Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Finkler Question

it is for the Man Booker 2010. Howard Jacobson has broken the comic novel's four minute barrier and it is fair to assume that there will be many more wits winning awards.

But, shall we admit, what a surprise!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The BBC World Book Club

I was pleasantly surprised to see how beautifully organized the World Book Club web page has become.

This is one of my favourite shows, one that I catch on the podcast and listen to at unearthly waking hours. Really, when it is 2 or 3am, all the funny things seem doubly funny and humane and touching. I loved David Mitchell's asides, Kiran Desai'd tinkling voice, James Ellroy's antics (coupled with his Paris Review interview, which I happened to read, coincidentally just two days before I heard the podcast, very very amusing) - every time, when the clock runs up its 52 minutes, you can imagine how Harriet Gilbert is going to say 'that's all we have time for.' If you want a recommendation of contrasts I'd suggest Gunter Grass talking about Tin Drum and David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas.

The show picks up all the books that have sold very well across the world and in that sense has a good representation of authors from various parts of the world.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Shortlists and Speculations

Now that we are a few days away from the announcement of the Man Booker 2010 winner I find myself making guesses - C seems to be a huge favourite with the bookies while, like them, I can't seem to make up my mind whether Donaghue or Galgut becoming a winner would please me more. 

Like Kalooki Nights, the Finkler Question seems to be a long shot. But Howard Jacobson writes so well that there should be no question about reading this book. If I come across it in the library I am definitely going to pick it up (no really this happens to me a lot. I slot some book into the 'if it crosses my field of vision' category and lo behold in the next few visits, without any effort on my part, the book will stare right back at me and say, 'well, pick me up and let's go'. So there)

Peter Carey's Parrot and Olivier in America - I found Nicholas Spice's LRB review of this book very illuminating. It also told me that appreciating the book is going to require a lot of background reading on my part.

If I were a child and choosing were an inky pinky affair (if you were an 80s child you know what I am talking about,) then I'd wish oh wish for Damon Galgut or Emma Donoghue to win. But let us try being the grandiose adult: think what C winning the Booker will do for experimental fiction (McCarthy, in one of his interviews, when asked about his experimental fiction had a wry and interesting return remark.Now if I can find that link... Also read his Believer mag interview)

So what is your guess?

Andrea Levy - The Long Song

Small Island, Andrea Levy's previous book, was an enormous success sweeping awards and touching many people's hearts across the world. I've been meaning to read it ever since I listened to the World Book Club conversation about that book. Here is a taste of Small Island.

An extract of The Long Song from Levy's website.

Levy's interview from The Man Booker website. Andrea Levy is a first timer on the Man Booker short and long lists and she acknowledges that she 'absolutely thrilled' - 'what author wouldn't be?'

Friday, October 08, 2010

Damon Galgut - In a Strange Room

If I were in a bookstore and browsing authors I haven't read, the chance of my picking up In a Strange Room is very high. One, because the author, Damon Galgut, switches first and third person to tell the story and I am eager to see how that works. Two, it is a journey book - naturally the protagonist is going to be somewhere completely different from where he started and I don't mean geographically. It is always interesting to see how a person responds to change and how he changes consciously or otherwise because of the change.

Damon Galgut's In a Strange Room is on my 2011 reading list. I would love to read it even earlier except that I have Banville's Infinities and Nabokov's Speak, Memory both planned for end of this year and if I were to be any serious about reading them, I'd have to save other good books for later.

Galgut speaks about In a Strange Room on the Man Booker website

Jan Morris reviews In a Strange Room for the Guardian (haven't read this article, linking on trust. Do intend to read it after I read the book)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Alan Warner - The Stars in the Bright Sky

In 1998 Alan Warner published The Sopranos about a bunch of naive young girls in their teens. This book was appreciated for its perceptive portrayal of girls growing up. In 2010, Warner returns to the Sopranos girls, now young women, in The Stars in the Bright Sky, as they meet and plan to go on a cheap holiday. 
I decided to skip reading reviews of this book. It is interesting to me that with such a seemingly chicklit subject (think Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants), there is literary fiction out there written by a man. 
I am marking both The Sopranos and The Stars in the Bright Sky to read strictly in order. 
For more on Alan Warner:
Here is a snippet of an interview he did after The Sopranos was published:
ZS: Do you think writers have a specific role in society to educate or agitate or produce art, or are they just doing a job like anyone else?
I think intelligence should be legalised, I think, as the poet Robin Robertson says, writers write for the void. I feel I make lonely cries and sometimes someone hears me, a writer can only follow the needs of the creatures of their imagination; if writers are going to write to formulas, be it the 19th century English novel or Soviet socialist realism (or Chinese) they will be doomed to artistic failure though they might flourish with royalties.

For list of works etc, here's the contemporary writers page for Alan Warner
PS: I've been repeating this but I find this year's Booker longlist pretty remarkable in its variety. I feel like reading all of them for the sheer difference in themes and styles and periods. Truly amazing.