* It was Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s birthday today. He celebrated by telling an audience in Tulsa that some of what was happening in the United States today reminded him of the “worst of the Soviet Union”. Love his poetry, too.

Long live Rick Whittington; bow to Franny and Alexander; and please note, it should be Good Queen Beth, not Good Queen Bess, from henceforth. The Babu salutes the return of politically correct editors, bless their humourless little hearts.

Speaking of political correctness, Doug Marlette explains the importance of offending everyone. “Sadly, the title of my first chapter – “A Gift for Pissing People Off” – proved to be all too nonfictional.”

2Blowhards features a lovely introduction to the author of ‘Aphorisms on an Implicit Text’.

‘Unknown Lady, Aged 26, Formerly Called Mistress Holland.’ A playwright thinks he may have discovered the identity of the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

“And what of the old man with the bumped head in “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring”? How exactly did he sustain this head injury? Was he the victim of foul play? Did he have a post-coital heart attack — the authors note no one ever said he was in bed alone — that led to the head bumping?” The medical profession takes on nursery rhymes (link found all over the place today). They missed out on Little Miss Muffet and the years of psychotherapy she needed in order to come to terms with her arachnophobia, but that’s another case study all together.

“I was crying while reading.” This is a good thing, apparently, if you’re a juror for the Russian Booker. Ah, cultural differences: the Babu often cries while reading, but instead of recommending the author for a major prize, he prefers filing the offending book in the nearest dustbin.

Stephen King’s NBA speech is now available online (link via Golden Rule Jones). It’s more coherent than the press reports would have you believe. “Bridges can be built between the so-called popular fiction and the so-called literary fiction… Tokenism is not allowed. You can’t sit back, give a self satisfied sigh and say, “Ah, that takes care of the troublesome pop lit question. In another twenty years or perhaps thirty, we’ll give this award to another writer who sells enough books to make the best seller lists.” It’s not good enough.”

Up to this point, I’m in agreement. But then King goes on to say: “Nor do I have any patience with or use for those who make a point of pride in saying they’ve never read anything by John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark or any other popular writer.” This is where I have a problem–two out of the three writers he names are boring popular, airport reading-only popular. It’s like science fiction, of which the Babu and his partner are unabashed fans: our worship of Philip K Dick and Ursula K Le Guin notwithstanding, we’ve waded through a lot of terrible space opera in order to get to the best in the field. Likewise, in order to get to King’s Dark Tower series–definitely great pop/ genre lit–you need to wade through the slush of a million Danielle Steeles. Some of us don’t have the stomach for it.

The Frivolous Gossip Department: V S Naipaul is rumoured to have finished another novel…in between setting up Tehelka Two and dealing with the fallout from Tehelka One, Tarun Tejpal has written a debut novel, The Alchemy of Desire…David Davidar has finished researching his second novel and will presumably write the book in Canada, where he’s taking over as the head of Penguin operations in the land of Mistry, Atwood and co…and someone please tell Vikram Chandra that he’s lost the Babu a bet three years running. Way back in the Dark Ages, it was rumoured that Chandra was hard at work on an Inspector Sartaj novel. The Babu’s been predicting its imminent release every year since the excerpt in the New Yorker was first published. His credibility is now more endangered than the pink fairy armadillo.

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