e.e.cummings and Sylvia Plath

e.e.cummings
e.e.cummings
I remember the thrill of reading e.e. cummings for the first time in probably the last year of high school, in a paperback centennial edition of Palgrave’s Golden Treasury. It was mindblowing. He was so different from the poets we had to read in school. The difference started with the author’s byline, set in lower case.  He was so playful, playing with words, images, arrangements of lines; he made poetry fun. The wordplay, verse arrangement, punctuation, everything caught the eye. If you were young and liked the Beatles back then, he was your poet — like the Beats and the Liverpool poets, only older. He belonged to an earlier generation, but was definitely hip.Continue Reading

Postscript to World Book Day

Gutenberg
Gutenberg

What would have Gutenberg thought of Kindle books? Insubstantial books weightless as air you can read only on a slim handheld computer screen. Books you can’t open, shut, or leaf through with your hands, which you can’t underline or jot notes on, which won’t rest on your tummy when you curl up in bed. Books, which never went through a printing, press, whose galleys were not marked up by proofreaders for corrections by printers.Continue Reading

The most written about Shakespearean tragedy

Hamlet
Hamlet

Hamlet is the great Shakespearean tragedy most frequently mentioned in books. Check the Google Books Ngram Viewer, which charts the frequency of any word or short sentence found in print since the year 1800. And you will find Hamlet mentioned more often than the other great Shakespearean tragedies.Continue Reading

Booker and Pulitzer winners since 1969

Kiran Desai, the 2006 Booker winner for  The Inheritance of Loss
Kiran Desai, the 2006 Booker winner for The Inheritance of Loss

The Booker Prize is possibly the biggest literary award in the English and certainly gets the biggest publicity. However, Donna Tartt, who won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel, The Goldfinch, possibly sold more copies of her book than Richard Flanagan, who won the 2014 Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North. But the two previous Booker winners — Eleanor Catton, Luminaries (2013) and Hillary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies (2012) — were blockbusters.Continue Reading

Gunter Grass and Calcutta

This is why I love the internet. After hearing the BBC report the death of Gunter Grass, I remembered he had spent some time in Calcutta (now Kolkata). So I googled and came across what appeared not in Indian newspapers, but in the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Both reviewed his book about Calcutta, Show Your Tongue, in 1989.

I haven’t read the book but remember Grass had some pretty harsh things to say. And, sure enough, it’s all there in the Chicago Tribune headline: Gunter Grass’ love-hate relationship with Calcutta.Continue Reading