On this week’s podcast, Carolyn Kellogg of the Los Angeles Times joined us to discuss Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel, Bleeding Edge. All three of us are Pynchon fans, and all three of us really liked this latest book. Although, as we talk about, the fact that we experienced a lot of the cultural items Pynchon references makes this a bit odd . . . Like, Pynchon’s watched Office Space? He is aware of Pokemon and Beanie Babies?
In our conversation, we also referenced two images, the first is of the insane military tower in Montauk:
And also, Tom’s beard:
This week’s music, which will make sense when you get to the discussion, is Semisonic’s Closing Time.
Finally: Tom wanted to respond to my über-pissy comments on the last podcast blog, which is only fair. So here’s his final word:
Ok, fair enough: “intentionally esoteric” was an unfair gut reaction. This is not, however, a straight mea culpa. While I admit that you have done, as you said and stressed, “lifelong research” on international literature, and that said research has translated (get it?) into unmatched enthusiasm for these books that definitely deserve wider audiences, I do think it’s fair to say that it comes off a bit like two West Village record store employees geeking out over import LP’s from obscure Next Wave bands. Which is fine. But it does—and this is, as devout listeners know, something of a persistent issue of mine—smack, ever-so-slightly, of elitism. I’m not suggesting that in the act of composing the list you intentionally set out to demonstrate that your taste in translated literature is far superior to anyone else’s, or that people who do read and love the books included in _Flavorwire_’s list are flat-out ignorant, but there’s a hint of that sentiment.
The only reason I made the statement in the first place is because I believe that there are tons of books that fall somewhere between the predictable ones on the first list and those on Chad and Stephen’s on the spectrum of translated literature. Books that aren’t in the canon (yet) but that also aren’t so under-appreciated that the average literary reader hasn’t heard of them.
In the end, like Chad or anyone who toils in this poorly-lit corner of publishing or book selling, all I want is for people to 1) know about good books they might like; and 2) read those books. The problem with any and all lists is exclusion; working within finite confines, you chose what include, and were thus obligated to exclude others. So it goes.
A Greater Music is the first in a line of steady and much-anticipated releases by Bae Suah from key indie presses (this one published by Open Letter). Building off of the interest of 2016 Best Translated Book Award longlist nominee. . .
The dislocation of individuals from the countries of their birth has long been a common theme in contemporary literature. These two short novels recently translated into English appear firmly rooted in this tradition of ex-pat literature, but their authors eschew. . .
In Melancholy, Hungarian author, critic, and art theorist László Földényi presents a panorama of more than two thousand years of Western historical and cultural perspectives on the human condition known as melancholia. In nine chapters, Földényi contrasts the hero worship. . .
Pascal Quignard’s __The Hatred of Music_ is the densest, most arcane, most complex book I’ve read in ages. It’s also a book that covers a topic so basic, so universal—almost primordial—that just about any reader will be perversely thrilled by. . .
In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempted to highlight the ordinary, tired, and often crass nature of common expressions by italicising them within the text. When Charles, Emma Bovary’s mediocre husband, expresses himself in a manner akin to that of. . .
Eliot Weinberger takes big strides across literary history in his genuinely breathtaking short work, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, tracking translations of a short ancient Chinese poem from the publication of Ezra Pound’s Cathay in 1915 to Gary. . .
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .