Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Monday, February 27, 2017
Behind The Scenes: Beauty Feature
Makeup artist Ashleigh Louer wanted to create a sultry, glowing, and beautiful makeup look on Dylan for this shoot. Perfect skin was her focus and she started by prepping with Avene Thermal Spring Water mist and mixed Embryolisse moisturizer with Dior Pro Youth Sorbet essence serum. She also prepped the eyes with Kate Somerville Line Release eye repair cream. Next, she mixed a little Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow primer with Laura Mercier’s Radiance primer to make the base extra bright and glowy.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Scarlett Johansson interview: 'I would way rather not have middle ground'
The star talks to Carole Cadwalladr about playing an alien in Under the Skin – Jonathan Glazer's low-budget sci-fi film set in Glasgow – and her role in the recent SodaStream controversy
here is something very levelling about seeing a major Hollywood star walking past Primark. And not just any Hollywood star but Scarlett Johansson, twice crowned Esquire's "Sexiest Woman Alive", three times Woody Allen muse, Bafta winner, noted beauty. Yet, there she is, in her latest film, in a pair of stonewashed jeans and a fake fur coat, walking down a busy shopping street in Glasgow and, well, blending in. She looks normal. Ordinary, even. Strip a star of their Hollywood get-up, remove them from their Bel Air mansions, and it turns out that they look just like the rest of us.
Only Johansson is different. Theoretically, this is because, in Under the Skin, a low-budget sci-fi indie adapted from a Michel Faber novel, we know she's an alien. In reality, it's because we know she's Scarlett Johansson. We watch her prowling the outskirts of Glasgow, the in-between lands of industrial parks and council estates, looking for fresh man meat, and there is an eerie sense of alien universes colliding. Scenes include Scarlett Johansson on a bus. Scarlett Johansson being given directions to Asda. And Scarlett Johansson sitting in front of an electric fire in a council house watching Tommy Cooper on TV.
If I looked like Scarlett Johansson I’d probably understand her view on monogamy
The actress has said that monogamy is unnatural and hard work, but it’s more about demand, supply and opportunity
carlett Johansson has said it “isn’t natural” to be monogamous. She claims it’s too much like hard work, and continues, “the fact that it is such work for so many people … proves that it is not a natural thing. It definitely goes against some instinct to look beyond.”
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Friday, February 24, 2017
|John Kennedy and his wife Jakie|
Dallas, November 22, 1963
Lyndon Johnson and the events in Dallas
By Robert A. Caro
April 2, 2012
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Meet the author / Joyce Carol Oates / 'I had a dream about a woman whose make-up was dried and cracking, she made a fool of herself'
|Joyce Carol Oates|
Joyce Carol Oates: 'I had a dream about a woman whose make-up was dried and cracking, she made a fool of herself'
The American author talks about writing, widowhood and the dream that turned into her latest novel, Mudwoman
Interview by Tim Adams
Sunday 26 February 2012 00.01 GMT
American author Joyce Carol Oates, 73, published her first book in 1963 and has since written more than 50 novels as well as short stories, poetry and plays. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey, whre she has taught since 1978.
Your new novel, Mudwoman, is about a woman, abandoned on a rubbish tip as a young child, who goes on to become president of an Ivy League university. It has a kind of mythic, subconscious quality; is that how you see it?
Unusually, it did come that way. I was at the Edinburgh festival some years ago and one night I had this dream about a woman who had put way too much make-up on her face and it had dried and cracked and she made a spectacle, a fool of herself. She seemed to be someone at a university with an exalted rank. When I woke up the image seemed quite profound to me. I wrote five or 10 pages very excitedly. I always wanted to go back to find out who the woman was.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Obscure Children´s Books
by Famous "Adult" Lit Authors
by Maria Popova
What a magical car engine has to do with social justice, a parrot named Arturo and the history of jazz.
A week ago, we featured 7 little-known children’s books by famous authors of “grown-up” literature, on the trails of some favorite children’s books with timeless philosophy for grown-ups. The response has been so fantastic that, today, we’re back with seven more, based on reader suggestions and belated findings from the rabbit hole of research surrounding the first installment.
Aldous Huxley may be best known for his iconic 1932 novelBrave New World, one of the most important meditations on futurism and how technology is changing society ever published, but he was also deeply fascinated by children’s fiction. In 1967, three years after Huxley’s death, Random House released a posthumous volume of the only children’s book he ever wrote, some 23 years earlier.The Crows of Pearblossom tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Crow, whose eggs never hatch because the Rattlesnake living at the base of their tree keeps eating them. After the 297th eaten egg, the hopeful parents set out to kill the snake and enlist the help of their friend, Mr. Owl, who bakes mud into two stone eggs and paints them to resemble the Crows’ eggs. Upon eating them, the Rattlesnake is in so much pain that he beings to thrash about, tying himself in knots around the branches. Mrs. Crow goes merrily on to hatch “four families of 17 children each,” using the snake “as a clothesline on which to hang the little crows’ diapers.”
Classic children's library: teensMelvin Burgess
Building a children's library
Monday 17 April 2000 17.10 BST
Last modified on Saturday 5 July 200813.25 BST
One minute they are children, the next they are adults. One minute they are reading Frances Hodgson Burnett and the next Angela Carter. Five years ago, most bookshops didn't even have a young adult or teenage section. Now they are bursting to the seams with TV tie-ins and spinoffs and fantasy horror novels. More encouragingly, the last few years have also seen a huge increase in quality writing for young people. Writers such as Melvin Burgess and Phillip Pullman are not simply writing bridging books, but novels that stand alone in their own right and deserve to win prizes in any category of fiction. From these books it is no leap at all into the big pond of adult fiction, merely a swallow dive.
Monday, February 20, 2017
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Dick Bruna, creator of the Miffy books, talks about his life and work
Dick Bruna, the 80-year-old creator of miffy, the £150 million rabbit, leads a life of almost zen-like simplicity - or at least he would if it weren't for the Japanese groupies.
By Horatia Harrod
4:01PM BST 31 Jul 2008
Dick Bruna has already made tea and brought over biscuits, and now he leans forward from a chair in his airy, top-floor Utrecht studio. Spectacular white walrus whiskers twitch expectantly and behind a pair of oval spectacles, his eyes twinkle. This man - Geppetto made flesh - does not look or behave like the head of a global empire worth about £150 million annually. But Bruna is not your typical multi-millionaire mogul. No, he's the creator of Miffy, the world's most popular rabbit (and think for a moment of the competition for that title: Br'er, Peter, Roger...), whose modest adventures have sold more than 85 million storybooks, been translated into 40 languages, and whose clean, simple little face (two dots for eyes, a cross for a mouth) is recognised throughout the world. Hers is the first gaze I meet when I walk into the arrivals hall at Amsterdam airport, staring blankly from a shiny helium balloon. Later, I see her on pencils and building blocks, fridge magnets and school satchels, stitched together in plush and, most spectacularly, cast as a gold-plated statue.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
'If I am going to write about people who are kind and generous and loving and thoughtful, so what?'
Friday 10 June 2011 10.05 BST
hen Ann Patchett decided to set her sixth novel in the Amazon, she called up her editor on the glossy magazine Gourmet, and asked him to arrange a trip.
"I really wanted to be on a boat but they couldn't find the right boat in Brazil, it was either a cruise ship which I didn't want or a raft with cockroaches which I didn't want. I wanted something very small but nice and they found it in Peru, it was called the Aqua and I think it had a dozen rooms and it was absolutely gorgeous."
Friday, February 17, 2017
A life in writing: TC Boyle
'Writing is the best rush I've ever found. I'm utterly, hopelessly addicted to it. I go into a kind of dream every day'Interview by Richard Grant
Saturday 28 February 2009 00.01 GMT
ife, says TC Boyle, "is tragic and absurd and none of it has any purpose at all." He is sitting contentedly with a glass of wine in the west room of his Frank Lloyd Wright house in Montecito, California. "Science has killed religion, there's no hope for the future with seven billion of us on the planet, and the only thing you can do is to laugh in the face of it all."
T Coraghessan Boyle, as he used to call himself, has always enjoyed making mincemeat of conventional pieties. He emerged in the 1980s as a satirical novelist and short-story writer with a black sense of comedy and an exuberant prose style. He dressed like a rock star, and his self-chosen middle name, pronounced Cor-rag-essan, sounded like a battle cry. In 1993 he gave a famous free reading in Central Park with Patti Smith, and today, at 60, with 12 successful novels and a 750-page volume of short stories lined up in hardback on the burnished redwood shelf above his fireplace, he still looks like a punk Mephistopheles.
The house is a low, spreading, cruciform structure of redwood and glass, built in the prairie style with a Japanese influence, and Boyle's latest novel, The Women, is about its architect. "I really didn't know much about Frank Lloyd Wright when we bought the house in '93. Living here, I got curious and started reading about him and found out what a bizarre, outlandish character he was, with all this incredible turmoil in his personal life, and I knew I had to write about him."
Architecture is touched on in The Women, but the novel's main concern is Wright's scandal-racked love life and how it was experienced by the four women involved. "All the events in the book are taken from the newspaper accounts and biographies, and I really put my soul into trying to keep the details accurate," Boyle says. "Where the fictional process is at work is when I enter the heads of the characters and imagine what they were thinking, and why they did what they did." He based his main narrator, a Japanese apprentice called Tadashi Sato, on the many international architecture students that Wright charged for the privilege of doing his cooking and cleaning, and who were required to obey all his commands without question.
Wright's first wife was the long-suffering Kitty Tobin. They married young and had six children, and then he fell in love with one of her best friends, an early feminist called Mamah Borthwick Cheney, who was also married with children. Publicly announcing their freedom to follow their hearts and hounded by the press, Frank and Mamah went off to live together at Taliesen, a shimmering country estate in Wisconsin that Wright built as his own private utopia. In 1914, while Wright was away on business, Mamah was murdered there by a crazed manservant with an axe. In the same rampage, he killed her two visiting children and four other adults, wounding two more and setting a fire that burned Taliesen almost to the ground.
The next woman in his life was Maude Miriam Noel, a passionate, morphine-addicted Southern belle, and for Boyle, the most enjoyable character in the novel to write. "Miriam was beautiful, delusional, heartbreaking, and she did all these wild, insane things which to her made perfect sense. She came to dominate my life and the book because I found it so interesting being inside her head."
After she left Wright, and he realised he no longer wanted her back, Miriam became consumed by vengefulness and spent the rest of her life trying to destroy him with increasingly deranged lawsuits, criminal complaints and media campaigns. Wright, meanwhile, had taken up with Olgivanna Milanoff, a statuesque Montenegrin beauty and follower of the Russian mystic Gurdjieff, who bore him two more children and became known as "the Dragon Lady" among the coterie of apprentices at the rebuilt Taliesen.
"Wright was a classic narcissistic personality," says Boyle. "The kind of person who doesn't care what other people want, or who they are, and can't even imagine that they might have emotions and desires of their own. Other people existed only to serve his needs, and I find that fascinating in a cautionary way."
Frank Lloyd Wright is not the first domineering genius to move from the pages of history into a TC Boyle novel. That distinction goes to John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of corn flakes, who was the subject of his 1993 novel The Road to Wellville and the film of the same name. Then came the sex researcher Alfred C Kinsey in The Inner Circle, published in 2004. "I suppose the three of them do make a trinity, although I didn't realise it when I started on Wright," Boyle says. "They're the great egomaniacs of the 20th century. I don't think any of them would have made a good companion, let alone a husband, and if the three of them had ever met, they probably would have killed and eaten each other."
All three surrounded themselves with acolytes whom they abused in various ways, and all three were genuine visionaries, who permanently changed the way we see personal health, sex and the possibilities of architecture. "The most bizarre was certainly Kellogg with his enema regimes and his crazed health-food obsessions, but he also had some good ideas - that we should eat less meat, take exercise and get fresh air. Kinsey was essentially a sexual predator who was bisexual at a time when that couldn't be admitted, especially in his position as a respected professor of sex research. And Wright was a con man and he had to be. For me to make my art, all I need is a room, a computer or a typewriter and a ream of paper. For him to make his art, he had to convince a patron to lay out all this money, and it was never enough for what he wanted to do."
Wright had very few repeat clients, and it wasn't just because of financial chicanery. "He was so much of a control freak that he hated the idea that someone was going to move into his house, bring in their baggage and ruin his beautiful design. In a couple of cases he got all his own furniture made for a house and even designed the clothing of the housewife. It's like a kid playing with a dollhouse and manipulating figures who aren't really human."
Similar criticism has been levelled against Boyle's fiction. "Boyle is not psychological," Lorrie Moore has written. "He's all demography and zeitgeist." The critic Bill Seligman has argued: "[He] can write and he can imagine, with more energy than any of his contemporaries. But energy isn't enough; there's only so far you can go on sheer technique. And until he goes further, he'll remain a satirist cut off from the oxygen of morality."
He has been accused of lacking proper sympathy for his characters and taking too much pleasure in heaping calamities on them and watching them squirm and flail. "It's my universe, and by god they're going to suffer," Boyle says with a laugh. "Look, when I write funny, satirical stuff, I get criticised for not being serious. When I write moving, naturalistic stories, I get criticised for not being funny."
More broadly, he's been denigrated as an entertainer, a crowd-pleaser and laugh-getter, and to this he pleads enthusiastically guilty. "If we lose sight of the fact that writing is entertainment, then writing is doomed. Books are up against TV and movies and video games and a multimedia society that is so busy that people don't have contemplative time any more. I worry deeply about this. In fact I worry about everything all the time. I used to be a punk. All I wanted to do was tear everything down, and that was so much easier."
Boyle grew up in the leafy suburbs of Westchester County north of New York City. Born in 1948, he was a child of the 1960s and alcoholic parents. When he was young, he tried particularly hard to please them, as the children of alcoholics often do, and then at 15 he rebelled, rejecting Catholicism and embracing vandalism, alcohol, drugs, maniacal driving and the writing of Aldous Huxley, JD Salinger and Jack Kerouac. At 17 he arrived, saxophone in hand, at a small liberal arts college in Potsdam, New York, intending to study music and become a musician. He failed the audition and signed up instead for history and English, which had been his only good subjects at high school.
"One of the classes was the American short story, and that's where I discovered Updike and Bellow and Flannery O'Connor, and it really changed everything. Then I got into black humour, Beckett and John Barth and Robert Coover, and the Latin Americans like García Márquez and Borges, and it was all a big inspirational stew that kept getting stirred. Then I blundered into a creative writing class and here I am."
It wasn't quite that simple. There was a weekend heroin habit that lasted two years until a friend overdosed and scared him into cleaning up, which took another two years and a lot of pills and alcohol. He wrote a story about his heroin experiences called "The OD and Hepatitis Railroad or Bust", which was published by the North American Review. That inspired him to apply to the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where so many of his literary heroes had studied, or taught, or both. He was accepted on the strength of that one story.
"Iowa is like a conservatory for writers instead of musicians. You go there to study with a master and that master may impart nothing to you, or he may be your coach and push you on your way, and you take your chances. I had three teachers - Vance Bourjaily, John Irving and John Cheever - all of whom were extremely generous to me and essentially said what I needed to hear: you've got talent, you're on the right track, keep it up. I got time to learn, and time to write, and be in a place where writing is revered, and so many great writers came through there to read their work and stumble around drunk."
He spent five and a half years at Iowa and left with a degree in creative writing, a PhD in 19th-century British literature and a friendship with Raymond Carver. "He was a very unpretentious, shy, demon-haunted and beautiful man, and I admired him greatly." Carver was the leading short-story writer of his generation, well known for his bleak, minimalist style. Boyle yearned to emulate him but his style was already in the opposite camp - hectic and garrulous, full of quips and asides - and when he left Iowa, he hurled himself into a novel, writing in the morning for four or five hours, seven days a week.
That first novel was Water Music, a picaresque comedy about the 18th-century explorer Mungo Park, published in 1981, and Boyle has been working to the same schedule ever since. Despite the pessimism of his worldview, he counts himself as a happy and fortunate man, and this is because he takes such pleasure in his daily hours of writing. "It's the best rush I've ever found and I'm utterly, hopelessly addicted to it. I go into a kind of dream every day. It's wonderful."
He writes in his study upstairs, always to music - "gloom, rain and suicidal cello concertos are best" - or in a remote house in the mountains of northern California, where he sequesters himself for weeks at a time, hiking, snowshoeing and fishing in the afternoons. Like so many contemporary American writers, he also teaches creative writing and is currently professor of literature at the University of Southern California, with a very light teaching burden.
"I have this wild-man image and I am a little crazy," he says. "But at the same time I'm a tenured professor, hardworking and diligent and a good family man. Karen and I have three grown children and I must be the only American writer of my generation who has had only one wife."
Unlike Frank Lloyd Wright, who required chaos and tumult to create his art, Boyle needs calm and order, a good dog and a restful night's sleep. He begins his novels in a burst of creativity, slows down in the middle as he works out the irksome problems of plot and theme, and then, with the end in sight, goes into a frenzy to reach it. "I'm too exhausted at that point to begin another novel, so I write short stories instead. And when those peter out, it's usually time to begin a new novel. It's a good cycle for me. It keeps me from having that horrible blockage and downtime that so many novelists have after finishing a project."
A new collection of his stories, Wild Child, will be published next year, and he has amassed another volume of his lifetime collected stories. This summer he hopes to complete his 13th novel, about ecological restoration in the Channel Islands off the California coast. "More and more what I write about is man's relationship to nature, and my take on it is extremely depressing," he says. He tackled climate change and ecological collapse in A Friend of the Earth, published in 2000, and now he has even less hope that an apocalyptic future can be averted. "I think it's going to turn out like Cormac McCarthy's The Road within 50 years. We'll eat everything left to eat and then we'll eat each other. But my plan, personally, is to die. That's how I'm going to deal with it."
Boyle on Boyle
None of the doctors could help her in Los Angeles or the provincial outpost of San Diego either, little people all of them, sniveling types, handwringers, an army of effete bald-headed men in spectacles who were mortified of the law - as if this law had any more right to exist than Prohibition, because who was the federal government to dictate what people could and couldn't do with their bodies, their own minds, their personal needs and wants and compulsions? Were they going to regulate needs, then? Dole them out? Tax them? Miriam was so furious, so burned up and blistered with the outrage of it that she must have been overly severe with the cabman - the driver with his hat cocked back on his head and his trace of a Valentino moustache - because when they got to the border at Tijuana, he stopped the car, turned around in his seat and demanded payment in full. Insolently. Out of insolent little pig's eyes.
• From The Woman, published by Bloomsbury
"This is my first chance to deeply inhabit a close third-person point of view of Miriam, the crazy harpie wife who would ultimately try to destroy Frank Lloyd Wright. She is clearly outraged about something but the reader doesn't yet know what it is. Miriam, my favourite character in the book, is a woman with multitudinous problems, but here, as I introduce her, her problem is very simple. She needs morphine."
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Photo by Kobi Kalmanovitz
A life in writing: Amos Oz
'If every last Palestinian refugee was settled in the West Bank and Gaza, it would still be less crowded than Belgium'
Interview by Aida Edemariam
Saturday 14 February 2009 00.01 GMT
mos Oz works in a study that has the subterranean feel of the basement flat in which he grew up in 1940s Jerusalem - except that up the stairs and outside there are no narrow streets full of refugees fleeing the pogroms of eastern Europe, but blue sky and rocky ochre desert and the clearest air, through which the sound of fighter jets resonates for miles. He was a bookish child, wanted to grow up to be a book; here in Arad, where the Judaean desert meets the Negev and drops towards the Dead Sea, he has created a burrow lined with books, most in Hebrew, a good number by him.
Oz has often protested that his novels - experiments in verse, in epistolary narrative; meditations on family, on, in the case of his novel Rhyming Love and Death, published this week in the UK, how the creative imagination works, the devious way it feeds on reality - are not crude allegory: or, as he has rather impatiently said, a father is not necessarily the government, the mother not necessarily the old values, the daughter not necessarily a symbol of the shattered economy. But when we meet, the Gaza offensive is only just over, Israeli elections are two weeks away (Oz is campaigning for Meretz, a Zionist-left, social democratic party), and it isn't long before politics obtrudes. "I am outraged with both Hamas and the Israelis in this war," he says. "I feel an anger I find difficult to express because it's an anger in both directions."
Do many people feel that way? "I'm not sure. Israelis were genuinely infuriated, as was I, about the harassment and bombardment and rocket attacks on Israeli towns and villages for years and years by Hamas from Gaza. And the public mood was 'Let's teach them a lesson'. Trouble is, this so-called lesson" - which Oz supported - "went completely out of proportion. There is no comparison between the suffering and devastation and death that Gaza inflicted on Israel for eight years, and the suffering, devastation and death Israel inflicted on Gaza in 20 days. No proportion at all." He is appalled by the numbers - "300 dead children. Hundreds of innocent civilians. Thousands of homes demolished" - and while he would like to think that bombing UN structures was accidental, he is also appalled by reports that white phosphorus may have been used, and Dime bombs: "There is no justification. No way this could be justified. If this is true, it's a war crime and it should be treated as a war crime."
Some have suggested that the two-state solution is now dead, but for all his anger, Oz refuses to go that far. "It is the only possible solution. There is no other possible solution. And I would say more than that. Down below, the majority of Israeli Jews and the majority of Palestinian Arabs know that at the end of the day there will be two states. Are they happy about it? No they are not. Will they be dancing in the streets in Israel and in Palestine when the two-state solution is implemented? No they will not. But they know it."
Oz, 70 in May and thus nine years older than his country, remembers when there was dancing in the streets of Jerusalem - on 29 November 1947, when the UN voted to create two states on the territory of the British mandate. Oz's memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness (2003), as well as being the story of a family disintegrating, is a vivid account of the birth of a state; of how necessary it felt to Jews at that time, the utter relief of it, just a couple of years after the extent of the Nazi genocide became known. It also offers a clear-eyed observation of the fault lines in the nascent state, often filtered through his parents: the beautiful mother whose romantic longing curdled into depression and finally suicide when Amos was 12; the revisionist Zionist father, overqualified for professorships yet denied them because Jerusalem contained so many more scholars than students; both pouring the weight of their disappointment and hope on to the shoulders of their one, precocious child.
"In those days," Oz writes, "I was not so much a child as a bundle of self-righteous arguments, a little chauvinist dressed up as a peace-lover, a sanctimonious, honey-tongued nationalist, a nine-year-old Zionist propagandist." When, half a century later, he came to write his memoir, that the Israeli novelist David Grossman calls "his masterpiece", he was a very different person: he tried to imagine how the Arabs felt at those shouts of joy, and he made much of the couple of encounters with Arabs he did have pre-1947. Yet those brief encounters are required to carry too much baggage, and are, as David Remnick later remarked in the New Yorker, the only false notes in a great book.
There were all sorts of internal divisions, too: as highly educated, first-generation immigrants, his parents spoke, between them, 16 languages, and read nine more, "but the only language they taught me was Hebrew" - even though Hebrew, for them, was still very far from a language in which to live an intimate life. "It was necessary," Oz says, "because nobody could talk to each other when they arrived. The only common language they had was prayerbook Hebrew. So if they had to ask directions to the Wailing Wall, or rent a business, or buy bread, or sell a pair of shoes, they had to resort to prayerbook language." The distance between ancient Hebrew and modern is not large: "It's easier for a six-year-old Israeli boy to read the Bible in the original," as Oz puts it, "than it is for a six-year-old English boy to read Chaucer." The Israeli connection to the biblical lands is likewise telescoped, and so Hebrew both grew with the state and consolidated it. No one is more aware of this than Oz, on the level of both the literature ("writing in modern Hebrew is a bit like playing chamber music inside a huge empty cathedral. If you are not very careful with the echoes, you may evoke some monstrosities") and the state: "Whenever war is called peace," he once wrote, "where oppression and persecution are referred to as security, and assassination is called liberation, the defilement of language precedes and prepares for the defilement of life and dignity."
At 14, he rebelled against everything by changing his surname - from Klausner, which claimed him for Jerusalem's intellectual aristocracy, to Oz, meaning "strength" - and going to live on a kibbutz. He stayed on Kibbutz Hulda for 31 years, marrying Nily, daughter of the kibbutz librarian, and raising three children. Initially he tried to erase his hyper-articulate self by trying not to talk much; he tried not to write, too, but soon found himself sitting on the toilet seat in their small house in the dead of night, smoking and writing fiction. The kibbutz gave up on him ever being a useful labourer, and sent him to study literature so that he could teach it; his first book, Where the Jackals Howl, was published in 1965, and he has since published 25 books, both fiction and non-fiction.
His novels can sell 70,000 in hardback, and he has been known to sell 10,000 copies of a new book in a single day; Grossman ascribes this to "the way he manages both to describe the most intimate aspects of our lives and to place them in the Israeli echo-box, with all the voices that are sounded here. Especially if you read his memoir, you see how Amos is the offspring of all the contradictory urges and pains within the Israeli psyche."
"He has also been brave," believes Jacqueline Rose, professor of English at Queen Mary, University of London, and co-founder of Independent Jewish Voices. "There's a very early short story called 'Nomad and Viper', in which Jews on a kibbutz decide to lynch a group of nomads who are, it is implied, unfairly accused of theft. It's a very strong exploration of the dehumanising of the Arab in the mind of the kibbutzim." She refers, too, to his first major novel, My Michael (1968), and argues that it is, "in some ways, his most revolutionary novel. The central character is a woman, Hannah, who goes mad, haunted by two boys who disappeared from Jerusalem after the establishment of the state of Israel. It was a way of writing about the devastating effect of Zionism on the minds of Israelis who can't acknowledge what Zionism did, and expresses the dilemma of what it means to be Israeli incredibly powerfully. The problem is that the dilemma of the Israeli seems to be the only thing that matters. The damage is done to the Israeli soul rather than to the Palestinians as a people."
Oz fought in the 1967 war, then in the Yom Kippur war in 1973, and both gave him a "gut hatred of war and fighting" - but not, he clarifies, any shame for having done it. "I am not a pacifist in terms of turning the other cheek. There is a difference between myself and some of the peace people in Europe: whereas they think that the ultimate evil in the world is war, I think the ultimate evil in the world is aggression, and aggression sometimes must be repelled by force. I will never forget the words of a relative of mine, who spent the years of the Holocaust in Theresienstadt concentration camp. Although she was a peace activist, she said to me, 'You know, we were liberated from the concentration camp not by peace demonstrators carrying placards, but by American soldiers carrying submachine guns.'"
Twenty years ago, Oz wrote an essay in which he asked: "What is one justified in dying for and what is it permissible to kill for?" "If I am not mistaken," he says, when I put it to him again, "my answer was life itself, and freedom. And nothing else. Not holy places, not national interests, not resources. But life and freedom." Never popular with the increasingly powerful Israeli right and disenchanted with Labour ("bankrupt ... it made itself available for any coalition at all, including potentially a Netanyahu coalition"), Oz is also not of what he calls the "radical left". He gave self-defence as his reason for supporting Israel's initial bombing of Lebanon in 2006 (although, when Israel expanded its operations, he held a press conference with Grossman and AB Yehoshua to demand a ceasefire). Self-defence is why he argued for the Gaza offensive, even though friends such as Grossman disagreed. Commentators further to the left than Oz argue that blaming Hamas for the war, as he has done, ignores the economic blockade and siege of Gaza, and underplays the sharp increase in Jewish settlement of the West Bank that accompanied the Gaza pullout of 2005.
This last is not entirely fair, because Oz considered that expansion "atrocious. I think all those settlements, or most of those settlements, will have to go", to fit his vision of an Israel within pre-1967 borders; and because he has never been silent on the matter of settlement and occupation. A couple of months after the 1967 war, he wrote a letter to the newspaper Davar calling for the government to begin immediate negotiations about the West Bank and Gaza, because "even unavoidable occupation is corrupting occupation". As a result of his views, often trenchantly expressed (in 1994, he described extremist Jewish settlers as "Hezbollah in a skullcap"), he has been called a traitor, been assaulted and received death threats.
Over the years, he has developed a formulation that he repeats like a refrain: the situation in the Middle East is "a clash between right and right - the Palestinians are in Palestine because they have no other place in the world. The Israeli Jews are in Israel for the same reason - they have no other place in the world. This provides for a perfect understanding and a terrible tragedy." Hence, for him, the requirement for a two-state solution, land for peace, advocated first through Peace Now, which he co-founded in 1978, and now through Meretz.
"My precondition for peace," he says, "is a comprehensive solution for the Palestinian refugee problem, on the soil of the future Palestine" - which he sees as being the West Bank and Gaza, linked by a corridor, or underground tunnel, and cleared of almost all Israeli settlements. "And I would insist that this is my primary requirement for selfish reasons - for Israeli security reasons. As long as those people are rotting in dehumanising conditions in refugee camps, Israel will have no security, peace contract or no peace contract."
Palestinians such as the novelist Samir el-Youssef, who grew up in a refugee camp, see things slightly differently. "Oz sees Palestinians as a problem which the Israelis ought to get rid of as soon as possible," he says. "His ridiculous suggestion that all Palestinians could be heaped up in the tiny space of the West Bank and Gaza shows that he sees Palestinians as nothing but old furniture which should be stored away." Oz's answer is short: "If every last Palestinian refugee was settled in the West Bank and Gaza, it would still be less crowded than Belgium."
Oz believes that Palestinian Israelis should "become full-scale Israeli citizens, which they are not right now" - but he would rule out any right of return, "because if they return, there will be two Palestinian states and no home for the Jewish people. They have to be resettled in Palestine. After all, they are Palestinians." He doesn't object to the security wall, in principle, except that "they are building the wall in the middle of Palestine" - if there has to be one, it should trace the pre-1967 border. He would talk to Hamas, though only if it recognises Israel.
This week's elections, and the rapid rise of the far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman, who now finds himself able to dictate terms, have proved that the Israeli public is in distinctly hawkish mood. Labour came in fourth with an unprecedentedly few 13 seats, Meretz only just survived, with 3. Oz sees this as a direct result of Ariel Sharon's Gaza pullout and the Hamas rockets that followed it. "They hardened Israelis and brought about both the military offensive in Gaza and the result of this election." On a technical level, "Meretz will have to think hard about how many leftwing voters wasted their votes on irrelevant parties that didn't even get a seat. Our system is outdated." As for the future, "it is hard to be a prophet in the land of the prophets," he says, "but we have seen the right make great concessions in the name of peace before" - Menachem Begin gave up Sinai, and Sharon gave up Gaza, he can only hope it happens again.
Because although Oz shares with many Israelis a primal fear for "the existence of Israel", he insists that "anything is possible here. Nobody ever predicted, a week before President Sadat came to Jerusalem in 1977, that his arrival would be the beginning of a peace process that would end up in an - unhappy - Israeli-Egyptian peace. We have seen peace with Egypt, we have seen peace with Jordan, we have seen the handshake between Rabin and Arafat - things are possible. And moreover, they can happen quite swiftly, and quite unexpectedly."
Oz on Oz
"Once in a while it is worth turning on the light to clarify what is going on ..."
(From the closing paragraph of Rhyming Life and Death, translated by Nicholas de Lange, published by Chatto & Windus)
If I had to describe in the simplest of words the purpose of my writing, these will be the words.
A life in writing / Adonis
A life in writing / James Patterson
A life in writing / Mario Vargas Llosa
A life in writing / Amos Oz