Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday supplement

Mark of RSB says he's taking the new Malamud biography with him to North Wales. This is a very special book, so I hope he doesn't waste time enjoying the countryside. Subtitled "A Writer's Life", it uses close analysis of successive manuscripts to demonstrate, among other things, that literature was not merely an adjunct to Malamud's life - the thing that made him worthy of serious gossip, as James Atlas' biography of Bellow seemed to assume - but constitutive of his being. Malamud comes across as a mildly conservative writer. He's quoted as saying he didn't have it in him to be an "experimentalist". But Philip Davis shows how hard he worked to get the books right as he saw it: “My gift is to create what may be deeply felt" he's quoted as saying, which is the only good reason for such experiment anyway. In his last book, Dubin's Lives, this meant a book about - horror upon horror - a writer.

Being faced with this, the demand to create what may be deeply felt, has led JM Coetzee toward his literary uniqueness, and in her review of his new novel and the recent essay collection, Elizabeth Lowry expresses surprise that, in his reading of Nadine Gordimer, “[t]he gourmet's choice in metafiction grumbles at being served up too meagre a portion of realism“. But where in Coetzee's fiction is realism absent? Coetzee is this gourmet's choice of fiction, fullstop. Lowry's naive surprise reminds me of Michael Wood's words on the last line of Nabokov's novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight:
The last sentence of the novel doesn't, as Nabokov himself may have felt, and as many binary-minded critics have certainly thought, release us into 'mere' fiction, a world that turns out to have been 'only' a book. It points precisely to the precarious but possibly continuing life of whatever has been thoroughly, painfully or ecstatically imagined.
Ah yes, the imagination - is that real?

Elsewhere, Lee Rourke wishes for more lessness in novels. I want to agree at very great length.

And I've just remembered that Nicola Barker, now on the Booker longlist for Darkmans, had a short story published in June on The Mad Hatters' Review. I had mentioned the magazine in June.

Finally, I always read “This Week's Contributors“ in the TLS (unless I'm included and then I'm too embarrassed) because it always throws up interesting information. This week's edition tells us that Tim Dee is "co-editing a new ... book of bird poetry". Well I thought this has been done before, but it's good to see sexism still being resisted...


  1. Anonymous3:23 am

    The links did not work for some reason.

    Thanks for your coverage of Bernard Malamud.


  2. They should be fixed now. Thanks for pointing it out. It was caused by the wrong kind of inverted commas in the code.



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