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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 31 March 2013

21 March: Q & As: Alejandro Zambra - Zygmunt Miłoszewski | 'International Fiction in the Age of Globalization' | The Fall of the Stone City review
22 March: Arnon Grunberg on Dubravka Ugrešić | The ten most influential travel books ? | Literature in ... Turkey
23 March: Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) | Mikhail Shishkin essay | Lecture reminder | Pandemonium review
24 March: Michael Frayn profile | Bestselling e-books
25 March: Chinese online writing | The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico García Lorca Ascends to Hell review
26 March: Cullman Center fellows | Miles Franklin longlist | James H. Ottaway Jr. Award for the Promotion of International Literature | Another Time, Another Life review
27 March: Dickens v. Bulwer-Lytton ? | 1 book, 4,690 authors | The past 100 reviews - statistical overview
28 March: Bangkok International Book Fair | The Sultan of Byzantium review
29 March: Amazon buys Goodreads | Translation in the US v. UK
30 March: Tom Stoppard on the Dark Side of the Moon | Sam Garrett Q & A | Black Box review
31 March: 'Novels' in India | Philip K. Dick Award | German critics' best for April

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31 March 2013 - Sunday

'Novels' in India | Philip K. Dick Award | German critics' best for April

       'Novels' in India

       In his review in the Financial Times of Mohsin Hamid's new novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Amit Chaudhuri suggests:
If a novelist in India is asked, "Are you writing a new novel ?" and the answer is "Yes", the next question inevitably is, "Is it fiction or non-fiction ?" The interrogator is being polite, not provocative; "fiction", like the "novel", is a buzzword in the globalised world, and can be used in conversation without reference to its meaning, as part of a larger conversation about advancement.
       What curious times we live in.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Philip K. Dick Award

       They've apparently announced the winner of the Philip K. Dick Award (though not, sigh, at the official site, last I checked ...).
       As, for example, SF Signal reports, Lost Everything by Brian Francis Slattery took the prize -- with a 'special citation' given to LoveStar by Andri Snær Magnason. The prize is awarded: " for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form".

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       German critics' best for April

       The SWR Bestenliste, where 31 German literary critics vote for the best new releases in German monthly is out for April -- and Hilary Mantel has conquered this market, too, topping the list. I'm not really sure which of the books -- Wolf Hall or whatever the other one is called -- has come out top dog, but top dog it is.
       Otherwise the list is somewhat surprisingly German-fiction-dominated -- with Dino Buzzati's The Tartar Steppe just slipping in the top ten.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



30 March 2013 - Saturday

Tom Stoppard on the Dark Side of the Moon | Sam Garrett Q & A
Black Box review

       Tom Stoppard on the Dark Side of the Moon

       Tom Stoppard already took on Rock 'n' Roll (complete with Syd Barrett character), and now apparently, as the BBC and others report, Pink Floyd album inspires Sir Tom Stoppard radio play, as he's written a radio play for the 40th anniversary of the classic bestselling album, to air on BBC Radio 2 on 26 August. I'm marking my calendar .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Sam Garrett Q & A

       At the Los Angeles Review of Books Claire Cameron interviews translator-from-the-Dutch Sam Garrett, in The Fluent Medium of Translation.
       Nice to see -- but a bit disappointing to see so much focus on Herman Koch's The Dinner and not even a mention of Arnon Grunberg's similar-in-some-ways but so obviously superior Tirza (yes, he translated both).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Black Box review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Amos Oz's 1987 epistolary novel, Black Box -- recently re-issued in the US.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



29 March 2013 - Friday

Amazon buys Goodreads | Translation in the US v. UK

       Amazon buys Goodreads

       As everyone is (and will be) reporting, internet juggernaut Amazon.com has announced that it has:
reached an agreement to acquire Goodreads, a leading site for readers and book recommendations
       As usual, "Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed" -- i.e. how much Goodreads cashed in their 16 million "members" (who don't seem to have been consulted ...) for ..... (Amazon also already owns something called Shelfari, which it bought out in 2008.)
       While I did "join" Goodreads, I have never used it -- I found it incredibly off-putting, and there's nothing I can imagine needing/wanting it for -- but quite a few readers seem to be heavily invested in it. I'm curious to see what their reactions will be -- and, of course, what Amazon does with both the site and the surely useful data that comes with it.
       For some early coverage, see Amazon Buys Goodreads by Rachel Deahl and Jim Milliot at Publishers Weekly and Laura Hazard Owen's Q & A with Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler and Amazonís VP of Kindle content Russ Grandinett at paidContent.
       In Amazon to Buy Social Site Dedicated to Sharing Books in The New York Times Leslie Kaufman notes that:
This deal further consolidates Amazon's power to determine which authors get exposure for their work.
       And in Amazon to Acquire Goodreads, a Book Site in the Wall Street Journal Jeffrey Trachtenberg quotes Mike Shatzkin:
"It makes me question whether Amazon's competitors are awake," said Mr. Shatzkin. "How could they let this happen ?"
       Lots more coverage and commentary is sure to follow; it'll be inetresting to see what the fallout is.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Translation in the US v. UK

       At Publishing Perspectives Daniel Kalder reports on Two Industries, One Job Market: Book Translation in the US vs. UK, an interesting comparison of how the 'industries' work (and pay ...) in the two major English-language markets.
       Some interesting titbits here -- and this is also a preview of sorts of a panel on the subject to be held at the London Book Fair next month; it'll be interesting to see the reports on that.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



28 March 2013 - Thursday

Bangkok International Book Fair | The Sultan Of Byzantium review

       Bangkok International Book Fair

       The Bangkok International Book Fair runs 29 March through 8 April; see, for example, the preview in the Bangkok Post.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       The Sultan of Byzantium review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Selçuk Altun's The Sultan of Byzantium.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



27 March 2013 - Wednesday

Dickens v. Bulwer-Lytton ? | 1 book, 4,690 authors
The past 100 reviews - statistical overview

       Dickens v. Bulwer-Lytton ?

       In the Daily Mail Mark Howarth reports Charles Dickens ... or the world's worst writer ? Blind reading test found 48% couldn't tell difference between literature great and ridiculed novelist, and in The Guardian Alison Flood takes issue with the study, in Can you spot a Charles Dickens sentence ?
       Disappointingly, neither piece points to the (freely accessible) study (Flood links to the subscription version): it is Scientific evaluation of Charles Dickens (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) by Mikhail Simkin, published in the Journal of Quantitative Linguistics. But don't expect something too 'scientific' .....
       What he did was take: "a dozen of representative literary passages" by Charles Dickens and Edward Bulwer-Lytton -- billed by him as: "the worst writer in history of letters" -- and see if readers could correctly ascribe each passage to its author; see (or take) the quiz here.
       As Flood points out, a basic mistake is to dismiss or categorize Bulwer-Lytton as the 'worst writer' of his or all ages. (I, for one, am a fan -- I've read 19 of his works, totaling nearly 10,000 pages, and while he's rarely top flight much of his fiction is very good; he's also an astonishingly versatile author, and in that sense more interesting than many writers of his age.)
       The Daily Mail piece closes: "Ironically, both Dickens and Bulwer-Lytton are buried within yards of each other at Westminster Abbey" -- but surely that fact should already raise a lot of flags. Like maybe they were considered roughly in the same league in their time (as, of course, they were) .....
       In a way, of course, these are the right authors to compare -- because they are, in many respects (even ones of style) very similar. Hence also the general confusion in properly ascribing passages. But Simkin ties himself to the idea that Bulwer-Lytton is considered a terrible writer -- and that's a mistake, since he isn't, and he's not considered that by those who have actually read his work, and though he had his faults ... well, so did Dickens, if we want to be clinically objective.
       Regardless, it's a silly comparison too because individual passages do not an author -- or even a book -- make. I remind you of how many contemporary American (MFA-graduate ...) authors offer beautifully polished sentences ... in unreadable novels.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       1 book, 4,690 authors

       A German online project, Der letzte Satz ('the last sentence') invited authors to collaborate on a novel -- limiting each contributor to a single sentence. 4,690 played along, creating what is now a published 304-page (and, presumably, 4,690-sentence-long) work; see the Kellner Verlag publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.de.
       I suppose I am a bit curious how something like this turned out. And I wonder if it will be translated. (Of course, if they're really serious, they'll get 4,690 translators to translate it, one sentence at a time .....)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       The past 100 reviews - statistical overview

       There are now over 3100 titles under review at the complete review, and so it's time to take another look at the statistics for the last 100 (well, reviews 3001 through 3100).
  • It only took 144 days to review the hundred titles (previous hundred: 163 days)

  • 81 reviewed titles were by men and only 19 by women -- but that still improved the historical average of percentage of reviewed titles that were authored by women from 14.98% to 15.11%

  • The average review was 804.12 words long

  • Reviews were of books originally written in 25 languages, including English (and including two new languages); for the first time ever English ranked lower than second as the language the most books were originally written in.
         The most popular languages were:
    1. French 18
    2. Japanese 13
    3. English 11
    4. Spanish 8
    5. Russian 7
    6. Arabic 6

  • Books were written by authors from 39 different countries; the top-ranked ones were:
    1. Japan 13
    2. France 12
    3. Russia 7
    4. US 6
    5. Netherlands 4

  • 79 of the books reviewed were novels, and 5 were story-collections

  • Two books were rated 'A', and 11 'A-'; the worst rated was a single 'C+'

  • Five reviewed titles were first published in 2013 and 8 in 2012; only ten titles were first published between 1900 and 1945, and only a single title was published before 1900. (Publication dates refer to first date of publication anywhere -- not the date of the publication of the first English translation, which would skew the dates far more towards the present.)
       For the updated list of how many different languages (60 now !) books have been reviewed in, see this chart, as well as our updated discussion, How international are we ?

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



26 March 2013 - Tuesday

Cullman Center fellows | Miles Franklin longlist
James H. Ottaway Jr. Award for the Promotion of International Literature
Another Time, Another Life review

       Cullman Center fellows

       As the press release has it: The New York Public Library's Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers Announces 2013-2014 Fellows.
       There are fifteen fellows -- selected from 313 applicants -- and each gets:
a stipend of up to $65,000, an office, a computer, and full access to the Library's physical and electronic resources
       Lots of familiar names, but one project stands out among the rest: Damion Searls is working on a translation of Uwe Johnson's classic Anniversaries -- currently only available in a horribly truncated English version, with about half the text missing. One of the great post-war works of German literature and a great New York city novel, it's about time the complete version was available in English.
       (This is the first I've heard of it, so I'm disappointed to learn that I missed this .....)

       (Updated - 27 March): On his website Searls reveals the translation is scheduled to appear in 2017, from NYRB Classics.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Miles Franklin longlist

       They've announced the longlist for the 2013 Miles Franklin Literary Award, a leading Australian novel prize.
       They selected the final ten from 73 submissions; half of those were written by women -- but eight of the longlisted titles had female authors. Also longlisted: "five first time novelists, four previously shortlisted authors and one former double Miles Franklin Literary Award winner".

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       James H. Ottaway Jr. Award for the Promotion of International Literature

       Words without Borders have announced: "the creation of the James H. Ottaway, Jr. Award for the Promotion of International Literature".
       Any added incentive to promote international literature is, of course always welcome -- and it's nice to see that some of those who have been doing so will now be recognized in this fashion.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Another Time, Another Life review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Leif GW Persson's Another Time, Another Life -- one of the better thrillers I've read in a long time.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



25 March 2013 - Monday

Chinese online writing
The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico García Lorca Ascends to Hell review

       Chinese online writing

       At The Economist's Prospero weblog C.S-M. [surely Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore; I really don't know what this nonsense in-between-anonymity-and-full-name-identification is meant to serve ...] writes about 'Chinese online literature', in Voices in the wilderness.
       This isn't the e-book reading familiar to Kindle-owners; instead:
Online literature sites have blossomed in the last decade. They provide a rich, and grassroots, alternative to the staid state-run publishing houses. While all books published in the mainland are subject to scrutiny by cautious editors and zealous censors, online literature sites are watched less carefully.
       I still think this is an under-reported phenomenon (outside China), and am curious to see how it continues to develop.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico García Lorca Ascends to Hell review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Carlos Rojas' The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico García Lorca Ascends to Hell.
       A 1980 novel, it's finally out in English, in a translation by Edith Grossman -- in the wonderful Margellos World Republic of Letters from Yale University Press. Not the first Rojas to appear in English -- Fairleigh Dickinson University Press has published a few of his novels -- but he's certainly ... underappreciated in the US, especially considering he's lived here basically since 1960 ...... (And I note that The Ingenious Gentleman and Poet Federico García Lorca Ascends to Hell came out in an East German translation already way back in 1984. It doesn't send a great message about the state of American publishing when the East Germans (who, after all, don't even exist any longer as such) beat you to a translation of a non-eastern European work of modern fiction -- by an author who has been a longtime US resident -- by some three decades .....)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



24 March 2013 - Sunday

Michael Frayn profile | Bestselling e-books

       Michael Frayn profile

       In the Independent on Sunday John Walsh profiles Michael Frayn: Farce and the uncertainty principle.

       Several Frayn titles are under review at the complete review -- including fiction such as Skios and drama such as Copenhagen

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Bestselling e-books

       In Publishers Weekly Daisy Maryles reports on The Bestselling E-books of 2012 -- and, yes, those are: 'Jaw-dropping numbers in digital sales'.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



23 March 2013 - Saturday

Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) | Mikhail Shishkin essay
Lecture reminder | Pandemonium review

       Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)

       Sad to hear that the great Chinua Achebe has passed away -- a towering figure in contemporary literature not only because of his writing but also in shaping the wonderful African Writers Series (see, for example, James Currey's chronicle, Africa Writes Back).
       Among early obituaries, see:        See also tributes and commentary, such as:        Only four of Achebe's titles are under review at the complete review (and none of the fiction, which I all read before I started the site and haven't gotten back to, yet):
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Mikhail Shishkin essay

       In The Independent Maidenhair-author Mikhail Shishkin 'reflects on the ties between literature, freedom and the state he left behind', in Mikhail Shishkin: A revolution for Russia's words.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Lecture reminder

       Just a reminder that you can come hear me lecture on 'International Fiction in the Age of Globalization' at the Lenox library in Massachusetts tomorrow, 24 March, at 16:00; see also this mention.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Pandemonium review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Warren Fahy's new novel, Pandemonium.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



22 March 2013 - Friday

Arnon Grunberg on Dubravka Ugrešić
The ten most influential travel books ? | Literature in ... Turkey

       Arnon Grunberg on Dubravka Ugrešić

       The Millions prints a version of "a speech at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair" that Tirza-author Arnon Grunberg gave, Poshlost Highway: In Praise of Dubravka Ugresic.
       There is, of course, a great deal to praise about Ugrešić -- a local favorite -- and you should certainly check out her books (and his, too).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       The ten most influential travel books ?

       In Smithsonian Tony Perrottet offers The Top Ten Most Influential Travel Books -- which, as the finer print admits, is in fact: "a brazenly opinionated short-list of travel classics"
       A reasonable selection, I suppose (I've read six of them) -- though Paul Theroux's The Great Railway Bazaar seems deserving of a proper place on the list, not just a mention.

       See also the Index of Travel Literature under Review at the complete review.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Literature in ... Turkey

       At PEN Atlas Ayfer Tunç offers an interesting overview -- without the name-dropping ! -- of literature and the literary scene in Turkey, in Literature rises in the East.
       Among the sad (but entirely too believable) observations:
Western publishers sit up and pay attention if you write novels which deal in the Ottoman histories and histrionics that appeal so much to the Western reader. They want stories of abject penury: about lives ruined under the weight of customs and traditions, about the unbreachable chasm between Muslim and Western lifestyles, and tales of ethnic strife. The doors open all too swiftly if youíre telling a tale of damsels in the distress of being Muslim -- or alternatively about their pains on adopting a Western lifestyle.
       See also the Index of Turkish Literature under Review at the complete review.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



21 March 2013 - Thursday

Q & As: Alejandro Zambra - Zygmunt Miłoszewski
'International Fiction in the Age of Globalization'
The Fall of the Stone City review

       Q & A: Alejandro Zambra

       At The Literarian Matt Nelson has a Q & A with Alejandro Zambra -- mainly about his recent Ways of Coming Home.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       Q & A: Zygmunt Miłoszewski

       At Words without Borders Richard Jackson has An Interview with Zygmunt Miłoszewski.
       Only his Entanglement is under review at the complete review at this time, but I have a copy of the new one as well and should be getting to that as well.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       'International Fiction in the Age of Globalization'

       If you're in the western Massachusetts area Sunday afternoon you can come hear me lecture on 'International Fiction in the Age of Globalization' at the Lenox library; see also this mention.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



       The Fall of the Stone City review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ismail Kadare's recent novel, The Fall of the Stone City.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -



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