The shortlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize was announced earlier today. Looks like a decent enough list, although I’m pretty surprised that the David Mitchell book didn’t make it . . . Anyway, here’s the full list, and I’m sure over the next few days there will be tons of articles and posts analyzing this list. (Seeing that I haven’t read a single one of these books—although I am looking forward to C and the Emma Donoghue book sounds kinda creepy—I don’t really have anything to say . . . )
Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America
Emma Donoghue, Room
Damon Galgut, In a Strange Room
Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question
Andrea Levy, The Long Song
Tom McCarthy, C
Over at Ready Steady Book Mark Thwaite has posted the “Books of the Year 2008 symposium” featuring recommendations from a host of authors, translators, and reviewers, including Scott Esposito (who recommends Adolfo Bioy Casares and others), Charlotte Mandell (who is all about Flann O’Brien), her husband Robert Kelly (who recommends Littell’s The Kindly One, Marias’s Dark Back of Time, and Nadas’s The Book of Memories), and Tom McCarthy (whose only recommendation is Toussaint’s Camera) among others.
Definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for good recommendations to kick off 2009.
In addition to the neverending recap of BEA, today seems to be a day of award news . . .
Specifically, Tom McCarthy won the fourth annual Believer Book Award for his novel Remainder. (One of my favorite books of the past few years.)
“What’s the most intense, clear memory you have?” asks the narrator of Tom McCarthy’s Remainder. “The one you can see even if you close your eyes—really see, clear as in a vision?” Dispensing with Proustian reminiscence, McCarthy brazenly assumes the role of conceptual artist and literally reconstructs moments of time. In the same way that Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy tells its story through architecture in book form, Remainder is an art installation disguised as a brilliant novel.
It’s not a translation, but Tom McCarthy is a young British writer I really like. His debut novel Remainder—originally published by Metronome Press before being picked up by Vintage here in the States—is quite impressive, mysterious, and captivating.
Scott Esposito at Conversational Reading has more about the new book, Men in Space, which sounds very different from Remainder, although potentially interesting.
Men in Space follows a gaggle of characters set adrift within a fragmenting world: a stranded cosmonaut who has no country to come back to, a misguided football referee who has lost all perspective, an unsettled police agent, self-indulgent drifters seeking authenticity, political refugees and Western hangers-on who just don’t seem to grasp what is happening on the streets around them.
The new issue of the NYRB is out, with some of the pieces available online. This is the special “Fiction Issue” and has a number of interesting articles, including:
The Great Bolano by Francisco Goldman which covers The Savage Detectives, Last Evenings on Earth, Distant Star, and 2666;
How To Read Elfriede Jelinek by Tim Parks about all five of her novels to be translated into English;
and, Lest We Forget by Joyce Carol Oates, which is about “amnesiac fiction,” including Remainder by Tom McCarthy and Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald.
Daniel Green at The Reading Experience posted an excerpt from an interview with Tom McCarthy (whose book Remainder is definitely worth reading) about how literary folks really aren’t all that literary. Here’s his description of a dinner party he went to:
A few years ago I was invited to a dinner for young British novelists at the ICA. The other guests were for the most part successful published writers – unlike myself back then. The talk was of lucrative three-book deals with major publishers, review coverage, agents – anything, in fact, but literature.
When I steered the conversation with a couple of my neighbours that way, I discovered why: they were both indifferent to, and largely ignorant of, literary history. Sure, they’d read a book or two by E. M. Forster or Jane Austen back at college – but Faulkner, Joyce, Kafka, Sterne, Cervantes? Forget it. . . .
I don’t think this ignorance is confined to writers. Publishers, editors, etc., rarely ever talk about books either. Obviously there are some very well read people in the book business, but on the whole, I think booksellers (the real ones, not the B&N summer help type) are more well versed in modern and contemporary lit than 80-90% of publishing people. But we know more about Entertainment Weekly and how to create buzz, which, in the end, doesn’t really equal out, does it?
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .