Juicy Labor Day book links

Yes, I know I said I would stay away until Tuesday, but I lied.

Prospect Magazine has run an excerpt from J.M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello. (Thanks to Emma Garman for the link.) Hermione Lee reviews the novel for the Guardian.

Also in the Guardian: Yellow Dog, the digested read.

Stephanie Merritt interviews Tibor Fischer, the writer who trashed Amis’ Yellow Dog:

‘I hope I made clear that I wasn’t attacking Amis personally, but I felt that this time someone had to blow the whistle. For the last 10 years I’ve found myself defending Amis against charges that he’s lost it, and when I read [Yellow Dog] I felt somewhat cheated. Yes, if I hadn’t had my book coming out maybe I wouldn’t have bothered but I mentioned the book in the article because if I hadn’t, people would have accused me of dishonesty.

(Thanks to Karen, the first of many to email the link.)

Mark Sullivan reviews the Fischer novel for Bookmunch and says, “Tibor’s book has the advantage of the exploding helicopter, but not much else to recommend it. Don’t read this book if you’re sensible.”

In adapting Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the BBC sought six writers who could “create contemporary versions in their own voices but [be] to the spirit of Chaucer’s original.” The results: “Miller’s Tale is now set in a karaoke bar. The Man of Law’s Tale is about an asylum seeker and The Sea Captain’s Tale is all Asian, with scenes in a shop called ‘Hindu Health’.” (Via Arts Journal.)

The first chapter of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fugitives and Refugees is excerpted. In the New York Times Book Review Taylor Antrim gives the novel a mostly positive review, saying:

Palahniuk is a skilled enough entertainer to know that didacticism goes best with a heavy chaser of violence and kinky sex. In ”Lullaby,” for instance, he gave us black magic, dead babies, necrophilia — and a warning about the atrophying effects of mass media. Herein lies his appeal; Palahniuk writes cult fiction heavy with message, novels that seem both lurid and edifying.

Marc Nesbitt, for the Washington Post Book World, notes that “the structure of Diary can prove frustrating, and Palahniuk’s earnest digressions distracting,” but says some of the writer’s best work is here.

Alfred Hickling gives Thirlwell’s debut a thumbs-down: “At the risk of seeming stolid and unfascinating, I doubt I could love anyone who is seduced by Thirlwell’s book.”

Mark Strand (“Eating Poetry“) argues that “there is something about [Pablo] Neruda—about the way he glorifies experience, about the spontaneity and directness of his passion—that sets him apart from other poets.”

Anne Lamott has “given [her third novel, originally published in 1985,] a haircut, scrubbed its face, and decided to reissue it.” (Via Kitabkhana.)

Charles Foran reviews V.S. Naipaul’s Literary Occasions, a collection of essays and reminiscences. Read together, Foran says, “the pieces do more than outline the emergence of a subject. They separate Naipaul’s biography into two intersecting narratives. One tale concerns the young artist floundering in the ‘peasant dereliction’ of an empire outpost. The other is about a son grappling with the father that made him.” (Via A & L Daily.)

Jonathan Yardley appreciates the difficulty of writing about John O’Hara, “one of the genuinely strange cases in American literature.” Yardley admires biographer Geoffrey Wolff’s “empathy for this complicated, difficult man,” but says the convincing, sympathetic portrait “doesn’t mean we have to like [O’Hara].”

Douglas Coupland is interviewed by Sean O’Connell in The Independent:

You’re confined to a cell for a couple of days with a book of your choice. What would it be and why?
Probably The Andy Warhol Diaries, because then I could at least pretend I was having real days.

Ken Foster remembers Lucy Grealy.

Robert Birnbaum interviews Joseph Epstein.

Will Self examines J.G. Ballard’s latest book and concludes that Millennium People “is the novel that fin-de-siécle metropolitan England was waiting for. And now, like a Connex commuter train running slowly on heat-buckled rails, it has at last arrived.”


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