Thursday, September 27, 2012

Birth of a Paradigm

From: Celsias

"Today marks the 50th anniversary of the US publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.
     The book is often cited as an environmental classic — of which there can be little doubt — but it is also said by some to have largely triggered the modern environmental movement. Its warning about the dangers of pesticides touched a direct nerve in many, but it also reflected wider concerns at the time — a period that saw the birth of a 'counter-culture' — that modern technologies, combined with rampant consumerism, were causing environmental problems that had otherwise not been widely noticed or, worse, suppressed by vested interests."
— Leo Hickman, The Guardian

Friday, September 21, 2012


Photo: Michael Hale

"Fellow fiction writers,
     Let's be frank: we're not the healthiest-minded bunch. If we were we'd spend our days doing something more pleasant than writing fiction. But lately we seem to have taken a turn for the worse. We look out at the shifting landscape of publishing—e-books rising, big publishers quaking—and obsessively ask, both publicly and privately, Is the novel dead? Is it all Fifty Shades of Twilight from here on out? Are we going the way of the poets, soon to be read by only each other? [...]
     Irritable. Pessimistic. Beset by feelings of worthlessness. There's a term for this pattern of emotions. It's called 'depression.' We, as fiction writers, are collectively depressed. We might not be depressed as individuals; but we have become depressed as a group."
— Yael Goldstein Love, Huffington Post

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Man Booker Shortlist Unveiled

"Orwell’s second best-selling novel behind 1984
was rejected four times before going on to sell
20 million copies." — Flavorwire

"Novelists who struggled long and hard just to get their books into the shops after a string of rejections by big publishers have joined the more established literary names of Hilary Mantel and Will Self on a Man Booker shortlist which this year celebrates 'the power and depth of prose.' The six books in contention for the £50,000 prize came from what the chair of judges, Peter Stothard, called 'an exhilarating year for fiction – the strongest, I would say, for more than a decade.'"
— Mark Brown and Alison Flood, The Guardian

"The six books were chosen by a panel of judges chaired by Sir Peter Stothard, Editor of the Times Literary Supplement. The shortlisted books were selected from the longlist of 12 announced in July.
     The shortlist is: [...]
     Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books); Deborah Levy, Swimming Home (And Other Stories/Faber & Faber); Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies (Fourth Estate); Alison Moore, The Lighthouse (Salt); Will Self, Umbrella (Bloomsbury); Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis (Faber & Faber).
     Peter Stothard, Chair of judges, comments: 'After re-reading an extraordinary longlist of twelve, it was the pure power of prose that settled most debates. We loved the shock of language shown in so many different ways and were exhilarated by the vigour and vividly defined values in the six books that we chose – and in the visible confidence of the novel's place in forming our words and ideas.'”
The Man Booker Prizes

Buy all of the Man Booker nominees here...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lord of the Rings Retold

From: Rare Book Review

"One of the cult novels of the 1970s turned out to be Lord of the Rings. Written by one of the unlikeliest of best-selling authors, it affected a large number of people, not least of them being those people now in their teens saddled with names like Galadriel.
     How would this book have turned out had it been written by someone else?

Lord of the Rings, by Ian Fleming
Aragorn placed his hand on the cool, ivory hilt of his 6.38 Anduril sword, half-holding it in as casual manner as possible. His eyes swept the room of the Prancing Pony, eyeing up the potential threats. He took out his pipe, made from the warmed heartwood of a mature oak. In the palm of his left hand, he unwrapped his leather tobacco pouch filled, as he preferred, with Gondorian Silk Cut. Aragorn preferred it to the harsher, stronger Numenorian blend...

 Lord of the Rings, by Ernest Hemingway
Frodo Baggins looked at the ring. The ring was round. It was a good ring. The hole at the heart of the ring was also round. The hole was clean and pure. The hole at the heart of the ring had an emptiness in it that made Frodo Baggins remember the big skies of the Shire when his father had taken him out and taught him to tear the heads off the small, furred things that walked there, even though he hated blood in those days and the stink of the blood was always part of the emptiness for him then and ever after.
     Frodo Baggins could put the ring on his finger now. The stink of the blood and the hole and the emptiness could never leave him now. Frodo Baggins looked at the ash-heap slopes of Mordor and remembered the Cuban orc who had kept the ash on his cigar all the way to the end. The orc just drew on the cigar and smoked the cigar calmly and kept the ash in a long gray finger, a hard finger, right to the moment that the Rangers beat hit to death with clubs. He was mucho orco, the Cuban.
     Frodo Baggins looked at the ring and the hole and smelled the sulfur smell that came from the vent in the mountain. There were scorched black bushes round the vent. The vent was like the cleft of the old whore at the Prancing Pony on the night that the Black Riders came. Frodo Baggins reached in his pouch and took out the flask of good grappa there and filled his mouth and swallowed the grappa. She was mucha puta, the old whore.
     Frodo Baggins could spit again so he spat hard, once. He took the ring and threw it into the vent.
     The earth moved."

— Alison Brooks, Changing The Times

Giller Long List Announced

"Familiar names and former winners made little impression on the three-person jury that chose the long list of semi-finalists for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Among the baker’s dozen of authors nominated this year, only one – Annabel Lyon, author of The Sweet Girl, sequel to her bestselling The Golden Mean – has made a prior appearance among the finalists for Canada’s highest-profile literary award."
— John Barber, The Globe and Mail

Go here to see a slideshow of the nominees...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sour grapes of wrath? Or merely a difference of opinion...

"David Foster Wallace, the critically acclaimed American writer who took his own life in 2008, has been described as 'the most tedious, overrated, tortured, pretentious writer of my generation' by American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis.
   According to Zadie Smith Foster Wallace 'was an actual genius.' Dave Eggers believes his writing is 'world-changing,' and the Booker-longlisted novelist Ned Beauman wrote last week that today's novelists must try 'to work out how in a million years we might ever hope to absorb the magnificent advances and expansions Wallace offered to the form.'"
— Alison Flood, The Guardian

Buy books by all the authors mentioned in this article here...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Tale of Two Books: two reviewers; two opinions; "two species of novelist"

"There are two species of novelist: one writes as if the world is a known locale that requires dutiful reporting, the other as if the world has yet to be made. The former enjoys the complacency of the au courant and the lassitude of at-hand language, while the latter believes with Thoreau that 'this world is but canvas to our imaginations,' that the only worthy assertion of imagination occurs by way of linguistic originality wed to intellect and emotional verity. You close Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy, Middlemarch and Augie March, and the cosmos takes on a coruscated import it rather lacked before, an 'eternal and irrepressible freshness,' in Pound's apt phrase. His definition of literature is among the best we have: 'Language charged with meaning.' How charged was the last novel you read?"
— William Giraldi, in a New York Times review of Alix Ohlin's Inside and Signs and Wonders

"No one can write books like Inside – a novel – and Signs and Wonders – a short-story collection – unless she grew up watching a lot of Ingmar Bergman and Woody Allen films (not a wild guess since Alix Ohlin is the daughter of Peter Ohlin, one of the world’s great authorities on Bergman). But Ohlin is so completely herself as a fiction writer that you don’t have to have seen any Bergman or Allen to get what she’s doing – all you need is a lot of smarts and a wry sense of humour."
— T.F. Rigelhof, The Globe and Mail

Buy these books here...

Friday, September 7, 2012

"[...] unabashed termite art."

"Robert Sheckley wrote tightly crafted, whacked-out social satire in the form of science-fiction stories, using the conceit of future worlds to provide an alienating vantage point on the present. His heyday was the 1950s, when he emerged as a young writer in the pages of thumb-staining pulp mags like Galaxy, Astounding, and Infinity. Sheckley was part of a generation that disassembled the square-jawed tropes of 1920s space operas to produce a new, proto-postmodernist mode of literature, hidden within a genre that many readers at the time dismissed as kiddie lit. Unlike the more mainstream-friendly sentimentalism of Ray Bradbury, or the soberly cosmological world building of Isaac Asimov, Sheckley’s work is unabashed termite art. He illuminates standard sci-fi’s cutout characters and quasi-magical contraptions with a hallucinatory, Technicolor vibrancy, spinning yarns more fabulist than plausible, banged out as permutations of his own pet obsessions, among them mind control, extraterrestrial psychology, and the cruelties of love. [...]
     Though Sheckley continued to write almost up until his death in 2005, Jonathan Lethem and Alex Abramovich’s new collection, Store of the Worlds, leans heavily on the author’s work from the 1950s, including just four tales written in the 1960s, and one in the 1970s. In keeping with the implicit goal of other NYRB science-fiction reissues, they want to rescue Sheckley from the genre ghetto, but at the same time make clear that his talent could only have been forged within that particular crucible."
— Ed Halter, BookForum

Buy all of Robert Sheckley's books here...

Elusive Reclusive

Emily Dickenson circa 1847 (from: Wikipedia)

"A photograph believed to be an extremely rare image of Emily Dickinson has surfaced in her home town of Amherst, Massachusetts, showing a young woman in old-fashioned clothes, a tiny smile on her lips and a hand extended solicitously towards her friend. There is, currently, only one authenticated photograph of Dickinson in existence – the well-known image of the poet as a teenager in 1847. But Amherst College believes an 1859 daguerreotype may well also be an image of the reclusive, beloved poet, by now in her mid-20s and sitting with her recently widowed friend, Kate Scott Turner. If so, it will shed new light on the poet who, by the late 1850s, was withdrawing further and further from the world."
— Alison Flood, The Guardian

Photo from Amhurst College Archives: Emily Dickenson (left)
and Kate Scott Turner (1859)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

"It never did any child any harm to have something that was a tiny bit above them anyway, and I claim that anyone who can follow Doctor Who can follow absolutely anything." — Dianne Wynne Jones

"Reflections on the Magic of Writing is a collection of some thirty pieces written over the years by the late Diana Wynne Jones. Most are short, like her comments on “Reading C. S. Lewis’s Narnia” or her review of Mervyn Peake’s Boy in Darkness, and several are occasional, like her unpublished letter of 1991 to the TLS on “The Value of Learning Anglo-Saxon”, or the school Speech Day address of 2008 on “Our Hidden Gifts.” Longer pieces include a previously published article on “The Shape of the Narrative in The Lord of the Rings,” three lectures given on “A Whirlwind Tour of Australia” in 1992, and a conference paper from 1997, “Inventing the Middle Ages.” [...]
     Her memories of Tolkien are, however, untouched by sentiment. She confirms the reports that he was a dreadful lecturer, disorganized and inaudible, so bad that she wonders if he was doing it on purpose; for in those days, if you had driven your audience away by, say, the third week, you could cancel the rest of the seven-week course 'and still get paid.' She sat there obdurately, however, and learned a lot about the way you could tweak a story from simple quest-narrative to The Pardoner’s Tale. Her long analysis of The Lord of the Rings as a series of movements, each with its own coda, says more about that narrative than, I suspect, Tolkien could."
— Tom Shippey, The Times Literary Supplement

You can buy this book and all of Dianne Wynne Jones' other books here...