Monday, April 30, 2007

2007 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize Longlist

THE LONGLIST for the 2007 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize has been announced. The shortlist will be announced on July 21, 2007, and the award will be presented at the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Festival in Cork, Ireland, in September 2007. In 2006, the prize went to Haruki Murakami’s Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (2006) and in 2005, Yiyun Li received the inaugural prize for her début collection of short stories, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (2005).

1. There Are Little Kingdoms (The Stinging Fly, Ireland) / Kevin Barry (Ireland)
2. Until a Shrimp Learns to Whistle (Ginninderra Press, Australia) / T.M. Collins (Australia)
3. The Colours of Man and Other Stories (Arlen House, Ireland) / Micheál Ó Conghaile (Ireland)
4. The Gradual Gathering of Lust (Canongate, U.K.) / Toni Davidson (U.K.)
5. Our Former Lives in Art (Random House, U.S.) / Jennifer S. Davis (U.S.)
6. The Heather Fields and Other Stories (Blackstaff Press, Northern Ireland) / John F. Deane (Ireland)
7. Diamonds in the Mud (Macmillan, Australia) / Joy Dettman (Australia)
8. Family Connections (Salt Publishing, U.K.) / Chrissie Gittins (U.K.)
9. The Stories of Mary Gordon (Pantheon Books, U.S.) / Mary Gordon (U.S.)
10. And Other Stories (Northwestern University Press, U.S.) / Georgi Gospodinov (Bulgaria)
11. Too Much, Too Soon (Pandanus Books, Australia) / Stephanie Green (Australia)
12. Opportunity (Random House, New Zealand) / Charlotte Grimshaw (New Zealand)
13. Sunstroke (Jonathan Cape, U.K.) / Tessa Hadley (U.K.)
14. No One Belongs Here More Than You (Canongate, U.K.) / Miranda July (U.S.)
15. A Fragile Hope (Salt Publishing, U.K.) / Ken N. Kamoche (Kenya)
16. Walk the Blue Fields (Faber & Faber, U.K.) / Claire Keegan (Ireland)
17. Missing Kissinger (Chatto & Windus, 2007) / Etgar Keret (Israel) (trans. from the Hebrew by Miriam Schlesinger and Sondra Silverston)
18. Red Spikes (Allen & Unwin, Australia) / Margo Lanagan (Australia)
19. The Moose Show (Salt Publishing, U.K.) / Matthew Licht (U.S.)
20. A House of Cards (Pillar Press, Ireland) / Elizabeth MacDonald (Ireland)
21. Every Move You Make (Chatto & Windus, U.K.) / David Malouf (Australia)
22. At Home with Miss Vanesa (Tindal Street Press, U.K.) / E.A. Markham (Montserrat)
23. Astral Bodies (Salt Publishing, U.K.) / Jay Merill (U.K.)
24. The Weight of Feathers (Arlen House, Ireland) / Geraldine Mills (Ireland)
25. Permanent Visitors (University of Iowa Press, U.S.) / Kevin Moffett (U.S.)
26. The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, U.S.) / Manuel Muñoz (U.S.)
27. The View from Castle Rock (Chatto & Windus, U.K.) / Alice Munro (Canada)
28. Valentines (Pantheon Books, U.S.) / Olaf Olafsson (Iceland)
29. Don’t Make Me Stop Now (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, U.S.) / Michael Parker (U.S.)
30. The Separate Heart (Jonathan Cape, U.K.) / Simon Robson (U.K.)
31. St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (Chatto & Windus, U.K.) / Karen Russell (U.S.)
32. Call It Tender (Salt Publishing, U.K.) / John Saul (U.K.)
33. Not Your Average Bear and Other Maine Stories (Tilbury House, U.S.) / Jerry Stelmok (U.S.)
34. Dance of the Suitors (Oberon Press, Canada) / J.M. Villaverde (Canada)

Here are six of my personal favourites which I hope make it to the official shortlist:

1. The Stories of Mary Gordon (Pantheon Books, U.S., 2006) / Mary Gordon (U.S.)
2. Sunstroke (Jonathan Cape, U.K., 2007) / Tessa Hadley (U.K.)
3. Walk the Blue Fields (Faber & Faber, U.K., 2007) / Claire Keegan (Ireland)
4. Missing Kissinger (Chatto & Windus, U.K., 2007) / Etgar Keret (Israel) (trans. from the Hebrew by Miriam Schlesinger and Sondra Silverston)
5. Every Move You Make (Chatto & Windus, U.K., 2007) / David Malouf (Australia)
6. The View from Castle Rock (Chatto & Windus, U.K., 2006) / Alice Munro (Canada)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

SHOOTING THE BREEZE

PUBLISHING? WHAT’S THAT?
By Eric C. Forbes

MANY PEOPLE somehow do not seem to understand the arduous process of publishing a book and making sure the bookshops stock it. A publishing house is not a production or typesetting house. (“I want my book out within a month. I’ve already booked the venue and ordered the food for the launch. I want international distribution. I want my book to be available at every Waterstone’s and Barnes & Noble in the kingdom. I want ...”) It is definitely not a baby-sitting service where you dump your manuscript and hope a magnum opus will miraculously emerge from it. (“Could you turn this into a book with a nice cover and all the usual trimmings?”) They do not seem to understand the rigorous and painstaking process of creating a good book. (“Here are some photographs I took with my digicam; I want a glossy coffee-table book with my name in bold letters, please. It shouldn’t be too expensive. After all, I do want everyone to be able to afford it.”) It is not a dream factory where your books are manufactured and your dreams realised. (“I dream of becoming a writer one day. Could you make my dream come true?”)

Of course, but first you got to do something. Like write. Yes, write. Is it unreasonable to insist that you write if you wish to be published?

There is lots of good old-fashioned hard work involved in publishing a book, much of it hidden from the view of the world. It is, however, very difficult to maintain standards because there are more bad writing than good. But, for a publisher or editor, that is where the fun is. (“Here is Harry Potter’s magic wand: go turn yourself into a good writer.”)

Write only if you are serious about good writing and producing a book that will stand the test of time. Write a book that will make you proud. Write with confidence; write with humility; write with empathy. Lose the unbecoming arrogance. Do not be afraid to admit mistakes, but learn from them and move on. Always strive to be better. We do not want the world to think that we celebrate mediocrity, do we? As a writer, you must ask yourself whether people are willing to fork out their hard-earned money to buy your book. Will reading your book make any difference to their lives? Is your book worth more than the paper it is printed on? These are just some questions writers must ask themselves if they are serious about writing. What you write about is as important as how you write it. As an editor of books, a good manuscript is like a dream come true, a shooting star across the heavens, a breath of fresh air, a fine-dining experience at Nobu or The Fat Duck, the coming of rain after a season of drought, a harvest after the padi-planting season.
There is a world of difference between a good and bad manuscript. Not only is a good manuscript well written, it is also well edited before being submitted to a publishing house for consideration. A good manuscript is like the proverbial needle in the haystack. When you are editing a good manuscript it feels like being in heaven; there is beautiful music and the sound of angels singing. When you are editing a bad manuscript it is like burning in the pits of hell, with fire and brimstone your eternal companions. What I dislike most is the fact that good manuscripts are so difficult to find. Sadly, there aren’t that many good ones to choose from. Most of them are unpublishable. Well, as they say, life’s like that. However, in real life, we do publish the unreadable ... and the occasional good book that actually sells!

We not only need more writers, but more writers with original ideas, thoughts and opinions that matter and appeal to as many readers as possible. We need writers with a sense of intelligence and storytelling in their prose. Otherwise, what’s the point of publishing? We need writers who can write well and are able to string sentences grammatically and syntactically ... and punctuate them at all the right places. We want writing that is entertaining and gripping and thought-provoking all at the same time. There is nothing like the sound of a perfect sentence; it crackles like dried leaves being trampled upon in the heat of a summer’s day. Of course, this is actually harder to write than it sounds.

If fiction is not you thing, try nonfiction. Not everyone can do both equally well. Go on and write the book that you were born to write. And when that happens, perhaps we will meet at the bookshops one of these days and celebrate your success!

nurture and nourish your spirit and soul with the arts ...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

POETRY After ... Franz WRIGHT

“After”
Franz WRIGHT
From Earlier Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007)


Where I am going now
I don’t yet know:
I have, it appears, no destination, no plan.
In fact no particular longing to go
on anymore, at the moment, the cold
weightless fingers encircling my neck
to make me recite, one more time,
the great reasons for being alive.

Permanent address: unknown.
In the first place, we are not convinced
I exist at all. And if I have
a job

it is to be that hour
when the birds who sing all night long wake
and cease one by one,
and the last stars blaze and go out.

It is to be the beam of morning in the room,

the traveler at your front door;
or, if you wake in the night,
the one who is not
at the door.

The one who can see, from far off,
what you hiddenly go through.

The hammer’s shadow in the shadow of a hand.

No one,
and the father of no one.


This poem first appeared in The One Whose Eyes Open When You Close Your Eyes (1982)

Friday, April 27, 2007

May 2007 Highlights

Novels
1. Dream When You’re Feeling Blue (2007) / Elizabeth Berg
2. The Rope Walk (2007) / Carrie Brown
3. Five Skies (2007) / Ron Carlson
4. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (2007) / Michael Chabon
5. Falling Man (2007) / Don DeLillo
6. Landing (2007) / Emma Donoghue
7. The Gathering (2007) / Anne Enright
8. Engleby (2007) / Sebastian Faulks
9. The Lollipop Shoes (2007) / Joanne Harris
10. A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) / Khaled Hosseini
11. Sorry (2007) / Gail Jones
12. Chronicle in Stone [trans. from the Albanian, Kronikë në gur (1971), in 1987] (2007) / Ismail Kadare
13. Consequences (2007) / Penelope Lively
14. When We Were Bad (2007) / Charlotte Mendelson
15. The Savage Garden (2007) / Mark Mills
16. In the Dark (2007) / Deborah Moggach
17. After Dark (2007) / Haruki Murakami
18. Redemption Falls (2007) / Joseph O’Connor
19. Divisadero (2007) / Michael Ondaatje
20. The Opposite House (2007) / Helen Oyeyemi
21. Joshua Spassky (2007) / Gwendoline Riley
22. Flower Children (2007) / Maxine Swann
23. Between Each Breath (2007) / Adam Thorpe
24. Orpheus Lost (2007) / Janette Turner Hospital

First Novel
1. The Blood of Flowers (2007) / Anita Amirrezvani
2. In the Tenth House (2007) / Laura Dietz

Stories
1. No One Belongs Here More Than You (2007) / Miranda July
2. Walk the Blue Fields (2007) / Claire Keegan
3. The Collected Stories (2007) / Leonard Michaels
4. Presence (2007) / Arthur Miller
5. In the Driver’s Seat (2007) / Helen Simpson
6. Chaos: A Novella and Stories (2007) / Edmund White

Poetry
1. The Best Man That Ever Was (2007) / Annie Freud
2. Hawks and Doves (2007) / Alan Gillis
3. Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006 (2007) / Carl Phillips
4. Birds with a Broken Wing (2007) / Adam Thorpe
5. Earlier Poems (2007) / Franz Wright

Nonfiction
1. By Hook or by Crook: A Journey in Search of English (2007) / David Crystal
2. Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression (2007) / Mildred Armstrong Kalish
3. Austerity Britain, 1945-51 (2007) / David Kynaston
4. Young Stalin (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007) / Simon Sebag Montefiore

Thursday, April 26, 2007

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

THE FOLLOWING EXTRACT from a review of Dani Shapiro’s Black & White (2007) by Erica Wagner in the New York Times Book Review of April 22, 2007, should make nutritious food for thought for those who are attempting the novel:

“Good novels go on beyond their final pages. They leave their authors and enter the minds of readers, who will ask questions, make demands and sometimes find themselves dissatisfied, just as they do with the flesh and blood creatures who inhabit the world outside the pages of a book.” Erica Wagner, author of Seizure (Faber & Faber, 2007)

nurture and nourish your spirit and soul with the arts ...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tunku Halim ... 44 Cemetery Road (April 2007)

The Return of Malaysia’s Prince of Darkness

TUNKU HALIM’s “greatest-hits” album, 44 Cemetery Road: The Best of Tunku Halim (MPH Publishing, April 2007, 352pp), is finally out. It collects his best stories over a decade in a single volume. There are 21 stories in all. A hefty tome perfect for a weekend of reading. One of the three new stories in this collection of new and selected stories is “44 Cemetery Road.” I believe you will enjoy reading them. Congratulations, Tunku Halim!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

2007 Orange New Writers Award

DIANA EVANS won it in 2005 with her first novel, 26a (2005). In 2006, the award went to Naomi Alderman for her début novel, Disobedience (2006). This year, the following three writers and their novels have been shortlisted for the 2007 Orange New Writers Award:

Poppy Shakespeare (2006) / Clare Allan
The Lizard Cage (2005) / Karen Connelly
Bitter Sweets (2007) / Roopa Farooki

The winner will be announced on June 6, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

POETRY Necessity & Juke Box Love Song ... Langston HUGHES

“Necessity”
“Juke Box Love Song”
Langston HUGHES

“Necessity”
Work?
I don’t have to work.
I don’t have to do nothing
but eat, drink, stay black, and die.
This little old furnished room’s
so small I can’t whip a cat
without getting fur in my mouth
and my landlady’s so old
her features is all run together
and God knows she sure can overcharge—
Which is why I reckon I does
have to work after all.

“Juke Box Love Song”
I could take the Harlem night
and wrap around you,
Take the neon lights and make a crown,
Take the Lenox Avenue busses,
Taxis, subways,
And for your love song tone their rumble down.
Take Harlem’s heartbeat,
Make a drumbeat,
Put it on a record, let it whirl,
And while we listen to it play,
Dance with you till day—
Dance with you, my sweet brown Harlem girl.

From Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951) and Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (1958)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Divisadero ... Micheal ONDAATJE

MICHAEL ONDAATJE writes with such grace, elegance and seductiveness that it would be both a shame and a surprise if he does not get shortlisted for the 2007 Booker Prize for Fiction. A new novel by the poet and novelist is always cause for celebration. His much-anticipated new novel, Divisadero (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), looks at truth and its consequences, and how these can have devastating impacts on our lives, and the bonds that keep people together. It has been seven long years since his last novel, the Giller Prize-winning Anil’s Ghost, was published in 2002. The question is, Will Mr Ondaatje be the next writer to follow in the footsteps of Peter Carey, J.M. Coetzee and Salman Rushdie to win the Booker Prize twice? (Of course, in Rushdie’s case, he won a Booker as well as a Booker of Bookers.)

Divisadero is published in Canada by McClelland & Stewart and in the U.S. and U.K. by Alfred A. Knopf

Bibliography
ONDAATJE Michael [1943-] Novelist, poet. Born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Novels Divisadero (2007); Anil’s Ghost (2000: winner of the 2000 Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize and the 2000 Governor General’s Award for Fiction and co-winner of the 2000 Giller Prize for Fiction); The English Patient (1992: co-winner of the 1992 Booker Prize for Fiction and winner of the 1992 Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the 1992 Trillium Book Award for Fiction); In the Skin of a Lion (1987: winner of the City of Toronto Book Award and the 1987 Trillium Book Award for Fiction; shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction); Running in the Family (1982); Coming Through Slaughter (1976: winner of the 1976 Books in Canada First Novel Award) Poetry Handwriting (1998); The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems (1991); Two Poems (1986); Secular Love (1984); Tin Roof (1982); Rat Jelly and Other Poems: 1963-78 (1980); There’s a Trick with a Knife I’m Learning to Do: Poems, 1963-1978 (1979: winner of the 1980 Governor General’s Award for Poetry); Claude Glass (1979); Elimination Dance (1978); Rat Jelly (1973); The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems (1970: winner of the Governor General’s Award for Poetry); The Man with Seven Toes (1969); The Dainty Monsters (1967) Nonfiction The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film (2002) Edited Paris Stories (2002); From Ink Lake: Canadian Stories (1990-91); The Faber Book of Contemporary Canadian Short Stories (1990); The Long Poem Anthology (1979); Personal Fictions: Stories by Munro, Wiebe, Thomas, and Blaise (1977); The Broken Ark: A Book of Beasts (Poems chosen by Michael Ondaatje, drawings by Tony Urquhart) (1971)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

POETRY Elegy in a Kensington Churchyard ... Muriel SPARK

“Elegy in a Kensington Churchyard”
Muriel SPARK
From All the Poems by Muriel Spark (Carcanet, 2004)

Lady who lies beneath this stone,
Pupil of Time pragmatical,
Though in a lifetime’s cultivation
You did not blossom, summer shall.
The fierce activity of grass
Assaults a century’s constraint.
Vigour survives the vigorous,
Meek as you were, or proud as paint.

And bares its fist for insurrection
Clenched in the bud; lady who lies
Those leaves will spend in disaffection
Your fond estate and purposes.

Death’s a contagion: spring’s a bright
Green fit; the blight will overcome
The plague that overcame the blight
That laid this lady low and dumb,

And laid a parish on its back
So soon amazed, so long enticed
Into an earthy almanack,
And musters now the spring attack;
Which render passive, latent Christ.

Friday, April 20, 2007

POETRY Three Dreams About Elizabeth Bishop ... J.D. McCLATCHY

“Three Dreams About Elizabeth Bishop”
J.D. McCLATCHY
From Ten Commandments (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998)


I.

It turned out the funeral had been delayed a year.
The casket now stood in the state capitol rotunda,
An open casket. You lay there like Lenin
Under glass, powdered, in powder blue
But crestfallen, if that’s the word
For those sagging muscles that make the dead
Look grumpy. The room smelled of gardenias.
Or no, I was a gardenia, part of a wreath
Sent by the Radcliffe Institute and right behind
You, with a view down the line of mourners.
When Lloyd and Frank arrived, both of them
Weeping and reciting—was it “Thanatopsis”?—
A line from Frank about being the brother
To a sluggish clod was enough to wake you up.
One eye, then the other, slowly opened.
You didn't say anything, didn't have to.
You just blinked, or I did, and in another room
A group of us sat around your coffin chatting.
Once in a while you would add a comment—
That, no, hay was stacked with beaverslides,
And, yes, it was a blue, a mimeograph blue
Powder the Indians used, and stuck cedar pegs
Through their breasts in the ghost dance—
All this very slowly. Such an effort for you
To speak, as if underwater and each bubble-
Syllable had to be exhaled, leisurely
Floated up to the surface of our patience.
Still alive, days later, still laid out
In a party dress prinked with sun sparks,
Hands folded demurely across your stomach,
You lay on the back lawn, uncoffined,
Surrounded by beds of freckled foxglove
And fool-the-eye lilies that only last a day.
By then Lowell had arrived, young again
But shaggy even in his seersucker and tie.
He lay down alongside you to talk.
The pleasure of it showed in your eyes,
Widening, then fluttering with the gossip,
Though, of course, you still didn't move at all,
Just your lips, and Lowell would lean in
To listen, his ear right next to your mouth,
Then look up smiling and roll over to tell me
What you said, that since you’d passed over
You'd heard why women live longer than men—
Because they wear big diamond rings.


II.

She is sitting three pews ahead of me
At the Methodist church on Wilshire Boulevard.
I can make out one maple leaf earring
Through the upswept fog bank of her hair
—Suddenly snapped back, to stay awake.
A minister is lamenting the forgetfulness
Of the laws, and warms to his fable
About the wild oryx, “which the Egyptians
Say stands full against the Dog Star
When it rises, looks wistfully upon it,
And testifies after a sort by sneezing,
A kind of worship but a miserable knowledge.”
He is wearing, now I look, the other earring,
Which catches a bluish light from the window
Behind him, palm trees bent in stained glass
Over a manger scene. The Joseph sports
A three-piece suit, fedora in hand.
Mary, in a leather jacket, is kneeling.
The gnarled lead joinder soldered behind
Gives her a bun, protruding from which
Two shafts of a halo look like chopsticks.
Intent on her task, her mouth full of pins,
She seems to be taking them out, one by one,
To fasten or fit with stars the night sky
Over the child's crib, which itself resembles
A Studebaker my parents owned after the war,
The model called an Oryx, which once took
The three of us on the flight into California.
I remember, leaving town one Sunday morning,
We passed a dwarfish, gray-haired woman
Sitting cross-legged on an iron porch chair
In red slacks and a white sleeveless blouse,
A cigarette in her hand but in a silver holder,
Watching us leave, angel or executioner,
Not caring which, pursuing her own thoughts.


III.

Dawn through a slider to the redwood deck.
Two mugs on the rail with a trace
Still of last night’s vodka and bitters.
The windchimes’ echo of whatever
Can't be seen. The bottlebrush
Has given up its hundred ghosts,
Each blossom a pinhead firmament,
Galaxies held in place by bristles
That sweep up the pollinated light
In their path along the season.
A scrub jay’s Big Bang, the swarming
Dharma of gnats, nothing disturbs
The fixed orders but a reluctant question:
Is the world half-empty or half-full?
Through the leaves, traffic patterns
Bring the interstate to a light
Whose gears a semi seems to shift
With three knife-blade thrusts, angry
To overtake what moves on ahead.
This tree’s broken under the day.
The red drips from stem to stem.
That wasn’t the question. It was,
Why did we forget to talk about love?
We had all the time in the world.

What we forgot, I heard a voice
Behind me say, was everything else.
Love will leave us alone if we let it.
Besides, the world has no time for us,
The tree no questions of the flower,
One more day no help for all this night.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

2007 Miles Franklin Literary Award: Shortlist

THE 2007 Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist has been announced and include the following four Australian novels:

1. Theft: A Love Story (2006) / Peter Carey
2. Dreams of Speaking (2006) / Gail Jones
3. Careless (2006) / Deborah Robertson
4. Carpentaria (2006) / Alexis Wright

The winner will be announced on June 21, 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

POETRY The City and Its Own ... Irving FELDMAN

“The City and Its Own”
Irving FELDMAN
From Leaping Clear (1976) and Collected Poems, 1954-2004 (2004)

Among the absolute graffiti which
—stenciled, stark, ambiguous—command
from empty walls and vacant lots,
POST NO BILLS, NO TRESPASSING HERE:
age and youth—Diogenes, say,
and Alexander, dog-philosophy
and half-divine, too-human imperium—
colliding, linger to exchange ideas
about proprietorship of the turf.
Hey, mister, you don’t own the sidewalk!
Oh yeah?
Yeah! the city owns the sidewalk—mister!
Oh yeah! says who?
Thus power's rude ad hominem walks all over
the civil reasoner, the civic reason.

Everyone has something.
Everything is someone’s.

The city is the realm of selves in rut
and delirium of ownership, is property,
objects made marvelous by prohibition
whereby mere things of earth become ideas,
thinkable beings in a thought-of world
possessed by men themselves possessed by gods.

. . .

So I understood at twelve and thirteen,
among the throngs of Manhattan,
that I dodged within a crowd of gods
on the streets of what might be heaven.
And streets, stores, stairs, squares, all
that glory of forbidden goods, pantheon
of properties open to the air,
gave poor boys lots to think about!
And then splendor of tall walkers
striding wide ways, aloof and thoughtful
in their nimbuses of occupation,
advancing with bright assurance as if
setting foot to say, This is mine, I
am it—and passing on to add,
Now yield it to you, it is there.
Powers in self-possession, their thinking
themselves was a whirling as they went,
progressing beyond my vista to possess
unthought-of worlds, the wilderness.

These definitions, too, have meant to draw
a line around, to post and so prohibit,
and make our vacant lot a sacred ground.
Here then I civilize an empty page
with lines and letters, streets and citizens,
making its space a place of marvels now
seized and possessed in thought alone.
You may gaze in, you must walk around.
—Aha (you say), conceit stakes out its clay!
—That is a cynic’s interpretation,
pulling the ground out from under my feet;
I fall, I fear, within your definition
which, rising and dusting off my knees,
civilly I here proclaim our real estate,
ours in common, the common ground
of self, a mud maddened to marvel
and mingle, generously, in generation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

2007 Orange Prize for Fiction Shortlist

QUITE A STRONG line-up of nominees for the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction this time round. Kiran Desai is the winner of the 2006 Booker Prize for The Inheritance of Loss (2006). Rachel Cusk is the 1993 Whitbread First Novel Award winner for Saving Agnes (1993). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the winner of the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Best First Book Prize for Purple Hibiscus (2003) while Anne Tyler won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Breathing Lessons (1988). Jane Harris is the only newcomer with her first novel, The Observations (2006), an assured first novel made all the more entertaining by the plot twists in a Victorian setting and the compelling voice of its protagonist, a young Irish maid and her thoughts on the strange goings-on in a mansion that has seen better days in provincial Scotland. I think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Anne Tyler stand very good chances of winning the prize. Tyler has come a long way. I remember first reading Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982) 25 years ago; this book of hers was shortlisted for the 1982 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

THE SHORTLIST
Half of a Yellow Sun (Fourth Estate, 2006) / Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)
Arlington Park (Faber, 2006) / Rachel Cusk (Britain)
The Inheritance of Loss (Hamish Hamilton, 2006) / Kiran Desai (India)
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (Chatto & Windus, 2006) / Xiaolu Guo (China)
The Observations (Faber, 2006) / Jane Harris (Britain)
Digging to America (Chatto & Windus, 2006) / Anne Tyler (U.S.)

The winner will be announced on June 6, 2007

Monday, April 16, 2007

Cormac McCARTHY wins the Pulitzer Prize!

“When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world.”

CORMAC McCARTHY’s The Road, a bleak, post-apocalyptic study of a dystopian America driven by the affinity between a father and son as they struggle to survive in an austere, cold, empty world, has won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, beating Alice McDermott’s After This (2006) and Richard Powers’s The Echo Makers (2006). McCarthy, who is known for his economical or stripped-down prose and rural landscapes, is the legendarily reclusive author of such novels as All the Pretty Horses (1992), Blood Meridian (1985) and Suttree (1979). He has written a novel that is both critically acclaimed as well as a commercial success.

Bibliography
McCARTHY Cormac [1933-] Novelist. Born Charles McCarthy in Providence, Rhode Island, U.S. Novels The Road (2006: winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction); No Country for Old Men (2005); The Border Trilogy [comprising Cities of the Plains (1998); The Crossing (1994); All the Pretty Horses (1992: winner of the 1992 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 1992 National Book Award for Fiction)]; Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West (1985); Suttree (1979); Child of God (1974); Outer Dark (1968); The Orchard Keeper (1965: winner of the Faulkner Award for a First Novel)

Fiction: The Road / Cormac McCarthy
Drama: Rabbit Hole / David Lindsay-Abaire
Nonfiction: The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 / Lawrence Wright
Biography: The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher / Debby Applegate
History: The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation / Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff
Poetry: Native Guard / Natasha Trethewey
Music: Sound Grammar / Ornette Coleman

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The 3rd MPH Breakfast Club for LitBloggers on 28 April 2007

Saturday, April 14, 2007

POETRY Moose in the Morning, Northern Maine ... Mona VAN DUYN

“Moose in the Morning, Northern Maine”
Mona VAN DUYN (1921-2004)
From Selected Poems (2002)

At six a.m. the log cabins
nose an immense cow-pie of mist
that lies on the lake.
Nineteen pale goldfinches perch
side by side on the telephone wire
that runs to shore,
and under them the camp cow,
her bones pointing this way and that,
is collapsed like a badly constructed
pup tent in the dark weeds.
Inside, I am building a fire
in the old woodstove with its rod overhead
for hunters’ clothes to steam on.
I am hunting for nothing—
perhaps the three cold pencils
that lie on the table like kindling
could go in to start the logs.
I remember Ted Weiss saying,
“At the exhibition I suddenly realized
Picasso had to remake everything he laid his eyes on
into an art object.
He couldn’t let the world alone.
Since then I don't write every morning.”

The world is warming and lightening
and mist on the pond
dissolves into bundles and ribbons.
At the end of my dock there comes clear,
bared by the gentle burning,
a monstrous hulk with thorny head,
up to his chest in the water,
mist wreathing round him.
Grander and grander grows the sun
until he gleams, his brown coat
glistens, the great rack,
five feet wide, throws sparks
of light. A ton of monarch,
munching, he stands spotlit.
Then slowly, gravely, the great neck lowers
head and forty pounds of horn
to sip the lake.
The sun stains the belittled
cow’s hide amber.
She heaves her bones and bag
and her neckbell gongs
as she gets to her feet
in yellow blooms of squaw-weed.
On the telephone wire
all the little golden bells are ringing
as that compulsive old scribbler, the universe,
jots down another day.

Friday, April 13, 2007

2007 Man Booker International Prize

THE FOLLOWING WRITERS have been shortlisted for the second Man Booker International Prize for Fiction, a prize awarded for a lifetime of fiction writing or a body of work rather than an individual piece of fiction. The first Man Booker International Prize in 2005 was awarded to Albanian dissident novelist and poet Ismail Kadaré. What we have here is obviously a very strong shortlist of literary heavyweights comprising seven former Booker Prize winners (and a winner of the Booker of Bookers), a Pulitzer Prize winner and some of the best Canadian writers: Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro and Michael Ondaatje. Peter Carey, of course, has won the Booker Prize twice. And four writers who write in their mother tongue: Carlos Fuentes, Harry Mulisch, Amos Oz and Michel Tournier.

Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
Margaret Atwood (Canada)
John Banville (Ireland)
Peter Carey (Australia)
Don DeLillo (U.S.)
Carlos Fuentes (Mexico) (Spanish)
Doris Lessing (Britain)
Ian McEwan (Britain)
Harry Mulisch (Netherlands) (Dutch)
Alice Munro (Canada)
Michael Ondaatje (Canada)
Amos Oz (Israel) (Hebrew)
Philip Roth (U.S.)
Salman Rushdie (Britain)
Michel Tournier (France) (French)

The winner will be announced in June 2007

Harry Mulisch, a hot favourite to win the 2007 Man Booker International Prize for his exploration and dissection of morally complex themes in a wide variety of genres and subtle infusion of irony and playfulness

Thursday, April 12, 2007

POETRY The Tending ... Sharon OLDS

“The Tending”
Sharon OLDS
From The Unswept Room (2002)

My parents did not consider it, for me,
yet I can see myself in the woods of some other
world, with the aborted. It is early evening,
the air is ashen as if from funeral-home
chimneys, and there are beginnings of people
almost growing—but not changing—on stalks,
some in cloaks, or lady’s-slippers,
others on little trellises.
Maybe I am one of the gardeners here,
we water them with salt water.
I recall the girl who had a curl
right in the middle of her forehead,
when she was good she was very very good, I was not like that,
when she was bad she was horrid, I am here
as if in a garden of the horrid—I move
and tend, by attention, to the rows, I think of
Mary Mary Quite Contrary
and feel I am seeing the silver bells
set down clapperless, the cockleshells
with the cockles eaten. And yet this is
a holy woods. When I think of the house
I came to, and the houses these brothers and sisters
might have come to, and what they might have
done with what was done there,
I wonder if some, here, have done,
by their early deaths, a boon of absence
to someone in the world. So I tend them, I hate
for them to remain thankless. I do not
sing to them—their lullaby
long complete,
I just walk, as if this were a kind of home,
a mothers’ and fathers’ place, and I am
among the sung who will not sing,
the harmed who will not harm.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The 3rd MPH Breakfast Club for LitBloggers at MPH Bangsar Village II

WHAT’S ON IN APRIL 2007

THE 3rd MPH Breakfast Club for LitBloggers on Saturday, April 28, 2007, will feature Kuala Lumpur-based journalist Dina Zaman, whose new book, I Am Muslim (Silverfish Books, 2007), a collection of essays, was published by Silverfish Books in March 2007; Farish A. Noor, the author of such Malaysian bookstore staples as The Other Malaysia (Silverfish Books, 2003) and From Majapahit to Putrajaya (Silverfish Books, 2005); and Larry Parr, the writer of Tan Chin Nam: Never Say I Assume! (MPH Publishing, 2006), an autobiography of one of Malaysia’s leading captains of industry. Dina Zaman will be introduced by Sharon Bakar. Farish A. Noor and Larry Parr will be introduced by Eric Forbes. Kenny Mah will be moderating the session.



COMING NEXT

THE 4th MPH Breakfast Club for LitBloggers on Saturday, May 26, 2007, will feature Malaysian Flavours (Pelanduk Publications, 1996) author Lee Su Kim, whose new book, A Nyonya in Texas: Insights of a Straits Chinese Woman in the Lone Star State (Marshall Cavendish, 2007), was published by Marshall Cavendish at the tail-end of 2006, and David Byck, the author of It’s a Long Way to the Floor (Johnathan Styles, 2006). David will be sharing with us how practising yoga regularly has positively changed him physically, mentally and spiritually. He will also speak about how he started writing about yoga and read some extracts from his book. Both writers are not bloggers. Lydia Teh will be introducing Lee Su Kim, while David Byck will be introduced by Eric Forbes.

THE 5th MPH Breakfast Club for LitBloggers on Saturday, June 23, 2007, will feature Zhang Su Li, an award-winning copywriter who has just come out with her first travel book called A Backpack and a Bit of Luck (Marshall Cavendish, 2007), and Adeline Loh, whose first book, Peeing in the Bush: The Misadventures of Two Asian Girls in Zambia (MPH Publishing, July 2007), also a travel narrative, is being edited at the moment. Zhang Su Li will be introduced by Sharon Bakar while Adeline Loh will be introduced by Eric Forbes.

THE 6th MPH Breakfast Club for LitBloggers on Saturday, July 28, 2007, will feature Tinling Choong, whose début novel, FireWife, was published by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday on January 23, 2007. Born and bred in Penang, Malaysia, Tinling is working towards her Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale University. “FireWife,” according to Tinling, “is a story of plight and hope, escape and desire, offering vignettes in the lives of eight Asian women: a photographer, six women she photographs, and a girl travelling in between lives.” In January 2007, FireWife was nominated for the Henry Miller Award for the best literary sex scene published in the English language. And yes, she is a blogger.

Kenny Mah will be conducting a Q&A session with Tinling.

MPH Bangsar Village II is at Lot 2F-1 (2nd Floor), Bangsar Village II, No. 2, Jalan Telawi 1, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: 603-2287 3600