Remainders

  • The Spanish-language version of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Memoria de Mis Putas Tristes (working translation: Memories of My Melancholy Whores) appears on October 27 in Latin America, Spain, and the U.S.
  • Truth or Dare: A Book of Secrets Shared reportedly contains an autobiographical essay by one of my favorite contemporary British novelists, Zoe Heller. The Sunday Times calls it a “perceptive piece about her father’s numerous girlfriends”:

    Mr Heller was a Hollywood screenwriter, responsible for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Dirty Dozen among others, all of which, as his daughter dryly observes, “bear the imprint of his rather bleak wit”. She has inherited this, as well as his writing talent. And in a final punchline (hers is the only piece here to go for the twist-in-the-tale ending beloved of inferior short-story writers, but in this case perfectly delivered), Zoë now finds herself married to a man “16 years my senior, somewhat saturnine in temperament and — with galling Freudian symmetry — a Hollywood screenwriter”.

  • The responses to Norman Sherry’s third and final volume of his massive Graham Greene biography are not all positive. See, e.g., “A burnt-out case.” I haven’t read the biography yet, but it will come as no surprise to regular readers of this site (who are aware of my Greene adulation) that I couldn’t disagree more with the thesis of Philip Hensher’s scathing Spectator review:

    There is something truly appalling about this monstrous volume, which brings Norman Sherry’s three-part life of Graham Greene to an end. Really, all that needs to be said is that the biography as a whole contrives to be over 2,000 pages. I don’t believe that any biography, no matter how well documented the life or significant the subject, needs to be as long as that — and, remember, this is not a life of Dickens or Joyce or a really important writer but one of Graham Greene. What can justify such prolixity?

    (Emphasis supplied; thanks to Dave Lull for the tip.)

  • In a bizarre mix-up, the first chapter of Kitty Kelley’s Bush tell-all is attributed to Margaret Drabble in the weekend’s New York Times Book Review online. Having received an advance copy of Drabble’s latest novel, The Red Queen, and embarked upon it, I sat staring at the page for several minutes, thinking, wow, they really do change books for American readers — unrecognizably, in fact — before realizing that the photo to the right is of Kitty Kelley. The first chapter of Drabble’s novel actually appears here.
  • The Guardian discusses a report revealing Saddam Hussein’s “identification with the figure of the old fisherman, Santiago, in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, who fights a useless battle to save a marlin he has caught from the sharks that tear his catch to shreds.”
  • Speaking of Hemingway, the “previously unknown” story of his that made international papers earlier this month actually is a carbon copy of a story already “held in the author’s archive at the JFK Library in Boston.” According to Library Journal, Christie’s, “which will auction the story with an accompanying letter from Hemingway — which is unique — December 16, said it was unaware of the additional library copies, and unsure how the existence of those copies would affect the auction price.”
  • From a U.K. Telegraph article about the New York City subways:

    Martin Amis – who, as he used to remind people on the dust jackets of his novels, was awarded a Formal First at Oxford – has written, “I wish I could work out how to use the subway. I’ve tried. No matter how hard I concentrate, I always end up clambering out of Duke Ellington Boulevard with a manhole on my head.”

  • A report from the Frankfurt Book Fair offers an entertaining comparison with festivals of bygone days:

    According to those who have been coming here for years — a large number of whom seem to be perma-smoking, impossibly elegant middle-aged European women, somewhere between Camille Paglia and Anne Bancroft in The Graduate — Frankfurt is not quite as it was. Before the advent of email, when synopses and manuscripts could not be zipped across continents, it teetered close to being a theatre of the absurd. Publishers would frequently be locked in reading rooms — having signed documents agreeing not to take notes — and expected to write cheques on the basis of a 20-minute skim. It doesn’t seem to have made for the most level-headed of atmospheres: the daily Frankfurt edition of Bookseller magazine features a quote from a publisher at Bloomsbury, recalling the time she bought the UK rights to Isabel Allende’s magic realist classic The House Of The Spirits, ‘by mistake, under the impression it was a biography of the widow of Salvador Allende’.

  • For a protest against the British Crown, Alasdair Gray was joined this weekend by fellow Scottish writers A.L. Kennedy and James Kelman. He is also known for saying on British T.V., in protest of “the proposed closure of the Queen Mother’s hospital in Glasgow”: “I’ve got to do something about this shitty world we live in.” Apparently in the U.K. this is the equivalent of Janet Jackson’s breast shocker Stateside, or of Teresa Heinz-Kerry telling a reporter to “stick it.” It just makes good horse sense to me. Gray also “told Radio 4 last year that the chief characteristic of the Scots was the fact that they were ‘arselickers.'”

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