* Taking potshots at Martin Amis is a bit like shooting at balloons at a local fair–it’s ridiculously easy, it’s fun, and everyone’s doing it. Michiko Kakutani adds her mite: “Were Mr. Amis’s name not emblazoned on this book, it seems unlikely to have found a publisher. It reads not as a satire or dark parable of modern life, not even, really, as a fully fashioned novel, but as a bunch of unsavory outtakes from an abandoned project: nasty bits and pieces best left on the cutting room floor.”
* “At the end of a Peck essay, his subjects — Philip Roth, Julian Barnes, Colson Whitehead — are wounded, their books in ruins, massacred. Even if you’re a fan of the work of these authors, you’ll never be able to read their works again without hearing Peck’s noisy voice shouting in the background: ”Forget it! You’re wasting your time. The guy’s no good.” Finally: the over-the-top review of the over-the-top reviewer. The Babu isn’t sure that Roth, Barnes and company know they’re dead (white) men walking–even so, send Dale Peck over to India one of these days. His hatchet won’t lack for work, and we’ll even throw in a trip to the Taj Mahal for free.
Over at The Globe and Mail, Kate Taylor steps back and takes a look at the book reviewing debate. She mentions Peck, too. “Because few newspapers and magazines can stomach paying a critic for the hours it takes to read a book, most literary criticism is, in effect, amateur. Unlike film, theatre and the visual arts, which usually have dedicated staff critics, fiction is reviewed by freelancers, most of whom are novelists themselves. The ones like Peck who have the courage to stand alone as critics rather than cautiously align themselves with their brethren are few and far between.”
* More on The Bookseller of Kabul: what the “part that provides the story” wants is a cut from the advances and royalties made by, presumably, the “part that wrote the story”. Oh, and Mr Rais also wants the world to know that he’s not a misogynistic patriarchal bogeyman, just a kindly, well, Kabul patriarch.
“The 1971 crisis, which led to the break-up of Pakistan and the inception of Bangladesh, has been very much of a hushed affair in Pakistani politics. But it appears that at least two young writers have decided lately to break the silence.” The rest of this article from Dawn offers more in the way of examples from the work of Kamila Shamsie and Sorayya Khan rather than actual comment, unfortunately.
The Babu’s been trying to read Zoe Trope’s “book”, for want of a better word, and in between suppressing the urge to either barf or pass out from boredom, came across this article: “Zoe’s chapbook was No. 10 on Powell’s bestseller list in 2002, an unheard-of feat for a small-press book. She has been adopted into a community of young blue-chip writers and endorsed by Dave Eggers and Jonathan Safran Foer. She has done dozens of interviews in the past few weeks, and PDKTF is already being translated into Italian, Dutch and Japanese.
Zoe may sell a million books at this rate. And I have no idea why.” (Link found on Bookslut.)
“Coetzee gives few interviews, his two autobiographical books lay bare the recesses of the writer’s inner life while withholding most external details, and his public image consists largely of a gaunt authorial picture that stares at you like an accusation from the book jackets. There is no way to know him other than through his writing.” Siddhartha Deb is perfectly happy to follow the writing, rather than the man, in this review of Elizabeth Costello.
Amit Chaudhuri’s doing a five-part article on language and Michael Madhusudan Dutt, among other things. Here’s part one: “Around the late 1850s, after the long process of disowning, began the process of recovery, the reappropriation, by Dutt, of the Bengali language and culture, culminating in his epic poem, Meghnad Badha Kabya. Now, rejecting the language in which he had invested his literary ambitions, he turned to his mother-tongue, not yet quite a respectable language for the middle class.”
Zadie Smith on Kafka’s uncomfortable legacy. Ignore the strong Lit Crit in overdrive feel you get from this paragraph; the rest of the piece actually does have an interesting argument to make. “Where are Kafka’s descendants? Only a handful–Borges, W.G. Sebald, Thomas Bernhard–have successfully “channeled” the Kafkaesque in any meaningful way. The result has been queer. His influence seems to cause a mutation in the recipient, metamorphosing the novel into something closer to a meditation, a fantastical historiography, an essay, a parable. What is it about Kafka’s lessons for the novel that cannot be contained within the novel in the form as we have come to know it? How does Kafka lead novelists away from the novel? ”
Prince Charles is visiting India, and among the many proscriptions handed down by the royal minders (“don’t offer your hand unless he offers his first, call him Your Royal Highness and then switch to Sir”) was a nervous abjuration not to mention the Burrell word. Kitabkhana contemplated doing a Butler-Book round-up, but the good folks at MobyLives have been far more assiduous (scroll down the page, there are about four separate items on Burrell’s Diana book). Besides, after spending an hour at a red carpet reception where the reception line fidgeted in the sun waiting for HRH to emerge and do the handshaking (or not) thingumajig, the Babu’s lost all interest in the British Royal Family. The Prince, for the record, was a perfectly gracious, slightly elderly, jug-eared bloke, and the Babu spent most of his time thinking of Charlies he’d rather have met instead: Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, Charlie Chaplin, Charlie’s Angels…