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.
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in _Morse, My Deaf Friend_— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .
Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .
“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .
What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .
The opening of Jón Gnarr’s novel/memoir The Indian is a playful bit of extravagant ego, telling the traditional story of creation, where the “Let there be light!” moment is also the moment of his birth on January 2nd, 1967. Then. . .
Mahasweta Devi is not only one of the most prolific Bengali authors, but she’s also an important activist. In fact, for Devi, the two seem to go together. As you can probably tell from the titles, she writes about women. . .