The week’s best arts and culture reads – including an ode to ‘Our Chekhov’ Alice Munro, an essay on practising, and Tom Stoppard’s tribute to Harold Pinter.

Practice isn’t perfect
Stephen Hough | Telegraph | 14 October 2013
Concert pianist’s notes on how to practise, and why to practise often. “It’s not just that pieces need to be kept in the memory (muscle and mind), but the very act of playing the piano is physical and athletic. It involves reflex and endurance…We need to know what might go wrong in a performance and why. There is no such thing as a difficult piece. There are merely moments in pieces which are problematic.”

Alice Munro: A noble Nobel laureate
James Wood | New Yorker | 11 October 2013
“The announcement that this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to Alice Munro probably strikes many readers and writers as deliriously incredible. Few contemporary writers are more admired, and with good reason. Everyone gets called ‘our Chekhov’. All you have to do nowadays is write a few half-decent stories and you are ‘our Chekhov’. But Alice Munro really is our Chekhov — which is to say, the English language’s Chekhov.”

Discovering Kafka all over again
John Banville | New York Review Of Books | 11 October 2013
Review of the second and third volumes of Reiner Stach’s Kafka biography; the first has been held up in the hope of new papers from Max Brod’s archive. “This is one of the great literary biographies, to be set up there with, or perhaps placed on an even higher shelf than, Richard Ellmann’s James Joyce, George Painter’s Marcel Proust, and Leon Edel’s Henry James.” Also discussed: Franz Kafka: Poet of Shame and Guilt, by Saul Friedländer

On Pinter and free expression
Tom Stoppard | The Guardian | 11 October 2013
Speech on receiving the PEN/Pinter prize, much of it in praise of Harold Pinter. “The Birthday Party was a problem play because it was as if the author had arrived late. In fact, he seemed to have got there only when we got there, and knew no more than we did. Such was the Pinter play and if it became less of a problem it was because Pinter loosened our expectations of an art form which had been telling us stories for centuries.”

Urdu Script: Its last days?
Ali Eteraz | Medium | 9 October 2013
Kudos to Microsoft for introducing an authentic Urdu font in Windows 8, derived from the ornate Perso-Arabic script called nastaliq used in Urdu manuscript. But it may be too little too late. Most platforms render Urdu in naskh, an angular script that comes from Arabic, because naskh is much easier to code. Which is painful enough; but the contrast with nastaliq is so jarring that many users have turned to Romanisation instead.

A forgotten writer to remember
Adam Thirlwell | Times Literary Supplement | 9 October 2013
Review of Birth Certificate: The Story Of Danilo Kiš, by Mark Thompson. The Yugoslav-born Kiš was “one of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century”, an equal of Thomas Bernhard or Milan Kundera. His books have been forgotten in the English-reading world, though at least two of them are masterpieces of “melancholy precision”. All the more reason to welcome this “comprehensive, erudite and stylish new biography”.

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