'Napoleon was a terrific guy before he started crossing national borders,' says Andrew Wylie
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Tuesday 26 August 2008
Author Sir Salman Rushdie came to the High Court in London today to hear apologies from the writers and publishers of a book which they admitted contained falsehoods about his time under police protection.
Wednesday 30 July 2008
Let's get the annual squall of outrage over first. Kieron Smith, Boy by James Kelman deserved at least a shortlist place in this year's Man Booker contest. Indeed, the beautifully observed, deeply affecting first-person portrait of a Glasgow childhood outshines Roddy Doyle's Dublin equivalent, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – which won the prize in 1993.
Friday 25 July 2008
Friday 11 July 2008
"Many enemies," runs the proverb: "Much honour". From the Islamists who still dream of his death to the old-school covert racists of London clubland and the gossip-hounds who reserve a baffling degree of malice for him, Sir Salman Rushdie has never lacked foes. Sometimes, it seems hard to persuade this hugely gifted and historically important novelist that the planet is crowded with his friends as well.
Friday 11 July 2008
One of my sharpest memories from student days is of traipsing the winter pavements of Oxford in December 1981, desperately searching for an unsold copy of Midnight's Children, thenearmarked as somebody's Christmas present. A month into the new year, Rushdie turned up at a college arts festival, and I picked my way through the January slush to luxuriate in his glow.
Sunday 06 July 2008
Friday 04 July 2008
The BBC's controller of fiction, Jane Tranter, picked a good week in which to suggest that television had supplanted the role of the novel in addressing the big social issues of the day, an argument she made in a speech to the Royal Television Society on Monday night. Not very long after she finished speaking, BBC One began transmitting Criminal Justice, Peter Moffat's ambitious five-part series about a young man who finds himself on remand for murder after a one-night stand goes badly wrong. And if the essential subject matter here wasn't startlingly original, the manner of its transmission was – stripped through every night of the week so that those hooked by the excellent opening episode didn't have to wait too long for their next fix. There have been weeks in which Tranter's jab at the established cultural hierarchies could have looked a bit unsubstantiated – but in this one, at least, she was solidly backed up by the Radio Times.
Friday 06 June 2008
Rose Tremain's widely predicted Orange Prize victory with The Road Home calls attention again to the bizarre choices of last year's Man Booker judges. They deemed such fast-forgotten titles such as Michael Redhill's Consolation to be more worthy of a longlist place than Tremain's conspicuously first-rate fiction. But all readers who complain about Booker blunders can make their mark by voting (until 8 July) in the 40th anniversary "Best of the Booker" race, from a shortlist that includes Pat Barker, Peter Carey, JM Coetzee, JG Farrell, Nadine Gordimer and Salman Rushdie: see www.themanbookerprize.com. Coetzee, meanwhile, makes a rare UK appearance to lecture at UEA in Norwich on Thursday 19 June (booking: 01603 508050) as part of the New Writing Worlds festival, devoted this year to literature and the natural world.
Saturday 31 May 2008
The chair of the jury of Britain's leading women's literary prize has called for a debate on whether men should be included on the judging panel to ensure a broader mix of tastes.
Friday 11 April 2008
Friday 11 April 2008
Martin Amis, the novelist turned socio-political ponderer, is well accustomed to the occasional beating in his native Britain, particularly regarding his regular denunciations of Islam in the years since the 9/11 terror attacks. But the anti-Amis brigade is suddenly attracting new recruits across the Atlantic.
Friday 21 March 2008
Chronologically, Shame falls between Salman Rushdie's most acclaimed novel (Midnight's Children) and his most controversial (The Satanic Verses). It has subsequently been the most ignored by critics, as if its title predestined it to slip into the background, blushing. Fortunately I read Shame as an undergraduate, and in those 200 or so pages I witnessed nothing less than a coming-back-to-life, a resurrection that has affected me and my writing ever since. I had become like the two Marys – that biblical pair – who on Easter morning went and found the tomb empty.
Friday 21 March 2008
Writing quite often gets praised for being "bold" these days, and, it hardly needs saying, it's praised for it far more often than it deserves. This isn't entirely the fault of writers, or of critics, either. The latter like to acknowledge daring and nerve – some departure from the tried-and-tested routes up the rock – but we live in an age where liberality itself provides a safety net. How to be bold when pretty much anything is permitted – in the West at least?
Sunday 09 March 2008
In February 2002, in the Indian state of Gujarat, an arson attack on a train left 59 Hindus dead. Mob violence erupted across the state. (Some people have committed an atrocious crime, so hound and torture and murder some other people who had nothing to do with it: how very fair and sensible.) Around 1,000died in the violence, most of them Muslims, many of them killed with grotesque cruelty.
Thursday 21 February 2008
Some of the most acclaimed novels of our times have won what is now the Man Booker Prize over the past four decades. Now, they will be pitted against each other in a battle to be "the best of the Booker", as chosen by the public.
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
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