The newly redesigned Words Without Borders/Reading the World book clubs are now underway, and this month the book under discussion is Robert Walser’s The Assistant, which came out last year from New Directions and is translated by Susan Bernofsky.
In contrast to the old version of the book clubs—which was basically a forum for people to post comments—the new version is a huge improvement, providing readers with an extensive list of online resources, discussion questions, and interesting, in addition to an online discussion forum.
For example, the page for The Assistant has Susan Bernofsky’s afterword to the book, along with Sam Jones’s introduction to Walser, along with a list of a dozen or so articles/reviews/bios/etc. that are all available online. Coming soon are a few interesting pieces, including “The Assistant and Swiss Literature” by Peter Utz and “Composition for Robert Walser” by Tom Whalen. There are also two roundtables planned: a translators’ discussion and one on Walser and the Visual Arts.
Overall this is a great template for how to create online reading guides, using many of the advantages available to the internet to provide readers with a context to approach the book. It’ll be interesting to see if this helps spawn more discussion in the forum section . . .
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. . .
Like any good potboiler worth its salt, Fuminori Nakamura’s The Gun wastes no time setting up its premise: “Last night, I found a gun. Or you could say I stole it, I’m not really sure. I’ve never seen something so. . .
Heiner Resseck, the protagonist in Monika Held’s thought-provoking, first novel, This Place Holds No Fear, intentionally re-lives his past every hour of every day. His memories are his treasures, more dear than the present or future. What wonderful past eclipses. . .
If you’ve ever worked in a corporate office, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “Perception is reality.” To Björn, the office worker who narrates Jonas Karlsson’s novel The Room, the reality is simple: there’s a door near the bathroom that leads. . .
I recently listened to Three Percent Podcast #99, which had guest speaker Julia Berner-Tobin from Feminist Press. In addition to the usual amusement of finally hearing both sides of the podcast (normally I just hear parts of Chad’s side. . .
Let’s not deceive ourselves, man is nothing very special. In fact, there are so many of us that our governments don’t know what to do with us at all. Six billion humans on the planet and only six or seven. . .
“Rambling Jack—what’s that?”
“A novel. Novella, I guess.”
“Yeah, it looks short. What is it, a hundred pages?”
“Sorta. It’s a duel language book, so really, only about… 50 pages total.”
“And this—what. . .
Many authors are compared to Roberto Bolaño. However, very few authors have the privilege of having a Roberto Bolaño quote on the cover of their work; and at that, one which states, “Good readers will find something that can be. . .
In Josep Maria de Sagarra’s Private Life, a man harangues his friend about literature while walking through Barcelona at night:
When a novel states a fact that ties into another fact and another and another, as the chain goes on. . .
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .