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  • seandodson 4:58 pm on May 11, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: beautiful bookstores, , books, , dirty projectors, dirty projectors and bjork, housing works bookstore cafe, , ,   

    Bjork’s new songs sound a bookish note 

    10bjork.4802Two of my favourite things: beautiful bookshops and Bjork. Shame I couldn’t catch them both together on Friday when the Icelandic chanteuse previewed her latest work at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York. Thankfully the New York Times has a review, while YouTube is showing the inevitable handheld video. Bjork was accompanying the Dirty Projectors, a Brooklyn-based ensemble led by Dave Longstreth. Naturally I wish I was there.

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  • seandodson 11:03 am on April 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , books, , dystopia, , , , jg ballard future, jg ballard oscars, jg ballard quotes, ,   

    JG Ballard: his life in quotes 

    JG Ballard, who died on Sunday, will be remembered mostly for his fiction As noted in today’s Guardian he left a legacy right across the spectum of the arts, but he also left behind some of the most apt aphorisms and witty one-liners of the last century. Here is a sample of the most memorable:

    On the legacy of science fiction:

    “Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.”

    On fear of the future:

    “I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that’s my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again… the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.”

    On the internet:

    “Twenty years ago no one could have imagined the effects the Internet would have: entire relationships flourish, friendships prosper…there’s a vast new intimacy and accidental poetry, not to mention the weirdest porn. The entire human experience seems to unveil itself like the surface of a new planet.”

    On rockets:

    “Rockets “belong to the age of the 19th century, along with the huge steam engines. It’s brute-force ballistic technology that has nothing to do with what people recognise as the characteristic technology of this century: microprocessors, microwave data links – everything that goes in the world at the speed of an electron.”

    On space travel:

    “The suspicion dawned that Outer Space might be – dare one say it – boring. Having expended all these billions of dollars on getting to the Moon, we found on our arrival that there wasn’t very much to do there.”

    On the American dream:

    “The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam.”

    On the American people:

    “Americans are highly moralistic, and any kind of moral ambiguity irritates them. As a result they completely fail to understand themselves, which is one of their strengths.”

    On American politics:

    “The president of the United States bears about as much relationship to the real business of running America as does Colonel Sanders to the business of frying chicken.”

    On his night at the Oscars:

    “A wonderful night for any novelist, and a reminder of the limits of the printed word. Sitting with the sober British contingent, surrounded by everyone from Dolly Parton to Sean Connery, I thought Spielberg’s film would be drowned by the shimmer of mink and the diamond glitter. But once the curtains parted the audience was gripped. Chevy Chase, sitting next to me, seemed to think he was watching a newsreel, crying: `Oh, oh . . . !’ and leaping out of his seat as if ready to rush the screen in defense of young [Christian] Bale.”

    On the 20th century:

    “The marriage of reason and nightmare which has dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the specters of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy.”

    On novel writing:

    “Any fool can write a novel but it takes real genius to sell it. “

    On life:

    “If you can smell garlic, everything is all right.”

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    • lee 7:30 pm on April 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I saw Empire of the sun years ago,but never read the book.now i will,is dystopia painful? i hope he didnt suffer.

  • seandodson 12:42 am on April 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , books, , , , , obituary JG Ballard, , writers   

    In remembrance of the great JG Ballard 

    jgballardJust want to pay my tributes to the great JG Ballard, who has died of prostate cancer. For me he was one of the most truly original thinkers around and one of our most gifted writers.

    Some of the early coverage: The Times got hold of Iain Sinclair last night, which was the most appropriate thing to do, as well as pointing out that, if nothing else, he added at least one word to the English language.

    Salon.com has put up a guide to his greatest work. The Guardian has put up an extract from Empire of the Sun, which seems a safe choice. Maybe they’ll put up the Atrocity Exhibition later. They’ll be much more up tomorrow morning, I’ll add to this list then.

    AP have put out a story headlined “Empire of the Sun author dies” which is not on quite the same freeway as the Sun’s similarly reductive response to the death of Orson Wells (headline: Sherry Man Dies). Ballard was so much more than that. So much more of him to miss. His contribution to literature was just so immense, but I can’t yet fathom it.

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    • krv 8:15 am on April 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Here here. It’s been coming for a while I suppose, but I’ve been dreading it.

      There’s something about the way he wrote, though, that makes this unlike other public deaths. The surrender to time in Crystal World, or the endless sun segues of Myths of The Near Future, or the neo-primitivism of High Rise… it’s almost like the Ballard you got to know from his books will arrive at death and find it just another set of chaotic conditions to adjust to.

      R.I.P., then. Looking forward to the retrospectives.

    • Tim Chapman 3:03 pm on April 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      A credit for the photo there would be nice, Sean. It is copyright protected, and flagged as such on Flickr.

  • seandodson 1:03 pm on April 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: books, charing cross road, DIY cities, , , ian tomlinson, John Geraci, , , save charing cross road   

    Bookmarks for April 13 

    charing-crossSimon Callow laments the “bibliocide” of Charing Cross Road, London’s celebrated book village. Fastly becoming an extension of Chinatown or an annexe of Oxford Street. Regular readers of the blog will recall that we like a good bookshop at the Northern Light and we regret the street’s passing too.

    + The Guardian went to town with its analysis of the G20 riots, noting that the rise of the “citizen cameraman” is changing the relationship between protestor and police. Ian Jack offers some awesome analysis on how powerful the photograph has become, but warns that at best they only offer a half truth. Elsewhere, Paul Walker reports on how the shock of Ian Tomlinson’s death was felt around the world; while Martin Preston , a press photographer, gives a vivid account of what it feels like to be at the business end of a police baton.

    + The great Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm admits that socialism has failed and that capitalism is bankcrupt. He asks, what’s next?

    + Not a Neverland built on the never-never. Johann Hari on the dark side of Dubai: “a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing into history”.

    + If Dubai’s vision of the future is now obsolete, what comes next? John Geraci, founder of DIY Cities thinks that open source applications could lead the way to a new kind of urban planning. “The conversation about the future of our cities should involve the people living in those cities … it should be about how to reinvent these services as modern, efficient things, how to make them work at a fraction of their current cost, and, while we’re at it, how to make them better than they are now.” My vote would be to work out a way that hisoric quarters selling, say, books, shouldn’t be left to fade away.

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  • seandodson 5:31 pm on February 26, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , books, , , , , , ,   

    Orwell Prize targets political bloggers 

    1984Glad to see that the Orwell Prize for political writing has been extended to included blogging. Heard Jean Seaton on the Today Programme this morning saying that if Orwell were alive today, he would have been a blogger. She added: “He was always absolutely avid about whatever was the contemporary form of media.”

    “He would have been interested in the democratic possibilities of it – anyone can do it as long as they’ve got access to a machine,” said DJ Taylor, Orwell’s biographer. “[But], the misuses to which blogging has been put … would have appalled him. There would, in all probability, have been an essay on Blogging and the English Language.”

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  • seandodson 12:30 pm on January 30, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , books, , , cloud atlas the movie, , , ealing comedy, , , , , Tom Tykwer, v for vendetta,   

    Cloud Atlas: David Mitchell novel to be adapted by Hollywood 

    cloud_atlas1First Showing is reporting that David Mitchell’s masterful Cloud Atlas will be adapted for the big screen. The film of the book (that should have won the 2004 Booker Prize) will be produced by the Wachowski Brothers and directed by Tom Tykwer, who previously directed  Run Lola Run.

    My first thought is that Cloud Atlas is pretty un-film-able. The book is a literary jigsaw puzzle: something both entertaining and difficult at the same time. It takes a long time to ponder, without ever being too heavy. So much of that will surely be lost in translation.

    What will remain, I think, will be highly entertaining,. Like Danny Boyle’s re-making of Trainspotting, it will romp along nicely enough; hopping through different adventures and riffing along different genres. Think of Timothy Cavendish’s misadventures, for instance,  and how they would make for a tight little Ealing-style comedy.

    But it will be a fluffier Cloud Atlas on offer. Of course it will. The Brothers Wachowski can only carry it up to a point. Their V for Vendetta simplified much of Alan Moore’s political message after all and it made for a frustrating adaptation, despite excellent performances from Geoffery Rush and Natalie Portman (the latter an evens-bet for Luisa Rey in Cloud Atlas). The brothers also famously failed to give the Matrix Trilogy much sense in the end. Could they do better with Cloud Altas with just two hours to play with?  I wonder.

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    • ggw_bach 1:34 pm on January 30, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      book adaptations always make the best movies. Strong characters, well threaded plots. Gives the groundwork for the visual and acting experience.

    • PJ Alesci 2:49 pm on February 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      It screams to be a five or six-part cable mini-series

    • Jamie 4:44 pm on February 24, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Possibly my favourite book of the last few years. Difficult to see how they could produce a “faithful” adaptation within the one film without excising key elements. Suppose they could really push the boat out and film a trilogy, but seems unlikely in current climate.

    • scrapper 7:28 pm on March 3, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Seems that what is happening with “Life of Pi” being in development hell could easily happen with this book. I personally hope they do not adapt this into a watered down Hollywood spitshined oscar flagpole like “Benjamin Button.” By the way Geoffrey Rush wasn’t in “V for Vendetta”

  • seandodson 7:00 pm on January 11, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: books, , , ,   

    Kurt Vonnegut in his own words 

    Vonnegut’s headstone

    Originally uploaded by Dave Makes

    AV Club has pulled together “15” things Kurt Vonnegut said”. My favourite – aside from the epitath of his headstone (right):

    “I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled ‘science fiction’ ever since, and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.”

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  • seandodson 10:39 am on December 13, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: books, , ebook, , , , ,   

    The Agrippa Files : William Gibson’s poem reflects on the fleeting nature of memory 

    In 1992, William Gibson wrote a 300-line poem and published it on a magnetic disk which was programmed to erase itself upon exposure to air.

    Collaborating with the Dennis Ashbaugh and award-winning journalist Kevin Begos, Jr they put it in a handmade book and filled it with disappearing ink.

    It was “performed” at the Americas Society in New York and transmitted across “the wilds of the internet” later that year, but has since been lost to time.

    Now the Universities of Maryland and Santa Barbara have recovered the original file from one of the discs and published it as the Agrippa Files.

    A deep and complex website, the Agrippa Files contains “emulations” of the poem, a facsimile of the book and exhaustive documentation

    (via Me-Fi)

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  • seandodson 10:04 am on September 18, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: books, brix smith, , dave simpson, , mark e smith, , , the curse of the fall, , the fallen   

    The Fall are a great band, but they’re not worth losing your girlfriend over 

    Like John Peel before him, Dave Simpson, music critic with the Guardian, loves the Mancunian punk band The Fall. Two years ago, he started trying to track down all 43 former members of the band for a book. Each of them had notoriously fallen out of favour with the band’s front man Mark E Smith, a man known for his falling out with people.

    According to this article, the search cost him his car, his health and eventually his relationship of 17 years.

    “It was my turn to feel the Curse of the Fall. For months, everything went wrong. I drove my shiny new MG (purchased after my other car blew up) into a river. My beloved Leeds United were relegated …I was struck down with nasty food-poisoning. Suzanne announced she was leaving me. Her dissatisfaction apparently started when I was “finding all those people in the Fall”. For 17 years, there had been two predominant sounds in my life: the sound of the Fall, and the sound of Suzanne’s breathing as we lay side by side. And now, because of one of them, the other was gone. Inevitably, she dumped me for a trucker, a Container Driver, the title of my favourite Fall song.”

    The Fallen is published today by Canongate.

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  • seandodson 3:05 pm on August 21, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , books, bookseller, , e-books, ebooks, gadgets, , , , paperback, , ,   

    Ebooks: the “paperback moment” of the 21st Century or an anathema for readers and writers? 

    In a couple of week’s time Waterstones will start selling the Sony eBook Readers in its UK stores. Penguin Books, the company that 73 years ago invented the paperback, and so revolutionised the publishing business, are among the voices championing the e-book as the future of publishing.

    It’s worth noting the resistance to the original mass-market paperbacks is similar to that facing the ebook. George Orwell, for one, announced that the new Penguins, which sold for just sixpence, were splendid value, so much that “the other publishers hand any sense would combine against them and suppress them.”

    Of course, the early ebooks are different from early paperbacks, with a few notable exceptions, Cory Doctorow and Paulo Coelho among them, the early ebooks cost just as much as printed books. But few experts think price parity will remain for long. I have mixed feelings about ebooks. While I would gladly consult a reference ebook, i have reservations about reading a novel in this way. Maybe I am just fussy, or a bit of a purist, or too vain a collector (I don’t even like borrowing books for fear that they will eventually be missed from my collection), but then again I once felt the same about my music collection and now happily listen to MP3s.

    Orwell was wrong about the paperback, could all of us who resist the ebook be making a similar mistake?

    Anyway, here’s a bit more of Orwell’s thoughts on the paperback (cheers Paul!)

    “In my capacity as reader I applaud the Penguin Books; in my capacity as writer I pronounce them anathema. Hutchinsons are now bringing out a very similar edition, though only of their own books, and if the other publishers follow suit, the result may be a flood of cheap reprints which will cripple the lending libraries (the novelist’s foster-mother) and check the output of new novels. This would be a fine thing for literature, but it would be a very bad thing for trade, and when you have to choose between art and money—well, finish it for yourself.”

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  • seandodson 5:25 pm on August 4, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , books, diary, , , , samuel peyps, , spanish civil war,   

    George Orwell diaries: an entry a day keeps the thought police at bay 

    Looking forward to the start of the Orwell Diaries this Saturday (August 09). To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the start of them, the Orwell Prize along with the Media Standards Trust and Political Quarterly have decided to publish the entries in blog form. Each entry will be published exactly 70 years on from the day they were written.

    Taking an obvious cue from Phil Gyford’s wonderful Pepys Diary, each entry will be published as if it were a blog . In this case, exactly 70 years after it was written. I do hope that the annoation is as good as Gyford’s is.

    The diaries open while Orwell was recuperating in Morocco after fighting in the Spanish Civil War. In the next few weeks you will be able to read about his return to the UK and “his opinions on the descent of Europe into war in real time. The diaries end in 1942, three years into the conflict.”

    An introduction on the site reads:

    “What impression of Orwell will emerge? From his domestic diaries it may be a largely unknown Orwell, whose great curiosity is focused on plants, animals, woodwork, and – above all – how many eggs his chickens have laid. From his political diaries (from 7th September), it may be the Orwell whose political observations and critical thinking have enthralled and inspired generations since his death in 1950. Whether writing about the Spanish Civil War or sloe gin, geraniums or Germany, Orwell’s perceptive eye and rebellion against the ‘gramophone mind’ he so despised are obvious.”

    • thespigot 5:29 pm on August 4, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      That is the coolest Animal Farm cover I’ve ever seen.

    • seandodson 9:01 pm on August 4, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      It’s great isn’t it. The cover illustration is by Paul Hogarth, the 1967 edition I think. You can buy a copy here. Interestingly, Hogarth also fought in the Spanish Civil War for the International Brigade.

    • seandodson 11:48 am on August 5, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Er, actually Orwell fought with the POUM and not the International Brigade (thanks Will). The International Brigade were connected with Moscow.

  • seandodson 7:12 pm on July 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: books, , danzig, gabriel garcia marquez, gdansk, gunter grass, , magic realism, mumbai, salman rushdie   

    Midnight’s Children vs The Tin Drum: Why Salman Rushdie owes a huge debt to Günter Grass 

    I was a little dismayed last week when Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children won another big prize. I have always thought it to be a rather overated work of literature, although I accept that many Booker lovers like it. My main objection, when I think about it, is that it is effectively a derivative work of Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum. I mean this in terms of style, structure, charactisation and plot.

    I believe that Rushdie is indebted to Grass for the following reasons:

    1/. Magic Realism: Both novels are said to be examples of Magic Realism. Previous to Grass, critics used the term ‘magic realism’ to describe paintings of the Neue Sachlichkeit. Grass’s novel invented a whole new genre of literary Magic Realism and so obviously Rushdie owes a debt to him for that.

    2/. Structure: Rushdie is further indebted to Grass in the way that he ‘borrow’s the main structural device: using the private lives of both protagonists to reflect public events. To be fair, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude also owes something to Grass in this respect.

    3/. Oskar is born the day the Nazis come to power. Saleem is born on the moment of Indian independence.

    4/. Both are unreliable narrators.

    5/. Both are demonic children: Oskar claims he can break glass with his voice. Saleem uses telepathy. Oskar is a dwarf (or little person) – Saleem has nasal difficulties.

    6/. Both believe that the man their mother is having an affair with is
    really his father. Oskar believes that Jan Bronski (a Pole) is his father. Saleem believes that Nadir Khan (muslim) is his father. Significant because Oskar is German and Saleem is Hindu.

    7/. In many ways The Tin Drum retells the days of Grass’s childhood in Danzig. In many ways Midnight’s Children retells the days of Rushdie’s childhood growing up in Mumbai.

    • Aaron 11:42 am on June 5, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t recall (6) in the text of Midnight’s Children. The child swapping would fit, though, as both children have the blood of two political universes, and both are raised by a parent who isn’t necessarily his birth parent. I would say the clarity of the child swapping is analogous to the ambiguity in the Grass work.

    • Tanisha 1:16 am on June 9, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Saleem is not Hindu in Midnight’s Children.

    • seandodson 1:57 pm on June 9, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Really? Are you sure If not Hindu what was he then?

    • Everyman 5:10 pm on June 29, 2009 Permalink | Reply


    • mj 7:13 pm on August 27, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Well, the problem with the british and colonial writing is that it tends to borrow, and then forget. Yes, midnight’s children owesa lot to tin drum, and rushdie, to be fair, has himself said that he learnt from tin drum. But remember, the granda of all is not Grass, but Borges, who, in a far better, meticulous, and artisitc way, produced the first actually magical realitic texts.
      The broblem with magical realism of rushdie is, that it it too easy to costruct. It need nothing, not even a lyrical prose – it is a torrent gush, untamed, and stupid at most times.

    • Alberto 12:15 pm on September 18, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Your take on this is interesting, although I don’t necessarily see the usefulness in finding out who invented magic realism and then assign to that writer the most supreme value. As mj has pointed out, Grass himself wasn’t free from the legacies of previous authors, and his fiction displays affinities with previous magic realist texts.

      I find Midnight’s Children (and Rushdie’s writing overall) to be nothing but a joyous and generous admission of the important role played by the literary legacies of previous authors. And he makes this quite blatant. Trying to ascertain the value of his work in terms of originality is in a way undermining what he is trying to do: he’s reassessing Indian colonial and postcolonial history in a way nobody had done before. The elements borrowed from previous writers (Grass, Kafka, Forster, Kipling, Marquez) are all there, but despite his willing engagement with previous texts, he’s ultimately doing his own thing.

      Perhaps the key to appreciating Rushdie is to recognise that, beyond his sources, he has many things to say about his chosen topics. In Midnight’s Children, Saleem is a Muslim, although his constantly debated parenthood links him to Hinduism and Christianity. (This is in itself a deliberate attempt at portraying the religious complexities of the country.) But Saleem self-identifies as Muslim, and is therefore part of a cultural minority in India, which is key to his character. The fact that you find the Hindu and Muslim faiths interchangeable possibly means (and I apologise in advance for making a strong point here) that you haven’t engaged that much with the content of Rushdie’s novel and have remained in the surface of form.

      • seandodson 10:42 am on September 19, 2009 Permalink | Reply

        No, it was just a long time since i read the novel. I don’t think the faiths are interchangeable. I still think he borrowed the architecture of Grass’s book.

    • moejay 1:51 am on October 23, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      god!!!! whats with the religion thing with the above commenters……
      get a life people….
      i think they did both a good job!!!! and thats that….

    • fdantia 4:35 am on November 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      When i first read midnight’s children back in the early 80’s I was most impressed by the structure of the novel. Later, when I read the Tin Drum, I was stunned by how much Rushdie had “borrowed” from it. The magical child, the change in the child’s power midway through the book, even details like the lover hiding under a woman’skirt, and also the seemingly brilliant black and green passage, all appear in the Gunter Grass novel. Yes, he transformed the context to the subcontinent, but that was a grafting of new flesh onto old bones. Creative, yes, (and I still love the book); but he should have been more explicit in acknowledging his debt to Grass. I’m surprised more has not been made of this. Everyone these days screams about “plagarism”at the drop of a hat, but this hat has had a pretty long ride.

    • Kara 11:49 pm on December 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks. Simply glanced through your post. did not have the time to scan the full thing. I subscribed to your rss feeds and trying forward to more.

    • Thumbu 12:38 am on May 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think Rushdie had acknowledged his debt to Grass with subtle clues within the text – as I remember, there’s a character named Oscar who turns up fairly early, and there is some parallel between three ‘drops of blood’ in both books. Rushdie was even more explicit in his essays. Nevertheless, ‘The Tin Drum’ is just a monster of a post-war allegory – the stunted, partitioned nation takes the form of a clairvoyant, child-like narrator – and it seems to make sense to think of Midnight’s Children as a sort of South Asian adaptation of ‘Tin Drum.’ Come to think of it, Oskar could’ve shown up in so many post-war, post-colonial states. I do know ‘A Prayer for Owen Meaning’ by John Irving (one of Grass’s students) was another novel that owes a lot to ‘The Tin Drum,’ but it doesn’t seem to follow the same themes of TD or MC.

    • Nathan 1:10 am on June 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      First, as someone who is a third of the way through the new translation of “The Tin Drum” (having read “Midnight’s Children” multiple times in the past few years), let me say that I, too, am struck by the similarities as I read the older work.

      So a quick Googling of the two titles together led me here. I was expecting some discussion about the actual similarities and maybe some analysis.

      Instead, what I find is a post full of inaccuracies (literary and historical) and which demonstrates no evidence of fact-checking, a task which anyone who calls oneself a journalist might think about engaging in now and again (and one which this Internet thing makes exceptionally quick and easy, so there’s no excuse). I am actually not particularly convinced that you have read either book.

      Second, Rushdie has freely admitted that he, like most authors, molds structures lifted from his forbears into his own shape in his writing; furthermore, he has listed Grass as a big influence. So no one is debating that there are notable similarities. However, they are hardly the same book, are they? Both are solid literature masterfully written in their own right, and to denounce Rushdie’s work as merely a copy of The Tin Drum is doing it a severe disservice.

      Thirdly, to take on the specifics in your list:

      1. Yes. As discussed above. Fine so far.

      2. True. However, these are hardly the only two novels who tell one particular character’s point of view of historic events. Concerning structure, you might also have mentioned the fact that both works are divided into Three Books of relatively equal length (which is actually probably more specific to these two novels in particular anyway).

      3. Oskar is *not* born on “the day the Nazis come to power.” What day was that then? The rise to power was of course a gradual process and didn’t happen out of the blue on a specific day, so this is a patently absurd thing to say in the first place. Furthermore, Oskar was born in early September 1924. In 1924 the Nazis did gain seats in the government, but they were far from “in power” and Hitler was in jail; I can find nothing important that happened in September of that year. Getting back to your claim of specific days, perhaps the closest thing to a decisive *day* in the rise of the Nazis to power was the burning of the Reichstag building. That was in early 1933; Oskar would have been eight years old; his date of birth is nothing special historically. So, in this regard, the books are actually not connected at all.

      3 (Continued). Furthermore, Oskar’s tale is one of someone who *witnesses* historic events (at least to the point in the narrative I have read). Rushdie takes this idea much further—Saleem claims that, because of his fated birth at the stroke of Indian independence, he actually *causes* events of national importance or claims they are designed to affect him personally. Oskar *experiences* the events before and during World War II; Saleem claims to *be* India. Are there comparisons to be drawn between the two novels in this regard? Of course! But these two approaches are really quite different in scope.

      4. Very good—both are unreliable narrators. So is Humbert Humbert and any number of other famous protagonists. One of the earliest unreliable narrators I’ve heard referenced is in Collins’s “The Moonstone,” written in 1868. So… yes, good point in comparing the books, but, if your point is that Rushdie stole the concept from Grass, then, well, no.

      5. Sorry, does “demonic” now mean “unusual?” While Oskar mentions Satan specifically, I almost certain Saleem never does. Both have unusual abilities, okay. But we sort of covered that with the “magical realism” bit. Furthermore, Saleem is but one of more than a thousand children born with magical powers. Also, I my nose runs a lot too—should I seek spiritual counsel? I was unaware that this made me unholy.

      6. No. While you sort of have a point, you got this all completely wrong. Yes, both character’s mothers have affairs. Also, both characters are of uncertain parentage. However, Oskar admits himself that he is not sure whether Bronski or Matzerath is his father, and gives them both this title as he discusses them. Furthermore, while Mumtaz/Amina does have an affair with Nadir Khan, the man is impotent and so he is never candidate for Saleem’s father. Furthermore still, because of Alice Pereira’s bassinet-switching antics, Saleem is not Amina’s child anyway! It is true that Rushdie intimates that Saleem’s true mother did conceive with a man who was not her husband, but, again, you have gotten your details completely wrong. And while Oskar suspects he is Bronski’s child, Saleem has no such suspicion about his birth; the fact of his switched parentage is revealed outright and is a surprise to everyone.

      7. My god, a semi-autobiographical novel? Something must be done!

      Your list of seven points really boils down to two or three, and these are of a very broad facile sort.

      So, to summarize: a small, sort-of “yes” to your general point, followed by a big fat “NO,” particularly in regard to the particulars.

      I would have hoped someone who calls himself a journalist wouldn’t take even such casual allegations of plagiarism so lightly as to not do five minutes of research before presenting them. And people wonder why “journalist” is considered by so many to be a dirty word!

    • seandodson 10:36 am on June 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Please, if you want to comment on my blog, could you try and be nice. All I was doing was professing an opinion. It might not be the same as yours, but I would appreciate if you could express your own views in a more collegiate fashion. I take it you wouldn’t go around someone else’s house and speak like that to their face.

      • Nathan 1:22 pm on June 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Of course everyone is free to express an opinion! If you said “I don’t like Midnight’s Children cuz it’s too much like The Tin Drum” and left it at that, we could have a nice little discussion. Because, as I said, there are many comparisons to be drawn; they are clear for everyone to see.

        However, you went ahead and wrote a list that purported to support your opinion containing factoids concerning the novels that were patently false, or, at best, fundamentally ill-informed.

        As far as being collegiate, if I heard a professor (or indeed a student) use the same reasons you did to suggest that Rushdie was the Andrew Lloyd-Webber of literature, well, I would come back with the same arguments. And I would be absolutely right to do so; some would say that is the whole point of an institute of higher learning, and indeed the definition of “collegiate.”

        Stating an opinion is fine; publish false statements and expect to be challenged. I don’t see how this any great revelation.

        I didn’t point fingers and say “Nyah nyah, you’re a stupid-head.” What I did was point out that the majority of your argument was based on false information and that someone in your position should perhaps be more careful when they publish something to take a few moments and see if their information is something approaching accurate. I absolutely stand by this.

        As for saying the same things in your house, well, I assure you I would still point out your inaccuracies, but I wouldn’t have let you embarrass yourself with such a long list before speaking up. I mean, conversation doesn’t work like that, does it? You’d have started the argument, I’d’ve pointed out your first inaccuracy, and you would have realized that perhaps you didn’t have enough background to speak as any sort of authority on the subject without a little further research. And we would have moved on to a different topic.

        Sadly, no one was there while you were writing your article to suggest that maybe you should do some investigation before publishing something. That should be your job.

      • Zoeb 9:49 am on January 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Why are you not able to defend your views? Nathan is given a fair assessment of what he thought about the book and your opinions. And he is right in his way. He even agreed that some of your points, or at least the basic gist of the same, are agreeable. You can defend that your opinion made sense and all I can see here is that you are relying on your cult to do the talking.

    • seandodson 1:39 pm on June 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      If you spoke like that in my house, I’d ask you to leave. And if you don’t alter your tone, I’ll delete your comments. Finally, and this will be my last word, I’d wait until you had read more than “a third” of the Tin Drum before you start accusing people of being inaccurate.

      • Nathan 2:59 pm on June 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Well, I never claimed to know anything about how The Tin Drum eventually develops; if indeed it turns out that Oskar’s birth changes to a different date, etc., then I will come back when I’ve finished the book, and rescind the appropriate comments; I have no qualms admitting I am wrong when I am wrong.

        Most of my arguments have to do more with Midnight’s Children (the work that you feel is the lesser of the two) though, and I have read that three (possibly four) times, so I think I’m pretty safe there.

        But, if you’d like, I can return when I finish the Grass.

        Until then, I only ask that this thread remains undeleted, so any interested parties (which I admit is probably very few!) can decide for themselves how nice I should have been.


    • Nathan 6:03 pm on June 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Having finished “The Tin Drum,” I have returned as promised.

      All of my criticism still stands; the last two thirds of Grass’s book did not refute the details that I mentioned.

      So, where are we? Well, based on the criticisms in your list, we have two novels. Both can be categorized as magical realism, both contain real-life events from history, both have unreliable deformed narrator-protagonists of uncertain parentage who recount some autobiographical details of the books’ actual authors’ childhoods.

      This is all true. But, as I’ve said, *most* books contain autobiographical instances (it’s that whole “write what you know” thing), and many many books contain fictionalized events from real history. So the list that remains seems perhaps a somewhat hollow basis for your accusation…

      But, the thing is, you are right: the books do share many similarities. You just didn’t bother to seek out any details! In addition to everything I’ve already said, here are some more points worth discussion:

      1. Structurally, I think one of the biggest similarities is the narrators’ free usage of both the first- and third-person, not uncommonly in the same sentence.

      2. Both characters use “powers” to see back into their histories so as to tell their stories and preserve their existences for posterity: Saleem sniffs out the incidents of the past and preserves them in the form of chutney (as well as writing paper); Oskar drums up his past for anyone to hear in the present (and also uses writing paper).

      3. Both narrators begin at least one chapter with a confessional that completely negates the climactic incident of the preceding chapter (in other words, this is an unreliable-narrator bit). This too may seem an over-generalized similarity, but the way this is done in “Midnight’s” really is strikingly similar to Grass’s work.

      4. Both works have characters that can sublimate feelings and emotions into food: Matzerath makes feelings into soup; Mary Pereira and the Reverend Mother can both make emotions into foods of all kinds, which is a talent Saleem inherits (his ability to chutnify his past).

      5. Trails of ants feature prominently in rather climactic death scenes in both works: Matzerath falls on an ant trail in the cellar after choking; a multitude of ants bite the dying Shaheed atop the minaret in Rushdie’s book.

      6. Both novels use a color pair repeatedly: in “The Tin Drum” it is red and white; in Rushdie’s book it is green and black (which, coincidentally or not, are the opposites of red and white). Both books feature their respective pair of hues in vividly-colored “dream sequences.”

      7. Both novels feature a shadowy pseudo-mythic character who looms in the background lending a sense of impending doom, and in both cases the character is female: The Black Cook (or “witch, black as pitch” in the old translation) in Grass, and The Widow in “Midnight’s”. The Widow turns out to be someone very specific, where the Black Cook is deliberately vague, but you can’t deny they are basically the same sort of idea.

      So, as you can see, I don’t disagree that your general point is worth investigating! There are lots of comparisons to be drawn, and I have undoubtedly missed some. (I have little doubt that there have been any number of college Literature papers written on the subject!)

      I personally feel that as a piece of work “Midnight’s” far exceeds any accusation of being “derivative,” but that’s not the point; armed with the details, it is a discussion worth arguing over! I just wanted to show how flippant your original piece came off, and point out that perhaps a writer like yourself should take a few moments to reflect on what he’s saying, and treat accusations of plagiarism (intellectual or otherwise) with a bit more reverence. (In other words, before you go calling someone else’s magnum opus “derivative,” maybe you should re-familiarize yourself with the work and make sure you’ve got your details right.) Publishing such an ill-considered list rather undermines any point you are trying to make, you know?

      I regret if my tone has seemed unnecessarily harsh, but it is a serious subject and a serious accusation, and I (seriously) stand by my point.

      That is all. I appreciate the opportunity to share my feelings on the matter. Thank you.

    • celine box bag 8:10 am on July 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I would like to thnkx for the efforts you have put in writing this site. I am hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming also. Actually your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own website now. Actually the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a good example of it.

    • Burpsie 1:29 pm on October 31, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      The owner of this blog, Sean Dodson, is right in his comparison, and Nathan is weird. If he can’t see that both Tin Drum and Midnight’s Children are semi-autobiographical, then he may want to review Grass’s Peeling the Onion, and Rushdie’s own preface to the 2006 edition of Midnight’s Children where Rushdie admits it is heavily autobiographical.
      The Widow vs. The black witch…. I mean, come on. It’s a bleeding rip-off of Grass, let’s just call a spade a spade. And while we are at it, let’s admit that there are only two reasons Rushdie didn’t get called on it. One, Tin Drum was inaccessible to English readers in the 1980s, or two (the more plausible), no body wanted to criticize Midnight’s Children in the post-colonial milieu. It was too touchy an issue. And you all know it. And if you don’t know it, that just stems from ignorance…

      • Burpsie 1:36 pm on October 31, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Although, Sean Dodson did get some details wrong admittedly, like thinking Saleem is a Hindu, when his being Muslim is central to the plot (moving to Pakistan, for instance).

        It is in the structure that we see it is most obvious that Rushdie lifted Grass’s entire plot.
        1. First he’s in a bed telling his story, same as Oskar.
        2. Tells how grandpa met grandma, same as Oskar.
        3. Tells about how his parents met, and then a big tale about his own birth, just like Oskar. In fairness they both ripped off Laurence Sterne in this regard.
        4. Has an accident that starts his magic powers, which doesn’t make sense because the other midnight’s children don’t have accidents to get their powers. But hey, Oskar had an accident so why not just copy him?
        5. He joins a troop of performers for the army, just like Oskar. Meets his mentor among them just like Oskar. Sigh…
        6. At the end, Saleem talks about the future coming ahead, and he’s 30/31 with a dark future ahead and uh oh, there’s the black witch, I mean Widow, coming for him with black hair and…. oh come on Rushdie! You’re seriously going to steal his freaking ending too???
        But it’s post-colonial literature from a post-colonial author so don’t you dare criticize it or you’re a racist.

  • seandodson 9:14 am on July 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: books, , , , , ,   

    Kurt Vonnegut: How to Write with Style 

    The late, great Kurt Vonnegut’s short essay on how to write with style. Priceless advice (via). Here’s the summary:

    1. Find a subject you care about
    2. Do not ramble, though
    3. Keep it simple
    4. Have guts to cut
    5. Sound like yourself
    6. Say what you mean
    7. Pity the readers

    • One Penny Profiles 9:39 am on July 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Ahhhh… refreshing to hear. We all need to be reminded of this stuff now and again.

    • One Penny Profiles 9:40 am on July 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Ahhhh… refreshing to hear. We all need to be reminded of this stuff now and again.


  • seandodson 9:50 pm on June 19, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , beta, books, iTunes, , search me, searchme.com, , zooomi   

    Searchme.com: New search engine allows you look for websites visually 

    Search Me is the coolest thing in search that I’ve seen in years. Taking its cue from the most recent versions of iTunes, it displays web pages as if they were record sleeves and then allows you to quickly flick through them as you would a rack of vinyl in a shop. This is so smart because it is an intuitive way to look for things, especially if you know what you are looking for but can’t quite remember where you last saw it. I think we are going to see a lot more of this “natural” form of search in the years to come.

    There’s already the recently launched servic Zoomi:  a virtual shop that looks and behaves like a bookshop (you browse books held on a shelf). but is really just a front for Amazon. Great, if you genuinely want to browse.

  • seandodson 11:13 am on February 1, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: books, , , , pelican, , , things   

    Judging poetry by its cover 

    There’s been a revival of interest in Penguin Book covers of late, partly due to the influence of things magazine (tagline: print is not dead, it’s merely sleeping). I have never been such a fan of the “classic” Pelicans of the 60s that are so much back in vogue, but love the warmer charms of the Penguin Poets. I’m not the only devotee, Mr B, a London-born resident of Belfast has created a wonderful series of posts dedicated to the various different editions.

    • Johnny Cullen 5:13 pm on April 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I’d agree with your comments about the Pelicans. The link is a good one too; the Flickr set is very impressive. The Penguin Modern Poets series is also worth a look, for both the covers and the – often surprising – featured poets.

  • seandodson 4:49 pm on January 26, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bittorrent, books, Coelho, , ,   

    Author makes piracy pay 

    Paulos Coelhos
    Originally uploaded by dianapassy

    A few years ago a friend of mine recommended The Alchemist by the famous author Paulo Coelho. It ws a real waste of money. I really disliked it. That’s the trouble when you try an author for the first time. Unlike music (which you can hear on the radio) or even the movies (where you often see a trailer), it’s often difficult to tell if you are going to like a new book unless you have the time to sit in a bookshop and read a chapter or two first.

    Aha, but if I had known about The Pirate Coelho, a blog, established by the million-selling author himself, I might not have wasted my money after all. You see, Coelho has been happily pirating his own work for years, spreading electronic versions of his novels over the BitTorrent filesharing network. What the blog does is direct you to where the pirated version are located. He recently told a conference that rather than hurt his sales, this act of self-piract has actually sent them through the roof.

    If you think about it, giving away free digital copies of digital books makes a lot more sense that giving away free music. Downloading a couple of chapters allows you to see how much you might like an author unknown to you, and if you do, go can ahead and buy it, preferably at your local bookshop.

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