The Babu thinks he needs to do the disappearing act more often–Peter “Zig” Griffin is clearly as good a guest in a home as he is on a blog. If you’re missing him, as I am after the great and very thorough job he did at Kitabkhana, do drop in here.

Meanwhile, the Babu’s own travels were pretty instructive. Let’s just say that this is the last time he’s going to throw out the anorak and the extra shawl in order to make room for books he intends to read on the road. Thomas Mann, William Gibson and Carol Shields do many things for me, but even opened out and with the dust jackets stacked separately, they don’t keep shivering Babus warm on trains in freezing north India where the attendants explain carefully that they have extra blankets and bedding, but you can’t have them because it’s against the regulations. I owe Mann, though; Death in Venice kept my left ear reasonably toasty.

Somehow, I don’t think The Blue Guitar Murders would have picked up a Whitbread. “…it involved the Via Negativa and a singing policeman. It should be published as a stern warning to over-intellectual 21-year-olds who want to write a big book.” This interview with Mark Haddon made the Babu question, not for the first time, the insanity of hyping debut authors instead of looking for the third-novel gem or the fourth-book masterpiece.

Janet Frame is dead. “Because of the experience she had, particularly the 10 years in psychiatric hospitals, she identified much more closely with people on the margins of society, people who were strange or eccentric or different in some sort of way, because she had been there and had been treated that way,” Michael King told National Radio today. “She came out of a New Zealand that used to be terribly conformist and terribly mistrustful of plurality of behaviour, of people who were different. I think in the latter part of her life she had found herself celebrated in her own country for those very qualities.”

I’m kind of viciously glad the Wharf misspelled “descendent” when they were referring to this particular sprig on the Dickens branch. The man spends 40 years hating his illustrious ancestor before he so much as opens a page of The Old Curiosity Shop, then writes a book about Great Grandpa’s favourite fish-and-chip joints. It’s not subtitled How To Cash In On The Famous Ancestor You’ve Hated All Your Life, for some strange reason. (Link via Bookninja.)

Please Sir, Can We Have Some Mao?

“It is in the nature of the nastiness being directed at Nasreen to either reduce her achievements as a writer to her sexual life and personal appearance, or else, to produce the more pernicious obverse of this: to actually channel her creativity, her compulsion to write, into an endlessly rehearsed contrariness, expressed in ways that could often be quite banal…. Power-dressing, power-shopping or power-dieting could become just another, more insidious, form of powerlessness, and could reduce the integrity ? indeed, the point ? of one?s existence, as a writer and as a human being, to something sadly other than what it could have been in all its fullness.” Aveek Sen on Taslima Nasreen; he starts the piece with a nice riff on the symbolism of purple chapstick, by the way.

The Guardian profiles Robert Silvers. “There is only one story you need to know about Bob,” says the writer Timothy Garton Ash. “Four o’clock on Christmas day: the family is gathered around the turkey, and the phone rings. It’s Bob. ‘Tim,’ he says, ‘How are you doing? On column six of the third galley, there’s a dangling modifier.'”

I missed out on most of the debate over the shift in focus at the New York Times’ books section. Going by this Observer piece, the good souls at the NYT are this close to using the term “infotainment”.

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