VS Naipaul finds no woman writer his literary match – not even Jane Austen

In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday about his career, Naipaul, who has been described as the “greatest living writer of English prose”, was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He replied: “I don’t think so.” Of Austen he said he “couldn’t possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world”.

He felt that women writers were “quite different”. He said: “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.”

By Amy Fallon; more at The Guardian, 02 June 2011

A renaissance rooted in technology: the literary magazine returns

Technology has enabled literary magazines to solve the two problems holding them back: print and distribution costs, and marketing. The internet solved the first and social networking is fixing the second. Five Dials – which has grown from 1,000 to 10,000 subscribers – has both a Facebook page and Twitter account. Despite the lo-fi appearance, Taylor welcomes new technology. “We’re not Amish in our approach.”

These days, the process of “deep reading” – that is, entering into a trance-like state and becoming mentally and emotionally consumed in another world – often seems like a huge effort, especially when the cheap thrill of Twitter or a blog is just a tap away. However, people are starting to suspect that the internet connives against us. It sells us the lie that it’s better to click or flick in idle spare time than it is to read a book. But after half an hour – after you’ve exhausted your regular websites and blogs, and everyone on Twitter and Facebook is in bed – you get the same feeling as you do from eating chocolate all day.

(By Ben Johncock; more at The Guardian, 11 November 2010

Nobel Prize for Literature goes to Mario Vargas Llosa

The Feast of the Goat (2002), widely viewed as his most recent masterpiece, returns to dictatorship, offering a portrait of Rafael L Trujillo Molina, who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until 1961. Vargas Llosa draws him as an incontinent hyper-villain, ruled by the outbursts of a body and mind that are out of his control. The novel circles around Trujillo’s attempt to have sex with the 14-year-old daughter of his chief minister, and his assassination two weeks later.

He has described it as a “realist treatment of a human being who became a monster”, adding that he is distrustful of “the idea that you can build a paradise here in history. That idea of a perfect society lies behind monsters like the Taliban. When you want paradise you produce first extraordinary idealism. But at some time, you produce hell.”

By Richard Lea; more at The Guardian, 07 October 2010

In the garden: Judith Wright and Nugget Coombs

The last time I saw Judith Wright was in 1998. She was living in a small bedsit in Canberra. On a table next to her bed was a framed photograph of HC ‘Nugget’ Coombs, her lover of 25 years, who had died six months before. She told me she missed him badly. For two years before his death, he had been in a nursing home in Sydney after a series of strokes left him unable to speak. Wright had visited him when she could, although travel was not easy: she was deaf and in fragile health.

By Fiona Capp; read more at The Monthly, June 2009.