Tuesday, November 09, 2004


A nice piece at the NY Times about Muriel Spark:

Even at 86, with five botched operations on one hip and a successful one on the other, her eyesight troubling her and her hearing no longer perfect, Muriel Spark is still doing what every writer likes to do. Having just published her 23rd novel, The Finishing School (Doubleday), she is working on another. True, she admits, she no longer writes quickly. For instance, she completed her 1961 bestseller, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, in just six weeks. Now she works for three-hour stretches on just three days a week. And a novel, including research, can take her up to a year. But her new one, she noted with quiet satisfaction, "is going very well indeed."
I envy even her slow writing stretches. Also at the Times, watch while David Foster Wallace makes mincemeat out of Edwin Williamson's Borges: A Life. Here's the opening warning shot over the bow:
There's an unhappy paradox about literary biographies. The majority of readers who will be interested in a writer's bio, especially one as long and exhaustive as Edwin Williamson's ''Borges: A Life,'' will be admirers of the writer's work. They will therefore usually be idealizers of that writer and perpetrators (consciously or not) of the intentional fallacy. Part of the appeal of the writer's work for these fans will be the distinctive stamp of that writer's personality, predilections, style, particular tics and obsessions -- the sense that these stories were written by this author and could have been done by no other.* And yet it often seems that the person we encounter in the literary biography could not possibly have written the works we admire. And the more intimate and thorough the bio, the stronger this feeling usually is. In the present case, the Jorge Luis Borges who emerges in Williamson's book -- a vain, timid, pompous mama's boy, given for much of his life to dithery romantic obsessions -- is about as different as one can get from the limpid, witty, pansophical, profoundly adult writer we know from his stories. Rightly or no, anyone who reveres Borges as one of the best and most important fiction writers of the last century will resist this dissonance, and will look, as a way to explain and mitigate it, for obvious defects in Williamson's life study. The book won't disappoint them.
Zing! Fans of Haruki Murakami might be interested in this web site put together in conjunction with Knopf. There is even a contest. You never know, you might already be a winner! Harper's is featuring 19th century advertising from it's pages. Is the United States the only industrialized country in the world where evolution is still only a theory? The battle rages on in Cobb County, Georgia. Read what those who support creationism have to say, "impartial" CNN reporting, and Britains trying to understand. At least we aren't still arguing over whether the earth is flat or round.