In New York the Instituto Cervantes is having a Bilingual Reading (and 'Conversations about Books') with Enrique Vila-Matas and Paul Auster, moderated by Eduardo Lago, tomorrow night at 19:00.
With Montano's Malady now available in the US too (along with Bartleby & Co.), we're surprised Vila-Matas hasn't gotten more attention.
Bookish stuff -- but with a strong Bolaño connexion (they were buddies and Vila-Matas uses him in some of his books (though, of course, V-M uses everything (and everyone) in his books ...)), surely Vila-Matas should figure more in the general conversations.
Auster -- as long as he doesn't bring up his own work -- could be a good conversation-partner, so this might get pretty interesting.
26 June: Book-signing at the Union Square Barnes & Noble
27 June: The 20th Century on Trial: Günter Grass and Norman Mailer, interviewed by and in conversation with Andrew O’Hagan -- not only is the actual event sold-out, even the 'South Court Auditorium Telecast' is already sold-out !
But all these are memoir-focussed, and fascinating though that may be for some the one event that really sounds unmissable (though, alas, is already fully booked -- though we're going to try our best to convince them to let us squeeze in) is the Goethe-Institut reading and discussion, Günter Grass in Conversation with Breon Mitchell (29 June, 12:30-14:00).
What's so special about this one ?
Well, as they describe it:
Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum is a classic of post-war literature.
In celebration of the original publication of Die Blechtrommel in 1959, the novel is now being re-translated into 10 languages, all to appear in 2009 on the occasion of the book’s 50th anniversary.
Günter Grass met with his international Blechtrommel translators in Gdansk in 2005, and among them was Breon Mitchell, his American translator.
At the Goethe-Institut, Grass and Mitchell will talk about their meeting in Gdansk, about the real-life settings of the novel, which they visited together, and about why new translations are necessary.
Breon Mitchell will then read a few selections from the upcoming translation.
This is a rare opportunity to experience how a 20th-century masterpiece will be crafted for a 21st-century audience.
Yes, we're not big fans of literary readings and the like, but, damn, we'd kill to get in on this one (though we hope it doesn't come to that).
Andrew O'Hagan -- who will also be leading the Grass-Mailer discussion at the NYPL next week -- gave the opening address of the 2007 Sydney Writers' Festival a few weeks back, and you can both read the (not entirely accurate) transcript at the Sydney Morning Herald, The Power of Literature,
and now listen to it at ABC's The Book Show.
O'Hagan bonus: see now also his opinion piece, Celebrity is the death of childhood at the Daily Telegraph.
Much as we'd like to, we can't review everything, so now for some of the books we'd like to provide information about but just can't (or haven't gotten around to) review we do: our new review-overview pages offer pretty much everything our regular review-pages do -- except our reviews.
So: lots of links, and summaries of the other media reviews, which we hope is information that's of some interest and use.
So far only five titles, but we figure we'll be steadily adding to the list (while still maintaining our usual review-coverage).
The first review-overviews on offer are of:
In African books for all in the Mail & Guardian Stephanie Wolters talks to Adewale Maja Pearce about The New Gong, an interesting-sounding attempt to set up a publishing business in Africa.
The aim is to set up a reputable publishing house in Nigeria and break the debilitating reliance on foreign publishers.
The Frankfurt Book Fair is still months away, but they're already gearing up for it, introducing Catalan Culture as guest of honour at a press conference a few days ago; see the press kit, with quite a few bits of interest (but all in the dreaded pdf format).
There's been much debate and acrimony about this, as Catalan is not Castilian and they're making sure everyone in Spain knows it.
So, as El País reports, Various Catalan authors decline to attend Frankfurt Book Fair (since they "typically write in Castilian") .....
Among the interesting information from the press kit: a chart of translations from the Catalan (with surprisingly many into English -- 24 in 2006, 36 in 2005), as well as a list of the many Catalan books being translated into German in time for the fair (a good indicator of the Catalan books and authors one should have heard of).
Nothing new about the practise -- or the exposé-article with all the ugly details -- but here's another account as Ben Hoyle and Sarah Clarke reveal The hidden price of a Christmas bestseller at Waterstone's in The Times.
Yes, Waterstone's demands the big bucks in exchange for promoting the season's big reads -- a practise commercial director Neil Jewsbury defends by saying:
"Our expert booksellers, with years of experience, decide on what the best books of the last year are," he said.
"It’s only after that that we enter into a confidential commercial agreement with the publishers to decide how best to feature and promote these titles."
We don't really understand the need for 'confidential commercial agreements' -- and we have to believe that in the long run this can not be good for the industry; it certainly doesn't sound like it's good for consumers.
"South Africa’s most prestigious literary awards were handed out last night", Andrew Donaldson, Bobby Jordan, and Andre Jurgens report in Agaat, Portrait scoop awards in the Sunday Times.
The Sunday Times Fiction Prize went to Agaat, by Marlene van Niekerk (see also our review of Triomf, the only book of hers that seems to have made it to the US), while Portrait With Keys: Joburg & what-what by Ivan Vladislavic took the Alan Paton Award.
With all the big prizes different generations of Nigerian writers have been winning Henry Akubuiro wonders: Is Chimamanda the new Achebe ? in the Daily Sun -- and gets "some leading Nigerian writers from across the globe" to offer their thoughts.
The great Willem Frederik Hermans' The Darkroom of Damocles is now out in the UK, in a new translation by Ina Rilke.
So far only the TLS appears to have taken note (8 June) but Paul Binding should whet some appetites, finding:
To read this novel in Ina Rilke's sensitive, supple English is a literary experience of the rarest kind.
We have three other Hermans titles under review, too -- and we'd love to have more: definitely one of the great under-rated/overlooked modern authors !
It's almost time for them to announce which title -- from a mere four-book shortlist -- takes the Miles Franklin award, so there are several preview articles.
In The Australian Rosemary Sorensen considers The power of the prize, looking at how dependable it's been.
Meanwhile, in The Age Jason Steger considers the finalists in And then there were four.
Per Petterson already took the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2006 with his Out Stealing Horses, and now they've announced that the book has won the very well-endowed International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award -- not a bad double, and maybe enough to finally propel him into the limelight he deserves.
We also have two of his other titles under review: In the Wake and To Siberia and look forward to seeing more: definitely an author worth seeking out.
Early coverage includes Aftenposten crowing that local author Petterson was Chosen above giants, and Mary Ann Grossmann writing in the Pioneer Press that Graywolf author wins $133,000 prize for fiction
We hope this translates into a sales-boost for
Graywolf, who have had some great Norwegian picks recently; indeed, Dag Solstad's Shyness and Dignity is among the few titles we've read in the past year that holds its own against the Petterson books .....
The Germans already honoured Saul Friedländer a few months ago, when he won the non-fiction category Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse
for The Years of Extermination (see the HarperCollins publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
Now they're giving him one of the biggest of their prizes: they've announced that he's been awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels).
He's in pretty good company: previous winners include -- just to name some recent ones -- Orhan Pamuk (2005), Susan Sontag (2003), Chinua Achebe (2002).
In the New Statesman Dinaw Mengestu has a three-for-one review of books about (African) Children of war -- the books by Dave Eggers, Ishmael Beah, and Biyi Bandele.
Not among them is the great Ahmadou Kourouma's Allah is not obliged, which has been out in the UK for a while but is just out as a paperback original in the US (and deserves more attention than it's been getting ...).
One sympathizes with Mengestu, and shares some of his outrage, but it's entirely too simplistic too complain that:
It's the not knowing, the deliberate closing of the eyes and ears to all but the simplest explanations, that has allowed for decade after decade of irresponsible aid and a shameful lack of military and political intervention.
Ignorance is a huge part of the problem, but meddling of any sort abroad is enormously problematic, especially in Africa, where the relatively recent colonial history (pervasive and constant military and political intervention !) casts a very long shadow.
Be careful what you wish for, as the consequences of arguably well-meaning military and political intervention in Iraq suggest (and, unfortunately, the disastrous way that was handled by the jr. Bush administration make it far less likely that at least the US will take any sort of significant role in even small-scale and sensible interventions where they could actually do some good ...).
It's not news that Joanne Turnbull's translation of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's Seven Stories won the Rossica prize, but we're always glad to mention that very worthy title -- another of the most pleasing literary discoveries we've made in the past year or two.
In his Salon-column this week Victor Sonkin writes about the prize ceremony -- though he gives more space to a runner-up, Anthony Briggs.
The Cape Town Book Fair starts in a few days, and one of the highlights will be the announcement of the Sunday Times Literary Awards on 16 June.
The nominees answer some questions in In their words - Book Award nominees -- including: "Do South Africans pay enough attention to local literature ? If not, what can be done ?"
HarperCollins must be regretting their decision to fork out £500,000 for a two book deal to Lionel Shriver -- the author of We Need to Talk About Kevin (which won the Orange Prize in 2005).
The first of them, The Post-Birthday World, was published last month and, despite extensive publicity, has so far sold a mere 2,500 copies.
That works out to £100 for each book.
We Need to Talk About Kevin was widely considered Shriver's 'break-out' book, but this makes it look more like it was just a (very successful) aberration.
Still, it's pretty amazing that such success wasn't enough to build on.
As to the advance ... well, publishers just can't help themselves, can they ?
This is the way the business 'works' -- and these are the sort of risks publishers take.
It's hard to sympathize -- but, of course, the money lost here is money that can't be spent elsewhere .....
They've announced that Chinua Achebe has won the second Man Booker International Prize.
Certainly a choice we can get on board with: not only has he written quite a few worthy works, but he's been a dominant (and generally in a very positive way) figure in shaping the African literary scene, especially in the 1960s and 70s, but even to this day.
There's limited early press coverage, but see, for example:
In The New York Sun Adam Kirsch offers the provocatively-titled The Scorn of the Literary Blog, though it's actually a more general piece on the state (and ethics) of reviewing.
But he does get in a few whacks, such as:
Often isolated and inexperienced, usually longing to break into print themselves, bloggers -- even the influential bloggers who are courted by publishers -- tend to consider themselves disenfranchised.
As a result, they are naturally ready to see ethical violations and conspiracies everywhere in the literary world.
We must be missing something, because when we troll around the 'literary blogosphere' a sense of disenfranchisement doesn't seem that prevalent.
Most bloggers seem fairly content in their place.
As to their seeing: "ethical violations and conspiracies everywhere in the literary world", that too seem a gross exaggeration/over-simplification.
And while he may be right that some of these issues -- who gets assigned what book to review and their connexion to the author, etc. -- may not be the most important things, there does seem a place for (and some value to) discussing such minor issues as well.
And aren't weblogs well-suited to be that place ?
It should also be noted that Kirsch writes from an interesting position:
as we've repeatedly noted, The New York Sun provides some of the better book coverage to be found in any American daily.
Their 'book section' appears on Wednesdays (with occasional reviews and other coverage on other days), and seems to us to have the hands-down best selection of books of any newspaper-review section.
(Admittedly that's also a matter of taste: The NY Sun seems to mainly cover titles that are of interest to us, much as (under the current administration) The NY Times Book Review seems to mainly cover titles of little appeal to us .....)
And while we may not always be in tune with the critics, they're generally pretty good too.
So The NY Sun is one of these admirable (at least in this respect) newspapers that believes in the value of book reviews and that they're an integral part of their mission and of interest to their readers, etc. etc. -- in stark contrast to what so many papers are doing nowadays.
The problem, of course, is that as far as businesses go, The NY Sun is a money-pit -- apparently losing $1 million a month (see, for example, Scott Sherman's Sun-rise in New York
Once again, dedication to the arts apparently isn't enough to pay off -- at least financially --, unfortunately, so The NY Sun won't lead by example as far as convincing newspapers to keep up their book-review coverage .....
See also Ron's reaction to Kirsch's piece at GalleyCat.
Le Marathon des mots runs 13 to 17 June in Toulouse, with a solid line-up of authors, as it will bring together:
World-renowned artists -- London will be the guest capital -- authors, in particular with a tribute to Julien Gracq, actors and less known artists, all having in common the same desire: to share with the public the pleasure of words and reading, to let it discover or re-discover classic, contemporary and new texts, and, last but not least, to make Toulouse a cultural capital!
Given that it was a poll conducted on the Internet
they shouldn't be that surprised by the results, but at China Daily Wu Jiao and Ma Lie find that Public torn over rise of pop novels:
Several young pop fiction writers bested some of China's literary masters in a recent survey aimed at finding the country's most popular authors, reopening the debate over the decadence of modern literature.
Many young writers write about their fragmented, postmodern lives, using plenty of slang and explicit descriptions of sex, which is in sharp contrast to traditional literature, which tends to focus on virtue and a sense of righteousness.
The survey's results have raised concerns over the taste of modern readers.
Local barkeep M.A.Orthofer will be one of the panelists at the Save Our Book Reviews ! discussion at the New York Center for Independent Publishing tonight at 18:30 (in the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen Library, 20 West 44th Street).
NBCC president John Freeman will moderate, and the other panelists are Seven Stories Press-publisher Dan Simon, McNally-Robinson Booksellers-owner Sarah McNally, author Hannah Tinti, and Tim W. Brown.
In New York Rebecca Milzoff asks around about what is still Lost in Un-Translation -- "what else is crying out to be translated into English ?"
It's a game we like to play, and this list certainly provides lots of titles that hadn't occurred to us.
For another tack, check out PEN recommends, which asks: "What are we missing ? What important books written in other languages are not available in English ?"
(They also allow for translated but no longer available title -- and provide an opportunity for PEN members to offer additional suggestions.)
As widely noted, leading African author Ousmane Sembène (1923-2007) has passed away
-- though most of the obituaries are focussing on his pioneering film-work (so, for example, in The New York Times it is film critic A.O.Scott that wrote the obituary).
But see, for example, notices in the Daily Monitor and the Socialist Worker.
Several of his books are on our to-do list; we hope to get to them eventually.
Several of Ruheni's works were published in Heinemann's African Writers Series (including The Future Leaders), and among other things we were curious as to how and whether he had developed over the three decades that separate the writing of The Future Leaders and The Diamond Lady -- the latter published in 2005 by MwuleAfrica Publishers and presumably the Kenyan equivalent of the sort of book one would find at an airport shop.
The ad-copy on the back of
The Diamond Lady states that: "Mwangi Ruheni ranks among the foremost Kenyan popular writers" and promises that he: "is incapable of writing a boring sentence".
He's certainly no Ngugi, but, while say Wizard of the Crow also has (or should have) tremendous local appeal beyond its literary qualities, Ruheni really is (or became) primarily a pop-fiction author.
The Diamond Lady isn't particularly good, but it's still interesting to come across something written for a foreign local market.
Hard to come by however: we picked up our copy by chance (and on the very cheap) but we doubt there are more than a dozen copies of this book floating around the entire United States.
As widely noted, translator-from-the-German Michael Hamburger passed away last week.
See now obituaries in The Telegraph and The Times
The only translation of his we appear to have under review is of W.G.Sebald's Unrecounted.
At Scotland on SundayThe Buzz is about release dates (in the UK), as they note that a lot of big-name authors have books coming out in September -- so many that:
Maybe that's why Faber has brought forward David Peace's Tokyo Year Zero from September 6 to the beginning of August, and why Bloomsbury is holding back Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero to September 17.
We're surprised about the Ondaatje -- it came out in Canada a couple of weeks back, and has been out in the US for a while already, too.
Won't coverage from this side of the Atlantic
-- much of it readily accessible on the Internet -- lessen the fall-buzz in the UK ?
Why not make it an early-summer book there as well ?