Slate has just posted its choices for best books of the year — actually, it’s a list of people associated with the site selecting a book or two each, with some overlap.
Ian McEwan’s Saturday is singled out by several of those polled. Walter Kirn’s novel, Mission to America, is close behind. I’m eager to read that — haven’t gotten to Kirn’s fiction yet, but he’s one of my favorite nonfiction writers.
The humble shepherds of this blog and their humble publishing concern are also well represented: Michela Wrong’s I Didn’t Do It For You, Uzodinma Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation, and Jose Canseco’s Juiced (featuring a chapter epigraph from yours truly that makes me look, retroactively, like a die-hard supporter of steroids abusers) are all praised. (If I’m forgetting any of our books, I’ll be roundly punished soon and a correction will be forthcoming.)
My choice for best book of the year, because you’re dying to know, is It’s All Right Now by Charles Chadwick (a novel also published here, but no loyalty required to pick it — it’s one of my all-time favorites).
Here is an interview from The Guardian with Philip Roth.
In a rare interview, Philip Roth, one of America’s greatest living authors, tells Danish journalist Martin Krasnik why his new book is all about death – and why literary critics should be shot
I’ve always been a big fan of James Purdy.
James Purdy, a frail, sad-eyed man seated before the fireplace in his one-room apartment, is an author, poet and playwright who occupies his own pantheon in American letters.
Praised by Dorothy Parker, Tennessee Williams and many others, he has been called a genius, a visionary, a satirist worthy of Voltaire. He has also been attacked for his “adolescent and distraught mind” and accused of writing “fifth-rate avant-garde soap opera.” He has never won a Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award and is not a member of this country’s official literary shrine, the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
I’m not a big fan of poetry, but poems make a lot more sense to me when I hear them read by their author. If you’re like me, check out The Poetry Archive.
The Poetry Archive exists to help make poetry accessible, relevant and enjoyable to a wide audience. It came into being as a result of a meeting, in a recording studio, between Andrew Motion, soon after he became U.K. Poet Laureate in 1999, and the recording producer, Richard Carrington. They agreed about how enjoyable and illuminating it is to hear poets reading their work and about how regrettable it was that, even in the recent past, many important poets had not been properly recorded.
Harold Pinter gave his Nobel Prize acceptance speech yesterday. You can read the transcript of the speech, or see the video of it, here.
‘There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.’
I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?
After his life as a crime reporter in a Canadian city took a turn for the worse, Jeremy Mercer decided to head for Paris, where he happened upon the city’s most famous bookshop, the legendary Shakespeare and Co. In Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs, Mercer describes the time he spent living in the bookshop, the people he met and his relationship with the shop’s octogenarian owner. Here he chooses his 10 favourite bookshops from around the world.
Penguin UK has posted Q&A’s with people from several different departments in their house.
It’s a neat idea, and gives at least a general sense of what it’s like to work in publishing. It’s tough for me to say how informative it is, since I work in publishing and know more or less what they’re talking about, but it would be something nice to read if you were looking to get a start in publishing.
It is the vocabulary one expects from a French intellectual in the first years of the Fifth Republic: oblivion, the abyss, la mort. There’s a quest for authenticity, with the writer claiming “sincerity” as his ultimate aim. The war years loom large, even as the nation settles into an era of prosperity. But instead of the heroic existentialist writer holding the line against nothingness, we encounter a beguiling magician, a brilliant prankster preoccupied with word games and puzzles, a master illusionist with an introspective bent: Georges Perec, that inimitable amalgam of Kafka and the daily crossword, whose sensibility spans opposing poles of profundity and artifice. Among the ghosts of twentieth-century novelists that still haunt us, his takes its place as the group’s ingenious poltergeist, albeit one with a rather melancholy aura. The unruly shrub of hair, the sly grin, the tender, somewhat sad gaze: Perec figures as the impish wordsmith confronting a fathomless void, as if Sartre had cloaked himself in the guise of Pierrot.
Here is another little write-up on Perec from Context.
It’s too bad they won’t just re-stage the whole reading, but 35 years ago New York radio station WBAI had a four and a half day long reading of War and Peace.
Democracy Now! is featuring a one-hour special on the broadcast.
Here’s a nice little write up on Acephalous about Ashbery and Kafka.
We’re all very excited about this story today.
Two days ago, I made a prediction for the winner of Britain’s “bad sex award.” Today, that prediction came true.
I’ve got stock tips, too, but those will cost you.
[EV: This is such a relief.]
The New York Times has announced its ten best books of 2005. Working in publishing, I don’t have much time to… what’s the word I’m looking for… oh, read many published books. The only one of this batch I’m familiar with is Saturday by McEwan. His previous novel, Atonement, was one of the two or three best I’d ever read, so I was eager to see how he followed it up. It was good. No Atonement, but good. The man can write a sentence.
As for the rest here, I’ll definitely get to Zadie Smith’s latest, and I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy of Prep. My silliest ambition is to read Tony Judt’s book, which was sent to me by a friend at his publisher. It’s approximately 33,480 pages, and I should be able to finish by June 2058 if I play my cards right, and if I live that long. (I hope to be a robust 84 when I’m done.)
(By the way, I meant my silliest reading ambition. My silliest life ambition is to play shortstop for the Yankees — the likelihood of which seems inversely proportionate to the difficulty I have climbing the escalator stairs in the subway every morning.)
At first I was thinking, “How funny could this be, really?”
Then I read this:
“We started with the idea of Moe as Charles Bukowski,” explains Matt Warburton, who wrote the episode. “We brought Lisa in as the person who discovers in scuzzy, barfly Moe something that we’ve never seen before: a poet.”
And I thought they might be on to something.