• Elfriede Jelinek, this year’s recipient of the Nobel prize for literature, declined to attend the prize ceremony and banquet due to social phobia but provided a 45-minute videotaped lecture, entitled “Sidelined,” which focused “on the anguish of writing outside the mainstream”:

    “I shout across in my loneliness . . . I would somehow like to get to the place where my language already is, and where it smirks mockingly across at me,” she said.

  • In an interview at Bookslut, Ward Just observes that many well-regarded novelists got their start in journalism: “Graham Greene, Mavis Gallant, let alone Joseph Conrad, Henry James. Let alone Hemingway and the usual people who are cited.”
  • Arguing that literature provides an alternative to antidepressants, Libby Purves advances the rage-inducing assertion that BBC4’s recent survey of women’s “watershed fiction” — “books that changed the way you look at yourself or simply made you happy to be a woman” — reveals that women “feel that the watershed consists of wallowing in a torrent of self-pitying tears and persecution mania, from which they emerge cleansed and cheerful,” and points to selections like Jane Eyre, The Color Purple, and Tess of the d’Urbervilles as proof.
  • An interview with ZZ Packer appears in the latest print issue of WordSmitten.
  • In the current New York Review of Books: Alison Lurie’s massive examination of Babar, “the most famous elephant in the world — and the most controversial.”
  • The Britain in Print project provides “free access for all — from the home, school, library, or workplace — to information about the rich collections of early British books that are held in twenty-one of the nation’s most important libraries.” (Via Scribbling Woman.)
  • John Scalzi’s Ten Least Successful Holiday Stories of All Time includes the “Algonquin Round Table Christmas”:

    Alexander Woolcott, Franklin Pierce Adams, George Kaufman, Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker were the stars of this 1927 NBC Red radio network special, one of the earliest Christmas specials ever performed. Unfortunately the principals, lured to the table for an unusual evening gathering by the promise of free drinks and pirogies, appeared unaware they were live and on the air, avoiding witty seasonal banter to concentrate on trashing absent Round Tabler Edna Ferber’s latest novel, Mother Knows Best, and complaining, in progressively drunken fashion, about their lack of sex lives.

    Seasonal material of a sort finally appears in the 23rd minute when Dorothy Parker, already on her fifth drink, can be heard to remark, “one more of these and I’ll be sliding down Santa’s chimney.” The feed was cut shortly thereafter. NBC Red’s 1928 holiday special “Christmas with the Fitzgeralds” was similarly unsuccessful.

    (Via About Last Night.)


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