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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 January 2018

1 January: McCrum's 'Best nonfiction' | 'Best Books in Chinese' | Open Letters Monthly Review | 2018
2 January: 'Central Asia's Writers' | Latin American highlights - 2017 | T Singer review
3 January: Whitbread Costa Award category winners | Laura review | Most popular reviews - 2017
4 January: Nobel Prize in Literature, 1967 | Bestselling in 2017 in ... Germany | Fred Bass (1928-2017) | Arabic literature in translation preview | Hindi literature in 2017
5 January: Aharon Appelfeld (1932-2018) | Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens (1944-2018) | Record of a Night too Brief review
6 January: Babylon Berlin success | What Ten Young Men Did review
7 January: Comparing children's books: China, US, Mexico | 2017 in review at the complete review | Other 2017-'year in reviews'
8 January: Books in 2018 | Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards | Prix du Livre étranger finalists | さようなら、私の本よ! review
9 January: German Book Trailer Awards | Prix Anaïs Nin | Translation issues
10 January: Geoff Nicholson on Iain Sinclair | The Last Judgement review

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10 January 2018 - Wednesday

Geoff Nicholson on Iain Sinclair | The Last Judgement review

       Geoff Nicholson on Iain Sinclair

       There are nineteen titles by Geoff Nicholson and fourteen by Iain Sinclair under review at the complete review (though I have woefully neglected the Sinclair-pages for far too long -- mainly because his work is so difficult to keep up with on this side of the Atlantic) -- and so it's great to see, at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Nicholson offering An A to Z of Iain Sinclair on the Occasion of the American Publication of The Last London: True Fictions from an Unreal City

       See also the Oneworld publicity page, or get your copy at or; I certainly hope to get my hands on a copy soon.

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

       The Last Judgement review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Iain Pears's The Last Judgement, the fourth in his Art History Mystery-series.

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

9 January 2018 - Tuesday

German Book Trailer Awards | Prix Anaïs Nin
Translation issues

       German Book Trailer Awards

       They've announced the 30 finalists (selected from more than 160 entries) for the Deutscher Buchtrailer Award -- and you can watch them there, at the official site.
       Always interesting to see how folks try to promote/market books (though, text-centered as I am, I still don't quite get this cross-platform approach ...).
       The winners will be announced on the 25th or 26th.

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

       Prix Anaïs Nin

       They've announced the thirteen-title longlist for the prix Anaïs Nin; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       I love the description they give of this prize -- that it's for: "une œuvre susceptible d'être traduite en anglais". On the other hand, I'm not that enthusiastic about it being so obviously aimed at what-would-work-in-English (though it would be kind of cool if they had this for all sorts of other languages as well ...).
       Of, course, this being the French, they have some peculiar ideas about what might work in the US/UK market: as much fun as a new volume of Régis Jauffret's Microfictions might be (and they surely mean Microfictions 2018 here; see also the Gallimard publicity page), a thousand pages of this stuff is going to be a hard translation sell. (The two Jauffrets available in English -- Lacrimosa and Severe -- are under review at the complete review (because ... of course they are), but I suspect they did not do particularly well, sales-wise, which probably doesn't help.)
       On the other hand -- the first winner of this prize, in 2015, was Virginie Despentes' Vernon Subutex, 1, so who knows ?
       (The ringer in the lot would appear to be Catherine Cusset's novel Vie de David Hockney (see the Gallimard publicity page) -- though with Play Boy, Sexe, Géographie d’un adultère, La journée de la vierge, etc. also in the running, a lot of the titles certainly seem to hold the promise of what many English-speaking readers perhaps still expect/hope for from French fiction .....)

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

       Translation issues

       There have been quite a few articles that have focused on Deborah Smith's translations of Han Kang's work, specifically The Vegetarian, and now Jiayang Fan offers an overview of the debate(s) in The New Yorker, in Han Kang and the Complexity of Translation.
       I'm glad to see these issues and questions being discussed -- a fascinating part of the whole translation-debate.

       (Updated - 12 January): See now also Deborah Smith's What We Talk About When We Talk About Translation at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

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

8 January 2018 - Monday

Books in 2018 | Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards
Prix du Livre étranger finalists | さようなら、私の本よ! review

       Books in 2018

       Quite a few more the-year-in-books previews already available [updated]:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards

       The winners of the Iranian Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards have been announced, with the novel prize being shared between بی کتابی ('Booklessness') by Mohammadreza Sharafi-Khabushan and این خیابان سرعت‌گیر ندارد ('This Street Has No Rumble Strip') by Maryam Jahani; see, for example, the Tehran Times report, "This Street Has No Rumble Strip", "Booklessness" share Jalal award

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

       Prix du Livre étranger finalists

       The finalists for the French foreign fiction prize, the Prix du Livre étranger have been announced; see also the Livres Hebdo report.
       Most noteworthy/remarkable ? All five finalists are translations from the English .....
       The winning title will be announced 11 January.

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

       さようなら、私の本よ! review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Ōe Kenzaburō's 2005 novel, さようなら、私の本よ! -- still, like so much by Ōe, not available in English .....

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

7 January 2018 - Sunday

Comparing children's books: China, US, Mexico
2017 in review at the complete review
Other 2017-'year in reviews'

       Comparing children's books: China, US, Mexico

       At npr Nurith Aizenman summarizes an article that appeared last year in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 'Learning-Related Values in Young Children's Storybooks: An Investigation in the United States, China, and Mexico' [abstract], in What's The Difference Between Children's Books In China And The U.S. ?
       I'd rather see the actual article, of course, but still an interesting look at some of the differences. "Cheung says this emphasis on happiness comes up a lot in the books from the U.S." .....

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

       2017 in review at the complete review

       The year that was at the site, (selectively) data-crunched:

       In 2017, 203 books were reviewed at the complete review, down just slightly from the 205 reviewed in 2016, and nicely close to the soft target of 200.

       You can find the 50 most popular reviews, 2017 here. (I've discussed these previously, here.)

       The most popular (of the not particularly popular) author pages were:
  1. Patrick White
  2. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  3. Murakami Haruki
  4. Amélie Nothomb
  5. Miroslav Holub
       The most popular review-indices were for:
  1. Far East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) literature
  2. Mysteries and Thrillers
  3. Erotic, Pornographic, and Sex-related
  4. French literature
  5. Latin and South American literature
  6. Books Written Before 1900
  7. Eastern European literature
  8. Books from selected Imprints and Publishers
  9. German literature
  10. Indian literature
       The most popular author-(last-)name indices were: m (by far -- ridiculously far); b; s; a; and c.

       I received 395 review copies, down a stunning 17.7% from the 480 received in 2016, and the fewest since 2007. While review copy arrivals were likely somewhat inflated during the years I was a judge for the Best Translated Book Award (I haven't been for the past few years), the fall-off is still remarkable, and I'm not quite sure how to explain it. I probably do request fewer major-publisher titles than in previous years -- it's often simpler just to get them at the library -- and presumably I get fewer unsolicited books than in the past.
       The leading providers of review copies remain unchanged, with Dalkey Archive Press, New Directions, Harvard University Press, and Oxford University Press each supplying about thirty titles -- almost a third of the total between them. (Declines at these leaders also play a role: there were 16 fewer Dalkey titles than in 2016, for example.)
       As of 31 December 2017 I had reviewed 82 (40.39%) of the titles acquired this way (i.e. not including library or bought books, etc.); considerably higher than the historic average and the average in recent years (at the end of 2016: 23.13%; at the end of 2015: 23.09%). (Obviously, previously received books also continue to get reviewed; so, for example, there are now an additional 25 books-received-in-2016 under review, and 28.33% of review copies received in 2016 and 27.20%/2015 have now been reviewed.)

       Books originally written in 35 languages (down from 39 in 2016) were reviewed. While there were actually more French titles reviewed in 2017 than 2016, English was back on top; meanwhile, Japanese coverage continued to expand markedly.
       The top ten languages were:
  • 1. English 40 (19.70% of all books) (2016: 24/11.71%)
  • 2. French 39 (2016: 36)
  • 3. Japanese 26 (18)
  • 4. Spanish 20 (27)
  • 5. German 9 (12)
  • 6. Italian 8
  • 7. Russian 7
  • 8. Serbian/Croatian 5
  • 9. Norwegian 4
  • -. Portuguese 4

       Books by authors from 51 countries were reviewed (2016: 52), the top eleven being:
  • 1. France 27.5 (2016: 30)
  • 2. Japan 26
  • 3. US 20.5
  • 4. UK 16
  • 5. Italy 10
  • -. Spain 10
  • 7. Russia 8
  • 8. India 6
  • 9. Romania 5
  • 10. Belgium 4
  • -. Norway 4

       Fiction was, as always, dominant: 159 of the reviews were of novels, along with reviews of two novellas and eight story-collections. After six biographies being reviewed in 2016, none were in 2017 -- though there were (again) two autobiographies. Four poetry collections, as well as four graphic novel/cartoon collections were reviewed.

       Recent publications again dominated -- 97 reviews were of works originally published (in the language they were written in, not the English translation) between 2011 and 2017 -- with 2015 (22) the most popular year. (2017: 20 -- but 2016 only 11.)
       The 1980s were a popular pre-2000 decade in 2016 (12 titles), but oddly unpopular in 2017:
  • 1990s: 14
  • 1980s: 4
  • 1970s: 12
  • 1960s: 12
  • 1950s: 3

       Fifteen titles written between 1900 and 1945 were reviewed, as were three each from the 19th and 18th centuries -- and only two earlier works.

       The ratio of male-to-female authors was a still miserable 20.20%; still, appreciably higher than the 16.83% in 2016.

       It was a good year for superior books, with six titles being graded 'A' (2016: 2)        (Interesting to note that four were by (under-)reviewed women, and that three of these were older/re-issued titles.)
       Meanwhile, the lowest grade was a 'C-', given once (to Alberto Moravia's Time of Desecration).
       I've been meaning to/considering posting some sort of best/most significant books overview, but looking over all the books I've reviewed what really strikes me is how few regrets there are here: there's barely a book here that I'm sorry I devoted my time to. Yes, my reading and reviewing time could often have been better spent, but practically everything gave me something (even that terrible Moravia). (I did abandon more books than in previous years, and left more read books unreviewed, which probably helped -- a lot -- too.)
       I will -- finally ! -- be getting around to debating what I think is deserving of the Best Translated Book Award, so there will be some 'best of 2017' discussion -- at last count (I think) I've reviewed 104 of the titles eligible for this year's prize -- and I'll leave it at/for that.

       Books reviewed ranged in length from 30 to 1653 pages. Twelve titles were over 500 pages long, and, continuing the trend of more short books-in-translation, eighteen (!) were less than 100 pages long (compared to eleven in 2016); seven of these were actually under 50 pages long. (Plays and poetry collections tend towards the very short, but the same number of poetry collections (4) as in 2016 were reviewed, and only two dramas were; like everything else at the site, the shortness-trend is fiction-driven.)
       Among the most astonishing statistics of recent years has been the average length of all books reviewed, which has remained what seems like almost impossibly constant for three years now:
  • 2017: 249.54 pages per book
  • 2016: 250.17
  • 2015: 249.60

       The length of the average review again increased slightly, to 961.02 words (2016: 948.06 words), and the reviews posted in 2017 totaled 195,088 words (2016: 194,353). The longest review was 3268 words long, and three more were over 2000 words long; ten were under 500 words (2016: 9).

       Disappointingly, site traffic as a whole continued to decline, down 4.26% compared to 2016.
       There were visitors from 226 countries and territories in 2017 (2016: 222). Among the few areas from which there was no traffic were North Korea and Western Sahara, as well as St. Helena and Montserrat (from which there had been visitors in 2016); countries from which there were visitors in 2017 for which there had been none in 2016 include: Tonga, Guinea-Bissau, Isle of Man, Norfolk Island, Nauru, and São Tomé & Príncipe
       The countries from which the most traffic came were:
  1. United States (37.12%)
  2. India (11.02%)
  3. United Kingdom (8.74%)
  4. Canada (4.64%)
  5. Philippines (2.97%)
  6. Australia
  7. Nigeria
  8. Germany
  9. France
  10. Netherlands

       India handily overtook the UK as the second-largest audience. while the Philippines slipped ahead of Australia for fifth place. Nigeria supplanted Kenya as the only African country in the top ten, while France won back its place in the top ten.
       Regionally, it was particularly interesting to see that Africa, with over 8% of total traffic, was so much more active than all of South and Latin America: toss in the Caribbean too, and that area's share of total traffic was still less than 2%. (Indeed, take out the top three (English-speaking) African countries -- Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa -- and the rest of the continent still provided far more traffic than all of the Americas minus US/Canada.)
       Nigeria showed the biggest increase in traffic -- and Lagos vaulted to third among cities from which the most traffic came, behind New York (back at number one) and London; Bengaluru easily beat out Los Angeles for fourth place.

       Visitors to the site still overwhelmingly reach it via search-queries -- and Google search queries at that (Bing and DuckDuckGo are barely a trickle compared to the Google flood) -- while outside site-referrals barely rate a mention (which I find kind of depressing, since the main thing I do at the site is link to outside sites, and I kind of hope that that sends traffic to them, but judging from how it works the other way around .... maybe it doesn't).
       The sites sending the most traffic to the complete review in 2017 were:
       I don't really know what to make of the numbers, but there they are.
       Amazon-commission and other income has also slipped at the site, which is rather annoying, though there has been a welcome increase in direct support (much appreciated !) -- and of course more is always welcome, e.g via Patreon ...

Become a patron via Patreon

       ... or PayPal:

       Summing up: well, as usual, it never seems to me that I read or review enough -- though, honestly, around 200 titles per year is probably a pretty good number, and quite possibly about as much as you -- and I -- can handle, right ?
       Still, I'd always like to cover more (in number, variety, etc. etc.) ..... But for the most part you can just expect more of the same (in about the same quantity, if I can help it), for better and worse.

       Now: on to the next book, and review !

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

       Other 2017-'year in reviews'

       I love seeing site- and reading-data (see above ...), and here are a few other sites that have posted some. (I know I've missed/forgotten many, but it's a sampling ..... Also: I limit myself to site- rather than personal names -- it's just simpler .....)

       Among those offering some numbers/demographics (often along with best of the year overviews, etc.):
       More book-focused general best/favorite round-ups of interest include:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

6 January 2018 - Saturday

Babylon Berlin success | What Ten Young Men Did review

       Babylon Berlin success

       Babylon Berlin is reportedly the most expensive German TV series ever produced, and it will be shown in the US on Netflix starting in a few weeks; see also the official show site.
       The series is based on a book series by Volker Kutscher -- which was amazingly first picked up in English by Scottish publisher Sandstone Press (see their publicity page) -- with Picador now bringing out a US edition (see their publicity page) to coïncide with the US-airing of the show; get your copy at or
       At Deutsche Welle Siobhán Dowling now reports on How a Highlands publisher has hit the big time with 'Babylon Berlin'. Noteworthy also the necessary reliance on translation grants, including from the Goethe Institut, after being featured in New Books in German (and, yes, it probably helped -- a lot -- that they did not stick to the original title ('The Wet Fish' !).)
       (See also previous coverage in, for example, The Herald, where Karin Goodwin wrote From Deutschland to Dingwall: how a small Scottish publisher is riding high with Babylon Berlin last month.)

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

       What Ten Young Men Did review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Daṇḍin's What Ten Young Men Did, a volume in the Clay Sanskrit Library.

       (Yes, yes, I know I should be covering Fire and Fury, like everyone else (and I have even reviewed a previous Michael Wolff title ...), rather than a ca. 6th century Sanskrit classic, but that's what you get here. But if you must: get your copy at or

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

5 January 2018 - Friday

Aharon Appelfeld (1932-2018) | Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens (1944-2018)
Record of a Night too Brief review

       Aharon Appelfeld (1932-2018)

       Israeli author Aharon Appelfeld has passed away; see, for example, Joseph Berger's obituary in The New York Times.
       He was certainly one of the greatest Holocaust -- in its broadest sense -- authors; two of his titles are under review at the complete review:        (Updated - 18 January): See also A Last Conversation with Aharon Appelfeld, David Samuels' Q & A with the aiuthor, at Tablet.

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

       Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens (1944-2018)

       Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens -- the 'P.O-L' behind the great French house, P.O.L. -- died in a car crash on the 2nd; he was one of the leading French editors and publishers of the past fifty years -- of Perec and Duras, among many others; see, for example, the Albertine summary.
       Much of the French fiction under review at the complete review was first published by P.O.L.; notably, many of the Dalkey Archive Press titles (and see also their statement on his death).
       A documentary featuring him -- Éditeur -- just came out a few months ago, too; see, for example, the distributor's page; I hope this makes it to the US at some point.

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

       Record of a Night too Brief review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Kawakami Hiromi's Record of a Night too Brief -- an early trio of stories that includes her Akutagawa Prize-winning one.

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

4 January 2018 - Thursday

Nobel Prize in Literature, 1967 | Bestselling in 2017 in ... Germany
Fred Bass (1928-2017) | Arabic literature in translation preview
Hindi literature in 2017

       Nobel Prize in Literature, 1967

       The Swedish Academy deliberations for the Nobel Prize in Literature are kept secret for fifty years, and then opened to the public -- so now the information about the 1967 award has just been made public.
       The 1967 prize went to Miguel Ángel Asturias. Svenska Dagbladet's Kaj Schueler has had a look at the deliberations -- but that article is paywalled, so I can't offer much more than the headline summary: apparently it came down to a three-writer contest, between the eventual winner, Graham Greene, and Jorge Luis Borges. More information about the specifics should be available in the coming days .....

       What is now available is the list of nominated authors (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- remember: you have to be nominated to be in the running: Joyce, Proust, Kafka, and many others never were .....
       Among those nominated for the first time that year were future winners Saul Bellow and Claude Simon (as well as Jorge Amado, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Jean Genet, and György Lukács !). And there were lots of old familiar names, including Auden, Beckett, Ionesco, Kawabata, Mishima, Montale, Moravia, Neruda, Katherine Anne Porter, Anna Seghers, Simenon, and J.R.R.Tolkien.

       (Updated - 9 January): The official Nobel report still doesn't seem to be up, but see now, for example, also Alison Flood's Nobel archives show Graham Greene might have won 1967 prize in The Guardian.

       (Updated): The official report is now out, but it's disappointingly thin; last year's at least offered a bit more insight.

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

       Bestselling in 2017 in ... Germany

       As Deutsche Welle summarizes, 'The History of Bees' is Germany's top-selling book of 2017 as the Maja Lunde novel apparently sold an impressive 350,000 copies. (It didn't seem to do quite as well in the US/UK; get your copy at or
       Second place went to Dan Brown's Origin; these two titles were the top-selling titles across all categories. As far as fiction goes, Daniel Kehlmann's Tyll came in third, followed by an Elena Ferrante; see also the full boersenblatt charts (and (German) overview).

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

       Fred Bass (1928-2017)

       As William Grimes writes in The New York Times, Fred Bass, Who Made the Strand Bookstore a Mecca, Dies at 89.
       The Strand, as shaped by Fred Bass, is the bookstore I've spent by far the most time browsing in over the course of my life (and I've spent a lot of hours in a lot bookstores ...), and truly was a mecca for me, especially in 1970s and 1980s. (And, yes, you can even watch me shop at the Strand, in How to Shop at the Strand (or any good bookstore) with Michael Orthofer & Tyler Cowen .....)

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

       Arabic literature in translation preview

       At Arabic Literature (in English) M. Lynx Qualey helpfully previews Arabic Literature in Translation: 18 Works Forthcoming in Winter-Spring 2018.
       I have a couple of these, and look forward to seeing more -- some promising titles here.

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

       Hindi literature in 2017

       These titles aren't readily accessible (yet) to most of us, but at The Wire Priyadarshan considers The Light of Letters: Best of Hindi Literature in 2017.

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

3 January 2018 - Wednesday

Whitbread Costa Award category winners | Laura review
Most popular reviews - 2017

       Whitbread Costa Award category winners

       The Whitbread Costa Book Awards anoint winners in five categories -- novel, first novel, biography, poetry, and children's book -- and then pit those against one another to determine a 'Book of the Year' -- and they've now announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) the category winners, with the overall winner to be announced 30 January.
       The poetry category went to a collection by the now deceased Helen Dunmore, while the novel category went to Reservoir 13, by Jon McGregor.

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

       Laura review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Vera Caspary's Laura -- yes, the 1940s novel on which the classic 1940s film is based.

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

       Most popular reviews - 2017

       Beginning-of-a-new-year time is always an occasion for lots of site number crunching -- beginning with the 50 Most Popular Reviews - 2017 at the complete review.
       The top ten were:
  1. The Dilemma of a Ghost, Ama Ata Aidoo
  2. The Three Mistakes of my Life, Chetan Bhagat
  3. El Filibusterismo, José Rizal
  4. Samskara, U.R.Ananthamurthy
  5. The Snowman, Jo Nesbø
  6. Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol, Okot p'Bitek
  7. Decolonising the Mind, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  8. Five Point Someone, Chetan Bhagat
  9. Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
  10. The Gift of a Cow, Premchand
       A film tie-in propelled one old review into the top ten, but otherwise it was mostly the same old same old: 8 of the top 10 were also in last year's top ten.
       Still, there were 18 titles on this year's list that weren't in the 2016 top-50 -- a much greater churn than in 2016, when only 8 titles hadn't been in the previous top-50.

       As usual, new reviews (posted over the course of the year) had a difficult time making a mark -- none making the top 50.
       The best showings were:        Two late (December and November) 2016 reviews als cracked the top 100 -- The Evenings, by Gerard Reve (77th), and Conclave, by Robert Harris (78th) -- but the site continues to be backlist-dominated.

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

2 January 2018 - Tuesday

'Central Asia's Writers' | Latin American highlights - 2017
T Singer review

       'Central Asia's Writers'

       At Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Bruce Pannier writes on 'The Lasting Legacy Of Central Asia's Writers': part one: The Founding Fathers and part two: The Soviet Era.
       There's far too little coverage of Central Asian literature, so it's very good to see this.

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

       Latin American highlights - 2017

       In El País they recommend 20 libros latinoamericanos de 2017.
       These aren't available in English yet, but some will surely be (fingers crossed for Tráiganme la cabeza de Quentin Tarantino ?) and while the final volume of Ricardo Piglia's Los diarios de Emilio Renzi isn't available yet, the first is, from Restless Books (and my review should be up ... soon); see the publisher's publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       T Singer review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Dag Solstad's T Singer.

       This 1999 novel is only coming out in May, in both the US and UK, but, yeah, no way I was going to be able to hold myself back. (And my review of the other Solstad being published in May, Armand V., was posted in ... 2009, so in a way I've shown admirable restraint, right ?).
       Interesting to see the very different (cover-)approaches the US (New Direction) and UK (Harvill Secker/Vintage) publishers are taking with the covers of these two latest efforts to establish Solstad in English:

UK Solstads

US Solstads

       I'm not sure that Murakami-blurb -- "Serious literature" ! -- is the right tack. (Murakami is translating him into Japanese, which is very cool. From the English, which is not. [source].)
       Of course, if Solstad didn't take off after Shyness and Dignity ... well, what is wrong with you people ?
       But Lydia Davis and James Wood are on the bandwagon, so expect to hear more about Solstad this year. Indeed, the one reviewing certainty of this year is that James Wood will review this duo -- T Singer and Armand V. -- in The New Yorker. Pretty much guaranteed. (And I imagine they will be very positive reviews; deservedly so -- they're great books.)

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

1 January 2018 - Monday

McCrum's 'Best nonfiction' | 'Best Books in Chinese'
Open Letters Monthly Review | 2018

       McCrum's 'Best nonfiction'

       At The Observer (at The Guardian site ...) Robert McCrum now offers: The 100 best nonfiction books of all time: the full list -- according to him.
       Aside from the fact that it's just a McCrummy list -- i.e. personal -- it's a bit misleadingly titled and presented:
  • It's more of a not-fictional (i.e. anything-but-fiction) list than a non-fictional, as it includes poetry, a play, and the ultimate work of fiction, the Bible

  • It's limited -- sort of -- to works written in English. Which really should be highlighted more. Like in the title and everywhere else ..... (The two exceptions are Beckett's Waiting for Godot (which he did translate into English himself ...), and the King James Bible (a(n English) language-defining work).)
       Somewhat surprisingly -- the overwhelming majority of titles I review are fiction -- three of the titles are under review at the complete review:        (Fine selections all -- I rated them A-, A, and A+ .....)
       (While I haven't reviewed many, I'm surprised by how many on this list I've read, or use (Roget's Thesaurus, etc.) -- probably close to a quarter.)

       Milking this to the fullest, The Observer (at The Guardian site ...) also has McCrum explain How I chose my list of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time (again, avoiding the whole limited-to-English issue in the lead-in ... come on, folks, no one ever wrote 'non'-fiction in other languages ?), and Hannah Jane Parkinson offer A response to the 100 best nonfiction books list: 'Some I agree with, some I'd add, and some I'd hoof right off the field' -- where she observes that: "I'm not sure I envy Robert's task of whittling down the nonfiction titles of the circa 130m books that exist in the world today" while also managing to ignore/evade the possibility that, hey, some of those books were originally written in .,.. other languages !

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

       'Best Books in Chinese'

       At Paper Republic David Haysom has collected 2017: Best Books in Chinese --mostly Chinese titles, or books in Chinese translation.
       Interesting both for the Chinese titles that haven't yet been translated -- as well as the foreign titles available in Chinese (Krasznahorkai ! James Wood ?).

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

       Open Letters Monthly Review

       For the first time in, apparently, almost a decade, there's no new issue of the Open Letters Monthly to start the month with; instead, there's now a presumably more loosely scheduled Open Letters Review
       Not quite sure how this will work, but one hopes it will .....

       Meanwhile, note that your favorite Open Letters weblogs have also moved: Rohan Maitzen's Novel Readings is now here, while Steve Donoghue's stevereads is, sort of, at his personal site.

       God, I hate change. And new URLs.

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


       Another year down: 203 reviews (more statistics and numbers coming in a day or two) and yet another year of 365 days of posting at this Literary Saloon (there will, there must come a point when I skip a day or two, but it's been a while ....).
       As always, I appreciate your continuing patronage, and I'm glad you continue to find the site of use and interest.

       The ambitions for 2018 remain ... much the same (yes, if there's one thing you can count on hereabouts, it's that everything remains pretty much as always, for better and worse). Another 200 or so reviews, I hope -- with the ambition, as always, of covering, somehow, an even greater variety.
       Glad to see you're still reading -- this, as well as lots of good books, I hope !
       Merry 2018 to one and all !

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

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