No longer able to read, Pratchett used dictation software to revise The Carpet People, which he wrote when he was seventeen.
I am really sad that Pratchett can no longer read. I just can't imagine anything worse.
I love this picture. The fact that Munro won the Nobel still makes me ridiculously happy.
The Times surveys several new books about JFK. Perversely, the one that I'm dying to read is the one about Lee Harvey Oswald in Russia. (I will also give the Dallek a look, as he is always worth reading.)
The Jeff Greenfield book that imagines what might have happened if JFK had lived sounds like a fun thought experiment if you're the one writing it, but honestly the three paragraphs in the review completely satisfied my curiosity about Greenfield's conclusions.
How was I not informed? Harper Collins is publishing six reimaginings of Austen's novels by six contemporary authors. So, for example, Joanna Trollope has written a new version of Sense and Sensibility that takes place in the twenty-first century (I understand there are iPads involved).
I am always interested in reimaginings of classic works, although I'm not sure why it was necessary to hire authors for this specific task -- after all, Cathleen Schine and Allegra Goodman already rewrote Sense and Sensibility last year without even being asked! Does the world really need three twenty-first century versions of this novel?
That said, of course I'll read it. Trollope seems to be a good fit for Austen, and I'm downright excited to see Val McDermid's take on Northanger Abbey. (In my view, Northanger Abbey is far and away the worst of Austen's novels, so I might find myself preferring McDermid's version.) I'm less enthused to see that Curtis Sittenfield is taking on Pride and Prejudice, and slightly ill at the idea of the terribly twee Alexander McCall Smith being given custody of my beloved Emma.
Mansfield Park and Persuasion have yet to be assigned. If I were in control of the publishing universe, Jeanette Winterson would be adapting Mansfield Park and Valerie Martin would handle Persuasion. (Martin is probably not a big enough name, but she should be.) Here's hoping Harper Collins resists the temptation to hand them over to J. K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer.
James Santel rereads John Updike's Collected Stories:
While not willing to go as far as Franzen, who argues that Updike was “wasting” his “tremendous, Nabokov-level talent,” I was surprised by how many of Updike’s stories impressed me while I read them, and how few left an impression. One can open the Collected Stories to almost any page and find a surprising metaphor, a lovely description, or a wry morsel of irony without remembering much of anything about story that contains it....
The curious paradox of Updike is that he made art into a craft, but only rarely did he transcend craft to achieve art. In a sense, then, the answer to Wood’s question is that beauty is not enough, at least not the beauty of finely tuned prose and vivid images that was Updike’s specialty. Art requires the wedding of aesthetics and morals, and the case might be made that the morals are more important; few people would call Dostoyevsky a beautiful writer, but even fewer would contest that he was a great artist.
I have long been a fan of Updike, if only because he was one of the first really serious writers I read as a teenager. (This is the same reason why I will always have a soft spot for Joyce Carol Oates.) But he writes beautifully and has more to say than he is sometimes given credit for. I prefer his novels to his short stories, which I think are more successful in avoiding the beautiful-nothing problem. One of the projects I have in mind for "someday"--most probably when the kids are out of the house--is to reread his Scarlet Letter trilogy as well as my favorite of his novels, In the Beauty of the Lilies.