Literary links

Having recently changed jobs, I happily have much more time to read so have decided to resume blogging here. My immediate reading plans include plenty of  Chinese fiction and non-fiction in preparation for my trip there in October; the Miles Franklin shortlist and the next two volumes of Trollope’s Palliser novels, namely Phineas Finn and The Eustace Diamonds.

As I’m only halfway through Peter Hessler’s River town: two years on the Yangtze, I thought I’d share the best literary links I’ve found this week in the hope you find them as interesting as I do:

  •  Haaretz has a fascinating article about the lives and work of authors whose work was banned and burnt by the Nazis.
  • Continuing with the theme of moral courage, Sheila O’Malley reviews Booker’s Place. I’ll be looking out for this documentary about African-American waiter Booker Wright, who simply told the truth about his life in the Jim Crow South and suffered for it.
  • Xujun Eberlein’s joint review of Mao’s Great Famine : The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962 and Tombstone in the Los Angeles Review of Books is a masterly look at two accounts of the Great Famine. Grim but essential reading.
  • The New York Times explains the US Justice Department vs. Apple, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster case and why it’s important.
  • Sticking with e-books, the Review of Australian Fiction is a new online venture enabling you to read a story from one established and one up-and-coming Aussie author a fortnight for a bargain price. I find this is a good way to expand my reading horizons and a lifesaver when, book finished, I need something to read on the train home. Geordie Williamson shares his thoughts on it here.
  • I’m also loving the Library of America’s free weekly short story. Some favourites: classic Dashiell Hammett; Bettye Rice Hughes’ tour of the South shortly after bus segregation is banned and Henry James’ account of visiting an English workhouse.
  • Speaking of the Great Man- Selling Henry James by Joseph Epstein is pure pleasure.
  • The Atlantic recommends Aussie crime fiction- here here!
  • A new review by James Wood is a must read, doubly so when it’s of Hilary Mantel.
  • Lastly, this bookworm’s paradise is now on my must visit list.

Happy browsing!

A quick hello

Just letting everyone know I’m still here! I’m working on reviews of two excellent literary novels published this year (Breath and When will there be good news?), which those jaded by the rather ho-hum Booker longlist might like to try.

In the meantime, if you are an admirer of E.M Forster, there is a wonderful review by Zadie Smith in the NYRB which you can read here. To whet your appetite, it begins:

“In the taxonomy of English writing, E.M. Forster is not an exotic creature. We file him under Notable English Novelist, common or garden variety. Still, there is a sense in which Forster was something of a rare bird. He was free of many vices commonly found in novelists of his generation—what’s unusual about Forster is what he didn’t do. He didn’t lean rightward with the years, or allow nostalgia to morph into misanthropy; he never knelt for the Pope or the Queen, nor did he flirt (ideologically speaking) with Hitler, Stalin, or Mao; he never believed the novel was dead or the hills alive, continued to read contemporary fiction after the age of fifty, harbored no special hatred for the generation below or above him, did not come to feel that England had gone to hell in a hand-basket, that its language was doomed, that lunatics were running the asylum, or foreigners swamping the cities.”

The only problem with it is it’s made me want to read not only the collected BBC talks, but also all of Forster’s novels again. So many books, so little time…

I also can’t resist pointing out (courtesy of Wikipedia) that on this day i.e. 29th August in 1882 Australia defeated England by seven runs in a test at The Oval in London, thus beginning The Ashes rivalry.

And now I’m off to visit the bookshop and see Persepolis at the movies.

A reason to read John Banville

I’m sorry to say I’ve never read anything by John Banville or his crime-fiction alter-ego Benjamin Black. After reading this interview, I’ll have to give him a try- for the following quote if nothing else:

” ‘That’s one of my notions. Cast your mind forward to 2050. In a biographical dictionary you read: ‘Banville, John: Irish author of numerous novels, all of which are entirely forgotten. Chiefly remembered for a scurrilous review of Lord McEwan of Islington’s masterpiece, Saturday. Some of his novels, which Banville had written under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, are still in print.’ ”

It should be noted that I disliked Saturday intensely.