20 September 13 | Chad W. Post | Comments

So, Vitamin Water decided to run a contest in Canada that included random words under the bottle cap—one in English and one in French. Supposedly Coca-Cola reviewed all the words in the contest, but seemed to miss out on a few crucial words that mean one thing in French and another in English . . . From Huffington Post Alberta:

Blake Loates was shocked to find the words “YOU RETARD” printed inside the cap of a Vitamin Water bottle while out for dinner with her husband Tuesday night.

“We immediately thought ‘You have got to be kidding me,’” she told the Huffington Post Alberta.

“We thought it might have been a disgruntled employee or someone in a (bottling) plant playing a joke.”

Her father, Doug, was equally shocked at the message, considering his younger daughter Fiona has cerebral palsy and autism. [. . .]

Retard in French translates to “late” or “delayed.”

“Coke told us they reviewed the words before the contest, so we’re still a bit confused about why, after sitting down and looking at the word list, they would decide to keep it. It’s English meaning is offensive and they should have realized that,” said Blake.

4 September 13 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This video of Gunter Grass talking about how “Facebook is shit” is amazing. Granted, it’s weird that I found out about this from a friend who found it on Facebook and that I’m probably going to share it on Facebook as well . . .

But, I do totally agree with his sentiments and wish I could smash my iEverything and live in a farmhouse like that researching information in actual books.

The think Grass seems to not get though is that today’s cultural world isn’t really about quality, it’s about quick production and being a good enough operator to leverage social media in order to shift units. (I just punched myself in the face for writing that.)

5 August 13 | Chad W. Post | Comments

But, someone on Facebook mentioned how this ad (yes, it really is an ad—quite possibly the best ad NBC has made ever ever) is all about translation. Which, it really is, especially in terms of cultural translation.

More importantly, if you haven’t seen this, you really should. It’s brilliant.

1 March 13 | Chad W. Post | Comments

(You can get your own via The Rumpus by clicking here.)

18 December 12 | Chad W. Post | Comments

So, I’m in Paris this week. It’s a special editorial trip that came about last minute thanks to the fact that Laurence Marie and Anne-Sophie Hermil are the most wonderful people. They brought me here yesterday (Monday morning) for 18 appointments with literary folks in four days—a rather intense schedule given the fact that most publishing folk are on holiday time. But that’s cool, because French publishers and books are cool, and walking around Paris is cool, and the people I’ve met have all been cool.

This is the second time I’ve been to Paris—the first time was in 2009, which, to say the least, was an intense period in my life. But that trip . . . Wow. So many good people, so many good conversations, so much Three Percent material.

That was at a time when I still tried to write coherent “this is the state of publishing, yo!” type essays. Which I still love to do, but being back here where the buildings are more complicatedly beautiful than anything in NY, and where the people drip the sexy and the books reek of intellectual charm, I don’t think I can synthesize anything. So instead, I give you a few facts and a ton of opinons and jokes. Enjoy!

FACT: I have slept eight hours of the past 72. My mind is slipping.

FACT: The Irish bar across the street is having an “Apocalypse Party” on Thursday. Which brought home the point that I fly out on 12/21/12, right about practically maybe when the aliens invade the Mayan temples and rape the global warming. Or so I understand.

FACT: The French can’t dance.

QED: This post is probably offensive.

1) I arrived yesterday (Monday) morning at 8 am, and got a chauffeur cab to my hotel, where I arrived just a minute before 10, leaving me plenty (!) of time to shower and get my ass to my first meeting. Which, naturally, was with a woman who spoke next to no English. I have never received so many books at a meeting in my life. It was like compulsive giving. “BLAH BLAH DURR BALSH OPEN LETTER.” “Book, you like?” “SCHMEER TRANSLATION SLEEP HYPER BAD MOVIES BLAH.” “Other book? Is short erotic fiction?”

2) This same publisher publishes three Lutz Bassmann (aka Antoine Volodine) books, including his latest (Danse avec Nathan Golshem) and Haïkus de prison, which I assume are the haikus “Bassmann” “wrote” while in “prison.”

FACT: There is no one at work at a project as ambitious—and strange—as Antoine Volodine.

3) Everyone and their brother has tons of questions about a certain job posting that we all know I know about, and that we all know I can’t know about on Three Percent without knowing that a certain someone (who knows I know!) will get upset and knowingly call people and complain that I’m hurting their ability to succeed and therefore—PUNISHMENT! There’s no joke here, but shit, do I hate having to explain another’s actions at almost every single meeting. Keep the crazy in your own court! I have nothing to do with this!

4) Holy and fuck does Paul Fournel rock. First off, knowing next to little about it, I totally want to publish Chamboula. But for you Oulipian lovers out there—feast your sexy dreams on this: Paul took me into the room adjacent to his majestic apartment that houses a makeshift library of Oulipian works. Cool, no? Well, just wait . . . One of those works was a book by Perec and his mistress’s daughter (?) that’s in an oversized purple case lined with velvet and contains about 30 pages of text and photographs. Again—cool, no? Well it’s one of maybe 10 copies that exist in the world.

FACT: Duke would DESTROY Michigan’s overrated basketball team. This is old ACC >>> B1G 10 love. Nice try, but your coach will always be Elite Eight and out. PROVE ME DIFFERENT, WOLVERINES.

5) Dan Gunn and his partner Kristina Kovacheva treated me to the best meal I’ve ever had at someone’s Parisian apartment.

5a) When I told my daughter I was going to Paris: “Can I go with you?” “I wish! What do you know about France, Chloë?” “They have fancy cheeses! And I want to wear a pink beret!”

5a1) I bought her a pink beret today.

5b) I ate all the fancy cheeses at Dan and Kristina’s place. (Sorry, Chloë!)

6) Dan and Kristina and Daniel Medin should all be invited to the Sozopol Fiction Writers Workshop next May. That should maybe be a “FACT.”

7) When I was in the office of Editions Verdier receiving all the Bassmann books, I saw Damian Tabarovsky’s card—an author that Emily Davis translated while here at the U of Rochester and that Open Letter wants to publish. Apparently he was here recently, meeting with Verdier about rights to another of their authors.

FACT: French people move in a way that is automatically sexy. This woman working in the hotel restaurant got—and drank—a glass of water, standing in front of me in a way that can only be described as “illegal.” Every guy&girl here walks in a way that slithers with a certain something that makes it automatically beautiful. It’s indescribable, yet so there. My belief is that the angle between their hips and shoulders is like the golden fucking mean of sexy. Fact!

8) The ebook situation here in France is about the same as it was in 2009—less than 3% of sales are of the e-variety. One quote today: over a million print copies of a Gray book were sold, and like 30,000 e-versions. In other words, the French are basically like, “Suck a pixel, iPad/Kindle! And e-ink my ass!” Which is going way too far, and not recognizing the potential value of the Amazon/e-phenomenon—not to go all small scale on you, but I wouldn’t be teaching Mo Yan’s POW! in my class if the kids couldn’t get it for cheap—but is also so damn awesome. Bookstores exist here in France, and not because people like DLJ of the House of Moby wish they would, but because of the fixed book price, government intervention and support (suck an Obamacare stick, Ayn Randians!), and a schooling/cultural system that promotes reading not as entertainment, but as something valuable in and of its own right (suck a Survivor Mark Zuckerberg!). I love this country for that. And for the way people walk. And the absinthe.

9) TLHub is like Richard Nash’s Cursor + Kaija Straumanis’s Plüb – booze. (Well, officially.)

FACT: French people CAN NOT DANCE. I was at the Irish pub across the street and it was all 80s movie flailing and a dude wearing Mickey Mouse gloves groping ass. NO ONE WANTS TO SEE THAT, MICKEY. There was also a cougar (which, in France, they refer to as “a woman”) who was not-so subtly rejecting a dude with sunglasses pushed up on the top of his head. Really? Your style points just got rammed, France. That shit doesn’t even happen in Sixteen Candles.

9a) TLHub is a virtual space where translators can post a text they’re working on along with their translation and share it with other translators/members for edits/comments. It’s sort of brilliant in a very understated, yet essential way.

FACT: An American publisher asked the French government for a grant to cover the translation costs of doing a book PLUS $15,000 for marketing. In other words, $20-25,000 for a book. Great. So my FACT: There’s no way you, as a smart, savvy, educated independent publisher can spend $15,000 on marketing in a legitimate way that would actually result in an increased readership for that book, short of giving away 15,000 copies. You have a different idea? Email it to me. I’m curious to know how anyone would spend this sort of money in a non-pissing-it-all-away fashion. Ads? NOPE. Conferences? NO IMPACT. Reading tours? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Review copies? 15,000.

QUESTION: I just got a text about the aforementioned job posting and the fact that this publisher has been “swamped” with job applications. Does anyone believe this? Really? Do you know anyone who has actually applied? Yeah, me neither.

9b) In addition to TLHub, the people at the Sociéte européenne des auteurs also run the news part of IF Verso and Finnegan’s List, containing a ton of books deserving international recognition recommended by a group of stellar authors from around the world. Both of these are also worth checking out.

FACT: I am ONE DAY away from being the FourSquare Mayor of the Eiffel Tower. FACT FACT FACT.

10) Buildings in France are something else. The entrance ways, the courtyards, the understated yet magnificent opulence. I am smitten with the architecture here. And the publishers, books, way people walk, and wine. Their beer blows, as does their dancing, attempt to make pizza, and book design (for the most part), but I totally love it and wish that I could have a semester sabbatical (HA! HA HA! HAHAHAHAHHAHA!) to live here, study the publishing scene, find books to get into English, love the shit out the Oulipo, etc. Instead, Rochester. Summer interns to tend to when all the academics are away. Women’s soccer (yay!).

FACT: The other night I had a dream in which the “greatest” of insults was to call someone a “donkey diddler.” This came from a dirty book everyone read, but no one admitted to reading. And I promised myself—as I woke up—that I would work it into a post. So, yeah. Donkey diddler.

6 December 12 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The number one question I’m asked by people interested in Open Letter/publishing is how we find our books. We do a lot of reading of catalogs and reviews online, talking to people, getting recommendations, and, most importantly, receiving submissions over the interwebs. Well, like this one:

Subject: QUERY Its All About Me (Said Sarcastically)

Its All About Me (Said Sarcastically)

I am a volunteer at a center and this not making any money. I need money because I have two grand children. I am aquatinted with publishing books because I have writ seven and published, so far three. I need to get with a publishing organization who will not only print my new book but also send me out on book signing and speaking tours around the world.

The latest book I am interested in getting out in the market place has the working title, I Me Me Mine, I think browed from the Beatles 60’s group. The text is essays, fiction and poems which are acquitted with my life. Many humorous, all interesting, I am willing to work with the company who sends me to speaking and autograph sessions. I am also willing to get on any radio and television show who uses authors to make interesting, intelligent shows.

If you are interested in helping me to both of our benefits please email XXXX.

What I am sending are a few poems (light verse, mostly) of which I have sufficient amount to make up a complete book. I also have fictions and essays which are on the subject of me. I see this endeavor not as an ego boost (my ego is breath, just ask my wife) but more as an autobiography. (see what I mean about healthy ego)

But I think these poems stand on their own and if you are interested in the essays and fiction (fiction bio!) I will be happy to send them.

I await to hear if you are interested to haver me get out the selling the book as long as they are still making books and see the authors.

Thank you.

“I await to hear if you are interested to haver me get out the selling the book as long as they are still making books and see the authors.”??? Oh my, yes.

When we got this, I joked about posting it so that people could share in the publishing experience. Well, after today’s message, I really couldn’t resist. This is what I literally just received from the EXACT SAME PERSON:

Short Essays Query

I am a retired man who does volunteer work (as noted in one of the enclose essays below.This gives me time to write (after thinking) and edit (with more thinking) essays.
I am the author of three published books but being a volunteer that leaves me more time to sit around watching Television , which really annoys my wife (because I do not enjoy her shows. Its Comedy verses repetitious crime dramas. So I write. I think and write.

I also enjoy traveling. This is a hope enough information to tell you that I am an accomplished author with a new, interesting book to publish and go to give speeches and autographs.

Now, my first there books were fairly topic specific. If the reader was not interested in the topic I will agree that reading would get boring.

My first book was “A Jewish Appraisal Of Dialogue” the title very specific and explanatory. Next came “Midrash And Working Out Of The Book,”
also specific and explanatory. Third was Shards And Verses.

Now, I bet you saw I was working up to this, I have a book which continues 87 relatively short, essays, from one to four pages. They range a great distance as suggested by the titles. Consider these three: God, Thoughts Of Dogs And Of Cats, and Raspberries.

I have included the Table Of Contents to show the extent of the thoughts (and the excellence of sticking to the topic, and authoring good thoughts.)

This book is ready to go, edited and thought through, as I am ready to go on speaking and signing tours where ever you send me.

So, I am are you demise that I have no money to pay publishing but I have the thought that people enjoy seeing live authors so I am absolutely willing to go sell the book to make you and me money.

That’s the whole truth.

Thank you

These typos—and the innumerable references to thinking about how he’s thinking about thinking thoughtfully—are fricking brilliant. But not as gamechangingly awesome as this one:

Walnuts

What can I say about walnuts except they are tasty and dry.

Ok, now that I have said that I say goodbye

But oh no here is another thought.

Walnuts are not nuts but lagoons so while they re not nuts you are able to throw at a wall

I am sure they are lagoons you can throw at your sister but if you are luckily enough not to have a sister you can throw them at my sister.

Walnuts

So there you have it.

Particularly awesome since walnuts AREN’T legumes.

And yes, we’re totally publishing this. Who wouldn’t want to read a book with essay titles like “Please Stop Tapping Me On The Head” and “The Word Ass”?

11 January 12 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The Morning News Tournament of Books is BACK! For the uninitiated, this is a 16-book, bracket-style “tournament” designed to crown the . . . well, I’ll just let them explain it:

Today we’re announcing the shortlist for the 2012 Tournament of Books (for novels, of course, published in 2011) only a week or so into the New Year. See, this is the space where we remind everybody what a folly this exercise is. It’s stupid. A tiny and secretive cadre of people telling everyone else what the best novels of the year are is every bit as ridiculous as an electoral system where anonymously endowed Super PACs tell everyone else which willfully ignorant global-warming denier should be president.

Like we said, stupid. But we do it anyway. And the one thing we humbly offer is transparency, and a rooster for the winner. We do not meet in a closed conference room and slide our decision under the door scribbled on the back of a car-wash receipt, like they do with the Pulitzer. And unlike the National Book Award, we have a series of fail-safes designed to preserve the integrity of our prize by ensuring that we do not mistakenly include books that are homophones of the actual finalists in our shortlist. We are proud to say that the system ultimately worked, but not in time to avoid an apologetic phone call to to the biographer of British painter Copley Fielding.

In the Tournament of Books, you will know who the judges are. What their biases are. Which books they choose and why they are choosing them. In the past we’ve had judges who flipped coins. Judges who picked the book with the prettiest cover. Judges who didn’t finish one of the books. Judges who didn’t finish either book. Once we had a judge who so hated both books we had to literally subdue him physically to make him choose. (When we say “literally” we really do mean literally, though when we say “physically” we mean “politely in an email.”)

In other words, this is the best, non-serious book tournament being played (?) today. And as always, I think their list of 16 books sucks almost as bad as that stupid BCS thing and everything in the state of Alabama.

First off, the judges are definitely top-notch: Emma Straub, Mark Binelli, Oscar Villalon, Bethanne Patrick, Alex Abramovich, Walter Kirn, others.

But the books! Ugh. OK, maybe “meh” is more appropriate. Obviously, I’m disappointed that ONCE AGAIN, they overlooked all Open Letter titles. Zone, Scars, My Two Worlds, could compete with any of the 16 titles “they” selected.

I’ve only read parts of a few of these books, but just because it’s Wednesday, I’m going to break the field down into a few categories:

Deserve to Be There

Nathacha Appanah, The Last Brother (Go Graywolf!)

Teju Cole Open City (Sebald version 2011)

Helen Dewitt, Lightning Rods (Gloryholes! And I wrote about this for Rolling Stone)

Karen Russell, Swamplandia (Karen loves Bragi Olafsson’s The Ambassador!)

Kate Zambreno, Green Girl (We go way way back)

Had to Be There

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending (Even his blank pages win awards)

Patrick DeWitt, The Sisters Brother (I know nothing about this except that it’s referenced everywhere)

Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot (Probably good, and ordained as such months before publication)

Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding (See The Marriage Plot)

Haruki Murakami, 1Q84 (Big, totalizing, mesmerizing, infects your dreams—we get it already)

Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (Automatic inclusion since it won the National Book Award)

If This Book Had a Face I’d Punch It

Tea Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife (OK, that’s really mean. I’m just so terribly sick of hearing about this book)

Books That Should Be Replaced with Open Letter/New Directions/Archipelago/NYRB Titles

Alan Hollinghurst, Stranger’s Child (Just the description makes me feel tired)

Michael Ondaatje, The Cat’s Table (We swam in the Blue Lagoon together)

Ann Patchett, State of Wonder (I have no opinion about this)

Donald Ray Pollock, Devil All the Time (Unless this book is set in Felicity, OH, I don’t care)

When this gets started in March, we’ll post some further sarcastic commentary. For now, you should order all 16 titles (+ the three Open Letter ones) from Powells.com the official sponsor of the contest.

12 September 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

From Time:

Citing a changing climate in the reading world, the furniture authorities are putting a new spin on the old bookshelf – redesigning it to store anything but books.

The storage mavens at IKEA have noticed a shift in what consumers are storing in their bookshelves. After all, a Kindle can hold thousands more books than a wooden tower in the living room. According to The Economist, IKEA will release a new version of its classic BILLY bookshelf next month, one that’s focused less on storing books than storing, well, anything and everything else. The company is finding that customers use their shelves increasingly for “ornaments, tchotchkes and the odd coffee-table tome,” and less so for reading material.

The demise of paperbacks is increasingly imminent. Borders, once a book giant, has closed up shop. Barnes & Noble is staving off the same fate by embracing e-books. It’s clear the book world is well into its digital transition. While IKEA won’t face financial trouble simply because people aren’t buying bookshelves to store books, they’re more than wise to keep up with buyers’ trends.

They’ve realized we don’t need fixed shelves 12 inches high and 9 inches deep. They’ve realized we’re more comforted by the endless capacity of a millimeters-thin box of transistors. And most importantly, they want us to keep buying their furniture. So by changing the depth and height and adding decorative glass doors to their bookshelves, they’ll ensure that the world will still have a use for their some-assembly-required furniture. Go ahead, store your souvenirs on our bookshelf, they’re saying.

18 May 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

From today’s Publishers Weekly summary of Bowker’s latest report on publishing:

Despite the belief in many quarters that the growth of e-books will mean the death of the printed book, the number of books produced by traditional publishers rose 5% in 2010, to a projected 316,480, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday morning from R. R. Bowker. That number, however, is dwarfed by the growth in output of nontraditional titles, which jumped 169% to 2,766,260. As Bowker notes, the majority of nontraditional titles consists largely or print-on-demand editions of public domain titles. Self-published titles are also included in the figure. Based on the preliminary figures, the combination of traditional and nontraditional books totaled a projected 3,092,740 in 2010, up 132% from 2010.

The e-book vs. print book thing is probably misleading (as most experts point out, it seems likely we’ll live in a world of multiple formats), but the fact that there are almost 10 times more “nontraditional titles” being published than traditional ones is pretty striking. And the fact that over 3 million books were published last year is incredibly stunning. Especially since that’s up 132% over 2010 while sales for Jan/Feb 2011 for print books were down 24% compared to last year.

The sheer number of books brings to mind Gabriel Zaid’s So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance, and reinforces my fears about how people ever discover anything amid this tidal wave of titles . . . When the average American only reads like 3 or 4 books a year, something seems a bit out of whack.

This overwhelming number of books also reminds me of this:

From the New Yorker:

The Argentinean artist Marta Minujín makes not sculpture but “livable sculpture” or, better yet, “happenings.” In her 1963 work “The Destruction,” she filled the Impasse Ronsin in Paris with her artistic creations from the previous three years (primarily splatter-painted mattresses, twisted up, hung on picture frames, sewn together with pillows) and then invited fellow artists to “intervene” with them, after which she set the lot on fire, while releasing among the spectators a hundred birds and a hundred rabbits. Minujín is perhaps best known for her work with mattresses (you can view some of her delightful deconstructions on her Web site), but she also has a thing for books. In 1983, she created a full-scale model of the Parthenon in a park in Buenos Aires made (but for some metal scaffolding) entirely of books that had been banned during the last military dictatorship (there’s an incredible picture of it here). After three weeks, the public was allowed to pick the Parthenon apart and to take the books home with them.

This week, she’s back with “The Tower of Babel,” an ode to linguistic oneness erected in the Plaza San Martin to celebrate Buenos Aires being named the World Book Capital of 2011. The structure contains some thirty thousand books in various languages, many of them donated by embassies of countries around the world (the U.S. sent one thousand books; Ecuador sent thirty-five hundred). “I don’t know why we have to have different languages,” Minujín told the A.F.P. “Art needs no translation.” Noble sentiments, to be sure, but I prefer her more irreverent reason for building the tower: “It’s really amusing to be able to climb up and down a work of art.”

28 March 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

In honor of Butler’s semi-improbable run to the Final Four, making Brad Stevens the youngest coach in history to make it to two Final Fours, and because it’s true that publishers and bloggers and people in general freak out too much, and because it’s Monday, I’m rerunning this post from last April, which pretty well encapsulates my feelings about my Zen Master.

So last night’s National Championship was one of the best basketball games I’ve ever watched. Back-and-forth, fairly well-played, intense, exciting, etc., etc., all coming down to a half-court miracle shot that was a fraction of a hair from going in and bringing the Evil Duke Empire (and their possibly unhinged coach) to its knees. Wow.

OK, admittedly, as a lot of my friends know, I love Duke basketball. But, wow. If one of Butler’s last attempts had fallen . . . it would’ve been a thing of pure beauty.

To be honest, I was shocked that last shot didn’t go in. Which sounds loopy (how often do half-court shots actually go in?), but not as loopy as this: I think that Brad Stevens, Butler’s coach, is so at One with the universe that he can control matter. And possibly the space-time continuum.

I’m only one of thousands singing the praises of this 33-year-old wunderkind, although I may be the only person who truly believes he’s reached a higher state of being. Seriously, if you watched any part of any Butler game in this tournament, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There’s never been a college coach so calm, collected, and at peace. (“At peace” happens to be a phrase that he repeats ad infinitum during press conferences and interviews. Probably because it’s true! Wouldn’t you be all Zen if you could see through time?)

I’m not at all kidding when I say that this guy is my new hero. He doesn’t even sweat. Granted, sports provide crappy analogies for real life, but still, I think we can all learn from Brad Stevens and stop freaking out over everything.

Like, OK, so Rüdiger Wischenbart’s methodology and findings re: How to Become a Bestseller in Europe aren’t as crystal clear and compelling as they could be. Maybe his argument has a few blindspots and his article a few miscellaneous errors. But to take down all of Publishing Perspectives and go after its editor is maybe going a teesy bit too far. To crib one of my favorite bloggers, it’s like buying a crappy romance novel in an airport bookstore and then condemning reading as a whole. This book sucks. Fuck James Joyce!

This is not what Brad Stevens would do.

And remember how I said yesterday that the Ethicist column from this weekend was going to drive publishing folks batshit? I have to thank Melville House for not letting me down. In a post entitled “The Patheticist” (pun!), Megan Halpern goes after Randy Cohen and his argument about how downloading a e-version of a book you bought in hardcover may be illegal, but isn’t unethical. She trots out a number of semi-analogous situations to poke holes in his argument, and even goes on to insult his research methods re: the ecological impact of e-books.

All fine, good and true, but you won’t change the way people think by throwing bricks, only by mind-melding with all of humanity. A la Brad Stevens and his Butler Bulldogs. Live and learn people. Live and learn.

3 January 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Ever since the year 2000, every year seems less believable to me . . . When I was a kid, I never thought I’d see the year 2000, much less the year 2010, after which, 2011 seems sort of anti-climactic. Sure, this technically marks the start of a new decade, but since we never named the last one, it feels pretty non-inspiring. (I mean really, “The Naughts”? WTF? Give me the “Roaring Twenties” or something that makes the time I’m living in sound totally BADASS.)

Nevertheless, the start of a new year is a great time for year end lists (LOVE) and resolutions of the diet and reading variety. I usually don’t do things like this, but when Carolyn Kellogg of the L.A. Times asked for my literary resolution of 2011, I came up with two goals: 1) to give away more books than I acquire this year (good luck! As of this morning I’m already a book and a manuscript in the hole) and 2) to read at least 52 translations over the course of the year. Which seems doable . . . maybe. I’m hoping to post reviews of most of these here (where I’m hoping we can review 100 titles over the course of 2011—a third goal for the new year), but will definitely post short write-ups on Goodreads (username: Chad Post), which has become my latest neurotic pleasure. (Seriously, as soon as I finish a book and/or start one, I log it in at Goodreads. So weird.)

So far, over the weekend I finished re-reading Manuel Puig’s Heartbreak Tango, which is by far my favorite of all of his books, and which I plan on using in the “World Literature & Translation” course I’m going to teach this spring . . . One down, fifty-one to go . . .

Going back to Carolyn’s post for a second, I would like to point out a few of the cooler resolutions for 2011:

David Kipen, former NEA director of literature and owner of Libros Scmibros bookstore in Boyle Heights: Find my Kindle.

Rachel Kushner, author of the novel “Telex From Cuba”: One of my resolutions is to finish the Recognitions, by William Gaddis. I’m on page 650. I have a ways to go, since it’s almost 1,000 pages. I’m not sure why I need a resolution to finish such an incredible novel: it’s startling on a line by line basis. I think I am almost afraid of its cumulative effect. So slick and erudite is it that it may pose some worldview that’s entirely retrograde or demonic or at the very least curmudgeonly, and I won’t know it, and will have internalized whatever its message is, and by the time I realize this, I will have been thoroughly indoctrinated. Because the tone of it, the one that can be grasped, convinces the reader she is in the hands of the Subject Supposed to Know.

The staff of Electric Literature: Our book-related resolution is to stop drinking so much.

I have a better chance of this 52 translations goal if I sign up for resolution number 3 . . .

But in terms of literary resolutions, Michael Orthofer called my attention to this piece by The New Republic senior editor Ruth Franklin on “being a better reader in 2011”:

3. Learn a new language. I have a degree in comparative literature and read a few languages well, yet even I didn’t review many books in translation this year. Critics love to bemoan the dearth of foreign literature available in translation in this country, and to avow our support for presses—like Open Letter or Archipelago Books—that devote their resources to promoting global literature. But how often do we actually review it? This year, I pledge to devote more space to work in translation.

Word.

Finally, to close this first post of the XXXX 10s, here are a few things I’ll be posting/launching over the course of this month: new update to the Translation Database, the announcement of the Best Translated Book Award Fiction longlist, a new series covering each of the BTBA fiction longlist titles, reviews of Hotel Europa, Sixty-Five Years of Washington, The Box, Primeval and Other Times, and at least four more, and more info on untranslated books from around the world. Also going to start a new Friday feature of excerpts from new books. Probably start with some Open Letter titles, but hopefully this’ll expand quickly to include other interesting books and presses.

So there. Welcome to 2011.

3 September 10 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Since my first “Introduction to Literary Publishing” class of the semester starts in about an hour, I thought I’d share this video with some very basic information about what a book is:

23 August 10 | Chad W. Post | Comments [3]

Since basically no one is going to be in the office this week, rather than try and write up longer, informative posts, I’m going to try and post a round-up a day of interesting links/blog posts, etc., etc. No guarantees this will actually happen—I’m pretty skilled at starting projects that I never finish . . .

There’s an interesting interview with Gunter Grass over at Speigel Online mostly focused on his new book, “Grimms’ Words. A Declaration of Love,” which is about the Grimm Brothers:

SPIEGEL: What do you find appealing about the brothers?

Grass: Their uncompromising nature, most of all. In 1837, they protested in Göttingen against the abolition of the constitution (of the Kingdom of Hanover) and thus against the power of the state. Like the other rebellious professors in the group known as the Göttingen Seven, they lost their positions. And the task they embarked on after that was basically impossible: a German dictionary filled with quotations and example sentences. And they only made it to the sixth letter of the alphabet. Others completed the dictionary.

SPIEGEL: More than 120 years later.

Grass: That lengthy period of time also fascinates me. German studies specialists from both parts of Germany worked on it over the last 15 years. In the middle of the Cold War, they sat quietly at their desks in East Berlin and Göttingen and collected footnotes for a pan-German dictionary. It’s a reflection of the same German history I talk about in “Grimms’ Words.”

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The NY Times Style section really is one of the greatest newspaper sections in the world. If it’s not super-expensive aquariums and colorless fish, it’s a piece about how ebooks overcome the isolation of reading. Now, I think I know what she’s getting at, but this paragraph sounds a bit crazy to me:

“There may once have been a slight stigma about people reading alone, but I think that it no longer exists because of the advancement of our current technology,” she said. “We are in a high-tech era and the sleekness and portability of the iPad erases any negative notions or stigmas associated with reading alone.”

A stigma about people reading alone? Do most people read together in groups? I think I’ve been doing this all wrong . . .

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This is a pretty sweet deal for an international writer interested in spending a year writing in Central New York. (Teach one class in the fall, a online tutorial in the spring, get $70K AND a place to stay—not bad.) Geneva is pretty nice, and HWS students are pretty brilliant. (Secretly hoping one of our authors will get this. Or at least someone we can invite to participate in the Reading the World Conversation Series.)

*

God damn Ayn Rand fans. All so batshit crazy. Or at least all the ones I’ve met. Or read about.

And nice try “Nick Newcomen” with your website. In case you haven’t noticed yet, the sections where you’re recommending people buy her books are totally blank . . . Kind of hoping this whole thing was a sarcastic joke to make everyone realize that Ayn (rhymes with “mine”) Rand-ians are insane. If so, well played. Very well played.

17 August 10 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This is really nerdy and cool . . . Over at BIT-101 Keith decided to play around with his new USB microscope by seeing what various print-related things looked like blown up to 400x.

First up, the Kindle:

As he says, this looks “almost organic at high magnification.” Much, much different from the iPad:

That looks like something out of Tron or my old Atari . . . And last but not least, a traditional, printed book:

Interesting . . .

24 May 10 | Chad W. Post | Comments

So the other week when I joked about how Lexiophiles referred to Three Percent as containing “random, unrelated informational debris”? Well, this post sort of proves their point . . .

At 2:30am this morning, I finished what I think will be the last real piece that I’ll ever write about Lost. (Not counting this of course.) It just went live here on Speakeasy, the Wall Street Journal‘s culture blog. I tried to say all that I wanted to say there about the metaphysics of Lost, why the finale was ultimately satisfying (or not—this is a tease to try and drive traffic), etc.

But after thinking about this a bit more—like during the 3 hours I was able to sleep this morning—and reading more complaints from Facebook friends, I have two-three things I want to add. And following the “random, unrelated” motif, I’m just going to throw these down bullet-point style with very little context. Lost fans will understand (hopefully), everyone else can move onto the next post.

  • One of the big complaints has been that the Lost creators didn’t explain everything. But really? I’m sure there are loose ends (nothing of significance comes to mind, although some dissenter out there could jump all over this statement), but I think what’s really under dispute here is how complete an explanation has to be. There is no such thing as complete knowledge, and I don’t know why anyone would expect such a thing from a work of art.
  • Tied into that, one of my friends complained that the creators had originally stated that everything could be explained scientifically, which didn’t really come true. That’s sort of how life works though, isn’t it? There are different types of knowledge that inform and direct different types of situations. And re: science—I think that claim was made during season 2, when a very plausible scientific explanation for why the plane crashed. (Namely, Desmond not pressing the button therefore causing a magnetic-energy event.) Different seasons worked with different types of knowledge, moving from realistic, exploratory ways of knowing to something that was way more spiritual. I’m totally OK with this, since I don’t think the world can be explained by one set of facts or beliefs.
  • And tying into that point, it seems to me that each season operated as its own sort of event, posing its own set of questions, and resolving them in some satisfactory way that still left open questions for the future. Which is genius. Like the time travel season had its own set of questions that had fuck-all to do with this year’s mytho-religious bent.
  • It’s great that ending and all, this is still way open to interpretation. What really happened in the church? Was that just Jack’s projections? We could debate that for hours, but beyond that moment, it’s interesting to comb back over other bits of the show and discuss what they might mean. This is what all works of art aim to do (in my opinion), and I’m glad Lost didn’t cop out.

That’s it. Done. On to new informational debris.

6 April 10 | Chad W. Post | Comments

So last night’s National Championship was one of the best basketball games I’ve ever watched. Back-and-forth, fairly well-played, intense, exciting, etc., etc., all coming down to a half-court miracle shot that was a fraction of a hair from going in and bringing the Evil Duke Empire (and their possibly unhinged coach) to its knees. Wow.

OK, admittedly, as a lot of my friends know, I love Duke basketball. But, wow. If one of Butler’s last attempts had fallen . . . it would’ve been a thing of pure beauty.

To be honest, I was shocked that last shot didn’t go in. Which sounds loopy (how often do half-court shots actually go in?), but not as loopy as this: I think that Brad Stevens, Butler’s coach, is so at One with the universe that he can control matter. And possibly the space-time continuum.

I’m only one of thousands singing the praises of this 33-year-old wunderkind, although I may be the only person who truly believes he’s reached a higher state of being. Seriously, if you watched any part of any Butler game in this tournament, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There’s never been a college coach so calm, collected, and at peace. (“At peace” happens to be a phrase that he repeats ad infinitum during press conferences and interviews. Probably because it’s true! Wouldn’t you be all Zen if you could see through time?)

I’m not at all kidding when I say that this guy is my new hero. He doesn’t even sweat. Granted, sports provide crappy analogies for real life, but still, I think we can all learn from Brad Stevens and stop freaking out over everything.

Like, OK, so Rüdiger Wischenbart’s methodology and findings re: How to Become a Bestseller in Europe aren’t as crystal clear and compelling as they could be. Maybe his argument has a few blindspots and his article a few miscellaneous errors. But to take down all of Publishing Perspectives and go after its editor is maybe going a teesy bit too far. To crib one of my favorite bloggers, it’s like buying a crappy romance novel in an airport bookstore and then condemning reading as a whole. This book sucks. Fuck James Joyce!

This is not what Brad Stevens would do.

And remember how I said yesterday that the Ethicist column from this weekend was going to drive publishing folks batshit? I have to thank Melville House for not letting me down. In a post entitled “The Patheticist” (pun!), Megan Halpern goes after Randy Cohen and his argument about how downloading a e-version of a book you bought in hardcover may be illegal, but isn’t unethical. She trots out a number of semi-analogous situations to poke holes in his argument, and even goes on to insult his research methods re: the ecological impact of e-books.

All fine, good and true, but you won’t change the way people think by throwing bricks, only by mind-melding with all of humanity. A la Brad Stevens and his Butler Bulldogs. Live and learn people. Live and learn.

23 November 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

From BoingBoing:

Microsoft is ready to pay Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to remove its news content from Google, according to the Financial Times. Microsoft has also approached other “big online publishers” with similar deals.

“One website publisher approached by Microsoft said that the plan ‘puts enormous value on content if search engines are prepared to pay us to index with them”,’ wrote the FT’s Matthew Garrahan. “ . . . Microsoft’s interest is being interpreted as a direct assault on Google because it puts pressure on the search engine to start paying for content.”

This he calls a “ray of light to the newspaper industry.”

Now, every site in Google is currently there by choice. As it could conceivably change its mind and shank Balldock and Murmer with fair use, let’s assume that they’re planning on exclusivity. End-user license agreements, paywalls, spider-blocking, that sort of thing. Maybe even encryption and plugins and other delights. Sayonara, RSS!

All I know is that Fox + Microsoft = Very Bad Shit.

21 July 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

I just noticed that it was one year ago yesterday that Three Percent went live. (E.J. and I “practiced” for a while, but unless you’ve scoured the archives, you probably never saw those posts.)

Ironically—well, maybe—the first post was actually a rant about how stupid it was that Grey’s Anatomy was nominated for an Emmy, but Lost wasn’t. (I still totally stand by this. And I feel vindicated that this year both Lost and Mad Men are nominees for Best Drama series, whereas Grey’s Anatomy is nowhere to be found . . .)

That first post was appropriately titled Not Necessarily the Place For It and following in that vein, I think today’s the perfect day to write about this awesome, recently resurrected hoax that sort of, tangentially, relates to translated literature.

Back in 1999, Josh Glenn was the publisher of Hermenaut, one of my favorite magazines of all time, and a sort of precursor to N+1. Anyway, in 1999, Josh published a “Fake Authenticity” issue that contained excerpts from supposed correspondence between Samuel Beckett and Ernie Bushmiller, the creator of the Nancy comic strip.

In Beckett’s supposed letters, he praises Bushmiller for creating such a great existential comic, and offers up a few suggestions for plot lines. Here’s Bushmiller’s “response”:

I don’t know how well they’re going to work. I think the problem you’re having, Sam, is the same problem any literary man might have. You’re not setting up the gags visually and you’re rushing to the snapper. It seems to me you’ve got the zingers right there at the beginning, in panel No. 1, and although I have to admit you got Nancy and Sluggo in some crackerjack predicaments, I don’t see how they got there.

For instance, putting Nancy and Sluggo in the garbage cans is a good gag, but in my opinion, you can’t have them in there for all three panels. How did they get there? Same thing when you had them buried in the sand. I like to do beach gags, but I don’t think that having Nancy buried up to her waist in the first two panels and then up to her neck in the third one is adequately explained, and I’ve been at this game for a while now. Also, why would Sluggo be facing in the opposite direction when he’s talking to her?

Most people would assume this is a hoax—“crackerjack predicaments”? Sluggo facing the opposite direction while Nancy is buried up to her neck in the sand? (check out the link to “Nancy’ above though—sort of ironic)—but last week, Editor & Publisher ran a story about this correspondence. . . . The Stranger picked up on this as well, and a hoax was born again, nine years after it first took place. Fantastic.

21 February 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

So tonight is the night for The Invention of Morel to appear on Lost, and in case you’re interested in the context in which the book appears, check out this “sneak peek”:

And in the category of odd cosmic coincidences (a staple of Lost), the actress who inspired Adolfo Bioy Casares to write this novel (Louise Brooks, who is pictured on the cover), spent the last three decades of her life right here in Rochester, NY studying film at the George Eastman House . . .

3 January 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

From the AP:

A former home of poet Robert Frost has been vandalized, with intruders destroying dozens of items and setting fire to furniture in what police say was an underage-drinking party. Homer Noble Farm was ransacked late Friday night during a party attended by as many as 50 people, Sgt. Lee Hodsden said Monday.

Empty beer bottles and cans, plastic cups, and cellophane apparently used to hold marijuana were also found, according to Hodsden. The vandals vomited in the living room and discharged two fire extinguishers inside the building, on a dead-end road off Route 125.

7 December 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Paperspine is trying to do for books what Netflix did for DVDs. In fact, Dustin Hubbard — the Microsoft Corp. program manager who co-founded the Issaquah startup on a leave of absence this summer — said he was inspired by the online movie rental company when he came up with the idea.

It happened one night while putting a book into a crowded nightstand. Hubbard, who has spent 10 years at Microsoft, started wondering why he simply couldn’t return the book for another, a la Netflix.

Maybe they do things differently on the West Coast, but last time I checked, there was a place called a library where you could check out a book, return it when you were finished, and get another—all for free!

Sure there’s the potential for late fees at libraries, and sometimes you have to wait to get the hot new book, but with depressing stories about American reading habits coming out every other week (thanks NEA!), I have a hard time imagining anyone paying $120-$300 a year to get the 4-6 books they’ll probably read that year shipped directly to their home.

But what do I know? If it works, if it takes paying for something like this to get people to read, then great. I’m just not going to hold my breath. (Besides, why don’t you just set up a rental service for the Kindle? That would be cheaper, more efficient, and more likely to create a cache of cool.)

27 November 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

From Reuters:

Iceland has overtaken Norway as the world’s most desirable country to live in, according to an annual U.N. table published on Tuesday that again puts AIDS-afflicted sub-Saharan African states at the bottom.

And in case you’re curious, the U.S. came in 12th. That’s 8 slots behind Canada.

2 October 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

From Core 77:

Do you know what the widest-circulated publication in the world is?

Apparently it’s the Ikea catalog. Yep, 175 million copies, 55 editions in 27 languages.

Huh. Who’d thought?

11 September 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The Vertical Weblog is one of my favorites, and today’s post about weird searches that led people to Vertical-Inc.com is hysterical. (For those who don’t know, Vertical publishes contemporary Japanese writers.)

And although our list is nowhere near as sexual or strange, there are a few interesting searches that brought people to Three Percent:

  • books besides harry potter
  • iphone
  • mr three percent
  • percentage of beauty people
  • portuguese food rochester
  • superbad
  • translation book funny buggers

I’m still really confused by “percentage of beauty people,” but I assume that led to Three Percent because we’re all so hot. (Kidding. We already established that E.J. is the heartthrob.)

30 August 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

Apparently, in Hawai’i, today is No Screen Day, a day in which everyone is encouraged to turn off their TVs, computers, etc.

Well, my understanding is that in Hawai’i everyone just hangs out on the beach with the cast and crew of Lost, drinking fruity alcoholic beverages, watching hula dancers, and roasting pigs, so I’m not sure I understand the point.

But, since mainlanders are always a bit “behind” on these “island trends,” we’re celebrating a day late and turning off our computers tomorrow. So instead of posting, we’re all planning on reading Red Lights and staying off the roads.

30 August 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Although I don’t understand much of anything about physics and astrophysics, there are findings—like the big nothing-- that are fascinating and in some imagistic way, help put our lives in perspective.

Here’s another:

Supersonic “Rain” Falls on Newborn Star Forming Solar System Deluged with Oceans of Water

Astronomers at the University of Rochester have discovered five Earth-oceans’ worth of water that has recently fallen into the planet-forming region around an extremely young, developing star.

24 August 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

From AP

Astronomers have stumbled upon a tremendous hole in the universe. That’s got them scratching their heads about what’s just not there. The cosmic blank spot has no stray stars, no galaxies, no sucking black holes, not even mysterious dark matter. It is 1 billion light years across of nothing. That’s an expanse of nearly 6 billion trillion miles of emptiness, a University of Minnesota team announced Thursday.

21 August 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

From the New York Times

Moved by claims that it will help the metabolism and productivity of his fellow citizens, President Hugo Chávez said clocks would be moved forward by half an hour at the start of 2008. He announced the change on his Sunday television program, accompanied by his highest-ranking science adviser, Héctor Navarro, the minister of science and technology. “This is about the metabolic effect, where the human brain is conditioned by sunlight,” Mr. Navarro said in comments reported by Venezuela’s official news agency. Mr. Chávez said he was “certain” that the time change, which would be accompanied by a move to a six-hour workday, would be accepted.

3 August 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Via GalleyCat:

Shelf Awareness points to a story that confirms their suspicions as well as my own: parents, if they had their druthers, would leave their kids at the bookshop and let the books be their temporary nannies. That’s what some parents are doing in the Chinese city of Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang.

“We’re too busy to care for our son on workdays and had to leave him inside a bookstore. It’s a safe place for him to spend time on vacation,” a mother surnamed Yuan said to China Daily, which was meant by something far less than amusement on the bookstores’ part. “Of course we welcome the young readers but have to take the consequences of more books possibly being damaged during their reading,” a manager surnamed Liu said.

2 August 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

But man, Robert Olen Butler needs some p.r. intervention asap. In case you haven’t been following this story with baited breath (how could one resist? this is some of the craziest shit I’ve seen in a long time), the other day, Robert Olen Butler sent out a pretty insane e-mail to all his grad students “explaining” why his wife was leaving him for Ted Turner.

(I’m using quotes because his “explanation” is that his wife was abused as a child, and “it is very common for a woman to be drawn to men who remind them of their childhood abusers. Ted is such a man, though fortunately, he is far from being abusive.”)

When Gawker ran the entire e-mail, ROB flipped, couldn’t understand how private electronic correspondence could so quickly travel throughout the Internets and basically made himself look even worse.

Not one to stop, shut up, and try and save face, yesterday ROB told NPR that he had sent out the letter to because it was

essential that the creative writing students at Florida State University “know” that Dewberry couldn’t take the strain of living under his Pulitzer’s shadow any longer and was playing out her childhood trauma issues with Turner, because otherwise they might think that she was after his money, and Butler still cares too much about his ex-wife to let people think that about her. (Full recap at via GalleyCat)

Because that’s about the doucheist thing he could’ve said, I feel morally obliged to post this so we can all chuckle and shake our heads.

Now back to your regularly scheduled international literature programming . . .

UPDATE: ROB’s back on Gawker with a new message elegantly dissected by Emily. I’m starting to think that all ROB’s care and concern is just a front and that this is just a ploy to get him a little face-time. Does he have a new book coming out? Cause really, five days ago, no one cared about his love life or insane e-mail skills. And to leave with one awesome ROB line: “I admire the wide-ranging good works Ted does to preserve the earth and prevent nuclear war.”

19 July 07 | Chad W. Post |

But since today is the first day Three Percent is live and viewable by the public, I’m going to get all self-indulgent for a second to say that I’m appalled that “Lost” wasn’t nominated for a Best Drama Emmy. Of course, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Boston Legal” were. I’m not saying the Emmy-nominating committee panders to the lowest common denominator, but . . . wait, yes I am. “Grey’s Anatomy”?! Best Drama?! Really?!

....
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