Friday, January 30, 2009

John Updike in My Headspace.

Apologies for not getting to this blog so much at the moment: just now my virtual book tour seems to have replaced it as the thing which takes up more (and the wrong kind of) head-space than is decent for someone who's supposed to be also immersed in a fiction project.

A quick thought instead: I've been less than positive about John Updike's novels now and then, but this week I have kept remembering how, when I was around fourteen, I kept getting Rabbit, Run out of the local library, and reading it over and over... As I've said already this week on my other blog (where I don't have to think so hard), you can be surprised sometimes about your own influences.

Meanwhile, Dan Green, who never lets up on the intellectual front, offers us two views of the future of fiction in the digital age, a pessimistic prophecy and his own more optimistic prediction.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Virtual Book Tour

The latest leg of my Cyclone virtual book tour for Balancing on the Edge of the World is on Keeper of the Snails, the blog of novelist Clare Dudman. Discussed are my use of a child's perspective in my fiction and the possibilities of child narrators in fiction in general, the extent to which I use people and settings from life and the way in which acting relates to writing, among other things.

As a writer I'm finding this book tour an instructive and fulfilling process, because of the variety of response to my work and also the opportunity to talk about it in such depth, as I discuss in greater detail on my other blog today.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What Fiction Can Do

Here's a great piece by Jonathan Franzen on what fiction can still do in an era of competing media, which concludes thus:
Only written media, and maybe to some extent live theatre, can break down the wall between in and out. You’re not looking at your feeling from within. An Alice Munro story rushes you along in about 25 minutes to a point where you’re imaginatively going through a moment of deep crisis and significance in another person’s life. I know I’m expressing this in very vague terms, but I think these epiphanic moments have a social and political valence as well, because they’re what we mean when we talk about being a person, about being an individual, about having an identity. Identity is precisely not what consumer culture says it is. It’s not the playlist on your iPod. It’s not your personal preference in denim washes. The moment you become an individual is the moment when all that consumer stuff falls away and you’re left with the narrativity of your own life. All the things that would become impossible politically, emotionally, culturally, psychologically if people ever were to become simply the sum of their consumer choices: this is, indirectly, what the novel is trying to preserve and fight in favour of.
Thanks to Daniel Green for the link.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Curse of Lists

God, how I hate lists - and have you noticed how linked to film adaptations that Guardian list is?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Virtual Book Tour: Experiment Versus Saleability Discussed with Scott Pack

Scott Pack, publisher and former chief fiction buyer for Waterstones, hosts my virtual book tour this week and gets me talking about experimentation versus the need to please readers, and about the effect the pressures of the market have had on my writing.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Don't Bother Getting Older

Robert McCrum seems intent to endorse the literary cult of youth by strangling logic and stretching points, listing 7 writers who published in later life as exceptions to his rule ('Let's face, it, after 40 you're past it') and overlooking the fact that of those 13 he says 'prove' it by blossoming young, some - most notably Philip Roth - have in fact gone on to produce major works in later life.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Literary Luck

Read a sobering article on the Guardian books blog, showing how much luck is involved in the acknowledgement or neglect of literary genius.

And then have a laugh. (Thanks to The Guardian for the link.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Virtual Book Tour: The Writing Process

My virtual book tour kicks off today on Barbara's Bleeuugh, where, taking her cue from a comment by Anne Enright about her own writing process, Irish poet Barbara Smith asks me about mine.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Threat to Intellectual Freedom

This weekend the books pages of the Guardian and Observer are distinguished by examination of 'global thinking', the ways in which it operates in the current tensions between Islam and 'the West', and the ways in which this intersects with literature.

On one hand, Pankaj Mishara accuses literary so-called intellectuals of engaging with the unsubtle notion of 'Islamofascism' and justifying the notion of 'collateral damage' and 'the harassment of Muslims and other swarthy foreigners'. Rightly he praises David Grossman and Arundhati Roy as exceptions to this anti-intellectual trend, for eschewing such black-and-white thinking and challenging their own governments, even at risk to their own personal safety.

The flip-side of this coin is presented today in a meticulously-argued and terrifying article by Andrew Anthony on the legacy of the Rushdie fatwah and the British reaction to it. A similar intellectual conflation, in which to speak out against terrorism is to speak against Islam, has led to a horrifying destruction of our intellectual freedom. 'Chief among [our voluntary adoption of multicultural manners],' he says, 'is the duty not to offend', and quotes Kenan Malik: 'The fatwa has in effect become internalised'. Meanwhile, as he points out, there are legal changes which have actively restricted our right not just to speak out, but to think and read...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Writing to Demand

I was as shocked as anyone by the low standard of Caroline Aherne's Royal Family as anyone, but I shouldn't have been, and it doesn't in the end stop me considering her a comic genius.

I think what this disappointment shows is that a culture in which writers are expected to perform to order is thoroughly detrimental to those writers and their art. Creativity has its own rhythm; writers write best when they are ready, and not when the rhythms of the TV and publishing schedules require (which I'm pretty sure is what happened here).

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Recession Busters?

Here's a depressingly different view from that which some have expressed about the effect of the recession on publishing, and literary fiction.

Thanks to Angie Venezia for the link.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Fame and the Recluse

An interesting article by Charles McGrath about the reclusiveness of JD Salinger, which includes an assessment of the contemporary relevance of his work. I'm finding it quite hard, though, to get my head around its concluding suggestions, ie that Salinger's main theme of 'phoniness v authenticity' has become outdated, and that this is intimately linked to his self-imposed silence in that, like his fictional character Seymour, Salinger may have felt that his work was too subtle for a crass audience.

Maybe I'm just too distracted by the thought that such reclusiveness would be pretty impossible to establish nowadays...