Monday, November 01, 2004

A Serving of Irving

In a new paperback edition of A Widow for One Year (with art from the excellent, underappreciated movie The Door in the Floor), there's a supplemental interview with author John Irving.

Asked why he's even more successful in Canada and parts of Europe than in the U.S., John Irving talks about how Grass is disliked in Germany. Then he adds:
"And Grass is not an isolated example. We have our own--Kurt Vonnegut. He is regarded outside the United States as a virtual prophet; he is often ridiculed at home. To a lesser degree--meaning less praised abroad, but also less condemned in the United State--Jospeh Heller is like that. In my view, Vonnegut and Heller are this country's most original novelists; we should treasure them, but we don't. And then there's Salman Rushdie. In England they write terrible things about him, but here we love him--as we should."

Later he mentions that difficult literary works aren't uncommon on the bestseller lists of Germany, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Canada.
"What can I say? Most Americans who read at all read junk. The British best-seller lists are also disgraceful."

Wow. Brave words, yet true. I'm delighted that he's so keen on Vonnegut and Heller. I adore them. I've yet to read a novel by Rushdie, but I will one of these days.

In other book news, Borders bookstore has listed its Best of 2004, for what it's worth. One book mentioned, Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, seems to be getting a lot of buzz all of the sudden. I smell a potential hit.

At a glance, the Borders lists seem far better than the Amazon best of 2004 lists--like those for fiction and non-fiction--that they published some time ago.



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