At the entrance is a wall display of cigarette butts -- 4,213, arranged in columns dated 1976-84.
However, fiction upon fiction, these cigarette butts are facsimiles, as real cigarettes would decay in the glass display.
I don't write hatchet jobs.
A thoroughly negative review needs to justify its existence thoroughly, and for that you need a lot of words, and Time's book reviews don't run long enough.
So if I don't like a book, I leave it alone.
Books come into this world mortally wounded as it is.
It's pretty rare that a book is so malignant and so tough that it needs someone like me to come along and finish it off. It's enough to deny them care.
Which seems a valid excuse -- though I'd suggest there are actually quite a few such books out there, foisted on an unsuspecting public with lots of marketing bucks -- books that can't be killed by your garden-variety reviewer, but which Time could readily put out of readers' misery .....
In a published report of their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers concluded that the literary styles of modern authors vary from their predecessors more than authors of previous eras.
This gap between authors and their immediate predecessors has widened over generations in a quantifiable manner.
They analyzed data from 7,733 books, written by 537 authors.
Only the abstract of the paper -- 'Quantitative patterns of stylistic influence in the evolution of literature' -- is freely accessible online.
That, at least, explains:
We find temporal stylistic localization among authors through the analysis of the similarity structure in feature vectors derived from content-free word usage, nonhomogeneous decay rates of stylistic influence, and an accelerating rate of decay of influence among modern authors.
Within a given time period we also find evidence for stylistic coherence with a given literary topic, such that writers in different fields adopt different literary styles.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Wallace Matson on Science, Philosophy, and their Histories, in Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs.
I'm surprised this hasn't attracted a bit more notice yet -- though of course reviews/reactions in the academic journals take some time.
Longtime Berkeley-man -- a one-time colleague of Paul Feyerabend, too -- Matson regrettably passed away a few weeks ago.
A.F.Th.van der Heijden's Tonio has been awarded the 2012 Libris Literatuur Prijs.
The Libris Literatuur Prijs -- "gemodelleerd naar de roemruchte Booker Prize", sigh ... -- is, along with the AKO Literatuurprijs, the major Dutch literary prize, with the winner taking home €50,000.
Admirably -- and unlike the outrageously secretive Man Booker Prize -- they provide a list of all submitted titles in the running -- 154 for this year's prize (considerably more than the Man Booker folk consider ...).
For more about Tonio, see the NLPVF information page; this very personal books -- for once not part of a larger series -- seems the most likely van der Heijden-title to finally make it into English.
(As longtime readers know, I'm a big fan -- and consider him by far the most significant not-translated-into-English Dutch author -- but acknowledge that his (generally very long and/or part of a multi-volume series) books aren't the easiest to get into the English-speaking market; I'm (slowly) making my way through Het schervengericht (see also the NLPVF information page), which also has American potential (but is also quite the heap).)
See also, for example, Van der Heijden wins Libris Literature Prize at Expatica.
Managing director of Iranian Fiction Foundation Mohammad Hassani said that the foundation's international section has been established and it will render a selection of Persian contemporary literature into other languages.
I would love to see more contemporary Iranian fiction available in English (see what's under review at the complete review), but I always worry about these 'official'/government-aided efforts -- especially if they get involved in the selection process.
My advice is always: provide information, provide money (translation and marketing subsidies), and get out of the way.
But everybody always likes having a say, sigh .....
The longlist for the South African Sunday Times Fiction Prize -- at R75,000 the "richest one-off" fiction prize in South Africa -- has been announced.
It is a very long list; surprisingly, one of the titles is under review at the complete review: Trackers by Deon Meyer.
Do Debut authors turn to self-publishing ? And how is self-publishing in Russia, by the way ?
OS: Many Debut authors have enough material for a book or two, and failing to find a publisher, they often make it available on the Web, where an outstanding work can easily get lost in the sea of online garbage.
In the provinces, writers often find sponsors to subsidize the publication of their books.
But booksellers rarely carry these titles.
Back in the 1990s, a self-published author would stand in an underground passage and often sell more copies per day than what a bookshop now can do with some bestsellers.
In those days, people regarded books as something in short supply that they should immediately grab.
Today, authors turn to self-publishing mostly for economic reasons.
However, such books often have little impact on the overall literary scene.
And a reminder that your best source of Russian literary (and literary-prize) news in English remains the invaluable Lizok's Bookshelf.
Great news for those of us in New York city: the Museum of Modern Art is screening Mahfouz at the Movies -- eight movies (including two from Mexico) -- 10 to 21 May.
(See also the complete review's Naguib Mahfouz-page, with links to reviews of many of his works.)
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Martine Desjardins' Maleficium.
Compare also the different cover-choices made by the French- and English-Canadian publishers for this decadent work: I suspect the French one (see the Éditions Alto publicity page) might attract more ... attention than the English one (see the Talon Books publicity page).
Today's Zaman reports that Ayşe Kulin ranks first in Forbes Turkey list of top-earning authors.
The Forbes Turkey-piece isn't available online, but they offer a good overview here of which Turkish authors made the most money last year -- and, yes, Ayşe Kulin took the top spot, earning TL 1,634,660 in royalties (on sales of TL 8,173,300) in 2011 (and yes, that's not bad: close to a million US dollars).
Elif Şafak came in second, while Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk only ranked eleventh.
So: Ayşe who, you ask ?
Well, you can check out her official site -- and several of her titles have been published in English -- albeit only in Turkish publisher Everest Yayınları's Contemporary Turkish Literature-series.
But one of those titles -- IMPAC longlisted (though that only thanks to a nomination by ... the National Library of Turkey, Ankara ...) Farewell -- is coming out in a US edition soon, too, from ... Dalkey Archive Press.
Yes, in what has to be one of the oddest author/book-publisher marriages of recent times, Dalkey Archive is publishing this work of pop historical fiction; see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Dalkey does publish the occasional bestselling-back-home title -- books by Carlos Fuentes, say, or Patrik Ouředník -- but as best I can tell they've never come close to publishing such a dominant chart-topping local pop writer.
This is sort of like if they started publishing novels by Guillaume Musso and Marc Lévy.
So I'm kind of scratching my head here .....
But I have a copy of the book, and I look forward to taking a look, and I am glad it is readily available (because, in fact, too few of the most popular authors from elsewhere in the world are made available in translation (including works by Guillaume Musso and Marc Lévy ...)).
So with the Best Translated Book Award winners announced on Friday (see my mention) ... well, you should, of course, have a look at the winners (and runners-up -- the entire shortlist (indeed, longlist) was pretty darn solid).
But since we're already well into 2012 I can't but help but look ahead to the BTBA 2013.
Who might the contenders be ?
I think that we can count among the early favorites/likely shortlist candidates:
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Gonçalo M. Tavares' Joseph Walser's Machine, the third in his 'Kingdom'-series available in English (and my favorite of the lot, so far).
Mahmoud Dowlatabadi -- whose The Colonel is just out from Melville House -- was one of the authors at the PEN World Voices festival this week, and I was thrilled to be able to see him at a separate event on Friday at Melville House, where he was in conversation with Hamid Dabashi.
Good news for all those who couldn't make it: C-SPAN taped the event, and it should air there -- probably on Book TV -- (meaning also it will be available online) at some point; I'll certainly mention it as soon as I hear exactly when.
The PEN festival brings an impressive array of authors to town -- including, for example, Nobel laureate Herta Müller -- but Dowlatabadi is among the towering (if still far too little-known hereabouts) figures of contemporary literature, and certainly the one I am most pleased to have been able to hear and meet.
It's also good to hear that there was apparently some serious press interest in him, and I look forward to the pieces that should appear in the coming days and weeks.
I certainly recommend The Colonel to you (yet again ...) and look forward to seeing more by him become available in English in the coming years (The Colonel is only the second work to appear so far).
It's a hundred years since German author Karl May -- famous for, among much else, his American Indian-stories -- passed away, and here's yet another retrospective piece, as Andreas Pflitsch wonders: Literary Genius or Man of Legendary Hubris ? at Qantara.de.
Among the fascinating things about May is that he never seems to have caught on in English, and remained very much a German phenomenon.
Many of the works have been translated, but interest remains limited -- get Winnetou from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk in an edition from Preposterous Press, but given the state of their official site that doesn't seem to have worked out too well either.
The Best Translated Book Awards were announced yesterday; I was one of the judges for the fiction prize.
The very worthy Stone Upon Stone, by Wiesław Myśliwski and translated by Bill Johnston won the fiction category.
Embarrassingly, there's no review of it up at the complete review yet, but see the Archipelago publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Spectacle & Pigsty by Nomura Kiwao and translated by Kyoko Yoshida and Forrest Gander won the poetry category.
See the Omnidawn publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've announced the shortlist for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize (given for: "book-length literary translations into English from any living European language").
The shortlist was selected from (only) 102 books; two of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review:
The German Internationaler Literaturpreis – Haus der Kulturen der Welt has announced its shortlist.
Curious fact: all except one of the authors' names have diacritical marks in them (and the American author isn't the exception).
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jan Wallentin's Strindberg's Star.
This book isn't an example of everything that's wrong with publishing, but it is an example of one particular area where they go dreadfully wrong (and throw out a lot of money in the process).
Strindberg's Star is one of these über-hyped novels where the hype comes before there's even a book.
With its photogenic author (never mind that he'd never written a novel ...), and a few buzzwords -- ancient symbols and mythology, conspiracies, Nazis -- this thing was able to ride the whole if-it's-a-Swedish-thriller-we-gotta-have-it wave.
As Bert Menninga reported for the folks who unleashed this on the world, the Bonnier Group Agency Sweden, Swedish Debut Novel Destined to be Blockbuster.
How destined ?
Well, when Menninga reported this, rights had been: "sold in 12 countries before it has even come out in Sweden" -- indeed, at the time it was: "still in the final stages of being polished and fact-checked" (fact-checked ! this thing ? that's so funny I can only cry ! and the idea that this was polished ...).
Way to go, publishers -- buy a book pretty much sight unseen.
(Yes, I know that's pretty common -- but given how American publishers always seem to wait ages before publishing anything in translation, making sure its has come out and done okay elsewhere before daring to buy the rights, what happened here ?)
Of course, some couldn't be more thrilled by how this worked out:
"The international response has been absolutely fantastic and the total advance sum is record breaking as well !" says Jenny Thor, CEO for Bonnier Group Agency.
Which counts for something.
Perhaps the sum that publishers (everyone except Bonniers, who are rolling in the foreign-rights money) will write off on this heap will also be record breaking .....
Strindberg's Star is, as anyone who has looked at it will tell you, not a good book.
You can argue about whether it's truly terrible, or simply not very good, but the consensus is clearly that it is not very good.
Formulaic, pretty poorly pieced together -- well, one can always compare it to Dan Brown (but, despite his success, that probably won't be enough to help much here).
The Scandinavian reviews were pretty critical -- and the big papers seem only to have reviewed it because of all the pre-publication hype; the media elsewhere seems to have pretty much ignored it.
There are six reader reviews at the Amazon.fr page, and it gets all of a one-star average rating .....
Perhaps the only hope for the foreign editions is that, as the Dagens Nyheterreview has it, the original Swedish edition was such an abomination with its "språkfel, havererat bildspråk och allmänna klumpigheter" the book can only be better in translation .....
Unfortunately, publishers have sunk so much into this that they have to try to sell it to their poor, largely unsuspecting readers.
(Hey, I got suckered in -- the Strindberg-connection and the eagerness for some thriller-entertainment convincing me to have a look.)
So this is being heavily promoted, and there's not only an American official site but also French and German ones, etc.
Presumably US publisher Viking has already down-scaled expectations (i.e. cut back on the original print run) because of the book's disastrous critical and public reception elsewhere), but they'll still try to flog it hard, and there will be people buying it.
It's not going to earn them back what they spent (not by a long shot, I figure), and will no doubt soon be remaindered, but everyone has to go through the motions -- and the time of many readers, who could have spent it reading a good book, wasted -- before it sinks into well-deserved oblivion.
Yet another sad but never-learned lesson in American publishing .....
At hlo Ferenc Takács writes about A comedy of ideas. Miklós Szentkuthy: Prae -- and offer two excerpts from it, here and here.
The Takács-piece is actually a 'slightly revised version of a review originally published in World Literature Today. Spring 1981', but Szentkuthy still remains largely unknown in the English-speaking world.
(Quite a bit of his work has, however, been translated into French.)
In moment they wonder: Is There Such a Thing as Jewish Fiction ? -- and quite few authors, including Geraldine Brooks, Howard Jacobson, A.B. Yehoshua, Walter Mosley, Etgar Keret, and Allegra Goodman weigh in (offering the whole expected spectrum of responses, of course).
At El País' Vano oficio-weblog Iván Thays finds Algunos muertos gozan de buena salud -- arguing that it's no longer as easy for (literary) weblogs to make their mark or be relevant.
Nevertheless, he notes some still are in robust health -- and he lists a few examples (noting also that there are, of course, many more -- his own excellent Moleskine ® Literario is certainly among them).
I'm flattered that the Literary Saloon rates a mention -- "Imprescindible leerlo todos los días", Thays kindly writes.
Always nice to hear -- and many thanks also to all of you who do, indeed, think it's worth your while to check in regularly.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Stefan Zweig's Confusion.
Pushkin Press brought this -- Anthea Bell's new translation -- out a few years back in the UK, but now New York Review Books is bringing out a US edition.
They've announced the shortlist for the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing -- and you can read the shortlisted titles at the official site; one of them is described as: "a hardboiled noir tale involving a disembodied leg" -- surely you have to check that out.
The finalists were selected from: "122 entries from 14 African countries" -- so it is a bit disappointing that more African countries weren't represented (there are over fifty of them).
The sponsor (and namesake) of several literary prizes -- most notably the Man Booker Prize -- hedge fund Man Group is apparently not doing well, as Azam Ahmed and Mark Scott report at The New York Times' Dealbook in Faltering Hedge Fund Under a Cloud.
It's not like they're out of money or anything -- but:
In the last year, the Man Group -- the sponsor of the coveted Man Booker Prize for literature -- has been the worst-performing stock in the FTSE 100, reaching an 11-year low last week, prompting speculation it could be a takeover target for a buyer looking to pick up an asset management firm on the cheap.
So ist the prize-funding secure ?
And what about the name, if they get swallowed by another fund ?
The PEN World Voices festival really gets going in the coming days, and one of tomorrow's highlights is certainly the Reviewing Translations panel, with Ruth Franklin, Julya Rabinowich, and Lorin Stein, and moderated by Eric Banks and Susan Bernofsky.
It's at 18:00, in Wollman Hall, 65 W. 11th St., New York City; I'll be there.
As widely reported, HBO has passed on a TV-series-version of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections; see, for example, the TVLine report.
The pilot was directed and co-written by Noah Baumbach, and starred Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, and Dianne Wiest -- and apparently still wasn't good enough.
I suspect no small problem was that they let Franzen co-write .....
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Laurent Binet's HHhH, now out in English.
I had high hopes for this; they were not met.
It is amusing to see that several reviewers and commentators have mistaken the French prize this book did win -- the 'prix Goncourt du premier roman', a first book prize -- for the much, much more prestigious and well-known 'prix Goncourt' -- as, for example, James Ley claims in The Age that it: "already won France's premier literary award, the Prix Goncourt".
No doubt the publishers are in no great hurry to correct that misunderstanding .....
The greatest number of titles are on religious subjects with 60,000 titles this year, he further added.
He further asserted that over 400,000 book titles will be showcased during the fair with 100,000 of them being first print titles.
As he added, the titles will be displayed by some 4,200 Iranian and foreign exhibitors from around the globe.
400,000 titles ?
That is an ... incredible number, and it's hard to see how they could get that many different ones together.
At Qantara.de Susannah Tarbush reports on the Arabic-to-English literary translation situation, in Raising the Profile.
(Note that the report she mentions, Literary Translation from Arabic into English in the UK and Ireland, 1990-2010, is available online -- albeit only in the dreaded pdf format.
But there is lots of fascinating information there.)