Saturday, December 23, 2006

random fiction notes, part 1

Photo: NY Times
Nadine Gordimer: I have been remiss on this recent biography, though biographies are notoriously, well, strained (I'm trying to think of a good one). Clearly there is much more to this particular bio and the young Ronald Suresh Roberts must have had a difficult time in many respects...
On the other hand it looks as though Dave Eggers has scored with What is the What...reviewed in the NY Times by Francine Prose...the immediacy of first person when a writer nails the voice is fairly irresistible.
I'm intrigued with Zoetrope, which has a hip mix of contributors ranging from David Byrne to Margaret Atwood, Huruki Murakami to Mary Gaitskill, and well, a lot of people I'm curious about for one reason or another... Zoetrope also offers a number of the stories online, something I appreciate enormously.
Paris Review has archived interviews available on line, and as I've already posted last year, offers proof of the ongoing, and apparently well-accepted sexism in the literary world. (See my earlier post with stats...) What else can we say when even into the 21st century the number of writers interviewed is so skewed to the male gender? That's not mentioning the racial blinders. Is the Paris Review still a serious contender for fiction? They published Etgar Keret (whom I've posted on several times...) in Summer 2005 issue, they had an interview with Anne Carson (well, poetry, okay, but it was great to see her there: "If God were knowable, why would we believe in him?"), Spring 2005 had A.S. byatt, Rick Moody, Mogera Wogura...looking good.

I could ask the same question of Granta which has over the years, offered consistantly excellent round-ups of younger writers, the Best of the Young British Novelists (the 93 0ne in any case), as well as cross-over literary writing, thematic writing in issues such as This Overheating World with the amazing Burtynsky cover, etc. Including this piece by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

This week's New Yorker has an odd little piece of fiction from Marguerite Duras translated by Deborah Treisman, fiction editor, and one who does get things right often. This week's issue also features Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Lecture, which is quite moving. I'm not a fan of Pamuk's work, though I can see why others are. It isn't that I don't see the beauty of the craft, it just doesn't speak to me.

Richard Ford on the other hand I do remain a fan of, and having just read through the Bascombe trilogy (Lay of the Land being the latest...) I have to say that it's a strong series--though oddly enough the first one, The Sportswriter, remains my favorite. I love Ford. He's just so much what he is, so deeply himself, and stubbornly old-fashioned... But also smart: he was clearly marketing himself in this series. By next year I assume we'll be able to buy a boxed set and it will be the Dad gift for many. Not a bad one either. Here he is again.

There will be more on fiction soon enough, and not all of it so conventional...Biting the Error and Mary Burger's Sonny...she'll be coming to my class at Haverford this spring.

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