Sunday, August 15, 2004

Wendy Lesser, Amy Tan, Bharati Mukherjee, Josef Skvorecky, and Nguyen Qui Duc are interviewed on NPR about The Genius of Language: Fifteen Writers Reflect on Their Mother Tongues. Near the beginning of the piece, Lesser raves about Gary Shteyngart’s The Russian Debutante’s Handbook. She says, “I loved it and I rarely run across a first novel that I love. I mean, if you were in the literary review business you would feel the same way. There are just tons and tons of over-hyped and not very good novels out there and then there was this gem.”
But that’s just an aside. The interview focuses mostly on the authors’ bilingualism and reveals interesting tidbits such as the fact that Josef Skvorecky started to learn English at the age of 14 so that he could write a letter to July Garland.
Also: Philip Marchand writes about The Genius of Language for the Toronto Star.
The pronunciation of our names determines how sexy Josef or Jozef is. Aha!;
Jozef’s poetic piece in the Olympic newsletter has the officials say, Whosoever believeth in me, go nuts. That alone, my friends, is well worth the free Google click

Speaking of the need for slight craziness in our strange world, it is clear that one fake story of an ordinarily crazy woman is enough to justify the next huge wave of publications of stories about extraordinarily crazy celebrities; yet we all know many celebrities are complete fakes except when they speak from their deathbeds. There is no reason that, once dead, these celebrities should create any more fake dust.
Leopold Tyrmand once wrote about an ordinary Polish writer Marek Hlasko: Even in his lies -- and he was a man built of lies, some of them scurrilous, some of them charming, he conveyed always a truth. A truth we need.
Hlasko the exile writer of the Killing the Second Dog fame observed: My future? That's a word I won't be needing anymore, says the first-person narrator, who in partnership with a failed stage director makes his living romancing older ladies and almost dying. In the face of those women beyond love or despair he finds only a kind of miserable wisdom that prevents them from doing reckless things . . . you can screen yourself from sadness and anger with the image of a face like that. I could use her face the way a child brings up his hand to shut out the view of something he's afraid of