I have to admit that I’m hesitant to post anything about the Village Voice on Three Percent, since I’m still pissed about what they did to Ed Park and the books section, and I think that David Blum set the Voice back a decade through his general, overwhelming incompetence. (I mean, really. Check out this article from this past May.)
The Voice did recently review The Assistant by Robert Walser though, which is saying something.
Sure, Giles Harvey does poke a bit of fun at the jacket copy (which includes the line, “if one read one 20th-century novel, there is a case to be made for it being The Assistant,” but hell, overblown is what jacket copy is) and brings home the criticism with an overwritten statement of his own—“Indeed, from one perspective, Walser’s prose is a tepid slurry of solecism, platitude, and tautology force-fed to the reader in large, grim spoonfuls.”
Anyway, Harvey ends up liking the book:
The Assistant is a marvelous book, and I would be surprised if 2007 sees the appearance of a stranger, more inexplicably compelling piece of fiction. If it isn’t already clear, Walser belongs not just to the history of literature, but to literature itself.
So conflicted. . . . Silly review from someone who relies on the tried and true, and tired comparisons to Kafka and Beckett in talking about Walser’s aesthetic—but still, it is a review of Walser.
Pascal Quignard’s __The Hatred of Music_ is the densest, most arcane, most complex book I’ve read in ages. It’s also a book that covers a topic so basic, so universal—almost primordial—that just about any reader will be perversely thrilled by. . .
In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempted to highlight the ordinary, tired, and often crass nature of common expressions by italicising them within the text. When Charles, Emma Bovary’s mediocre husband, expresses himself in a manner akin to that of. . .
Eliot Weinberger takes big strides across literary history in his genuinely breathtaking short work, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, tracking translations of a short ancient Chinese poem from the publication of Ezra Pound’s Cathay in 1915 to Gary. . .
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. . .