28 August 08 | Chad W. Post

If I didn’t spend every morning writing about things that bug me, I’d have more time to write about new books . . . Which, in the end, is probably more interesting and useful. So here are three more September titles:

  • The Tsar’s Dwarf by Peter Fogtdal, translated from the Danish by Tiina Nunnally (Hawthorne Books, $15.95, 9780979018800)

We’re going to be running a review of this title in the near future, but instead of describing the book, I want to point out Danish Accent Fogtdal’s excellent blog that includes some info about The Tsar’s Dwarf.

The Tsar’s Dwarf is the story of a Danish dwarf who is given to the Russian Tsar Peter The Great as a gift. She is brought to the Russian court where she falls in love, is humiliated, and treated like a toy. It’s a funny but gruesome story about human dignity. At least, that’s what it says on the cover, so it must be true.

Also on his blog is an excerpt from the book, and a sweet rant about the Olympics that includes making fun of Americans for not getting badminton (one of the sports I wish NBC had covered better, along with table tennis and team handball) and this bit about Michael Phelps:

What’s wrong with Michael Phelps? I worry about him. Sure, he has won eight gold medals, but what’s up with the greed? Can’t you get enough, Michael? Aren’t you aware that you’ve won eight times as many medals as fucking India? India is a continent, Michael. It’s not a dump in Michigan. Have a little respect.

I wouldn’t say Ann Arbor is a dump, and I don’t think India is its own continent, but still, this gave me a chuckle.

  • Of Kids and Parents by Emil Hakl, translated from the Czech by Marek Tomin (Twisted Spoon Press, $15, 9788086264301)

Although their book production has changed a bit (compare one of the new titles to Unger’s The Maimed and you’ll know what I mean), Twisted Spoon Press still produces some fine looking books from some very interesting European authors. We have a couple TSP reviews coming in the near future, and this sounds like a book we should take a closer look at as well:

Taking its cue both from Joyce’s Ulysses and Hrabal’s freely associating stream of anecdote, Of Kids & Parents is about a father and son taking a walk through Prague, over the course of which, and in the pubs and bars they stop into, their personal lives are revealed as entwined with the past sixty years of upheaval in their corner of Europe.

And this Boyd Tonkin quote doesn’t hurt: “Anyone who has ever crawled from pub to pub in Prague — or anyone who wants to — should read this utterly beguiling novel of uproarious surfaces and melancholy depths.”

  • Frida’s Bed by Slavenka Drakulic, translated from the Croatian by Christina Pribichevich-Zoric (Penguin, $13, 9780143114154)

Along with Dubravka Ugresic, Drakulic is one of the few female writers from the former Yugoslavia whose books are routinely published in English translation. And along with Ugresic and three other female Croatian authors, she was labeled a “witch” in the infamous 1992 Globus article that lead to at least Ugresic and Drakulic leaving Croatia to live in exile. Drakulic made a name for herself first as a journalist, but has since become a respected novelist.

The Frida in the title is Frida Kahlo, and this is a fictional book that blends Frida’s paintings and imagined interior life. The San Francisco Chronicle recently gave it a decent review, though admitting that the book doesn’t always succeed.


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