Quote of the Week

On Science Fiction and the British

December 3rd, 2007 · 3 Comments

In the 1970s, Kingsley Amis, Arthur C Clarke and Brian Aldiss were judging a contest for the best science-fiction novel of the year. They were going to give the prize to Grimus, Salman Rushdie’s first novel. At the last minute, however, the publishers withdrew the book from the award. They didn’t want Grimus on the SF shelves. “Had it won,” Aldiss, the wry, 82-year-old godfather of British SF, observes, “he would have been labelled a science-fiction writer, and nobody would have heard of him again.”

File Under: Quote of the Week

On Economics

November 12th, 2007 · 1 Comment

A bookstore traditionally has been regarded as one of the world’s more civilized places of work and leisure. But with the aggressive rise of the value of our dollar against its U.S. counterpart, the Canadian bookshop has become a charged environment, perhaps even a dangerous one.

Book rage, anyone? As the Canadian dollar hit the $1.10 mark earlier this week, booksellers and publishers began to circulate stories of customers going beyond simply venting their dismay at hapless clerks and turning books into projectiles, sometimes to the point of drawing blood.

File Under: Quote of the Week

On Rejecting Truth

October 30th, 2007 · 3 Comments

But it is possible that Ms. Rowling may be mistaken about her own character. She may have invented Hogwarts and all the wizards within it, she may have created the most influential fantasy books since J. R. R. Tolkien, and she may have woven her spell over thousands of pages and seven novels, but there seems to be no compelling reason within the books for her after-the-fact assertion. Of course it would not be inconsistent for Dumbledore to be gay, but the books’ accounts certainly don’t make it necessary. The question is distracting, which is why it never really emerges in the books themselves. Ms. Rowling may think of Dumbledore as gay, but there is no reason why anyone else should.

File Under: Quote of the Week

On Frankfurt

October 15th, 2007 · 1 Comment

It is however a neat lesson in how the book fair works: for as long as people have written books, people have sold them too, and this involves a certain amount of talking things up. Erasmus, in the 15th century, is said to have drummed up business here (the fair’s been going for 800-odd years) by claiming the first print run of his Colloquies was 24,000. And this in an age when the average number of copies produced was around 50.

File Under: Quote of the Week

On Howl

October 5th, 2007 · Comments Off on On Howl

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the famous court ruling in defense of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” against charges of obscenity, citing the poem’s “redeeming social importance.” The Times reports how New York radio station WBAI had the idea of airing a recording of Ginsberg reading his poem to commemorate defense, but was ultimately dissuaded by its lawyers, who feared that an increasingly zealous FCC could fine the station out of existence.

File Under: Quote of the Week

On Bright Sides

September 27th, 2007 · 5 Comments

But for most writers even having an agent who does nothing for you is better than not having one. Apart from the kudos, having an agent is also a safety-blanket that absolves writers from the responsibility of taking care of their own careers. I’ve been most successful since I stopped waiting for others – agents, producers – to do things for me. But this gradual realisation has been a painful process. I wanted to be “discovered”, but was lucky enough to realise just in time that this was not going to happen. I decided that I wasn’t going to take no for an answer, and the audience reaction to The Agent proved that my writing could be enjoyed once it bypassed the hurdles imposed by the system.

File Under: Quote of the Week

On The Poets

September 19th, 2007 · 3 Comments

Poor poetry, it is the Darfur of twenty-first century literature. Everyone wants to do something about it, but nobody quite knows what is to be done. Money is poured into it (think Miss Ruth Lilly’s $100 million bequest to Poetry magazine), prizes and titles are awarded to poets roughly every thirty-five minutes (think Poet Laureate of the State of New Jersey), new poets are produced roughly at the rate of rabbits (don’t think, lest serious depression set in, of all those endless MFA programs turning out more and more people who will themselves go on to teach in MFA programs). I shouldn’t be surprised to learn that in the United States today there are more practicing poets than members of the National Rifle Association. Poetry societies, poetry foundations, something called poet houses, everything but poetry soup kitchens are currently up and running, and yet it is fairly clear that none of it seems to have made for better poems.

File Under: Quote of the Week

On Tides, Turning

September 13th, 2007 · 2 Comments

Henry Sutton, chair of judges for the fiction section of the awards and literary editor of the Daily Mirror, said he was “surprised and saddened” when he realised that no men had made the grade to even reach the shortlist for the category. “I was shocked when I realised that all three were women,” he said. “I’ve never believed in a difference of the sexes when it comes to literary talent, but there does seem to be a broader appeal in what women are writing than men.”

File Under: Quote of the Week

On Better Ways To Get Groupies

August 27th, 2007 · 1 Comment

It’s not even as if writing is that glamorous. You sit alone for hours on end honing your deathless prose, go days without really talking to anyone and, if you’re very lucky, within a year or so you will have a manuscript that almost no one will want to read. Your friends and family will come to dread requests for constructive feedback – which they know really means just saying, “This is far better than Amis or McEwan” – and if, by some small chance, you do land a book deal you will spend the week of publication wondering why your book isn’t piled up at the front of Waterstones and why you haven’t even picked up a single, measly review in the local paper.

None of this would matter much if being a writer was to somehow make you fantastically attractive. After all, who would care about being broke and angst-ridden if there was the compensation of hordes of groupies? But it doesn’t. At least, not in my experience. Or that of any other writer I know. Though it may well be different for those whose books sell in the hundreds of thousands. Even if, by some small chance, people do think you are modestly talented and creative, they still aren’t going to fancy you any more.

File Under: Quote of the Week

On Freedom of Speech

August 9th, 2007 · 3 Comments

It seems to me there are no shades of gray here. Suppressing a book because you disagree with its content is always a challenge to freedom of speech. And the writers who disputed this — whether Roald Dahl or John le Carré — had different agendas. Sometimes writers are contrarians just for the sake of being contrarians or because they are simply jealous of the attention another writer is getting. The fact remains that Rushdie, by writing, did not cause injuries and deaths. The fatwa did.

File Under: Quote of the Week