For this week’s podcast, Tom and I answered our first mailbag question about literary journals, discussed the old adage that “short stories don’t sell,” and complained about the unbeatable Milwaukee Brewers.Read More...
A Public Space has always been dedicated to promoting international literature, so it’s not all that surprising that Brigid Hughes has joined forces with Roland Kelts (author of Japanamerica), Ted Goossen (professor of Japanese lit) and Motoyuki Shibata (translator into Japanese of Pynchon [!] and a number of other great American writers) to produce an American version of Monkey Business, a journal highlighting new writing from Japan.
Monkey Business was founded in Japan in 2008, and, according to Shibata, is modeled in part after APS. It’s also named after the “immortal Chuck Berry tune.” According to Shibata, “No other work of art that I know of deals with the aggravations we face every day so straightforwardly and with such liberating humor. That is the guiding star we follow on this journey.”
The debut English language edition of MB culls the best writing from the first ten issues published in Japan. It was edited by Shibata and Ted Goossen, a professor at York University in Toronto and general editor of the Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories who has translated work by Murakami, Naoya Shiga, Masuji Ibuse and others. Hughes and Kelts contributed to the English language editing. Stories, poetry, interviews and even a manga, or Japanese comic, reimagining Franz Kafka’s The Country Doctor, grace its pages.
I was too busy this past weekend watching St. Louis take over first place in the NL Central to read through this carefully, but on first glance, I think it will be a vital contribution to Japanesse literature in English. As a publisher, I’ll say that aside from the Japanese Literature Publishing Project, it’s tricky getting good recommendations of Japanese literature. There are a series of posts waiting to be (re)written about this issue, but suffice it to say that with a single 150 page volume, MB has instantly become one of the best sources for info on new “pure literature” coming out of Japan.
In addition to the aforementioned Kafka manga (that runs from right to life [fuckyeahalternativereadingstyles] going from page 137 to 118), this first issue includes a number of interesting looking pieces, including a poem by Inuo Taguchi (translated by Ted Goossen) entitled “Interviews with the Heroes, or Is Baseball Just for Fun?,” a story by Koji Uno (translated by Jay Rubin), a collection of vignettes by Manazuru author Hiromi Kawakami (translated by Ted Goossen), and short story by Hideo Furukawa (translated by Michael Emmerich) that opens like this:
There is no answer. And why not? Because there’s no question. All we’ve got is the fact that the monster is there. And it’s hibernating. That’s stage number one. From here, we move on to stage number two, stage number three. The last stage is more or less identical to the first, so the whole thing is a sort of “cyclical motion,” you might say. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There can be no question that first of all we must address—observe, describe—the movement from the first stage to the second. The monster is there, hibernating . . . or rather, it was hibernating. It’s just woken up.
You can order the issue here, and if you happen to be in NYC over the next couple weeks, you can attend one or more of the opening launch events taking place at the Asia Society, Book Court, and the Japan Society.
I’ll leave off with a bit of Motoyuki Shibata’s “Monkey Business manifesto,” which appeared in the first Japanese issue of the journal:
Monkey Business is the newly founded journal of new writing from Japan and abroad with a few not-so-new works strategically slipped in. We offer nothing in the way of a “concept” or “lifestyle” aimed at a particular age bracket or social group, no useful information to help you get ahead. And we utterly lack that noble desire to provide a sanctuary from the whirl of daily life. If you gain any of these benefits, so much the better, but they are not our goals. Neither, we must add, do we have a radical agenda. Our intent is not to attack the system, whether it be artistic, political, or social. In fact, we aren’t out to pick a fight with anyone, right or left, old or young, conservative or radical.
The new issue of A Public Space arrived a couple days ago and, as always, is filled with interesting pieces.
I think it’s pretty cool that “All Foreigners Beep” from Dubravka Ugresic’s new collection Nobody’s Home leads off the issue, especially since this is one of the funniest pieces in the book.
And I really like the “Letter Home” in which Colleen Kinder “Defines Iceland” and includes one of my favorite things to tell people about Iceland:
Phone book: Listed by first names.
Why: The surname here is only a father’s tag. For example, Molly Kinder = Molly Drewsdottir (Drew’s daughter.) Bush = Georg Georgsson.
Recommended Reading: The phone book. Particularly if you are looking, say, for Americans living in Iceland. Amid the long columns of Injibjorgs and Gudmundurs, a Frank leaps right out.
Frank: A ninety-six-year-old American living in Iceland. Though when he boarded his military ship in 1941, Frank was told only the code name of his destination: “Blue Indigo.”
Also very cool is this issue’s focus on Italy that includes pieces by Antonio Tabucchi, Salvatore Niffoi, Dacia Maraini, and Erri de Luca, and interviews with Marcello Fois and Antonio Scurati. And the whole section begins with an intriguing intro by translator Will Schutt :
One of the most prominent genres of current Italian fiction, both popular and literary, is the giallo or mystery story. In the hands of literary writers, the giallo turns quirkily metaphysical and, at times, metafictional—keen on investigating essential mysteries of language and its bearing on identity. [. . .]
In the short fictions that follow, formal combinations of the straight-up mystery, the historical narrative, and the fantastic tale serve to magnify divisiveness, paradox and impenetrability, qualities emblematic of the culture’s spirit. Although none of the stories’ protagonists is a detective per se, each is engaged in some kind of detective work.
The new issue of A Public Space is just out . . . Actually, it’s shipping next week, so it may not technically be “out” just yet . . . Anyway, it looks to be another fine issue with fiction from Mario Bellatin (whose books can be a bit disturbing in a subtle, eerie way, such as in Beauty Salon), an essay by Roland Kelts on Japan, and poetry by Roberto Bolano, Tomaz Salamun, and Craig Morgan Teicher.
A Public Space continues to impress with pieces in the new issue from William T. Vollmann, Samantha Hunt, Bernadette Mayer, and a Letter from Buenos Aires by Jillian Weise.
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. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .