Houellebecq, en fait – the first book-length study of its subject – is not a straightforward piece of literary analysis, but a jumble of articles, diary entries, letters (the two men are friends) and court documents. The book lacks structure, but not substance. It provides an eloquent defence of a controversial author and a window on today’s Parisian literary scene. Noguez shows how writers coalesce and split, how they bicker at cocktail parties, plot in restaurants and misbehave at discos.” From The Times Literary Supplement.

Hmm, so this is what’s wrong with the Indian media’s not terribly literary books pages: they’re filled with reviewers rather than critics.

“Alberto Fuguet heads a group of young Latin-American writers who espouse a new realism, dubbed McOndo, in contrast to the old magic realism of Garcia Marquez’s famously imagined town of Macondo.” Michael Dirda on Fuguet.

John Mullan offers a brief history of Western book cover design in The Guardian. In his youth, the Babu divided book covers into three politically incorrect categories. The “Sovietski” covers of the Russian books that flooded India in the Nehruvian and post-Nehruvian eras were colourful but unmistakeably alien, referring us to a mysterious mythology not quite our own. “Phoren” books were colourful, brash, vivid, as tempting as the “phoren” chocolates than in short supply in the country–they literally opened up a new world. And “amader boi” was how I thought of Bengali books: the accent most often on calligraphy rather than on pictures or photographic images, so that to walk through bookshops was to be confronted with the undeniable importance of the written word, raised to the level of an art form.

“His real fascination, though, I think, has always been with the disreputable side of human intellectual enquiry — with scientific, literary and religious flapdoodle. Especially scientific: He has been patrolling the boundary between science and pseudoscience for more than half a century.” The Washington Times reviews Martin Gardner’s 66th, or possibly seventy-somethingth–book.

I’m not a big fan of reading fiction online–the Babu needs the physical book, the beanbag space, the cat on the lap turning pages for you, etc–but I intend to make an exception for the Barcelona Review. One of those sites where you feel like a right eejit for having taken so long to find it. Not all the fiction is of stunning quality, but it makes a change from reading those interminable New Yorker stories.

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