Posts Tagged ‘J.M. Coetzee’
August 22, 2012 | by Casey N. Cep
The New Yorker made headlines this month by publishing “new” work by F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Thank You for the Light” had been rejected by the magazine in 1936 when Fitzgerald first submitted it, but editorial judgments—like love, pain, and kitchen knives—have a way of dulling over time.
“We’re afraid that this Fitzgerald story is altogether out of the question,” read the original note spurning the story. “It seems to us so curious and so unlike the kind of thing we associate with him, and really too fantastic.”
Resubmitted by Fitzgerald’s grandchildren, “Thank You for the Light” was, at least by Fitzgerald’s own standards, ready for publication. Its condition differs greatly from his final work, tentatively titled The Love of the Last Tycoon but published as The Last Tycoon in 1941. Fitzgerald died of a heart attack before he could finish the novel, so what went to press was a version of his incomplete draft, notes, and outlines pieced together by the literary critic Edmund Wilson. In his preface to the novel, Wilson wrote, “It has been possible to supplement this unfinished draft with an outline of the rest of the story as Fitzgerald intended to develop it.”
July 27, 2012 | by The Paris Review
Last Thursday, finding myself with an hour to kill in London, I stopped into Lutyens & Rubinstein bookstore in Notting Hill. No Paris Review (sigh), but I did pick up the Summer issue of Slightly Foxed, a quarterly devoted to little essays about people’s favorite books. The clerk claimed it’s the most popular lit mag they stock. And it’s easy to see why. Crome Yellow, The Lost Oases, The Elegies of Quintilius, and a guide to British sea birds give some idea of the miscellany. Read one issue back to back and you could cross every conceivable reader off your Christmas list. —Lorin Stein
How, exactly, do a human and a god have sex? For Elizabeth Costello, the eponymous protagonist of J. M. Coetzee’s novel, it is less a question of metaphysics than of mechanics. “Bad enough to have a full-grown male swan jabbing webbed feet into your backside while he has his way, or a one-ton bull leaning his moaning weight on you,” she thinks. But when the god does not change form, how does the human body accommodate itself to “the blast of his desire”? What makes the passage so interesting is not only Costello’s amusing speculations on the impracticality of cosmic coupling but the way such a question allows Coetzee to reflect on the whole messy business of the god-human relationship. The gods may never die, he suggests, but that doesn’t mean they know how to live. —Anna Hadfield
October 12, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
A cultural news roundup.
February 9, 2011 | by Jacques Testard
This is the second installment of Testard’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
9:47 A.M. I have a mild headache and I am only on life number three of Dalrymple’s Nine Lives. I’m beginning to think that it’s quite difficult to get any reading done at a literary festival. When we got home last night I asked Forty to pick me up at 9:30 A.M. He asked me for two cigarettes as a token of goodwill. I complied. He never turned up.
10:34 A.M. I’m attending a showcase panel on “Why Books Matter” with Kiran Desai and Penguin CEO John Makinson. It’s being filmed for the BBC and the spotlights are on the audience. It’s quite painful on the eyes. According to Sunil Sethi, who presents the only literary show on Indian television, book sales are rising by fifteen to eighteen percent per year in India. I find that very hard to believe. One interjection from the floor offers an interesting insight into this phenomenon. “It is not true Mr. Sethi,” says Mumbaikar. “In Bombay the Encyclopaedia Britannica is very popular but that is because it matches the furniture.” That’s more like it.
1:15 P.M. It’s lunch time. I’ve just had my photo taken by a dozen journalists as a smiling Indian man with neat white hair placed a piece of naan bread onto my plate. I might be in the papers tomorrow—his name is Javed Akhtar and he is a very famous lyricist for Bollywood songs, I’m told. I was an extra in a Bollywood film once. I had to wear a tweed suit at a beach party and pretend to swig from a magnum bottle of vodka.
7:40 P.M. Salman Ahmad has just taken to the stage. The Guardian has described him as Pakistan’s answer to Bono. Kamila Shamsie wrote a piece on the rise of pop music in the Pakistan issue of Granta1 last year on the emergence of pop music in the eighties which charted Ahmad’s rise and his turn to Sufi Islam for inspiration.
10:36 P.M. I’m sharing a drink with Samrat, whose debut novel The Urban Jungle came off the press yesterday. He’s just given me a signed copy of it—it’s a modern rewriting of Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Samrat tells me that Sunil Sethi’s statistics on the growth of the book market in India are inaccurate. An English language best-seller in India sells no more than five thousand copies, according to Samrat. I’ve since been looking online and cannot find any information either way. Surely that’s too low?
- I have just realised I am plugging Granta in The Paris Review’s pages. I studied at Oxford anyway and Granta is a Cambridge magazine. Lorin, I’m on your side.
February 9, 2011 | by Jacques Testard
11:45 A.M. I’ve just landed in Delhi. I’m here for the Jaipur Literature Festival, starring Orhan Pamuk, J. M. Coetzee, Richard Ford, and Candace Bushnell. I haven’t been in Delhi for close to three years. The Commonwealth Games have left their mark: the new airport terminal is gigantic, crisp, and shiny. I step outside into the crowd and am greeted with silence. A few years back fifty drivers would have competed for my custom but now they wait in an orderly fashion. My father, who has lived in Delhi for close to a decade, picks me up. Our driver is a Hindu; Ganesh stickers adorn his windscreen.
3:00 P.M. I have an afternoon in the city and have decided to revisit the old town. I go to the Jama Masjid, a legacy of Delhi’s Mughal past. An auto-rickshaw drops me off a few hundred yards away, and I walk up the central walkway toward the towering minarets and white-marble domes, carefully treading my way past the crouching lepers and stray cows. The mild January weather tempers the overwhelming olfactory experience that is India. A man with hennaed hair tells me the mosque is closed for prayers. He asks me if I want to visit a haveli hidden out in Old Delhi. He says it is bigger than the Jama Masjid and has a magical tree hovering in its central courtyard. It will cost me five hundred rupees. I decline.
5:15 P.M. I’m in Khan Market at the Full Circle bookshop. Books are cheaper in India. I’m looking for David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. The girl at the till has not heard of it. She recommends Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. I decline, this time politely. I forgot how much time one spends declining in India.
8:20 P.M. My father and I visit the Nizamuddin Dargah before dinner. Nizamuddin, a thirteenth-century Sufi saint, is buried here. Millions visit every year. To get there one has to walk through a maze of alleys among scores of bearded pilgrims and rose-garland vendors. The pilgrims buy the flowers and deposit them on the holy man’s grave. Everyone wants to sell me flowers or look after my shoes while I step into the shrine. Pilgrims sit in rows singing Sufi songs. It is colorful, convivial. Children run freely, friends and families chat happily on the periphery. I imagine that churches in medieval Europe would have felt similarly chaotic. We must be the only non-Muslims. Most people don’t seem to notice us and those who do smile and hold out their hands in greeting.
October 8, 2010 | by The Paris Review
The hero of Emmanuel Bove’s My Friends, a wounded WWI pensioner with no friends, is possibly the most pathetic character in French literature. I invite corrections—there are so many feckless Frenchmen!—but first, consider this Seine-side gambit for drawing the attention of strangers: “As soon as a passer-by approached I hid my face in my hands and sniffed like someone who has been crying. People turned as they went past me. Last week I came within a hair’s breadth of throwing myself into the water in order to make it appear I was in earnest.” He never takes the leap, but the ending will wring your heart. —Robyn Creswell
J. M. Coetzee writes an elegant review of Philip Roth’s latest (what is it—twenty-sixth?) novel, Nemesis. I like that one heavyweight can address another in the literary ring. Writes Coetzee, “If the intensity of the Roth of old, the ‘major Roth,’ has died down, has anything new come in its place?” But before you click, a warning to all: Coetzee completely spoils the novel. —Thessaly La Force
A Google research paper examining how well computers translate poetry is less interesting for its findings—not all that well, just yet—than for its suggestion that our evolving Turing-test standards may be too high for most humans to reach, either. —David Wallace-Wells
The NYRB reprint of Frans G. Bengtsson's The Long Ships is an unrepentantly guilty pleasure that, in its own way, reads like a Viking version of Hustle and Flow (Michael Chabon praised its virtues earlier on this blog). Part of Bengtsson's charm is the characteristically black Scandinavian humor that seduces you into thinking that maybe the Middle Ages just got a bad rap. Witness the treatment given to unfortunate missionaries:
Such priests as did venture into those parts were sold over the border as in the old days; though some of the Göings were of the opinion that it would be better to kill them on the spot and start a good war against the skinflints of Sunnerbo and Albo, for the Smalanders gave such poor prices for priests nowadays ...
And then there’s the wonderful account of the trials and tribulations of a young raider on the scene, Red Orm, just trying to make a name for himself in a world of sacking and pillaging where problems never end: “The Vikings ransacked the fortress for booty, and disputes broke out concerning the women whom they discovered ... for they had been without women for many weeks.” After all, it's hard out here for a thane. —Peter Conroy