Thursday, February 04, 2010

Things I've been reading

Some things I've been reading recently:

An interview with Jonathan Galassi, the publishing head of Farrar Straus Giroux and himself a poet and a translator of Italian poetry, on reading, writing, editing and publishing, and on the history of one of English-language publishing's most influential firms. Among the points on which I agree most emphatically with Galassi is when he talks of the pleasure that ensues when a manuscript is typeset: "I always feel that when you put a book into proofs it gets better just by virtue of being set in print. I know a lot of writers feel that way too. It takes on a kind of permanence. And then it's even more satisfying when it becomes an actual book." And on the subject what he looks out for most in a novel: "I think the voice is the most important thing—and then the shape."

"After Making Love We Hear Footsteps"
, a very funny and tender poem by Galway Kinnell about a child ("Fergus") whom—and this is a wonderful phrase—"habit of memory propels to the ground of his making"

"The Last Writes", an essay by DJ Taylor about how there is neither the money or the space in British literary life any more to sustain a career as a full-time book reviewer. I always like pieces about the nuts and bolts of the trade (who pays what sums, how much time it took someone to spin something out, who earned what when), and read this piece with special interest not just because I occasionally write for the British press, but also because I've managed for a few years to make a modest living (actually a very fine living if we understand the word as "existence" and not as "income") from the very profession whose diminishing wages Taylor mourns. Hmm—I wonder how much time I have left on my clock.

"The Perils Of Writing A Life Of Gore Vidal", a very entertaining account of running into trouble with one's biographical subject by Fred Kaplan ("Vidal's pride, one of the leitmotifs of his life, frequently compared to that of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, required that a biography be published while he still lived. If Norman Mailer already had two or three versions of his life published or in process, Vidal argued, why should he not have at least one? My argument that he should follow the example of Mark Twain, who insisted that his biography not be published before his death, met firm resistance.) I have on my desk right now, waiting for a week in which all other things fall silent or go on vacation, two fat new literary biographies of nineteenth-century greats: Michael Slater's biography of Charles Dickens and Joseph Frank's monumental study of Fyodor Dostoevesky, in an abridged version that is still about a thousand pages long.

"These Poems Are The End For Me", a set of poems in Hindi translation in the new issue of the literary magazine Pratilipi by the late Marathi and English writer Dilip Chitre, who passed away recently. Chitre's essay "The Practice of Marathi Poetry" is here.


Krishna said...

I know exactly one person who has read poetry for pleasure(that too, a few decades ago).
My father's and grandfather's generation were weaned on a healthy respect for poetry: they can quote their favorite poems when moved enough: even now.
But somehow we've not been able to connect with poetry as a form of literature; unless you count the forced ingurgigation in high school and before.
I , for example, was quite unable to connect very well to what you wrote: even if I forced myself, my eyes started glazing away at some point.
I suspect this would be true for most Indian readers in English(those unacquainted with Urdu or vernacular traditions - like me)
Can you recommend a collection of poetry that comes down to the level of an unacquainted(and possibly unappreciative)reader? It's been entirely my loss for not being a part of this world.

Chandrahas said...

Krishna - Sure. Why don't you try reading the poems of Constantine Cavafy ? Or else the poems of Wislawa Szymborska? Good to see that you're so keen!

Sameer said...

I stumbled here after reading your short story, 'Dnyaneshwar Kulkarni changes his name' which I found extremely good. More so, because I live very near to Charni Road station. :)

Being a writer myself, I was very glad to read the Jonathan Galassi interview. I usually write on a pen and paper, and have always felt the editing process to be extremely harsh when you look at your own lousy handwriting.

"Am I repeating the character's peculiar state of mind in the situation, twice?"

"This is too real. And Matter-of-fact. Got to make it a bit more fictional so that the reader is able to transport easily."

"There is nothing wrong with this really, but it's not like you know, funny or anything at all. Something, just doesn't feel great."

and the insecurity goes on and on, until you finally settle on the text that you had written first, with a few edits.

It is very heartening to see that this is true for other writers also. :)

Krishna said...

Thanks so much.
I've been meaning to read them, and now I can say I have started.

m.o.kane said...

I read the Galassi post as well, but I wonder if this has more to do with Donald Knuth and Tex/LaTex than anything else. A friend asked me to correct the English in his manuscript and I sent it back to him typeset with LaTex. The difference between the LaTex presentation and what's vomited up by Microsoft Word, or Open Office or any of the usual suspects is extraordinary. Given that manual typesetting is rare, holding a "typeset" text merely involves passing your text through Latex and printing it on a home printer. Now you're looking at what is in essence an unbound galley. Do you still feel the love?