Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Collected Poems
Jane Kenyon
(Graywolf Press, 2005)

KENYON Jane [1948-1995] Poet. Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S. POETRY Collected Poems (2005); Otherwise: New and Selected Poems (1996); Constance (1993); Let Evening Come (1990); The Boat of Quiet Hours (1986); From Room to Room (1978) NONFICTION A Hundred White Daffodils: Essays, Interviews, the Akhmatova Translations, Newspaper Columns, and One Poem (1999) TRANSLATION Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova (1985)

Poetry: Collected Poems (2005); Otherwise: New and Selected Poems (1996)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Alice Munro
(Vintage, 2004)

ALICE MUNRO celebrates the rhythms of small-town life and the music of the everyday in her latest collection of stories, Runaway (2004), winner of the 2004 Giller Prize for Fiction and the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, Caribbean and Canada Region. When its comes to the vagaries of love and its discontents, nobody does it better than Munro, possibly one of the best short-story writers in the world.

MUNRO Alice [1931-] Short-story writer. Born Alice Anne Laidlaw in Wingham, Ontario, Canada. STORIES Runaway (2004: winner of the 2004 Giller Prize for Fiction and the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, Caribbean and Canada Region; shortlisted for the 2004 Governor General's Award for Fiction); Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001: winner of the 2002 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, Caribbean & Canada); The Love of a Good Woman (1998: winner of the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 1998 Giller Prize for Fiction; co-winner of the 1998 Trillium Book Award for Fiction); Selected Stories (1996); Open Secrets (1994: winner of the 1995 W.H. Smith Literary Award); Friend of My Youth (1990: winner of the 1990 Trillium Book Award for Fiction and the Canada Council Molson Prize); The Progress of Love (1986: winner of the 1986 Governor General's Award for Fiction and the Marian Engel Prize); The Moons of Jupiter (1982); The Beggar Maid (published in Canada as Who Do You Think You Are? (1978: winner of the 1978 Governor General's Award for Fiction; shortlisted for the 1980 Booker Prize for Fiction); Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You (1974); Lives of Girls and Women (1971); Dance of the Happy Shades (1968: winner of the 1968 Governor General's Award for Fiction)

Stories: Runaway (2004); Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001); Open Secrets (1994); Lives of Girls and Women (1971)

Monday, November 28, 2005


Some classics that every booklover will want to own and treasure

The House of the Spirits / Isabel Allende
Winesburg, Ohio / Sherwood Anderson

Empire of the Sun / J.G. Ballard
Jigsaw / Sybille Bedford
The Legacy / Sybille Bedford
The Adventures of Augie March / Saul Bellow
The Last September / Elizabeth Bowen
The House in Paris / Elizabeth Bowen
The Sheltering Sky / Paul Bowles
Jane Eyre / Charlotte Brontë
Wuthering Heights / Emily Brontë
Earthly Powers / Anthony Burgess
Possession / A.S. Byatt

God’s Little Acre / Erskine Caldwell
Tobacco Road / Erskine Caldwell
Breakfast at Tiffanys / Truman Capote
Don Quixote / Miguel de Cervantes
Farewell, My Lovely / Raymond Chandler
The Moonstone / Wilkie Collins
The Woman in White / Wilkie Collins
Mrs Smith / Evan S. Connell
Nostromo / Joseph Conrad
The Prince of Tides / Pat Conroy
Pricksongs and Descants / Robert Coover

David Copperfield / Charles Dickens
Great Expectations / Charles Dickens

Middlemarch / George Eliot
The Mill on the Floss / George Eliot
The Waste Land / T.S. Eliot
Invinsible Man / Ralph Ellison

Absalom, Absalom! / William Faulkner
As I Lay Dying / William Faulkner
Light in August / William Faulkner
The Sound and the Fury / William Faulkner
The Great Gatsby / F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Blue Flower / Penelope Fitzgerald
Madame Bovary / Gustave Flaubert
A Passage to India / E.M. Forster

New Grub Street / George Gissing
Lord of the Flies / William Golding
The House on Coliseum Street / Shirley Ann Grau
The Keepers of the House / Shirley Ann Grau
The Power and the Glory / Graham Greene
The Heart of the Matter / Graham Greene
The End of the Affair / Graham Greene

A Moveable Feast / Ernest Hemingway
The Diamonds at the Bottom of the Sea / Desmond Hogan
Tess of the D’Urbervilles / Thomas Hardy
The Mayor of Casterbridge / Thomas Hardy
The Transit of Venus / Shirley Hazzard
A High Wind in Jamaica / Richard Hughes
Birthday Letters / Ted Hughes

A Strong Prayer for Owen Meany / John Irving
The World According to Garp / John Irving
The Remains of the Day / Kazuo Ishiguro

The Golden Bowl / Henry James
The Portrait of a Lady / Henry James
The Turn of the Screw / Henry James
What Maisie Knew / Henry James
Three Men in a Boat / Jerome K. Jerome

The Unbearable Lightness of Being / Milan Kundera

Of Human Bondage / W. Somerset Maugham
The Razor’s Edge / W. Somerset Maugham
Rebecca / Daphne du Maurier
The Thorn Birds / Colleen McCullough
Amongst Women / John McGahern
A Fine Balance / Rohinton Mistry
The Stones of Summer / Dow Mossman
The Black Prince / Iris Murdoch
The Sea, the Sea / Iris Murdoch
A Severed Head / Iris Murdoch

Lolita / Vladimir Nabokov
A Bend in the River / V.S. Naipaul
A House for Mr Biswas / V.S. Naipaul

The English Patient / Michael Ondaatje

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute / Grace Paley
My Name is Red / Orhan Pamuk
The Bell Jar / Sylvia Plath
A Dance to the Music of Time / Anthony Powell
Remembrance of Things Past / In Search of Lost Time / Marcel Proust

Gilead / Marilynne Robinson
Housekeeping / Marilynne Robinson
Call It Sleep / Henry Roth
American Pastoral / Philip Roth
Midnight’s Children / Salman Rushdie

Light Years / James Salter
The Tale of Genji / Murasaki Shikibu
Angle of Repose / Wallace Stegner
The Grapes of Wrath / John Steinbeck

The Secret History / Donna Tartt
Walden / Henry David Thoreau
The Lord of the Rings / J.R.R. Tolkien
Anna Karenina / Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace / Leo Tolstoy
Music and Silence / Rose Tremain
First Love / Ivan Turgenev
Torrents of Spring / Ivan Turgenev
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn / Mark Twain

The Color Purple / Alice Walker
All the King’s Men / Robert Penn Warren
Scoop / Evelyn Waugh
The Age of Innocence / Edith Wharton
The House of Mirth / Edith Wharton
The Tree of Man / Patrick White
Cloudstreet / Tim Winton
Dirt Music / Tim Winton
Look Homeward, Angel / Thomas Wolfe
You Can’t Go Home Again / Thomas Wolfe
The Bonfire of the Vanities / Tom Wolfe
Mrs Dalloway / Virginia Woolf
To the Lighthouse / Virginia Woolf

Revolutionary Road / Richard Yates
The Easter Parade / Richard Yates

Sunday, November 27, 2005


André Carrilho
The New York Times Book Review
November 27, 2005

Saturday, November 26, 2005


IT’S been an astounding year for literary fiction. Yes, it’s that time of year again. And the established names in British fiction were out in full force: Julian Barnes, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hilary Mantel, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie. Also there were a couple of excellent débuts by Daniel Alarcón, Diana Evans, Peter Hobbs and Jim Lynch. Here then are my picks for the 30 best books of the year.

Arthur & George (Jonathan Cape) / Julian Barnes
A Long Long Way (Faber & Faber) / Sebastian Barry
Never Let Me Go (Faber & Faber) / Kazuo Ishiguro
Beyond Black (Harper Perennial) / Hilary Mantel
Saturday (Jonathan Cape) / Ian McEwan
The People’s Act of Love (Canongate) / James Meek
Dancing in the Dark (Secker & Warburg) / Caryl Phillips
Rules for Old Men Waiting (Chatto & Windus) / Peter Pouncey
Shalimar the Clown (Jonathan Cape) / Salman Rushdie
The Accidental (Hamish Hamilton) / Ali Smith
On Beauty (Hamish Hamilton) / Zadie Smith
The Angel of Forgetfulness (Viking) / Steve Stern
Divided Kingdom (Bloomsbury) / Rupert Thomson

Here is Where We Meet (Bloomsbury) / John Berger
Ghost Town (Bloomsbury) / Patrick McGrath

War by Candlelight (HarperCollins) / Daniel Alarcón
The Harmony Silk Factory (HarperCollins) / Tash Aw
26a (Chatto & Windus) / Diana Evans
The Short Day Dying (Faber & Faber) / Peter Hobbs
The Ha-Ha (Little, Brown) / Dave King
The Highest Tide (Bloomsbury) / Jim Lynch

Where Shall I Wander: New Poems (Ecco) / John Ashbery
Legion (Faber & Faber) / David Harsent
Migration: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press) / W.S. Merwin

Quicksands: A Memoir (Hamish Hamilton) / Sybille Bedford
Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev (Shoemaker & Hoard) / Robert Dessaix
The Year of Magical Thinking (Fourth Estate) / Joan Didion
Findings (Sort of Books) / Kathleen Jamie
Memoir (Faber & Faber) / John McGahern
Istanbul: Memories of a City (published in the U.S. as Istanbul: Memories and the City) (Faber & Faber) / Orhan Pamuk (trans. from the Turkish by Maureen Freely)
13 Ways of Looking at the Novel (Alfred A. Knopf) / Jane Smiley
Two Lives (Time Warner) / Vikram Seth

Friday, November 25, 2005


BOTH the British Queens of Crime are back with good old-fashioned murder mysteries this autumn. And they are back with a bang! P.D. James, with The Lighthouse (Faber & Faber, 2005), a Commander Adam Dalgliesh mystery, and Ruth Rendell with End in Tears (Hutchinson, 2005), another Chief Inspector Wexford police procedural.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


SOMEHOW books all over the place work best for me. When visiting people’s houses, I enjoy discovering the kinds of books people buy, read or collect. If they are all over the house, all the better!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


One of my all-time favourite actors

By Terry Coleman
595 pages, Henry Holt & Company

Olivier: The Authorised Biography
by Terry Coleman
624pp, Bloomsbury

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


LET’S TALK ABOUT ... Bernice Rubens

WHEN YOU READ Booker Prize-winning writer Bernice Rubens’s memoir, When I Grow Up (Little, Brown, November 3, 2005), you can’t believe she has already died, because her evocative memoir is so filled with the comedy of life. “My mother said I was over imaginative, but I was simply a liar by nature. I was happily at home with mendacity. It was less boring than the truth. My natural home lay in fiction,” she writes. She comes alive on every page and she grips you with her poignance and candour. Rubens died in the autumn of 2004, soon after completing her memoir, her last book as well as her first work of non-fiction. “Reading Bernice Rubens,” says Kate Kellaway in the Observer (November 20, 2005), “is like playing grandmother’s footsteps. You just wish that she hadn’t already touched the finishing line.” Yes, she still has a couple of good books in her for us.

RUBENS Bernice [1928-2004] Novelist, playwright. Born Bernice Ruth Rubens in Cardiff, Wales. NOVELS The Sargeants’ Tale (2003); Nine Lives (2002); Milwaukee (2001); I, Dreyfus (1999: shortlisted for the 2000 Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize for Fiction); The Waiting Game (1997); Yesterday in the Back Lane (1995); Hijack (1993); Autobiopsy (1993); Mother Russia (1992); A Solitary Grief (1991); Kingdom Come (1990: winner of the 1991 Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize for Fiction and the 1991 Welsh Arts Council Award); Our Father (1987: winner of the 1988 Welsh Arts Council Award); Mr Wakefield’s Crusade (1985); Brothers (1983); Birds of Passage (1981); Spring Sonata: A Fable (1979); A Five-Year Sentence (published as Favors in the U.S. in 1978) (1978: shortlisted for the 1978 Booker Prize for Fiction); The Ponsonby Post (1977); I Sent a Letter to My Love (1975: winner of the 1976 Welsh Arts Council Award); Go Tell the Lemming (1973); Sunday Best (1971); The Elected Member (published as Chosen People in the U.S. in 1969) (1969: winner of the 1970 Booker Prize for Fiction); Mate in Three (1966); Madame Sousatzka (1962); Set on Edge (1960) MEMOIR When I Grow Up (2005)

Fiction: I, Dreyfus (1999); Kingdom Come (1990); Our Father (1987); A Five-Year Sentence (1978); I Sent a Letter to My Love (1975); The Elected Member (1969)
Nonfiction: When I Grow Up (2005)

Monday, November 21, 2005


LET’S TALK ABOUT ... Romesh Gunesekera

ROMESH GUNESEKERA, the author of Reef (Granta, 1994) and Monkfish Moon (Granta, 1992), will be in Kuala Lumpur from November 21-25, 2005, where he will participate in a conference on “Worlds in Discourse” organised by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and conduct creative writing workshops. Gunesekera will be reading from a selection of his works at Silverfish Books, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, on November 24, 2005, at 7:00p.m. Malaysian bookshops would do well to be more responsive to such literary events and stock up on the books of authors making stopovers in the city.

Bloomsbury will be publishing Romesh Gunesekera’s new novel, The Match, on March 6, 2006. You will most probably have enjoyed the Colombo-born novelist’s last two novels, Heaven’s Edge (Bloomsbury, 2002) and The Sandglass (Granta, 1998); a novella, Reef (Granta, 1994), winner of the 1994 Yorkshire Post Award for Best First Work and shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize for Fiction and the 1994 Guardian Fiction Prize; as well as a collection of stories, Monkfish Moon (Granta, 1992), which was shortlisted for the 1993 Commonwealth Writers Prize. Read what the acclaimed novelist has to say about why he writes: “The world being what it is, I write to redress the balance, at least in my own mind. I want to keep an inner life alive and, with luck, somebody else’s too. Imaginative writing, to me, is a way of discovering who we are, and what we have to contend with; discovering what is out there, and also what is not there. It enables me to think and explore and make something new with language, while trying to make sense of our lives.”

GUNESEKERA Romesh [1954-] Novelist, short-story writer, poet. Born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. NOVELS The Match (2006); Heaven’s Edge (2002); The Sandglass (1998) NOVELLA Reef (1994: winner of the 1994 Yorkshire Post Best First Work Award and the Italian Premio Mondello; shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize for Fiction and the 1994 Guardian Fiction Prize) STORIES Monkfish Moon (1992: shortlisted for the 1993 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Fiction)

Novella: Reef (1994)
Stories: Monkfish Moon (1992)

Sunday, November 20, 2005


An engraving of Walt Whitman from the first edition of Leaves of Grass (1855)

Saturday, November 19, 2005


LET’S TALK ABOUT ... Frances Itani

ITANI Frances [1942-] Short-story writer, novelist, poet. Born Frances Susan Itani in Belleville, Ontario, Canada. NOVEL Deafening (2003: 2004 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, Caribbean & Canada) STORIES Poached Egg on Toast (2004); Leaning, Leaning Over Water (1998); Man Without Face (1994); Truth or Lies (1989); Pack Ice (1989); POETRY A Season of Mourning (with illustrations by Molly Lamb Bobak) (1988); Rentee Bay: Poems from the Bay of Quinte (1785-89) (1983); No Other Lodgings (1978) CHILDREN’S Linger by the Sea (with illustrations by Molly Lamb Bobak) (1979)

Novel: Deafening (2003)
Stories: Leaning, Leaning Over Water (1998)

Friday, November 18, 2005



CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE’s début novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), has been shortlisted for the 2004 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for Literature, one of Britain’s oldest and most prestigious literary awards. The prize was founded over 60 years ago in honour of the writer John Llewellyn Rhys who was killed in action in World War II. Past winners include William Boyd, Margaret Drabble, David Mitchell and Jeanette Winterson.

Purple Hibiscus (Fiction) / Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Broken String (Nonfiction) / Neil Bennun
The Afterglow (Fiction) / Anthony Cartwright
Some Great Thing (Fiction) / Colin McAdam
The Places in Between (Nonfiction) / Rory Stewart
Boy A (Fiction) / Jonathan Trigell

The winner will be announced on December 1, 2005

Jonathan Trigell, whose first novel, Boy A, was announced the winner of the 2004 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for Literature on December 1, 2005

Thursday, November 17, 2005


HEARTIEST CONGRATULATIONS to author William T. Vollmann for winning the 2005 National Book Award for Fiction on Wednesday, November 16, 2005, for his novel, Europe Central (Viking, 2005).

The NBA for Nonfiction went to Joan Didion for her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), an account of her grief and mourning over the death of her novelist husband, John Gregory Dunne, in late 2003.

The NBA for Poetry was awarded to W.S. Merwin for Migration: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005), the Pulitzer Prize-winner and one of the great American living poets, who had been nominated seven previous times for the National Book Award but never won.

The NBA for Young People’s Literature went to Jeanne Birdsall for her début novel, The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005).



ONCE AGAIN, the battle for the best books begins! This time, it is for the 2005 Whitbread Awards, one of United Kingdom’s top literary prizes, for the best novel, first novel, biography, poetry and children’s book. Literary heavyweights John Banville, Julian Barnes, Kazuo Ishiguro and Ian McEwan are not in the running at all. Sebastian Barry and Zadie Smith are not on it. But Ali Smith is on it. And Salman Rushdie has been included as well. Tash Aw, Diana Evans and Peter Hobbs are on the shortlist for the best first novel. And there are David Harsent (who has already won the 2005 Forward Prize for his collection, Legion) and Christopher Logue for poetry and Hilary Spurling for biography.

A Long Way Down (Viking) / Nick Hornby
Shalimar the Clown (Jonathan Cape) / Salman Rushdie
The Accidental (Hamish Hamilton) / Ali Smith
The Ballad of Lee Cotton (Little, Brown) / Christopher Wilson

The Harmony Silk Factory (Harper Perennial) / Tash Aw
26a (Chatto & Windus) / Diana Evans
The Short Day Dying (Faber & Faber) / Peter Hobbs
Gem Squash Tokoloshe (Pan Macmillan) / Rachel Zadok

Haw-Haw (Macmillan) / Nigel Farndale
Nature Cure (Chatto & Windus) / Richard Mabey
Stuart: A Life Backwards (Fourth Estate) / Alexander Masters
Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse: The Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954 (Hamish Hamilton) / Hilary Spurling

Legion (Faber & Faber) / David Harsent
Cold Calls (Faber & Faber) / Christopher Logue
Lucky Day (Carcanet) / Richard Price
Marabou (Carcanet) / Jane Yeh

Framed (Macmillan) / Frank Cottrell Boyce
The White Darkness (Oxford University Press) / Geraldine McCaughrean
Permanent Rose (Hodder Headline) / Hilary McKay
The New Policeman (Bodley Head) / Kate Thompson

The winners of the five categories will be announced on January 4, 2006 and then do battle for the Whitbread Book of the Year on January 24, 2006

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


HEARTIEST CONGRATULATIONS to Toronto author David Gilmour for winning the 2005 Governor General’s Award for Fiction on Wednesday, November 16, 2005, for his novel, A Perfect Night to Go to China (2005), the story of a fathers guilt after his son disappears.

GILMOUR David [1949-] Novelist. Born in London, Ontario, Canada. NOVELS A Perfect Night to Go to China (2005: winner of the 2005 Governor General’s Award for Fiction); Sparrow Nights (2001); Lost Between House (1999); An Affair with the Moon (1993); How Boys See Girls (1991); Back on Tuesday (1986)


The Colours of Fall in Quebec, Canada
If poetry had colours ...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


An arresting beginning is vital. Period. There are no two ways about it. A good beginning is essential because it sets the tone of a novel until its resolution. What is at first an opening line will be resonant throughout the novel; this opening line will be the theme of the novel, and will ultimately propel its characters to their ends. Great writers know the importance of a good opening line and always pay attention to good beginnings.

“We are each the love of someone’s life.”

SO BEGINS Andrew Sean Greer’s heartbreakingly haunting love story, The Confessions of Max Tivoli (2004), a striking second novel that incorporates an intriguing plot twist that is by turns fascinating and horrific, told in the voice of a man who appears to age backwards.

Another good beginning is Louise Dean’s first novel about marriage and solitude, Becoming Strangers (2004), a fine display of economic writing, never wasting a word and yet revealing a wealth of emotion.

Before he’d had cancer he’d been bored with life. Since he’d taken dying seriously, he’d been busy; he was occupied with understanding the disease and training his body to resist it.

The opening lines of Louise Dean’s novel may not be much of a laugh, but they will stop you in your tracks. It rarely takes me more than a page or two to sense whether a novel’s going to take me somewhere worth going. In her case, those first two lines were enough. My heart stopped. And I knew she had me. It’s not just the honest darkness of those two opening line, nor the ache of truth they encapsulate. And it’s not just about the up-and-down rhythm of the words either, the pleasing arc that the collision of the two sentences somehow creates. No, most of all, I think, it’s what the writer makes you feel instantly about this enigmatic person whose life has been so vivified by death. She creates in you a naked curiosity that needs to slaked or quenched.

Sometimes in the night he dreamed about the dead—familiar faces and the others, half-forgotten ones, fleetingly summoned up.

The opening line of Colm Toibin’s The Master (2004) should offer the reader a tantalising glimpse of what to expect in the pages ahead. And hooking the reader. His prose is wonderfully precise and crisp, subtle yet incisive; it is also highly engaging and establishes a conversational and intimate affinity with the reader right at the beginning.

Also take a look at Alice Hoffman’s novel, The Ice Queen (2005), a miraculous, enthralling story of a woman who is struck by lightning and finds her frozen heart suddenly burning. It is also a magical story of passion, loss and renewal.

Be careful what you wish for. I know that for a fact. Wishes are brutal, unforgiving things, they burn your tongue the moment they're spoken and you can never take them back. They bruise and bake and come back to haunt you. I've made far too many wishes in my lifetime, the first when I was eight years old. Not the sort of wish for ice cream or a party dress or long, blond hair; no. The other sort, the kind that rattles your bones, then sits in the back of your throat, a greedy red toad that chokes you until you say it aloud.

The kind that can change your life in an instant, before you have time to wish you can take it back.

Some other examples of good beginnings include the following:

I was nine the year winter came in spring, and Cait Delacey's mother, Mag of Slievecorragh, died; the winter had come and gone and surprised us with its return - sneaking furtively back to us like a fox during the night. The storm turned the sky black, the mercury plummeted, and everything beyond New Rowan froze. The snow fell so heavily and quickly it was like a hand wiping the land of every distinguishable feature. In the morning the fields were blanketed by soft-packed snow that sparkled all the way to town.”
Thomas O’Malley, In the Province of Saints (2005)

“I was looking for a quiet place to die. Someone recommended Brooklyn, and so the next morning I traveled down there from Westchester to scope out the terrain.”
Paul Auster, The Brooklyn Follies (2005)

The silence of snow, thought the man sitting just behind the bus driver. If this were the beginning of a poem, he would have called the thing he felt inside him the silence of snow.
Orhan Pamuk, Snow (2004)

Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them.
Michel Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White (2002)

I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well. Although I drew my last breath long ago and my heart has stopped beating, no one, apart from that vile murderer, knows what's happened to me. As for that wretch, he felt for my pulse and listened for my breath to be sure I was dead, then kicked me in the midriff, carried me to the edge of the well, raised me up and dropped me below. As I fell, my head, which he had smashed with a stone, broke apart; my face, my forehead and cheeks, were crushed; my bones shattered, and my mouth filled with blood.
Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red (2001)

The madness of an autumn prairie cold front coming through. You could feel it: something terrible was going to happen. The sun low in the sky, a minor light, a cooling star. Gust after gust of disorder. Trees restless, temperatures falling, the whole northern religion of things coming to an end. No children in the yards here. Shadows lengthened on yellowing zoysia. Red oaks and pin oaks and swamp white oaks rained acorns on houses with no mortgage. Storm windows shuddered in the empty bedrooms. And the drone and hiccup of a clothes dryer, the nasal contention of a leaf blower, the ripening of local apples in a paper bag, the smell of the gasoline with which Alfred Lambert had cleaned the paintbrush from his morning painting of the wicker love seat.
Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections (2001)

Peter Gregory kicked the door of the dispersal hut closed behind him with the heel of his boot. He sensed the iciness of the air outside but was too well wrapped to feel it on his skin. He looked up and saw a big moon hanging still, while ragged clouds flew past and broke up like smoke in the darkness. He began to waddle across the grass, each step won from the limits of movement permitted by the parachute that hung down behind as he bucked and tossed his way forward. He heard the clank of the corporal fitter’s bicycle where it juddered over the ground to his right. The chain needed oiling, he noted; the man was in the wrong gear and a metal mudguard was catching on the tyre with a rhythmic slur as the wheel turned.
Sebastian Faulks, Charlotte Gray (1998)

“‘Take my camel, dear,’ said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.”
Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond (1956)

Monday, November 14, 2005


One of my favourite authors

IRVING John [1942-] Novelist. Born John Wallace Blunt, Jr., in Exeter, New Hampshire, U.S. NOVELS Until I Find You (2005); The Fourth Hand (2001); A Widow for One Year (1998); A Son of the Circus (1994); A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989); The Cider House Rules (1985); The Hotel New Hampshire (1981); The World According to Garp (1978: winner of the 1980 National Book Award for Paperback Fiction); The 158-Pound Marriage (1974); The Water-Method Man (1972); Setting Free the Bears (1969) ESSAYS Trying to Save Piggy Sneed (1996) MEMOIRS My Movie Business (1999); The Imaginary Girlfriend (1996) CHILDREN’S A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound (with illustrations by Tatjana Hauptmann) (2004)

The Cider House Rules (1985); The World According to Garp (1978)

Sunday, November 13, 2005



“Literature transforms and restores and brings people to their true selves. It is not a palliative, not luxurious, not a placebo. It is none of those gentle things. It is about confrontation, rather than consolation. It is about a challenge with the self: who you are and who you want to be and how you will work the world into your own shape.” Jeanette Winterson, in an interview with Lucasta Miller in the Guardian of October 22, 2005

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Food for the mind and soul

I SAUNTERED into the best bookshop in Kuala Lumpur this weekend and treated myself to a couple of great books to nourish my mind and soul after a long week of mindless activity.

The Harmony Silk Factory (1st American edition) (2005) / Tash Aw
The Sea (1st American edition) (2005) / John Banville
Old Filth (2004) / Jane Gardam
A Tale of Love and Darkness (2004) / Amos Oz (trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange)
Saving Fish from Drowning (1st American edition) (2005) / Amy Tan

AW Tash [1972-] Novelist. Born Aw Ta-Shii in Taipei, Taiwan. NOVEL The Harmony Silk Factory (2005: winner of the 2005 Whitbread First Novel Award; longlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2005 Guardian First Book Award)

BANVILLE John [1945-] Novelist. Born in Wexford, Ireland. NOVELS The Sea (2005: winner of the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction); Shroud (2002); Eclipse (2000); The Untouchable (1997: shortlisted for the 1997 Whitbread Novel Award for Fiction); Athena (1995); Ghosts (1993); The Book of Evidence (1989: shortlisted for the 1989 Booker Prize for Fiction); Mefisto (1986); The Newton Letter: An Interlude (1982); Kepler (1981: winner of the 1981 Guardian Prize for Fiction); Doctor Copernicus (1976: winner of the 1976 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction); Birchwood (1973); Nightspawn (1971) STORIES Long Lankin (1970) PLAYS God's Gift (2000); The Broken Jug (1994) TRAVEL Prague Pictures: Portrait of a City (2003)

GARDAM Jane [1928-] Novelist, short-story writer, children’s writer. Born Jean Mary Pearson in Coatham, North Yorkshire, England. NOVELS Old Filth (2004: shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction); The Flight of the Maidens (2000); Faith Fox (1996); The Queen of the Tambourine (1991: winner of the 1991 Whitbread Novel Award); Crusoe’s Daughter (1985); God on the Rocks (1978: winner of the Prix Baudelaire in 1989 and shortlisted for the 1978 Booker Prize for Fiction) STORIES Missing the Midnight (1997); Going into a Dark House (1994: awarded the 1995 PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award); Showing the Flag and Other Stories (1989: winner of the 1989 Prix Baudelaire); The Pangs of Love and Other Stories (1983: winner of the 1984 Katherine Mansfield Award); The Sidmouth Letters (1978); Black Faces, White Faces (1975: winner of both the 1975 David Higham Prize for Fiction and the 1975 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize) NONFICTION The Iron Coast (with photographs by Peter Burton and Harland Walshaw) (1994) CHILDREN’S Ink Monkey (1999); The Green Man (with illustrations by Mary Fedden) (1998); Tufty Bear (1996); Through the Doll’s House Door (1987); Swan (1986); Kit in Boots (1985); Kit (1984); Horse (1982); Bridget and William (1981); The Hollow Land (1981: winner of the 1981 Whitbread Children’s Novel Award); Bilgewater (1977); The Summer After the Funeral (1973); A Long Way from Verona (1971); A Few Fair Days (1971)

OZ Amos [1939-] Novelist, short- story writer, essayist, memoirist. Born Amos Klausner in Jerusalem, Israel. NOVELS The Same Sea (trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange) (1999; 2001); Don’t Call It Night (trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange) (1994; 1996); Panther in the Basement (trans. from the hebrew by Nicholas de Lange) (1995; 1997); Fima (trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange) (1991; 1993); To Know a Woman (trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange) (1989; 1991); Black Box (trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange) (1987; 1988); A Perfect Peace (trans. from the Hebrew by Hillel Halkin) (1982; 1985); In the Land of Israel (trans. from the Hebrew by Maurie Goldberg-Bartura) (1983); The Hill of Evil Counsel (1973; 1978); Unto Death (trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange) (1971; 1975); Touch the Water, Touch the Wind (1973; 1974); Elsewhere, Perhaps (trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange) (1966; 1973); My Michael (trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange) (1968; 1972) STORIES Where the Jackals Howl and Other Stories (trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange and Philip Simpson) (1965; 1981) NONFICTION Help Us to Divorce: Israel & Palestine: Between Right and Right (2004); Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? (2004) ESSAYS The Silence of Heaven (2000); Israel, Palestine, and Peace (1995); Under This Blazing Light (trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange) (1995); In the Land of Israel (1993); The Slopes of Lebanon (trans. from the Hebrew by Maurie Goldberg-Bartura) (1990) MEMOIR A Tale of Love and Darkness (trans. from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange) (2003; 2004: winner of the 2005 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Literary Award for Nonfiction)

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)

Friday, November 11, 2005

The queen of the spelling bee

Transcendence through spelling: Richard Gere and Flora Cross as father and daughter in the movie, Bee Season (2005), adapted from the well-regarded 2000 novel by Myla Goldberg. Also stars Juliette Binoche, Max Minghella and Kate Bosworth.

GOLDBERG Myla [1971-] Novelist. Born in Washington, D.C., U.S. NOVELS Wickett’s Remedy (2005); Bee Season (2000) ESSAYS/TRAVEL Time’s Magpie: A Walk in Prague (2004)

Photography by Phil Bray

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

David Bergen wins the 2005 Giller Prize for Fiction!

HEARTIEST CONGRATULATIONS to Winnipeg novelist David Bergen on winning the 2005 Giller Prize for Fiction, one of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards, for his fourth novel, The Time in Between (2005).

BERGEN David [1957-] Novelist, short-story writer. Born in Port Edward, British Columbia, Canada. NOVELS The Time in Between (2005: winner of the 2005 Giller Prize for Fiction); The Case of Lena S. (2002: winner of the 2003 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award; shortlisted for the 2002 Governor General’s Award); See the Child (1999); A Year of Lesser (1996) Stories Sitting Opposite My Brother (1993)