Kate Copstick recently bought The Erotic Review (for a mere £10,000), and the 100th issue is just out.
Understandably, Copstick has been trying to drum up some publicity
about the change of ownership, as if the magazine now might be worth paying attention to, or be revitalized.
On 3 June she published a piece in The Scotsman, announcing I'm the first female owner of the Erotic Review -- all thanks to The Scotsman.
Hoping, presumably, to attract a larger readership, she let it be known:
The ER is, increasingly, featuring work by women.
No one paid attention, so she wisely and almost immediately chose a different tack.
When Simon Tait profiled her and the venture in The Independent a bit more than a week later she had a different take: suddenly:
Jamie was muttering about having a female editor again because of the publicity, but The Erotic Review almost drowned in oestrogen once and I'm not going to let that happen."
She claimed women seldom write well about sex because "they have an agenda, they complicate sex, they make layers, it's conditional.
And they lie as well."
In The Guardian Jenny Diski offers Advice for young writers-to-be, describing her brief almost-stint as a guest-editor for a student literary magazine.
Rather than offering empty encouragement she dared suggest that not every submission was brilliant: it was not what they wanted to hear.
In The ugly spirit in The Guardian James Campbell considers William Burroughs' Naked Lunch, fifty years on.
It's not under review at the complete review, but it certainly is a ... memorable work.
Get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
A fascinating piece by David B. Green and Raphael Ahren in Haaretz on the popularity of Hebrew fiction in translation, A going concern -- beginning with:
Here's a very brief literary quiz: In what country do the writers David Grossman, A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz all have their own newspaper columns?
If you guessed "Israel," your choice was certainly reasonable -- but it was wrong.
And no, none of the three writes regularly in any American paper, Jewish or otherwise.
Actually, the correct answer is Italy, where Israel's three most well-known literary figures appear regularly in the three leading daily papers: Oz in Corriere della Serra, Yehoshua in La Stampa and Grossman in La Repubblica.
Pretty amazing -- as is the fact that:
Today, some 80 Israeli writers are available in Italian translations, and it seems as if publishers compete for the privilege to discover the latest new name from Israel.
Italy is clearly the most dramatic example, and is where more Israeli authors sell more copies of more titles than anywhere else, other than Israel itself, but it is neither a fluke nor an exception; Israeli literature in translation is a booming industry.
Italians' passion for Israeli literature goes far beyond the literary trinity. Rather, Vogelmann says, Israel's three best-known novelists "opened a door for all the other writers."
Among authors whose works appear on his company's list of newly published titles are Sara Shilo, Avirama Golan and Lizzie Doron.
None of the three have been published in the United States.
in the United States, which has not only the world's second-largest Jewish population, but also its most culturally confident, with many hundreds of titles of Jewish interest published each year, Israeli literature in translation is barely a blip on the publishing map.
In fact, many titles that have found homes at publishing houses in European countries with far smaller general populations and infinitesimally tinier Jewish communities will never be published in America.
What's surprising is that Hebrew literature in translation is, in fact, far more than a blip in the US (relatively speaking): it's amazingly well represented in the US ... for literature in translation.
In fact, as best I can tell, Hebrew is the most-translated-from language for fiction in the US, reckoned on a per capita (translated language speakers) basis (not counting Icelandic, whose negligible population skews statistics)
But apparently it's even more popular -- far more popular -- elsewhere.
See also the very useful Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature site.
I got a copy of the Spring 2009 issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction today, devoted to Georges Perec.
None of the contents are available online, but you can see what the contents are: a mighty fine collection indeed.
Longtime RCF (and Perec) fans and readers will, of course recall (and have) the Spring 1993 Georges Perec/Felipe Alfau issue, and quite a few of the pieces are re-used here.
But the magnificent centerpiece is all new, and is the reason why you'll have to get a copy: sixty pages are taken up by Ulrich Schönherr's translation (from the German translation, "the only complete version of the radio play") of The Machine, one of the major pieces that was, until now, unavailable in English (and not easy to find in German either: I've been hunting for that 1972 Reclam booklet for decades).
And it looks damn good.
The other pieces include contributions by Harry Mathews, David Bellos, Marcel Bénabou, Gilbert Adair, and Jacques Roubaud, so you pretty much can't go wrong with this.
(Like all issues of the RCF, this one includes a section of book reviews: as usual, an excellent selection -- and these are accessible online.
Also as usual, the RCF is one of the few review-outlets where there's a lot of overlap with what I cover at the complete review -- though in recent years The Quarterly Conversation and especially literature-in-translation focused Three Percent come even closer to matching what I'm interested in.)
They've announced that Claudio Magris is to get the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels), the ceremonies to be held during the Frankfurt Book Fair, on 18 Oktober.
A very prestigious prize, it has a solid list of previous winners.
Breath (by Tim Winton) was named the winner of this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award, the fourth time Winton has taken the prize.
It'll be interesting to see whether this win -- and Winton's four overall -- help his reputation abroad.
After all, Thea Astley has also notched four wins (though she had to share two of those) and a lot of good that has done her international recognition.
And while Thomas Keneally had a nice streak of two in a row at the end of the 1960s, Three Cheers for the Paraclete and Bring Larks and Heroes are hardly the titles he's known for abroad.
But Peter Carey is a three-time winner ... of course those Booker wins put him in a slightly different category.
No Winton under review at the complete review yet (though I should be getting to some), but see the official site for Breath, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
its effect on the world of Chilean literature has been entirely disproportionate to its size.
As the venerable Santiago newspaper El Mercurio commented in April 2008, "The publication of Bonsai ... marked a kind of bloodletting in Chilean literature.
It was said (or argued) that it represented the end of an era, or the beginning of another, in the nation's letters."
Reading the book a continent away, I would never have predicted such a fuss, though Bonsai is a delightful work.
She describes the small novella:
If Bonsai were a building, it'd look rather like the Centre Georges Pompidou, all its mechanicals exposed and painted bright primary colors rather than hidden behind the walls.
Zambra wants not only to explore conflict and emotion but also to revel in the medium that allows him to express these things.
I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more attention, as it is certainly discussion-worthy.
There are quite a few events of interest at the World Literature Weekend running 19 to 21 June at the London Review Bookshop -- where: "One of our aims has been to place the translator centre stage".
Londonist offers a bit of a preview; I hope there will be weblog-reports.
The Elegant Variation points me to Nathan Ihara's e-mail interview with James Wood in LA Weekly, How Fiction Works: King James and the Battle for the Novel.
As I've noted previously, I don't completely get James Wood (or the passionate reactions he elicits), but I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of How Fiction Works yet either, and I haven't wanted/felt fit to wade too deeply into these debates until I was familiar with that work.
How Fiction Works is now coming out in paperback (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), and since Picador is more efficient in getting books to me than FSG I expect I might actually find myself with a copy sometime soon.
The interview is fairly interesting -- especially the perhaps somewhat surprising answer to:
You close How Fiction Works by reminding us that "the writer has to act as if the available novelistic methods are continually about to turn into mere convention."
Which living authors do you feel are most appropriately and artfully embracing this challenge ?
I am very interested and inspired by the works of, among others, Lydia Davis, Peter Handke, David Mitchell, recent work by Cormac McCarthy and [Kazuo] Ishiguro, and Michel Houellebecq ....
As I said at the beginning, an author is always trying to break the forms.
Look at how subtly daring V.S. Naipaul has been, for instance! He has created hybrid forms of autobiography and history and fiction (In a Free State, The Enigma of Arrival), has tried to blur the division between journalism and novel-writing.
He always wants the novel form to do more, to take in more of the world.
To my mind, his work is more open to the radicalism of the lived world than, say, David Foster Wallace's, even though to most people Wallace looks like the radical, and Naipaul looks like an old racist conservative.
As so often, what an author "looks like" is determined by their lives rather than work -- i.e. "Naipaul looks like an old racist conservative" in person (very much so ...), but there's obviously much more to his work; indeed, I like the example, and not just for the dig at Wallace: I think Naipaul is vastly underrated -- especially for his experiments with what the novel can be, and that especially in his later novels, like Half A Life and especially Magic Seeds.
And Handke, Davis, even Houellebecq ... if Wood is engaged by their efforts he can't be all bad.
(On the other hand, the Internet comments are rather silly .....)
Ever since Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children exploded onto the literary stage in 1981, Bombay has been the Indian city that has captured the imagination of most writers.
From Rohinton Mistry, Gregory David Roberts and Suketu Mehta many have embraced it as the object of their inquiry and affection.
And now, it seems it is Delhi's turn to have its place in the sun.
A spate of books now point to a firm trend which make Delhi its muse, the most prominent being Delhi Noir
Delhi Noir -- part of the impressive Akashic-Noir Series (see their publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) --
sounds fun, but it should be noted that Akashic also have a Mumbai Noir-volume planned soon.
Enough to turn the tide back to Bombay again ?
In Addicted To Love in The Jewish Week Diane Cole profiles Gail Hareven, noting that:
In her native Israel, Gail Hareven's byline is nearly inescapable.
She is the acclaimed author of 13 books, a well-known newspaper and magazine columnist and the winner of numerous prestigious literary awards.
But it is only in the last few months that her name is becoming more recognizable to American audiences.
It is rather surprising (well, actually: just another example of US neglect of foreign authors ...).
Melville House recently came out with the well-worthwhile The Confessions of Noa Weber, and it's hard to imagine more translation won't follow.
Also: among Hareven's writing-quirks: that she uses:
Different type fonts for fiction and non-fiction, for one thing. And different computers.
In Reason Tim Cavanaugh argues that 'If you want to understand the economy, don't turn to the author of Oliver Twist for answer', in Dickens Is Back. Watch Your Wallet.
As he notes:
But if Dickens has anything to teach us about money, we're in trouble. The author's own career demonstrates the good things that can come in a culture of vigorous lending, borrowing, buying, and selling. (From an impoverished childhood, Dickens rose to record-busting international sales and proto–rock star glory.) Yet the premise underlying all his work is that money grows on trees, that wealth exists in some leprechaun's mug and never runs out.
Again and again in Dickens' work, money problems get resolved not through sound financial management or hard work but through patronage.
The Cape Town Book Fair ran 13 June through today; see, for example, Khanyi Magubane's report at iafrica.com.
Depressingly, Botsotso Publishing owner Allen Kolski Horwitz notes:
Commenting on Botsotso Publishing's past exhibitions, Horwitz is of the opinion that English books still sell well because of the reading audience, "The fact is, if you try and launch a book in Zulu or Pedi, you are going to get a small audience at the book fair. It's hardly going to be noticed.
"We tried last year and only two people came.
Cape Town is English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa.
It’s those languages that will still get a preference."
As De Papieren Man reports, J.M.Coetzee's new book, Summertime, will appear in Dutch translation (by Peter Bergsma) as Zomertijd on 10 July, some two months before the UK edition (which you can pre-order at Amazon.co.uk).
(Because so may Dutch readers read English, big English-language titles are often published in translation earlier in Dutch.)
See the Cossee publicity page -- and click on 'Flaptekst' for a (Dutch) summary, and 'Fragment' for a (Dutch) excerpt.
It's the third volume in his autobiographical trilogy -- after Boyhood (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and Youth (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) -- and involves a biographer writing about the deceased John Coetzee, focusing on the years 1972 to 1977 when the author published his first book, Dusklands .....
Sounds like an interesting mix of fact and fiction.
So it's been a month since I made the Literary Saloonavailable on Kindle -- at about the same time as a number of others also did (see here for a list of many of them).
At the time there was quite a bit of blog-discussion about making blog-content available on Kindle (and the terms Amazon set).
While I haven't noticed any drawbacks from making the content available, there also haven't been any benefits: not a soul seems to have subscribed to the Literary Saloon
yet -- as seems to also be the case for most of the other available literary weblogs (the newspaper-affiliated ones and Galleycat being among the exceptions).
Given the relatively small readership most literary weblogs have even on the Internet it's not that surprising that there isn't a huge audience clamoring for this stuff on their Kindles -- but then I have little idea what people are clamoring for on their Kindles anyway.
The three-cents-a-day price-tag is close to negligible but apparently still too high .....
At the NZZ they continue their "Weltempfänger"-series with a third set of international recommendations
(focussing on lesser-known fiction, i.e. not that from Europe or the US).
Mohammed Hanif's A Case of Exploding Mangoes tops the list; Mahmud Doulatabadi's The Colonel (see my recent mention) also gets a nod.
In Die Welt Michael Skafidas interviews (in German) recent Nobel laureate J.M.G. Le Clézio.
Le Clézio addresses Horace Engdahl's notorious comments about American literary insularity, noting that, at least as regards French fiction, American readers may well have had a point after the abstract and dry nouveau roman period .....
Le Clézio also finds: "Die Übersetzung ist das entscheidende Mittel zur Verbreitung von Literatur"
('Translation is the decisive means of spreading literature').
On the whole he sounds pretty upbeat.
A US$10 000 lifeline from Culture Fund is likely to inject life into this year’s edition of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair, making it better than it has been in recent years.
After inevitably succumbing to the country’s economic woes last year and failing to attract any exhibitors, the literature showcase will be relishing a breath of fresh air between July 27 and August 1 at its traditional arena -- the Harare Gardens.
The film version of J.M.Coetzee's Disgrace (see the complete reviewreview), starring John Malkovich, opens soon in Australia, and in No places like home in The Australian
Peter Craven praises it, finding director Steve Jacobs: "has gone at it with great intelligence and feeling for the original", and that:
Disgrace should be seen by anyone who cares about film or literature.
In The Guardian Adam Thirlwell offers a: "belated and miniature homage to Barbara Wright" in A missed chance to meet Barbara Wright.
He focuses of her translation of Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, finding;
On the one hand, style is everything.
The novelist's subject is always real life. But real life doesn't exist.
It only exists when it has been embodied in a style. That was what Queneau was trying to prove, with his exercises -- his literary press-ups.
And, on the other hand, style is international.
But this wasn't proved by Queneau: it was proved by his English translator.
There are a couple of reviews of Queneau titles at the complete review, but none of Exercises in Style yet (I want to compare it to the French original ...); get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
My subscription for The New York Review of Books runs out with the 16 July issue.
I've been meaning to renew, but the 2 July issue has me thinking twice: so many reviews and the only fiction covered is Patricia Highsmith's The Complete Ripley Novels (in a review by Michael Dirda) -- a collection that is both pretty ancient and (in this edition) outrageously expensive -- $100.00 list price (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk ...).
I know the NYRB is always non-fiction-heavy (and I know non-fiction is easier to cover), but this is ridiculous .....
And I did give up on The New Republic for just this reason
Yet another (German) author-interview in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, as Thomas David talks to Jonathan Franzen, in Die Paradoxien der Freiheit.
Franzen says he's a bit embarrassed that the title of his forthcoming novel (Freedom) slipped out already -- and he provides a bit of information about it: there are 'two or three, or maybe even four main figures', including a married couple.
And it differs from his previous works in that it largely consists of documents (whatever that means).
He also notes that Philip Roth isn't entirely a model for him -- at least as far as lifestyle goes --, claiming that he (Franzen) is 'the opposite of him', having lots of friends, being extremely friendly, and having lived with the same woman for some ten years in a relationship that is the center of his life .....
In his 'The Week In Books'-column in The Independent Boyd Tonkin looks at Master builders of a global reputation, as he's impressed by the Norwegian commitment to spreading their literary words:
This comparatively lavish exposure to a small state's literary talent does not come about by accident.
Norla, the state foundation that promotes Norwegian literature, has managed by shrewd encouragement of publishers and translators to amplify the nation's voice abroad.
Not, of course, that it would ever cross the seas unless the quality of the raw material justified the voyage in the first place. It does.
(Quite a few of these authors are under review at the complete review; see the whole Scandinavian selection.)
There's a new translation of Alfred Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz out in French, and in Libération Philippe Lançon has a nice enthusiastic homage, with the great article-title: Ich bin ein Döbliner.
He also quotes from Jorge Luis Borges' 1938 piece on Döblin, where the master wrote:
Döblin es el escritor más versátil de nuestro tiempo.
Cada libro suyo (como cada uno de los dieciocho capítulos del Ulises de Joyce) es un mundo aparte, con su retórica y su vocabulario especiales.
High praise indeed (and good company) -- though admittedly I'm a particular sucker for literary versatility (Peter Weiss ! Arno Schmidt !).
Döblin has fared decently in English translation, the great November 1918 getting a fair amount of attention when it finally came out in multi-volume translation, but Berlin Alexanderplatz is the only always readily available work; see the Continuum publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
There is a lot left to be translated -- and a lot that is very much worthwhile.
But actually getting them into the library isn't easy.
A year after it arrived, the collection languishes in the locked basement of the Science Library, the victim of spending cuts and language problems.
The university has muddled along with three Thai-speaking volunteers and a part-time cataloger -- but so far they have sorted only about 100 books.
An employee who devised a Thai-language keyboard to organize the collection was reassigned because of budget constraints.
They've announced that Man Gone Down (by American author Michael Thomas) has been awarded the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; see also, for example, Alison Flood's report in The Guardian.
It's not under review at the complete review, and I can't really see myself getting to it anytime soon; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
The world Waberi creates in his new novel may be entirely driven by the question of "what if", but it has the natural and wonderful effect of making the reader re-examine what is. Waberi's keen powers of empathy, his sharp wisdom and his beautiful prose make him one of the most exciting and original African writers working today.
I've been pining for this novel for ages, but the University of Nebraska Press declined to send me a review-copy (they'd run out, unfortunately -- ah, well, it's not like there's lots of coverage of African or French literature at the complete review, unlike everywhere elsewhere, where they're falling over themselves covering this stuff. Oh, wait ...).
See also the University of Nebraska Press publicity page, or get your copy of In the United States of Africa at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
(Impressively -- though pretty much par for their course -- The National also has a review of Hugo Claus' Wonder; see also the complete reviewreview (yes, Archipelago did provide a review copy; yes, there are a few Dutch and Flemish titles under review here).)
This is where the Dublin IMPAC prize does readers and authors a true service, by promoting writers we might otherwise never have encountered.
The problem, and it is a severe problem, is that the list is not even the tip of an iceberg; it's more like a sign that says iceberg here !
Each of us can read only so much, and while it's a wonderful thing to be introduced to literature from around the world, at some point, you want to yell uncle.
The number of new fiction titles published in this country each year currently hovers around 50,000.
Again, the Dublin IMPAC prize puts a dent in our ignorance, but it's only a dent.
The real problem -- too many books and not enough information about them -- hasn't gone away, and it gets worse all the time.
For every Steig [sic] Larsson or Per Petterson, there are dozens of worthy authors who don't get any attention.
In this respect, these authors are like writers published by a vanity press: they have the satisfaction of being in print, but that's about it.
They don't attract readers because readers can't find them in the crowd.
True, many worthy authors don't get much attention, but most do get some (at least on the Internet ...); I have more of a problem with the many not quite so worthy authors -- or rather their books (and I'm afraid that includes many, many on the odd IMPAC longlist (much as I love librarians, this has proven to be a less than ideal way of finding the best titles)) --
that get way more attention than they should.
This sounds fun: in The Age Bridget McManus previews an Australian TV-mini-series about the murders that launched author Arthur Upfield's career, in The writer and the murderer, as:
The conditions were perfect for a ripping yarn: a group of men working on the lonely rabbit-proof fence that stretched across Western Australia in the Great Depression, sharing their evening meals by lamplight.
The names of two of those workers will forever be linked: Arthur Upfield, then a budding author, and Snowy Rowles, who would ultimately hang for murder.
As fate had it, one night Upfield challenged the group to concoct the perfect murder.
How was he to know Rowles had been brooding over exactly that for quite some time?
Those late-night sessions sparked an extraordinary turn of events.
They formed the basis of Upfield's best-selling book The Sands of Windee and inspired Rowles to put the perfect murder to the test.
The ABC telemovie is called 3 Acts of Murder; see the official site.
What a great story:
In a bizarre example of life imitating art and the media cashing in, Upfield became the star witness for the prosecution as The Sands of Windee was serialised in the local newspaper.
It was the break he needed.
There have been lots of US/UK editions of The Sands of Windee, but amazingly it currently appears to be out of print; get your (used) copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.