Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Amis on Updike, Nabokov

Updike's four studies

He said he had four studies in his house so we can imagine him writing a poem in one of his studies before breakfast, then in the next study writing a hundred pages of a novel, then in the afternoon he writes a long and brilliant essay for the New Yorker, and then in the fourth study he blurts out a couple of poems. John Updike must have been possessed of a purer energy than any writer since DH Lawrence.

I've seen it suggested that such prodigies suffer from an enviable condition called 'pressure on the cortex'. It's as if they have within them an underground spring which is always on the point of eruption. He has produced an enormous body of work. He is certainly one of the great American novelists of the 20th century.

Nabokov spoke like a child

Spontaneous eloquence seems to me a miracle," confessed Vladimir Nabokov in 1962. He took up the point more personally in his foreword to Strong Opinions (1973): "I have never delivered to my audience one scrap of information not prepared in typescript beforehand … My hemmings and hawings over the telephone cause long-distance callers to switch from their native English to pathetic French.

"At parties, if I attempt to entertain people with a good story, I have to go back to every other sentence for oral erasures and inserts … nobody should ask me to submit to an interview … It has been tried at least twice in the old days, and once a recording machine was present, and when the tape was rerun and I had finished laughing, I knew that never in my life would I repeat that sort of performance."

We sympathise. And most literary types, probably, would hope for inclusion somewhere or other on Nabokov's sliding scale: "I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child."

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A world beyond pink laptops

This is from my CIO Asia technology blog:

Women are seeking a world beyond pink laptops. They want a larger role to play in shaping the world through technology and leadership opportunities. They want a significant representation at the high table in government, civil society groups and corporations.

These were the impression I came back with after attending the opening night of 'Women leaders of New Asia'. The summit was held in Singapore by Asia Society, USA, between 31 March and 2 April.

Read the full blog post here.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Martin Amis: "The long read is a dying art"

"You have to be slightly innocent to be a novelist. You can't have too much nous. It gets in the way, somehow," Amis says in an interview.

Amis says he fears "the long read is a dying art" – which isn't a fogeyish complaint, he adds, no doubt fearing another embroidered headline ("Amis: You're all dumbos"). "But there are so many claims on our attention. Very literate people admit they can't read books any more. And just as the literate brain is physically different to the illiterate brain, the digitally savvy brain is different again. It's a physiological change, not just a moral one."

A few weeks ago, Amis caused a stir when he made disparaging comments against children's writers (but to be fair, he is entitled to his views).

"People ask me if I ever thought of writing a children's book," Amis said, in a sideways excursion from a chat about John Self, the antihero of his 1984 novel Money. "I say, 'If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children's book', but otherwise the idea of being conscious of who you're directing the story to is anathema to me, because, in my view, fiction is freedom and any restraints on that are intolerable."