The January/February 2012 issue of World Literature Today is now available, with a fair amount of the material freely available online -- including some of the reviews.
Worth a look (as is the entire print issue ...).
It was generally a robust year for Nigerian literature
And I'm particularly pleased to hear:
On Saturday December 3, The Sun began a new chapter in Nigerian print journalism by publishing the first edition of its monthly literary pullout, The Sun Literary Review.
It is the only literary journal published in Nigerian media at the moment.
The next edition of the pullout will be published in Saturday Sun on January 7, 2012.
Wonderfully, The Guardian offers Bestselling books of 2011: the top 5,000 listed, based on Nielsen Bookscan numbers.
(I do note that for all the wonderful precision (the top-selling title sold exactly 935,355 copies ...) they're a few days early -- surely a final tally should wait until the year is actually over and done with, no ?)
John Dugdale offers a limited Bestselling books of 2011 - commentary, and the list is always interesting to mine for data.
(Thanks especially to Stieg Larsson's continuing success, a reasonable number of bestselling titles are actually even under review at the complete review.)
I have no idea how they determined this one (well, "The list is based on other newspapers' book lists, and China Daily's interviews with publishers and critics", which doesn't inspire any sort of ... scientific (or other) confidence), but in China Daily Mei Jia and Yang Guang offer a Chinese top ten for 2011 (of some sorts ...), China's reading list reveals a few surprises
And I have to admit, I am intrigued by Dead End (死神永生) by Liu Cixin (刘慈欣):
Hailed as the first writer of Chinese science-fiction, Liu Cixin ends the trilogy about a Chinese scientist saving the world from being flattened into two dimensions.
And look, another Jia Pingwa mention.
Maybe time to get around to translating some more of his work ?
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ernest Poole's 1915 novel, The Harbor.
Poole was a decent writer -- the first to win a Pulitzer Prize for best novel (1918) -- and this book should certainly strike a chord in this 'Occupy Wall Street' day and age, where similar issues touch all Americans' lives.
Not only is there a new issue -- Winter/2011 -- of list: Books from Korea available online, there's also a Special Edition 2011, 'Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of LTI Korea', which includes everything from a look at key themes in (South) Korean fiction, eight author interviews, quite a few different translators' perspectives, and other goodies.
Lots of short (and some longer) pieces, and well worth looking through for a good overview of the current Korean (and Korean-literature-in-translation) situation.
The total number of translations funded by the ministry since the project began in 2005 reached 985 by the end of 2011, according to official figures released this week by the ministry.
Interesting, too, that:
German language translations top the list; 172 titles have been translated into German.
Second on the list was Bulgarian, with 119 titles.
The third language was Arabic, with 79 titles translated, the Anatoila [sic] news agency reported Tuesday.
I'd like to see a more detailed break-down of the numbers, but one problem is already obvious: there were more translations into Bulgarian than English ?
(Yes, Bulgaria is right next door and there's obvious cross-border interest; nevertheless, this is a country with a population of less than 8,000,000 people (and, incidentally, a country where publishing and book-selling have had their share of difficulties in recent times) -- so I repeat: there were more translations into Bulgarian than English ?)
(Updated - 30 December): A reader was able to dig up the page I could not: find all the numbers (and English's poor showing -- a mere 66 titles) here.
Everybody seems to list their best-of-the-year, but worst-lists are few and far between -- and always welcome.
In Entertainment Weekly Rob Brunner now offers their Best (and Worst) Fiction of 2011 -- ten 'best' and five (pretty impressive) 'worst'.
(Unfortunately, the presentation is in the unconscionable 'gallery/one-book-per-page' format.)
The Links to Literary Weblogs-page is probably one of the more useful resources at the complete review, and I've revised (and updated) it a bit, most notably (and, I hope, usefully) adding a long overdue separate collection of 'Book review weblogs - weblogs that mainly or exclusively offer book reviews' (46 of them, at current count).
It's become increasingly popular to have weblogs that mainly offer book reviews -- i.e. post little else -- so it was time to separate these out.
(Still, it's difficult to categorize all the various kinds of literary weblogs -- and I probably should put the retired/on hiatus list on a separate page by now, as it nears the 100-blog mark).
About 100 bookstores have closed over the past year due to lack of enthusiasm for reading books
(Which actually sounds like it could be from an article about book retailing from any other country in the world as well .....)
On a more optimistic note, a Q & A with Dariush Matlabi offers his thoughts on From a window of words: Books and book reading in Iran -- and he argues:
On the whole, I can say, over the past 60 years, there has always been an increase, whether dramatic or gradual, in book reading.
(I'd rather see the numbers backing that up .....)
I usually don't bother with filler-pieces like Nicholas Lezard's The pick of paperbacks in 2011 (in the UK) in The Guardian, but a lot of these are under review at the complete review -- and many are, indeed, well worth a look (with the more interesting ones the paperback-originals, rather than the paperback editions of previously published hardbacks ...):
In a fun variation on the best-books-of-the-year compilations, Stuart Kelly looks (in some depth) at 'what The Scotsman said about books of a century ago', in 100 years on: The best books of 1911.
Lots of fun titbits (and a surprising number of books that are still read).
But Kelly notes:
Perhaps the most glaring omission from our literary coverage in 1911 is the absence -- except for an advert -- of Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome.
Meanwhile Gaston Leroux's The Phantom Of The Opera was found to be: "weird, ingenious and thrilling".
I haven't seen a proper obituary yet, but Chinese author Mu Xin (木心; actually 孙璞) has passed away; see, for example, Mourning Mr. Mu Xin at Beijing Shots.
New Directions recently brought out the interesting small collection, An Empty Room; see the New Directions publicity page, or get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; see also, for example, the review at The Asian Review of Books.
Finally, a solid Spanish entry among the 'best of the year'-lists, as Winston Manrique Sabogal reports on Los mejores 25 libros de 2011 as voted on by 57 writers and critics at El País' Babelia.
The top title is Javier Marías' Los enamoramientos, which I look forward to seeing in English; meanwhile, see the Alfaguara publicity page, or get your (Spanish) copy at Amazon.com
Remarkably, this is the top-book list which includes the most titles I have actually read -- including the other three among the top four:
Among the most ambitious 'best of the year' offerings every year is The Millions' 'A Year in Reading'; unfortunately, it's a day-by-day affair, which I have little patience for, so I wait until they've finished before perusing it (though even then, alas, I still can't do so all on one single long page).
Now they're done, and in A Year in Reading: Wrap Up Nick Moran also ... well, wraps up this year's recommendations -- 214 books named by an impressive 72 participants.
With, e.g. Jean-Christophe Valtat recommending Hans-Henny Jahnn's Perrudja ... yeah, that's the kind of breadth and depth (okay: and obscurity) I like to see in a best of the year list.
Worth working your way through (even if it's not all on a single page, sigh ...).
In the San Francisco Chronicle John McMurtrie presents Top 10 books of 2011.
(Out-of-the-loop warning: I haven't seen or read a one of these.
Sometimes I really wonder where I've been and what I've been doing all year .....)
The 'book of the year lists' that are so popular in the US and UK really don't seem to have caught on elsewhere -- they remain relatively few and far between.
Finally, there's a German list of sorts, as the Süddeutsche Zeitung asked fifty-two 'writers and thinkers, artists and intellectuals' to recommend their favorite books of the year, in Die besten Bücher des Jahres.
It's annoyingly spread out over five pages -- but contributors do include Peter Handke and Herta Müller, and it's worth a look.
(Most of the titles are German, but a few English ones made the cut, too; overall, a fairly interesting selection.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Michel Houellebecq's prix Goncourt-winning The Map and the Territory, now finally coming -- right at the start of the new year -- to the US, too.
(It's a sort of Christmas book, too -- a lot of the action actually takes place around Christmas.
But, yeah, it's Houellebecq, so kind of low on the ho ho ho-type cheer and for that reason not really recommendable as a stocking-stuffer.
Knopf is probably wise to hold the release for after the holiday season .....)
Ther Guardian offers an annual favorite, as Kate Figes collects The publishing year: editors' wishes and misses, as: 'Publishers talk about the ones that got away in 2011'.
Interesting to hear (from Fourth Estate's Nicholas Pearson) that The Information by James Gleick was such a dud -- "Reviews were terrific but sales very modest".
In the new issue of the London Review of Books Jenny Diski looks at the state of publishing in her column, Short Cuts --and finds:
The state of publishing -- in particular of the kind of fiction which is politely called 'literary', meaning not 'easy reading' as in 'easy listening', or necessarily story-led, not bestselling before it is published -- is dire.
She's also less than enthusiastic about some of the new approaches out there:
Unbound suggests itself as a radical move away from commercial publishing, but instead of an alternative, it's the concentrated essence of marketing.
No one is taking any risks or making a leap of faith.
This is a crowdsourcing model that is as crowd-pleasing as populist publishing, but on a smaller, safer scale.
Readers control what the authors can write.
In Pour Noël, lisez Français !BibliObs offers a list of a dozen top French novels from 2011 -- led, unsurprisingly, by Limonov (by Emmanuel Carrère).
Other titles/authors of interest include Eric Chevillard, Patrick Deville, Patrick Grainville, and Le ravissement de Britney Spears by Jean Rolin (see also my previous mention).
They announced the nominations for the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2012 a few weeks ago -- and they have a full field, including candidates from the Faroe Islands, Greenland, the Sami Language Area, and the Åland Islands.
As well as all the usual suspects -- though no familiar names stand out this year.
This is the top Scandinavian literary prize, with an impressive list of winners, so it's always worth paying attention to.