On a stockpile of erasers.

When I am dead and my son comes to empty my house, he will find a small suitcase on top of my wardrobe crammed with the erasers I that I have amassed throughout my life. On every trip I have made, whether on the island or abroad, I have never been able to restrain myself, I have always bought erasers of different colors and sizes. My son will be baffled, he will perceive it as an old man’s whim. Perhaps I should explain to him that it has been my particular way of frustrating time’s attrition, postponing death and sustaining the illusion that one can always erase everything and make a fresh start.

– From THE LAST BROTHER, by Nathacha Appanah


The “brilliantly exuberant” ILUSTRADO.

I’ve been seeing good press for Miguel Syjuco’s first novel Ilustrado, which comes with a fledgling-writer’s-fantasy story. NPR’s notice:

A dead body floating in the Hudson River kicks off the action in Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado. The corpse belongs to the late Filipino writer-provocateur, Crispin Salvador. And the search for the late author’s much-rumored unfinished masterpiece, The Bridges Ablaze — 20 years in the making — inspires the protagonist on a dizzying literary treasure hunt. The protagonist, by the way, also goes by the name of Miguel Syjuco. Ilustrado, Syjuco’s first novel, won the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize as an unpublished manuscript.

The Guardian notes that

The novel has earned comparisons to with Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell and Roberto Bolaño

which, only after cutting and pasting it, do I notice that little grammatical boo-boo. I’m leaving it in there.

I’m only a short way into my reading of it, but once again we have a book that is obviously aimed at a certain sort of reader (might as well have shoehorned “and Paul Auster’s NEW YORK TRILOGY” in between the Murakami and Mitchell name-drops) with its comparisons, which in turn elevate my anticipation of a great read, which then triggers the realization that every time I walk down this “Murakamimitchellauster-like” path, I end up bitterly disappointed, which makes me simultaneously weary of all fiction and also, like an inveterate gambler, unable to resist rolling the dice again. (“The Amnesiac”? Fail. “The Raw Shark Texts”? Fail. Pretty much every “fans of Murakamimitchellauster will experience paroxysms of delight”-promising new book? Fail.)

Coetzee and ethics.

This looks interesting. Coming in June, J. M. Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature.

In 2003, the South African writer J. M. Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for a tradition of work that questioned widely shared ethical assumptions. In his portrayal of racial repression, sexual politics, the guises of reason, and human beings’ hypocrisy toward animals and nature, Coetzee had become, in the words of the prize committee, “a scrupulous doubter, ruthless in his criticism of the cruel rationalism and cosmetic morality of western civilization.”
Tackling Coetzee’s extensive and extraordinary corpus and paying particular attention to the author’s representation of the human-animal relationship, Anton Leist and Peter Singer deeply explore Coetzee’s impact on ethical theory and philosophy. They assemble an outstanding group of contributors who debate the personally ethical and political through the prism of Coetzee’s work. They also confront the elementary conditions of life, the origins of morality, the recognition of value in others, the sexual dynamics between men and women, and the possibility of equality in a postcolonial society. With its wide-ranging consideration of philosophical issues, especially in relation to literary texts, this volume stands alone in its extraordinary dialogue between ethical inquiry and narrative technique.

The week in plagiarism and inspiration.

First came news of the discovery of a diary –

The climactic moment in William Faulkner’s 1942 novel “Go Down, Moses” comes when Isaac McCaslin finally decides to open his grandfather’s leather farm ledgers with their “scarred and cracked backs” and “yellowed pages scrawled in fading ink” — proof of his family’s slave-owning past. Now, what appears to be the document on which Faulkner modeled that ledger as well as the source for myriad names, incidents and details that populate his fictionalized Yoknapatawpha County has been discovered.

The original manuscript, a diary from the mid-1800s, was written by Francis Terry Leak, a wealthy plantation owner in Mississippi whose great-grandson Edgar Wiggin Francisco Jr. was a friend of Faulkner’s since childhood. Mr. Francisco’s son, Edgar Wiggin Francisco III, now 79, recalls the writer’s frequent visits to the family homestead in Holly Springs, Miss., throughout the 1930s, saying Faulkner was fascinated with the diary’s several volumes. Mr. Francisco said he saw them in Faulker’s hands and remembers that he “was always taking copious notes.”

Specialists have been stunned and intrigued not only by this peephole into Faulkner’s working process, but also by material that may have inspired this Nobel-prize-winning author, considered by many to be one of the greatest American novelists of the 20th century…

Especially surprising is that the diary wasn’t technically discovered this week – E. Wiggin has had the diary in his possession for many years, and it seems unlikely that he didn’t at any point put one and one together. Then again,

The original documents have been used by Southern economists and social historians for their insights into Mississippi’s plantation life, but no one has previously been aware that Faulkner, who died in 1962, had any connection to them.

So much for the value of a liberal education.

Meanwhile, some ridiculous tool gets linked to Faulkner (my bad) for lazy cut & paste “mixing” –

Author, 17, Says It’s ‘Mixing,’ Not Plagiarism
BERLIN — It usually takes an author decades to win fawning reviews, march up the best-seller list and become a finalist for a major book prize. Helene Hegemann, just 17, did it with her first book, all in the space of a few weeks, and despite a savaging from critics over plagiarism.
The publication last month of her novel about a 16-year-old exploring Berlin’s drug and club scene after the death of her mother… was heralded far and wide in German newspapers and magazines as a tremendous debut, particularly for such a young author. The book shot to No. 5 this week on the magazine Spiegel’s hardcover best-seller list.
For the obviously gifted Ms. Hegemann, who already had a play (written and staged) and a movie (written, directed and released in theaters) to her credit, it was an early ascension to the ranks of artistic stardom. That is, until a blogger last week uncovered material in the novel taken from the less-well-known novel “Strobo,” by an author writing under the nom de plume Airen. In one case, an entire page was lifted with few changes.

Here’s her “apology” – it’s in German, but here’s a little Google Translation magic.  Here’s a little Condalmo Translation magic: “Mixing is cool, it’s what the young people do, which I don’t expect you to understand, but I’m sorry you’re so upset, which is my way of apologizing and simultaneously making it clear that you’re the one with the issue here, not me.”

If she wanted to use big chunks of this other writer’s work, why didn’t she just get permission? Why didn’t she be up front about it with the publisher, with her readers? Is it okay to misrepresent oneself and one’s work, and when caught make arty excuses and get a free pass? If she wins the prize, what percentage will go to the writer from whom she stole borrowed remixed?