I’ve been wanting to do monthly highlights of books coming out for a while, but thought to myself that, well, Flavorwire already does stuff like this, so why bother. Then I remembered that Flavorwire is the worst, so here we are.
High Tide by Inga Ābele. Translated from the Latvian by Kaija Straumanis. ($15.95, Open Letter Books)
Yep, I’m leading it off with one of our books. A book by a former student of the University of Rochester’s Literary Translation Program and our current editor. (Flavorwire would never do something like this.) Anyway, aside from the selfish plug for Open Letter and Kaija, I want to say three things:
1) This is a beautifully written book that relates a woman’s life more-or-less in reverse chronological order, demonstrating, in consistently surprising ways, the choices that led to her current state and feeling that “life is a prison” and that everything for her keeps restarting and restarting. We talked about this at our Book Clüb yesterday and people admitted that it made them cry. So that;
This is the first Latvian novel to be published in the U.S. in English translation; (NOT TRUE! This book existed at some point.)
3) This comes out on September 26th, and to promote it ahead of time, we’re selling the ebook version for $3.99 this week, $5.99 next week, $7.99 the week after, and $9.99 when the book launches. So get yours now! (Amazon, iTunes, Nook, Kobo.)
Open Door by Iosi Havilio. Translated from the Spanish by Beth Fowler. ($15.95, And Other Stories)
All Dogs Are Blue by Rodrigo de Souza Leão. Translated from the Portuguese by Zoë Perry and Stefan Tobler. ($15.95, And Other Stories)
After winning just about every award possible in the UK, And Other Stories—the indie press with the most interesting editorial selection process I know of—is finally branching out into the United States. Consortium will be distributing their books, and within six months, every major book news outlet will have reviewed their titles and be singing their praises. This is some high quality shit.
Open Door includes two of my favorite subjects in literature: Argentina and insane asylums. I read this a while back, but plan to reread it in advance of Havilio’s Paradises, which comes out next month. (I actually mentioned this book back in 2008 during my editorial trip to Buenos Aires.)
I read All Dogs Are Blue while I was in Brazil, not too far away from the asylum (THIS IS AN AND OTHER STORIES THEME) where Rodrigo de Souza Leão spent much of his life. It’s an amazing book, samples from which you can see here.
The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante. Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein. ($18.00, Europa Editions)
One of the most recommended non-crime writers that Europa publishes and whom I haven’t read. Her books have been on my shelves forever, and one of these days . . .
All of the fans of The Days of Abandonment, or, more apropos, My Brilliant Friend, will rush out to get this, but for anyone not familiar with her, here’s a bit from the Shelf Awareness review that ran today:
With The Story of a New Name, Elena Ferrante picks up where she left off in My Brilliant Friend, following her two protagonists, Lila and Elena, from adolescence into their 20s. The novel, the second volume in a trilogy, is a treatise on life in Naples, a part of Italy that has nothing in common with Rome, Florence or Milan.
The two girls have a complex, intense relationship, with Lila leading the way and Elena trying to accommodate—at least at first. Lila has pulled herself out of poverty with an early marriage to a grocer’s son, whom she hates. Elena has continued studying, graduating from high school and going to university in Pisa.
The Mystery of Rio by Alberto Mussa. Translated from the Portuguese by Alex Ladd. ($16.00, Europa Editions)
There are only five works of fiction from Brazil coming out in the U.S. this year. (Three are on this list.) After visiting Rio and Paraty this summer, I MUST READ THEM ALL.
The Eternal Son by Cristovao Tezza. Translated from the Portuguese by Alison Entrekin. ($19.95, Tagus Press)
Sticking with the Brazilian theme, here’s the latest from Tagus Press, a new outfit publishing only Lusophone writers. This book—about a father whose son is born with Down syndrome—sounds a bit like Kenzaburo Oe’s A Personal Matter.
“Between Friends by Amos Oz. Translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston. ($14.95, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Since the day we launched Three Percent, I’ve been making fun of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s website. Not that any of the Big Five websites were spectacular, but for years it seemed like Houghton Mifflin was playing some kind of demented game with readers trying to find out information about their books. You had to click through 6 or 20 links to find a list of new releases, which then, just to make things interesting, were never quite in alphabetical order. The search engine ran on AltaVista or Ask Jeeves!, and for a while Jose Saramago was a digital persona non gratis.
Well. Things are now better. This website doesn’t look like vomit. It makes a certain amount of intuitive sense. I typed in Amos Oz, and actually received results about Amos Oz. The fact that these are grand improvements is depressing at best, but still, way to go HMH!
Except maybe for the fact that this is all the info on the HMH site about Between Friends:
A provocative new story collection from the internationally celebrated author of A Tale of Love and Darkness.
Really? Christ. At least I can still rely on HMH for providing good comedic fodder. Keep up the bumbling!
Gods of the Steppe by Andrei Gelasimov. Translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz. ($14.95, AmazonCrossing)
This is the third Gelasimov book that AmazonCrossing has published, the other two being Thirst and The Lying Year. The fact that Marian Schwartz translated this is enough to make me want to read it. She is the best.
Sudden Disappearance of the Worker Bees by Serge Quadruppani.& Translated from the Italian by Delia Casa. ($23.95, Arcade)
Over the past month I’ve read Generation A by Douglas Coupland, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, and And Still the Earth by Ignacio de Loyola Brandão, fairly different books, but all of which are set in the future and involve a world in which no one reads, and there are no more bees. Sure, I’d heard mention of colony collapse disorder before, but, like America, I didn’t really care all that much. But reading these books, I realized that with no bees, we have no apples. And no apple crisp. According to Wikipedia, one-third of the crop species in the United States involve bee pollination, including: almonds, peaches, soybeans, apples, pears, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, watermelons, cantaloupes, cucumbers, and strawberries. This is not good. Of course, as soon as I read these books and starting thinking about how fucked it is that one-third of the U.S. honeybee colonies died or disappeared last winter, my neighbor’s Time Magazine arrived with this beepocalyptic cover:
What the shit, Universe? I did not need this.
Faction by Juan Filloy. Translated from the Spanish by Rhett McNeil. ($16.95, Dalkey Archive Press)
Click on that link above to see just how “in process” Dalkey’s website is right now. Nevertheless, this book was announced with a September pub date, and man do I hope it comes out soon. I actually signed this on—along with Op Oloop way back in the early 2000s. (Writing “early 2000s” and realizing that is an accurate statement makes me feel old.) I forget how we first came across Filloy—who is mentioned in passing in Cortázar’s Hopscotch, lived in three centuries, and used seven-letter titles for all of his books—but all of his books sounded really interesting. Especially this one, which is about “seven erudite, homeless, and semi-incompetent radicals traveling from city to city in an attempt to foment a revolution.” SOLD.
I just got back from a 24-hour (or so) happy time on the hotel roof complete with champagne and fish sticks, and, seeing that we need to check out of the hotel at 8:30am tomorrow to leave for FLIP, I think I’m going to beg off my planned photojournal post (we viste a favela today) and just recommend a Brazilian book: All Dogs Are Blue by Rodrigo de Souza Leão, translated from the Brazilian Portuguese by Zoë Perry & Stefan Tobler, and forthcoming from And Other Stories.
Rimbaud used to do a dance called the Dance of the Blue Pelican. It was one hell of a wiggly dance, using all parts of his body. He learnt it in Africa, he says. But were there any pelicans in Africa? He was free to say whatever he wanted. Actually we all are, but whether it’s true or not is another matter. The truth can be such a sloppy invention and still convince everyone. You just have to be forceful. Or take advantage of people’s natural gullibility.
According to the jacket copy:
All Dogs are Blue is a fiery and scurrilously funny tale of life in a Rio de Janeiro insane asylum. Our narrator is upset by his ever-widening girth and kept awake by the Rio funk blaring from a nearby favela – fair enough, but what about the undercover agents infiltrating the asylum? He misses the toy dog of his childhood, keeps high literary company with two hallucinations, Rimbaud (a mischief-maker) and Baudelaire (a bit too serious for him), and finds himself the leader of a popular cult.
All Dogs are Blue burst onto the Brazilian literary scene in 2008. Its raw style and comic inventiveness took readers by storm. But it was to be Rodrigo de Souza Leão’s last masterpiece. He died that year, aged 43, in a psychiatric clinic.
And one more quote:
I stopped getting bayoneted. I started oral medication. Oral medication is easy to trick your way out of. I know which drugs I take. I always spit the ones I don’t want down the sink. The ideal way to deter that would be effervescent drugs. Of course the feebleminded are totally out of it and take their drugs properly.
Time to watch television. Time for the Addams family to get together. All the nutters would ge together to watch the soap opera. A sergeant, a street cleaner, other dimwits and one guy who beats his head against the wall every two minutes.
I’ve already told that little doctor that he’s going to do his head in. He’s going to have a serious stroke. I blsjdsomdkm0ooooeeirrrriruuuuruuiirrriiirii.
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .