The end of the year book wrap-ups are upon us. The Independent does several lists; The New York Times has the usual mini-directory; The Guardian has picks from a whole bunch of people; The St Louis Post-Dispatch tries to find a path between commercial bestsellers and serious literature; while The Spectator has a few unusual choices. Jonathan Yardley has finished his Culling of the Files. His list is far quirkier than Anna Mundow’s safe and slightly dull selection in the Boston Globe.
The less Coetzee says, the more it’s reported. He’s still hiding behind his characters–Robinson Crusoe for the acceptance speech this time instead of Elizabeth Costello. The Babu thinks it’s mildly ironical that his refusal to play the media game has turned him into the perfect trophy interview–Reuters got four words out of him, in fact: “I am not sure.”
“Falling out of love with your father is like falling out of love with anyone else. The body count just gets too high.” John Le Carre on Ronnie–con man, sucker, even a “most respectable man”.
I have no idea why I love “lost language” stories. I just do.
“At a time when most 20th-century science fiction writers seem hopelessly dated, Dick gives us a vision of the future that captures the feel of our time. He didn’t really care about robots or space travel, though they sometimes turn up in his stories. He wrote about ordinary Joes caught in a web of corporate domination and ubiquitous electronic media, of memory implants and mood dispensers and counterfeit worlds.” Wired on why Philip K Dick posthumously rules the movies.
“I think Dryden gave it, “What is the point of literature? It’s to give instruction and delight.” Certain writers will tip more toward instruction, others tip more towards delight, but it’s a combination of the two. I want to be getting as much out of it as I can. I think this is very much against the spirit of the time. Certainly in England, where they don’t want to be instructed or indeed, delighted much. They want a fifty-fifty, across the table kind of ‘you’re not telling me anything I don’t know, and I could tell you things.'” Martin Amis in conversation with Identity Theory.
“IT is difficult to get over the feeling of being overwhelmed when one thinks of how concerned some Tamil men are about what Tamil women should be thinking, speaking and writing…. Many years ago a male Tamil writer wrote to a senior male writer that reading the stories of Ambai gave him the feeling that she was not physically fully satisfied. The tone of the letter suggested that he was more than willing to do the needful.” C S Lakshmi aka Ambai on the politics of writing the body.
“To determine my rankings, I looked up seven times over words that I knew but wanted to understand better (like regret, jealous, and overdetermined); words with disputed usages (including aggravate, disinterested, fortuitous); words with potentially interesting etymologies (e.g., chauvinism, juggernaut, lagniappe); neologisms and slang (e.g., blogger, booty, yay); anything friends had looked up recently (e.g., Panglossian, condominium, alembic); as well as the words I didn’t know in the last book I read, J.M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello.” YiLing Chen-Josephson is a brilliant dictionary tester, but restricting the selection to college dictionaries leaves devotees of the unabridged OED, such as the Babu, out in the cold.