Don’t forget that the dressing gown can be a bustling practical garment as well as a garment of defeat.The blogosphere welcomes Vincent O’Sullivan, New Zealand’s new Poet Laureate. Or Pirate Laureate, as his grandson has it. Or Poet Lorikeet, as I prefer. As part of his duties Vincent is blogging on poetry. Quote unquote from his debut post:
I don't think many prescriptions for poetry stand up apart from one – if it isn't individual, if it's not “the cry of its occasion”, then why aren't we doing something else?Stephen Poole, author of You Aren’t What You Eat, in the New Statesman on the pseudo-profundity of Malcolm Gladwell. Quote unquote:
The art here lies in making the platitudinous conclusion seem like a revelatory place to end up, after one has enjoyed the colourful “stories” about carefully described plucky individuals with certain hairstyles and particular kinds of trousers. (Actual quote: “He is a tall young man with carefully combed dark-brown hair and neatly pressed khakis.”) Such books must thus be constructed with a certain suspenseful cunning. Gladwell likes first to tell an apparently convincing story and then declare that it’s not true, like a magician pulling an empty hat out of a rabbit.Niall Ferguson blogs at the Spectator on the New York Times’s favourite economist, Paul Krugman, who says “I (and those of like mind) have been right about everything.” Ferguson begs to differ. Quote unquote:
Why, you may ask, did Krugman feel the need to be so bold (and so wrong) in predicting the euro’s collapse over and over again, in his column, on his blog and to every media outlet that would give him an interview? The answer is because he and his beloved economic models had so completely failed to predict the U.S. financial crisis and he did not want to repeat his mistake.Evan Hughes in the New Republic on the state of book publishing. Quote unquote:
What does seem certain is that, despite their legal setbacks, the major houses have done their part to uphold the value of the book in readers’ eyes. When those publishers came up with the pricing scheme that landed them in trouble, it wasn’t a grab for short-term profit; the details are technical, but the upshot was that the companies actually collect less money for every e-book sold. What they gained in the bargain was the preemptive power to prevent Amazon from lowering prices to unsustainable levels. It was a long-term play to protect the worth of their product—so that, even if the whole business does eventually go digital, there will be enough value built in to support the books of the future.Neil Powell in the TLS on two new books about Kinglsey Amis and Philip Larkin. He’s very good on the letters, seeing them as performances to amuse each other, and very different from their letters to others. Quote unquote:
Yet in a crucial sense the Amis-Larkin letters are a hoax: for all their intimacy, they keep one eye on a more distant audience, the reader over the reader’s shoulder. It is Amis, the more public man, who has the sharper sense of this – “God this letter is going to be a treat for our biographers, eh?” – but Larkin happily colludes. The personae these supposedly private letters create are as shrewdly crafted as anything in their authors’ poems or novels.Laura Bennett in the New Republic on the day of the Jackal, aka literary agent Andrew Wylie. Quote unquote:
Unless you’re a terribly bad writer, you are never going to have too many readers.Philip Hensher objects to being asked by Cambridge University to write for free. Doesn’t he realise that he should be flattered? Quote unquote:
We’re creating a world where we’re making it impossible for writers to make a living.
Which brings us to Eleanor Catton. Hooray, obv., and what a speech! In the Guardian she said that The Luminaries was:
subject to a “bullying” reception from certain male reviewers of an older generation – particularly in her native New Zealand. “People whose negative reaction has been most vehement have all been men over about 45,” she says.The review I think she was referring to is by Michael Morrissey in Investigate. You be the judge. It contains the immortal phrase “put to me on the phone by CK Stead just before he swore at me and hung up”.
The Guardian takes us behind the scenes at the Booker over the years, with one judge commenting on the process and/or event each year. Quote unquote from Fay Weldon, chair in 1983:
After I sat down, the then president of the Publishers Association hit my agent Giles Gordon, second best thing to hitting me. I’d used the speech to reproach publishers for giving such rotten deals to writers . . . Michael Caine [not that one], charismatic chairman of Bookers, came up to me years later, when I had been inadvertently invited to one of the dinners, and said: “It is not by any wish of mine you are here tonight.” It’s all got rather dull since. No one hits anyone.Way, way back in September Jillian Ewart did a thorough round-up for Booksellers NZ of the West Coast in NZ fiction and non-fiction. There’s more of it than you’d think.
So here is Donovan on the Andy Williams Show with “To Susan on the West Coast, Waiting”. Yes, TV really was like this in 1969: