Saturday, August 14, 2004

After the unqualified sucess that was the first lines quiz, (distinctly unqualified - thus far, in any case), I move onto firmer ground today.

Firstly, a profile of Alexander "Sandy" McCall Smith from The Independent. I've purchased all of his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels, but I've yet to read a single one, which grieves me. Because they do, after all, sound so good. I also want to say a hearty "well done" to Mr McCall Smith for scorning the:
"aggressive, vulgar, debased" attitudes of profane works such as D B C Pierre's Vernon God Little. In response, the writer and Independent columnist Terence Blacker flayed McCall Smith's "weirdly simple-minded" idea of literature, and pointed out that inoffensive optimists enjoy a far smoother ride to mainstream acclaim than darker novelists.

Now, I'm sorry, but am I alone in thinking that that's just wrong? "Darker" novelists - as opposed to those such DBC Pierre, who aren't dark but are just dirty - don't seem to me to suffer much more than anyone else. Ian McEwan can be almost frighteningly dark, as can Ruth Rendell and a whole host of other writers, none of whom have had to struggle particularly much to achieve mainstream attention. Besides, if you are "dirty" rather than properly "dark", you don't particularly deserve an easy ride to mainstream acclaim anyway. DBC Pierre should count himself lucky - any ex con-man who can hoodwink an entire Booker panel into voting for what is essentially unimportant, self-indulgent, needlessly vulgar crap ('scuse language), should also.

Sorry about that. I'm still rather angry at how awful that book was. The other day, I removed it from my bookshelf and launched it [hard] out of the window to the stones below. The result was that it was satisfyingly bent and crumpled, and I felt a whole lot better.

Now, for news of what is probably (as always) going to be one of the bestselling hardback books of next year, John Grisham's latest. According to his American publisher, it looks to be titled The Broker.

And, what did the folks at the Edinburgh Festival think of Tamburlaine Must Die? Well, I think it would be accurate to say they thought it "ok". Among the various opinions cited were that it was a bit long (a long short-story, but of novella length); a great take on a kind of "boys adventure" yarn; that Louise Welsh had probably, in narrating as a first-person Christopher Marlowe, "bitten off a bit more than she can chew"; that Louise Welsh had taken the reader into the mind of the narrator very well indeed, and that that sense of place which made The Cutting Room so good was a bit lacking. As always, none of the reviewers actually got to the most important question: did they enjoy it? I suspect that, though they didn't say so, they did.

It's that time of year again: Coming up to Autumn, and the bookshops are about to burst with new novels. Boyd Tonkin at The Independent lists the major names to expect (I'm eagerly awaiting the latest from Ian Rankin, Jose Carlos Somoza, Karin Slaughter, Terry Pratchett, and Henning Mankell, among others) and he also puts forward a list of 10 books by less familiar names which "will guarantee you a trend-bucking, herd-scorning fictional autumn", which includes Natsuo Kirino's Edgar-nominated Out, which I'm already planning on snapping up as soon as it's released.

Lately, I've been getting e-mails asking if people can send me their book, or making sure I'm "aware of it". Of course, thousands of like e-mails go out all the time, but with every one I still wince inwardly and silently whimper "no, no! don't send this to me - send it to a proper review person".