned a law degree in England after being expelled from Cambridge for engaging in “Botany Bay tricks” like writing blasphemous verses, putting chamber pots on the spires of Trinity College, fraternising with girls, neglecting his studies, drinking too much, and – “most scandalously of all” – for being seen on the stage!” Seminars in Delhi are usually stodgier than this–but a diplomat at the Australian High Commission decided he had a new paradigm.





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