The Whitbread shortlists are out: compared to the Booker, they remind the Babu of those old Avis ads–the Whitbread judges try harder. Usual suspects: Vernon God Little in the First Novel category, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time in the Novel category. Not to diss Haddon’s book, which I’m reading with great enjoyment, but it puts me in mind of an old SF classic called Flowers For Algernon, which took you into the mind of a mentally retarded man who received medication that made him–temporarily–a genius and that wore off. The story was told from his viewpoint.

The Paris Review has some of its 50th anniversary issue online. Here’s a taste: Paul Auster: “Interestingly enough, the literary model I had in mind when I wrote those pieces was the joke. The joke is the purest, most essential form of storytelling. Every word has to count.” Jim Crace: “I don’t look for information, I look for vocabulary and for the odd little emotional idea that will give some oxygen to my imagination.” Chinua Achebe: “Then I grew older and began to read about adventures in which I didn’t know that I was supposed to be on the side of those savages who were encountered by the good white man. I instinctively took sides with the white people.” The Babu especially treasured this poem by the late Agha Shahid Ali.

Martin Amis is interviewed by Nerve. Just two observations: one is how Amis makes me nostalgic for the young Norman Mailer, not to mention the middle-aged Henry Miller, when he witters on and on about women attacking pornography and the spilling of seed in fallow ground because it threatens “their sort of raison d’etre: the power to give birth”.

He was kind of enlightening, though. The Babu used to think a “facial” was what happened when his sister went to the local beauty parlour and slathered gunk all over her…on second thoughts, never mind. (Via Maud Newton.)

John Pilger on the silence of writers: “That the menace of great and violent power in our own times is apparently accepted by celebrated writers, and by many of those who guard the gates of literary criticism, is uncontroversial. Not for them the impossibility of writing and promoting literature bereft of politics. Not for them the responsibility to speak out – a responsibility felt by even the unpolitical Ernest Hemingway. (Link courtesy Amita–thanks.)

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