Saturday, May 14, 2005

Home and Away

I am going away for about two weeks. Travelling again. Will miss you all but hope I will come back with interesting news!

Friday, May 13, 2005

It's Cannes time again!

So, the newspapers are agog with news from the Cannes. I opened The Hindustan Times and there were pictures of Aishwarya, along with a French actress', her seductive smile bewitching the photographers. Thankfully her (black) dress looked fine unlike the last time and seemed to complement the dress of the French actress (she was in white). B&W!

The New York Times also has Aish on the first slide of its multimedia review of Cannes. I could see Nandita Das on the second slide, in a resplendent sari, standing along with other members of the jury.

NYT has an interesting section on Cannes. I loved Emir Kusturica's profile. Kusturica (pronounced KOOS-toor-eet-sa) is leading the Cannes jury this time. I knew so little about this man.

"Born in 1954, Kusturica grew up an only child in a secular Muslim family in Sarajevo, the capital of the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. At 18 he was packed off to Prague to study at the Czech state film school, FAMU, in part thanks to the older Kusturicas' anxiety over the young Emir's enthusiastic interest in minor acts of youthful criminality. It didn't take him long to be noticed. By the time he was 40, he had already won most of the major prizes the film world has to offer. "

The guy hates Hollywood. He says:

''What you have now is a Hollywood that is pure poison,'' Kusturica says. ''Hollywood was a central place in the history of art in the 20th century: it was human idealism preserved. And then, like any great place, it collapsed, and it collapsed into the most awful machinery in the world. Why don't I see a Frank Capra today? Because people aren't like this anymore? People haven't changed that much in 60 years.''

I cannot disagree with him. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Tash Aw in Time Magazine

Reviewer Donald Morrison has given a good review of Tash Aw's novel, The Harmony Silk Factory in the Time.

"Malaysia is a land rich in farmers, civil servants and electronics assembly workers, but poor in novelists. That's an odd deficit, given the country's high levels of literacy, prosperity and anxiety, as well as an abundance of history, politics, ethnic tension and other delicate topics that can be used as material. All of which makes Tash Aw's debut novel worthy of close inspection.
The first major work of fiction written in English by a Malaysian about his country in recent memory, Aw's The Harmony Silk Factory has won enthusiastic reviews since its publication in March in the U.S. and the U.K. Foreign rights have been sold in nearly a dozen countries, and the book will appear in Asia in June. Malaysians looking for insights into their country's modern condition may be disappointed. Other readers may find themselves enjoyably lost in a land of magic and mayhem."

After the first two paragraphs, Donald pretty much gives away the story. But he ends it well:

"The Harmony Silk Factory doesn't strain to be The Great Malaysian Novel. That's a deliberate decision by Aw, 33, who considers himself "100% Malaysian," though born in Taipei (to Malaysian-Chinese parents), raised in Kuala Lumpur, educated at Cambridge and now resident in London. "I didn't set out to incorporate any particularly Malaysian themes," Aw said from New York City, where he was on a promotional tour. "My intention was to demolish the Malaysian historical novel of the 1930s and '40s, as influenced by Somerset Maugham. You know, the idea that there are only two versions of Malaysia in literature—a place where white men sit around drinking pink gin, and a place full of colorful people doing quaint things. I wanted to write a book that didn't depend on settings."

Read the review here.

Very good for Tash. I saw a copy of the book in Kinokuniya recently here. Alas, my reading list is so long! This book will have to wait for me.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Publishing Lessons

I do not happily bring bad news about writing and writers. No that doesn't give me a kick. I do not promote e-publishing nor do I approve of vanity publishing. And yet, off-the-beaten-track anecdotes about publishing successes, about someone realising his/her dream of becoming a writer interest me. Often, it touches my heart as I can imagine how it feels to get what one wants.

I was touched to read Stewart Dalby's account: how, at 60, he did it for himself!

Young ladies, Dalby brings good news for you: "Publishers will only put money into a book if you are young, preferably female, write about magicians, and have five or six other books in front of you".

Are you going to write about magicians now?

Grass Talks

I was beginning to believe that intellectuals no more talked about socialism, capitalism, and globalization. Until I read this piece by Gunter Grass in a recent issue of The Guardian. Grass has raised important issues, in the context of Germany, but his points are relevant for all of us:

"...parliament is no longer sovereign in its decisions. It depends on powerful pressure groups — the banks and multinationals — which are not subject to any democratic control. Parliament has thereby become an object of ridicule. It is degenerating into a subsidiary of the stock exchange. Democracy has become a pawn to the dictates of globally volatile capital. So can we really be surprised when more and more citizens turn away from such blatant scams, indignant, an­tagonised and ultimately resigned and regard elections as a simple farce and decline to vote? What is needed is a democratic desire to protect Parliament against the pressures of the lobbyists by making it inviolable. But are our parliamentarians still sufficiently free for a decision that would bring radical democratic constraint?"

A very potent argument!

Here he talks about the job market and how the over the hill people are finding it difficult to stay in employment.

"The consequences of this development disguised as globalisation are clearly coming to light and can be read from the statistics. With the consistently high number of jobless, which in Germany has now reached five million, and the equally constant refusal of industry to create new jobs, despite demonstrably higher earnings, especially in the export area, the hope of full employment has evaporated. Older employees, who still had years of work left in them, are pushed into early retirement. Young people are denied the skills for entering the world of work. Even worse, with simultaneous complaints that an ageing population is a threat and the demand, repeated parrot-fashion, to do more for young people and education, the Federal Republic — still a rich country — is permitting, to a shameful extent, the growth of what is called "child poverty"."

So much food for thought. And for a change, this piece is not written by Arundhati Roy who seems to have monopolized this segment of discussion. Relish it here.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Macmillan's controversial deal for new authors

Macmillan has come out with a fancy deal for new authors and it has already attracted controversy.

As per the scheme, new writers can now directly send their manuscripts to Macmillan. This means completely bypassing the age-old route of going to a publisher through an agent. This is good news for writers who can't even get picked up by snooty agents!

However, there is a downside too. There are no big, fat advances in case Macmillan chooses to publish the work. In fact, there is no advance at all. The author will get royalties based on actual sales.

The critics of this scheme are calling it a scam. It will deprive new authors of their economic opprtunities, they say. The supporters of the scheme argue that it will help spot new talent who are filtered out by agents.

I like what Jamie Byng of Canongate Books says: "Anyone who is ambitious for their book won't go down this route. But then you don't have to do it. The deal is fine, it's OK. If you'd spent years and years working on your novel and no agent will look at it you'd be bloody grateful for this. Good luck to them."

What do you think?

Writers, Investment Banking, and Big Advances

First, there was Mohsin Hamid, a Pakistani in the US and an investment banker by profession, who hit the jackpot with his Moth Smoke.

Then, there was this news about Kaavya Viswanathan (discussed in a previous post) who is on her way at Harvard to become an investment banker. She has just received $500,000 advance for her Opal Mehta novels.

Now I hear about Lavanya Sankaran who is also an investment banker. Her novel The Red Carpet is releasing today. Nine publishers auctioned hotly for her book, finally ending in a ‘‘substantial six-figure advance’’ won by Susan Kamil of Dial Press, an imprint of Random House. The UK rights were bought by Headline Review, which is also distributing it in India.

What do you say to this? Money attracts/begets money?

Meanwhile, I read the cautionary tale of Keith, a thriller writer, on THE TROUBLE WITH BIG ADVANCES. Quite an instructive read.

Tailpiece: The Outlook reports that Vikram Seth's much awaited WW II saga will come out end of the year. Avid readers will have to wait! "The jacket is ready, the announcement has been made, but the book is not yet ready," Seth confessed recently in Delhi.