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Comment from the book world in October 2009

October 2009

On Her Fearful Symmetry

26 October 2009

'The difficulty always, for any book, is the reveal. How much does the reader know at any given moment? Are you being fair if you hold that behind your back and don't tell them until later? So what I'm hoping is that as people get into this they are surprised but then they think: 'Oh, my gosh, yes, of course', but that's really hard to do. That's what mystery writers do and I've always had a lot of respect for them because it's such an amazing craft. But essentially this is a mystery or suspense novel.'

Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveller's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, in the Bookseller

Opening doors for children

19 October 2009

'In the Fifties, when a strong child was dealing with difficult circumstances, there was always a rescue at the end of the book and it was always a middle-class rescue. The child would win a scholarship to Roedean or something, and go on to do very well. That was felt to be unrealistic and so there was a move away from that. Books for children became much more concerned with realism, or what we see as realism.

But where is the hope? How do we offer them hope within that? It may be that realism has gone too far in literature for children. I am not sure that we are opening doors for children who read these books, or helping them to develop their aspirations.

'I can't see how we roll back from this without returning to the sort of fiction that is no longer credible - books with a Blyton-ish view of things.'

Anne Fine in The Times

Booker's 'literary snootiness'

11 October 2009

'I wish popular novelists wouldn't get so het up about the Booker. They seem to believe that their exclusion from the most prestigious literary award is a symptom of the snootiness of the literary establishment. No doubt some people are literary snobs; but most writers and readers accept that there are different genres, that the Booker is for literary fiction, and that's that... The latest is Jenny Colgan, in the Independent: "But the Booker's enduring legacy to me is this: this is Grown-up Serious Reading and would all you little sentimental people who like being entertained please scuttle back to your tawdry little comics, your Katie Prices, threefers and celebrity autobiographies."

If the Booker intends to be exclusive, it has failed on numerous occasions: Salman Rushdie, Thomas Keneally, Anita Brookner, Roddy Doyle, Pat Barker, Arundhati Roy, Ian McEwan, Yann Martel and Aravind Adiga are among the Booker winners to have, vulgarly, entertained huge readerships. Yes, other winners - John Banville, Anne Enright - have been tougher sells. That is inevitable, given the remit of the prize. But it is the Booker's emphasis on literary excellence that has won it such prestige, and that has brought authors to the attention of readers who might otherwise have overlooked them.'

Nick Clee in BookBrunch

Writing short stories

4 October 2009

'The short story is a moment of enlightenment. A moment of vision. The story is going to fall on my head like an apple. But the novel... there is a school of thought, and I agree with it, that we do not have to invent novels; we discover them. The novel exists in my heart and in my mind and I must concentrate to get it out. This is not the case with the story. I could get an idea for a story now, while I am looking at your face...

Society is a living organism and you must keep up. That's why I still practise (as a dentist), though only for two days a week. I will never close the clinic. The clinic is my window, I open it to see what is happening in the street. You can't get disconnected from the street, as a writer; that's a common mistake. You can be too easily welcomed every night by the richest people and the most influential. It is very dangerous because it is that relationship with the street that made you successful in the first place.

I'm against presenting literature on an ethnic basis. I am pushed, little by little, to be an Arab writer, but I prefer to think of myself as part of the republic of literature...

A good subject does not make a good novel, but a good novel makes any subject seem interesting.'

Egyptian author Alaa Al Aswany in the Observer