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.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
The Little Horse
The Little Horse by Thorvald Steen
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .

Read More >

Guys Like Me
Guys Like Me by Dominique Fabre
Reviewed by Peter Biello

We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .

Read More >

Birth of a Bridge
Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .

Read More >

Faces in the Crowd
Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
Reviewed by Valerie Miles

At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .

Read More >

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia by Julio Cortázar
Reviewed by Cameron Rowe

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .

Read More >

Self-Portrait in Green
Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .

Read More >

The Madmen of Benghazi
The Madmen of Benghazi by Gerard de Villiers
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .

Read More >

The Four Corners of Palermo
The Four Corners of Palermo by Giuseppe Di Piazza
Reviewed by Patience Haggin

The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .

Read More >

Writers
Writers by Antoine Volodine
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .

Read More >

My Brilliant Friend
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Reviewed by Acacia O'Connor

It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .

Read More >