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Book News for Tuesday, August 1, 2006

  • Slate has been airing a podcast featuring conversations about books. I have been led to it from Edward Champion's blog who cites Tayari Jones's posting on the discussion about Toni Morrison's novel Beloved. Tayani asks: "Will somebody go listen to the rest of the broadcast (I just can't!) and see if they realise how racist it is to assume that a work by an African American woman author must suck? It's a crazy paradox, I must say. The panelists seemed to take her success as further proof that her writing must be terrible."

    Edward Champion listened for just a little longer: "Metcalf’s chief objection to the book is that 'the sense of history felt so abstract.' And at this point, I Alt-F4ed the player, realizing that listening to any more of this nonsense would dull my mind. And if I wanted to lose brain cells, I preferred to do it through heavy drinking."

    I listened for an extra seven or so minutes further, and I can reassure Tayari and Edward it does not get any better — well, actually it becomes a little less brutal, but not at all less irritating or smug. The discussion about allegory and magical realism was where I dropped off (about 13 minutes in). Anyone care to listen any further? Please feel free to comment below if you do!

  • However, for all my vexation with their podcast, you have to commend Slate for their homepage today. Mighty Mel showing his true colors for a photographer along with lots of juicy articles to hammer the point home further.
  • Filming of the Monica Ali novel Brick Lane has been suspended because residents of the London neighborhood Brick Lane complained about how the book represented their Bangladshi inhabitants. And two extremely opionated authors, Salman Rushdie and Germaine Greer, have taken two different opinions about the decision, escalating the affair, and reviving a long-standing grudge between the two. Rushdie says Greer's "support of the attack on this film project is philistine, sanctimonious and disgraceful." The Guardian and The Scotsman both have stories. I like the Guardian report myself. Especially the little round-up of famous literary spats at the end.
  • The Romance Writers of America’s RITA awards were celebrated last Sunday. The list of the thirteen winners along with the shortlisted titles can be found here. Many miles away from the RITA convention in Atlanta, in Ballarat, a southern town in Australia a couple of hours away from Melbourne, author Marion Lennox was making herself a pastie for lunch when her friend texted her the news that she had won her second RITA for Princess of Convenience. Cheers Marion!

One Response to "Book News for Tuesday, August 1, 2006"

    Cory August 4th, 2006 at 5:16 am

    I did listen to the entirety of the Slate Podcast, and while I find the charge of "racism" a bit harsh and misguided, I agree the discussion descends into obnoxious and cloying condesension.

    Their presumtion about the "political correctness" of the work and its celebration is the kind of vapid and cynical insight I might have had in tenth grade. The book is treated as an abberation, and the fact that nobody in the group mentions any of Morrison's other novels--- even though the canon of Joan Didion, Ian McEwan, and Philip Roth are given plenty of air time in their respective podcasts--- is proof enough that they refuse to take seriously any claim that a Nobel Prize-winning author with a number of acclaimed works might actually have some talent and vision. It is simply wrong, and for a magazine of such unique and cospomolitan flair, it's surprisingly close-minded.

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