The Scotsman has a profile of Norman Mailer on the writer’s eighty-first birthday.
Two factors have denied [Mailer] the accolades he deserves. First, he has produced no incontrovertibly great book. The Naked and the Dead is a young man’s work, visceral, naive, derivative, shapelessly insightful. For all his obsession with the novel as a form – he calls it “great Bitch Goddess” – Mailer has only produced one novel that flirts with greatness and again the “intertextuality” is a giveaway.
Read the article in full here.
The Guardian has the digested read of Tim Guest’s My Life in Orange, his memoir of growing up on an ashram with his mother.
How I longed to punish the children who stole my toys and the mother who put her enlightenment before her only child. See in this photograph how lost and frightened, yet somehow strangely beautiful, I appear. My eyes are looking far into the distance – to my literary career. So I chose to say nothing and smile. Until now.
Their final assessment is brutal: “As toxic as you’d expect from Agent Orange.”
In the latest issue of The Boston Review is yet another article about Monica Ali’s Brick Lane. The reviewer faults Ali for not bringing into her fiction the events of April 1999, when bombs aimed at the people who live on Brick Lane were detonated by a member of the British National Party. Although I’m not entirely comfortable with passing judgment on what someone didn’t do, I do agree that Ali shied away from exploring the world outside Nazneen’s apartment. There are a few scenes in which Nazneen reflects on the outside world, but, by and large, we are indeed restricted to her thoughts about Chanu, about Hasina, about her daughters, about her lover. The reviewer then goes on to compare Ali’s novel to (what else?) Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and uncovers many “similarities”, like the fact that characters in both novels had arranged marriages to older men. Ha! Isn’t arranged marriage a fact of life for many Bangladeshi women? Why would two novels that have such characters not feature this type of union? The rest of the parallels that the reviewer draws fall largely within the immigrant experience in England, and so the argument struck me as unconvincing and unfair. But the reviewer does make the point that, had Ali’s book explored certain less palatable aspects of the immigrant experience, her book might not have been the huge success that it was. And he or she is probably right.
(Link seen at The Antic Muse)
Abdel-Rahman Munif passed away today. Here is the Washington Post obit and a more detailed article on Al-J. An oil engineer turned writer, Munif was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1963 for his critical stance on the government, and lived in Syria for the last fifteen years of his life. Here in the U.S. his best-known work is probably the Cities of Salt series. The books examine the effect of the discovery of oil on a small Arab village. Please do check him out, even if Amazon can’t seem to get the spelling of his name right.
Like the Egyptian Sonallah Ibrahim late last year, Moroccan writer Ahmed Bouzfour has rejected a literary prize awarded by the government. The prize (for which Bouzfour tied with writer Ouafae Amrani) was intended to honor his latest collection of short stories, Qounqous. Bouzfour rejected the prize in order to protest the government’s incapability to deal with Morocco’s literacy problem. The refusal is costly to him: the $8,000 prize is a hefty sum in a country where a schoolteacher makes about $300 a month. Bouzfour’s fiction has been translated into Spanish, French, and English.
The new issue of StorySouth is up, and it includes a special feature on the best young southern poets. And of course, you can send your nomination for best online story of 2003 to their Million Writers award.
Elsewhere, Facsimilation is open for business and they take unsolicited submissions, so send them your prose.