“Having thanked the judges, Hari Kunzru explained in his statement: ‘The Impressionist is a novel about the absurdity of a world in which race is the main determinant of a person’s identity. My hope is that one day the sponsors of the John Llewellyn Rhys prize will join with the judges in appreciating this.'” Then he refused the prize and hammered the prize sponsors, the Daily Mail, for its consistent “hostility towards black and Asian British people”. Kunzru joins the small and select club of writers who Just Say No: think J M Coetzee refusing the Booker because the sponsoring company has links to the meat-packing industry, Amitav Ghosh turning down the Commonwealth Prize because he disagrees with the concept of the Commonwealth itself.
Stephen King defends the faith…and, among other writers, John Grisham. (What, no kind words for Danielle Steele?) Which to the Babu is similar to what might happen if Jethro Tull sang hosannas to your friendly neighbourhood boyband. (Via Maud Newton and the Bookslut. I had both pages open simultaneously, so…dead heat.) The Washington Post has a report on the NBA awards ceremony.
It took Calcutta’s “intelligentsia” this long to figure out that Taslima Nasreen isn’t writing “literature”? Shame on them. The good part about the two defamation suits and the bans in Bangladesh and Calcutta is that the book’s sales are up. She may not be the world’s most literary writer, but she doesn’t deserve to be silenced. If we really believe in freedom of speech, we need to accept that it includes the books we find boring, or that we disapprove of, just as much as the ones we love. End of rant.
Robert Birnbaum talks to Saira Shah: “We finished Beneath the Veil in a feeling of hopeless impotence because particularly of what we had seen in the North. We’d seen people pushed right up against the border with Tajikistan —there was huge mass of population up against that border, and I was absolutely convinced that it was only going to be a matter of months before the Taliban went through and the opposition was wiped out. They would have just been massacred. I remember thinking, “Oh god…” and then 9/11 happened with such strange resonance, really. It was a strange, awful time. I saw the picture coming through and I couldn’t believe it. I just didn’t want to believe it had anything to do with Afghanistan… Quite early it was people saying it was bin Laden. And when I gradually realized I remember the feeling of shame. I got a huge feeling of shame that it was to do with Afghanistan. Which is strange because my travels there have taught me I am absolutely not a pure Afghan.”
* (Salon requires subscription or forces you to watch an ad in return for a free day pass) Ann Marlowe has a point when she slams Asne Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul for her “crude” rendering of stereotypes and her “God’s eye viewpoint”–but her rant has more than its fair share of problems. Unless you like wading through paragraphs like this: “Whatever a Westerner writes about Afghanistan is going to be gravely wrong in some respects. But as long as we write with the awareness that we are probably projecting as much as we are describing, we might as well go ahead. After all, the goal of psychoanalysis is learning to recognize the transference and countertransference, not to stop us from ever falling in love again. Or in less specialized vocabulary, we’re not OK, they’re not OK and that’s OK too.”
Gerard Jones is doing the guest column at MobyLives this week. “[Now] I could send an individually addressed query letter to 2,000 of the top, most successful, cream of the crop agents and editors in the US, UK and Canada in two days! I could get more rejection letters in a week than it had previously taken me ten years to get! I was in heaven. And I figured when other writers found it, they’d be in heaven, too. I want everyone in heaven, just like me—that’s one of my goals in life. I have seven of them, too, but I forget the other six.” His website, Everyone Who’s Anyone, has some interesting exchanges. Like this one:
“Please remove my name and details from your website. Thank you.” Jessica Sykes