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I Wrote Some Stuff in 2018

In some ways, this is long overdue, but just in time for the final post of the year, here’s the complete collection of “articles” that I wrote this year for Three Percent. The initial plan was to do one a week, using a new translation as a launching pad to talk about international literature, publishing, and book culture, along with one extra post a month about current translation statistics.

I didn’t exactly follow that plan, although there were a lot of posts. (Thirty-seven to be exact.) Some are funny, some are catty, some are full-blown critiques, some are pathetic, some are kind of smart. Regardless, for both of you that read more than 60% of these—I hope you enjoyed them all. I don’t think the tone and approach of these posts will die away completely, but I do have a lot of ideas for new things to write in 2019, so stay tuned . . .

In chronological order:

It’s 2018 and Where Have the Translations Gone?

First attempt to compare 2018 translation numbers to years past with less than stellar results.

 

In Favor of Translator Afterwords

A call for more bad hot takes about books, such as my statement that the translator afterword to Tanizaki’s In Black and White is better than the book itself.

 

A Best-seller Should Be Divisive

One-star reviews of The Perfect Nanny drive a general argument that the best best-sellers generate equal amounts of love and hate.

 

The Best Sports Novels Match Sport and Style

First attempt of the year to write about a book I didn’t like in a way that’s entertaining. Come for the takedown of Theory of Shadows and stay for the jokes about Boomer Esiason and Derek Jeter!

 

Never Fact-Check a Listicle

Again, writing about a book I didn’t like (Frankenstein in Baghdad) and to deflect, I blasted away at Lit Hub and BookMarks. Not a popular article with a lot of people, but I regret nothing! This site exists for spicy takes that question conventional wisdom.

 

The Translation Industry Is Frozen

It really doesn’t seem like 2018 was a good year for translations. At least in terms of sheer numbers. Also, this title is an obvious reference to last year’s MLB Hot Stove period.

 

An Imaginary Sabermetrics for Publishing

I think about 95% of these posts include a baseball reference. There’s even a Scott Boras quote in here. (WORTH THE PRICE OF THE CLICK.) Also, this post is one of my five favorite of the year. Mostly to write, but also to revisit.

 

Noble Expectations

I read a lot of books in 2018 that I didn’t much care for. At least I gave up on this particular book pretty early on.

 

Everyone Needs an Editor

Another of my favorites, since it actually digs into a particular translation, using three versions (sample, galley, finished copy) to talk about the role of the editor.

 

Context Is Everything

All the charts are missing (lost in the transition to the new website), but this is a very nerdy attempt to quantify just how poorly literary translations sell when they’re not published by Penguin Random House. (And sometimes even when they are.)

 

Pathways to Discovering the Obscure?

This is a more serious post about the ways in which we end up finding out (or not) about cult authors. The great writers who aren’t on year-end lists.

 

9 Moments That Make “Tomb Song” the Frontrunner for the National Book Award in Translation

Man, I was really wrong with this one! Although I’ll stick to my belief in “pinche” over “friggin.”

 

This Headline’ll Make You MAD, MAD!

Still don’t like Trick, still think the Will Self interview is fascinating.

 

Thinking About Book Reviews

When I came up with this idea of writing a dialogue about all the problems of reviewing books in translation, I mostly wanted to take the piss out of myself. I had already received a lot of “pushback” about the earlier 2018 articles and wanted to demonstrate that I got it, that my overall viewpoint is suspect and can be torn apart. I’m not actually that grumpy this is all a game! I was more afraid that I would rely on this trick over and over again. Thank god I didn’t.

 

Death by Poetry and The Lies about Me

The poetry stats are interesting and all that, but scroll to the middle and watch Chad Post’s “Unlovable” video. YOU’RE WELCOME.

 

Spanish Literature Is Our Favorite Scene

Rochester jokes never get old.

 

Poetry Presses and Radical Idea #1

Every great idea on this website should be partially credited to ESPN writer (and Effectively Wild co-founder and former host) Sam Miller. Especially the “radical ideas” series.

 

What if Writers Were Treated Like Soccer Players?

Quite literally the best post of the year. And the one idea that I would love to institute.

 

May Is a Month of Grading

Presumably a post about translation stats through the month of May, but really a chance to make jokes about jacket copy.

 

The Crime in the Data

This breakdown became even more sophisticated by the end of the year. But this is the origin of the category breakdown. BONUS: More radical ideas for publishing!

 

9 Comp Authors for Dag Solstad, Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Listicle

I kind of goofed on James Wood in this article, and, well, he ended up reading it. And liked it!

 

9 Books Likely to Win the 2019 Best Translated Book Award

Any guesses as to why I always use “9” in my dumb listicles?

 

Selection Bias, Best Translations, and Where Are the Women in Translation From?

Lot of data on books by women in translation. And a couple of short reviews. Along with a little discussion of selection bias, which is a hobby horse that fuels a lot of the underlying critiques spouted here throughout the year.

 

A Whole Lot of Blather

Another post that made people angry! Includes a bit about nonprofits and the indie press All-Star team.

 

The Very Pleasant Post

Not actually super pleasant or positive, although there is a lot of good stuff about Pretty Things to offset the other stuff . . . mostly.

 

The Simple Pleasures of Reading

So much Sam Miller! And an attempt to explain why two unheralded (and one uber-heralded) books can take you back to the basics of why we enjoy reading.

 

Publishing Strategies of Rediscovery

I’m pretty sure that every person who has read Stig Dagerman has stumbled onto this post and emailed me about how great Wedding Worries is. Which means that there are hundreds of you out there who need to go get this book.

 

Missed Opportunities (Here’s the NBA Translation Post I Promised)

Another post in which I’m shitty.

 

A Frozen Imagination

I can’t wait to go back to Iceland. And I can’t wait to do a Two Month Review season on CoDex 1962.

 

It’s the Postseason! [Welcome to October]

Big overview of translation statistics for 2018, which includes a bit of analysis about which months are most popular for publishing translations.

 

The Icelandic Connection

One of the two posts that inspired most of the plan for Three Percent in 2019 . . . This kicked off a series of posts about Deep Vellum.

 

My Struggle, Part I: Confusion and Value

One of the five best posts of the year. Mainly because it fully adopts the viewpoint of a reader. Not a critic, publisher, bookseller, or translator. It was one of the most difficult to write, although I did go into a bit of fugue state and just let all of this come out.

 

A Rat, a Labyrinth, “Ah Library TNT”?

Deep Vellum and the Oulipo.

 

My Struggle, Part II: The 60% Post

This joke will never, ever get old. (And lands about 60% of the time.)

 

The Fault in Our Numbers

More imaginary math couched around the question of what creates value.

 

Maybe These Days Will Be Over, Over Soon

Essentially the prelude to February 2019’s feature on Quebec literature.

 

All the Cameras in Japan

A breakdown by region of the translations published in 2018 along with a number of charts about my own reading habits over the past decade.



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