Archive for July, 2007

Orhan Pamuk was born in Istanbul in 1952 and grew up in a large family similar to those which he describes in his novels Cevdet Bey and His Sons and The Black Book, in the wealthy westernised district of Nisantasi. As he writes in his autobiographical book Istanbul, from his childhood until the age of 22 he devoted himself largely to painting and dreamed of becoming an artist. After graduating from the secular American Robert College in Istanbul, he studied architecture at Istanbul Technical University for three years, but abandoned the course when he gave up his ambition to become an architect and artist. He went on to graduate in journalism from Istanbul University, but never worked as a journalist. At the age of 23 Pamuk decided to become a novelist, and giving up everything else retreated into his flat and began to write.

His first novel Cevdet Bey and His Sons was published seven years later in 1982. The novel is the story of three generations of a wealthy Istanbul family living in Nisantasi, Pamuk’s own home district. The novel was awarded both the Orhan Kemal and Milliyet literary prizes. The following year Pamuk published his novel The Silent House, which in French translation won the 1991 Prix de la découverte européene.

The White Castle (1985) about the frictions and friendship between a Venetian slave and an Ottoman scholar was published in English and many other languages from 1990 onwards, bringing Pamuk his first international fame. The same year Pamuk went to America, where he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York from 1985 to 1988. It was there that he wrote most of his novel The Black Book, in which the streets, past, chemistry and texture of Istanbul are described through the story of a lawyer seeking his missing wife. This novel was published in Turkey in 1990, and in French translation won the Prix France Culture. The Black Book enlarged Pamuk’s fame both in Turkey and internationally as an author at once popular and experimental, and able to write about past and present with the same intensity. In 1991 Pamuk’s daughter Rüya was born. That year saw the production of a film Hidden Face, whose script by Pamuk was based on a one-page story in The Black Book.

His novel The New Life, about young university students influenced by a mysterious book, was published in Turkey in 1994 and became one of the most widely read books in Turkish literature. My Name Is Red, about Ottoman and Persian artists and their ways of seeing and portraying the non-western world, told through a love story and family story, was published in 1998. This novel won the French Prix Du Meilleur Livre Etranger, the Italian Grinzane Cavour (2002) and the International IMPAC Dublin literary award (2003). From the mid-1990s Pamuk took a critical stance towards the Turkish state in articles about human rights and freedom of thought, although he took little interest in politics. Snow, which he describes as ‘my first and last political novel,’ was published in 2002. In this book set in the small city of Kars in northeastern Turkey he experimented with a new type of ‘political novel,’ telling the story of violence and tension between political Islamists, soldiers, secularists, and Kurdish and Turkish nationalists. In 1999 a selection of his articles on literature and culture written for newspapers and magazines in Turkey and abroad, together with a selection of writings from his private notebooks, was published under the title Other Colours.

Pamuk’s most recent book, Istanbul, is a poetical work that is hard to classify, combining the author’s early memoirs up to the age of 22, and an essay about the city of Istanbul, illustrated with photographs from his own album, and pictures by western painters and Turkish photographers.

Apart from three years in New York, Orhan Pamuk has spent all his life in the same streets and district of Istanbul, and he now lives in the building where he was raised. Pamuk has been writing novels for 30 years and never done any other job except writing. His books have been translated into more than 40 languages.

::Visit Orhan Pamuk official website http://www.orhanpamuk.net

Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published in 1719 and sometimes regarded as the first novel in English. The book is a fictional autobiography of the title character, an English castaway who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island, encountering natives, captives, and mutineers before being rescued. This device, presenting an account of supposedly factual events, is known as a “false document” and gives a realistic frame story.

The story was probably influenced by the real-life events of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish castaway who lived more than four years on the Pacific island that was called Más a Tierra (in 1966 its name became Robinson Crusoe Island), Chile.

Plot summary

Crusoe leaves England setting sail from the Queens Dock in Hull on a sea voyage in September, 1651, against the wishes of his parents. After a tumultuous journey that sees his ship wrecked by a vicious storm, his lust for the sea remains so strong that he sets out to sea again. This journey too ends in disaster as the ship is taken over by Salè pirates and Crusoe becomes the slave of a Moor. He manages to escape with a boat and is befriended by the Captain of a Portuguese ship off the western coast of Africa. The ship is en route to Brazil. There with the help of the captain, Crusoe becomes owner of a plantation.

He joins an expedition to bring slaves from Africa, but he is shipwrecked in a storm about forty miles out to sea on an island near the mouth of the Orinoco river on September 30, 1659. His companions all die; he manages to fetch arms, tools and other supplies from the ship before it breaks apart and sinks. He proceeds to build a fenced-in habitation and cave, keeps a calendar by making marks in a wooden cross he builds. He hunts, grows corn, learns to make pottery, raises goats, etc. He reads the Bible and suddenly becomes religious, thanking God for his fate in which nothing is missing but society.

He discovers native cannibals occasionally visit the island to kill and eat prisoners. At first he plans to kill the savages for their abomination, but then he realizes that he has no right to do so as the cannibals have not attacked him and do not knowingly commit a crime. He dreams of capturing one or two servants by freeing some prisoners, and indeed, when a prisoner manages to escape, Crusoe helps him, naming his new companion “Friday” after the day of the week he appeared, and teaches him English and converts him to Christianity.

After another party of natives arrive to partake in a grisly feast, Crusoe and Friday manage to kill most of the natives and save two of the prisoners. One is Friday’s father and the other is a Spaniard, who informs Crusoe that there are other Spaniards shipwrecked on the mainland. A plan is devised where the Spaniard would return with Friday’s father to the mainland and bring back the others, build a ship, and sail to a Spanish port.

Before the Spaniards return, an English ship appears; mutineers have taken control of the ship and intend to maroon their former captain on the island. The captain and Crusoe manage to retake the ship. They leave for England, leaving behind three of the mutineers to fend for themselves and inform the Spaniards what happened. Crusoe leaves the island on December 19, 1686.

[edit] Reception and sequels
Plaque ‘commemorating’ Robinson Crusoe’s departure from Hull – “Had I the sense to return to Hull, I had been Happy…”
Plaque ‘commemorating’ Robinson Crusoe’s departure from Hull – “Had I the sense to return to Hull, I had been Happy…”

The book was first published on April 25, 1719. Its full title was The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner: who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an uninhabited Island on the coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pirates. Written by Himself

The positive reception was immediate and universal. Before the end of the year, this first volume had run through four editions. Within years, it had reached an audience as wide as any book ever written in English.

By the end of the 19th century, no book in the history of Western literature had spawned more editions, spin-offs, and translations (even into languages such as Inuit, Coptic, and Maltese) than Robinson Crusoe, with more than 700 such alternative versions, including children’s versions with mainly pictures and no text.[1] There have been hundreds of adaptations in dozens of languages, from The Swiss Family Robinson to Luis Buñuel’s film adaptation. J.M. Coetzee’s 1986 novel, Foe, is a reimagining, retelling, and reevaluation of the story. The term “Robinsonade” has even been coined to describe the various spin-offs of Robinson Crusoe.

Defoe went on to write a lesser-known sequel, The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. It was intended to be the last part of his stories, according to the original title-page of its first edition, but in fact a third part, entitled Serious Reflections of Robinson Crusoe, was written; it is a mostly forgotten series of moral essays with Crusoe’s name attached to give interest.

[edit] Real-life castaways

See also: Castaway#Real Occurrences

There were many stories of real-life castaways in Defoe’s time. Defoe’s inspiration for Crusoe was probably a Scottish sailor named Alexander Selkirk, who was rescued in 1709 by Woodes Rogers’ expedition after four years on the uninhabited island of Más a Tierra in the Juan Fernández Islands off the Chilean coast. Rogers’s “Cruising Voyage” was published in 1712, with an account of Alexander Selkirk’s ordeal. However, Robinson Crusoe is far from a copy of Woodes Roger’s account. Selkirk was abandoned at his own request, while Crusoe was shipwrecked. The islands are different. Selkirk lived alone for the whole time, while Crusoe found companions. Selkirk stayed on his island for four years, not twenty-eight. Furthermore, much of the appeal of Defoe’s novel is the detailed and captivating account of Crusoe’s thoughts, occupations and activities which goes far beyond that of Rogers’ basic descriptions of Selkirk, which account for only a few pages.

[edit] Interpretations

Despite its simple narrative style and the absence of the supposedly indispensable love motive, it was well received in the literary world. The book is considered one of the most widely published books in history (behind some of the sacred texts). It has been a hit since the day it was published, and continues to be highly regarded to this day.

Colonial

Novelist James Joyce eloquently noted that the true symbol of the British conquest is Robinson Crusoe: “He is the true prototype of the British colonist… The whole Anglo-Saxon spirit is in Crusoe: the manly independence, the unconscious cruelty, the persistence, the slow yet efficient intelligence, the sexual apathy, the calculating taciturnity”.

In a sense Crusoe attempts to replicate his own society on the island. This is achieved through the application of European technology, agriculture and even a rudimentary political heirarchy. Several times in the novel Crusoe refers to himself as the ‘king’ of the island, whilst the captain describes him as the ‘governor’ to the mutineers. At the very end of the novel the island is explicitly referred to as a ‘colony’. The idealised master-servant relationship Defoe depicts between Crusoe and Friday can also be seen in terms of cultural imperialism. Crusoe represents the ‘enlightened’ European whilst Friday is the ‘savage’ who can only be redeemed from his supposedly barbarous way of life through the assimilation of Crusoe’s culture. Nevertheless, within the novel Defoe also takes the opportunity to criticise the historic Spanish conquest of South America.

Religious

According to J.P. Hunter, Robinson is not a hero, but an everyman. He begins as a wanderer, aimless on a sea he does not understand; he ends as a pilgrim, crossing a final mountain to enter the promised land. The book tells the story of how Robinson gets closer to God, not through listening to sermons in a church but through spending time alone amongst nature with only a Bible to read.

Robinson Crusoe is filled with religious aspects. Defoe was himself a Puritan moralist, and normally worked in the guide tradition, writing books on how to be a good Puritan Christian, such as The New Family Instructor (1727) and Religious Courtship (1722). While Robinson Crusoe is far more than a guide, it shares many of the same themes and theological and moral points of view. The very name “Crusoe” may have been taken from Timothy Cruso, a classmate of Defoe’s who had written guide books himself, including God the Guide of Youth (1695), before dying at an early age — just eight years before Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe. Cruso would still have been remembered by contemporaries and the association with guide books is clear. It has even been suggested that God the Guide of Youth inspired Robinson Crusoe because of a number of passages in that work that are closely tied to the novel; however this is speculative.[2]

The Biblical story of Jonah is alluded to in the first part of novel. Like Jonah, Crusoe neglects his ‘duty’ and is punished at sea.

A central concern of Defoe’s in the novel is the Christian notion of Providence. Crusoe often feels himself guided by a divinely ordained fate, thus explaining his robust optimism in the face of apparent hopelessness. His various fortunate intuitions are taken as evidence of a benign spirit world. Defoe also foregrounds this theme by arranging highly significant events in the novel to occur on Crusoe’s birthday.

Moral

When confronted with the cannibalistic Indians Crusoe wrestles with the problem of cultural relativism. Despite his disgust he feels unjustified in holding individual Indians morally responsible for a practice so deeply ingrained in their culture. Nevertheless he retains his belief in an absolute standard of morality. Not only does he condemn cannibalism as a ‘national crime’ but he also forbids Friday from practising it. Modern readers may also note that despite Crusoe’s apparently superior morality, in common with the culture of his day, he accepts slavery as a basic feature of colonial life.

Economic

Karl Marx made an analysis of Crusoe in his classic work Capital. In Marxist terms Crusoe’s experiences on the island represents the inherant economic value of labour over capital. Crusoe frequently observes that the money he salvaged from the ship is worthless on the island, especially when compared to his tools. For the literary critic Angus Ross, Defoe’s point is that money has no intrinsic value and is only valuable insofar as it can be used in trade. There is also a notable correllation between Crusoe’s spiritual and financial development as the novel progresses, possibly signifying Defoe’s belief in the Protestant work ethic.

Cultural influences

The book proved so popular that the names of the two main protagonists have entered the language. The term “Robinson Crusoe” is virtually synonymous with the word “castaway” and is often used as a metaphor for being or doing something alone. Robinson Crusoe usually referred to his servant as “my man Friday”, from which the term “Man Friday” (or “Girl Friday”) originated, referring to a personal assistant, servant, or companion.

In Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s treatise on education, Emile: Or, On Education, the one book the main character, Emile, is allowed to read before the age of twelve is Robinson Crusoe. Rousseau wants Emile to identify himself as Crusoe so he could rely upon himself for all of his needs. In Rousseau’s view, Emile needs to imitate Crusoe’s experience, allowing necessity to determine what is to be learned and accomplished. This is one of the main themes of Rousseau’s educational model.

Nobel Prize-winning (2003) author J. M. Coetzee in 1986 published a novel entitled Foe, in which he explores an alternative telling of the Crusoe story, an allegorical story about racism, philosophy, and colonialism.

Jacques Offenbach wrote an opéra comique called Robinson Crusoé which was first performed at the Opéra-Comique, Salle Favart on 23 November 1867. This was based on the British pantomime version rather than the novel itself. The libretto was by Eugène Cormon and Hector-Jonathan Crémieux. The opera includes a duet by Robinson Crusoe and Friday.

French novelist Michel Tournier wrote Friday (or in French Vendredi ou les Limbes du Pacifique) published in 1967. His novel explores themes including civilization versus nature, the psychology of solitude,and death and sexuality, in a retelling of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe story. Tournier’s Robinson chooses to remain on the island, rejecting civilization when offered the chance to escape 28 years after being shipwrecked.

Indonesian literature refers to written or literary works produced in Indonesia. The works, which are transmitted orally, can be seen in the article Oral tradition of Indonesia.

During its early history, Indonesia was the centre of trade among sailors and traders from China, India, Europe and the middle east. Indonesia was then the colony of the Netherland and Japan. Therefore its literary tradition was influented by these cultures. However, unique Indonesian charcteristics cause it to be considered as a separate path and tradition.

Chronologically Indonesian literature could be divided into several periods:


Pujangga Lama

The early Indonesian literature was dominated by malay literature, which reflects its origin. The literature produced by the Pujangga lama (literally means the old poets) was mainly written before the 20th century. These works were dominated with syair, pantun, gurindam and hikayat. Some of these works are:

  • Sejarah Melayu
  • Hikayat Abdullah, Hikayat Andaken Penurat, Hikayat Bayan Budiman, Hikayat Djahidin, Hikayat Hang Tuah, Hikayat Kadirun, Hikayat Kalila dan Damina, Hikayat Masydulhak, Hikayat Pandja Tanderan, Hikayat Putri Djohar Manikam, Hikayat Tjendera Hasan, Tsahibul Hikayat.
  • Syair Bidasari, Syair Ken Tambuhan, Syair Raja Mambang Jauhari, Syair Raja Siak.

Sastra “Melayu Lama”
The literature of this period was produced from the year 1870 until 1942. The works from this period were predominantly popular among the people in Sumatra (i.e. the regions of Langkat, Tapanuli, Padang, etc.), the Chinese and the Indo-European. The first works were dominated by syair, hikayat and translations of western novels. These are:

* Robinson Crusoe (translation)
* Lawan-lawan Merah
* Mengelilingi Bumi dalam 80 hari (translation)
* Graaf de Monte Cristo (translation)
* Kapten Flamberger (translation)
* Rocambole (translation)
* Nyai Dasima by G. Francis (Indonesian)
* Bunga Rampai by A.F van Dewall
* Kisah Perjalanan Nakhoda Bontekoe
* Kisah Pelayaran ke Pulau Kalimantan
* Kisah Pelayaran ke Makassar dan lain-lainnya
* Cerita Siti Aisyah by H.F.R Kommer (Indonesian)
* Cerita Nyi Paina
* Cerita Nyai Sarikem
* Cerita Nyonya Kong Hong Nio
* Nona Leonie
* Warna Sari Melayu by Kat S.J
* Cerita Si Conat by F.D.J. Pangemanan
* Cerita Rossina
* Nyai Isah by F. Wiggers
* Drama Raden Bei Surioretno
* Syair Java Bank Dirampok
* Lo Fen Kui by Gouw Peng Liang
* Cerita Oey See by Thio Tjin Boen
* Tambahsia
* Busono by R.M.Tirto Adhi Soerjo
* Nyai Permana
* Hikayat Siti Mariah by Hadji Moekti (Indonesian)

Angkatan Balai Pustaka
During this period, Indonesian literature was dominated with novels, short stories, dramas and poetries, which gradually replace syair, gurindam, pantun and hikayat. These works are mostly published by Balai Pustaka, giving this period its name. Balai Pustaka was established to stop the negative influence of many literature, which are written during that time. Many of those literature were pornographic and have somehow political background. From 1920 to 1950 Balai Pustaka published many works in high malay language, Javanese language and Sundanese language, some are also published in Balinese, Batak or Maduranese language.

Authors and works of Balai Pustaka

* Merari Siregar
o Azab dan Sengsara: kissah kehidoepan seorang gadis (1921)
o Binasa kerna gadis Priangan! (1931)
o Tjinta dan Hawa Nafsu

* Marah Roesli
o Siti Nurbaya
o La Hami
o Anak dan Kemenakan

* Nur Sutan Iskandar
o Apa Dayaku Karena Aku Seorang Perempuan
o Hulubalang Raja (1961)
o Karena Mentua (1978)
o Katak Hendak Menjadi Lembu (1935)

* Abdul Muis
o Pertemuan Djodoh (1964)
o Salah Asuhan
o Surapati (1950)

* Tulis Sutan Sati
o Sengsara Membawa Nikmat (1928)
o Tak Disangka
o Tak Membalas Guna
o Memutuskan Pertalian (1978)

* Aman Datuk Madjoindo
o Menebus Dosa (1964)
o Si Tjebol Rindoekan Boelan (1934)
o Sampaikan Salamku Kepadanya

* Suman Hs.
o Kasih Ta’ Terlarai (1961)
o Mentjari Pentjuri Anak Perawan (1957)
o Pertjobaan Setia (1940)

* Adinegoro
o Darah Muda
o Asmara Jaya

* Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana
o Tak Putus Dirundung Malang
o Dian jang Tak Kundjung Padam (1948)
o Anak Perawan Di Sarang Penjamun (1963)

* Hamka
o Di Bawah Lindungan Ka’bah (1938)
o Tenggelamnya Kapal van der Wijck (1957)
o Tuan Direktur (1950)
o Didalam Lembah Kehidoepan (1940)

* Anak Agung Pandji Tisna
o Ni Rawit Ceti Penjual Orang (1975)
o Sukreni Gadis Bali (1965)
o I Swasta Setahun di Bedahulu (1966)

* Said Daeng Muntu
o Pembalasan
o Karena Kerendahan Boedi (1941)

* Marius Ramis Dayoh
o Pahlawan Minahasa (1957)
o Putra Budiman: Tjeritera Minahasa (1951)

* Pujangga Baru
* Generation 45 (Angkatan ’45)
* Generation 50 (Angkatan 50-an)
* Generation 66 until Generation 70 (Angkatan 66-70-an)
* Generation 80 (Dasawarsa 80-an)
* Reformation period (Angkatan Reformasi)

Book Review by Dmetri Kakmi

When Elif Safak’s latest novel was released in her home country, she was arraigned and accused of insulting Turkish identity. The charges were fortunately withdrawn; had she been charged, she could have faced up to three years incarceration, this in the latter stages of pregnancy. Safak escaped imprisonment, but the death threats keep coming from ultra-nationalists and they are to be taken seriously. These people are, after all, the ones who killed Armenian journalist Hrank Dink last year. The consequences of this unwarranted kerfuffle in a supposedly democratic nation is that one of Turkey’s most prominent and liveliest voices is too afraid to venture out. She is so stressed, she is finding it difficult to breast feed her baby. On a positive note, it’s worth noting that the Turkish edition of the book was, nevertheless, a bestseller.

But what is the fuss about? For the answer we must examine the novel itself.

First and foremost, The Bastard of Istanbul is a cross-continental family saga. It examines in loving detail and with much humour the lives of two families: one living in contemporary Istanbul and Turkish, the other residing in San Francisco and Armenian. They are the Kazanci and Tchakhmakhchian families, respectively. It appears initially that the two have nothing in common. But don’t be fooled. Turkey is the classic metaphoric haunted house, sitting astride the continental divide; consequently, from inside its many rooms the past and present are still largely at war, while from unexplored corners voices are trying to be heard, come what may. In other words, every ethnic and religious group that has traversed Anatolian soil has at one time or another shared a bed with the opposition. It’s called sleeping with the enemy. Often not only does the right hand not know what the left hand is doing, but there are two or more sides to every story. The consequences of this incessant kvetching is that no one is unsullied. This is where the Kazanci and the Tchakhmakhchian s are implicated. They do not know it, but long fingers are reaching from the blighted past to inextricably bind them together for all time. The conduits that will bridge the gap, that privilege, belongs to the young. And they are a spunky crew.

The first is the bastard of the title, nineteen-year-old Asya Kazanci. She is a modern Turk, rebellious, outspoken, and belligerently without a past, in more ways than one. She is also the youngest of a household of several generations of women, the men having died mysteriously at a young age. The second conduit is Armanoush Tchakhmakhchian. She is sensitive and searching for her Armenian roots in, of all places, the American desert. Her curiosity about the ‘genocide’ of the Armenians compels her to finally meet the enemy on their own turf. Thus she deceives her family and flies to Istanbul to learn more about her beloved grandmother’s past. She cannot know what a Pandora’s box she is opening, and what a hidden blessing she will find.

It’s an intriguing premise that allows the horrors of what took place in 1915 to slowly rise to the surface. I won’t go into more detail because the scenario Safak creates, the intrigues, the agonies, the loops and connections, the surprising revelations, ought to be discovered on ones own. I will say, though, that I was so captivated that I swallowed the book whole in two days and when I finished, I read it over again. I didn’t want to part with the characters. They are so alive and so familiar to anyone who has grown up in that part of the world. And the contradictory face of modern Istanbul is so beautifully evoked.

What I can say is this. This is a smart and brave book, by a smart and brave author. Firstly because it attempts something that is quite difficult to pull off in literary terms. The Bastard of Istanbul is an absorbing and artfully composed meditation on Turkey’s changing face. The trick is that it is posing as an easily digestible popular entertainment, complete with lashing of scrumptious Turkish food (there’s a recipe), transgressive (for Turkey) gestures, and illicit encounters.

Second, by using the Kacanci household as a metaphor for her country (the women are split right down the middle: half are conservative, while the others move with the times), Safak explores Turkey’s amnesiac brain with a deftness and compassion that ought to be applauded. She is, when one reads carefully, being fair to both sides. Despite what I said above, Asya Kazanci is not the bastard of the story. Turkey is. This is because, as Safak suggests, the country exists almost purely in the present, with a steady eye on the future. Sure, it embraced the glories of the Ottoman past, but it has almost entirely divorces itself from the more painful elements of that imperial glory. The pangs of nation building might as well have happened in another country, not merely in the near past. In this regard, Turkey is shown to us as a bastard afloat in time. And what Safak suggests is that a country without a full knowledge of its past is not a country at all, just as a person without a past feels less than human. With one particular plot permutation, Safak goes on to suggest that the country might even have an unhealthy or even unnatural relationship with its sense of self. It must first embrace both the good and bad in its history before it can begin to even dream about moving forward.

If the book is hard on Turks, it does not go easy on Armenians either. Those with victim complexes to nurture, beware. You will find little or no solace here. Safak deftly avoids mentioning the word ‘genocide’. Instead she uses the noun ‘massacre’. There is, after all, no proof that the Ottomans sanctioned a systemic annihilation of the Armenian people along the lines of what the Nazis did to the Jews and other ‘undesirables’. There is, however, ample evidence to show that Armenian legionaries inside and outside Turkey fought for the Russians and the French against the Ottomans during World War One. In an effort to safeguard the interests of the country, the Ottomans forcefully deported a very large number of Armenians (the figure is disputed) in the July heat from the northeast of the country to the far southeast. Many cruelly perished along the way.

The beauty of Safak’s book is that it is not a political diatribe. Rather, it is a humanist plea to recognise the past, to commemorate the dead, and to finally move on. Far from seeming glib, it is a sensible solution.

*This review is officially published in Istanbul Literary Review, visit http://www.ilrmagazine.net/article/article3.php

by Gabriel Milner

As the coup d’ grace in Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign, the incumbent President appropriated Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”, perverting the chorus’ cynicism and vitriol into a chauvinist Republican rallying cry. In summarily ignoring the narrative of post-Vietnam, post-industrial malaise that belied the exuberant, synthesizer-addled song, the Gipper set off perhaps the most tragic irony of American popular culture in the 1980’s.[1] Unwillingly, Springsteen was reconceived as a puppet of the conservative jingoism he so palpably attacked throughout Born in the U.S.A.—marring his reputation for my own generation, which knew him neither as the New Dylan of Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ , nor the disheveled roué of Darkness On the Edge of Town, but as the tight ass in blue jeans on the album’s cover. The biting irony of this image, coupled as it was with a Stars-and-Stripes backdrop, was lost to me for some time. As a document of September 11th, The Rising (Columbia Records, 2002) retains similar potential.[2] Now, five years after the attacks on the Twin Towers, four years after the United States invaded Iraq, and six months after North Korea detonated a nuclear bomb, we must ask: Why no repeat of 1984? Why has the Boss, and his stirring album, not again fallen into the agenda of bellicose conservatives? And, will posterity finally give Springsteen his due, positing The Rising alongside the Gettysburg Address and Guernica as provocative, multifaceted reactions to destruction?

Increasingly, I perceive this album as a cynosure for the miasma of world events. In form and content, it is a work about confusion, paradox, and irresolution that undertakes a daunting task: It gives full range to the spectrum of human emotions without imposing answers. Summoning forth the events surrounding September 11th, it presents a Cubist landscape of multiple angles and endless repetitions. With 9/11 as the nexus, we confront a pastiche of voices: Spatial elements united by the fourth, temporal dimension of the Attacks. As befitting its title, images and sentiments rise up, as though from a collective memory bank. This is not about revenge or redemption. This is about the catharsis of contemplation.

The Rising marks the reunion of the E Street Band—from, among other careers, solo efforts (guitarist Patti Scialfa), Conan O’Brien’s house band (drummer Max Weinberg), and The Sopranos (guitarist Steve Van Zandt)—for the first time since 1984. Despite pushing middle age, they sound as invigorated as they did 23 years ago. Like the welter of personal narratives mixed in the album, the music recognizes no boundaries: Nashville fiddles, saxophone solos, doo-wop choruses, martial drumbeats, Azaans, hand-claps, hand drums, drum machines, accordions. If I don’t quite buy the Bossrs’ best impression of a Sephardic cantor on “Worlds Apart” (“lai-lai-lai-lai-lai-lai, lai-lai-lai-lai-lai-lai”), I appreciate the nod to multiculturalism. Strings herald some sort of victory march in album opener “Lonesome Day,” Springsteen whoops in the background, and Weinberg sets off a spark with a pop out of “Like a Rolling Stone.”[3] Yet belying this tried-and-true rock method—the whoop from “Born to Run,” the drum aping the greatest rock song of all time[4]–is a leitmotif that sets The Rising apart from more forthright reactions to the attacks. To wit, the first words:
Baby once I thought I knew Everything I needed to know about you. Your sweet whisper, Your tender touch. I didn’t really know that much. The joke’s on me. Yeah, I’m gonna pray. If I can just get through this lonesome day.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are about to enact a paradigm shift.

Pre-The Rising Springsteen was all quotidian ennui, bitterness, hope, and joy. Characters were connected either geographically (New Jersey’s factory towns and seedy boardwalks, or the Rattlesnake Speedway in the Utah Desert) or economically (the anomie and alienation, or the weekend bliss and nostalgia of blue-collar existence), or both. Here, though, individuals convene under circumstance. We are introduced to the self-abnegating firefighter in “Nothing Man”; the grieving spouse fielding consoling telephone calls in “You’re Missing”[5]; the contemplative suicide bomber in “Paradise”; and the barflies in “Mary’s Place,” who, on finding joy in listening to a turntable at midnight, are reminded of their grief. They ask, “How do you live broken-hearted?” We get the bad-ass of “Further On (Up the Road),” with his “dead-man’s suit and . . . smilin’ skull ring.” And the peacemaker of “Worlds Apart,” snarling, as if in some last-ditch effort, “Let the living let us in before the dead tear us apart.” In essence, these are the same folks who always populated Springsteen’s songscapes: The worker, the mourner, the embittered, the conflicted, the caught-up, the merry-maker. Only, here they are transmogrified by events. The everyday does not dissolve. Instead, it is now imbued with mythic proportions: Opportunities to be heroes, villains, and everything in between on an epic scale. And indeed, when, on “Let’s Be Friends (Skin to Skin),” he sings that the, “Time has come, let the past be history, if we just start talking,” he could be propositioning an ex or drawing out a peace accord.

In amassing this Babel, Springsteen and Co. paint a landscape of paradox through an unstable lexicon. And it is here that The Rising begins to acquire its more provocative elements. As it reiterates words and images, it recaptures, repositions, and replays experience. To this end, “sky” crystallizes the anxieties and anguishes of the survivors of, and the witnesses to, the tragedy. Literal observations describe emptiness vis-à-vis the Twin Towers’ conspicuous absence: “I woke up this morning to an empty sky” (“Empty Sky”). Destruction abounds furthermore in surrealistic dreamscapes, with a “sky . . . falling and streaked with blood” (“Into the Fire”). The sky proves the lodestar to disbelief, as when the firefighter in “Nothing Man” remarks unbelievingly, “The sky is still the same unbelievable blue.” And, just as Springsteen finds hope in sublime, limpid space—“Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life”—he also confronts a “Sky of blackness and sorrow” (“The Rising”).

As evinced in the use of “love,” the metaphysical is similarly fraught. At times, it evokes grief and nihilism: “Our love’s this dust beneath my feet” (“Countin’ On a Miracle”). At others, it memorializes: “May your love give us love” (“Into the Fire”). It is even a desperate plea to maintain peace and mental equilibrium: “We pray for love, Lord” (“My City of Ruins”).

This very confusion enables The Rising to function on variegated levels, its stories transcending their specificity. “You’re Missing,” an elegy of plinking, homey piano keys and moaning strings, vividly evokes this fluidity. Springsteen begins the song by rattling off a laundry list of ostensible domestic stability: “Shirt’s in the closet/ Shoes’ in the hall. / . . . Coffee cup’s on the counter. / Jacket’s on the chair. / Paper’s on the doorstep.” Then he laments, “Everything is everything, but you’re missing.” So who’s missing? It’s not the narrator’s wife. (He early on tells us that “Mama’s in the kitchen, baby and all.”) I don’t think it’s the narrator’s husband. (“Mama’s in the kitchen” would mean he’s referring to himself in the third-person, undercutting the song’s homespun flavor.) I don’t think it’s a friend or a child, because Springsteen speaks to a certain intimacy: “When I shut out the lights, you’re missing”; and later, “I got too much room in my bed.” When the narrator sings, “I got too many phone calls,” we must ask, Are friends consoling a personal loss, or are they out-of-towners, offering their support to a New Yorker? We might do well to ask not who is missing, but what? What paradigm shift was precipitated by September 11th? The sense of intangible loss creates uneasiness, then melancholy. This is the saddest song I’ve ever heard.

Within this cosmology of grief, tradition and expectation are subverted. Ancient imagery is appropriated and metamorphosed to explain something so palpably outside our ken. This is heady stuff for the Springsteen set. Raised a Catholic, the Boss has always been inclined toward religious iconography, populating his songs with prodigal sons, Mary Magdalenes, and Jobs. And The Rising is rife with its own biblical milieu: martyrs in “Into the Fire,” sanctuary in “Mary’s Place,” and sacrilege in “My City of Ruins.”[6] But something odd emerges in these narratives, as well—a desperate attempt to comprehend life when traditional tropes are rendered insufficient.[7] At one point, this is manifested as recourse to alternative spirituality. Hence, the “seven pictures of Buddha” in “Mary’s Place”, or the opening scene of “Empty Sky”: “On the plains of Jordan, I cut my bow from the wood. This tree of evil, this tree of good.” More provocatively, it also expresses a truly physical inversion. Namely, the Orpheus-like journey of “Into the Fire,” wherein our firefighter hero goes not down to Hell, but “up the stairs into the fire.” Sometimes, it’s just puzzling. “God’s drifting in Heaven,” he sings in “You’re Missing. “Devil’s in the mailbox.” In the album, 9/11 both reverses and confuses. The Rising, therefore, throws us for a loop, positing a welter of post-modern spirituality to express a globalized world bereft of both borders and answers. Sometimes, all we are left with is the comfort of meditation. Here is Springsteen’s Om:
Further on up the road. Further on up the road.
(“Further On [Up the Road]”)

And,
Empty sky. Empty sky. I woke up this morning to an empty sky.
(“Empty Sky”).[8]

Tumult, though, ultimately proves The Rising’s most salient element. In one sense it is the fractured vision of any second-rate Cubist—the desperate attempt to evoke, through art, a sense of metaphysical chaos. Roland Barthes posited the concept of narrative braiding—the breakdown of temporality and the perpetual revision of memory—to define the metanarrative inherent in personal historiography. Akira Kurosawa explored the fallacy of subjectivity in Rashoman, which recounts a rape from different perspectives, thereby belying the concept of an objective truth. And Lawrence Durrell wrote in his author’s note to Balthazar, one-fourth of his epic Alexandria Quartet, “Modern literature offers us no Unities, so I have turned to science and am trying to complete a four-decker novel whose form is based on the proposition. . . . Three sides of space and one of time constitute the soup-mix recipe for a continuum.” The stakes are higher in Springsteen’s album, where simply giving a voice to a terrorist is anathema to the methods of the Department of Homeland Security. As events transmogrify with the storyteller, we reconsider the nature of truth and, potentially, the Manichean extremes propounded by Bush’s Axis of Evil.

Yet The Rising is not merely driven by desperation. Sonically and lyrically, it demands we confront the cultural collisions of September 11th and to discern the conspicuous absence of resolution. Indeed, its varied inconsistencies prove its ultimate strength. In this sense, it contorts the Five Steps of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) to create a Mobius strip of associations and paradoxes. What we face is unending experience—a phenomenon endemic of the attacks on the Twin Towers. Captured on the news and in the papers, in photographs and novels, the attacks were, if nothing else, well documented.[9] In our mind and on our computers we can summon forth these events at any time, recapture and reexperience them. We can shift our perspectives from—as in my own case—passive observer to camcorder-equipped eyewitness. We can break time down. Or we can reverse it. We are, ultimately, preoccupied with it. And, as the folks in “Mary’s Place” show us, as much as we might like to relegate it to a time and place, it’s under our skin, waiting break out just as we think we might be shaking it. We can’t help but summon forth all of our resources, letting the full spectrum of human emotions reign.

If The Rising attempts to position 9/11 as an element to be incorporated into everyday experience, then the album’s closer, “My City of Ruins,” is testament to the fluidity of memory. Ostensibly a song about Ground Zero, it describes destruction, loss, and rebirth. The narrator opens with his vision of “A blood red circle on the cold dark ground.” He is guided by the ghosts of the past: “The church door’s thrown open, I can hear the organ’s song. But the congregation’s gone.” He looks around his “city of ruins” and sees “The boarded-up windows, the empty streets, all my brothers down on their knees.” Someone’s gone, someone who “took my heart when [he or she] left.” The narrator wonders, “How can I begin again?” At 1:57 we literally hear “the organ’s song” in a Garth Hudsonesque solo. We are seamlessly transported to someone else’s perspective, which now becomes our own. The collective conscious solidifies. Yet it is important to know that this song was actually written before September 11th, about Springsteen’s old haunts in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Memory is thus reconfigured. As the album closes with a chorus of “Rise up,” we are left provoked, though not quite sated. “Rise up”? Against what? In the face of what? How? This is Bruce Springsteen’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” where the answer is a paradox: Simultaneously at hand and elusive.

Unfortunately, The Rising too often he relies upon cliché as its main vehicle of expression. When he launches into “It’s a fairy tale so tragic, there’s no prince to break the spell” (“Countin’ On a Miracle”), I have to stop myself from reaching for the skip button. In terms of landscapes, I’ve always preferred the doomed characters of Darkness on the Edge of Town. The factory worker whose job both “takes his hearing” and “gives him life,” the ingénue smitten with the town whore in “Candy’s Room,” the drag racers of “Racin’ In the Streets,” and the poets of the ominous outskirts all evoke a mythology all their own and all more subtle. I prefer the tongue-in-cheek rockabilly of The River. And I especially enjoy the sprawling, orchestral turns of The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle. This is not the point of The Rising. In this album, we find a chronicle of events, a call for contemplation and catharsis a full year-and-a-half before the United States opted for the opposite. There was nothing like it at the time. And for sheer ambition and scope, there is still nothing like it. To this day, The Rising stops me in my tracks.

[1] See CNN.com – Analysis: The age of Reagan – Jun 16, 2004

[2] The best story I’ve heard is that shortly after the attacks on the Twin Towers, Springsteen was riding around New Jersey in his pick-up. He heard a pedestrian shout, “Bruce, we need you.” And the album’s seed was planted.

[3] When Springsteen inducted Bob Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, he remarked, “The first time I heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother listening to WMCA, and on came the snare shot that sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind.” Quoted in Greil Marcus, Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads (New York, Public Affairs, 2005), 94.

[4] See Rolling Stone: The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

[5] This is just one sense evoked by the song. “You’re Missing” will be discussed in detail later.

[6] More on this later.

[7] This theme proved lodestar in the 9/11 Commission’s Report, which found a lack of imagination to be the main reason the events were not foreseen.

[8] For the 2001 “A Tribute to Heroes” benefit, he introduced an acoustic version of “My City of Ruins” as a “prayer for our fallen brothers.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1djqEnh4cbQ

[9] Sometimes, this documentation raises more questions than it answers: See Frank Rich Is Wrong About That 9/11 Photograph. – By David Ploz – Slate Magazine

Works Cited

Durrell, Lawrence. “Note” (1957). In Balthazar (1958). New York: Penguin Books, 1986.

Kurosawa, Akira. Rashomon. Daeie Studios. 1950.

Leopold, Todd. “Analysis: The Age of Reagan.” Cnn.com, 16 June, 2004.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/06/16/reagan.80s/

Marcus, Greil. Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads. New York, Public Affairs, 2005.

Plotz, David. “Frank Rich Is Wrong About that 9/11 Photograph: Those New Yorkers Weren’t Relaxing!” Slate, 13 September, 2006. http://www.slate.com/id/2149508/?nav/tap3/; accessed 20 December, 2006.

Seed, Patricia. “‘Failing to Marvel’: Atahualpa’s Encounter with the Word.” In Latin

American Research Review 26:1 (1991). 7-32.

Springsteen, Bruce. Born In the U.S.A. Columbia Records. 1984.

———. Born to Run. Columbia Records. 1975.

———. Darkness On the Edge of Town. Columbia Records. 1978.

———. Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ. Columbia Records. 1973.

———. “My City of Ruins” (live, acoustic version). “A Tribute to Heroes.”

Broadcast 15 October, 2001. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1djqEnh4cbQ; accessed 20 December, 2006.

———. The Rising. Columbia Records, 2002.

———. The River. Columbia Records. 1980.

———. The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle. Columbia Records. 1973.

“The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Rolling Stone. 9 December, 2004.

http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/500songs; accessed 17 December, 2006.

Bruce Springsteen Official Sony Site. http://www.brucespringsteen.net; accessed 10 December, 2006.

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This artcle is officially published in The Red China Literary Magazine, visit the website http://www.redchinamagazine.com/home.htm

Africa is too large and diverse for generalizations. It has fifty-four nations, five time zones, at least seven climates, more than 800 million people and, according to the latest diligent research, maybe 14 million proverbs. South Africa and Burkina Faso have as much in common as Spain and Uzbekistan. And yet people do generalize; Africa has become the continent of moral concern.

This issue of Granta contains fresh voices from Africa, in all their differences, as well as memoir and reportage which reflect the past and present of its people.

Contents:
John Ryle, Introduction: The Many Voices of Africa (read)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Master
Moses Isegawa, The War of the Ears
Kwame Dawes, Passport Control
Segun Afolabi, Gifted
Binyavanga Wainaina, How to write about Africa (read)
Geert van Kesteren, The Ogiek
Ivan Vladislavic, Joburg
Adewale Maja-Pearce, Legacies
Nadine Gordimer, Beethoven Was One Sixteenth Black
Helon Habila, The Witch’s Dog
Daniel Bergner, Policeman to the World
Santu Mofokeng, The Black Albums
Lindsey Hilsum, We Love China (read)
John Biguenet, Antediluvian

Visit the Granta official website http://www.granta.com/back-issues/92?usca_p=t

Granta’s list of the twenty-one Best Young American Novelists is out now.

The spring issue of Granta magazine, Granta 97: ‘Best of Young American Novelists 2′, is devoted to their new work—a revealing insight into a new generation of American writing which shows, beside its talent, what bothers and inspires the imagination of modern America.

Read extracts from Granta 97, find out about the latest ‘Best of Young American Novelists’ events, post a comment below and buy copies of the magazine online.

Published in the US on April 24, 2007
ISBN-1-929-001-27-4

Published in the UK on May 10, 2007
ISBN-978-0-903141-92-5

Cover image: Paul Elliman

Comments

Asadollah Amraee
March 4 06:11

Granta and its publications and lists are in fact an exercise on behalf of contemporary literature, and it makes waves in the vast sea of contemporary fiction. I came across Granta with dirty realism, before those names acquired their present status as celebrities. Due to difficult situation in my war torn country providing copies of Granta was a difficult task. Normally, it took six or seven month to get a copy. I am in debt with Granta for introducing Many good writers, among them, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Hanif Kureishi, Ben Okri, Edwidge Danticat, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff and many others. Although nowadays I will be aware early on Granta publications but it is still difficult to obtain. Normally I ask a visitor or a friend going abroad to buy me a copy and I pay him or her here. But it is worthy. I have all copies of granta since Dirty Realism. I hope to get the newly published Granta soon, but I have to wait a traveling visitor to go abroad, UK or the States.

a reader
March 4 18:01

I’m not sure that you guys noticed, but a few of these people have not yet published novels. So how does that work exactly?

memoirs & lgbt reader
March 5 15:49

Which young novelist is “Missing” from your list?

David Montalvo, boy with an ‘i’

While his book has not yet captured book reviewers of The New York Times, it has done more – it has captured our generation. At least for me, it’s unlike any book I’ve read and, to the underground art world, it’s a remarkable media-comprehensive, passionate book.

S. Macalester
March 7 19:55

This list should be retitled, ‘Best of Young American Novelists 2, With the Particularly Glaring Omission of Chris Adrian.’

David Reid
March 10 05:57

Why is it that great new writing always winds up being nothing more than words. There never is some great stylist whose phrasing takes writing to deeper depths,and newer truths. Everytime I hear about some great new writer and I read their stuff it usually winds up being nothing special. I realize that writing is an art form that can be taught,but not everyone can do it well. I want some great word play,not something that could have been written by any idiot with a decent grasp of the English language.

Balachandar A.
March 11 14:47

I observed that one of the Granta Magazines [I think about a decade ago] carried the price tag in Indian rupees. I have not noticed the price tag in Indian currency thereafter. Why not start marketing the magazine in India in Indian currency?

Elizabeth Ziemska
March 22 05:14

Love that Gary Shteyngart. He writes ecstatically, to paraphrase Updike on Nabokov, the way prose should be written. Not that I equate Shteyngart with Nabokov…. I have not read all the writers on your best-of list, but many of the ones I have read (won’t mention), seem too studied, too polished, too self-aware, their voices rubbed smooth and mechanical after too many workshops. Perhaps that’s just my taste, but I prefer early Will Self, early Martin Amis, late Lethem. But I admire your magazine. It’s where I first encountered Tibor Fischer (if he would only get out of his way and write something he really care about).

Diana M. L.
March 23 13:35

The problem with this issue is it’s a recapitulation of what we already know: these are the folks with two-book deals and scores of awards, brightly assembled in an array of ethnicities, genders, and writing styles. Like the Pepsi-Doritos logo the issue’s cover evokes, this is material safe for consumption, vetted by focus groups, preserved in advance so it won’t expire for at least five years. But for the readers of Granta, who I imagine are the few thousand people who keep very close tabs on the minutiae of the literary world, this group is already an old product, with only a slightly new, improved taste.

Not that these aren’t some of the best, young novelists – sure, they are. But that fact has already been decided by publishing houses and awards committees. Perhaps I was mistaken, but I thought this issue was supposed to be decided by Granta’s research team – where’s the evidence of the work they did? Isn’t there a great writer in the vast United States who Granta recognizes as brilliant that no agent has so far? What if publication in this issue was determined by anonymous submission from published authors? There seem to be so many ways in which this bag of chips could have been less stale.

Looking back on the 1996 list, one is left to wonder what its worth is, other than confirmation of what seemed like a safe bet a decade ago? There’s far too many literary stars of that generation omitted – Mary Gaitskill, Jonathan Lethem, Claire Messud, Rick Moody, David Foster Wallace, just to name the most obvious – that it begs the question of the worth of such a collection of the best, young novelists in the first place. Well, at the very least these kinds of groupings make people excited about fiction and no writer can argue with that at all.

But what about creating an issue that is dedicated to what is actually new (since determining what is ‘best’ is always going to be too tricky and subjective)? What if you were to create an issue called Writers You Should Know About (But Don’t Already). Its contents may not all last another decade, but I’m sure the material you unearth will be fresher, and to use one last metaphor, more organic.

Floyd Turbeaux
March 23 17:19

I have enjoyed all of the folks whose work I’ve read. They’re talented and interesting and deserve wide recognition. That said, several of have never published a novel, and won’t before they turn 35. An age restriction so tight that it requires fiddling with the other nominal criteria has pushed what was already a dubious exercise into the realm of self parody. And how did you deal with the obvious social ties between some of the authors and judges?

Jeff Edmunds
March 23 22:50

Tom Bissell is not on the list! In my mind he is the best young American writer today.

A. Balachandar
March 25 14:31

I am eagerly awaiting the Granta Magazine No.97 Best of Young American Novelists 2. I find Granta Magazine unique in its own way in the subjects covered and in the contents.

I look forward to Granta Magazine on Best of Young Indian Novelists in English.

Martin McKiernan
March 26 11:05

Why do I have to wait until May for issue 97!?! I have been diagnosed with Burn Out and I will have to spend sometime at home – a fresh dose of Granta will no doubt do me a power of good, may even keep me sane!

Sushma Joshi
March 31 07:27

The problem with American writing is that it gets alarming similarly in a very short period of time. Everybody eating in MacDonald’s and watching the same TV channels. Everybody writing in first person. Everybody trying to emulate the ‘spare’ (read: boring) prose of Carver and Hemingway. Or else they’re trying to emulate great novelists from some other tradition. Everybody thinking that an immigrant story deserves a big award–never mind how tediously it is written.

It is almost as if America needs the Russian emigres to brighten up their literary world–so yes, Shteyngart takes my vote. Viva Russia! Second prize to Nicole Krauss and Anthony Doerr, and third to Daniel Alarcon. After all, where would America be without the Latin/South Americans?

Kyle Minor
April 1 20:17

Bravo to Granta, for introducing writers like Kevin Brockmeier, Christopher Coake, Yiyun Li, etc., to the broader audience they deserve.

Stuart Gray
April 7 22:19

Love the cool linear design of this site, and found it easy to navigate. I really want to subscibe to this magazine… looks great. Amazing site!

Jonathan Waite
April 10 22:58

Once again Granta publishes a issue packed with immature and unimaginative writing, by enthusiatic and talented young writers with identikit CVs.

Sadly schools of Creative Writing do not teach creativity; rather than collecting lterary awards authors need to get a life.

A more worthwhile approach would require the abolition of arbritrary discrimination by date of birth and produce an issue for new novelists, writers publishing their first fiction at any age. Maybe some of the authors might have experienced more than the inside of a classroom.

Lynn Smith
April 14 15:28

In naming best young American novelists, Granta may have overlooked young writers who write for the YA audience. M.T. Anderson’s _The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: the Pox Party (2006) is a masterpiece of literature which examines slavery, and the odd phenomenon here named “the College of Lucidity,” in the pre-Revolutionary American colonies. Please please please read it.

Lynn Smith
School Librarian, retired

Lynn Smith
April 14 15:41

Thank you so very much for this list. One more note on YA writers — Illiteracy is a huge threat to our nation (USA). To combat this, my highest goal is to help kids find books which they will love reading, relating to, and thinking about. YA writers are heroes. They are providing fabulous stories and material about issues relevant to kids’ lives and written in their language. In my opinion this work will be a crucial factor in turning our country and our kids away from ignorance and inertia, and towards active thinking, caring, creative, responsible life.

P. Mohanan
April 19 07:12

Truth in a trasparent narration, that is what i felt reading Akhil. How sincere and simple he is dealing with the life, which is the protoplasm of his art. I am very much attracted to his writing. I am an author of 4 novels in Malayalam language of Kerala,South India.

Jane Librizzi
April 24 18:02

I have the same quarrel with this list, as with the first one: too few women. We’re often told that men don’t read fiction, but men keep telling women to read fiction written by men. This leaves more than half of life out, just as the slaves always know more about the masters than the masters know about the slaves. I wish you had included Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Jhumpa Lahiri, ,Julie Otsuka, and Julie Hecht, just to name a few.

Asher McClinton
May 2 04:55

Although your list of young writers includes prodigious talents, I fear that your selection committee has made some egregious oversights, namely Emily Barton and Marisha Pessl whose debut novel was also listed as one of the ten best books of 2006. I can’t fathom how a credible list of the most formiddable and promising writers under 40 could omit these two young women who put the vast majority of your list to shame.

David Stevenson
May 6 00:16

It’s been noted earlier here, but to repeat: why not just use the word “writers”? Does the word “novelist” mean anything here, as you use it? Hint: in common usage it refers to persons who have written novels.

Valintino
May 18 04:18

Hello, Your site is great.

Amy Perez
July 6 16:31

Check out the link to the 1996 list and count the number of then ‘best young novelists’ who are still relevant today. I got three. Should give you an idea of how this year’s list of critics darlings and ethnic flavors of the month will hold up in ten years.

Aidan K
July 21 19:34

Great idea, but no Dave Eggers??? Very odd, methinks.

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