Books > Writers,
W. H. Auden (1907-1973)
Date taken: 1956
- broken link
free speech UK
article/books-race-america.html - June 25, 2020
short story writer
crime writer USA
cookbook writer UK
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original writing UK
New Grub Street
refers to the London street that,
in the age of Samuel Johnson
and Laurence Sterne (...),
was synonymous with hack writing.
By the 1890s,
Grub Street no longer existed,
though hack writing,
of course, never goes away,
with timeless imperatives.
American prose USA
author UK / USA
best-selling author USA
Martina Cole > Britain's bestselling author
pen name USA
The Paris Review, American literary magazine
woman of letters USA
literary greats > The Times obituaries
literary feuds UK
literary fraud UK
literary agent USA
literary agent > Pat Kavanagh
literary legend > Ray Bradbury
Ben Sonnenberg Jr.,
founder of literary journal
Grand Street USA
pioneering feminist author > Amber Reeves
mystery novelist / writer > Donald E. Westlake
UK > science fiction writer / author > Arthur C.
travel writer > Patrick Leigh Fermor
philosophical and revolutionary writers
thinkers and revolutionaries
USA > the Beats: beat generation
UK / USA
A draft of the prologue of “Invisible Man.”
Photograph: Ralph Ellison Papers,
Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of
© The Ralph and Fanny Ellison Charitable Trust.
T BOOK CLUB
Surreal Encounters in Ralph Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man’
Breaking with the dominant literary styles among Black writers
at the time,
the author expanded the limits of realism to create a world
and remains, all too familiar.
June 3, 2021
UK / USA
writers at their typewriters - in
pictures UK 2011
Since Mark Twain became the first author
to submit a typed manuscript
with Life on the Mississippi in 1883,
authors have been devoted to their machines.
As manufacture of typewriters
to a close,
we look back on some
of the iconic images of creators
at their keyboard
NYC > Harlem Renaissance
USA > The Pulitzer Prizes
in Journalism and the Arts
Samuel Johnson prize
Booktrust teenage prize
Man Booker Prize USA
Man Booker Prize
Man Booker Prize
The Booker prize
2011 UK / USA
The Booker shortlist UK
the Blooker Prize UK
the Turner prize
win the award
win the Booker
the Big Gay Read
the Whitbread Book of the Year
the Romantic Novelists Association prize
the Carnegie medal
the Samuel Johnson non-fiction prize
National Book Award
Corpus of news articles
Arts > Books >
'Fiction saved my life'
Symbol, victim, blasphemer, target
– Salman Rushdie, it seems,
people need him to be.
As his new novel is published,
the writer talks to Boyd Tonkin
Friday, 11 April 2008
In Salman Rushdie's tenth novel, the great Mughal emperor Akbar conjures up his
favourite wife by the sheer force of imagination alone: "The creation of real
life from a dream was a superhuman act, usurping the prerogative of the gods."
Non-existent, but still solid enough to breed fiery resentment from her rival
queens, Jodha in The Enchantress of Florence can stand for all the heretical
coups and stunts of story-telling magic that have peppered Rushdie's fiction for
the past 30 years. Yet this grand master of the power of fantasy has suffered as
its slave as well. More than any other writer alive, he has found himself
transformed into a character – ogre, joker, beast and, just occasionally, hero –
in other people's scripts and stories.
"Sometimes," he says, his voice tinged more by sadness than anger, "I think that
when people become famous, there's a public perception that they are not human
beings any more. They don't have feelings; they don't get hurt; you can act and
say as you like about them." They become "things, not people" – a status and a
plight that, outside global politics and showbiz, Rushdie has sampled at a
length and depth unparalleled in modern times.
Even if you try hard to treat the novelist as a professional author, not a
symbol, a slogan or a cause, the buzz of fantasy kicks in. My particular Rushdie
delusion endows him with the Jodha-like ability to materialise out of thin air.
At a Booker Prize dinner in the mid-1990s, with the Iranian fatwa that followed
The Satanic Verses in 1989 still a clear and present danger to his life, the
shifty-eyed ox in a tux seated next to me promptly vanished as the first course
arrived. The next time I turned my head, the target of several deadly serious
assassination plots (and Ayatollah Khomeini's judgement, remember, was suspended
but not rescinded by Tehran in 1998) had slipped in to replace his ever-watchful
bodyguard. Not long ago, I went to dinner at a friend's, looked away to grab a
crisp – and, abracadabra, there he suddenly sat.
Now, I push through an open door at his agent's eerily silent offices, wander
into a seemingly deserted room – and find him standing alone, near a shelf of
books by another quizzically subversive spellbinder, and one of his true heroes:
Everyone, fan or foe, invokes their own imaginary Rushdie. We dream him up, and
he duly takes shape: as blaspheming apostate for many still-outraged Muslims; as
cocky subcontinental pseud for old-school British racists; as martyr to free
speech for liberal literati. With the announcement of his knighthood, last June,
this parade of straw men swelled to a seething carnival of prejudice and
projection. From one corner, the pious haters swung into action: the parliament
of Pakistan passed a motion against the honour as an insult to Islam. From
another, the gossip-sheet haters seized on rumours of an impending divorce to
renew their attritional campaign of "attacks on my physical appearance, as if
I've ever invested anything in how beautiful I am". From yet another, the
kneejerk-leftist haters matched them all in bile: The Guardian ran a defamatory
rant from a Cambridge English don that grossly misrepresented his books, his
politics and his ideas with a recklessness that would shame a GCSE-level duffer.
"Truthfully, I don't get it," says this hard-working 60-year-old writer, clad in
a writer's comfy sweater, mulling over his burdensome double life as
multipurpose scapegoat. "I just don't understand it. I think I've led a serious
creative life. All that I've tried to do for over 30 years is to be the best
writer that I know how to be... It's as if people don't see that in some way,
and that's distressing."
The flesh-and-blood author has never wanted to make a mystery of himself. Even
in the perilous depths of the fatwa, he proved easier to contact than many shy
sages with no price upon their heads. Now, he is about to launch the fourth
season of the World Voices festival in New York: a crowd-pulling array of global
authors that Rushdie has energetically fronted and boosted from the start. With
his friends Umberto Eco and Mario Vargas Llosa, he will re-stage the "Three
Musketeers" gig that proved so popular in the 1990s. And, for a month every
year, he makes time to teach modern fiction (including such colleagues and
contemporaries as Angela Carter, Kazuo Ishiguro and Hanif Kureishi) at Emory
University in Georgia: "There's something very enjoyable about sitting in a room
with 16 intelligent young people, talking about a book."
So ordinary life, and ordinary talk, carries on regardless. The Indian-origin
family who run a gas station he uses in New York were "thrilled and proud" at
the knighthood. Most people have responded "very sweetly" to it, he says: they
understand "that real life is not the same thing as what's in the newspapers. If
you know that, it's a way of dealing with what appears in print." Still, he
admits: "I don't get over it. It hurts me and, like anybody else who gets hurt,
you have to try to heal."
So is work a good way to heal? "Yes. Last year was a horrible year for me in
many ways because of the end of my marriage" – his fourth, to the model, actress
and TV presenter Padma Lakshmi – "and I don't know how I got inside this book,
really." Hard on the heels of the knighthood furore, reports of their split
brought another media shot of the sour cocktail of mockery and malice that had
greeted the start of the couple's relationship. "It wasn't straightforward" to
plunge into the therapeutic toil of fiction, he says, "considering the enormous
amount of upheaval. But I do think it saved my life, this book. It reminded me
of who I've always wanted to be, and who I think I am. And it was a matter of
enormous pride to be able to do it and, at the end, to think, 'Not so bad.'"
The Enchantress of Florence returns Rushdie to the roots of his craft, and his
gift. From Midnight's Children in 1981 to Shalimar the Clown in 2005, his
strongest fiction has explored and enacted the interchange of history, memory
and myth – as comedy, as tragedy, and often as a brand of fantasy that dances
with, and through, recorded facts. The new novel sticks to two connected sectors
of the past: the early 1500s in Florence, and the later 16th century in the new
(but soon to be abandoned) Mughal capital of Fatehpur Sikri. So India and Italy
embrace in a tale of two cities.
The book teases out the strands that bind two types of Renaissance, two types of
humanism, and two types of magic. Via Rushdie's narrative alchemy, one woman,
the "hidden princess" Qara Köz, knits the entire plot in her westward drift from
court to court across (and beyond) the known world. Driven by the
Hitchcock-style V C "McGuffin" of a blond stranger in Akbar's city and his tall
tales of a genealogy that weds East and West, the story unspools irresistibly
like a roll of brightly coloured ribbon, full of the virtues of "lightness and
swiftness" that Calvino taught, and Rushdie admires. "I just had the most good
time writing it," the author purrs, "and it's slightly given me the appetite for
doing it again."
"For me," he says, "one of the most interesting discoveries of this book was how
similar the two worlds were. In my starting-point idea," which drew on the
Indian princess who plays a leading role in Ariosto's Renaissance epic poem
Orlando Furioso, "I thought, 'Here are these two worlds that have very little
contact with each other, and yet are both at a kind of peak.' But the more I
found out about it, the more I found that, actually, they were surprisingly
alike: in the interest in magic, in the remarkable hedonism of both worlds – the
very open debauchery of both cultures." "Florence was everywhere and everywhere
was Florence," thinks the Tuscan scamp turned Ottoman warlord Argalia, one of
the novel's self-seeking bridge-builders and go-betweens who bind East and West.
Rushdie says that "how the world adds up, and how this part connects to that
part, is something I've been trying to explore for a really long time now. The
Satanic Verses is a novel about migrations, but in the last three or four books,
I've been trying to write about how over here connects to over there." He adds:
"I'm not trying to say they're identical, but human nature is identical. It's
interesting to see that human beings were everywhere alike... I'm not a
relativist. I do think that there is such a thing as human nature, and that the
things that we have in common are perhaps greater than the things that divide
So the arch-Florentine Niccolo Machiavelli (whom Rushdie commends as "a profound
philosopher of republican humanism") seeks for the "hidden truths" about society
and politics behind the official smokescreen of doctrine and dignity. Two
generations later, in Fatehpur Sikri, the Emperor Akbar slips slowly away from
mainstream Islam to harbour dreams of a synthetic, humanistic faith with "man at
the centre of things, not God".
All of this actually happened. I have visited the riotously carved pavilion in
the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri ("a most enchanted place," says Rushdie), where
the questing, tolerant Akbar welcomed spokesmen for different creeds to debate
the nature of God, and man, in a mood of mutual goodwill and respect. For
Rushdie, "I myself don't think that Akbar ever really moved outside Islam...
However much he experimented with all these ideas, I don't think he ever ceased
to be a believing Muslim. But he had this pantheistic idea: that, in the end,
all religions are one."
The author stresses that he deals in historical fiction, not topical allegory or
coded polemic. "When I'm writing a book, sentence by sentence, I'm not thinking
theoretically. I'm just trying to work out the story from inside the characters
I've got." His novel may feature a prince who hopes that "in Paradise, the words
'worship' and 'argument' mean the same thing", but he has no particular message
for believers, or unbelievers, today. "My impulse was not didactic. It was the
novelist's impulse: to bring things to life in an interesting way. I don't like
books that seem to want to teach me things. Which is not to say that one doesn't
learn from books – but you do your own learning in your own way."
Rushdie did plenty of new learning for The Enchantress of Florence ("I've never
done so much research in my life") and he slips in a seven-page bibliography.
During a rough passage, history offered both an escape and a homecoming. "It
felt like returning to a use of my mind, a place where I hadn't been for a long
time," says the history graduate of King's College, Cambridge. He remembers that
a favourite tutor there, Arthur Hibbert, told him that "you should not write
history until you can hear the people speak. I've always thought that was quite
a good piece of advice for fiction, too. For me, this book was that act: trying
to understand the people well enough so that I could hear them speak."
These princes, whores, scholars and warriors, Rushdie insists, live in their own
times, on their own terms. He worries that the gossip-hounds invariably treat
his fiction as "disguised autobiography". In this yarn of a glamorous incomer
from India who seduces Italy, many will seek for echoes of his former wife, once
a prime-time host on Italian television. But Qara Köz cannot be Padma Lakshmi:
"No – she's 400 years older!" More seriously: "The reason why none of these
characters can be equated to modern characters is that their processes of
thought are not modern. They don't make choices or understand the world in the
way that people in our day would. They are genuinely, I hope, of their time."
Like people in our time, though, they voyage across the world in search of
fortune, passion or adventure. Born in Bombay to a Kashmiri Muslim family; a
schoolboy at Rugby, a student at Cambridge; the 1980s superstar of a fresh,
border-hopping brand of cosmopolitan English-language fiction; then, after the
fatwa, the fugitive proof of the downside of fame before he came to rest in
Manhattan: Rushdie could hardly dodge migration and cultural mingling as a
recurrent motif in his work.
Yet, he thinks, the art of passing frontiers feels harder now. "Because of the
kind of life I've had, of being bounced around the planet quite a lot... I've
had constantly to be aware of likeness and unlikeness. And so it becomes a
subject for me." However, compared to 20 years ago, "the world has changed in
that people are more troubled" about human flux and flow. It used to be "easier
to imagine mass migration as a positive force, a liberating force, both for the
migrant and the culture into which the migrant came... Now, I think there are
big question marks around that idea because people are scared. The element of
fear has arrived in a way that wasn't there before, because of the violence of
In such a climate, the pleasures of story-telling rather than punditry beckon.
"Because of all the things that happened to me, there are people who think of me
primarily as some kind of political animal. I began to feel it was getting in
the way of people being able to read my books as books should be read." So
Rushdie won't be drawn far into the electoral drama unfolding in his adopted
home. "If I had a vote, I'd probably vote for Obama. But one of the things I've
been doing in America is: keeping out of it. It struck me that if an American
writer living in England began to start sounding off about who we should vote
for, people wouldn't take kindly to it. There was that long period when Roth was
living here. If Philip had started sounding off about whether you should vote
for Margaret Thatcher, it wouldn't have gone down well."
Back in his Renaissance, East and West, the power-plays of the past bewitch him
now, however fantastic they feel. "A lot of the stuff people might think is most
obviously made up is true," he says of The Enchantress of Florence, where we
meet not only Akbar and Machiavelli, but a bloodier icon. "The Ottoman campaign
against Dracula actually took place. Dracula's decision to impale 20,000 people
on stakes to put off the Ottoman army really happened. That's not magic realism,
although it sounds like it... It comes from the memoirs of a Serbian janissary
who took part in that campaign. There it is, gruesomely described in great
detail. I couldn't believe my luck when Dracula showed up."
In the minds of his diehard antagonists, Rushdie often figures as a near-demonic
blend of Dracula and the mythical (if not historical) Machiavelli. Yet he writes
and acts much more like his benevolent but baffled Akbar, showing through the
story-teller's unarmed might that "human nature, not divine will, was the great
force that moved history"; and hoping that "discord, difference, disobedience"
might turn out after all to be "wellsprings of the good".
Though enemies will continue to sharpen their stakes for him, the writer has
found his way back into a not-so-secret garden of fictional delights. With The
Enchantress of Florence, "there was an unexpected joy in the writing for me. I
loved doing it, and I felt that there is some sense of release into literature
in the book. It was a lot of fun, at a time that wasn't fun."
'The Enchantress of Florence' is published by Jonathan Cape (£18.99). Salman
Rushdie appears in International PEN's Free the Word! festival, Queen Elizabeth
Hall, London SE1, on Sunday at 7.30pm
Salman Rushdie: 'Fiction
saved my life',
11 April 2008,
Harry Potter First Edition Auctioned
October 26, 2007
Filed at 11:27 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LONDON (AP) -- A copy of J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter novel sold at
auction Thursday for almost $41,000.
The copy of the hardback first edition of ''Harry Potter and the Philosopher's
Stone,'' published in 1997 and signed ''Joanne Rowling'' on the back of the
title page, was sold to an anonymous private bidder for $40,326 at Christie's
At a London auction in May, a copy of ''Philosopher's Stone'' inscribed with a
personal dedication to the owner sold for more than $55,000, including buyer's
The book was published by Bloomsbury PLC with an initial print run of about 500
copies. Many were purchased by libraries, making copies in good condition
It was published in the United States in 1998 as ''Harry Potter and the
Sorcerer's Stone,'' and the boy wizard soon became a publishing phenomenon.
The seventh and final installment in Harry's adventures, ''Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows,'' was published in July. The seven books have sold nearly 400
million copies and have been translated into 64 languages.
Harry Potter First
Edition Auctioned, NYT, 26.10.2007,
Books-Potter-Auction.html - broken link
J.K. Rowling Outs Hogwarts Character
October 20, 2007
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 12:37 a.m. ET
The New York Times
NEW YORK (AP) -- Harry Potter fans, the rumors are true: Albus Dumbledore,
master wizard and Headmaster of Hogwarts, is gay. J.K. Rowling, author of the
mega-selling fantasy series that ended last summer, outed the beloved character
Friday night while appearing before a full house at Carnegie Hall.
After reading briefly from the final book, ''Harry Potter and the Deathly
Hallows,'' she took questions from audience members.
She was asked by one young fan whether Dumbledore finds ''true love.''
''Dumbledore is gay,'' the author responded to gasps and applause.
She then explained that Dumbledore was smitten with rival Gellert Grindelwald,
whom he defeated long ago in a battle between good and bad wizards. ''Falling in
love can blind us to an extent,'' Rowling said of Dumbledore's feelings, adding
that Dumbledore was ''horribly, terribly let down.''
Dumbledore's love, she observed, was his ''great tragedy.''
''Oh, my god,'' Rowling concluded with a laugh, ''the fan fiction.''
Potter readers on fan sites and elsewhere on the Internet have speculated on the
sexuality of Dumbledore, noting that he has no close relationship with women and
a mysterious, troubled past. And explicit scenes with Dumbledore already have
appeared in fan fiction.
Rowling told the audience that while working on the planned sixth Potter film,
''Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,'' she spotted a reference in the
script to a girl who once was of interest to Dumbledore. A note was duly passed
to director David Yates, revealing the truth about her character.
Rowling, finishing a brief ''Open Book Tour'' of the United States, her first
tour here since 2000, also said that she regarded her Potter books as a
''prolonged argument for tolerance'' and urged her fans to ''question
Not everyone likes her work, Rowling said, likely referring to Christian groups
that have alleged the books promote witchcraft. Her news about Dumbledore, she
said, will give them one more reason.
J.K. Rowling Outs
Hogwarts Character, NYT, 20.10.2007,
J.K. Rowling Gives Rare U.S. Reading
October 16, 2007
Filed at 3:55 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling made a rare U.S.
appearance, reading at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood in front of scores of
wand-clutching would-be wizards and witches.
Seated on a gold throne with plush red cushions, Rowling read Monday from the
seventh and final of her novels on Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,
''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.''
She then took a dozen preselected questions from the dressed-up and dazzled kids
To accommodate a crushing demand for tickets for her first American appearance
since 2000, Rowling's American publisher sent a ''sorting hat'' like those used
to divide students into houses in the novels to 40 randomly selected Los Angeles
schools. Forty students from each school were then selected from the hat.
Rowling said the gimmick was meant to avoid the sort of madness she faced in her
last U.S. appearance seven years ago.
''Things had gotten a little unmanageable signing-wise in the terms of the
numbers who were turning up,'' she said, ''but I really missed being able to
interact directly with readers.''
All 1,600 students received a signed copy of ''Deathly Hallows.''
Rowling, a former schoolteacher, took the stage to a thundering, shrieking
ovation, then said: ''It wasn't like this when I was a teacher. If it had been,
I might never have left.''
When inevitably asked what she might be writing next, Rowling said only that it
would not be another supernatural epic.
''I think probably I've done my fantasy,'' she said. ''I think because Harry's
world was so large and detailed and I've known it so well and I've lived in it
for 17 years, it would be incredibly difficult to go out and create another
The reading was part of a weeklong visit by Rowling to the states known as the
''Open Book Tour.''
She also makes stops in New Orleans on Thursday and at New York's Carnegie Hall
J.K. Rowling Gives Rare
U.S. Reading, NYT, 16.10.2007,
Wins Nobel Prize in Literature
October 11, 2007
The New York Times
By MOTOKO RICH and SARAH LYALL
Doris Lessing, the Persian-born, Rhodesian-raised and London-residing
novelist whose deeply autobiographical writing has swept across continents and
reflects her engagement with the social and political issues of her time, today
won the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy described her as “that
epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire and visionary power
has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny.” The award comes with an
honorarium of 10 million Swedish crown, about $1.6 million.
Ms. Lessing, who turns 88 later this month, never finished high school and
largely educated herself through her voracious reading. She was born in 1919 to
British parents in what is now Iran, raised in colonial Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
and currently resides in London. She has written dozens of books of fiction, as
well as plays, non-fiction and two volumes of her autobiography. She is the 11th
woman to win a Nobel Prize in literature.
Ms. Lessing learned of the news from a group of reporters camped on her doorstep
as she returned from visiting her son in the hospital. “I was a bit surprised
because I had forgotten about it actually,” she said. “My name has been on the
short list for such a long time.”
With the sound of a phone ringing persistently from inside her house, Ms.
Lessing said that on second thought, she was not as surprised, “because this has
been going on for something like 40 years,” referring to previous times she has
been on the short list for the Nobel. “Either they were going to give it to me
sometime before I popped off or not at all.”
Stout, sharp and a bit hard of hearing, Ms. Lessing excused herself after a few
moments to go inside. “Now I’m going to go in to answer my telephone,” she said.
“I swear I’m going upstairs to find some suitable sentences which I will be
using from now on.”
Although Ms. Lessing is passionate about social and political issues, she is
unlikely to be as controversial as the previous two winners, Orhan Pamuk of
Turkey and Harold Pinter of Britain, whose views on current political situations
led commentators to suspect that the Swedish Academy was choosing its winners in
part for nonliterary reasons.
Ms. Lessing’s strongest legacy may be that she inspired a generation of
feminists with her breakthrough novel, “The Golden Notebook.” In its citation,
the Swedish Academy said: “The burgeoning feminist movement saw it as a
pioneering work and it belongs to the handful of books that informed the 20th
century view of the male-female relationship.”
Ms. Lessing wrote candidly about the inner lives of women and rejected the
notion that they should abandon their own lives to marriage and children. “The
Golden Notebook,” published in 1962, tracked the story of Anna Wulf, a woman who
wanted to live freely and was in some ways Ms. Lessing’s alter-ego.
Because she frankly depicted female anger and aggression, she was attacked as
“unfeminine.” In response, Ms. Lessing wrote: “Apparently what many women were
thinking, feeling, experiencing came as a great surprise.”
Although she has been held up as an early feminist icon, Ms. Lessing later
denied that she herself was a feminist, earning the ire of some British critics
Clare Hanson, professor of 20th century literature at the University of
Southampton in Britain and a keynote speaker at the second international Doris
Lessing Conference this past July, said: “She’s been ahead of her time,
prescient and thoughtful, immensely wide-ranging.”
Ms. Lessing debuted with the novel “The Grass is Singing” in 1950, chronicling
the relationship between a white farmer’s wife and her black servant. In her
earliest work, Ms. Lessing drew upon her childhood experiences in colonial
Rhodesia to write about the clash of white and African cultures and racial
Because of her outspoken views, the governments of both Southern Rhodesia and
South Africa declared her a “prohibited alien” in 1956.
Ms. Lessing was born Doris May Tayler in 1919 in what was then known as Persia
(now Iran). Her father was a bank clerk and her mother was trained as a nurse.
Lured by the promise of farming riches, the family moved to Rhodesia, where Ms.
Lessing had what she has described as a “painful” childhood.
She left home when she was 15. In 1937 she moved to Salisbury (now Harare) in
Southern Rhodesia, where she took jobs as a telephone operator and nursemaid. At
19, she married and had two children. A few years later, she felt trapped, and
abandoned her family. She later married Gottfried Lessing, a central member of
the Left Book Club, a left wing organization, and they had a son together.
Ms. Lessing, who briefly joined the Communist Party, later repudiated Marxist
theory and was criticized for doing so by some British academics.
She divorced Mr. Lessing and she and her young son moved to London, where she
began her literary career in earnest. When “The Golden Notebook” was first
published in the United States, Ms. Lessing was still unknown. Robert Gottlieb,
then her editor at Simon & Schuster and later at Knopf, said that it garnered
“extremely interesting reviews” but sold only 6,000 copies. “But they were the
right 6,000 copies,” Mr. Gottlieb said by telephone from his home in New York.
“The people who read it were galvanized by it and it made her a famous writer in
Speaking from Frankfurt during the annual international book fair, Jane
Friedman, president and chief executive of HarperCollins, which has published
Ms. Lessing in the U.S. and the United Kingdom for the last 20 years, said that
“for women and for literature, Doris Lessing is a mother to us all.”
Ms. Lessing’s other novels include “The Good Terrorist,” “Martha Quest,” and
“Love Again.” Her latest novel is “The Cleft,” published by HarperCollins in
In a review of “Under My Skin,” the first volume of Ms. Lessing’s autobiography,
Janet Burroway, writing in The New York Times Book Review, said: “Mrs. Lessing
is a writer for whom the idea that ‘the personal is the political’ is neither
sterile nor strident; for her, it is an integrated vision.”
On her doorstep, Ms. Lessing said she was still writing, “but with difficulty
because I have so little time,” referring to the regular visits she is making to
the hospital to visit her son.
Motoko Rich reported from Frankfurt
and Sarah Lyall from London.
Doris Lessing Wins Nobel
Prize in Literature, NYT, 11.10.2007,
Harry Potter Author
Talks About Ending
July 26, 2007
Filed at 10:43 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK (AP) -- Less than a week after the release of the final Harry Potter
book, author J.K. Rowling is giving hints about its conclusion.
Before publication, Rowling pleaded for secrecy about the ending of ''Harry
Potter and the Deathly Hallows.'' But in an interview broadcast Thursday on
NBC's ''Today'' show and in one published Thursday in USA Today, she discussed
THOSE WHO DO NOT WANT TO KNOW HOW IT ALL TURNS OUT FOR THE BOY WIZARD SHOULD
STOP READING HERE.
''I'm very proud of the fact that as we went into this book, many, many readers
believed it was a real possibility that Harry would die. That's what I was
aiming for,'' she said on NBC.
In the book, Voldemort meets his end and Harry lives. But Rowling said Harry's
survival was not always a certainty.
''In the early days, everything was up for grabs,'' she told USA Today. ''But
early on I knew I wanted Harry to believe he was walking toward his death, but
The last volume of Rowling's fantasy series, ''Harry Potter and the Deathly
Hallows,'' was released Saturday to international fanfare as millions read to
find out whether Harry lived or died. More than 10 million copies sold over the
In a prerelease interview with The Associated Press, Rowling acknowledged that
she had no control over discussions about the book once it went on sale. But she
said that she hoped readers would finish the book to find out what happens,
rather than to peek at the ending.
''It's like someone coming to dinner, just opening the fridge and eating
pudding, while you're standing there still working on the starter. It's not
on,'' she said.
She also told the AP that after finishing the last book, she ''felt terrible for
''It was like a bereavement, even though I was pleased with the book. And then
after a week that cloud lifted and I felt quite lighthearted, quite liberated,''
''It was this amazing cathartic moment -- the end of 17 years' work,'' she told
When asked if she felt like she had to say goodbye to Harry, she said, ''Yes and
no. He'll always be a presence in my life, really.''
She acknowledged that the final Potter installment leaves some loose ends.
''It would have been humanly impossible to answer every single question that
comes up,'' she told NBC. ''Because, I'm dealing with a level of obsession in
some of my fans that will not rest until they know the middle names of Harry's
great, great grandparents.''
Rowling, whose seven Potter books have sold more than 335 million copies
worldwide, said she plans to take time off to be with her family and will
continue writing. She told USA Today she has two writing projects -- one for
children and one for adults.
But whether she will write about her young wizard again, she said: ''I think
I've kind of done the wizarding world. ... I have done my Harry Potter.''
Harry Potter Author
Talks About Ending, NYT, 26.7.2007,
and the man who conjured up
As the last Hogwarts book appears,
the author's multi-millionaire
will stay in the shadows
Sunday July 15, 2007
When midnight strikes on Saturday, there will be no missing the star of the
show. JK Rowling, the world's most successful author, will be the centre of
attention for 1,700 children at London's Natural History Museum as she signs
copies of the seventh and final Harry Potter adventure.
Throughout the canny construction of 'Brand Potter' - books, films, video
games, and now even stamps - one figure has been ever present, like a shadow
glimpsed in the cloisters of Hogwarts school.
This enigmatic but utterly crucial influence is Christopher Little, literary
agent, fierce protector of Rowling and, thanks to the boy wizard, now a
millionaire many times over.
Little has masterminded Rowling's career, from the moment he spotted the
potential of her first manuscript to this week's publication of Harry Potter and
the Deathly Hallows, which guarantees him yet another jackpot. Amazon, the
online retailer, has already sold a record 1.8 million advance copies.
Rowling's publisher, Bloomsbury, held a ballot for the launch at the Natural
History Museum, which drew applications from 90,000 children. The first 500
names out of the hat will hear Rowling read from the new book at midnight -
webcast live around the world - while a further 1,200 will receive signed
copies. Simultaneously, 279 branches of Waterstone's will open their doors, and
there will be numerous other launch parties at independent bookshops up and down
the country. This week the Royal Mail is issuing a commemorative set of Harry
Little, a 65-year-old grandfather, has been content to remain behind the scenes,
rarely speaking in public and seldom photographed. But when he first signed up
Rowling, he reportedly struck a deal under his usual terms: 15 per cent of gross
earnings for the UK market and 20 per cent for merchandising rights, for film,
for the US market and for translation deals. With the author's fortune now
standing at more than £540m, Little's return has to be estimated as at least
'He was the luckiest agent ever - when something like that falls in your lap it
is luck, but he made the most of it,' said Ed Victor, a leading literary agent.
'He has run the brand admirably. He had to build up an organisation to defend
and promote and advance his author's rights and it's all been done very
tastefully. He's a charming and affable fellow, but made of steel underneath.'
The son of a coroner who served as a First World War fighter pilot, Little grew
up in Liversedge, West Yorkshire, and gained five O-levels at Queen Elizabeth
Grammar School in Wakefield, only to leave during the sixth form to join his
uncle's textile business in 1958. The fledgling entrepreneur had impressed his
headteacher, EJ Baggaley, who wrote: 'My impression is that he is well suited
for a business career - sales management, for instance.'
He spent most of the Sixties and Seventies in the shipping industry in Hong Kong
before returning to London to set up a recruitment consultancy called City Boys.
His switch to the literary world happened by accident in 1979. A schoolfriend
and fellow Hong Kong trader, Philip Nicholson, had written a thriller and was
seeking representation. Little agreed to take him on and the book, Man on Fire,
was published under the pseudonym AJ Quinnell. It went on to sell 7.5 million
copies worldwide and become a Hollywood film.
In his only press interview, in 2003, Little recalled: 'The literary agency was
really a hobby which started through an accident. I was helping an old friend in
his writing career. I had been running as a full-time business for about six
years when Harry Potter arrived.'
The agency, run in 'cramped' and 'near-Dickensian' offices in Fulham, south-west
London, was cash-strapped until touched by Potter's magic wand. Literary
folklore has it that Rowling, then a penniless 29-year-old single mother, walked
into a public library in Edinburgh, looked up a list of literary agents and
settled on the name Christopher Little because it sounded like a character from
a children's book.
Bryony Evens, his office manager at the time, has said that it went straight
into the reject basket because 'Christopher felt that children's books did not
make money'. But its unusual black binding caught her eye, prompting her to read
the synopsis and show it to Little. He recalled: 'I wrote back to JK Rowling
within four days of receiving the manuscript. I thought there was something
really special there, although we could never have guessed what would happen to
it.' He managed to sell it to Bloomsbury for £2,500, but later reaped huge
rewards from international rights and has won a reputation as a brilliant
deal-maker who puts Rowling first.
According to those who know him, the 6ft 3in Little, divorced with two sons, is
unchanged by his wealth and a breed apart from the flamboyant agents and
literati who frequent West End restaurants. But he reportedly spent £250,000 on
his 60th birthday party at the Chelsea Physic Garden and has admitted: 'I do
love sailing, but I rent the boats when I want them - it does save a lot of
Ian Chapman, chief executive of Simon & Schuster and a friend of Little for 20
years, said: 'He's very Yorkshire, very northern, very honest and ... still the
same simple fellow he's always been.'
The Deathly Hallows: a sneak preview In a trailer for the forthcoming ITV
documentary, A Year in the Life... J K Rowling, the camera lingers long enough
on a printed manuscript of the novel, dated 23 October 2006, to make the opening
visible to the eagle eyed. It reads:
'Chapter One. The Dark Lord Ascending. The two men appeared out of nowhere, a
few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane. For a second they stood quite
still, wands pointing at each other's chests: then, recognising each other, they
stowed their wands beneath their cloaks and set off, side by side, in the same
"News?", asked the taller of the two.
"The best," replied Snape.'
Harry in numbers
5 seconds between each pre-order on Amazon website - 1.8 million in total.
279 branches of the book chain Waterstone's holding launch parties at the stroke
of midnight on Saturday.
2,000 people expected in the queue at Waterstone's on Piccadilly, London.
24 hours and 1 minute: running time for the audio edition.
90 countries in which the book is being published.
7/4 odds from Ladbrokes on Harry Potter committing suicide at the end of Harry
Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Harry Potter and the man
who conjured up Rowling's millions,
Rushdie Fatwa Still Stands
June 22, 2007
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 11:18 a.m. ET
The New York Times
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- An high-level Iranian cleric said Friday that the
religious edict calling for the killing of Salman Rushdie cannot be revoked, and
he warned Britain was defying the Islamic world by granting the author
Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami reminded worshippers of the 1989 fatwa during a sermon
at Tehran University, aired live on state radio. Thousands of worshippers
chanted ''Death to the English.''
Khatami does not hold a government position but has the influential post of
delivering the sermon during Friday prayers once a month in the Iranian capital.
He did not directly call for the fatwa to be carried out.
''Awarding him means confronting 1.5 billion Muslims around the world,'' Khatami
said. ''In Islamic Iran, the revolutionary fatwa ... is still alive and cannot
Then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued the fatwa in 1989,
calling on Muslims to kill Rushdie because his book ''The Satanic Verses'' was
deemed insulting to Islam. Rushdie was forced into hiding for a decade, and the
edict deeply damaged Britain's relations with Iran. In 1998, the Iranian
government sought to patch up ties by declaring that it would not support the
fatwa but that it could not be rescinded.
Queen Elizabeth II's decision to knight Rushdie drew a complaint from the
Iranian government and protests around the Muslim world.
About 2,000 people rallied in several Pakistani cities on Friday, calling for
Rushdie to be killed and for a boycott of trade with Britain.
A leader of Pakistan's Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party compared Rushdie's award to
the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published last year in a Danish newspaper,
which provoked protests and rioting in Muslim countries.
''Earlier they had published cartoons of our Prophet, and now they have given an
award to someone who deserves to be killed,'' Abdul Ghafoor Hayderi told a crowd
of about 1,000 people in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city.
Pakistan is a close ally of the United States and Britain in the war on terror,
but it has condemned Rushdie's knighthood.
In India's Muslim-majority Kashmir region, a strike over Rushdie's honor closed
most shops, offices and schools in the summer capital, Srinagar.
Mufti Mohammad Bashir-ud-din, head of Kashmir's Islamic court, said Rushdie was
''liable to be killed for rendering the gravest injury to the sentiments of the
Muslims across the world.''
Britain has defended its decision to honor Rushdie, one of the most prominent
novelists of the late 20th century. His 13 books have won numerous awards,
including the Booker Prize for ''Midnight's Children'' in 1981.
Muslims angered by Britain's decision protested in London on Friday.
''Rushdie is a hate figure across the Muslim world because of his insults to
Islam,'' said Anjem Choudray, protest organizer. ''This honor will have
ramifications here and across the world.''
The award, announced Saturday, was among the Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday
Honors list, which is decided on by independent committees who vet nominations
from the public and government.
Some analysts have expressed surprise his award was approved.
''There is an impression they really didn't consider the potential reaction,''
said Rosemary Hollis, director of research at London's Chatham House think tank.
''But there is a sense that showing too much sensitivity is to kowtow to
Associated Press writers David Stringer in London
and Aijaz Hussain in
contributed to this story.
Iran Cleric: Rushdie
Fatwa Still Stands, NYT, 22.6.2007,
Secret of Horror Writer's
March 17, 2007
Filed at 1:58 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) -- Joe Hill knew it was only a matter of time before
one of the publishing industry's hottest little secrets became common knowledge.
He just wished he could have kept it under wraps a bit longer.
But when Hill's fantasy-tinged thriller, ''Heart-Shaped Box,'' came out last
month, it was inevitable that his thoroughbred blood lines as a writer of horror
and the supernatural would be out there for all to see.
After 10 years of writing short stories and an unpublished novel under his pen
name, Hill knows that the world is now viewing him through a different prism --
as the older son of Stephen King.
Hill, 34, took on his secret identity to test his writing skills and
marketability without having to trade on the family name.
''I really wanted to allow myself to rise and fall on my own merits,'' he said
over breakfast in this coastal city. ''One of the good things about it was that
it let me make my mistakes in private.''
The moniker he chose did not come out of the blue. He is legally Joseph
Hillstrom King, named for the labor organizer whose 1915 execution for murder in
Utah inspired the song, ''Joe Hill,'' an anthem of the labor movement. His
parents, who came of age during the 1960s, ''were both pretty feisty liberals
and looked at Joe Hill as a heroic figure,'' he said.
''Heart-Shaped Box,'' a title drawn from a song by the rock group Nirvana, is a
fast-paced tale of another man with dual identities. Judas Coyne, born Justin
Cowzynski, is an over-the- hill heavy metal rocker with a strange hobby:
amassing ghoulish artifacts.
When Coyne learns that a suit purportedly haunted by a ghost is up for grabs on
an online auction site, he can't resist adding it to his creepy collection.
Things turn ugly fast after Coyne learns that the suit's occupant is a spooky
spiritualist bent on vengeance following the death of his stepdaughter.
The book has drawn good reviews, with The New York Times' Janet Maslin calling
it ''a wild, mesmerizing, perversely witty tale of horror'' that is ''so
visually intense that its energy never flags.'' And with its cinematic, and
bloody, ending, Warner Bros. snapped up movie rights six months before the book
hit the market.
As excitement percolated about ''Heart-Shaped Box,'' so, too, did lingering
questions about its author. Inklings about Hill's family background started
appearing in online message boards in 2005 when his collection of short stories,
''20th Century Ghosts,'' was published in Britain.
Similarities in subject matter and appearance -- Hill has his father's bushy
eyebrows and the dark beard he sported decades ago -- were enough to stir
suspicion among followers of the horror genre.
''It got blogged to death,'' Hill recalled. But only when his identity was
trumpeted in Variety last year did he realize that the secret was gone for good.
''That was really the nail in the coffin,'' he said.
Still, his pen name had a good ride. The editor of ''Heart-Shaped Box'' was
unaware of the King connection and Hill's agent remained in the dark for eight
years before the author spilled the beans two years ago.
Hill's decision to follow his father's career should come as no surprise. His
mother, Tabitha King, has been turning out novels for decades. His younger
brother, Owen King, came out in 2005 with a well-received novella and short
story collection that is more literary than horrific and laced with absurdity.
Like Hill, Owen King wanted to cut his own path and his book did not mention his
parentage. But he decided against a pen name, figuring it would be too much
trouble to try to go by an alias when meeting people or having an agent,
manager, publicist or personal assistant handle details of his professional
The only sibling who has yet to make it into print is Naomi King, oldest of the
three, who has switched careers from restaurateur to Unitarian minister. But
Hill said his sister is working on a nonfiction project: a book-length study of
the sermon as literary text and its place in American culture.
The King children's interest in books and writing took root early on. ''It
sounds very Victorian, but we would sit around and read aloud nightly, in the
living room or on the porch,'' Hill recalled. ''This was something we kept on
doing until I was in high school, at least.''
In an era of celebrity worship, the family has prided itself on being able to
maintain as normal a lifestyle as possible despite Stephen King's fame and
fortune. Hill and his brother attended public high school in Bangor, Maine,
before going on to Vassar College, where they overlapped for one year.
After graduation, Hill and Owen King collaborated on a couple of screenplays.
They sold one, but it has yet to be made into a movie.
The first half of ''Heart-Shaped Box'' is set in New York's Hudson Valley, the
area around Vassar, where Judas Coyne lives with his latest Goth girlfriend, who
30 years his junior, and two devoted German shepherds.
At first, Hill envisioned his tale of a suit with a ghost attached as grist for
a short story. But as he added depth and back story to his characters, it
ballooned into a novel 10 times longer than what he originally planned.
The choice of title was pure serendipity. Hill's initial idea, ''Private
Collection,'' went by the wayside when the 1993 Nirvana song popped up on iTunes
as the author was getting ready to write the episode in which UPS delivers the
haunted suit to Coyne. It was then that Hill decided to package the suit in a
''Coyne is fiction and (Kurt) Cobain was a real guy,'' he said, ''but I felt
that the song fit very well with the book. The song is about a guy who feels
trapped and desperate, and the book is about how someone uses music as a hammer
to beat at the bars of his own cage.''
Hill and his wife, whom he met at Vassar, live in southern New Hampshire with
their three children. He is reluctant to say much about his private life,
recalling how a crazed fan broke into his family's home in Bangor in 1991 and
threatened his mother, a frightening episode that evoked the plot of King's
earlier best seller, ''Misery.''
Stephen King declined a request for comment on his son's novel. ''He's trying to
go along with Joe's wishes and let him do this on his own,'' said his
spokeswoman, Marsha DeFilippo.
But at a recent panel discussion in New York, King told a questioner that he
wouldn't rule out a collaborative book project with his son.
''I guess anything's possible,'' he said. ''I took them on my knee, read them
stories, changed their diapers, and now they're all grown up and they have
become writers, of all things. I am really proud of them. I guess we'll see what
happens down the road.''
Associated Press Writer Colleen Long in New York contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Secret of Horror
Writer's Lineage Broken, NYT, 17.3.2007,
Wins Book Award for Fiction
November 16, 2006
The New York Times
By JULIE BOSMAN
“The Echo Maker,” an enigmatic novel by
Richard Powers that tells the story of a young man who develops a rare brain
disorder after an automobile accident, won the National Book Award for fiction
“The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American
Dust Bowl” by Timothy Egan was the surprise winner of the top prize for
In the book, Mr. Egan, a former New York Times reporter who remains a frequent
contributor to the newspaper, gives an account of the dust storms that descended
on the Great Plains during the Depression.
“Abraham Lincoln said we cannot escape history, but this history of the Dust
Bowl nearly escaped us,” Mr. Egan, a third-generation Westerner, told a crowd of
more than 700 publishers, writers and editors.
As in recent years, the fiction category raised eyebrows in the publishing
industry for its lack of commercially known nominees in a year of big-name
The awards were presented at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan at a
black-tie ceremony, a splashy event drawing many of the most prominent names in
the book publishing industry.
Fran Lebowitz, the writer and humorist, was the evening’s host, appearing in her
trademark tuxedo and white pocket square, and drawing loud cheers when she
paused from poking fun at the show’s organizers to tweak President Bush and his
Winners each receive a bronze sculpture and $10,000, although the award’s
greatest benefit is often in increased sales, especially when little-known
authors are suddenly thrust into the spotlight. In addition to Mr. Powers, this
year’s finalists for fiction were Mark Z. Danielewski for “Only Revolutions”
(Pantheon), Ken Kalfus for “A Disorder Peculiar to the Country”
(Ecco/HarperCollins), Dana Spiotta for “Eat the Document” (Scribner/Simon &
Schuster) and Jess Walter for “The Zero” (Judith Regan Books/HarperCollins).
“The Echo Maker” was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Joining Mr. Egan as finalists for nonfiction were Taylor Branch for “At Canaan’s
Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68” (Simon & Schuster); Rajiv
Chandrasekaran for “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone”
(Alfred A. Knopf); Peter Hessler for “Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s
Past and Present” (HarperCollins); and Lawrence Wright for “The Looming Tower:
Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11” (Alfred A. Knopf). Mr. Egan’s publisher was
Since 1989, the awards have been presented by the National Book Foundation, but
the prizes were first given in 1950, when Nelson Algren won the fiction award
for “The Man With the Golden Arm” and Ralph L. Rusk won the nonfiction prize for
“The Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson.”
In the intervening decades, the roster of winners has included Ralph Ellison for
“Invisible Man” in 1953; Norman Mailer for “The Armies of the Night: History as
a Novel, the Novel as History” in 1969; Saul Bellow for “Mr. Sammler’s Planet”
in 1971; William Styron for “Sophie’s Choice” in 1980; and Philip Roth for
“Sabbath’s Theater” in 1995.
Among last year’s winners were William T. Vollmann, who took the fiction honors
for “Europe Central,” and Joan Didion, who was given the nonfiction prize for
her memoir, “The Year of Magical Thinking.”
The winners are decided during a judges’ luncheon on the day of the awards. To
be eligible for this year’s awards, books must have been published between Dec.
1, 2005, and Nov. 30, 2006.
M. T. Anderson received the award for young people’s literature, for “The
Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox
Party” (Candlewick Press). The award for poetry went to Nathaniel Mackey for
“Splay Anthem” (New Directions Publishing).
Last night, the foundation also gave two lifetime achievement awards.
Sharing the Literarian Award for outstanding service to the American literary
community yesterday were Robert Silvers and, posthumously, Barbara Epstein,
co-founders and editors of The New York Review of Books. David Remnick, editor
of The New Yorker, presented the award.
Mr. Remnick called The New York Review of Books “never more necessary,” adding
that it is “a guide, an interpreter and a political inspiration in the darkest
Adrienne Rich, the author of several nonfiction books and nearly 20 volumes of
poetry, received the foundation’s medal for distinguished contribution to
American letters. In 1974, she won the National Book Award for poetry for
“Diving Into the Wreck.”
In her acceptance speech last night, Ms. Rich rebutted what she called the “free
market critique of poetry,” that the genre is unprofitable, and therefore
useless. But “when poetry lays its hand on our shoulder,” she said, “we can be,
to almost a physical degree, touched and moved.”
Maker’ Wins Book Award for Fiction, NYT, 16.11.2006,
An instinct for
The Age's Adversary,
by Patrick Reilly
April 10 1986
From The Guardian archive
April 10 1986
1984 unloosed an Orwellian flood of truly Biblical proportions. Here in 1986
the flood starts again. 'The world's evolution,' says the author, 'has placed
him at the heart of our present complexities, and we go to his writing not in
any spirit of aloof research but to find solutions to existing problems.'
This is a wonderful book. Orwell-lovers, Orwell-haters and any benighted
Laodiceans left in the middle should all read it. Socialists should read it,
democratic Socialists; the rest have no right to defile the name.
Who can doubt that 'the collapse of the vision of Socialism' has been 'one of
the great intellectual traumas of the West,' and that therefore the means
whereby Socialism is to be revived both as 'an idea and ideal' is 'for many in
Europe the key question'?
To attempt the task while spurning Orwell is worse than mere arrogance or folly:
it is, almost certainly, an act of cowardice too, the very same charge which
Orwell levelled at so many of his contemporaries.
Patrick Reilly will have none of the nonsense that Orwell himself had deserted
the Socialist cause; he knows his Orwell much too well. True, he could dabble in
patronising references to individual workers or the working class he came to
honour or love. Usually he detected these lapses before anyone else and was
quick to make amends. Usually he paid everyone the compliment of offering the
same kind of personal relations. Only the real underdogs got special treatment.
And sometimes he could see much further, in the interests of his adopted class,
than many of their authentic spokesmen. In the 1930s he realised how insulting
it might be to transfer slum dwellers into working-class ghettos where they
couldn't bring their community ethos. He alone, or almost alone, saw the horror
of tower blocks when they were no more than a malign glint.
Moreover, the lone prophet needed an escape from the wilderness and a pay
packet. He needed them most when all Establishment doors were being slammed in
his face, when he could at first find no publisher for Animal Farm, when no
newspaper for which he wanted to write would publish what he wrote — except
Aneurin Bevan's Tribune. Orwell himself judged Homage to Catalonia his best work
and many will concur. 'The intimacy never fully achieved with the English
working class is miraculously and movingly consummated on the opening page.'
Altogether, what made Orwell such a challenge to all the massed orthodoxies —
what still makes him — was the moulding into one of his art, his character, his
From The Guardian
archive > April 10 1986 > An instinct for the future >
George Orwell: The Age's
Adversary, by Patrick Reilly (Macmillan, £27.50), G,
Republished 10.4.2007, p.
Berger turns tables on Booker
From The Guardian archive
Friday November 24, 1972
John Berger last night accepted the Booker
Prize - Britain's biggest annual literary award - and said that he would use the
£5,000 to help the Black Panthers to resist "further exploitation". He said his
object was to turn the prize against its sponsors, Booker McConnell. "Booker
McConnell have had extensive trading interests in the Caribbean for more than
180 years," Mr Berger said.
"The modern poverty of the Caribbean is the
direct result of this and similar exploitation. One of the consequences of this
poverty is that hundreds of thousands of West Indians have been forced to come
to Britain as migrant workers. Thus my book about migrant workers would be
financed directly out of them or their relatives or ancestors."
Mr Berger (who has also won this year's Guardian fiction prize) was speaking at
the Cafe Royal, Regent Street, London, where he accepted the prize from Mr Roy
Jenkins, MP, for his novel "G".
The book was chosen from a list of 50 by Cyril Connolly, Elizabeth Bowen and
George Steiner. Mr Connolly said the judges chose "G" for "its human and
intellectual distinction, its grasp of modern history and sympathy with the
Berger's statement: "The industrial revolution
and the inventions and culture which accompanied it and which created modern
Europe was initially financed by profits from the slave trade. And the
fundamental nature of relations between Europe and the rest of the world,
between black and white, has not changed.
"Before the slave trade began, before the European de-humanised himself,
clenched himself on his violence, there must have been a moment when black and
white approached each other with the amazement of potential equals. The moment
passed. And henceforth the world was divided between potential slaves and
"The historical destiny of our time is becoming clear. The oppressed are
breaking through the wall of silence which was built into their minds by their
oppressor. And in their struggle against exploitation and neocolonialism - but
only through and by virtue of this common struggle - it is possible for the
descendants of the slave and the slavemaster to approach each other again with
the amazed hope of potential equals.
"This is why I intend to share the prize with those West Indians in and from the
Caribbean who are fighting to put an end to their exploitation."
The Guardian archive > November 24, 1972 >
Berger turns tables on Booker, G,
Lawrence and Chatterley
From the Guardian archive
Friday November 4, 1960
Sometimes the Lady Chatterley trial seemed
like a setpiece confrontation between all that is good in England and all that
is bad. Sometimes one could not keep a straight face at all those skilful men
seriously arguing whether it was safe for people to read words they all know
describing things they all do. Something died at the Old Bailey on Wednesday,
some bad old strand in our culture, and the manner of its going was sometimes
funny, sometimes ugly.
Treasury counsel spouting stereotypes from the
Authoritarian Personality, while all that he stood for was sinking into the
waters of oblivion, was an imposing phenomenon. "There are, are there not,
certain standards...", "After all, restraint in sexual matters..." Here
prosecution counsel reached inevitably for his copy of Criminal Statistics,
which was ruled out by the Judge. The idea that a decrease in sexual restraint
will give rise to an increase in criminal activity can only be entertained by
one particular temperament, that which believes that all or most sexual appetite
tends towards criminal actions.
One should not, perhaps, have doubted the issues. Here was a barrister asking
human beings alive now, not the patriarchs of ancient Israel, whether this was a
book they would like "their wives and servants" to read, always referring to
lovemaking as "bouts", using a contrived philistinism, and finally, trying to
panic the jury with an innuendo of buggery in the book. And strangest effect of
all, unaware that he himself was obliterated by the fire of Lawrence's writing.
At first it was hard to keep still and silent, so painful was that flat,
grinding voice coming between us and the words. But then the voice seemed to
vanish; it did not matter who was reading and I for one was brought to realise
that those tremendous pages of level and open eloquence had for years been
living unremembered in my head as surely as the Authorised Version or
Lawrence reared up from his grave, sheltered goodness, truth and beauty, and
annihilated prosecutors, judges, guardians of taste, fusspots, sadists and all
the runners of grey lust with the single cautery of clean English prose.
The hero among the [defence] witnesses was Richard Hoggart. I think he made
history. In his evidence, using the word in its correct and proper sense, he
said the point Lawrence made was : "Simply, this is what one does. One fucks."
If ever the English language comes to be at peace with itself again, the credit
will be Lawrence's first, but Hoggart's soon after.
From the Guardian archive >
November 4, 1960 > Jurors unbind Lawrence and Chatterley, G,
5 February 1932
From The Guardian Archive
Mr Aldous Huxley prophesies
Brave New World. By Aldous Huxley. London:
Chatto and Windus.
Pp. 306. 7s.
There are few more brilliantly clever writers to-day than Mr. Aldous Huxley. Yet
the title which he gave to one of his earlier books, "These Barren Leaves", is
applicable to very much that he has written. He has been persistently drawn to
dissect the body of a decaying civilisation, and, although he has often
incidentally thrown light upon the principles of life and even at moments almost
wistfully affirmed them, he has been obsessed by the processes of death. For him
all our immediate yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death – the
death of false refinement, of sexual perversity, and of self-conscious
In "Brave New World" he projects his death-consciousness into all our
to-morrows. And the death which he portrays here with an extraordinary fertility
of invention and an almost diabolical wit is not the death of morbid
introversion but of indistinguishable superficiality, and sameness.
He transports us into a world in which every human being is manufactured
according to plan in a labo ratory. Mr. Huxley's description of the fertilising,
the bottling and the social predestination rooms is a really brilliant tour de
The result of this application of mass-production of biology is to produce an
entirely stable and sterile civilisation, a world in which people are happy
because they have no individuality to be unsatisfied. And if the delusion of
happiness momentarily fades, there is "soma", a drug which transports whoever
takes it into a holiday world of absolute conviction.
Mr. Huxley manages very skilfully, however, to discover in this world characters
who are both automata within the prescribed limits and appreciably human. And
one of them, Bernard Marx, through some error in his "conditioning", has an
unhealthy and unsocial desire to be not somebody else but himself. And he in
turn brings back from an expedition to the New Mexico Reservation a young man
born and reared in a primitive and pre-Fordian manner. The story turns upon the
reactions of the "savage" to a civilisation sterilised not only against every
physical and mental disease, but every experience of spiritual value.
The book suffers from Mr. Huxley's characteristic inability to believe really in
anything. There is nothing which he can imaginatively affirm. The dread of
sentiment and the habit of disillusionment are too strong for him. It is easier
to exploit the possibilities of mental death than to meet the demands of
creative life. H. L'A.F.
Mr Aldous Huxley
prophesies, G, 5 February 1932,
republished 5.2.2009, p. 36,
January 17 1928
A Dorset farewell to Thomas Hardy
From The Guardian Archive
Dorchester, Monday. Today the heart of Thomas Hardy was laid to rest in a
little country churchyard on the Wessex Downs. This seemed to those who saw it
infinitely more important than what was happening in the Abbey, for these were
his own people, and to them his heart, untouched and sentient, was Hardy.
There lie in all of us old primitive beliefs and unremembered dreams ready to
seize upon our consciousness. Hardy, with his knowledge of the workings of the
human mind, would have understood why the people returning from distant towns,
and those who still clung to their hamlet homes nearby, who filled the church or
waited by the deep and narrow grave, felt — as probably their remote ancestors
would have done — that when his heart remained among them, he remained.
The Stinsford churchyard, sloping eastwards, was sheltered from the westerly
wind that fluttered the half-mast flags in Dorchester.
To the visitors who knew Hardy from his books the village was Mellstock of
"Under The Greenwood Tree". But to the people coming in twos and threes from the
town or from the hamlets along muddy, winding lanes, past the thatched farm
buildings whose pungent, earthy smell was wafted to the churchyard gates, it was
the parish church of their childhood and Hardy was one of themselves, the old
inhabitant whose forefathers had worshipped in the church.
The church was filled. Silently the people in the doorway made way for an old
man whose journey up the aisle was attended by his doctor. It was Thomas Hardy's
younger brother Henry. His cousin, Miss Teresa Hardy, who had intended to be
present, was too unwell to travel the short distance from her cottage.
A few seats behind was [an] old man who remembered Hardy as a child, and who
sent a handful of Wessex earth from his garden to the Dean of Westminster asking
that it might be placed with the buried ashes.
The casket was placed on a small, sun-bleached stool at the end of the open
grave as the vicar uttered the first sentences of committal. Then he gave it to
the sexton, who placed it far down in the chalky ground before the words "Earth
to earth and dust to dust" were pronounced. Mr. Henry Hardy threw a handful of
flowers into the grave and then was led away greatly distressed.
Miss Teresa Hardy said, "I was too upset by the idea of Tom's heart being
separated from his body that I think I should have fainted if I had gone to the
A Dorset farewell to
January 17 1928, The Guardian / From The Guardian Archive,
republished 17.1.2008, p. 34,
June 20, 1924
where India examines EM Forster
From the Guardian archive
Friday June 20, 1924
A Passage to India By EM Forster, London: Edward Arnold 7s 6d net
The first duty of any reviewer is to welcome
Mr EM Forster's reappearance and to express the hope that the general public, as
well as the critics, will recognise his merits and their good fortune.
The second is to congratulate him upon the tone and temper of his new novel. To
speak of its "fairness" would convey the wrong impression. This is the
involuntary fairness of the man who sees.
Mr Forster, in fact, has reached the stage in his development as an artist when,
in his own words about Miss Quested, he is "no longer examining life, but being
examined by it." He has been examined by India, and this is his confession.
There can be no doubt about the principal faculties which have contributed to
its quality: imagination and humour. It is imagination in the strictest sense of
the world as the power of seeing and hearing internally, without any obligation
His characters draw themselves, and mainly in their conversation. More
remarkable even than his vision is Mr Forster's power of inner hearing; he seems
incapable of allowing a person to speak out of character, and Dr Aziz strikes
one as less invented than overheard.
Equally pure is Mr Forster's humour. His people, British or native, are not
satirised or caricatured or made the targets of wit; they are simply enjoyed.
The story is, essentially, that of the close contact of east and west in the
persons of Dr Aziz, a Muslim, assistant medical officers of the Chandrapore
hospital, and Mr Fielding, principal of the college. In them it is as close as
blood itself allows. So far as affection is concerned they are friends, so that
the interplay of east and west is along the very finest channels of human
intercourse - suggesting the comparison of the blood and air vessels in the
lungs; but the friendship is always at the mercy of the feelings which rise from
the deeps of racial personality.
Mr Forster leans, if anywhere, towards his own race in his acute sense of their
difficulties, but not more than by the weight of blood; and, again, fairness is
not the word for his sensitive presentation. It is something much less
conscious; not so much a virtue as a fatality of his genius. Whether he presents
Englishman or Muslim or Hindu or Eurasian he is no longer examining life, but
being examined by it in the deeps of his personality as an artist.
the Guardian archive > June 20, 1924 >
A novel where India examines EM Forster,
G, Republished 20.6.2006,
July 24, 1916
A mythology is the work of a race
From the Guardian archive
Monday July 24, 1916
The Titans by Charles M. Doughty
This is an epic dealing with the creation of
the world, the battle of Titans against gods, their defeat and their final
subjugation in the service of man.
One does not find fault with Mr. Doughty for writing an epic. No literary genre,
once established, is ever outworn. But mythology is dangerous literary material.
It should be a mythology in which the author more or less believes or a
mythology in which some people once believed. A mythology cannot be created for
literary purposes out of whole cloth; it must be the work of a race.
Mr. Doughty's mythology lacks outline, it lacks tradition, and it lacks
concreteness. The theme suggests Milton and Keats. But Milton and Keats at their
best communicate a feeling, the one of titanic revolt, the other of titanic
silence and despondency.
When they fail they suggest Mr. Doughty. Mr. Doughty's Titans have bulk without
meaning. They have violence, but no passions.
Leaned to time-fretted cliffs/ Is entered weariness, in each marble corse.
In Hyperion the weariness is made actual; here it is stated. Bios and Kratos in
Prometheus Bound succeed because they are boldly and intentionally abstract, in
contrast with a passionate suffering human being. Eschylus never fell into the
error of the vague.
As for Mr. Doughty's style, one is puzzled. He aims at the ruggednes of the
Saxon tongue. If he were consistently Anglo-Saxon he might arrive at giving a
total impression, even employing, as he does, words of which one does not know
But there are heavy Latinisms too. One turns from the harsh "From the mount's
knees, up to his frozen breast:/ Eotons [sic] and time-giants strive mainly and
to "... the adamantine Elements couched indivisible particles ...".
One can enjoy a style of excess - Sir Thomas Browne,or Lyly, or Mr. Wyndham
Lewis, or Browning - if it is excess in a peculiar and exclusive direction.
Mr. Doughty's style is not archaic; it is not the style of any time or the style
of any intelligible pose; it is eccentric, but not personal. Thus it recalls
several writers without being imitative of them.
It recalls especially Blake, not the Blake of extraordinary creations of phrase
springing at a leap from the unconscious, but the Blake of such verse as
T. S. E.
[In 1916 the poet TS Eliot, aged 28,
was teaching at a Highgate school
and was a
year away from publishing Prufrock]
the Guardian archive > July 24, 1916 >
A mythology is the work of a race,
July 2 1913
Lawrence the poet as
From The Guardian archive
July 2 1913
"Odi et amo" should have been on the title-page of Mr. D. H. Lawrence's Sons
and Lovers (Duckworth and Co., 6s). The book may be said to contrast filial and
maternal love with the kind of love which is called amour.
A good many amours are described, involving several markedly diverse persons;
but all the affairs are unanimous in one matter — whatever kind of love it may
be, some kind of hate is mixed up. A simultaneous passion of love and hatred is
a well-known psychological fact; and Mr. Lawrence makes its appearance in his
story curiously credible. But it is not a very pleasant fact; is it not a
weakness of vitality, a kind of failure — life failing to appreciate itself,
hating itself because it cannot appreciate the splendour of its own fate?
Whether or not, it is a fact one can easily have too much of.
If Mr. Lawrence thought to give intensity to the whole length (the very
considerable length) of his story by this mingling of contrary passions, he
miscalculated seriously. The constant juxtaposition of love and hatred like all
obsessions soon becomes tiresome. You begin to look out for the word "hate" as
soon as you have read the word "love,". "Odi et amo" does marvellous well in an
epigram; in a novel of four hundred odd pages it is a bore.
The book has no particular shape and no recognisable plot; themes are taken up,
and dropt. Everything that happens is an extraordinarily long time about it, and
sometimes it takes a very long time for nothing at all to happen.
Faults like these ought to swamp any virtues the book may possess. So, perhaps,
it would, if Mr. Lawrence were simply a novelist. But he is one of the most
remarkable poets of the day; and these faults are of no more account than the
soot of a brilliant, vehement flame. You find yourself protesting that this
thing or that thing bores you, and eagerly reading on in spite of your
You decide that the old collier, the father, is a dirty brute; and then perceive
that he profoundly has your sympathy. The mother is a creature of superb and
lovable heroism; and yet she is sometimes downright disagreeable. You think you
are reading an unimportant scene; and then find that it has burnt itself on your
mind. The "Odi et amo" of the main theme, in fact, is only an exaggerated
instance of the quality which runs through the whole book.
"Sons and Lovers" [stands] out from the fiction of the day as an achievement of
the first quality.
From The Guardian archive > July 2 1913 >
Lawrence the poet as a novelist, G,
republished 2.7.2007, p. 34,
September 30 1902
Mr Kipling's taste but dilute
From The Guardian Archive
Just So Stories for Little Children, by Rudyard Kipling.
One's first feeling after reading quickly the book of stories that Mr.
Kipling publishes to-day is one of disappointment. The Kipling taste is in your
mouth, but it is dilute Kipling.
You are inclined to grumble at being put off with tobacco so heavily watered and
spirits so much below proof. Was it for this that our literature was enriched
with the smell of the smokeroom? Why, this scarcely smells at all.
His first disappointment over, the adult finds it occurring to him that Mr.
Kipling has actually written a children's book meant to be liked by children,
and not merely to be called by grown-up people a book that children are sure to
like. This much grasped, you begin to feel that the absence of everything that
you had been missing is a proof of artistic self-denial.
A writer fanatically, almost telegraphically terse, he has not flinched from the
litanies of verbal repetition, the Homeric otioseness of fixed epithets that
children exact so severely from candidates for the honour of amusing them.
He who has penetrated to the heart, if not of human wisdom, at least of young
mannish knowingness, has bent his spirit to say of a man inside a whale that on
He stumped and he jumped and he thumped and he bumped, and he pranced and he
danced, and he banged and he clanged, and he hit and he bit, and he leaped and
he creeped, and he prowled and he howled, and he hopped and he dropped, and he
cried and he sighed, and he crawled and he bawled, and he stepped and he
And, of the whale itself, that before trying this uneasy diet:
He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice
and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel,
and the really truly twirly-whirly eel.
Such things are not written with the heart's blood, but children will not have
them otherwise, and if Mr. Kipling can bring himself to give his special powers
so complete a rest for the delectation of the nursery, it is not for critics to
forget the rule of judging every work of art in the light of its intention. As a
book truly intended for children this one is very good.
Tragic death of M. Zola. Paris.
M. Emile Zola was this morning found dead in his house
asphyxiation by poisonous gases emitted from a stove,
the pipe of which is
stated to have been fitted badly.
Mr Kipling's taste but
G, September 30 1902, republished 30.9.2008, p. 36,
December 10 1895
The Guardian archive
Jude the Obscure
To all admirers of Mr. Thomas Hardy's genius Jude the Obscure (Osgood and
McIlvaine, 8vo, pp.517, 6s.) can only bring keen disappointment. We have gained
so much positive delight from him in the past that we had come to regard the
appearance of a new book as an event of unmixed pleasure.
To be shown by a master hand the essential and characteristic loveliness of
English landscape, to be amused and interested by a flow of racy talk which, if
not the actual talk of the real agricultural labourer, was yet always
appropriate and in close artistic sympathy with the painted scene, to have our
literary sense pleased by a style which, though occasionally exuberant, was
always picturesque — these are the pleasures we have learned to expect from Mr.
It is true that in "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" there was, for the first time, an
introduction of a controversial as opposed to an artistic purpose. But though
discussion might rage at the time as to whether Tess was or was not "a pure
woman," the point must ultimately be lost sight of in the beauty of those
descriptions of the Blackmoor Vale and the Upland Farm which alone would suffice
to keep the book alive.
It is unfortunately not so with "Jude the Obscure". The purpose is so strong, so
insistent, so polemical as to swamp everything else. There is not in the whole
517 pages of this dreary production one single paragraph which makes for
pleasure. Beauty, to which in all its forms Mr. Hardy has hitherto shown himself
so sensitive, is conspicuous only by absence.
For human beings the accumulated experience of centuries has shown the
institution of marriage to be pre-eminently well suited. Let us see what plea
Mr. Hardy offers for so tremendous an iconoclasm as its destruction. Reduced to
its lowest terms, the thesis of the book may be expressed in these propositions
— (1) It is always irksome, often tragic, for a man and woman to be tied to one
another after passion is dead; (2) if compulsion were withdrawn and marriage
made terminable at will, passion might have a longer life. In other words, the
whole object of relations between men and women should be, according to Mr.
Hardy, the maintenance of a state of emotional excitement.
Such is the plea upon which we are asked to do away with marriage, that great
school of character, to whose inexorable discipline the best men and women have
gladly owned themselves indebted for all that was soundest and sweetest in their
lives. We are afraid Mr. Hardy will have to find another and a better one before
he can hope to get serious people to listen to him.
Jude the Obscure, The
Guardian, December 10 1895,
Republished December 10 2008,
The Guardian archive,
May 3, 1864
and his old horror of the dark river
From The Guardian Archive
Tuesday May 3, 1864
Our Mutual Friend By Charles Dickens: Chapman and Hall
Mr Dickens, who has so long been accustomed to
let his novels dribble forth in weekly instalments, is carrying us back to old
times by bringing out a story in monthly parts.
In much which those thirty pages contain, we recognise the beginnings of
original ideas which have not had their development in any previous novel.
Especially we recognise the easy mastery of language and the fanciful style
which distinguishes all of Mr. Dickens's writing.
Quaint adjectives which embody an idea as vividly as a gleam of sunshine will
reveal a landscape, and a richness of imagination which is playfully poured out
over every subject he treats, may always be observed in any utterance by the
great author of "David Copperfield".
Mr. Dickens's old horror of the dark river comes out again in the very first
sentences. A man who gets his living fishing for dead bodies in the Thames is
the first personage introduced.
In the mystery concerning the disappearance of a certain Mr Harmon, who was to
come over from the West Indies to inherit a large fortune and marry a young lady
left to him under the will, there is already a good deal of interest.
It is a body which is supposed to be his which is found by the river searcher
when we first see him at his work. The clothes on it are identified and
everything appears to show that the body is really that of Mr. Harmon, but
perhaps some persons inclined to speculate will think that it may not be Mr.
Harmon after all.
In the opening passages, Mr. Dickens's early style reappears :
"... A boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it,
floated on the Thames as an autumn evening was closing in. The figures in this
boat were those of a strong man with ragged grizzled hair and a sun-browned
face, and a dark girl of nineteen or twenty. The girl rowed, pulling a pair of
sculls very easily; the man, with the rudder-lines slack in his hands, kept an
eager look-out. He had no net, hook or line, and he could not be a fisherman;
and he could not be a waterman ... but his eyes watched every little race and
eddy. She watched his face as earnestly as he watched the river. But, in the
intensity of her look there was a touch of dread or horror."
For some time to come there will be a new interest in the first of each month,
for a new novel by Dickens is a literary event.
The Guardian Archive,
May 3, 1864,
Dickens and his old horror of the dark
Related > Anglonautes >
Related > Anglonautes >