The book itself—which is amazing, more on that below—officially releases on September 26th. So, this week the ebook is $3.99, next week it’ll be $5.99, then $7.99, reaching it’s normal full $9.99 list price on the day that the print version comes out.
In other words, you should buy yours now.
Translated by Kaija Straumanis, our editor and one of the first graduates of the University of Rochester MA in literary translation program, High Tide is one of the first Latvian novels to be published in America. Ābele, a contemporary playwright, poet, and novelist, was featured in Dalkey’s Best European Fiction anthology, where Aleksandar Hemon referred to her as a “sharp realist.”
Here’s the jacket copy:
Told more or less in reverse chronological order, High Tide is the story of Ieva, her dead lover, her imprisoned husband, and the way their youthful decisions dramatically impacted the rest of their lives. Taking place over three decades, High Tide functions as a sort of psychological mystery, with the full scope of Ieva’s personal situation—and the relationship between the three main characters—only becoming clear at the end of the novel.
One of Latvia’s most notable young writers, Ābele is a fresh voice in European fiction—her prose is direct, evocative, and exceptionally beautiful. The combination of strikingly lush descriptive writing with the precision with which she depicts the minds of her characters elevates this novel from a simple story of a love triangle into a fascinating, philosophical, haunting book.
On a more personal note, our local international book club read and discussed this last week, and everyone unanimously loved it. In fact, one participate read it all the day of the book club and wept—on several occasions. This book is powerful, beautiful, and provides a sense of Latvia without being too wedded to the history or politics of the country.
Casey O’Neil at Elliott Bay Book Company is a huge fan of the book as well, and even wrote up this blurb:
Starting with the end and moving back toward the beginning, we follow Ieva as experience washes over her, as love transforms over time, as traumatic events wreak havoc forever even as they’re over in an instant. The book’s reverse trajectory both accentuates and softens the trauma, as our knowledge of what’s about to happen interacts with our experience of each moment. Ābele’s rendering of Ieva’s endurance is both matter of fact and transcendent, making this a novel that brings real light to real darkness. Its moving finale actually brought me to tears.
Point being, this book baller and you should buy it for $3.99. Right now.
So, a couple months back, I posted a long look at Riffle, the new “Pinterest for Books.”
The other day, after blowing up on Bookish I went back into Riffle and played around a bit, adding some books I’ve read in recent months, and making a few lists—all with the goal of increasing my “Influence” score.
Yes, that IS how lame I am. But an Influence Score of 6 just seemed damn pathetic. I’ve since gotten it up to 16, mainly by creating lists of books—those I want to read (based on last week’s podcast), and books that I use in the “World Tour” section of my class.1
There’s no way this will replace GoodReads for me, but it can be fun to play with. (And the site is pretty slick looking. Much nicer than that Bookish disaster, the aesthetics of which are designed to appeal to exactly no one.) Although, to be honest, I’m using these in two different ways—I track everything I’ve read and want to read on GoodReads, and am using Riffle to make fun lists of books. (Although Kaija Straumanis’s lists are much more interesting. Especially that “Open Letter Books” one.)
Anyway, I just got a message from Gina Rodriguez, the World Literature editor at Riffle, with a special invitation for readers of Three Percent. Riffle is still in Beta mode, so you need an invite to join. I have a few personal ones that I’ve sent to people, but Gina sent me this link
which will allow 100 people to join.
So if you’re interested in checking this out, click there, then follow me and check out my lists. That way my Influence Score will go up, and I won’t have to cry myself to sleep at night. (At least not every night.)
1 There are three sections to my class: a section about the craft of translation (where we read Clifford Landers’s Literary Translation: An Introduction and David Bellos’s Is That a Fish in Your Ear?, among others), a World Tour in which students read excerpts from influential authors from around the world and present on them, and discussion of six contemporary translations resulting in the class deeming one of them “The Best Translated Book of LTS206/406” (the sexiest title I could come up with). The World Tour usually blows their mind, since today’s college students are exposed to just a sliver of a fraction of a culture’s literature, and very few are well-read in literature from more than one country in the world. They might know a lot about Shakespeare and Latin America, but have never read anything from Scandinavia. So this “World Tour” helps expose them to all the varied greatness that is out there, and helps to build a bit of a mental map of what authors have influenced others, etc., so that they can see that “world” literature constitutes a field not a series of individual authors or literatures bound by language.
So, yesterday was the official release date for Benjamin Stein’s The Canvas, one of the most curiously designed Open Letter books to date. With two openings, and myriad ways to read it, you can read a totally different Canvas at the same time as your friend:
The novel consists of two narratives: Amnon Zichroni’s depiction of growing up in an orthodox Jewish family, and his eventual realization of his “gift” to see people’s memories; and, Jan Wechsler’s quest to recover his missing memories after receiving a mysterious briefcase with information about his past. These two stories play off each other in subtle ways, and it’s not until the very end of the book (or middle, if you prefer) that you find out how the two character intersect . . .
To celebrate this (and my birthday, which is why we always publish a book on September 26th), we’re offering The Canvas for free to all new Open Letter subscribers. If you’ve been thinking about signing up—and who hasn’t? what could be better than receiving an excellent work in translation every month—this is the time. You’ll get 6 books for $60 or 11 for $100, which is just an insanely good bargain.
So since up for the savings, and stay for the literature.
Or just sign up as a birthday present to me. Please?
This weekend, the National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for its books wards for publishing 2011 and—not to bury the lede—including Dubravka Ugresic’s Karaoke Culture as one of the five finalists in the Criticism category.
This is the first major book award that one of titles has been nominated for (not counting the BTBA), and we’re extremely psyched. I’ve been on and on and on about this book for the past year, which makes this news just that much sweeter. To celebrate this honor, we’re selling copies of Karaoke Culture through our website for the special price of $9.99.
OR, if you’d rather become an Open Letter supporter and receive all of our fantastic books, you can buy a subscription and we’ll throw in a copy of Karaoke Culture for free.
Going back to the NBCCs, I have to say, the Criticism category is the very definition of LOADED. Check out this list of finalists:
Bellos, Lethem, Ugresic, AND Dyer?!?!? Damn. That’s all I can say.
By contrast, the other categories—all of which contain a few truly excellent books—seem tame. You can read the full press release and list of all finalists by clicking here. And here are my picks for which titles should win in the various categories:
Congrats to everyone, and special congrats to Dubravka Ugresic, David Williams, Ellen Elias-Bursac, and Celia Hawkesworth!
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
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. . .