I’ve been reading the Three Percent blog for over a year now, and now here I am, sitting in Chad’s office, writing a blog post for Three Percent to introduce myself to the Three Percent Army – the cult of translated literature, the gang of literary ruffians who make up the core audience of Three Percent, Open Letter, and all literary endeavors worldwide. Today is my third day as an Open Letter summer intern (or, as my BEA badge would have me called, an “assistant editor”!), and I’ll be posting some items on the Three Percent blog all summer, so this is an introduction into the mouth of madness that you shall all enter at various points throughout the summer.
I graduated from Duke University a few weeks ago with a MA in Russian Culture – literature, media, politics, history, you name it, I study and love it – and became aware of Three Percent (and Open Letter, and independent, nonprofit, and translation-friendly presses) and the universe of how translated literature functions in the world around the time I started my MA program in fall 2010. I spent three months last summer in St. Petersburg and Moscow, where I took some classes and translated the Russian journalist Oleg Kashin’s first novel, Fardwor, Ruissa! A Fantastical Tale from Putin’s Russia (Roissya Vperde: Fantasticheskaya Povest’). In the process of translating, I was drawn into the world of translators and publishers who make the magic happen – getting translated books into the hands of readers like myself. That’s when I came across Three Percent, and became a regular reader, which led me to buy the Three Percent e-book, in which I took note of how Chad declared a need for more publishers of translated literature and more recognition given to the translators and the publishers.
Around the same time, my wife accepted a summer association position at a law firm in Dallas, and I began brainstorming things to do in Dallas for the rest of my life with a Russian degree, and BOOM, the idea was born that I would start a publishing company in Dallas (which is, nicely enough, home to the American Literary Translators Association!). All I needed was some experience in the business, and after a quick email to Chad asking for some professional advice and expertise, I’m in Rochester, reading Mikhail Shishkin’s Maidenhair in preparation for all of his BEA appearances (plus his event w/ Marian Schwartz & Chad at McNally Jackson!) and copy-editing the new Quim Monzó . . . learning the ropes, and enjoying the hell out of it.
I’m new to this business, but I love it. I will be at BEA next week, and would love to meet with anybody and everybody. Hopefully I can compare literary tattoos with Tom Roberge and mustaches with Dmitry Bykov and brainstorm ideas about my future publishing company with those-in-the-know. See y’all in NYC at BEA.
This morning, I was on our local morning show (the one that we’re generally on, which is most likely the only local news program in the whole U.S. to have featured authors from both Croatia and Iceland), to talk about The Three Percent Problem. The conversation kind of meanders, but I’m very glad that I was able to work in a tiny little bit of Cardinals love at the very end . . .
And for anyone who hasn’t purchased The Three Percent Problem, it’s available through “Amazon,”: “Apple,”: and “Barnes & Noble.”: If you’d prefer a simple PDF file, just let me know. A number of people have “donated”: to support translators and Open Letter, rather than purchasing the book through one of the aforementioned outlets. And that’s totally cool. I just really want to get this out to as many people as possible . . .
At some point in the next couple weeks, I’ll post something more substantial about the sales and rankings for The Three Percent Problem, our $2.99 ebook that collects the best of the best of Three Percent and organizes these pieces into a semi-coherent look at the contemporary publishing scene. (In case you’re interesting, for a short time the book did make it up to #751 in paid Kindle books, and was #1 in all three categories that it was listed in.)
Anyway, the other day Scott McLemee from Inside Higher Ed wrote a really gracious article about the book:
So cough up the three bucks, is what I’m trying to say. It goes for a good cause — and besides, the book is a good deal, even apart from the low price. The pieces have been revised somewhat, and arranged by topic and theme, so that the whole thing now reads like a reasonably cohesive attempt to come to terms with the developments in book culture during the late ‘00s and early ‘10s. As John B. Thompson showed in his study Merchants of Culture (Polity, 2010), dealing with any particular change in publishing requires you to grapple with the whole system — the vast apparatus of production and distribution that connects writer and public. Translation is one aspect of it, of course, but it links up in various ways with the rest of publishing. While Post was making his running assessment of the state of literary translation, he also had to think about the new ways we buy and consume texts. One of essays is called “Reading in the Age of Screens,” which indeed could be an alternative title for the whole book.
Notification that the book was available came to me last week via Facebook, which is amusing given Post’s definite ambivalence about the “all digital, all the time” tendency of contemporary life. “In the digital world,” he said in a note, “we tend to stick to what we already know we want, reinforcing certain patterns, and losing some of the serendipity that a lot of readers point to as a huge influence on their life.” True, and yet I did buy the book and start reading it (on a screen) within a few minutes, and was able to ask the author questions later that afternoon. The lack of serendipity was not a big problem.
It’s a really great piece (and I’m not just saying that because it’s about this book), and does a fantastic job of laying out some of the issues—especially in relation to academia and the study & teaching of international literature.
Definitely worth reading the whole thing.
Following up on Monday’s post, today is the official release day for The Three Percent Problem: Rants and Responses on Publishing, Translation, and the Future of Reading.
This “best of” collection is a fairly coherent survey of the contemporary publishing scene, ranging from an explanation of the economics of publishing translations, to profiles of translators, to rants about book marketing, technology, and 99 cent ebooks. It’s sort of like Andre Schiffrin’s The Business of Books, but with a lot more swearing.
Since the point of Three Percent is to support international literature, all of the proceeds from the sale of this $2.99 ebook will go directly to paying translators. So, in a way, you can think of this as a sort of $3, non tax-deductible, translation . . .
I’m urging everyone I know to buy this today, so that we can game the ranking system, and hopefully get this into the hands of readers who don’t otherwise support international literature.
So, go buy it now! (And gift a copy to all of your friends!)
Thanks in advance for your support, and I really hope you enjoy this!
Here’s the Amazon listing, and the one at BN.com. And if you don’t have a Kindle proper, but want to read this, here are links to all the various Kindle apps: iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Kindle for PC app, Kindle for Mac app, and the Kindle Cloud Reader.
In a variety of podcasts and other posts, I’ve made reference to a “best of Three Percent” book that we were putting together. One that would sell for $2.99 with all the proceeds going to benefit translators . . .
Well, at long last, after forcing Taylor McCabe (Intern #1) to read and sort some thousands of blog posts, and giving Nate a migraine converting all these pieces into an ebook, The Three Percent Problem: Rants and Responses on Publishing, Translation, and the Future of Reading is now available.
Initially, I thought we could throw this together in a week or two and just make a book featuring the funnier posts that have appeared here, along with a few reviews, long pieces, etc.
Once we starting going through all of these though, it made a lot more sense to piece these articles together into a more coherent overview of the current publishing scene. Obviously, the book focuses mostly on international literature, but also includes articles about the economics of publishing, the future of bookstores, etc. (There are also a lot of rants, including the one about the two versions of The Golden Calf, and how to make an archnemesis . . . We’re here to entertain.)
In other words, this is meant to be an intro to the world of literary publishing, and hopefully will appeal to anyone interested in the field. It’s sort of in the vein of Jason Epstein’s Book Business and Andre Schiffrin’s The Business of Books, although not as smart, a lot more fragmented, and way more obscene.
For practical purposes, we’re only offering this as an ebook for the time being, at the very low price of $2.99. And as mentioned above, all of the proceeds from the sales of this book will go to paying our translators. . . . So you should buy two copies.
Actually, what I’d like for all of you to do is to buy a copy on Friday, September 16th at noon. Yes, I want to game Amazon’s ranking system and see if we can spawn some extra sales simply by inflating our position on the best-seller list. So, if you’re interested in supporting translators, or want something fun to read, or just want to see what happens when there’s a mad rush for a particular ebook, buy a copy for yourself and tell all your friends to do the same.
As linked to above, this is listed on Amazon, and for all the nook users out there, it’s also available via BN.com Still working on getting it into the iBookstore and Google, but I’ll post those links as soon as possible.
And please forgive me in advance, but I’m going to post and repost about this all week, leading up to the September 16th “buy date.” And in exchange, I’ll share with you all the sales info, etc., etc.
Thanks for your continued support in helping Three Percent and Open Letter expand the number of international voices available to American readers. It’s thanks to all of you (and the University of Rochester, natch) that we’re able to do all of these projects . . .
UPDATE: A few people have emailed me about how they want to participate in this, but don’t own an ereader. Not to fret! Aside from Kindle apps for the iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, and Windows Phone, you can also read/buy Kindle books via the Kindle for PC app, Kindle for Mac app, and the Kindle Cloud Reader. So there you are . . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .