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Monday, March 08, 2010

Words on Books

"Even the longest novel has to begin with a single line, and that line sets the narrative on the path to its destination."
From How to Read a Novel by John Sutherland

"Reading is mysterious, and we don't really understand how it is that we make sense of these signs that are embedded in paper or on computer screens. There have been attempts by cognitive scientists to measure the chemical exchanges in the brain, but as far as I can tell no scientist has really fully explained it. They're working on it."
Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard Library and a specialist in the history of the book, in Bibi van der Zee's article "A week without books" for the Guardian

"The fact is that in evolutionary terms, reading in an escapist way is a very recent human activity, nothing like as traditional a method of self-medication as drink, say, or even drugs ... Books, I realise, have been one of my longest, truest friends. When I'm anxious, sad, angry, in need of comfort, a book is often the first place I will go: I even have books that I regularly re-read when I'm feeling particularly awful."
Bibi van der Zee on going cold turkey in her "A week without books" for the Guardian

"I actually find novels that are determined to be funny at every turn quite oppressive ... comedy in a more general sense ... lets you play round at the edges of realism. You can be a little more breezy, slightly push the boat out on plot, be slightly less sober in evaluations of the possible."
Novelist Ian McEwan speaking to the Guardian's Nicholas Wroe about writing

"Zeitoun tells a true story ... of the indelible stains on the character of the Bush administration: the relief operation following hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 and the conduct of the war on terror. [Dave] Eggers was, and is, furious about both these things but, from his measured tone in Zeitoun, you would hardly know it. He leaves it to the reader to get angry and it's a trick that works, because I can guarantee you will."
The Observer's Rachel Cooke talks to author and publisher Dave Eggers about his publication over the US government's treatment of an American Muslim family during the Katrina disaster

"William Golding ... who wrote Lord of the Flies found that no one wanted to publish it. In 1953, his manuscript spent seven months being sniffily perused by publishers, who all promptly returned it ... Then Charles Monteith, a former lawyer hired as an editor by Faber only a month before, retrieved the book from the bin and persuaded his colleagues to buy it for the piffling sum of £60. As a set text for schools, Lord of the Flies went on to sell millions of copies, introducing adolescents worldwide to the idea of original sin and the knowledge of their own barbarity."
Peter Conrad discussing late author William Golding for the Observer in a 2009 article

"[Orhan] Pamuk gives us what all novelists give us at their best: the truth. Not the truth of statistics, but the truth of human experience at a particular place, in a particular time. And as with all great literature, you feel at moments not that you are examining him, but that he is examining you."
Author Margaret Atwood writing in the Guardian about Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006

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