Sunday, October 29, 2006


AS A BOOK EDITOR for a good many years now, I have been very fortunate to have met lots of writers from all walks of life and from all levels of emotional intelligence. Here are just a couple of them—classics in the annals of Malaysian wannabe writers—to whet your appetite:

  1. “As far as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a writer. But I’m so busy with work commitments and all that I have no time to write. Writing is so hard and time-consuming. Do you think you could pay somebody good to write for me? But please make sure my name appears on the cover of the book, okay?”
    Well, as far as I can remember, I have always wanted to write for others.
  2. “I know my grammar is really bad—but you can clean it up for me since you are the editor, right? I give you permission to rewrite it for me if you want to.”
    I know I will die rewriting it. In fact, I have died a thousand deaths just doing this through the years.
  3. “You can do anything as you please with my book. You are very good.”
    I am really not that good.
  4. “I am not a writer or anything. But could you fax me a sample contract and a guide to submitting a manuscript—just in case I do decide to become a writer one day.”
    I could also fax you a list of suggested hors doeuvres to serve during the launch party if you wish.
  5. “My English is not good. But I don’t want people to edit my stuff. I want to retain the essence of my writing. So, do you want my book or not?”
  6. “Could you tell me how to get my book published in London or New York? I don’t like to publish my manuscript in Malaysia because I don’t want my book edited. You know anybody in Bloomsbury, HarperCollins or Random House?”
  7. “Everyone has a book inside them. All you need to do is to write it.”
    Though it is true to say that everyone has a book inside them, most books are meant to stay where they are: yes, inside them! Some books are not meant to see the light of day.
  8. “I would like to discuss about the promotion of my book. What shall I serve for the launch?”
    This from an author who hasn’t written his book.
  9. “I don’t want to make any appearances to promote my book. I’m a very private person. Its your responsibility as publisher to sell my book. I don’t want to sell my own books. If I have to sell my own books, I might as well publish them myself.”
    This from another author who has yet to write his magnum opus.
  10. “I am calling from my mobile phone. I have written something but I need somebody to advise me. Could I have your mobile phone number? Maybe we can meet up and chat about it? You want to be my literary agent?”
  11. “You are so lucky to be an editor. You get to read all the wonderful stuff before they appear in the bookshops. Imagine: you actually get to read them before others.”
    Wow! I never thought about my job this way. Yes, I must be so lucky!
  12. “How much is the royalty? So little one-ah? Never mind-lah, I will check with other publishers first.”
    Shopping around for a publisher who would pay her a royalty of 20 per cent for a book she hasn’t written! By the way, J.K. Rowling only gets a royalty of 11-plus per cent.
  13. “You just tell me what you want and I will write it for you.”
    An angel from above here to answer my prayers
  14. “If J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown can do it, I can do it too.”
    Yeah, go ahead and do it, man! And quit talking about it!
  15. “I cannot fax you samples of my work. Im afraid that you just might steal my work.”
    Go ahead and keep it to yourself then!
  16. “I have not published anything. But I have an agent in London.”
  17. “You may not like it, but there are many people who will enjoy reading it.”
    It’s my solemn duty to spare people the agony of reading it.
  18. “Yes, I know I don’t have enough material for a full-length book. Perhaps we could use a bigger font, put bigger spaces between lines and use higher-grammage paper to make the book look thick, substantial and overflowing with knowledge. What do you think?”
    I think I won
    ’t have a place in heaven if I do what you are telling me to do.
  19. “What about my class assignments?”
    Well, if they are good, why not?
  20. “You don’t need to edit my manuscript. Its as perfect as it gets. My wife has edited it. She teaches English, you know.
    Yeah, I know.
  21. I want to know how much my royalty would be if I were to write a book. I would like to check whether it is worth my time writing a book.
    Well, if you sell a million copies of your book, you will make at least a million. However, if you do not sell any copies, you
    won’t get any royalties at all.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

2006 Dylan Thomas Prize for Young Writers: Rachel TRESIZE

WELSH novelist Rachel Trezise has won the 2006 Dylan Thomas Prize for Young Writers for Fresh Apples (2006), a collection of short stories of sexual violence and quiet rural despair. Tresize, from the Rhondda Valley in South Wales, is the first winner of the £60,000 prize, Britain’s most lucrative literary award that is opened only to work by writers under the age of 30.

TREZISE Rachel [1978-] Novelist, short-story writer. Born in the Rhondda Valley, South Wales, United Kingdom. Novels Glory Days (2007); In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl (2002) Stories Fresh Apples (2006: winner of the 2006 Dylan Thomas Prize for Young Writers) Nonfiction Dial M for Merthyr (2007)

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Reading List

1. The Fall of Troy (2006) / Peter Ackroyd
2. Christine Falls (2006) / Benjamin Black
3. The Lay of the Land (2006) / Richard Ford
4. The Road (2006) / Cormac McCarthy

1. Cat O’ Nine Tales (2006) / Jeffrey Archer
2. Every Move You Make (2006) / David Malouf
3. Fresh Apples (2006) / Rachel Tresize

Horse Latitudes (2006) / Paul Muldoon

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Penguin's Selected Poems Series

1. Selected Poems (2006) / Carol Ann Duffy
2. Selected Poems (2006) / James Fenton
3. Selected Poems (2006) / Sophie Hannah
4. Selected Poems (2006) / Tony Harrison
5. Selected Poems (2006) / Geoffrey Hill
6. Selected Poems (2006) / Linton Kwesi Johnson
7. Selected Poems (2006) / Derek Mahon
8. Selected Poems (2006) / Roger McGough
9. Selected Poems (2007) / Brian Patten

Friday, October 20, 2006

Eric NEWBY (1919-2006)

ERIC NEWBY, one of my favourite travel writers, has died, aged 86, on Friday, October 20, 2006. Newby is the author of A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (1958) and Love and War in the Apennines (1971), a fascinating account of his experiences in Italy during World War II.

NEWBY Eric [1919-2006] Travel- writer. Born George Eric Newby in Barnes, London, England. Nonfiction Great Ascents: A Narrative History of Mountaineering (1977) Memoir A Small Place in Italy (1994); Love and War in the Apennines (1971); Something Wholesale (1962); Travel Around the World in 80 Years (2003); On the Shores of the Mediterranean (1998); A Merry Dance Around the World: The Best of Eric Newby (1995); What the Traveller Saw (1989); Round Ireland in Low Gear (1987); A Book of Travellers’ Tales (1985); A Traveller’s Life (1982); The Big Red Train Ride (1978); Slowly Down the Ganges (1966); A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (1958); The Last Grain Race (1956) Edited A Book of Lands and People (2003)

Thursday, October 19, 2006


By Eric C. Forbes

This interview was conducted by Lauren Andrew of the University of Wollongong, Australia, in August 2006

Check out my article on taking the first step to getting published

What sort of changes does an editor make?
Most writers lack basic English-language skills. Grammar (because most writers lack basic grammatical skills), punctuation (to make sure the commas, full-stops, colons, semicolons, hyphens and dashes are inserted at all the right places), toning down on circumlocutious writing and overly long paragraphs by breaking them up into manageable chunks, shooting down clichés or allowing its use only sparingly, correcting the spelling and to ensure the use of consistent spelling throughout the manuscript (Malaysian and British publishers demand British spelling while American publishers demand American spelling), checking facts and figures, revising and rewriting sentences and reorganising paragraphs for clarity of thought, etc. Rewriting manuscripts for authors is sometimes called for.

Have you worked for different publications or types of books? How does it vary between the fields?
I edit both fiction and nonfiction. Fiction is more challenging to edit because you deal with abstracts (like literary styles, metaphors, narrative voices, etc.), while in nonfiction you are dealing with stuff that are grounded in reality. A good editor does both equally well. In newspaper and magazine publishing, you tend to cut long sentences, compressing them to fit the space allocated due to advertisements and illustrations. They are much easier to edit compared to books. But then to create a good magazine or newspaper is a challenge in itself. And to tie up all the loose ends before you put a magazine to bed is nerve-racking most of the time.

What’s the most memorable thing you’ve done in your career?
I have edited a couple of great books, especially those that are evergreen, that will stand the test of time, and I can live with that. You somehow learn to live for those rare moments.

Does an editor have any sort of rights to the book they edit? Does the success of a book impact an editor, e.g. royalties or is their job done as soon as the book is ready for publishing?
Editors do not have any rights to the books they edit unless they are contracted to do so and may either be paid a one-time payment or have a share of the royalties. However, most publishing houses do not practise this. The success of a book edited by an editor reflects well on him, of course, and is usually used to place a value on him. Though the job of an editor is done as soon as the book is published, there are always such things as revised editions, reprints, etc., to consider.

Do you mentally edit everything you see, like when you see a misspelt advertisement or an incorrectly punctuated road sign?
Sad to say, I tend to do that more often than not. It’s a hard habit to break.

What’s the hardest thing about being an editor?
You can’t imagine the number of execrable manuscripts I receive. It seems everyone wants to be a writer nowadays even if they can’t string a proper sentence together. I always tell bad writers that I only edit English. And they say what they have written is English. And I say that’s not English, that’s no English at all, believe me.

The main impression, for what it is worth, is how very little good writing there is. That’s not surprising, really, if truth be told. Let us not kid ourselves any longer: writing is difficult, and there aren’t many people who can do it well enough.

Fractured, mangled English has been (and will always be) the bane of my life. Most manuscripts are so atrociously written that I prefer not to look at them at all. A bonfire, that’s where they belong. Either that or I flush it down the you-know-where. I hate myself for saying this, but step into my shoes and you will understand what I mean. Editing bad manuscripts is such a waste of life and natural resources.

We have more than enough writers as it is. What the world desperately needs is, I think, more readers who appreciate good writing and make discerning book-buying decisions. I always say, “If you can’t write, don’t write. Spare the world the pain and agony of reading your writing. If you want to write, do it properly.”

The editing somehow doesn’t get any easier as you gain experience through the years because the quality of manuscripts leaves much to be desired. Of course, once in a blue moon, you still chance upon wonderful books. As an editor, I live for those moments, rare though they are.

What kinds of time periods are allocated to the editing of books?
It depends on each book: on the subject matter, on the quality of the manuscript, on whether there are illustrations (tables, charts, etc.), manpower availability, etc. Some can be completed within a week, some take months. The thing is, most of the time you find yourself editing a couple of books simultaneously.

How much time is spent checking facts and collaborating, and how much is actually spent working on the language of the text?
The onus of ensuring that facts are correct falls on the writer, though editors also check on facts only when there’s a need to. We spend most of our time editing the text. Very tedious and daunting a task. More time should be devoted to the checking of facts and figures. Most of the time you tend to make do with whatever you have because you simply do not have the luxury of time.

Who does an editor generally report to, the publisher or the author?
The editor reports to the publisher but works with the author as much as possible to complete a book. And then he works on the blurb, gathers endorsements for the book and works with the graphic designer to create the book cover or dust jacket.

Do many writers have an editor before submitting their manuscripts to a publisher?
No, though they ought to. Sadly, many writers do not edit their manuscripts as thoroughly as possible before submitting it to a publisher. It would be ideal if manuscripts are edited before an editor in a publishing house looks at them. Editing is very time consuming and tedious.

Most potential writers lack self-editing skills. Most of them do not proofread or edit their manuscripts before submitting them to the publisher. Such raw manuscripts are so badly organised and written that editors or publishers prefer not to look at them at all. If you can’t edit yourself, you shouldn’t be writing at all in the first place.

If you are writing fiction, pay particular attention to the elements that you as a reader normally look for in a good book. What makes a good book? What do we look for in a good book? We hope to find an intelligent mind behind a lively prose style, a distinctive point of view and pleasurable entertainment. Originality is always important, it must have an enduring quality, a distinctive voice, gripping plots, memorable characters, language, style, inventiveness, stories that tap into the contemporary state of mind, etc. Sadly, most writers don’t think like a reader because they do not read enough.

What aspects of editing do you like and what aspects do you dislike?
When you’re editing wonderful books, you are actually gaining new knowledge, new insights and broadening your horizon. I hate it when I have to edit really, really bad manuscripts simply because the subject sells.

The whole process of publishing a book: sourcing for manuscripts, typesetting them, editing them, packaging them, blurbing them, soliciting endorsements for them, printing them, etc., can be a heady experience. However, the publishing industry is more often than not commercial than creative. There are actually lots of wonderful ideas floating around, but we cannot do them simply because we are not sure if they would sell. Also, most manuscripts, in reality, are mediocre, and there aren’t many good ones to choose from. Most of the time we work with what we have.

Is it difficult collaborating with writers?
Most writers tend to be lazy and expect the editor to clean up their manuscripts, which is not always possible nowadays, because books need to be published and marketed as fast as possible for obvious reasons. Writers must learn to revise and rewrite what they have written.

Do you feel that having a talent for writing is important for an editor?
It is essential that editors not only have a flair for writing but write well. You cannot edit without understanding writing. Editors must be well read in as many genres as possible, both fiction and nonfiction, and excellent in grammar and syntax. You must develop a perfect ear for tone when it comes to constructing or rewriting sentences.

Is competition fierce for book editors trying to find work?
You can always find work as an editor. However, there is always keen competition for good editors. The trouble is, not many publishers appreciate the value of a good editor.

How would you suggest a writer go about acquiring an editor?
Once a writer’s manuscript has been accepted for publication, you will be assigned an editor. Obviously not all editors are good in what they do. If a writer is assigned a good editor, he should count himself lucky.

There is a real lack of editing skills in Malaysia. I am not sure whether this is a global phenomenon or whether the standard of editing in Australia and other parts of the world is deteriorating, but good editors are rare.

Editors are the arbiters of quality, making sure that mediocre writing does not flood the market and contaminate the minds of the reading public. Mediocre writing must be rejected; good writers must be encouraged and supported. Those were the days when editors actually line-edit text, checking facts and figures, looking out for inconsistencies, and turning clichés into elegance. Such days are long gone.

Developing good editors takes time, effort and commitment. Editors must edit more, but we must consider the realities of the workplace, where editors are subject to punishing schedules and the bottom line. There is this unseemly haste to get books to market before they’re ready. The editorial process is not taking as long as it should. There are so many books out there. Some of them are worthy. Most of them aren’t. I do believe the great ones will rise to the fore, but they can be obscured by the glut of trash that is being churned out. That can lead to a dulling of the senses. However, good publishers are indeed a rarity, especially those who appreciate the value of good editing. What we need are publishers who grapple with the conflict between perfectionism and commercialism and at the same time try to find ways to improve public taste. That would be ideal.

What advice would you give an aspiring editor?
If you are serious about pursuing editing as a profession, the best way to learn how to edit is to read as widely, deeply and omnivorously as possible—and read both fiction and nonfiction. Striking a balance would be ideal. You must also write well. You must excel in the basics of English grammar. You must enjoy the whole process of producing a good book. You must enjoy the thrill of a perfect sentence.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


“Under Stars”
Tess Gallagher

The sleep of this night deepens
because I have walked coatless from the house
carrying the white envelope.
All night it will say one name
in its little tin house by the roadside.
I have raised the metal flag
so its shadow under the roadlamp
leaves an imprint on the rain-heavy bushes.
Now I will walk back
thinking of the few lights still on
in the town a mile away.
In the yellowed light of a kitchen
the millworker has finished his coffee,
his wife has laid out the white slices of bread
on the counter. Now while the bed they have left
is still warm, I will think of you, you
who are so far away
you have caused me to look up at the stars.
Tonight they have not moved
from childhood, those games played after dark.
Again I walk into the wet grass
toward the starry voices. Again, I
am the found one, intimate, returned
by all I touch on the way.

Reproduced from Amplitude: New and Selected Poems by Tess Gallagher (Graywolf Press, 1987). Gallagher’s most recent book of poetry is Dear Ghosts, (Graywolf Press, 2006).

Monday, October 16, 2006

Philip Seymour HOFFMAN ... On Books and Reading

ACTOR PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN is the winner of a Golden Globe and an Oscar for his role in Capote (2005).

Philip Seymour Hoffman … On Books and Reading
“I’m reading Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem right now. It’s wonderful, and I am not able to describe why. What’s interesting is that many of the essays were written around the time that Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood came out. Didion takes a similar tack in some ways, creating something that is a piece of reporting but also a piece of art.

“‘Journalism always moves along a horizontal plane, telling a story,’ Capote said in an interview, ‘while fiction—good fiction—moves vertically, taking you deeper and deeper into character and events. By treating a real event with fictional techniques ... it’s possible to make this kind of synthesis.’ I feel like Joan Didion, who started out as a novelist, does that. Jon Krakauer and some of the other writers on my list do it, too.”

What’s on Philip Seymour Hoffman’s bookshelf?

1. The Sportswriter (1986) / Richard Ford
2. Independence Day (1995) / Richard Ford
“These two novels are about Frank Bascombe, a middle-aged man living in New Jersey. The Sportswriter begins a few years after the death of one of his children, and by the end of Independence Day, you’ve followed him for the next eight or so years. These are two of the greatest books about grief. Bascombe doesn’t sit in a corner and weep, but you know that his life has been affected by that loss. He used to be married; he used to have a family. It’s also incredibly accurate and illuminating about how men think. At the end of the first book, Bascombe wonders if one effect of life is to cover you in a residue ‘of all the things you’ve done and been and said and erred at.’ In that instant, the veil lifts, and he feels a sense of being free again. But he also realizes that this lightness won’t last. And, worse, that it might not come again.”

3. Revolutionary Road (1961) / Richard Yates
“Frank and April Wheeler are a young married couple who’ve moved from Greenwich Village to the suburbs. They consider themselves intellectuals, and they’ve left the city with regret. The way they justify it in their hearts is to assume that they are better than their neighbors. But one night, while with another couple, Frank tells a story, and in the middle he realizes he’s told it before. It’s an awful scene—a moment when Frank and April come to terms with what their life really is and how fully they’ve compromised their dreams. They try to reclaim one: to live in Paris. But that fantasy is only a reprieve, and when the moment passes, the reality sinks back down.”

4. Into the Wild (1996) / Jon Krakauer
“On the face of it, this is an account of what happened to Chris McCandless, a 20-something who made his way to the Alaskan wilderness. Krakauer admits he is also exploring something inside himself through the story of this young man’s life. He’s trying to figure out what makes certain people go to a place where there isn’t any protection. What’s so beautiful is the last anecdote: The parents travel to the spot where their son died, and it gives them peace. The mother leaves a box of food, with a note: ‘Call your parents.’ This isn’t a book about someone looking to die; it’s about someone who wanted to live and had to test himself. I think everybody has some of that inside of them.”

5. A Thousand Acres (1991) / Jane Smiley
“I just love this book. When I was halfway through it—right around when one of the three daughters tries to talk to her father and he goes out into a storm—I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is King Lear.’ I was so impressed with how Smiley was able to take such a classic tale and put it in rural 20th-century Iowa. It’s beautiful, it’s crushing, it’s everything King Lear is—and it’s effortless. I was blown away by the imagination, intellect and talent it must have taken to do that.”

Source: O, The Oprah Magazine

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Linda GRANT ... The People on the Street: A Writer's View of Israel (2006)

GRANT Linda [1951-] Novelist, journalist. Born in Liverpool, England. Novels Still Here (2002); When I Lived in Modern Times (2000: winner of the 2000 Orange Prize for Fiction; shortlisted for the 2001 Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize for Fiction and the 2000 Encore Prize); The Cast Iron Shore (1996: winner of the 1996 David Higham Prize for Fiction and shortlisted for the 1996 Guardian Fiction Award) Nonfiction The People on the Street: A Writer’s View of Israel (2006: winner of the 2006 Lettre Ulysses Award for Literary Reportage); Remind Me Who I Am Again (1998: winner of the 1999 MIND Book of the Year/The Allen Lane Award); Sexing the Millennium: A Political History of the Sexual Revolution (1993)

Friday, October 13, 2006


TURKISH NOVELIST ORHAN PAMUK has won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature, it was announced on October 12, 2006. His win is a joyous celebration of Turkish and world literature. By examining questions of identity amidst east-west collisions and exploring the transformations of contemporary Turkish society, Pamuk has become one of the major writers of the world today. I especially enjoyed My Name is Red (2001), Snow (2004) and The Black Book (2006), as well as his memoir cum cultural history of Turkey, Istanbul: Memories of a City (2005). Congratulations!

PAMUK Orhan [1952-] Novelist, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. Born Ferit Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul, Turkey. Novels The Museum of Innocence (2007); Snow [trans. from the Turkish, Kar (2002), by Maureen Freely in 2004] (2004); My Name is Red [trans. from the Turkish, Benim Adim Kirmizi (1998), by Erdag M. Göknar in 2001] (2001: winner of the 2003 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award); The New Life (trans. from the Turkish, Yeni Hayat (1995), by Güneli Gün in 1997) (1997); The Black Book (trans. from the Turkish, Kara Kitap (1990), by Guneli Gun in 1994 and by Maureen Freely in 2006] (1994; 2006); The White Castle [trans. from the Turkish, Beyaz Kale (1985), by Victoria Holbrook in 1990] (1990: winner of the 1990 Independent Award for Foreign Fiction); The Silent House (originally published as Sessiz Ev in 1983) (untranslated); Cevdet Bey and His Sons (originally published as Cevdet Bey ve Ogullari in 1982) (untranslated) Essays Other Colours (2008) Memoir Istanbul: Memories of a City [trans. from the Turkish, Hatiralar ve Sehir (2003), by Maureen Freely in 2005; published as Istanbul: Memories and the City in the U.S.] (2005: shortlisted for the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction and the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

2006 National Book Awards

THE FOLLOWING BOOKS have been shortlisted for the 2006 National Book Awards for Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry. A surprising list indeed because almost all the big names of contemporary American literature were excluded, most notably Cormac McCarthy, Alice McDermott, Claire Messud and Philip Roth.

1. Only Revolutions (2006) / Mark Z. Danielewski
2. A Disorder Peculiar to the Country (2006) / Ken Kalfus
3. The Echo Maker (2006) / Richard Powers
4. Eat the Document (2006) / Dana Spiotta
5. The Zero (2006) / Jess Walter

1. Averno (2006) / Louise Glück
2. Chromatic (2006) / H.L. Hix
3. Angle of Yaw (2006) / Ben Lerner
4. Splay Anthem (2006) / Nathaniel Mackey
5. Capacity (2006) / James McMichael

1. At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 (2006) / Taylor Branch
2. Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone (2006) / Rajiv Chandrasekaran
3. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl (2006) / Timothy Egan
4. Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present (2005) / Peter Hessler
5. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (2006) / Lawrence Wright

The winners will be announced on November 15, 2006

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

2006 Booker Prize for Fiction

INDIA-BORN KIRAN DESAI, a daughter of the Diaspora, has won the 2006 Booker Prize for Fiction with her second novel, The Inheritance of Loss (2006), an intelligent crosscultural novel that delves into such issues as “identity, displacement and the indissoluble bonds of family.” With this accolade, she has become, at 35, the youngest women ever to have won the prize since its inception in 1969. (The youngest ever winner was of course Ben Okri who landed the Booker Prize for The Famished Road in 1991 at the age of 32.) Congratulations!

If you’ve enjoyed Kiran Desai’s modest début, 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. In her long-awaited second novel, The Inheritance of Loss, Desai 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 (2006: winner of the 2006 Booker Prize for Fiction); Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard (1998: winner of the 1998 Betty Trask Prize for Best First Novel)

Shortlisted authors: Hisham Matar, Kate Grenville, M.J. Hyland, Kiran Desai, Sarah Waters and Edward St. Aubyn

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

2006 Nobel Prize for Literature

BRITISH PLAYWRIGHT Harold Pinter won the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, the first Briton to win the literature award since V.S. Naipaul won it in 2001. So who will it be for 2006? A couple of candidates come to mind.

Orhan Pamuk is a perfect candidate for the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature for his contribution to World Literature with a consistent body of work, both fiction and nonfiction. Other excellent choices for this prize would be Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said), Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, E.L. Doctorow, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Milan Kundera, Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates, Amos Oz, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie and John Updike.

The 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced on Thursday, October 12, 2006

Monday, October 09, 2006

POETRY ... Taha Muhammad Ali


By Taha Muhammad Ali

Neither music,
fame, nor wealth,
not even poetry itself,
could provide consolation
for life’s brevity,
or the fact that King Lear
is a mere eighty pages long and comes to an end,
and for the thought that one might suffer greatly
on account of a rebellious child.

My love for you
is what’s magnificent,
but I, you, and the others,
most likely,
are ordinary people.

My poem
goes beyond poetry
because you
beyond the realm of women.

And so
it has taken me
all of sixty years
to understand
that water is the finest drink,
and bread the most delicious food,
and that art is worthless
unless it plants
a measure of splendor in people’s hearts.

After we die,
and the weary heart
has lowered its final eyelid
on all that’ve done,
and on all that we’ve longed for,
and all that we’ve dreamt of,
all we’ve desired
or felt,
hate will be
the first things
to putrefy
within us.

From Taha Muhammad Ali’s
So What: New and Selected Poems, 1971-2005
(trans. from the Arabic by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi and Gabriel Levin) (Copper Canyon Press, 230pp., $18)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Adam THORPE ... Ulverton (1992)

THORPE Adam [1956-] Novelist, poet, playwright. Born in Paris, France. Novels Between Each Breath (2007); The Rules of Perspective (2005); No Telling (2003); Nineteen Twenty-One (2001); Pieces of Light (1998); Still (1995); Ulverton (1992: winner of the 1992 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize) Stories Is This the Way You Said? (2006); Shifts (2000) Poetry Birds with a Broken Wing (2007); Nine Lessons from the Dark (2003); From the Neanderthal (1999); Meeting Montaigne (1990); Mornings in the Baltic (1988: shortlisted for the 1988 Whitbread Poetry Award) Plays An Envied Place (2002); Couch Grass and Ribbon (1996); Offa’s Daughter (1993); The Fen Story (1991)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Reading List

1. Thanksgiving Night (2006) / Richard Bausch
2. The Ghost at the Table (2006) / Suzanne Berne
3. Water for Elephants (2006) / Sara Gruen
4. The Other Side of the Bridge (2006) / Mary Lawson
5. The Light of Evening (2006) / Edna O’Brien
6. A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear (trans. from the Dari by Sarah Maguire and Yama Yari) (2006) / Atiq Rahimi

1. Connemara: Listening to the Wind (2006) / Tim Robinson
2. Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man (2006) / Claire Tomalin
3. Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors and Media (2006)/ Marina Warner