Tuesday, January 25, 2005


HEARTIEST CONGRATULATIONS to Andrea Levy on winning the 2004 Whitbread Award for Book of the Year with her fourth novel, Small Island, following on the the heels of her 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction win. The Whitbread Award and the Orange Prize are two of Britain's most prestigious literary awards besides the Booker Prize for Fiction. Levy is also the winner of the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book in the Eurasia region. She has also won the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Overall Best Book.

I believe this is the first time an author has won both the Orange Prize and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in the very same year. I also believe this is the first time an author has won the Orange Prize, the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for the same book.

Small Island is the story of a Jamaican immigrant couple struggling to make their way in a hostile postwar London in the 1950s. It is not merely a story about hostility and racism, it is also about people and how history shapes them. John Ezard in The Guardian calls this “a comedy of errors, misunderstandings and prejudice at the onset of West Indian immigration to Britain” on the S.S. Empire Windrush in 1948. With these wins, Small Island is all set to reach a far wider readership.

Small Island is definitely one of my favourite novels of the year.

LEVY Andrea [1956-] Novelist. Born in London, England. Novels Small Island (2004: winner of the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction, the 2004 Whitbread Award for the Novel and the Book of the Year, the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, Eurasia Region, and the overall winner of the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book); Fruit of the Lemon (1999: winner of the 1999 Arts Council Writers Award); Never Far From Nowhere (1996: longlisted for the 1996 Orange Prize for Fiction); Every Light in the House Burnin’ (1994)

Check out Andrea Levy’s Small Island at www.andrealevy.co.uk

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Books spinned off from or inspired by the classics

1. Rebecca’s Tale / Sally Beauman, from Rebecca / Daphne du Maurier
2. The Double Bind / Chris Bohjalian, from The Great Gatsby / F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. Tilting at Windmills: A Novel of Cervantes and the Errant Knight / Julian Branston, from Don Quixote / Cervantes
4. March / Geraldine Brooks, from Little Women / Louisa May Alcott
5. Jack Maggs / Peter Carey, from Great Expectations / Charles Dickens
6. Finn / Jon Clinch, from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn / Mark Twain
7. The Hours / Michael Cunningham, from Mrs. Dalloway / Virginia Woolf
8. The Historian / Elizabeth Kostova, from Dracula / Bram Stoker
9. Mr. Dalloway / Robin Lippincott, from Mrs. Dalloway / Virginia Woolf
10. Mary Reilly / Valerie Martin, from The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde / Robert Louis Stevenson
11. Ahab’s Wife or, The Star Gazer / Sena Jeter Naslund, from Moby-Dick / Herman Melville
12. The Wind Done Gone / Alice Randall, from Gone With the Wind / Margaret Mitchell
13. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern / Tom Stoppard, from Hamlet / William Shakespeare
14. My Jim / Nancy Rawles, from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn / Mark Twain
15. Wide Sargasso Sea / Jean Rhys, from Jane Eyre / Charlotte Brontë
16. Scarlett / Alexandra Ripley, from Gone With the Wind / Margaret Mitchell
17. Dorian / Will Self, from The Picture of Dorian Gray
18. Ten Days in the Hills /Jane Smiley, from The Decameron
19. An Unequal Marriage / Pemberley / Emma Tennant, from Pride and Prejudice / Jane Austen
20. A Jealous Ghost / A.N. Wilson, from The Turn of the Screw / Henry James
21. The Godfather Returns / Mark Winegardner, from The Godfather / Mario Puzo

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Dave King
Little, Brown (2005)

What a luminous début!

THERE's a poetic, new voice coming out of the Big Apple, one that belongs to Dave King, a New York-based, cab-driving painter and poet.

In his assured début, The Ha-Ha, a novel concerned with the fragility of the human psyche and with what it means to be a human being, King makes audible the voice of a tortured man who cannot speak, read or write after a near-fatal head injury sustained in the war in Vietnam. Though what you see can be deceiving. He has a spare, taut style that serves to heighten the emotional impact of the story's celebration of the resilience of the human spirit, resulting in storytelling that is elegant and emotionally engaging.

Without resorting to clichés or sentimentality and with grace and a lightness of touch bordering on the comic, and through internal monologue imbued with narrative grace and emotional insight, King has managed to create in Howie Kapostash a protagonist that we care about and root for, one who will strike a resonant chord in us. By peopling his story with characters whose ordinary, everyday lives are tempered with truth, he has imbued in his narrative a subtle dignity and compassion that is compelling. What a luminous début and what a pleasure it is to read him!

KING Dave [1955-] Novelist, poet. Born in Meridien, Connecticut. NOVEL The Ha-Ha (2005)

Check out Dave King's website at www.davekingwriter.com

Monday, January 03, 2005

Footprints of a Spiritual Life

Goldie Hawn
G.P. Putnam's Sons (2005)

ACTRESS Goldie Hawn will be coming out with her celebrity memoir, A Lotus Grows in the Mud, in 2005. When we think of comedy, how can we forget the kookie Goldie Hawn. And when we think of comedy, how can we forget her star turn in Collin Higgins's Foul Play back in 1978.

Comedy and suspense don't usually go hand in hand but Higgins's endeavour at intermingling them in Foul Play works wonderfully. In this madcap caper, he employs a spate of offbeat comics, including the wide-eyed Goldie Hawn, the klutzy Chevy Chase and the unforgettable Dudley Moore and Burgess Meredith, to tickle you pink and ache your sides.

The storyline revolves around a distressed damsel who lands in a predicament with countless homicidal attempts to terminate her dear life but somehow manages to emerge unscathed every time without fail. There are the usual trimmings and complications to enhance the simple storyline. Higgins has intrepidly effectuated an appetisingly elegant synthesis of light-hearted comedy bordering on slapstick, contrived to ease frayed nerves and sidetrack ennui and lethargy. Foul Play is also appetisingly packed with lots of brisk, frenetic and non-stop action and the killings are executed in an extremely interesting manner.

Sunday, January 02, 2005


A bumper harvest of literary delights!

THE New Year is filled with a bumper harvest of literary delights to keep me up all night. The following are books I am looking forward to reading in 2005:

Zorro / Isabel Allende
Articles of War / Nick Arvin
Brooklyn Follies / Paul Auster
The Harmony Silk Factory / Tash Aw
Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon / Dean Bakopoulos
The Wonder Spot / Melissa Bank
The Sea / John Banville
Arthur & George / Julian Barnes
A Long Long Way / Sebastian Barry
The Landscape of Love / Sally Beauman
The Year of Pleasures / Elizabeth Berg
The Family on Paradise Pier / Dermot Bolger
Leaving Home / Anita Brookner
March / Geraldine Brooks
Acts of Faith / Philip Caputo
The Garden Book / Brian Castro
It's All Right Now / Charles Chadwick
A House of Light / Candida Clark
Love is Strange / Joseph Connolly
A Slight Trick of the Mind / Mitch Cullin
Specimen Days / Michael Cunningham
White / Marie Darrieussecq (trans. from the French by Ian Monk)
Tokyo Cancelled / Rana Dasgupta
This Human Season / Louise Dean
Surface / Siddhartha Deb
The March / E.L. Doctorow
Grace / Robert Drewe
Nothing to be Afraid of / Will Eaves
26a / Diana Evans
Human Traces / Sebastian Faulks
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close / Jonathan Safran Foer
Is There Anything You Want? / Margaret Forster
Friendly Fire / Patrick Gale
Memories of My Melancholy Whores / Gabriel García Márquez (trans. from the Spanish by Edith Grossman)
An Acre of Barren Ground; Or, the History of Everyone Who Ever Lived in Brick Lane / Jeremy Gavron
The Secret River / Kate Grenville
Wreckage / Niall Griffiths
Desertion / Abdulrazak Gurnah
Baker Towers / Jennifer Haigh
Envy / Kathryn Harrison
American Purgatorio / John Haskell
The Secret Mitzvah of Lucio Burke / Steven Hayward
Come Dance With Me / Russell Hoban
The Short Day Dying / Peter Hobbs
The Ice Queen / Alice Hoffman
A Long Way Down / Nick Hornby
Until I Find You / John Irving
Never Let Me Go / Kazuo Ishiguro
All for Love / Dan Jacobson
Grace and Truth / Jennifer Johnston
Limits of Enchantment / Graham Joyce
State of the Union / Douglas Kennedy
The Mermaid Chair / Sue Monk Kidd
The Ha-Ha / Dave King
The History of Love / Nicole Krauss
Utterly Monkey / Nick Laird
A Short History of Ukrainian Tractors / Marina Lewycka
Making It Up / Penelope Lively
Home Land / Sam Lipsyte
Beyond Black / Hilary Mantel
No Country for Old Men / Cormac McCarthy
Saturday / Ian McEwan
The Coast of Akron / Adrienne Miller
The Optimists / Andrew Miller
Lost in the Forest / Sue Miller
The Lost Mother / Mary McGarry Morris
The Trial of True Love / William Nicholson
Ghost Portrait / Gregory Norminton
The Good Wife / Stewart O'Nan
Haunted / Chuck Palahniuk
A Town by the Sea / Chris Paling
Rapids / Tim Parks
Rules for Old Men Waiting / Peter Pouncey
Shalimar the Clown / Salman Rushdie
A Thread of Grace / Mary Doria Russell
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan / Lisa See
Broken Verses / Kamila Shamsie
Prep / Curtis Sittenfeld
The Accidental / Ali Smith
On Beauty / Zadie Smith
Misfortune / Wesley Stace
A Factory of Cunning / Philippa Stockley
The Angel of Forgetfulness / Steve Stern
The Republic of Trees / Sam Taylor
The Alchemy of Desire / Tarun J. Tejpal
Blinding Light / Paul Theroux
Divided Kingdom / Rupert Thomson
The Rules of Perspective / Adam Thorpe
Ordinary Heroes / Scott Turow
High Plains Tango / Robert James Waller
Ya-Yas in Bloom / Rebecca Wells
Only Say the Word / Niall Williams
A Jealous Ghost / A.N. Wilson
The Position / Meg Wolitzer

The Summer He Didn't Die / Jim Harrison

War by Candlelight / Daniel Alarcón
Follies: New Stories / Ann Beattie
Here is Where We Meet / John Berger
God Lives in St. Petersburg and Other Stories / Tom Bissell
Tooth and Claw / T.C. Boyle
The Fahrenheit Twins / Michel Faber
This Other Salt / Aamer Hussein
Small Crimes in an Age of Abundance / Matthew Kneale
Heaven Lies Above Us / Eugene McCabe
Mother of Sorrows / Richard McCann
A Perfect Stranger and Other Stories / Roxana Robinson
Last Night / James Salter
The Read Carpet: Bangalore Stories / Lavanya Sankaran
A Day, a Night, Another Day, Summer / Christine Schutt

The Shout: Selected Poems / Simon Armitage
Where Shall I Wander / John Ashbery
The Good Neighbour / John Burnside
School of the Arts / Mark Doty
Refusing Heaven / Jack Gilbert
Overlord / Jorie Graham
The Birch Grove / Seamus Heaney
Scenes from Comus / Geoffrey Hill
A Shorter Life / Alan Jenkins
Jack and Other New Poems / Maxine Kumin
To a Fault / Nick Laird
The Sugar Mile / Glyn Maxwell
My Noiseless Entourage / Charles Simic

Shakespeare: A Biography / Peter Ackroyd
Curious Pursuits: Occasional Writing (published as Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose, 1983-2005 in the U.S.) / Margaret Atwood
The Power of Delight: A Lifetime in Literature / John Bayley
Quicksands: A Memoir / Sybille Bedford
Heartland: A Memoir / Neil Cross
Sleeping Arrangements / Laura Shaine Cunningham
Findings / Kathleen Jamie
The Disappointment Artist / Jonathan Lethem
The Hall of a Thousand Columns: Hindustan to Malabar with Ibn Battutah / Tim Mackintosh-Smith
India in Mind / Edited by Pankaj Mishra
Uncensored: Views and (Re)Views / Joyce Carol Oates
Istanbul: Memories of a City (published in the U.S. as Istanbul: Memories and the City) / Orhan Pamuk (trans. from the Turkish by Maureen Freely)
Two Lives / Vikram Seth
Matisse: The Master / Hilary Spurling
D.H. Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider / John Worthen