Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Yiyun Li
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (2005)

CONGRATULATIONS to Yiyun Li for winning the first ever Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize (the world’s richest short story prize at €50,000 for a collection of short stories published in English anywhere in the world) for her début collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (2005), a collection of stories set mostly in China. Li, who taught herself to write by reading the works of William Trevor, is the first winner of the Paris Review’s 2004 George Plimpton Prize for new writers for her story, “Immortality”. The other shortlisted books were David Bezmozgis’s Natasha and Other Stories (2004), Alice Hoffman’s Blackbird House (2004), Bret Anthony Johnston’s Corpus Christi (2004), David Means’s The Secret Goldfish (2004) and Tim Winton’s The Turning (2004).

BEZMOZGIS David [1973-] Short-story writer. Born in Riga, Latvia. STORIES Natasha and Other Stories (2004: winner of the 2005 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Literary Award for Fiction; shortlisted for the 2005 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize, the 2004 Guardian First Book Award, the 2004 Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the 2004 Los Angeles Times/Art Seidenbaum Prize for First Fiction)

LI Yiyun [1973-] Short-story writer. Born in Beijing, China. STORIES A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (2005: winner of the 2005 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize and the 2006 PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction; shortlisted for the 2006 Kiriyama Prize for Fiction)

HOFFMAN Alice [1952-] Novelist. Born in New York, New York, U.S. NOVELS The Foretelling (2005); The Ice Queen (2005); The Probable Future (2003); Blue Diary (2001); The River King (2000); Local Girls (1999); Practical Magic (1995); Second Nature (1994); Turtle Moon (1992); Archives of Memory (1990); Here on Earth (1997); Seventh Heaven (1990); At Risk (1988); Illumination Night (1987); Fortune’s Daughter (1985); White Horses (1982); Angel Landing (1980); The Drowning Season (1979); Fortune’s Daughter (1985); Property Of (1977) STORIES Blackbird House (2004: shortlisted for the 2005 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize) CHILDREN’S Moondog (2004); Green Angel (2003); Indigo (2002); Aquamarine (2001); Horsefly (2000); Fireflies: A Winter Tale (1997)

JOHNSTON Bret Anthony [1972-] Short-story writer. Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S. STORIES Corpus Christi (2004: shortlisted for the 2005 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize)

MEANS David [1962-] Short-story writer. Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S. STORIES The Secret Goldfish (2004: shortlisted for the 2005 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize); Assorted Fire Events (2000: winner of the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a finalist for the 2000 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction); A Quick Kiss of Redemption and Other Stories (1991)

WINTON Tim [1960-] Novelist, short-story writer. Born in Perth, Western Australia. NOVELS Dirt Music (2001: winner of the 2001 Western Australian Premier’s Book Award, the 2002 Miles Franklin Award and the 2002 NSW Premier’s Literary Award; shortlisted for the 2002 Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2002 Kiriyama Prize for Fiction); The Riders (1994: winner of the 1995 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Novel in the Southeast Asia and South Pacific region; shortlisted for the 1995 Booker Prize for Fiction); Cloudstreet (1991: winner of the 1992 Miles Franklin Award, the Banjo Award and the Deo Gloria Prize); An Open Swimmer (1982: joint winner of the 1981 The Australian/Vogel Prize); Shallows (1984: winner of the 1984 Miles Franklin Award); That Eye, The Sky (1986); In the Winter Dark (1988) STORIES The Turning (2004: winner of the 2005 NSW Premier’s Literary Award/Christina Stead Prize for Fiction; shortlisted for the 2005 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize); Blood and Water (1993); Minimum of Two (1987); Scission and Other Stories (1985: winner of the 1985 West Australian Council Week Literary Award) NONFICTION Down to Earth (with photographs by Richard Woldendorp) (1999); Local Color: Travels in the Other Australia (1994); Land’s Edge (with Trish Ainslie and Roger Garwood) (1993) CHILDREN’S The Deep (with illustrations by Karen Louise) (1998); Blueback: A Contemporary Fable (1997); Lockie Leonard, Legend (1997); Lockie Leonard, Scumbuster (1993); The Bugalugs Bum Thief (1991); Lockie Leonard, Human Torpedo (1990); Jesse (1988)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Sebastian Barrys
A Long Long Way (2005)

SEBASTIAN BARRY, novelist, poet and playwright, was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1955, and now lives in County Wicklow. The title of his third novel, A Long Long Way (2005), a Booker Prize contender, comes from the World War I anthem, “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary” and it tells of 17-year-old Willie Dunne and his regiment, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and of the divided loyalties felt by many Irish soldiers fighting in the Great War in the wake of the Easter uprising of 1916. It is an engrossing read, with engaging characters and written in an elegant prose style that is poetically magical. Barry is also the author of two other novels: Annie Dunne (2002) and The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998). Those keen on Irish history and would like to know more about the Easter Rebellion of 1916 will do well to explore Charles Townshend’s Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion (Penguin, 2005).

BARRY Sebastian [1955-] Novelist. Born in Dublin, Ireland. NOVELS A Long Long Way (2005: shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction); Annie Dunne (2002); The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998) NOVELLAS Time Out of Mind/Strappado Square (1983) PLAYS Whistling Psyche/Fred and Jane (2004); Hinterland (2002); Our Lady of Sligo (1998); The Steward of Christendom (1995); Prayers of Sherkin/Boss Grady’s Boys: Two Plays (1990) POETRY The Pinkening Boy (2004); Fanny Hawke Goes to the Mainland Forever (1989); The Water-Colourist (1983) CHILDREN’S Elsewhere: The Adventures of Belemus (1985) EDITED The Inherited Boundaries: Younger Poets of the Republic of Ireland (1986)

Friday, September 23, 2005


Rose Tremain’s
The Darkness of Wallis Simpson (2005)

KEEP a lookout for Rose Tremain’s new collection of short stories, The Darkness of Wallis Simpson (2005), due out from Random House under the Chatto & Windus imprint on October 20, 2005.

TREMAIN Rose [1943-] Historical novelist. Born Rosemary Jane Thomson in London, England. NOVELS The Road Home (2007); The Colour (2003: shortlisted for the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction); Music and Silence (1999: winner of the 1999 Whitbread Novel Award); The Way I Found Her (1997); Sacred Country (1992: winner of the 1993 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction and the 1993 Prix Femina Étranger); Restoration (1989: winner of the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award; shortlisted for the 1989 Booker Prize for Fiction); The Swimming Pool Season (1985); The Cupboard (1981); Letter to Sister Benedicta (1979); Sadler’s Birthday (1976) STORIES The Darkness of Wallis Simpson (2005); Collected Short Stories (1996); Evangelista’s Fan and Other Stories (1994); The Garden of the Villa Mollini and Other Stories (1987); The Colonel’s Daughter and Other Stories (1984: winner of the Dylan Thomas Short Story Award for “The Colonel’s Daughter”) CHILDREN’S Journey to the Volcano (1985) PLAYS One Night in Winter (2001); Who was Emily Davison? (1996); Temporary Shelter (1984)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Fay Weldon’s
She May Not Leave (2005)

“BE careful who you invite into the bosom of your homeshe may never leave .... The new novel from Fay Weldon, the writer who knows women better than they know themselves.”

WELDON Fay [1931-] Novelist, short-story writer, playwright. Born Franklin Birkinshaw in Barnt Green, Birmingham, England. NOVELS She May Not Leave (2005); Mantrapped (2004); The Bulgari Connection (2001); Rhode Island Blues (2000); Big Women (published in the U.S. in 1998 as Big Girls Don’t Cry) (1997); Worst Fears (1996: shortlisted for the 1996 Whitbread Novel Award); Splitting (1995); Affliction (published in the U.S. as Trouble) (1993); Growing Rich (1992); Life Force (1992); Darcy’s Utopia (1990); The Cloning of Joanna May (1989); Leader of the Band (1988); The Heart of the Country (1987: winner of the 1989 Los Angeles Times Book Award); The Rules of Life (with illustrations by Amanda Faulkner) (1987); The Hearts and Lives of Men (1987); The Shrapnel Academy (1986); I Love My Love (1984); The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1983); The President’s Child (1982); Puffball (1980); Action Replay (1980); Praxis (1978: shortlisted for the 1979 Booker Prize for Fiction); Little Sisters (1978: published in the U.S. in 1977 as Words of Advice); Remember Me (1976); Female Friends (1975); Down Among the Women (1971); The Fat Woman’s Joke (1967: published in the U.S. in 1968 as … And the Wife Ran Away) STORIES Nothing to Wear and Nowhere to Hide (2002); A Hard Time to be a Father (1998); Wicked Women (1995: winner of the 1996 PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award); Angel, All Innocence (1995); Moon Over Minneapolis or Why She Couldn’t Stay (1991); Polaris and Other Stories (1985); Watching Me, Watching You (1981) CHILDREN’S Nobody Likes Me! (illustrated by Claudio Muñoz) (1997); Party Puddle (illustrated by Carol Wright) (1989); Wolf the Mechanical Dog (illustrated by Pat Leyshun) (1988) NONFICTION Sacred Cows: A Portrait of Britain, Post-Rushidie, Pre-Utopia (1989); Letters to Alice: On First Reading Jane Austen (1984) ESSAYS Godless in Eden (1999); Fay Weldon’s Wicked Fictions (edited by Regina Barreca) (1994) MEMOIR Auto Da Fay (2002) BIOGRAPHY The Lady is a Tramp: Portraits of Catherine Bailey (1995); Rebecca West (1985)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Jane Smileys
13 Ways of Looking at the Novel (2005)

AN engaging must-read for those who love the grand adventure of reading and writing and believe in the transformative power of fiction in our lives. There’s no such thing as a perfect novel, says Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley. All novels are flawed in one way or another. And that’s what makes them all the more intriguing. From Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji (a thousand-year old classic) to Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote (1605) to George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871) to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) to Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955) to Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Makioka Sisters (1957) to Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987) to Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (1999) and Ian McEwan’s Atonement (2001), Smiley explores the art of the novel as a form and its affinity with the history of humanity. For avid lovers of literature, this provocative and at times irreverent history of the novel celebrates the wonders of literature and the reading life.

SMILEY Jane [1949-] Novelist. Born in Los Angeles, California, U.S. NOVELS Good Faith (2003); Horse Heaven (2000); The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton (1998); Moo (1995); A Thousand Acres (1991: winner of the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction); The Greenlanders (1988); Duplicate Keys (1984); At Paradise Gate (1981); Barn Blind (1980) NOVELLAS Ordinary Love and Good Will (1989) STORIES The Age of Grief (1987) NONFICTION 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel (2005); Catskill Crafts: Artisans of the Catskill Mountains (1988) BIOGRAPHY Charles Dickens (2002) MEMOIR A Year at the Races: Reflections on Horses, Humans, Love, Money and Luck (2004)

Recommended Reads
13 Ways of Looking at the Novel (2005); A Thousand Acres (1991); Ordinary Love and Good Will (1989); The Age of Grief (1987)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Amos Ozs
A Tale of Love and Darkness (2004)
(trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange)

AMOS OZ’s memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness (2004), is now out in paperback with an exquisite cover depicting a small boy lying under the sky lost in the plot of a novel, an obvious reflection of the author’s books-filled childhood. Set against the backdrop of the birth of Israel as a nation, this potent fusion of turbulent history and family story documents the growth and development of a writer and his lifelong quest to come to grips with his mother’s suicide. Though this memoir can be heavy-going at times (after all, it is more than a childhood memoir), it is engaging and definitely worth your time. First published in Hebrew in 2002, A Tale of Love and Darkness is the winner of the 2005 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Literary Prize for Nonfiction.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


James Meek’s
The People’s Act of Love (2005)

THE novel is not dead, as claimed by some people in the literary world; good fiction still has the power to enthrall us, to tell us lots of things about our lives and the world we inhabit, to change the way we see the world. Read James Meek’s third novel, The People’s Act of Love (2005), and you will understand what I mean. It’s not often you get to enjoy such a well-written and -realised work of literary fiction; there’s love, war, death and grim but wonderful insights into the nature of humanity, all written in Meek’s clear, lucid prose.

MEEK James [1962-] Novelist, short-story writer. Born in London, England. Novels The People’s Act of Love (2005: winner of the 2006 Ondaatje Prize and the 2006 Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award); Drivetime (1995); McFarlane Boils the Sea (1989) Stories The Museum of Doubt (2000); Last Orders and Other Stories (1992)

“Meek rewards us with characters we care about, and characters we fear, with language that feels crisp and fresh as new snow, in a novel that explores big ideas—sex and death, humanity and evil, guilt and redemption—without ever taking its eye off the story.” Paula Morris, New Zealand Listener

Friday, September 16, 2005

The latest from the world of books

Amy Tan’s
Saving Fish from Drowning (2005)

KEEP a lookout for Amy Tan’s new novel, Saving Fish from Drowning (2005), which is due out from HarperCollins under the Fourth Estate imprint on November 7, 2005.

TAN Amy [1952-] Novelist. Born in Oakland, California, U.S. NOVELS Saving Fish from Drowning (2005); The Bonesetters Daughter (2001); The Hundred Secret Senses (1995: shortlisted for the 1996 Orange Prize for Fiction); The Kitchen Gods Wife (1991); The Joy Luck Club (1989: winner of the 1989 Los Angeles Times Book Award; shortlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction) MEMOIR The Opposite of Fate (2003) CHILDRENS The Chinese Siamese Cat (with illustrations by Gretchen Schields) (1994); The Moon Lady (with illustrations by Gretchen Schields) (1992)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Vladimir Nabokovs Lolita in its myriad incarnations

VLADIMIR NABOKOVs Lolita, the book for which he will always be remembered, was first published by the Olympia Press in Paris on September 15, 1955 (and was only published in the United States in 1958) to much controversy and censure. On September 15, 2005, Vintage will be bringing out a 50th Anniversary edition of this timeless classic of love and obsession between the middle-aged Humbert Humbert and the 12-year-old Dolores Haze. A classic worth rereading. In defending Lolita in 1959, Canadian novelist Robertson Davies said that the theme of the novel is “not the corruption of an innocent child by a cunning adult, but the exploitation of a weak adult by a corrupt child.”

Friday, September 09, 2005

A triumph for British and Irish fiction

THE SHORTLIST is out finally. Sadly, James Meek’s The People’s Act of Love is not on it! John Banville, Julian Barnes and playwright Sebastian Barry are in. And both Ali Smith and Zadie Smith are in as well. The only former Booker Prize winner to make it to the final round is Kazuo Ishiguro (who won the Booker Prize in 1989 for The Remains of the Day), while J.M. Coetzee, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie failed to make the shortlist. It is also sad that many good novels were excluded, especially Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black. Faber & Faber and Hamish Hamilton each has two books on the shortlist, while Picador and Jonathan Cape each has a book on the shortlist.

I’m rooting for Ali Smith and Sebastian Barry, though I think Julian Barnes will finally get his Booker Prize. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is good, but not as good as The Remains of the Day (1989). Zadie Smith’s On Beauty is a modern reworking and a wonderful homage to E.M. Forster’s Howards End (1910), but I think White Teeth (1999) is the better book. However, On Beauty is not an easy book to write. I think John Banville wrote a better book with The Book of Evidence (1989). However, Julian Barnes, Sebastian Barry and Ali Smith may have written their best books. Therefore, my money’s on Julian Barnes’s Arthur & George, Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way and Ali Smith’s The Accidental. Barnes has written a very well realised, polished effort that deserves to be acknowledged.

The winner of the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction will be announced on October 10, 2005.

The Sea (Picador) / John Banville
Arthur & George (Jonathan Cape) / Julian Barnes
A Long Long Way (Faber & Faber) / Sebastian Barry
Never Let Me Go (Faber & Faber) / Kazuo Ishiguro
The Accidental (Hamish Hamilton) / Ali Smith
On Beauty (Hamish Hamilton) / Zadie Smith

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Mark Spragg’s
An Unfinished Life (2004)

The healing of a fractured family

THIS IS AS GOOD a time to talk about Mark Spragg’s An Unfinished Life (2004), considering the fact that the movie version of this novel hits theatres across North America on September 9, 2005. The movie is directed by Lasse Hallström [yes, the director of Peter Hedges’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), John Irving’s The Cider House Rules (1999), Joanne Harris’s Chocolat (2000) and E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News (2001)] and stars Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Lopez, Josh Lucas, Becca Gardner, Camryn Manheim and Damian Lewis. Advance reviews seem to suggest that the film adaptation is as good as the novel.

Reminiscent of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong (1999) and Eventide (2004), An Unfinished Life is a character-driven drama about the bruises of human relationships; more specifically, it’s about the unresolved grief of a man who has lost his son; it’s about love, hope, family, forgiveness and reconciliation. Spragg’s prose is spare, unadorned, yet elegant and poetic, his dialogue sparse and taut, and his characters are as deftly drawn and engaging as the sweeping vistas of Wyoming. There’s something about Wyoming that I find irresistible. Perhaps it’s the brutal splendour of the landscapes that take one’s breath away. Perhaps it’s the light, the colours, or the sagebrush that dots the wide open spaces. Perhaps it’s the big panoramic skies that go on forever. An Unfinished Life is a simple story that delves into the complexities of the human heart, one that leaves you understanding the human condition a little better.

SPRAGG Mark [1952-] Novelist, memoirist. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. NOVELS An Unfinished Life (2004); The Fruit of Stone (2002) MEMOIR Where Rivers Change Directions (1999) EDITED Thunder of the Mustangs (1998)

HARUF Kent [1943-] Novelist. Born in Pueblo, Colorado, U.S. NOVELS Eventide (2004); Plainsong (1999: shortlisted for the 1999 National Book Award); Where You Once Belonged (1990); The Tie That Binds (1984: winner of the 1986 Whiting Writers Award for Fiction)

Sunday, September 04, 2005


André Carrilho
The New York Times Book Review
September 4, 2005

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The latest from the world of books

Kiran Desai's
The Inheritance of Loss (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006)

IF you have enjoyed Kiran Desai's modest début novel, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard (1998), a whimsical yet poignant Indian parable of love, life and family that blends folkloric magic with satirical comedy and written in prose “lush and intensely imagined,” you are in for another enchanting treat. Her long-awaited new novel, The Inheritance of Loss, will be published by the Atlantic Monthly Press on January 9, 2006. This time, she sets her story of love, life and family against the backdrop of a rising insurgency in the northeastern Himalayas.

DESAI Kiran [1971-] Novelist; daughter of novelist Anita Desai. Born in Chandigarh, India. NOVELS The Inheritance of Loss (2005); Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard (1998: winner of the 1998 Betty Trask Prize for Best First Novel)

DESAI Anita [1937-] Novelist, short-story writer. Born Anita Mazumdar in Mussoorie, Delhi, India. NOVELS The Zigzag Way (2004); Fasting, Feasting (1999: shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize for Fiction); Journey to Ithaca (1995); Baumgartner’s Bombay (1988); In Custody (1984: shortlisted for the 1984 Booker Prize for Fiction); Clear Light of Day (1980: shortlisted for the 1980 Booker Prize for Fiction); Fire on the Mountain (1977: winner of the 1978 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize); Cat on a Houseboat (1976); Where Shall We Go This Summer? (1975); The Peacock Garden (with illustrations by Jeroo Roy) (1974); Bye-Bye, Blackbird (1968); Voices in the City (1965); Cry, The Peacock (1963) STORIES Diamond Dust and Other Stories (2000); Games at Twilight and Other Stories (1978) CHILDREN’S The Village by the Sea (1982: winner of the 1983 Guardian Award for Children’s Fiction) NONFICTION Peasant Struggles in India (1979)