The IMPAC longlist is out. Among the 125 authors in contention: Rohinton Mistry, Umberto Eco, A S Byatt, John Updike, Donna Tartt…

“Perhaps Tolkien deserves better, but he’s powerless to shape his legacy now. By conjuring for the public an imaginative space with such broad and far-reaching appeal, the Oxford don unintentionally became the author not only of a book but of its unimaginable consequences.” That’s Ethan Gilsdorf lamenting the commercialisation of Tolkien. He does a pretty good job of explaining why, despite his sentiments, he has a growing collection of Kinder-Surprise 2 inch high plastic Fellowship figures. (Link from ArtsJournal.)

Part 4 of Amit Chaudhuri’s five-part series, The Moor’s Legacy: “All his life, Nirad C. Chaudhuri strove to both express his Bengaliness and to escape it; if his first act of distancing was to write his autobiography in the English language, his second act of distancing himself from his intellectual antecedents was his lapidary dedication itself, placed at the beginning of the book, which made him infamous in his own land: “TO THE MEMORY OF THE/ BRITISH EMPIRE IN INDIA/ WHICH CONFERRED SUBJECTHOOD ON US/ BUT WITHHELD CITIZENSHIP;/ TO WHICH YET/ EVERY ONE OF US THREW OUT THE CHALLENGE:/ ‘CIVIS BRITANNICUS SUM’/ BECAUSE/ ALL THAT WAS GOOD AND LIVING/ WITHIN US/ WAS MADE, SHAPED AND QUICKENED/ BY THE SAME BRITISH RULE.” (Read Part IPart IIPart Three)

“If Nepal turns into a Maoist totalitarian state, it could alter the security balance throughout South Asia. In this geopolitically important area, already rent by nuclear-fueled one-upmanship between India and Pakistan, this is a risk the world cannot afford.” Samrat Updhyaya, author of The Guru of Love, in the New York Times.

Culturally Sensitive Comparison Of The Week: “Ms. Kirino, who has never lived outside Japan, sees her society as a place of profound contradictions: a country that is deeply unfair to women, immigrants and people of mixed race, and yet, for most, an extraordinarily easy place to live. Her characters often inhabit society’s fringes and, like Hindus striving for fruitful reincarnation, yearn for a place in the sun.” From Howard French’s article in the New York Time. The Babu thinks that the only way he could have improved on this was to spell ‘Hindus’ the archaic way. We Hindoos, always looking forward to life as a glowworm…

First it used to be just the novel that was dead. Now everything must go. Time magazine, that altar to High Literature, asks whether this is “the end of Western literature as we know it“.

Here’s Lev Grossman in full flow: “How did America’s reading habits become so radically polarized, so prissily puritanical, that at best a quarter of what people read (or at least what they buy) qualifies as legitimate literature? It hasn’t always been like this. As recently as the mid–19th century, historians of the novel tell us, there was only one heap. Dickens wrote best-selling novels, but they weren’t considered “commercial” or “popular” or “your-euphemism-here.” They were just novels. No one looked down on Scott and Tennyson and Stowe for being wildly successful. No one got all embarrassed when they were caught reading the new Edgar Allan Poe over lunch.” (Via MaudNewton.)

Clearly, Grossman never came across Saul Bellow’s piece for the NYT some years ago: “In the mid-nineteenth century it was Uncle Tom’s Cabin that impressed the great public. Moby Dick was a small-public novel. The literary masterpieces of the twentieth century were for the most part the work of novelists who had no large public in mind.”

“Bloviations” is my new word-of-the-day, thanks to Jonathan Yardley,who’s euthanised Elizabeth Costello this week. To bloviate is “to discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner”, which the Babu thinks is a pretty decent definition of his working life.

Maybe he should become a silbador instead.

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