Danielle Dutton on "The Weight of Things" [RTWBC]
As you probably know, this month’s Reading the World Book Club prose selection is The Weight of Things by Marianne Fritz, which is translated from the German by Adrian Nathan West and published by Dorothy.
Danielle Dutton—a highly regarded author and founder of Dorothy, a publishing project—offered to write a short piece about how she came to publish this wonderful, unsettling book.
We’re lucky to have a few brilliant friends—so brilliant we officially put them on our Advisory Board—who occasionally make the best recommendations. One of these is Jeremy Davies (excellent writer and editor in his own right), and it’s through Jeremy that we first heard about Marianne Fritz. He suggested I check out the essay on her work by Adrian Nathan West (aka Nate) that was online at Asymptote, so I did, and the essay I believe linked directly to a translated excerpt from what was at that time called The Gravity of Circumstances (for the book, the title was changed to The Weight of Things, which we all thought worked better, rhythmically, in the places where the phrase appears in the text). The excerpt was from a particularly harrowing dream sequence. It’s Berta’s anxiety dream: dark and surreal and poetic. I loved it. I couldn’t really imagine what the rest of the book would be like from that excerpt, though, so I reached out to Nate (whom at that time I didn’t know) and asked him if he had a completed manuscript of the book. He didn’t, but he said he could do a rough translation of the rest fairly quickly, and so he did. The book was, in different ways, so much stranger and also less strange than the excerpt suggested. It was shockingly sad and complicated, knotty and good. We took it on and edited it with Nate, who was a pleasure to work with—and The Weight of Things was born.
One thing I particularly like about this story is that it was exactly what I hoped would happen when I started Dorothy, a publishing project; I wanted to talk about good books with people who love good books (in fact, in the first year or so, we weren’t open for submissions but rather were looking for people to send in suggestions of other people’s books, whether these were OP or unpublished manuscripts). It’s actually hard to imagine people who love good books more than Jeremy and Nate, and the book’s warm reception among readers and critics has been edifying for all of us.
Thanks so much for featuring it at Reading the World!
Danielle Dutton, editor
I finished reading The Weight of Things on my flight to MLA and plan on posting some personal thoughts and reactions when I get back to Rochester. (Today I’m in Houston for an event at Brazos at 7, then will be in Dallas for events Tuesday and Wednesday night. If you live in either of those cities, you should definitely come out!) And if any of you have any thoughts about the book, please post them in the comments section below, on Twitter with #RTWBC, and/or at the Facebook group.